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What Is Nanotechnology And How Is It Impacting Neuroscience? – Forbes

Hand holding magnifying glass looking for new ideas

Nanotechnology is one of those buzz words that can seem kind of difficult to pin down. So what exactly is it? For example, how does it differ from traditional chemistry and physics? And in particular, what does it offer the study of the brain and neuroscience?The answer, in fact, is quite a lot.

The original ideas and concepts of nanotechnology are usually attributed to Richard Feynmans famous Theres plenty of room at the bottom talk in 1959, the Nobel Prize winning physicist from the California Institute of Technology. Fifteen years later in 1974, Norio Taniguchi from Tokyo University coined the actual term nanotechnology. Over the last twenty years or so, it has had significant impact on how scientists study and interface the brain, including offering new approaches to treat neurological disorders.

Nanotechnology is an interdisciplinary area of science and engineering that focuses on technologies and methods capable of manipulating and controlling materials and devices at a molecular scale using physical or chemical methods, or both. Typically, this takes place within a range of about 1100 nanometers (nm).

One nanometer is a billionth of a meter. Thats nine orders of magnitude smaller than a meter. Or 1/1,000,000,000. Thats just under 0.00000004 inches. In contrast, one centimeter is 1/100th of a meter, or two orders of magnitude smaller, i.e. the inverse of two times ten. A millimeter is three orders of magnitude smaller than a meter, or 1/1000. It is difficult to intuitively grasp how small of a unit of measurement a nanometer is.

Heres an example that will give you an appreciation of the size difference, not in spatial scales, but in temporal scales: Normally, you wouldnt attempt to walk from New York City to San Diego. It would just take too long. But a one order of magnitude change, in other words, being able go walk 10x faster, would be the equivalent of going from walking to driving. For example, say you can walk at 3 miles per hour. Driving takes you to 60 or 70 miles per hour. Now youd be able to get across the country in a few days. A two order of magnitude increase in speed is the equivalent of going from walking to flying. Itll get you across the country in a matter of hours. Three orders of magnitude is not technologically possible. It would get you from New York to San Diego in minutes. And thats just three orders of magnitude, or a 1000-fold difference - like going from meters to millimeters. Imagine how long it would take you if you increased your speed by a billionth-fold! Now take that intuition and work backwards: Think of a meter, which is just under a yard, and try to imagine shrinking down by a billion times.

The goal of nanotechnology is to engineer functional properties at these extremely small scales - properties that are not present in the constituent molecular building blocks that make up the nanotechnology itself. An important distinguishing characteristic about nanotechnologies is that they can be defined on the basis of functional engineered properties rather than the chemistry or physics that enable those properties. Although this may seem rather nuanced, its this functional, or engineering, definition that makes nanotechnology distinct from the natural sciences.

As such, nanotechnology in a way is not a new area of science per se, but rather the interdisciplinary convergence of basic fields (such as chemistry, physics, mathematics and biology) and applied fields (such as materials science and the various other areas of engineering). Within this framework, nanotechnology can be regarded as an interdisciplinary pursuit that involves the design, synthesis and characterization of nanomaterials and devices that have engineered properties at nanoscales.

Like other applications of nanotechnology to biology and medicine, in general, nanotechnology and nanoengineering research targeting the brain and neuroscience are focused on two general types of approaches: platform nanotechnologies that can be adapted and used to do experiments that answer a wide range of neuroscience questions; and tailored nanotechnologies that are specifically designed to address a specific problem or challenge.

Platform nanotechnologies are materials or devices with unique engineered physical and chemical properties that can potentially have wide-ranging applications in different areas of neuroscience. Tailored nanotechnologies begin with a well-defined biological or clinical question, and are developed to specifically address that issue. Much effort has gone into the development of new nanomaterials capable of serving as building blocks for such applications, for example.

Owing to the inherent complexity of biological systems in general, and the nervous system in particular, the tailored approach often results in highly specialized technologies that are designed to interact with their target systems - such as a specific cell type in a particular type of the brain - in sophisticated and well-defined ways, and so are better suited to tackle the particular problem than a generic platform technology. However, because tailored nanotechnologies are highly specialized, their broader application to other parts of the brain or other problems can be limited, or may require further development before they can be used.

Clinically, applications of nanotechnology to neurological disorders have the potential to significantly contribute to novel approaches for treating traumatic and degenerative disorders, as well as cancers, that may be clinically difficult to manage. The clinical challenges imposed by the brain and nervous system and the obstacles faced by anything designed to target and interface with it them are, to a large degree, a result of the unique anatomy and physiology. In particular, the brain is computationally and physiologically very complex, and has a highly restricted anatomical access.

Consider, for example, whats asked of a typical drug developed to treat some neurological disorder. The drug is first delivered systemically, say taken orally, or injected into the blood stream. It needs to reach the bloodbrain barrier, a functionally protective barrier that covers the brain, while producing minimal systemic side effects along the way. It then needs to successfully cross the bloodbrain barrier with minimal disruption to the barrier so as not to affect the brains normal physiology - or make an existing neurological condition worse. Once beyond the barrier, it needs to selectively target its intended cells, for example a particular subtype of neuron in a specific part of the brain. Only then can it carry out its primary active clinical function, whatever that might be. It could be modifying the action of an enzyme, producing a new protein, or blocking or augmenting a particular class of cell receptor. But it cant do that if it cant reach its intended cells safely, in enough quantities, and without causing negative side effects along the way. It is difficult for any single drug to accomplish all of this on its own.

But if you pair a drug with a nanoengineered molecular carrier, for example, together they become well suited to addressing these challenges, because they can be designed to perform multiple functions in a coordinated way. Within this framework of a nanoengineered carrier, the drug that performs the primary therapeutic function becomes one element of the system - just one part of the equation, with other parts of the nanoengineered carrier designed for the other list of requirements discussed above that need to occur in order to get the drug to its target cells. For example, biomimetic strategies incorporated into the design of nanoparticles can enable efficient delivery of drugs to the brain.

In fact, the prevalence of nanotechnology to neuroscience has been so significant over the last number of years that there are now large organized research efforts where the role and contribution of nanotechnology and nanoengineering isnt a novelty, but rather, a critical implied component of the effort. The Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, launched at the White House in 2013, aims to revolutionize how scientists measure, study, and interface with the brain. Most of the focus to date has been on the development of ground-breaking neurotechnologies capable of performing experiments and measurements on the brain that exceed any technological capabilities that have come before them. From an engineering perspective, many, if not most, of the neurotechnologies that have emerged from the BRAIN initiative involve some aspect of engineering and technology development at the nanoscale. Nanoengineering methods and approaches are the technical enablers of the neurotechnologies that have emerged from this initiative.

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What Is Nanotechnology And How Is It Impacting Neuroscience? - Forbes

Machine learning links material composition and performance in catalysts – Nanowerk

Aug 23, 2021(Nanowerk News) In a finding that could help pave the way toward cleaner fuels and a more sustainable chemical industry, researchers at the University of Michigan have used machine learning to predict how the compositions of metal alloys and metal oxides affect their electronic structures.From left to right, diagrams show an oxygen atom bonding with a metal, a metal oxide, and a perovskite. The new model could help chemical engineers design these three types of catalysts to improve the sustainability of fuel and fertilizer production as well as the manufacturing of household chemicals. (Image: Jacques Esterhuizen, Linic Lab, University of Michigan)The electronic structure is key to understanding how the material will perform as a mediator, or catalyst, of chemical reactions."We're learning to identify the fingerprints of materials and connect them with the material's performance," said Bryan Goldsmith, the Dow Corning Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering.A better ability to predict which metal and metal oxide compositions are best for guiding which reactions could improve large-scale chemical processes such as hydrogen production, production of other fuels and fertilizers, and manufacturing of household chemicals such as dish soap."The objective of our research is to develop predictive models that will connect the geometry of a catalyst to its performance. Such models are central for the design of new catalysts for critical chemical transformations," said Suljo Linic, the Martin Lewis Perl Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering.One of the main approaches to predicting how a material will behave as a potential mediator of a chemical reaction is to analyze its electronic structure, specifically the density of states. This describes how many quantum states are available to the electrons in the reacting molecules and the energies of those states.Usually, the electronic density of states is described with summary statisticsan average energy or a skew that reveals whether more electronic states are above or below the average, and so on."That's OK, but those are just simple statistics. You might miss something. With principal component analysis, you just take in everything and find what's important. You're not just throwing away information," Goldsmith said.Principal component analysis is a classic machine learning method, taught in introductory data science courses. They used the electronic density of states as input for the model, as the density of states is a good predictor for how a catalyst's surface will adsorb, or bond with, atoms and molecules that serve as reactants. The model links the density of states with the composition of the material.Unlike conventional machine learning, which is essentially a black box that inputs data and offers predictions in return, the team made an algorithm that they could understand."We can see systematically what is changing in the density of states and correlate that with geometric properties of the material," said Jacques Esterhuizen, a doctoral student in chemical engineering and first author on the paper in Chem Catalysis ("Uncovering electronic and geometric descriptors of chemical activity for metal alloys and oxides using unsupervised machine learning").This information helps chemical engineers design metal alloys to get the density of states that they want for mediating a chemical reaction. The model accurately reflected correlations already observed between a material's composition and its density of states, as well as turning up new potential trends to be explored.The model simplifies the density of states into two pieces, or principal components. One piece essentially covers how the atoms of the metal fit together. In a layered metal alloy, this includes whether the subsurface metal is pulling the surface atoms apart or squeezing them together, and the number of electrons that the subsurface metal contributes to bonding. The other piece is just the number of electrons that the surface metal atoms can contribute to bonding. From these two principal components, they can reconstruct the density of states in the material.This concept also works for the reactivity of metal oxides. In this case, the concern is the ability of oxygen to interact with atoms and molecules, which is related to how stable the surface oxygen is. Stable surface oxygens are less likely to react, whereas unstable surface oxygens are more reactive. The model accurately captured the oxygen stability in metal oxides and perovskites, a class of metal oxides.

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Machine learning links material composition and performance in catalysts - Nanowerk

Could Nanotechnology Help to End the Fight Against COVID-19? | IJN – Dove Medical Press

Introduction

The end of 2019 came with a serious viral infectious disease which was seen primarily from China, but spread worldwide and was declared as a pandemic in a few months. The outbreak officially became a pandemic in March 2020.1,2 The World Health Organization (WHO) termed this novel and vastly spreading disease as coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19), and the viral agent as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). Since then, it has been a massively challenging global epidemic with combined health-related and economic destitution worldwide.3,4 SARS-CoV-2 seriously affects the respiratory system by triggering an acute immunological response which is the main cause of death with a fatality rate per country of 0.0519.4%. The SARS-CoV-2 results in an increased mucous secretion, which then clogs the alveoli and prevents blood oxygenation. Its endocytosis and replication in the lungs generates an acute immune response and tissue inflammation by triggering the signal cascade through cytokine storms. The virus can also spread to the digestive system and other major organs like the kidney and liver. It has the potential to access every tissue that expresses angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE2) receptor.57 Structural analyses of SARS-CoV-2 showed that it has spike (S), envelope (E), membrane (M), and nucleocapsid (N) proteins which are responsible for its cell attachment and entry mechanisms. Management strategies are based on these structural features. More than 80% of SARS-CoV-2 and host cell membrane interactions occur due to the presence of the S protein that is a special characteristic of the pathogenic cell for treatment strategies.8,9 Human coronaviruses (HCoVs) are among the top 10 fatal viruses. SARS-CoV, one of the HCoVs, has a mortality rate of up to 10%. Currently, there are approximately 176 million confirmed cases and about 3,811,561 SARS-CoV-2 related deaths worldwide.10

Fever (85.6%), cough (68.7%), and fatigue (39.4%) are among the major reported symptoms. Dyspnea, headache, loss of appetite, loss of taste and smell, panting, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, rhinorrhea, and abdominal pain are the less common symptoms of the disease. The presence of comorbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, and coronary heart disease may further complicate the problem.11 There may be a two-week incubation period with mild to moderate symptoms followed by a high infection rate. Reports showed that there are also asymptomatic transmissions. Currently, the viral outbreak has created a global crisis related to disastrous live losses and financial collapses.1,12

The two main ways of COVID-19 transmission are direct air-to-air transmission during sneezing, talking, and coughing; and direct contact with contaminated surface/object.13,14 Personal hygiene, personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitizers, and surface disinfectants such as ethanol (6271%), hydrogen peroxide (0.5%), and sodium hypochlorite (0.1%) are the main ways of prevention.1517 Moreover, vaccine and drug development is the most eye-catching option to completely fight COVID-19. There is a continuous global effort to explore and decode the exact genome structure, identify the way of infection and transmission, draw effective prevention and immunomodulation approaches, and develop the most effective therapeutics.18 However, accurate prevention, early detection, and effective treatment strategies are not yet outlined. There is no approved drug and a free access vaccine to counter its worldwide spread. The various claims on the therapeutic and vaccine development, under various clinical trial phases, did not reach the market yet.19 At present, the health care and clinical research approaches are being negatively impacted by the pandemic through restrictions in funding and mobility which necessitate innovative life-saving ideas and alternative funding sources.20

The laboratory diagnosis of this viral infection is based on the techniques like polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and sequencing (smears taken from the oral cavity and throat); computer tomography, which reveals ground-glass opacity in the lungs, indicating viral pneumonia; plain chest radiography which investigates inflammatory foci caused by the virus, fibrosis, and connective tissue occlusions in the lungs that may develop after the disease; ultrasound investigation of the lungs for the visualization of pulmonary and pleural conditions in patients with suspected COVID-19; immunoassays which reveal the substances of protein nature including viruses, and general and biochemical blood test detecting changes in blood parameters related to the infection.9 Three main steps for an effective management approach considering the interaction of the virus when invading the host cells: cell attachment and entry, replication and protein expression, then finally, assembly, maturation, and exocytosis.21 Based on this concept, there are four medical approaches: vaccination, cell entry (cell cycle) inhibition, immune response modulation, and prophylactic treatment.22

