Tuesday, April 8, 2003

News from our friendly-neighbourhood materials scientists

Really. We Can (Could) Barcode DNA: "Corning researchers have found a way to form tiny, barcoded beads that are small enough to be embedded in ink and attached to DNA molecules. The beads measure 100 by 20 by 20 microns, which is just at the edge of invisible. A micron is one thousandth of a millimeter. The researchers made the coded beads by fusing together glass mixed with lanthanide metal oxide ions, drawing the mixture into a fiber, etching the fiber with a laser, than breaking the beads along the cuts by putting them in an ultrasonic water bath. The metal oxides glow at certain wavelengths under ultraviolet light; stripes of oxide that glow different colors can be used to make more than 100 billion unique barcodes."

What a pretty process they describe... but then again we might consider Measuring the Risks of Nanotechnology:

Technology Review: Questions about the safety of nanotechnology suddenly seem to be everywhere ... What are the chief concerns?

Vicki Colvin: Nanomaterials are different. Because of their small size, we are able to get them into parts of the body where typical inorganic materials can’t go because they’re too big. There is an enormous advantage to using nanoparticles if you’re engineering, for example, drug delivery systems or cancer therapeutics. This would suggest that nanomaterials that are unintentionally introduced into the body may also undergo similar processes. The concern—or the hypothesis would be a better way to say it—is that nanomaterials differ in their reactivity and biological availability. You can’t help but ask, Well, if they are powerful biological actors, then what about unintentional consequences?

(Have I ever mentioned that materials scientists and theoretical physicists are my favourite kinds of scientists? And roboticists. I really like roboticists, especially the SRL kind ;)


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