SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Nature nanotechnology

33

Owing to its high carrier mobility, conductivity, flexibility and optical transparency, graphene is a versatile material in micro- and macroelectronics. However, the low density of electrochemically active defects in graphene synthesized by chemical vapour deposition limits its application in biosensing. Here, we show that graphene doped with gold and combined with a gold mesh has improved electrochemical activity over bare graphene, sufficient to form a wearable patch for sweat-based diabetes monitoring and feedback therapy. The stretchable device features a serpentine bilayer of gold mesh and gold-doped graphene that forms an efficient electrochemical interface for the stable transfer of electrical signals. The patch consists of a heater, temperature, humidity, glucose and pH sensors and polymeric microneedles that can be thermally activated to deliver drugs transcutaneously. We show that the patch can be thermally actuated to deliver Metformin and reduce blood glucose levels in diabetic mice.

Concepts: Enzyme, Insulin, Diabetes mellitus, Optical fiber, Obesity, Blood sugar, Silicon carbide, Semiconductor device fabrication

33

Continued progress in high-speed computing depends on breakthroughs in both materials synthesis and device architectures. The performance of logic and memory can be enhanced significantly by introducing a memristor, a two-terminal device with internal resistance that depends on the history of the external bias voltage. State-of-the-art memristors, based on metal-insulator-metal (MIM) structures with insulating oxides, such as TiO2, are limited by a lack of control over the filament formation and external control of the switching voltage. Here, we report a class of memristors based on grain boundaries (GBs) in single-layer MoS2 devices. Specifically, the resistance of GBs emerging from contacts can be easily and repeatedly modulated, with switching ratios up to ∼10(3) and a dynamic negative differential resistance (NDR). Furthermore, the atomically thin nature of MoS2 enables tuning of the set voltage by a third gate terminal in a field-effect geometry, which provides new functionality that is not observed in other known memristive devices.

Concepts: Scientific method, Mathematics, Observation, Titanium dioxide, Memristor

33

Metamaterials are artificial substances that are structurally engineered to have properties not typically found in nature. To date, almost all metamaterials have been made from inorganic materials such as silicon and copper, which have unusual electromagnetic or acoustic properties that allow them to be used, for example, as invisible cloaks, superlenses or super absorbers for sound. Here, we show that metamaterials with unusual mechanical properties can be prepared using DNA as a building block. We used a polymerase enzyme to elongate DNA chains and weave them non-covalently into a hydrogel. The resulting material, which we term a meta-hydrogel, has liquid-like properties when taken out of water and solid-like properties when in water. Moreover, upon the addition of water, and after complete deformation, the hydrogel can be made to return to its original shape. The meta-hydrogel has a hierarchical internal structure and, as an example of its potential applications, we use it to create an electric circuit that uses water as a switch.

Concepts: DNA, Physics, Structure, Metamaterial, Superlens, Materials science, Invisibility, Metamaterial antennas

32

Structural DNA nanotechnology and the DNA origami technique, in particular, have provided a range of spatially addressable two- and three-dimensional nanostructures. These structures are, however, typically formed of tightly packed parallel helices. The development of wireframe structures should allow the creation of novel designs with unique functionalities, but engineering complex wireframe architectures with arbitrarily designed connections between selected vertices in three-dimensional space remains a challenge. Here, we report a design strategy for fabricating finite-size wireframe DNA nanostructures with high complexity and programmability. In our approach, the vertices are represented by n × 4 multi-arm junctions (n = 2-10) with controlled angles, and the lines are represented by antiparallel DNA crossover tiles of variable lengths. Scaffold strands are used to integrate the vertices and lines into fully assembled structures displaying intricate architectures. To demonstrate the versatility of the technique, a series of two-dimensional designs including quasi-crystalline patterns and curvilinear arrays or variable curvatures, and three-dimensional designs including a complex snub cube and a reconfigurable Archimedean solid were constructed.

Concepts: DNA, Nanotechnology, Design, DNA nanotechnology, Uniform polyhedron, DNA origami, Archimedean solid, Snub cube

31

The design of stacks of layered materials in which adjacent layers interact by van der Waals forces has enabled the combination of various two-dimensional crystals with different electrical, optical and mechanical properties as well as the emergence of novel physical phenomena and device functionality. Here, we report photoinduced doping in van der Waals heterostructures consisting of graphene and boron nitride layers. It enables flexible and repeatable writing and erasing of charge doping in graphene with visible light. We demonstrate that this photoinduced doping maintains the high carrier mobility of the graphene/boron nitride heterostructure, thus resembling the modulation doping technique used in semiconductor heterojunctions, and can be used to generate spatially varying doping profiles such as p-n junctions. We show that this photoinduced doping arises from microscopically coupled optical and electrical responses of graphene/boron nitride heterostructures, including optical excitation of defect transitions in boron nitride, electrical transport in graphene, and charge transfer between boron nitride and graphene.