There are two major drug therapy strategies against the virus: drug repurposing and novel drug discovery. Drug repurposing is trying to combat the pandemic with primarily discovered drugs for other known therapeutic purposes. This is a feasible strategy since it shortens the drug discovery time. In this regard, lividomycin, quisinostat, spirofylline, burixafor, pemetrexed, edotecarin, diniprofylline, fluprofylline, chloroquine (CQ), hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), remdesivir, tocilizumab, lopinavir/ritonavir, ivermectin, and azithromicin demonstrated potential anti-COVID effects. In addition, combined zinc supplements with CQ, drugs like silibinin and doxepin, and some glucocorticoids (betamethasone, dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, fludrocortisone, ciclesonide, and triamcinolone) showed promising effects.2325 Figure 1 demonstrates their mechanism of action and interaction at different stages of the viral cell cycle.26 Repurposed drugs have previously established safety profiles which facilitate their clinical transition, and result in less risky and more rapid applications. Different insilico tools can be combined with large drug databases for selecting possible candidates from the available pharmaceutical and pharmacological substances.27,28 Molecular dynamics simulations of HCQ and azithromycin dual therapy demonstrated a promising effectiveness with different potential mechanisms of action against the open and closed viral protein forms.2931 HCQ-azithromycin combination approach showed a better clinical outcome in terms of mortality rates among elderly patients, intensive care unit transfers, length of hospital stay, and duration of viral shedding.30 A systematic review, meta-analysis, and trial sequential analysis of ivermectin indicated that, using ivermectin for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 is an equitable, acceptable, and feasible approach. The study strongly suggested that thehealth professional should consider its use both in therapeutic and prophylaxis approaches.32 Remdesivir, lopinavir/ritonavir, lopinavir/ritonavir with interferon beta-1 and CQ or HCQ are being assessed in clinical trials. However, these are associated with statistically insignificant clinical outcomes, complicated mortality/morbidity data reports, and unconfirmed clinical effects which prohibited the trustful use of those drugs.33,34 In contrast, the new drug discovery approach is more complicated and time-consuming. However, it has the highest potential to find new pharmaceuticals which have unique advantageous properties for unique viral pandemic events.25

Figure 1 COVID-19 entry point and possible target point of repurposed drug. Copied from Ahmad MZ, Ahmad J, Aslam M, Khan MA, Alasmary MY, Abdel-WAHAB BA. Repurpuse drugs against COVID-19: nanomedicine aas an approach for finding new hope in old medicines. Nano Express. 2021;2:022007. doi:10.1088/2632-959X/abffed.26

Biomaterials can endorse the fight against COVID-19 by enhancing immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory effects. Monoclonal antibodies can cross-react with SARS-CoV-2, block the viral attachment by disrupting the receptor-binding interface, and inactivate the virus by binding to S proteins.35,36 Tocilizumab (monoclonal antibody against interleukin (IL)-6), sarilumab (IL-6 receptor antagonist), HCQ, and CQ (blockers of pro-inflammatory cytokines) can be used as immunomodulators to counteract the systemic hyperinflammation.3739 Biologicals are the foremost approaches in COVID-19 management. Convalescent plasma therapy (CPT) can neutralize SARS-CoV-2 in newly infected patients.40 Different inactivated and recombinant vaccines are now being developed from viral DNA fragments and they are being evaluated in different phases of many clinical trials.41

Scientists are still searching for the most appropriate, efficient, and effective diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive strategies, including the use of new nano-based technologies. Nanotechnology-based research and development now appears to be essential to end the pandemic effectively and shortly.34 Nano-based detection with nanowire biosensor chips, graphene derivatives, and other types of nanostructures have been developed.9 Nano-based systems are effective for inhibiting pathogens and minimizing drug resistance profiles.42 Carbon nanotubes that demonstrated a noble nanocarrier property and enhanced drug release towards target cells in cancer therapy can be potential therapeutic alternatives against SARS-COV-2.43,44 Currently, many pharmaceutical research and manufacturing companies are turning to the use of nanotechnology for vaccine and drug development. Nanoparticles (NPs) are being increasingly investigated and used as new anti-SARS-CoV agents, vaccine carriers or adjuvants, and nanoscale biorecognition elements with a promising indication of nanomedicine as a potentially suitable option to end the fight against this pandemic.34,45

Nanostructured material is a type of material with at least one nanometric dimension (usually less than 100 nm). They can be organic, inorganic, biomaterial-based, and carbon-based46 as shown in Figure 2. Their physicochemical properties such as, chemical reactivity, size-dependent transport, biocompatibility, and reduced toxicity attracted scientists in many fields. Medicine is one such fields with rising attention in applying nanotechnology.42 Nanostructure-based delivery systems demonstrated improved specificity and bioavailability over the traditional system. Much of the added value is related to NP physicochemical properties which include controllable size, great surface area to mass ratio, and easily functionalizable structure. They can stabilize the drug in the systemic circulation for targeted, controlled, and sustained delivery, which, as a result, can increase the therapeutic advantage.47 Multiple targeting, in vivo imaging, and combined drug delivery are also their potential advantages.48 All these principles can be applied to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Figure 2 Different nanomaterials used against COVID-19.

As the pandemic continues to cause an enormous global crisis, there is still an unmet need to discern a favorable, safe, and typically effective approach for diagnosis, treatment, vaccination, and prevention to prohibit super-spreading of the virus and a mortality crisis.49 Diverse nanotechnological strategies have shown a promising capacity to address many of those unmet needs in the fight against the pandemic as stated in the next sections.

COVID-19 exposed the world for too many discrepancies including an absence of effective vaccines and therapeutics, lack of rapid or real-time detection methods, shortage of protective equipment, and limitation in accessibility of support for infected patients. These biosafety problems arise mainly from limited research and considerations in materials science. A variety of nanostructured materials, such as polymers, inorganic-organic frameworks, biomaterials, graphene derivatives, and carbon nanotubes are radically transforming the way of countering biosafety challenges.50

Time-consuming detection processes like quantitative real-time PCR can be eradicated by applying NP-mediated sensing alternatives which can provide a rapid diagnosis.51 Limitations in antibody tests like technical production and identification problems, lack of suitability, and false positive or negative findings are reported from the conventional tests. Early stage detection, no or minimized contamination, and protected risk of error are also questions to be answered with more appropriate advances of testing.52

Recently, the application of NPs has emerged as groundbreaking in the medical field that allows accurate diagnosis and specific treatment of a disease at once (theranostic approach). Nanotheranostics involve virus detection and simultaneous neutralization by using nanodrugs that target diagnostics and therapy.53 This approach helps to fill the existing gap between diagnostics and therapy. It has been widely demonstrated in cancer chemotherapeutic investigations and there have been substantial struggles to extend this advantage to other areas of medicine including infectious diseases.54

Even though drug repurposing is a time-saving approach, the benefits of the repurposed drugs could not be fully supported with clinical outcomes and respective authorities. Unsatisfactory results from CQ and CQ, hepatotoxicity of remdesivir, unestablished harm or benefits of ACEIs, challenging safety/efficacy issues from the nonspecific mechanism of CPT, and safety concerns on corticosteroid use were reported. Application of nanostructures to the repurposed drugs can help develop efficient therapeutic strategies with minimal safety/efficacy concerns.52

SARS-CoV-2 mainly affects the respiratory tract, especially the lungs, with expanded effects on other organs such as the gut, kidney, and vasculatures.55 Therefore, the lungs are the most important organ for COVID-19 drug delivery. Targeting such sites and controlling drug release at target organs with conventional approaches is very difficult. Advances in inhalable NPs overwhelm such disadvantages, such as side effects from high serum drug concentrations and target inaccessibility. Nanotechnology-based intranasal drug delivery systems can overcome various limitations of mucosal administration.34 More accurate and controlled crossing of the bloodbrain barrier (BBB) can be achieved with nanobiomaterials that can improve cell retention, survival, differentiation, and integration inside the CNS.56 Nanodelivery through the nasal cavity is not only simple and inexpensive, but also noninvasive and rapidly absorptive.57 In addition, biocompatible nanomaterials such as boron nitride oxide nanosheets can improve the adsorption of drugs towards different parts of the viral protein; help the drug diffuse rapidly to the viral protein, and improve drugvirus interaction.31

Conventional vaccines have limited efficacy against novel pathogens due to their low blood stability as well as short and insufficient immune response that drives the need for higher doses.58 In addition, they are associated with short half-life, poor immunogenicity, non-targeting, slow absorption, and high storage and delivery requirements. Nanobiomaterials can be used as adjuvants for vaccines with special characteristics of reduced systemic toxicity and better targeting.59 There are also associated challenging issues, such as high pathogenic variety, high viral mutation rate, and complex host-related failures, resulting in an inappropriate immune response.52 Nanovaccinology comes with an effective alternative that results in strong immunostimulatory effects, manageable size and surface properties, controllable drug release, and strong stimulation of humoral and cellular responses.60

Disinfecting all surfaces and objects all the time is practically impossible, and one cannot be sure that the surface/object will not be contaminated again. Surface coating with nanomaterials that can inactivate the viral cell can be an advantageous advance for designing contamination-free equipment. Self-disinfecting surfaces can be prepared using nanomaterials with intrinsic antipathogenic effects.9,61 Surfaces with inherent virucidity, antimicrobial releasing self-sanitizing surfaces, and surface topologies with viral self-deactivation are some among the novel surface nanodisinfecting applications.62

As PPE plays the greatest role in combating the pandemic, it is equally essential to critically consider their sufficient supply, storage, waste management, and appropriate use.63 Actually, the current trend of applying the PPE could not eliminate the viral transmission as expected which necessitates a modification for their production and use.64 Environmental safety and waste management related to PPE is another complicated issue during the pandemic season as it becomes burdensome, resulting in a health compromising situation including carcinogenic health impacts. Therefore, it is recommended to use available alternative technologies for the production of biomedical equipment and treatment of COVID-19-related waste.65,66 Moreover, disposable PPE becomes one of the major factors in environmental pollution and source of biohazards creating critical environmental issues globally. If this remains unsolved, it may be a long-term threat to human and aquatic organisms.6769 This can be potential long-term physical, physiological, and pathophysiological effects.70 Nanostructures can improve PPE efficacy and safety by providing reusable, self-cleaning, high efficiency, and effective products with antimicrobial and antiviral properties. Intrinsic antiviral NPs, nanofibers and NP-coatings that can provide super-hydrophobicity, water-repelling, synergistic, and self-cleaning effects are some of the applicable nanostructures.71,72 Nanotechnology can generally convey advanced therapeutic, diagnostic, and prevention options than conventional as summarized in Table 1.

Table 1 Comparison Between the Conventional and Nanobased COVID-19 Management Approaches

Nanotechnology has huge potential for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, since it enables targeted drug or vaccine delivery to physiologically inaccessible targets; increases drug loading and transport, and provides intrinsic/synergistic virucidal activity.73,74 It can also possess simple, fast, and cost-effective alternative disinfection methods; provide targeted pulmonary drug delivery, and offer ways for designing better immunomodulating materials. It can generally contribute to antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, diagnostic, theranostic, therapeutic, biosensing, preventive/protective equipments, immunomodulation, and vaccination approaches against the pandemic.61,75 The different application of nanotechnology during the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is summarized in Figure 3.76 NPs possess a comparable size and structure with the virus as they both act at the same nanoscale, that makes their use paramount and suitable for the development of vaccine and immune engineering. This also allows the NPs to bind, encapsulate and passivate the virus, permitting easily detection, treatment, and prevention.77,78 Generally, nanomaterials can induce an external stimulus that is responsible for killing the virus or directly interact with the virus with their surface properties to act as antiviral agents.25 Nanodiagnostics, surveillance and monitoring, nanotherapeutics, and nanovaccination can provide the next generation of fighting approaches against the outbreak.53,79

Figure 3 Potential nanotechnology applications for combating SARS-COV-2. Copied from Rai M, Bonde S, Yadav A, et al. Nanotechnology as a shield against COVID-19: Current advancement and limitations. Viruses. 2021;13:1224. doi: 10.3390/v13071224.76

Nanotechnology, in SARS-CoV-2 detection, can be applied in the form of nucleic acid testing (amplification of nucleic acid with NPs under isothermal conditions); point-of-care testing (POCT) (diagnose infected individuals, without the need of sending patient samples to laboratories via simple color changes after applying nanostructures); electrochemical sensors (high sensitivity and possibility of miniaturization with metallic NPs); chiral biosensors (NPs conjugated with coronavirus specific antibodies), etc.80,81

Since the infection is easily transmissible from human to human, the diagnostics should better be at POC without the need for experienced labor, complex time-taking procedures, and sophisticated laboratories.82 POCD provides a diagnostic outcome with improved laboratory quality in real-time, within minutes and not hours. Nanotechnology can further advance the POCD approach by adding nanoensor technology, microfluidic channel devices, bio-analytical platforms, assay formats, lab-on-a-chip technologies, and complementary advances.83 NPs can assist the immunochromatographic test (ICT), also known as lateral flow immunoassays (LFIA), for detecting the antigens or antibodies rapidly with a POC. The advantages of this system includes; detection of both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients, not requiring trained staff, triage of patients avoiding further spreading, diagnosis when laboratory facilities are unavailable, easy of use, small sample amount, and timely detection in less than 20 min.84,85

The principle of rapid diagnostic kits works by direct isolation of RNA from a patient sample. Metallic and magnetic NPs, such as gold and iron oxide NPs, have been widely investigated so far and demonstrated improved testing accuracy, specificity, time, and reliability.86,87 Gold NPs coupled to complementary DNA sequences demonstrated a color change from red to blue indicating the formation of a tertiary complex with the viral antigen after the immobilization and agglomeration of the NPs.88 Metal oxide NPs in complement with a silicon-on-insulator nanowire sensor showed a rapid and very sensitive SARS-CoV-2 antibody detection in 515 min. Magnetic NPs (MNPs), especially iron oxide NPs, can easily separate the viral RNA from sample solution with their high magnetic efficiency to prepare analyte preconcentration, signal amplification, and biosensing.8,89 Silica-coated super-paramagnetic NPs improved the selectivity of the detection during PCR-based assays by forming magnetic-conjugated DNA complexes, which then can be magnetically separated and amplified through PCR.90 Field-effect transistors based on graphene demonstrated the most rapid SARS-CoV-2 detection in less than a minute.91,92 The precision of PCR can also be enhanced by using graphene NPs.93

NP-based biosensors can minimize the conventional time-consuming steps, like in the case of quantitative real-time PCR, and provide pronounced advances in rapid diagnosis.51 The SARS-CoV-2 biosensor using thiol-modified antisense oligonucleotide-capped glyconanoparticles can diagnose positive COVID-19 cases visible with the naked eye through color change within 10 min.84 The glyconanoparticle platform with a lateral flow diagnostic device demonstrated a low-cost and rapid detection in less than 30 min.94 Nanobiosensors integrated with bio-informatics can provide individualized approaches by correlating infection progression with sociodemographic parameters like race, gender, age, and region that can further optimize targeted testing, tracing of asymptomatic patients (carries), and detection of discharged patients for re-infection.95 Different nanostructured biosensor applications are presented in Figure 4.96

Figure 4 Application of biorecognition elements of a biosensor to develop a sensing platform against SARS-CoV-2. Copied from Gupta R, Sagar P, Priyadarshi N, et al. Nanotechnlogy-based approaches for the detection of SARS-CoV-2. Front. Nanotechnol. 2020;2:589832. doi: 10.3389/fnano.2020.589832.96

Abbreviations: FRET, Frster resonance energy transfer; GO, graphene oxide; SERS, surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy; QD, quantum dot.

