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Tiny detectors that can sniff out everything from explosives and biotoxins to smuggled humans are being developed by scientists at Sandia National Laboratories. SNL's Ron Manginell and colleagues have worked on new miniature pulsed-discharge ionization detectors, or mini-PDIDs, that have broadened the scope of chemical targets for Sandia’s microanalytical detection technology to toxic industrial chemicals, biological volatiles, greenhouse gases and more first worked on in the 1990s. We now have new detectors with higher sensitivity and broader applicability that would integrate well with the SAW (surface acoustic wave) and micro-GCs (gas chromatographs) to provide both sensitivity, the ability to detect a few molecules of a given compound, and selectivity, the ability to distinguish compounds from one another, Manginell says.





A new method of laser cooling molecules to close to absolute zero has been developed by scientists at Yale University. The technique represents another step towards using individual molecules, or collections of molecules as information bits in quantum computing. Laser cooling of atoms is relatively commonplace, but this is the first demonstration of applying the technique successfully to molecules, specifically strontium monofluoride. Team leader David DeMille suggests that the technique could be used for other molecular entities and opens up a range of possibilities in this chilly field.





Bin Liu and Ben Zhong Tang of the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering in Singapore and their colleagues have developed a method of tracing cells that overcomes the limitations of existing methods. The team’s fluorescent organic tracers will provide researchers with a non-invasive tool to continually track biological processes for long periods. Applications for the tracers include following carcinogenesis or the progress of interventions such as stem cell therapies. The assembly of the tracers begins with synthesis of 2,3-bis(4- (phenyl(4-(1,2,2-triphenylvinyl)phenyl)amino)phenyl)fumaronitrile (TPETPAFN), which the researchers then encapsulated in an insoluble lipid-based matrix that is then attached to a viral peptide to exploit the ability of these molecules to be taken up efficiently by living cells. Proof of principle experiments have allowed them to trace isolated breast cancer cells in vitro for 10 to 12 generations and glioma cells in mice for three weeks.





Ian Baldwin of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, has been elected to both the US National Academy of Sciences and the German Leopoldina. The elections to these elite scientific societies will be celebrated at the institute's annual symposium in September. The election of Baldwin recognizes his distinguished achievements in plant ecology in which he integrates expertise in whole organisms with his studies of gene function.





Zhenan Bao and colleagues at Stanford University have used DNA to template the formation of ribbons of grapheme to be used to construct a future generation of molecular electronics devices. Graphene is like a monolayer of grapheme. Electrically the lattice of carbon atoms is an extremely efficient conductor. Bao and other researchers believe that ribbons of graphene, laid side-by-side, could create semiconductor circuits. Given the material’s tiny dimensions and favorable electrical properties, graphene nano ribbons could create very fast chips that run on very low power, she says. The team has now shown how laying DNA strands on to a silicon substrate can then be used to lay down graphene ribbons which tests show transistor behavior.





Perhaps the oldest modern pharmaceutical has been repurposed countless times since its discovery. Most recently, it is recommended to some 60 million people in the USA alone to help reduce their risk of heart attack or stroke. Now, Shiqi Peng, Ming Zhao and colleagues, writing in ACS Nano, explain how nano-sized aspirin-Arg-Gly-Asp-Val particles can be delivered to a thrombus by the target carrier Arg-Gly-Asp-Val tetrapeptide. This new form of aspirin could extend the drug's benefits to people who may not respond to taking the bare drug itself.