Concepts: Physics, Light, Van der Waals force, Semiconductor, Boron, Boron nitride, P-n junction, Heterojunction

31

The synthesis of designer solid-state materials by living organisms is an emerging field in bio-nanotechnology. Key examples include the use of engineered viruses as templates for cobalt oxide (Co(3)O(4)) particles, superparamagnetic cobalt-platinum alloy nanowires and gold-cobalt oxide nanowires for photovoltaic and battery-related applications. Here, we show that the earthworm’s metal detoxification pathway can be exploited to produce luminescent, water-soluble semiconductor cadmium telluride (CdTe) quantum dots that emit in the green region of the visible spectrum when excited in the ultraviolet region. Standard wild-type Lumbricus rubellus earthworms were exposed to soil spiked with CdCl(2) and Na(2)TeO(3) salts for 11 days. Luminescent quantum dots were isolated from chloragogenous tissues surrounding the gut of the worm, and were successfully used in live-cell imaging. The addition of polyethylene glycol on the surface of the quantum dots allowed for non-targeted, fluid-phase uptake by macrophage cells.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cadmium, Solar cell, Earthworm, Lumbricidae, Annelids, Lumbricus terrestris

31

Silicon nanowire and nanopore arrays promise to reduce manufacturing costs and increase the power conversion efficiency of photovoltaic devices. So far, however, photovoltaic cells based on nanostructured silicon exhibit lower power conversion efficiencies than conventional cells due to the enhanced photocarrier recombination associated with the nanostructures. Here, we identify and separately measure surface recombination and Auger recombination in wafer-based nanostructured silicon solar cells. By identifying the regimes of junction doping concentration in which each mechanism dominates, we were able to design and fabricate an independently confirmed 18.2%-efficient nanostructured ‘black-silicon’ cell that does not need the antireflection coating layer(s) normally required to reach a comparable performance level. Our results suggest design rules for efficient high-surface-area solar cells with nano- and microstructured semiconductor absorbers.

Concepts: Semiconductor, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Energy conversion efficiency, Germanium, Photovoltaic module, P-n junction, Carrier generation and recombination

31

Colloidal quantum dot (CQD) films allow large-area solution processing and bandgap tuning through the quantum size effect. However, the high ratio of surface area to volume makes CQD films prone to high trap state densities if surfaces are imperfectly passivated, promoting recombination of charge carriers that is detrimental to device performance. Recent advances have replaced the long insulating ligands that enable colloidal stability following synthesis with shorter organic linkers or halide anions, leading to improved passivation and higher packing densities. Although this substitution has been performed using solid-state ligand exchange, a solution-based approach is preferable because it enables increased control over the balance of charges on the surface of the quantum dot, which is essential for eliminating midgap trap states. Furthermore, the solution-based approach leverages recent progress in metal:chalcogen chemistry in the liquid phase. Here, we quantify the density of midgap trap states in CQD solids and show that the performance of CQD-based photovoltaics is now limited by electron-hole recombination due to these states. Next, using density functional theory and optoelectronic device modelling, we show that to improve this performance it is essential to bind a suitable ligand to each potential trap site on the surface of the quantum dot. We then develop a robust hybrid passivation scheme that involves introducing halide anions during the end stages of the synthesis process, which can passivate trap sites that are inaccessible to much larger organic ligands. An organic crosslinking strategy is then used to form the film. Finally, we use our hybrid passivated CQD solid to fabricate a solar cell with a certified efficiency of 7.0%, which is a record for a CQD photovoltaic device.

Concepts: Density, Volume, Condensed matter physics, Density functional theory, Semiconductor, Liquid, Solar cell, Photovoltaics

31

The imminent limitations of electronic integrated circuits are stimulating intense activity in the area of nanophotonics for the development of on-chip optical components, and solutions incorporating direct-bandgap semiconductors are important in achieving this end. Optical processing of data at the nanometre scale is promising for circumventing these limitations, but requires the development of a toolbox of components including emitters, detectors, modulators, waveguides and switches. In comparison to components fabricated using top-down methods, semiconductor nanowires offer superior surface properties and stronger optical confinement. They are therefore ideal candidates for nanoscale optical network components, as well as model systems for understanding optical confinement. Here, we demonstrate all-optical switching in individual CdS nanowire cavities with subwavelength dimensions through stimulated polariton scattering, as well as a functional NAND gate built from multiple switches. The device design exploits the strong light-matter coupling present in these nanowires, leading to footprints that are a fraction of those of comparable silicon-based dielectric contrast and photonic crystal devices.

Concepts: Optics, Metamaterial, Integrated circuit, Semiconductor, Semiconductor device, Transistor, Photonics, Nanoelectronics

30

Oxygen-depleted hypoxic regions in the tumour are generally resistant to therapies. Although nanocarriers have been used to deliver drugs, the targeting ratios have been very low. Here, we show that the magneto-aerotactic migration behaviour of magnetotactic bacteria, Magnetococcus marinus strain MC-1 (ref. 4), can be used to transport drug-loaded nanoliposomes into hypoxic regions of the tumour. In their natural environment, MC-1 cells, each containing a chain of magnetic iron-oxide nanocrystals, tend to swim along local magnetic field lines and towards low oxygen concentrations based on a two-state aerotactic sensing system. We show that when MC-1 cells bearing covalently bound drug-containing nanoliposomes were injected near the tumour in severe combined immunodeficient beige mice and magnetically guided, up to 55% of MC-1 cells penetrated into hypoxic regions of HCT116 colorectal xenografts. Approximately 70 drug-loaded nanoliposomes were attached to each MC-1 cell. Our results suggest that harnessing swarms of microorganisms exhibiting magneto-aerotactic behaviour can significantly improve the therapeutic index of various nanocarriers in tumour hypoxic regions.

Concepts: Electron, Archaea, Bacteria, Magnetic field, Magnet, Magnetism, Magnetite, Field line