Nanopapers and nanochannels are nanomaterial-based sensors that advance the lateral-flow devices to detect at observation level with smartphones or the naked eye. They offer cost-efficient options for viral detection. Battery-operated and smartphone camera-based amplifications with inorganic quantum dots are coming to be the next generations for SARS-CoV-2 detection.97 Smartphone-based sensing systems are semi-automated, personally accessible, user-friendly, and applicable with less training. The sensing system is connected to the smartphones; NPs are employed peripherally; analysis is conducted by the sensing system, and finally, the smartphone itself will interpret the results. It is individualized and takes less time than PCR.98 Some examples of nanomaterials investigated for diagnosis of COVID-19 are listed in Table 2.

Table 2 Some Nanobased Novel Diagnostic Tools for COVID-19 Detection

In recent times, nanostructured systems have brought a groundbreaking advance in medicine, in which accurate detection and specific therapeutics of disease conditions can be conducted at once (theranostic approach). Theranostics can provide detection and neutralize the viruses using NP-based approaches which will possess a great prospective in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic as NPs can amplify the detection, inhibit viral replication, and disrupt all possible virushost interactions. Thus, nanotheranostics can fill the existing gap between diagnostics and therapy.53,54 Nanotheranostics is a new field in medicine that combines NP-based targeted therapy based on diagnostic tools to efficiently and selectively deliver drugs, vaccines, and biologicals to the target sites of infection. It has the ability to monitor infectious sides, deliver treatments, and assess therapeutic responses with noninvasive imaging approaches.105,106

Several approaches are being investigated for smart nanotheranostic application by combining bioactive targeting and nanodiagnostics to deliver therapeutics with concomitant real-time response monitoring; minimized probability of over- or under-dosing, and noninvasive imaging techniques. Nuclear imaging with radiolabeled nanomaterials, inorganic NPs, organic NPs like polymers, carbon-based nanomaterials, and vesicular nanostructures like nanosomes, are some of the multifunctional nanotheranostics.107 The application of quantum dots in fluorescence imaging technology enables in vivo visualization of individual cellular behaviors, and simultaneous treatment according to the observed behavior at the same time.108 Nanorobots can outline a roadmap for nanotheranostics against a variety of diseases including the recent pandemic. Artificial intelligence can help this advance with multivariate data analysis regarding the disease pathophysiology and design of its more efficient therapeutics. Patient-specific models and nucleic acid-based nanorobots with more advanced nanoplatforms and multivalent nanostructures are being considered as promising theranostics against the pandemic.50

Therapeutic nanostructures can block viral entry, inhibit its replication, deliver drugs as nanocarriers into the target organ, and assist vaccine formulation and delivery as summarized in Figure 5. In general, they target the SARS-CoV-2 entry and life-cycle with a special emphasis on the S protein as it is the most important factor for viral entry and host cell interactions.45,80 Nanomodification of repurposed drugs like dexamethasone and CQ demonstrated promising anti-edema, antifibrotic, and anti-inflammatory mechanism predicting NP-uptake in cells.109,110 Nanostructure-based drug delivery can be either passive (drugs loaded and transported with nanocarriers) or active self-delivery (drug molecules themselves are nanosized).111 Since SARS-CoV-2 initiates its infection on the nasal cavity, nasal cavity-based nanodelivery is very important and promising for targeted COVID-19 management with simple, inexpensive, noninvasive, and rapidly absorbable approach.57 These systems are believed to improve therapeutic efficacy without compromising safety. Several nanodeliveries with enhanced antiviral activities against SARS-CoV-2 have been investigated, reported, and it is claimed that they can synergize the global fight against the pandemic.112 Some examples from these investigations are described in Table 3.

Table 3 Potential Nanobased Formulations for COVID-19 Treatment

Figure 5 Summary of cellular parts of SARS-CoV-2, their functions and interactions with nanodelivery management mechanisms.

Organic NPs such as liposomes, dendrimers, micelles, and polymers can have nanovirucidal effects and inactivate viral cells including SARS-CoV-2. They can be formed in combination with each other or with inorganic NPs to form hybrid nanosystems based on specific use at the targeted site.74 Inhalable organic and inorganic NPs (Figure 6)121 can be used for targeting the lung to overcome side effects from high serum concentrations of conventional administrations.122 Nano-drug co-deliveries can reduce particle size-dependent safety issues in lung and respiratory systems.123 Corticosteroid-loaded PLGA NPs, solid lipid NPs, N,N-dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate, and butyl methacrylate monomers can be used for effective and safe pulmonary delivery to prevent systemic immunosuppression effects of the drugs.124 Inorganic NPs like transition metal NPs (Ag, Cu, Zn), metal oxides (Fe2O3, TiO2, ZnO2,), and carbon-based NPs have intrinsic antipathogenic effects by interfering one or more viral life-cycle stages.125 Mesoporous silica NPs provide drug co-delivery which can further be functionalized with ligands for active targeting of the viral cell.8 AgNPs are better drug carriers for nucleic acid-based delivery with increased stability, protection from degradation, and controlled intracellular delivery.126 AuNPs, carbon-based NPs, polymeric NPs, and vesicular nanocarriers have the potential to induce cytokine and antibody responses which are dependent on their size, shape, and surface chemistry. By modifying these properties with respect to different targeting moieties, they can be promising strategies for targeted antigen delivery.127,128

Figure 6 Intranasal nanodelivery for treating SARS-CoV2 infection. Copied from Nair SC, Joseph SK, Arya MK, Thomas S. State-of-the art nanotechnology-based drug delivery strategies to combat COVID-19. Int J App Pharm. 2021;13(3):18-29. doi: 10.22159/ijap.2021.v13i3.40865.121

Biomaterials are substances that are either formed by living organisms or extremely compatible by their nature. Novel biomaterials at their nanoscale level possess precise and effective drug delivery functions.129,130 Biomaterials are reported for reducing mortality in COVID-19 patients. Investigations are being made with remarkable efforts to apply them in controlled delivery, for minimizing systemic administration complications, and alleviating disease severity.131 Bioengineered platforms of airway models are used to elucidate the pathophysiological processes of COVID-19 which is a rate-limiting step for management procedures and recommendations.132 Their biologic and physicochemical properties can be operated as to the different needs for therapeutic applications including the current pandemic.133 Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine are now providing promising solutions to viral outbreaks in diagnostics, treatment, vaccination, and surface disinfection which can be implied for their application toward COVID-19.134 Organoids (clusters of organ-specific cells) were formed as effective models for COVID-19 viral examination. In addition, microfluidic organ-on-chip (OoC) systems have recapitulated host physiology, viral pathology, and therapeutic responses with high accuracy.135,136

Biomaterials have the potential to modulate the immune response, advance drug repurposing, and prevent or treat complications of COVID-19.137,138 Moreover, the nano-forms of biomaterials can improve quality of life by reducing the adverse effects of conventional therapeutics. Therefore, highly efficient, reliable, compatible, and recyclable biomaterial-based applications can support the fight against the current pandemic.46 Nanobiomaterial therapeutics can be used to deliver cargo directly to the respiratory targets (lungs) to avoid nontarget effects as they can be synthesized according to the ideal size range and controllable release for cellular targeting.139 Furthermore, many nanobiomaterials have intrinsic low cytotoxicity and high biocompatibility which are the currently needed essential attributes for COVID-19 management. Nanobiomaterials in conjugation with Ag and mesoporous silica NPs could be used for the delivery of anti-inflammatory cytokines to counter the inflammation associated with COVID-19.138

Nanobiomaterial forms, such as gum-based hydrogels, nanogels, multilayered polyelectrolyte films, DNA aptamers, and nanocarriers like nanocapsules, nanospheres, and polymers demonstrated a potential effect that can add to the fight against COVID-19.22,126 Biomaterials in the form of nanoemulsions, nanodecoys, virus-like NPs (VLNPs) and self-assembly systems are being investigated and suggested for use against COVID-19. Nanoemulsions can easily transcytose lipophilic antigens across the intestinal cells. In addition, they can be synthesized with low cost and easy procedures; require easy storage conditions; demonstrate increased absorption rate and bioavailability; possess thermodynamic stability; provide solubility of lyophilic drugs, and improve the antiviral activity of the drug.140 Nanodecoys are cell membrane nanovesicles formulated to display high levels of ACE2 and cytokine receptors with the aim of competing for viral and cytokine binding. They can significantly inhibit SARS-CoV-2 replication and neutralize inflammatory cytokines.141 VLNPs are sphere-shaped NPs formed from several nanosized molecules and the self-assembly of viral proteins. They do not have genetic material content but structurally mimic the real virus enabling them to highly attract antigen-presenting cells and stimulate the immune response.105 Self-assembling NPs are excellent in carrying the drug, easily crossing the cell membranes, releasing drugs in a controllable manner at the target site, and synergistically activating the immune system.121

Nanobodies are other types of nanobiomaterials that can identify the pathogens, envelop the virus, and neutralize its functions. Hence, they can be diagnostic or therapeutic tools against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.79 Researchers have isolated high stability nanobodies that can bind to spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, detect at an atomic level, and block the virus very specifically.142 The worlds first humanized antibody against the SARS-CoV-2 inflammatory storm was discovered which can specifically damage the viral critical stage in the lungs. With little modification by using drug-loaded NPs, it can provide easy access for air sacs and blood vessels for free delivery of oxygen and blood.143 Cellular nanosponges made of the human plasma membrane epithelial type II cells or macrophages are reported as an effective countermeasure to SARS-CoV-2 since they display the same protein receptors required by SARS-CoV-2 for cellular entry. Therefore, they will neutralize and mutate SARS-CoV-2 making it unable to infect.117,136

Nanofibrous hybrids are active antiviral and antibacterial membranes that are formed embedded with AgNPs by an electrospinning process. They have subsequent screening with potential antiviral activities against different viruses, including SARS-Cov-2. They can also be applied in PPE and surface disinfection developments.144 Eco-friendly nonspherical nanocellulose nanofiber is synthesized which is a sustainable, nontoxic, low-cost, and biocompatible carrier with antimicrobial effects.145 Antibodies conjugated to biomaterial-based NP surfaces allow efficient and effective inflammatory marker removal caused by the cytokine storm. Chitosan, hyaluronic acid, PLGA, and mesoporous silica NPs can be used for surface conjugation to reduce the burden of SARS-CoV-2 cytokine storms. Ligand-based nanoparticulate biomaterials possess sequestration of cytokines and active-targeting for viral inactivation. The immune modulation effect of these systems can be assisted by co-delivery of anti-inflammatory drugs.138

Nano-sized herbal medicines have been developed as nanophytomedicines based on their unique nature. Various nanotechnology-based systems such as polymeric NPs, solid lipid NPs, magnetic NPs, metal and inorganic NPs, nanospheres, nanocapsules, quantum dots, nanoemulsions, polymeric micelles, liposomes, and dendrimers have been tried for the successful delivery of natural products from traditional medicine. This brings potential herbal drug-loaded pharmaceutical carriers for alternative and complementary medicine to the modern system which can push the fight against many chronic and pandemic global issues like COVID-19 one step forward.146,147 Since the occurrence of COVID-19, diverse traditional medicines have been used alone or in combination with the conventional management systems. These herbal extracts may possess anti-SARS-CoV-2 actions by disrupting the viral life-cycle that can be a promising preventive and therapeutic alternative to the pandemic.148 In addition, their favorable oral stability and ease of scaling up make them ideal contenders for prophylactic and prevention strategies including vaccine development.149 Reports indicated that Chinese, Indonesian, and Nepalese people increased the use of medicinal plants during the COVID-19 pandemic claiming that they can prevent or cure the disease and it is believed to have shown good results in fighting SARS-CoV-2 empirically.45,150152 Adeleye et al, identified 15 potential ethnomedicinal herbs from different African countries for the discovery and development of therapeutic agents for COVID-19 applications.153 Phytotherapeutics has been recognized for its better therapeutics with fewer adverse effects than modern medicines. However, it needs a novel scientific approach for modified, sustained, and controlled delivery to enhance patient compliance and avoid repeated administrations. This can be achieved by designing nanostructured delivery systems and integrating them with nanocarrier approaches that can enhance its therapeutic activity while overcoming associated problems, such as bulk dosing and lower bioavailability.144

