Nanosensor to Detect Extraterrestrial Life

The EPFL scientists successfully tested their novel system with isolated bacteria, yeast, mouse and human cells.Credit:

The EPFL scientists successfully tested their novel system with isolated bacteria, yeast, mouse and human cells.
Credit: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Could nanotechnology be the key to discovering extraterrestrial life? The scientists at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) believe so.

A team at EPFL made up of Giovanni Dietler, Sandor Kasa and Giovanni Longo has developed an extremely sensitive nanosensor that can detect organisms as small as bacteria, yeast, and even cancer cells.

The scientits believe that this is a novel innovation that can be applied to the search for extraterrestrial life. Prior to this development, finding life on other plants has been dependent on chemical detection. The researchers have veered away from this idea and have decided to depend on detecting motion, seeing as it is a trait of life.

The nanosensor uses a nano-sized cantilever to detect motion. A cantilever – or simply a beam that is anchored only at one end, with the other end bearing a load – is typically used in the design of bridges and buildings, but this application takes the very same idea and implements it on a micrometer scale.

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How Are Nanomotors Being Built? (Video)

Carbon nanotubes are exceptionally strong, but when you roll two that fit together, the engineers believe they’ve got a nanomotor.Image: Nature

Carbon nanotubes are exceptionally strong, but when you roll two that fit together, the engineers believe they’ve got a nanomotor.
Image: Nature

Ray Kurzweil – an author, computer scientists, inventor, futurist, and director of engineering at Google – has once been quoted saying, “In 25 years, a computer that’s the size fo your phone will be millions of times more powerful but will be the size of a blood cell.”

That prediction may be on its way to fruition with this new discovery from engineers in China and Australia.

The engineers have developed a double-walled carbon nanotube motor, which could be a huge player in future nanotechnology devices.

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Innovation in Spray-on Solar Power

The SparyLD system developed by University of Toronto researchers can spray colloidal quantum dots onto flexible surfaces.Credit: University of Toronto

The SparyLD system developed by University of Toronto researchers can spray colloidal quantum dots onto flexible surfaces.
Credit: University of Toronto

Teams of scientists from around the world have been working on a way to produce spray-on solar cells for some time now. Recently, a team from the University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering has moved to the forefront of the race due to their latest breakthrough involving a new method for spraying solar cells onto flexible surfaces.

The prototype applies colloidal quantum dots via spray. These dots are a type of nanotechnology material that are light-sensitive.

This from Gizmag:

In such spray on solar cells, quantum dots would act as the absorbing photovoltaic material. Because they have a band gap that can be tuned by altering the size of their nanoparticles, they can be made to soak up different parts of the solar spectrum. This could prove particularly valuable if they were to be used in multi-junction solar cells, where dots small and large could sit alongside each other to widen the cells’ energy harvesting potential.

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