The sole combination between traditional medicine and nanomedicine will accompany a new era of affordable, safe, and effective medicinal systems that can be very supportive for a pandemic crisis like COVID-19.154 Plant metabolites and body parts of microorganisms can be delivered by spherical NPs as a potential strategy for antiviral therapies.145 Glycyrrhizic acid, a common ingredient in the Chinese herb licorice, has a known anti-SARS-CoV effect, but its application is limited due to cytotoxicity, poor water and bio-fluid solubility, and low bioavailability. Synthesizing highly biocompatible glycyrrhizic acid NPs demonstrated a significantly enhanced antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects in vitro and in vivo.152 A typical Indonesian natural product administration culture, called jamu, is commonly practiced to relieve pain and inflammation from acute and chronic disorders. The efficacy and the value of jamu have been improved using various nanotechnology approaches such as nanosuspension, nanoemulsion, nanoencapsulation, and nanofiber fabrication.151 Researchers at Alfaisal University combined AgNPs with a black tea extract (theaflavin) and attained a potent viral replication inhibition effect that can assist in the fight against COVID-19 by slowing the viral reproduction rate in a host and reducing the severity of symptoms.155

Nanostructures can also be used in the prevention of major organ complications, co-infections and postrecovery syndromes of COVID-19 infected patients. Antiviral nanobiomaterials, in the form of external vesicles, exosomes and artificial nerve conduits can cross the BBB; promote synaptic plasticity; modulate immunity for poststroke pain and inflammation; facilitate neural regeneration, and treat neuropathies associated with COVID-19.56 Nanotargeting of cytokine receptors using lipid nanoemulsions demonstrated a promising application for minimizing dementia and brain inflammatory neurodegeneration which is a risk factor for Alzheimers disease.156,157 The alarming rate of antimicrobial resistance with the upsetting emergence of new pathogens like SARS-CoV-2 will challenge the therapeutic approaches to many infectious diseases, which as a result, demand an accurate, fast, sensitive, specific, simple, and inexpensive diagnostics and therapeutics strategy.158 Ag, Au, iron oxide, and titanium dioxide can be valuable NPs to combat secondary microbial infections and multidrug resistance in critically ill patients during COVID-19 infection which is known as a silent risk.42,159 Furthermore, nanotechnology can help to address COVID-19-associated pneumonia by delivering anti-inflammatory nanodrugs and nano-antioxidants; providing inhalation methods; and utilizing oxygen-generation nanomaterials.160 Niclosamide-loaded albumin NPs, chitosan nanocarriers, biopolymer-derived nanocarriers, and lipid NPs demonstrated a highly viral entry inhibitory effect against SARS-CoV-2 in vitro and showed an extended circulating drug exposure in vivo, with a new, cheap, and scalable preparation process.161 In sum, all these nanotherapeutic strategies can provide timely solutions for combating the pandemic and open the door for future explorations.

Vaccines appear to be the preeminent solution in combating the pandemic even though their development, clinical trial processing, approval, and scale-up are time-consuming. But, investigations are being undertaken as quickly as possible. SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development is an the most astonishing one in history by getting into clinical trial phases within only three-to-six months which makes it the fastest of all the epidemics and pandemics.162 The application of nanomaterials in vaccine development and delivery has led to the birth of the concept of nanovaccinology. NP-based vaccines with organic, inorganic, hollow polymeric, and biologic NPs possess potential benefits such as high payloads, tailorable size and surface properties, controllable and targeted release kinetics, improved stability, easy antigen uptake, and strong response induction.60,163 Nanobiomaterials can be vaccine adjuvants to enhance vaccine efficacy due to their lower systemic toxicity, stronger targeting, higher specific surface area, and lower immune titer.58,59

Subunit vaccines with NPs, such as virus-like proteins (VLPs) and protein NPs, are under active consideration in development processing. The receptor-binding domain (RBD)-based SARS-CoV vaccines are also considered as effective strategies.164 VLNPs are desirable NPs that stand out to cells that produce antigens; easily detect them, and stimulate an immune response.121 They can better be delivered through the lymph and capillaries, easily entering into the cell; reducing the systemic inflammatory response; increasing vaccine immunogenicity and efficacy; improving patient safety; and boosting the immune system.165,166 Nucleic acid-based vaccines demonstrated an enhanced delivery efficacy and stability when they are applied with cationic liposomes, dendrimers, and solid lipid NPs.167 Vaccines formulated with exosomal S protein of SARS-CoV resulted in induced and accelerated antibody neutralizing effect.168

NP-based inhalational vaccines provide high mucosal immunity in the lungs which are the main targets in respiratory infections like SARS-CoV-2.138 Intranasal vaccine delivery offers admirable safety, better convenience, both systemic and local immune response for controlling respiratory infections like SARS-CoV-2.169 PLGA NPs functionalized with ACE2 receptor proteins from alveolar epithelial cells and macrophages can neutralize viral infectivity.117 Extracellular vesicles containing ACE2 as decoys and ACE2 mRNA packaged with lipid NPs achieved a critical host mimicry to distract the host-binding ability of SARS-CoV-2.170,171 Silica NPs coupled with polyethyleneimine showed easy trapping, protection, and delivery of DNA/RNA antigens into cells with potential adjuvant effect, great loading capacity, robust bonding, and enhanced cellular uptake.136 Quantum dots (QDs), with much smaller sizes than the known NPs, have also shown a promising utilization for COVID-19 vaccine designing.172 Lipid-based NPs (LNPs) opened the way forward to COVID-19 and they are now considered as the frontrunner in nanoscale vaccine development and delivery. They promised for the potential success of mRNA-LNP vaccines and, therefore, a long journey of optimizing LNPs for nucleic acid-based delivery has been passed.173,174

NP-based vaccine development is now on the way in various pharmaceutical companies and research institutes.175177 Table 4 demonstrates some of the WHO-listed nanovaccines which are in clinical and preclinical phases.177

Table 4 Novel Nanostructured Vaccines for COVID-19 in Clinical and Preclinical Phases

Most NPs for use in nanovaccines are known to be biodegradable, biocompatible, and less toxic and, therefore, they can be safe and effective alternatives to the conventional vaccines. However, nanovaccine-related side effects and safety concerns still remain to be investigated.178 Severe allergy-like reactions were reported from Pfizer and BioNTech novel vaccine products which is proposed to be due to nanopackaging compounds of the messenger RNA (mRNA). Polyethylene glycol (PEG) in vaccines may occasionally trigger anaphylaxis that causes a potentially life-threatening reaction with complicated respiratory and cardiovascular disorders.179 LNPs in the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines human trials demonstrated inflammation-like side effects such as pain, fever, swelling, and sleepiness.180,181 Oxidative stress, genotoxicity, hypercytokinemia, injection site inflammation, distribution, and persistence are also linked with nanovaccine toxicology. These side effects are probably associated with the antigen-NP, NP-antigen presenting cell, NP-biosystem, and adjuvant-NP interactions. In the case of a pandemic crisis like the current one, risk is weighed against potential benefit for any new advance.182,183

Nanomaterials can ultimately improve the COVID-19 prevention approaches by enhancing the surface disinfection, sanitization, and protective equipment efficiency and effectiveness as demonstrated by some investigation reports in Table 5. The use of nanomaterials in the production of PPE brings them new and improved properties in terms of resistance, efficacy, comfort and safety as summarized in Figure 7.129 The principles for the application of nanotechnology in COVID-19 prevention strategies are presented in the sections below.

Table 5 Nanobased Protective Equipment for COVID-19 Prevention

Figure 7 Nanotechnology applications for production of PPE against COVID-19. Copied from Campos EVR, Pereira EAS, de Oliveira JJ, et al. How can nanotechnology help to combat COVID-19? Opportunities and current need. J Nanobiotechnol. 2020;18:125. doi: 10.1186/s12951-020-00685-4.129

Various chemical disinfectants are being applied widely in personal, household, and medical facilities for exhaustive sterilization during the pandemic. These include alcohols, phenol-based disinfectants, quaternary ammonium compounds, chlorine-releasing agents, iodophores, and high-level disinfectants like formaldehyde.190 However, it is practically impossible to sanitize surfaces all the time, and there is no guarantee for the surface not to be re-contaminated.9,191 Investigation is underway for smart surface coatings with inherent virucidal materials and self-disinfecting abilities by the application of nanostructured techniques to surface disinfectants.68,69 These techniques include addition of intrinsic antiviral NPs, polymerization with intrinsically pathogen-resistant nanomaterials, metallic surface coatings, and nanotexturing.192

Various metal and metal oxide NPs such as AuNPs, AgNPs, ZnONPs, CuONPs, SiONPs, nanosized copper (I) iodide NPs (CuINPs), and quaternary ammonium cations commonly (QUATs) are capable of inactivating virus from surfaces.9 Metallic NP-based disinfectants have interesting features in terms of fabrication process and cost, safety and toxicity, life-span, antiviral activity, eco-friendliness, nonirritating, and nonfoaming properties to protect the pandemic viral transmission.19 They can be synthesized using the green synthesis approach from natural resources such as plant parts, insects, and animals. They provide an adsorbent property by their larger effective surface area, and a controlled release of the disinfectant molecules.193,194 They can be used for coating surfaces to oxidize and release ions with antimicrobial properties for disinfection. Controlled and sustained ion diffusion from metals like Cu modulates antiviral characteristics of surfaces.195 In addition; they are dermatologically safe and excellent in keeping public places safer from COVID-19 risks.15 Surfaces can be coated by nanopolymers in different ways. First, with a simple drop-casting method, a polymer solution will be dropped to coat the surfaces and then allowed to evaporate. In the second method, a dip coating technique can be done by immersing a substrate in the polymer solution, with consequent withdrawing, evaporation and drying. In a cast-coating technique, the polymeric solution will be cast onto the surface followed by solvent evaporation.196

Surfactant-coated NPs provide special antistatic, stabilizing, antiviral coating properties for surface disinfection.108 Apart from coatings, NPs like AgNPs demonstrated antiviral effects including SARS-CoV-2 when applied in their nanopowder forms, which can also be applicable for face masks and air filters.197,198 Copper NPs had been proven for theirs antiviral effect against HCoVs by degrading and inactivating the viral genome which may be projected for use against the current pandemic, SARS-CoV-2.199 Recent studies also reported that CuNP-loaded surfaces can easily deactivate SARS-CoV-2 and be developed with less economy than AgNPs and with excellent stability.200,201 Furthermore, conjugation of CuNPs with quaternary ammonium structures exhibited enhanced antiviral activity.202 Replacing plastic and stainless steel materials with Cu alloy can limit COVID-19 spreading on surfaces.203 In another way, photothermal inactivation of SARS-CoV-2 from surfaces can be done by illuminating Ag and Au NPs and nanorods at an optimal wavelength to induce heating for viral inactivation.204 Encapsulating objects with photoactive nanomaterials and using electromagnetic radiation to disrupt SARS-CoV-2 cells are other methods for surface disinfection.205

A study done by Abo-zeid et al showed that iron oxide NPs, both Fe2O3 and Fe3O4, can interact with viral spike protein destroying its ability of host cell attachment. In addition, they produced reactive oxygen specious (ROS) that inactivates SARS-CoV-2 in surfaces.206 Titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanocoating is the other alternative for sanitizing public utilities and mass gathering areas. Due to its UV induced photocatalytic properties, it has an effective multidimensional application for decontaminating and minimizing the COVID-19 transmission. It is a convenient and cost-effect disinfecting approach, even for remote locations, through TiO2-doped paints, air filtration aerosolized filters, TiO2-impregnated ventilation systems, and Cu and Ag-loaded TiO2 nanowires. Surfaces coated with aluminum alloy NPs also demonstrated an effective SARS-CoV-2 disinfection within six hours.207,208

Physicochemical properties of graphene nanomaterials can be used to control the transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic by deactivating the virus from surfaces. Graphene and its derivatives inactivate the virus by exerting photothermal activities and binding to the viral S protein that results in inhibition of cellular interactions to the host cell receptors.25,209 Water treatment using nanostructures of light-activated, layered graphitic carbon nitride disables the contaminating ability of viruses including SARS-CoV-2.79 Nanostructured anionic polymers showed pH adjusted, rapid and continuous disinfecting ability which can be a good alternative to inactivate the virus in a self-disinfecting manner.210 In recent times, nanobased air ionizers and surface purifiers that can be applied for decontaminating buildings and public offices are being studied and developed.211 Polymers can be awarded an antimicrobial effectiveness by covalent conjugation of biocidal agents such as quaternary ammoniums, phosphonium groups, chlorine dioxide, alcohols, and sulfonates to produce permanently coated, nonleaching sterile surfaces.125 Ventilator units can also be coated with the same principles to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 infection and cross-infections.19

PPE includes textile materials such as headgear, goggles, masks, gloves, facial protection, and dresses or gowns. They are critical elements for protection from COVID-19 transmission. Nanostructures used in PPE modification are responsible to adsorb viral particles for viral inactivation and filtration efficiency which is the main principle for their application of COVID-19 prevention.212 The main challenges encountered by conventional PPE are associated with their poor antitoxicity, difficulty in breathability, heat dissipation, and reusability.176 Uncertainties are also rising on which, how, and how much they permit COVID-19 transmitability, especially in workplace settings and densely populated gathering areas which necessitates more trustworthy, cost-effective, efficient, and reusable PPE development.213 Appropriate understanding of the role and the usage of PPE by the health staff and the public and ensuring an adequate supply system are considerable factors for imminent prevention of the pandemic. That is why their application worldwide has not been enough to stop the transmission.63,64

Environmental safety and waste management is another complicated issue during the pandemic season. It puts a substantial burden and results in a health compromising situation including carcinogenic health impacts questioning for other alternative technologies for the production of biomedical equipments and treatment of COVID-19 related wastes.65,66 Moreover, single-use PPE types become factors in environmental pollution and sources of biohazards. Not only the discarded PPEs, but also their derived decomposition products are threatening the aquatic organisms and human life that may persist for many years in the future.6769 Hasan et al revealed the potential long-term effects of these environmental impacts on aquatic ecosystems and human health as: physical effects (changes in microbiome, water quality deterioration, ecosystem alteration), physiological effects (reproduction hamper, oxidative stress, decreased survival, metabolic damages), long-term effects (immunosuppression, carcinogenicity, geno-toxicity, neurotoxicity).70 This indicates that advanced technologies for the development of eco-design approaches for PPE production are needed.71

Nanostructures can impart their role by reducing single-use PPE by replacing them with novel reusable, self-cleaning, effective, and efficient antiviral products to minimize environmental challenges. This can be brought about by the application of antiviral NPs, nanofibers, and NP-coatings to acquire super-hydrophobicity, synergistic effects, self-cleaning functionalities with photothermal and photocatalytic sterilization.72,214 For these purposes, nanomaterials with intrinsic antiviral activity, such as AgNPs, graphene oxide (GO), CuO NPs, two-dimensional carbides, and nitrides that can capture and inactivate viruses are being investigated.176,215 Furthermore, a fluorescent NP penetrant inspection can be used for the detection of inner defects in used masks, to provide necessary data for the development of reusable masks, structural optimization, and evaluation standards.216 Less material consumption and reduced supply problems, efficient filtration due to large surface areas, cost-effective transmission control, and virus neutralization due to functionalization with chemically active groups are the main features of PPE modifications by using nanomaterials and nanotechnology.217

Size- and time-dependent particle removal efficiency is reported from different protective respiratory masks which can be optimized by nanostructured systems.218 Ag nanocluster/silica composite nanocoating impregnated in facial masks possessed a promising virucidal property, reduced the SARS-CoV-2 titer, and provided great safety to be used in crowded areas.178 In addition, SiO2 and Al2O3 NPs coated with polypropylene or polyethylene demonstrated super water repellent effects; TiO2 and MgO NP coatings provided self-sterilizing activity; indium-tin oxide NPs produced an electromagnetic/infrared protective clothing and ceramic NPs resulted in an increased abrasion resistance.219,220 Generally, the mechanisms in these NP coating effects are reported to be surface oxidation, releasing free radicals or toxic ions, ROS generation, photoreaction, inhibition of viral interaction, entry and binding.221 Nanotechnology can also increase the filtration efficiency through improving viral particle capturing and retention, enabling rapid viral inactivation after capturing them, minimizing exhaled humidity effects on particle redistribution, and providing a very thin, high-efficiency reusable filtration media.61

The application of nanofiber technology for face masks can reduce breathing resistance, maximize comfort by minimizing pressure, and provide enhanced filtration efficiency against very small viral particles (<50 nm).22 The Egyptians discovered a novel, reusable, recyclable, customizable, antimicrobial, and antiviral respirator facial mask feasible for mass production. The novel design is based on the filtration system composed of a nanofibrous matrix of polylactic acid and cellulose acetate containing CuO NPs and GO nanosheets produced by electrospinning technique.222 Nanofiber filter incorporated surgical masks showed a decrease in air-flow resistance, improved filtration efficiency, enhanced contaminant deactivation, and reduced risk of inhaling pathogens.223 Similarly, other PPE like gowns, facial shields, gloves, boots, and goggles can be advanced with the aid of efficient and multifunctional nanostructures.61,79

In the clinical trial of the COVID-19 vaccine, the two lipid mRNA-based vaccines, BNT162b2 and mRNA-1273, exhibited more than 95% efficacy, owing to their unique nanocarrier characteristics.224 Even though such effectiveness with reduced medicine intake and adverse effects can be achieved with nanomedicine, there is still a substantial concern on their toxicity. Moreover, the development of these nanostructured systems should be regulated as all marketing items must follow regulatory requirements.225,226 There is an international debate on the risk regulation of NPs. To resolve this controversy, uniform definitions of NPs are required for the identification and application of legal provisions to them and facilitate the marketing of nanotechnology-derived products. There should also be a validated method of analysis, detection, characterization, and complete information regarding the impact of nanomaterials as well as the assessment of nanomaterial exposure.227,228 The use of nanotechnology may result in significant problems, causing irreversible damage to the environment and humans, if adequate rules and legislation are not in place.229 The legal framework of nanotechnology was investigated to see if new regulatory action was necessary to address the hazards associated with nanomaterials. To take advantage from the benefits of nanoproducts, especially in severe pandemics like COVID-19, the public, customers, and employees need flexible and balanced regulatory actions based on scientific data. In addition, development of standards and guidelines on their preparation and use should be outlined to ensure safety and reduce the risk of liability.230

Authorization of substances and ingredients, qualification of hazardous waste, reinforcing conformity assessment methods, and restrictions on the entry of chemical substances and preparations to the market as well as their usage are all part of the nanomaterials regulation.227,230 Current regulatory frameworks cover a wide range of products and processes, including nanotechnologies, which implies that a separate regulator or regulatory framework may be unnecessary. However, some case studies suggest that the present framework should be modified because of the strange and uniqueness of NPs.230232 Recent discoveries such as the NP-based COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostic, and therapeutic agents as well as PPE are now coming to support the globes fight against the pandemic. However, current regulations may not be sufficient to solve their risk management, production challenges, and market issues which necessitate working more on the nanoregulatory issues parallel to nanoproduct discoveries.228 Lack of understanding and communication about the science, use, and regulation of nanotechnology among all stakeholders hurts society perceptions and regulatory decision-making.233 Even though the risks posed by nanomaterials to the environment and humans have become a global concern, it is recommended for all relevant regulatory bodies to consider the impact of NPs in protecting humans from current and future pandemics such as COVID-19.234

Regarding the pharmacoeconomic aspects, there is a debate on the economic influence of nanotechnology. Reports are indicating that its short-term effect is minor, but it will provide a substantial economic impact in the long-term. Its prospective economic effects will be fully beneficial across the society and the spectrum of developed and developing countries. There was no evidence that nanotechnologies generate economic challenges that were notably different from those raised by other technological advancements.230,235 However, certain studies predicted that nanotechnologies can offer economic benefits, including the ability to create jobs, wealth, and well-being.236 These technologies are also shown to be a cost-effective option for many challenging medicine approaches.229 A pharmacoeconomic study would allow for the most efficient use of monetary resources and the maximum health return at the lowest possible cost. The high failure rate for innovative therapeutic compounds in the drug development cycle is mostly attributable to economic considerations to save resources.237 Such cost-based approaches have a significant impact on the development of nanotechnology-derived products and management strategies against the COVID-19 pandemic.224

Nanomedicines have the potential to make a significant contribution to inexpensive health care, but a rigorous evaluation through updated cost-effectiveness evaluations is required first. In global pandemic challenges, like the current COVID-19 pandemic, the success of introducing highly-priced and efficacious, yet costly, nanotherapies to market with their affordability can be considerably improved by using specific decision-making frameworks. The implementation of comprehensive, standardized cost-effectiveness studies can shift the focus to reducing health-care costs while maintaining care quality. One major flaw in current cost-effectiveness research in the field of nanomedicine is that, practically all studies focus solely on direct treatment costs, completely ignoring indirect costs.238240 This concern may highly challenge the applicability of nanomaterials and their support on combating COVID-19 by the time the conventional approaches and repurposing strategies are unable to retard and resist its drastic global transmission. Conversely, nanomedicine has the potential to save health-care expenses by reducing treatment costs through focused therapy, reducing hospital stays, promoting healthy aging, and focusing on chronic diseases.241 This confirmed that the importance of nanotechnology in the COVID-19 vaccination and treatment will be uncountable, as COVID-19 is associated with various organ complications, needs targeted therapies, and results in chronic postinfection syndromes.242

Advanced vaccines, PPE, disinfectants, surface coatings, nanobased sensors, and therapeutic agents that will improve treatment success rates are now coming forward to the laboratories, clinical trials, and are even in the market.140,243 Simple, low-cost procedures for low-resourced medical infrastructures and less-developed nations will be the main benefiting outcomes from these nano-advanced products.88,92 Broad-spectrum antiviral nanodrug or functionalized biocompatible NPs have been synthesized which irreversibly and permanently inhibit the virion preventing the re-replication inside the host.244 Antiviral drugs and nanovaccines with lung targeting, superior circulation and retention time, remote loading, decreased systemic immunotoxicity, prodrug forms of controlled and localized release, reduced dosage, combination therapeutics, lowered dose and toxicity, and augmented cellular uptake are also reported positive outcomes.245

Connecting the biomaterial science, nanotechnology, and medicine offered novel and smart nanodelivery systems with effective prevention, efficient diagnostics, and higher efficacy therapeutics. These systems can potentially counter challenges related to site-specific delivery, controlled release and maintenance of stability which will be extremely vital in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.95 A nanobased vaccine (mRNA-LNP) for SARS-CoV-2 is being developed and found to be successful. The utilization of nanobiomaterials for COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutics development promised more potent and versatile applications.246

Despite persisting for a very short time, there are many new investigations and patents related to COVID-19. From these patents, more than 10% are associated with nano topics including the use of different nanostructured systems for diagnostic, therapeutics, vaccination, and preventive approaches as nanocarriers, vectors, markers, filters, adjuvants, and intrinsic antimicrobials.125,247 Research and development is still underway on the effective application of nanomedicine with industrial implications to enhance safety, high sterilization capability with a low dosage, reusability, and eco- and user-friendly properties.19,188 Efficiently targeting antiviral nanocarriers and personalized therapy with precision nanomedicine are the near future perspectives of such investigations.9

In summary, COVID-19 management can benefit from nanostructured delivery systems in that it can potentiate immune response modulations which may otherwise be difficult conventionally, possess precise targeting, reduce nontarget accumulation and associated toxicities, protect drugs and vaccines from degradation and inactivation in body environment, offer alternative vaccine delivery routes, and possess promising biodegradability and biocompatibility that can be controlled.248

With those vast advantageous outcomes, clinical translation of the nanoproducts has not yet been achieved. Unpredictable side effects, safety, and toxicity concerns, long-term fate, cost and complexity of NP preparations, need for pure study designs with acceptable sample sizes and validated methods are the persisting challenges.138,139 In contrast there are also probable limitations of the promising advantages of nanoformulations including difficulty to sterilize parenteral formulations suitably, biomolecule denaturation risks, low entrapment efficiencies, biodistribution profile characterization, off-target accumulations, and uncontrollable burst release effects.22

The other vital issue is the lack of deepest understanding of the cellular, pathogenic and pathophysiologic aspects of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 with the particular nanobiointerfaces involved in drug/vaccine development and delivery.8 SARS-CoV-2 also revealed different behaviors in different hosts which entails the need for the design of highly efficient nanosystems such as biomimetic organoids and organ-on-chips that can specifically assess and evaluate these behavioral variabilities.135 Even though the lungs are the best targets in COVID-19 management, direct and targeted intranasal and pulmonary nanodeliveries are associated with severe impairment in respiratory sites and lung function. Further proof is needed to assure nanomaterial safety related to intolerable inflammation, cellular damage, fibrosis, small granulomatous lesions, geno-immunotoxicity, and oxidative stress due to abnormal NP accumulation in the alveoli which results in alveolar cell damage, blood vessel penetration, and then translocation to other organs.249251 The design of such nanocarriers in such a way that the nanoformulation can escape the recognition by scavenger cells is also challenging and needs considerable effort before clinical translation.61

Scaling up, complicated fabrication process and only limited information on how and how much the NPs exert their impact on organisms with peoples reluctance to accept new technologies are other reported challenges.111

Patent and intellectual property right issues remained challenging through this global pandemic era. The Open COVID Pledge requests patent and intellectual proprietors to voluntarily sacrifice the rights in helping the free fight during the crisis, but it is still being debated as it is dependent on the willingness of the patent holders.219 Moreover, regulatory issues are still far-away for the confidential application of nanomedicine with its full potentials. Ethical, scientific, biosafety and acceptance issues by regulatory agencies hinder nanomedicine to produce safe and high-quality nanodrugs including antivirals of this pandemic.9,135

Having the opportunities and the challenges from nanotechnology, nanomedicine, and biotechnology in mind, the pharmaceutical society must put endless effort on investigating nanotherapies to manage COVID-19. Here, from the pharmaceutical point of view, searching for better antimicrobial/antiviral therapeutic agents with better efficacy and minimized adverse effects, optimizing dosages, and delivery systems for carriers and targets, investigating biocompatible, bio-functionalized, nanodrug loading systems; designing stimuli-responsive, immunosupportive, and immunomodulating agents by using nanopharmacology concepts, and developing personalized nanotherapeutics are based on variations of the effects of SARS-CoV-2 and patient-specific disease profiles.82

The current pandemic crisis can be taken as a golden opportunity for the transformation of nanomedicine by intensifying the safety to risk ratio of nanostructures. For this to be true, in-depth investigational study, experience-sharing, and exchange of knowledge among different countries, different departments, and different companies including regulatory agencies are essential.9,176 Early stage regulatory guidelines with a mid and long-term research on positive opportunities and about factors that limit their applicability are needed. This can enable the global medical practice against the current and future pandemics.46

Nanomedicine is now trying to combine the advance from machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and internet of medical things (IoMT) for modeling, encoding and interpreting cell-nanomaterial interactions which is crucial to forecast biosafety, predict efficacy, and formulate quantitative nanostructure activity-relationship (nano-QSAR). These combined applications can support the global struggle against COVID-19 by providing simplified data collection, mobile-sensing, as well as self-sampling of COVID-19 tests. Other related technologies such as robotics, telemedicine and 3D-printing can further complement the effective application of nanomedicine in fighting the pandemic.108,252

Even though the COVID pandemic is accelerating globally, there are still no approved drugs and internationally accepted free-access vaccines to counter its worldwide spread. Accurate prevention, rapid and early detection, effective immunomodulation, and definitive treatment strategies are not yet outlined. Nanostructured drug development and delivery-based research and development is now promising the world to end the pandemic effectively and shortly with radically modified therapeutic, diagnostic and prevention options. Should all regulatory, scale-up, and safety issues be settled, nanotechnology can guarantee the world for the current and the next unpredictable pandemic crisis. Extensive scientific research and collaborative multidisciplinary efforts are needed for its practically extrapolatable outcome.

ACE2, angiotensin converting enzyme-2; BBB, bloodbrain barrier; CNS, central nervous system; COVID-19, coronavirus disease-2019; CPT, convalescent plasma therapy; CQ, chloroquine; DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid; HCoV, human corona viruses; HCQ, hydroxychloroquine; IL, interleukin; LNP, lipid nanoparticle; NP, nanoparticle; PCR, polymerase chain reaction; PLGA, poly lactic-co-glycolic acid; POC(D/T), point-of-care (diagnosis/testing); PPE, personal protective equipment; RBD, receptor-binding domain; ROS, reactive oxygen specious; RNA, ribonucleic acid; S, spike; SARS-CoV-2, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2; VLNP, virus-like nanoparticle; VLP, virus-like protein; WHO, World Health Organization.

Addis Ababa University and Bahir Dar University are thankfully acknowledged for giving us internet access.

All authors made a significant contribution to the work reported, whether that is in the conception, execution, acquisition of data, analysis and interpretation, or in all these areas; took part in drafting, revising or critically reviewing the article; gave final approval of the version to be published; have agreed on the journal to which the article has been submitted; and agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

The authors report no conflicts of interest in this work.

1. Wang C, Horby PW, Hayden FG, Gao GF. A novel coronavirus outbreak of global health concern. Lancet. 2020;395(10223):470473. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30185-92

2. Perlman S. Another decade, another coronavirus. New Engl J Med. 2020;382(8):760762. doi:10.1056/NEJMe2001126

3. Gorbalenya AE, Baker SC, Baric RS, et al. The species severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus: classifying 2019-nCoV and naming it SARS-CoV-2. Nat Microbiol. 2020;5(4):536544.4.

4. Wu JT, Leung K, Leung GM. Nowcasting and forecasting the potential domestic and international spread of the 2019-nCoV outbreak originating in Wuhan, China: a modelling study. Lancet. 2020;395:689. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30260-9

5. Gavriatopoulou M, Korompoki E, Fotiou D, et al. Organ-specific manifestations of COVID-19 infection. Clin Exp Med. 2020;7:114.

6. Glebov OO. Understanding SARS-CoV-2 endocytosis for COVID-19 drug repurposing. FEBS J. 2020;287:36643671. doi:10.1111/febs.15369

7. Ullah MA, Araf Y, Sarkar B, Moin AT, Reshad RA, Hasanur MD. Pathogenesis, diagnosis and possible therapeutic options for COVID-19. J Clin Exp Invest. 2020;11:em00755. doi:10.29333/jcei/8564

8. Cardoso VMO, Moreira BJ, Comparetti EJ, et al. Is nanotechnology helping in the fight against COVID-19? Front Nanotechnol. 2020;2:588915. doi:10.3389/fnano.2020.588915

9. Rai M, Bonde S, Yadav A, et al. Nanotechnology-based promising strategies for the management of COVID-19: current development and constraints. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2020:110. doi:10.1080/14787210.2021.1836961

10. WHO. COVID-19 dashboard. Available from: https://covid19.who.int/. Accessed June 15, 2021.

11. Lovato A, de Filippis C. Clinical presentation of COVID-19: a systematic review focusing on upper airway symptoms. Ear Nose Throat J. 2020;99(9):569576.

12. Mizumoto K, Kagaya K, Zarebski A, Chowell G. Estimating the asymptomatic proportion of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, Yokohama, Japan, 2020. Euro Surveill. 2020;25(10). doi:10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2020.25.10.2000180

13. Shereen MA, Khan S, Kazmi A, Bashir N, Siddique R. COVID-19 infection: origin, transmission, and characteristics of human coronaviruses. J Adv Res. 2020;24:9198. doi:10.1016/j.jare.2020.03.005

14. Cai J, Sun W, Huang J, Gamber M, Wu J, He G. Indirect virus transmission in cluster of COVID-19 cases, Wenzhou, China, 2020. Emerg Infect Dis. 2020;26(6):13431345. doi:10.3201/eid2606.200412

15. Chhantyal P. Cicadas antimicrobial nanotechnology solution for COVID free surfaces; 2020. Available from: https://www.azonano.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=5621. Accessed June 12, 2021.

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Could Nanotechnology Help to End the Fight Against COVID-19? | IJN - Dove Medical Press

Are Radioactive Diamond Batteries the Solution to Nuclear Waste? – Interesting Engineering

Nuclear power is considered a clean energy source because it has zero carbon dioxide emissions; yet, at the same time, it produces massive amounts of hazardous, radioactive waste that pile up asmore and more reactors are built around the world.

Experts have proposed different solutions for this issue in order to take better care of the environment and peoples health. With insufficient safe storage space for nuclear waste disposal, the focal point of these ideas is the reutilization of the materials.

Radioactive diamond batterieswere first developed in 2016 and were immediately acclaimed because they promised a new, cost-effective way of recycling nuclear waste. In this context, its unavoidable to deliberate whether theyre the ultimate solution to these toxic, lethal residues.

Radioactive diamond batteries were first developed by a team of physicists and chemists from the Cabot Institute for the Environment of the University of Bristol. The invention was presented as a betavoltaic device, which means that its powered by the beta decay of nuclear waste.

Beta decay is a type of radioactive decay that occurs when an atoms nucleus has an excess of particles and releases some of them to obtain a more stable ratio of protons to neutrons. This produces a kind of ionizing radiation called beta radiation, which involves a lot of high-speed and high-energy electrons or positrons known as beta particles.

Beta particles contain nuclear energy that can be converted into electric energy through a semiconductor.

A typical betavoltaic cell consists of thin layers of radioactive material placed between semiconductors. As the nuclear material decays, it emits beta particles that knock electrons loose in the semiconductor, creating an electric current.

However, the power density of the radioactive source is lower the further it is from the semiconductor. On top of this, because beta particles are randomly emitted in all directions, only a small number of them will hit the semiconductor, and only a small number of those will be converted into electricity. This means that nuclear batteries are much less efficient than other types of batteries.This is where the polycrystalline diamond (PCD) comes in.

The radioactive diamond batteries are made using a process called chemical vapor deposition, which is widely used for artificial diamond manufacture. It uses a mixture of hydrogen and methane plasma to grow diamond films at very high temperatures. Researchers havemodified the CVD process to grow radioactive diamonds by using a radioactive methane containing the radioactive isotope Carbon-14, which is found on irradiated reactor graphite blocks.

Diamond is one of the hardest materials that humanity knows its even harder than silicon carbide. And itcan act as both a radioactive sourceanda semiconductor. Expose it to beta radiation and youll get a long-duration battery that doesnt need to be recharged. The nuclear waste in its interior fuels it over and over again, allowing it to self-charge for ages.

However, the Bristol team warned that their radioactive diamond batteries wouldnt be suitable for laptops or smartphones, because they contain only 1g of carbon-14, meaning that they provide very low power only a few microwatts, which is less than a typical AA battery. Therefore, their application so far is limited to small devices that must stay unattended for a long time, such as sensors and pacemakers.

The origins of nuclear batteries can be traced back to 1913, when English physicist Henry Moseley found out that particle radiation could generate an electric current. In the 1950s and 1960s, the aerospace industry was very interested in Moseleys discovery, as it could potentially power spacecraft for long-duration missions. The RCA Corporation also researched an application for nuclear batteries in radio receivers and hearing aids.

But other technologies were needed in order to develop and sustain the invention. In this regard, the usage of synthetic diamonds is seen as revolutionary, as it provides safety and conductivity to the radioactive battery. With the addition of nanotechnology, an American company built a high-power nano-diamond battery.

Based in San Francisco, California, NDB Inc. was founded in 2012 with the objective of creating a cleaner and greener alternative to conventional batteries. The startup introduced its version of diamond-based batteries in 2016 and announced two proof-of-concept tests in 2020. Its one of the firms that is attempting to commercialize radioactive diamond batteries.

Nano-diamond batteries from NDB are described as alpha, beta, and neutron voltaic batteries and have several new features according to their website.

Nano-diamond batteries are scheduled to come onto the market in 2023.

Arkenlight, the English firm commercializing Bristols radioactive diamond battery, plans on releasing their first product, a microbattery, to the market in the latter part of 2023.

The portability of modern electronic devices, the increasing popularity of electric vehicles, and the 21st Century race to take humanity on long space missions to Mars have triggered a growing interest in battery technology research in the last few years.

Some types of batteries are more appropriate for certain applications and not as useful for others. But we can say that the conventional lithium-ion batteries that we are familiar with won't be replaced with radioactive diamond batteries any time soon.

Conventional batteries last a shorter time, but they are also much cheaper to manufacture. However, at the same time, the fact that they do not last that long (they have a lifespan of about five years) is problematic, because they also produce a great deal of electronic waste, which is not easy to recycle.

Radioactive diamond batteries are more convenient, because they have a much longer lifespan than conventional batteries. If they can be developed into a universal battery, like NDB Inc. proposes, we could end up with smartphone batteries that last much longer than the life of the smartphone, and we could simply change the battery from one phone to the next, much as we now transfer the SIM card.

However, the diamond betavoltaics developed by Arkenlight won't go that far.The company is working on designs that stack up lots of their carbon-14 betabatteries into cells. To provide high power discharge, each cell could be accompanied by a small supercapacitor, which could offer an excellent quick-discharge capability.

However, this radioactive material also has a lifespan of more than 5000 years. If that radiation were to leak out of the device ingaseous form, it could be a problem. That's where the diamonds come in. In the diamond formation, the C-14 is a solid, so it can't be extracted and absorbed by a living being.

The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) calculated that 100 pounds (approximately 45 kg) of carbon-14 could allow the fabrication of millions of long-duration diamond-based batteries. These batteries could also reduce the costs of nuclear waste storage.

University of Bristol researcher Professor Tom Scott told Nuclear Energy Insider that,By removing the Carbon-14 from irradiated graphite directly from the reactor, this would make the remaining waste products less radioactive and therefore easier to manage and dispose of. Cost estimates for disposing of the graphite waste are 46,000 pounds ($60,000) per cubic meter for Intermediate Level Waste [ILW] and 3,000 pounds ($4,000) per cubic meter for Low-Level Waste [LLW]."

Dont all these features make them one of the best options for the sustainable future that we need? Well have to wait and see if the manufacturers can find a way of dealing with production costs and low energy output, and get their diamond-based batteries onto the market cost-effectively and accessibly.

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Are Radioactive Diamond Batteries the Solution to Nuclear Waste? - Interesting Engineering

Updating the PLOS ONE Nanomaterials Collection Author Perspectives, Part 2 – EveryONE – PLoS Blogs

In July, we updated our Nanomaterials Collection, featuring papers published over the past few years in PLOS ONE. This collection showcases the breadth of the nanomaterials community at PLOS ONE, and includes papers on a variety of topics, such as the fabrication of nanomaterials, nanomaterial-cell interactions, the role of nanomaterials in drug delivery, and nanomaterials in the environment.

To celebrate this updated collection, we are conducting a series of Q&As with authors whose work is included in the collection. Next out is our conversations with Lauren Crandon from OnTo Technology and Robert Zucker from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In this Q&A, they discuss the importance of understanding the environmental fate of nanomaterials, new technology development, and their experiences of making new discoveries in the lab. We will be adding more author interviews over the next few weeks, so please do keep checking back.

Lauren Crandon OnTo Technology

Lauren Crandon is a Research and Development Engineer with OnTo Technology in Bend, OR. She develops technology to recycle lithium-ion batteries, including nanomaterials. She received her Ph.D. from Oregon State University in Environmental Engineering, where she researched the environmental fate and impacts of nanomaterials.

Lauren Crandons paper in the Nanomaterials Collection: Crandon LE, Boenisch KM, Harper BJ, Harper SL (2020) Adaptive methodology to determine hydrophobicity of nanomaterials in situ. PLoS ONE 15(6): e0233844. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0233844

What motivated you to work in this field?

LC: I knew I wanted to study the environmental implications of emerging contaminants. When I first walked into the Harper Nanotoxicology Lab at Oregon State, I got so excited about nanomaterials. I learned that more and more fields in technology, medicine, and industry were using nanoparticles and that these would all be eventually released into the environment. In our lab, we looked at the implications of this at both the small scale (within individual organism) and the large scale (how far downstream nanoparticles will end up). If we can develop a good understanding of fate, transport, and toxicity, we can responsibly develop nano-enabled technology for the future.

Nanomaterials research has increased in popularity over the past few years as a research topic. Do you envision that the field can continue to grow in this way, and do you see any challenges on the horizon?

LC: I absolutely believe the field of nanomaterials will continue to grow. For example, lithium-ion batteries are starting to use nanomaterials to improve performance and nanoparticle-based sunscreens are becoming more popular due to concerns with their chemical alternatives. I think we will also see exciting breakthroughs in nanomedicine, among other fields. The main challenge will continue to be evaluating human and environmental safety at end-of-life for these applications. It is difficult to establish standards and regulations, since the fate and behavior of nanomaterials depends on their environment. However, this will be important for sustainable use.

Can you tell us about an experience during your research, whether in lab or at the computer or in conversation etc., where something finally clicked, or worked?

LC: Yes! I was collaborating with a toxicology graduate student in my lab to compare the toxicity of Cu and CuO nanoparticles in zebrafish. The CuO NPs were much less toxic, but we could not explain why. They dissolved more Cu+2, which was generally accepted to be the toxic mechanism. When I applied one of the standard assays I was working on to measure reactive oxygen species (ROS), the trends matched! Cu NPs generated much more ROS than CuO, which explained the higher toxicity. Applying a standardized test to NPs in a specific testing environment allowed us to model and predict toxicity. I spent the rest of my graduate work continuing to standardize rapid assays for commercially used nanoparticles and correlating my results with their toxicity. I hope this can help us predict the potential risks of materials as they enter the market.

Is there a specific research area where a collaboration with the nanomaterials community could be particularly interesting for interdisciplinary research?

LC: I am very excited about applications of nanomaterials in energy storage devices and medicine. I hope that as these materials continue to enter the market, nanotoxicology research will continue to be funded and part of the story. Nanomaterials offer novel properties that bring major benefits but also do not always follow conventional toxicology. I would like to see collaboration with the technology industry and environmental toxicology to responsibly produce the next generation of novel materials.

Robert Zucker U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Dr. Robert Zucker is a Research Biologist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencys Center for Public Health and Environmental Assessment. His research involves applying biophysical technologies of imaging and flow cytometry to reproductive toxicology questions.

Robert Zuckers paper in the Nanomaterials Collection: Zucker RM, Ortenzio J, Degn LL, Boyes WK (2020) Detection of large extracellular silver nanoparticle rings observed during mitosis using darkfield microscopy. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0240268. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0240268

What route did you take to where you currently are in your career?

RZ: I obtained a BS in physics from The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and obtained a masters degree at UCLA in the Laboratory of Nuclear Medicine and Radiation Biology in the field of biophysics and nuclear medicine. I also received my PhD in biophysics at UCLA studying biophysical separation and characterization of hematological cells. After graduating from UCLA, I did a two-year Post-Doc at the Max Planck Institute in Munich Germany in immunology. When I returned to America, I became a principal investigator at the Papanicolaou Cancer Institute and an adjunct associate professor at the University of Miami for 12 years. In this position, I was involved in cancer research and was a member of the Miami sickle cell center. My next position was at the EPA in Research Triangle Park, NC, applying biophysical technologies of imaging and flow cytometry to reproductive toxicology questions.

What emerging topics in your field are you particularly excited about?

RZ: Flow cytometry has been around for over 50 years. Recently, the technology has been improved by using five lasers with 64 detectors. This provides a system with better resolution. In addition, the software incorporated into the system allows the removal of autofluoresence noise to increase the detection of cells or particles.

Optical microscopes, cameras and equipment have improved to allow scientists to easily obtain digital images, which are high resolution. The new microscopes are automated allowing the scientist to design and achieve experiments that were not previously feasible. For example, the current microscope allows us to use widefield confocal microscopy on 2D images that can be deconvolved with software built into the system for higher resolution. It is quicker than point-scanning confocal microscopy. The machines can obtain sequential measurements over time on one field or take images from multiple fields.

How important are open science practices in your field? Do you have any success stories from your own research of sharing or reusing code, data, protocols, open hardware, interacting with preprints, or something else?

RZ: It is important to follow ones scientific instinctsthe EPA is an organization that allows this freedom to their investigators to research projects of interest to the Agency. I have two success stories to share from my own research.

Success story #1: In the field of nanoparticles, I observed that TiO2 was extremely reflective using darkfield microscopy. Using flow cytometry, granulocytes, monocytes, and neutrophils can be identified based on size (forward scatter) and internal structure (side scatter) from the granules contained in the neutrophils. Can this scatter signal be used to detect a dose response of uptake of nanoparticles by a cell? To try to answer this question, we used two concentration of TiO2 in an experiment, and a dose response was observed with these two-concentration compared to controls. This procedure has subsequently been reproduced by a number of investigations with various types of metal nanoparticles. One of our papers was published in PLOS One and compared the effect of different coating of silver particles coatings on uptake and toxicity by mammalian cells.

Success story #2: The confocal microscope allows scientists to see embryo and reproductive structures in 3D using fluorescence staining technology. By applying very old technologies used to clear tissues, we were able to see very deep into tissues. This procedure allowed the internal structures of reproductive tissues and developing embryos to be observed. The data were used to support the hypothesis that studied how the chemicals affected these tissues.

If you could dream really big, is there a particular material, function or material property that seems far away at the moment, but you think could be attained in the future?

RZ: My dream would be to use the current spectral flow cytometer to predict 1) the effects of microplastics on mammalian cells 2) to detect the effects of climate change on cyanobacteria growth and toxin production 3) to spectrally detect microplastics in water. I would want to provide a simple imaging test to 4) detect microplastics in water by their higher reflectivity 5) to provide an instant imaging quantitation of the amount of Algae and Cyanobacteria in a water sample based on differential excitation fluorescence, and 6) use spectral features of photosynthesis fluorescence and autofluoresence to determine the health of plants and cyanobacteria and then relate this data to the environment.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by contributors are solely those of individual contributors, and not necessarily those of PLOS.

Featured image: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0133088

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Updating the PLOS ONE Nanomaterials Collection Author Perspectives, Part 2 - EveryONE - PLoS Blogs

Scientists Develop Woven Nanotube Fibers Capable of Converting Heat into Energy – AZoNano

Aug 17 2021Reviewed by Alex Smith

Invisibly minute carbon nanotubes, drawn as fibers and sewn into fabrics, turn out to be a thermoelectric generator that can convert heat from the sun or other sources into energy.

Physicist Junichiro Kono from Rice University laboratory guided a team of scientists at Tokyo Metropolitan University (TMU) and the Rice-based Carbon Hub to develop tailored nanotubes and test their potential for large-scale applications.

The small-scale experiments of the researchers resulted in a fiber-improvised, flexible cotton fabric that converted heat into required energy to power an LED. Further improvements will enable the materials to form building blocks for fiber and textile electronics and energy harvesting. The same nanotube fibers can find application as heat sinks to actively cool sensitive devices with greater efficiency.

The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

The effect looked to be simple, where, if one side of thermoelectric material is hotter compared to the other, it generates energy. The heat may arrive from the Sun or other devices such as the hotplates that areemployed in the fabric experiment. In another way, adding energy can encourage the material to cool the hotter side.

So far, macroplastic assemblies of nanomaterials have not displayed the required, giant power factor of around 14 mW/mK2. This is the value quantified by the Rice researchers in carbon nanotube fibers.

The power factor tells you how much power density you can get out of a material upon certain temperature difference and temperature gradient.

Natsumi Komatsu, Study Lead Author and Graduate Student, Rice University

According to Komatsu, the power factor of a material is a joint effect achieved from its electrical conductivity and Seebeck coefficient, which is a measure of its potential to convert thermal differences into electricity.

The ultrahigh electrical conductivity of this fiber was one of the key attributes, added Komatsu. The source of this superpower also links to tuning the inherent Fermi energy of the nanotubes, which is a characteristic that determines the electrochemical potential.

The scientists were able to regulate the Fermi energy by chemically doping the nanotubes turned into fibers by the Rice University laboratory associated with Matteo Pasquali, who is the co-author and a chemical and biomolecular engineer, enablingthe researchers to tune the electronic properties of the fibers.

While the tested fibers were cut into centimeter lengths, Komatsu stated that there is no evidence to suggest that the devices cannot utilize the exceptional nanotube fibers from the Pasquali laboratory that are spooled in constant lengths.

No matter where you measure them, they have the same very high electrical conductivity. The piece I measured was small only because my setup isnt capable of measuring 50 m of fiber.

Natsumi Komatsu, Study Lead Author and Graduate Student, Rice University

Pasquali is the director of the Carbon Hub, which encourages expanding the enhancement of hydrogen and carbon materials in a way that also basically alters the global usage methods of fossil hydrocarbons.

Carbon nanotube fibers have been on a steady growth path and are proving advantageous in more and more applications. Rather than wasting carbon by burning it into carbon dioxide, we can fix it as useful materials that have further environmental benefits in electricity generation and transportation.

Matteo Pasquali, Study Co-Author and Chemical and Bio-Molecular Engineer, Rice University

Whether the new study results in a solar panel that people can dump in the washing machine remains to be seen, but Kono agreed the technology has huge and varied capabilities.

Nanotubes have been around for 30 years, and scientifically, a lot is known. But in order to make real-world devices, we need macroscopically ordered or crystalline assemblies. Those are the types of nanotube samples that Matteos group and my group can make, and there are many, many possibilities for applications, stated Pasquali.

The co-authors of the study are Rice graduate students Oliver Dewey, Lauren Taylorand Mitchell Trafford, and Geoff Wehmeyer, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering; and Yota Ichinose, Professor Yohei Yomogida, and Professor Kazuhiro Yanagi of Tokyo Metropolitan University.

Kono is the Karl F. Hasselmann Professor in Engineering and a professor of electrical and computer engineering, physics and astronomyand materials science and nanoengineering. Pasquali is the A.J. Hartsook Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and a professor of chemistry and materials science and nanoengineering.

This study was financially supported by the Department of Energy Basic Energy Science program, the National Science Foundation, the Robert A. Welch Foundation, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and the U.S. Air Force, and the Department of Defense.

Woven nanotubes make a thermoelectric generatorPlay

Woven nanotubes make a thermoelectric generator. Video Credit: Rice University.

Komatsu, N., et al. (2021) Macroscopic weavable fibers of carbon nanotubes with giant thermoelectric power factor. Nature Communications. doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-25208-z.

Source: https://www.rice.edu/

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Scientists Develop Woven Nanotube Fibers Capable of Converting Heat into Energy - AZoNano

This engineer is searching for signs of life in the clouds of Venus – Create – create digital

Designing dirigibles

In addition to his interest in microbes and cloud moisture, Dorrington is also exploring the use of super-pressure balloons for probing the Venus cloud layers.

In 2010, as part of RMITs School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, the aeronautical engineer authored a paper that presented preliminary evidence for drizzle in the middle cloud layer of Venus.

A decade later, he recommended that, to acquire long duration in situ measurements of all three cloud layers, further investigation into the use of phase change balloons was needed.

For short duration missions, descent probes offer the highest scientific payload mass fractions and lowest risk, Dorrington said.

It would be wonderful to be involved in engineering a balloon for the Venus Life Finder project that would carry a meteorological instrument and be capable of circumnavigation.

It wouldnt be Dorringtons first foray into dirigible design. He previously designed and built an ultra-light, teardrop-shaped aircraft which he flew over the forest canopies of Guyana.

I was fortunate to hold an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship concerned with tropical rainforest canopy exploration, he said.

Tropical rain forest canopy is one of the most biodiverse biomes on Earth, and I remain convinced that aeronautical platforms not yet conceived can be developed to assist the safe exploration of this high frontier.

Born in the United Kingdom, Dorringtons interest in engineering and aeronautics began at the age of seven, when he was inspired by a childrens book, the Valiant Book of Conquest of the Air.

As well the great painted pictures of balloons, airships and high-speed aircraft, it included profiles of famous aeronautical engineers such as Barnes Wallis and Frank Whittle, who I briefly met at a conference 20 years later, he said.

He has worked with organisations including the European Space Agency, British Aerospace (BAe) and Queen Mary University of London.

After graduation, I had a short stint at BAe Space and Communications working on satellite propulsion systems, he said.

I then did a PhD followed by fellowship at [the European Space Agencys European Space Research and Technology Centre] working on future reusable space launch systems.

I think my most significant contribution from this period was a student conference paper proposing the development of reusable suborbital vehicles.

Peter Diamandis (CEO of the Zero Gravity Corporation) was in the audience and went on to create the Ansari X-prize, which was won by Burt Rutan with Spaceship One.

Since emigrating to Australia in 2011, Dorrington has become interested in trying to find better solutions to aerial wildfire fighting.

He was also part of an RMIT team working on a mini radar to find water on the moon.

In a future, post-fossil-fuel burning world, Dorrington believes aeronautical engineering will need to supply sustainable solutions to permit significantly reduced net CO2 emission air transportation.

This is one of the biggest challenges and we need the brightest and best young people to start working on this, since it may be several decades before we solve all the difficult technical problems, he said.

But back to space exploration, he said much of the knowledge we now have of the solar system was obtained through the combined efforts of international space agencies, especially NASA.

The recent formation of the Australian Space Agency will hopefully allow Australian scientists and engineers to better contribute to this international effort, he added.

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This engineer is searching for signs of life in the clouds of Venus - Create - create digital

Ultra-Low IQ PMIC from ROHM Selected to Power NXP iMX8M Nano for High Performance Embedded Artists Industrial Control Board – EE Journal

Powered By ROHM Well-designed and well-documented PMIC saves engineering time

Santa Clara, CA and Kyoto, Japan, Feb. 17, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) ROHMSemiconductor today announced thatEmbedded Artists, the producer of embedded SoMs and boards for use in industrial systems and as development platforms, is using a highly integrated PMIC from ROHM, together with NXPs i.MX 8M Nano processor, on its iMX8M Nano uCOM board to deliver a robust and cost-effective solution for industrial applications. ROHMsBD71847AMWVis a system PMIC for i.MX 8M Nano, as well as 8M Mini.

Developed in collaboration between Embedded Artists, NXP, and ROHM, the uCOM board measures just 45mm x 42mm, and features the i.MX 8M Nano processor with Quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 and Cortex-M7 running at up to 1.5GHz/750MHz. Its low power consumption suits it to long duty cycle, battery-powered remote applications. The 13,800 DMIPS high performance board also includes: 1 GByte DDR4 2400 MT/s; 16-bit databus; 8 GByte eMMC on-board Flash; MIPI-DSI graphical output and MIPI-CSI camera input; USB2.0, Gigabit Ethernet, and other interfaces; and an optional Murata 1MW Wi-Fi/BT module that supports 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and BT/BLE 5.0.

Explains David Doan, Senior Product Manager at ROHM: Our PMIC was designed to support NXPs i.MX 8M Mini and Nano across their intended applications, in a broad range of consumer and industrial products. While flexibility software programmability and OTP configurability is a key feature, it is first and foremost a low-cost, all-in-one power solution for the SoC, memories, and common system peripherals.

Doan continues: The hysteretic synchronous topology provides good transient response and efficiency, even with light load. The PMICs pinout is tailored to that of the SoC to ease PCB layout; remote sensing is not needed. I hope it is reassuring for customers to know that this PMIC has been validated by NXP, is on its EVKs, and is fully supported in i.MX 8M Mini and Nano BSPs.

In addition to power rails, DVFS support, and programmable sequencer, BD71847AMWV integrates a programmable power button, 32 kHz crystal driver and buffered output clock, extensive fault detection and protection circuitry. These features and factors help reduce development time, decrease risk, and simplify application design.

Adds Anders Rosvall, Technical Director at Embedded Artists: The robust design of the BD71847AMWV is a perfect fit for the demanding designs of the industrial market. The high efficiency translates into lower operating temperature and improved reliability. We saved a considerable amount of engineering time by choosing this well-designed and well-documented PMIC.

Customers can useBD71847AMWVin i.MX 8M Mini and Nano designs using the same PCB. For customers who wish to optimize their PCB for i.MX Nano designs, ROHM also offers a pin-compatibleBD71850MWVsolution.

A video case study is availablehere. For more information, visithttps://www.rohm.com/imx8m-nano-ucomor view theBD71847AMWV digital data sheet.

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Ultra-Low IQ PMIC from ROHM Selected to Power NXP iMX8M Nano for High Performance Embedded Artists Industrial Control Board - EE Journal

Perseverance touches down on Mars and Jaguar going electric: 10 top stories of the week – Professional Engineering

Perseverance touches down on Mars

Space.com

The NASA Perseverance rover has safely touched down on Mars, successfully navigating a descent dubbed the seven minutes of terror. The car-sized rover will start to hunt for signs of ancient life and collect rock samples after completing a series of checks.

The Ingenuity helicopter accompanied the rover on its journey, and is expected to make its first flights soon. We previously spoke to project manager MiMi Aung about the challenges of flight on an alien planet and the innovative engineering designed to overcome them.

Professional Engineering

On Monday (15 February), Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) announced that all new Jaguars will be electric from 2025. Automotive industry expert David Bailey said the shift is very welcome, but he said big questions remain about the necessary workforce, potential partners and car models.

Airforce Technology

The Royal Air Force has awarded a three-year contract to UK aircraft developer Aeralis for further R&D on its modular jet design. The design combines a core fuselage with different wings and engines, letting operators create the ideal plane for a variety of tasks.

Professional Engineering

A new affordable zero-emission truck could form the basis of an Uber-style transport ecosystem in emerging markets, its developers have said. Warwickshire and Rwanda-based Ox has secured three grants worth 1.2m in the last four months for its project, which will combine the electric truck with a mobility-as-a-service model to enable low-cost sustainable transport, even in rural areas.

Professional Engineering

Companies such as Boom Supersonic are bringing commercial supersonic flight back to the skies. Supersonic conditions create huge safety, noise and efficiency challenges, but innovative new materials are helping tackle them.

E&T

Animate materials that adapt to their environment such as self-healing paints or soft robotics have the potential to revolutionise a huge number of sectors, according to a new report from the Royal Society. Promising applications could include clothes that adapt to the wearers body temperature, or electronics that automatically disassemble after completing their task.

The Engineer

An international team of researchers has developed a 3D-printed material that can kill the Covid-19 virus. The team, including researchers from Wolverhampton University, used selective laser melting to print the material made of copper, silver and tungsten.

Professional Engineering

Engineers at the University of California in San Diego have developed a soft, stretchy skin patch that can continuously track blood pressure and heart rate, and measure levels of glucose, lactate or caffeine. The patch, designed to be worn on the neck, is the first wearable that can monitor cardiovascular signals and biochemical levels in the human body at the same time.

The Engineer

A new disease detection device can reportedly sniff out diseases with greater sensitivity than dogs noses. The device, developed and tested by a team including researchers from MIT, uses mammalian olfactory receptors and machine learning to detect traces of prostate cancer.

Professional Engineering

Physicists at the University of Sussex have developed a technique for making tiny microchips from graphene and other 2D materials, using a form of nano-origami. By creating kinks in the structure of the graphene, the researchers were able to make the nanomaterial behave like a transistor. When a strip of graphene is kinked in this way, it acts like a microchip, but one that is 100 times smaller than conventional microchips.

Want the best engineering stories delivered straight to your inbox? TheProfessional Engineeringnewslettergives you vital updates on the most cutting-edge engineering and exciting new job opportunities. To sign up, clickhere.

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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Perseverance touches down on Mars and Jaguar going electric: 10 top stories of the week - Professional Engineering

mHealth Wearable Boosts Remote Patient Monitoring, Connected Health – mHealthIntelligence.com

February 17, 2021 -Researchers at the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) have developed a mHealth wearable that uses a patch to monitor cardiovascular signs and multiple biomarkers simultaneously, signifying a breakthrough in remote patient monitoring and connected health.

The wearable is a product of collaboration between Joseph Wang, PhD and Sheng Xu, PhD, two UC San Diego nanoengineering professors.

Wangs lab, which focuses on the development of wearables capable of monitoring multiple signals simultaneously in the body, joined forces with Xus lab, which has been developing soft, stretchy skin patches that monitor blood pressure.

Together, the researchers created the first stretchable wearable that can continuously track blood pressure and heart rate while also measuring multiple biochemical levels at the same time.

We can collect so much information with this one wearable and do so in a non-invasive way, without causing discomfort or interruptions to daily activity, Wang, who was co-corresponding author of the study, said.

READ MORE: A New mHealth Patch Could Help Clinicians With Remote Monitoring

The novelty here is that we take completely different sensors and merge them together on a single small platform as small as a stamp, continued Wang, who also serves director of the UC San Diego Center for Wearable Sensors.

The wearable is equipped with a blood pressure sensor and two chemical sensors. One chemical sensor measures glucose levels in interstitial fluid, and the other measures levels of caffeine, alcohol, and lactate (a biomarker for physical exertion), in sweat. The patch can measure three parameters at once, or one parameter from each sensor.

Each sensor provides a separate picture of a physical or chemical change. Integrating them all in one wearable patch allows us to stitch those different pictures together to get a more comprehensive overview of whats going on in our bodies, said Xu, a co-corresponding author of the study published inNature Biomedical Engineering.

The researchers were interested in measuring levels of caffeine, alcohol, and lactate because these biomarkers impact blood pressure.

We chose parameters that would give us a more accurate, more reliable blood pressure measurement, said co-first author Juliane Sempionatto, a nanoengineering PhD student in Wangs lab.

READ MORE: Stanford Researchers Use an mHealth Patch to Measure Teenager Stress

Lets say you are monitoring your blood pressure, and you see spikes during the day and think that something is wrong. But a biomarker reading could tell you if those spikes were due to an intake of alcohol or caffeine. This combination of sensors can give you that type of information, she said.

The mHealth patch could offer a convenient alternative for patients in intensive care units who need continuous monitoring of vital signs, eliminating the need for patients to be tethered to multiple hospital monitors and/or a catheter.

This type of wearable would be very helpful for people with underlying medical conditions to monitor their own health on a regular basis, said Lu Yin, a nanoengineering PhD student at UC San Diego and co-first author of the study.

Additionally, the mHealth wearable could allow physicians to leverage remote patient monitoring in their practices, Yin noted. This connected health device may be especially useful during COVID-19 when many patients are avoiding in-person visits.

The researchers tested the wearable by observing the biomarkers of subjects who wore the patch while performing several combinations of the following tasks: exercising on a stationary bicycle, eating a high-sugar meal, drinking an alcoholic beverage, and drinking a caffeinated beverage.

READ MORE: mHealth Patch is Put to the Test at Brigham and Womens Hospital

To determine whether the wearable gave accurate patient data, the researchers verified that the measurements collected from the patch matched measurements from the following commercial monitoring devices: blood pressure cuff, blood lactate meter, glucometer, and breathalyzer.

Measurements of the wearers caffeine levels were verified with measurements of sweat samples spiked with caffeine.

When designing the mHealth patch, the research team was met with several engineering challenges.

Finding the right materials, optimizing the overall layout, integrating the different electronics together in a seamless fashionthese challenges took a lot of time to overcome, said co-first author Muyang Lin, a nanoengineering PhD student in Xus lab.

The researchers are continuing to develop the wearable further. Ongoing work includes shrinking the blood pressure sensor electronics, because currently the sensor needs to be connected to a power source and a benchtop machine to display its readings. The teams goal is to make the wearable completely wireless.

We want to make a complete system that is fully wearable, Lin said.

The development of wearable skin patch sensors has been underway for several years now, laying the groundwork for the new mHealth device.

Back in 2019, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Washington Universityworked on developing an mHealth wearable that would capture interstitial fluid to monitor patients biomarkers. The researchers hoped to design a patch that would allow clinicians to monitor patients at risk of developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other health concerns.

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mHealth Wearable Boosts Remote Patient Monitoring, Connected Health - mHealthIntelligence.com

New Skin Patch Brings Us Closer to Wearable, All-In-One Health Monitor – I-Connect007

Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a soft, stretchy skin patch that can be worn on the neck to continuously track blood pressure and heart rate while measuring the wearers levels of glucose as well as lactate, alcohol or caffeine. It is the first wearable device that monitors cardiovascular signals and multiple biochemical levels in the human body at the same time.

This type of wearable would be very helpful for people with underlying medical conditions to monitor their own health on a regular basis, said Lu Yin, a nanoengineering Ph.D. student at UC San Diego and co-first author of the study published Feb. 15 in Nature Biomedical Engineering. It would also serve as a great tool for remote patient monitoring, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when people are minimizing in-person visits to the clinic.

Such a device could benefit individuals managing high blood pressure and diabetesindividuals who are also at high risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19. It could also be used to detect the onset of sepsis, which is characterized by a sudden drop in blood pressure accompanied by a rapid rise in lactate level.

One soft skin patch that can do it all would also offer a convenient alternative for patients in intensive care units, including infants in the NICU, who need continuous monitoring of blood pressure and other vital signs. These procedures currently involve inserting catheters deep inside patients arteries and tethering patients to multiple hospital monitors.

The novelty here is that we take completely different sensors and merge them together on a single small platform as small as a stamp, said Joseph Wang, a professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego and co-corresponding author of the study. We can collect so much information with this one wearable and do so in a non-invasive way, without causing discomfort or interruptions to daily activity.

The new patch is a product of two pioneering efforts in the UC San Diego Center for Wearable Sensors, for which Wang serves as director. Wangs lab has been developing wearables capable of monitoring multiple signals simultaneouslychemical, physical and electrophysiologicalin the body. And in the lab of UC San Diego nanoengineering professor Sheng Xu, researchers have been developing soft, stretchy electronic skin patches that can monitor blood pressure deep inside the body. By joining forces, the researchers created the first flexible, stretchable wearable device that combines chemical sensing (glucose, lactate, alcohol and caffeine) with blood pressure monitoring.

Each sensor provides a separate picture of a physical or chemical change. Integrating them all in one wearable patch allows us to stitch those different pictures together to get a more comprehensive overview of whats going on in our bodies, said Xu, who is also a co-corresponding author of the study.

Patch of All Trades

The patch is a thin sheet of stretchy polymers that can conform to the skin. It is equipped with a blood pressure sensor and two chemical sensorsone that measures levels of lactate (a biomarker of physical exertion), caffeine and alcohol in sweat, and another that measures glucose levels in interstitial fluid.

The patch is capable of measuring three parameters at once, one from each sensor: blood pressure, glucose, and either lactate, alcohol or caffeine. Theoretically, we can detect all of them at the same time, but that would require a different sensor design, said Yin, who is also a Ph.D. student in Wangs lab.

The blood pressure sensor sits near the center of the patch. It consists of a set of small ultrasound transducers that are welded to the patch by a conductive ink. A voltage applied to the transducers causes them to send ultrasound waves into the body. When the ultrasound waves bounce off an artery, the sensor detects the echoes and translates the signals into a blood pressure reading.

The chemical sensors are two electrodes that are screen printed on the patch from conductive ink. The electrode that senses lactate, caffeine and alcohol is printed on the right side of the patch; it works by releasing a drug called pilocarpine into the skin to induce sweat and detecting the chemical substances in the sweat. The other electrode, which senses glucose, is printed on the left side; it works by passing a mild electrical current through the skin to release interstitial fluid and measuring the glucose in that fluid.

The researchers were interested in measuring these particular biomarkers because they impact blood pressure. We chose parameters that would give us a more accurate, more reliable blood pressure measurement, said co-first author Juliane Sempionatto, a nanoengineering Ph.D. student in Wangs lab.

Lets say you are monitoring your blood pressure, and you see spikes during the day and think that something is wrong. But a biomarker reading could tell you if those spikes were due to an intake of alcohol or caffeine. This combination of sensors can give you that type of information, she said.

In tests, subjects wore the patch on the neck while performing various combinations of the following tasks: exercising on a stationary bicycle; eating a high-sugar meal; drinking an alcoholic beverage; and drinking a caffeinated beverage. Measurements from the patch closely matched those collected by commercial monitoring devices such as a blood pressure cuff, blood lactate meter, glucometer and breathalyzer. Measurements of the wearers caffeine levels were verified with measurements of sweat samples in the lab spiked with caffeine.

Engineering Challenges

One of the biggest challenges in making the patch was eliminating interference between the sensors signals. To do this, the researchers had to figure out the optimal spacing between the blood pressure sensor and the chemical sensors. They found that one centimeter of spacing did the trick while keeping the device as small as possible.

The researchers also had to figure out how to physically shield the chemical sensors from the blood pressure sensor. The latter normally comes equipped with a liquid ultrasound gel in order to produce clear readings. But the chemical sensors are also equipped with their own hydrogels, and the problem is that if any liquid gel from the blood pressure sensor flows out and makes contact with the other gels, it will cause interference between the sensors. So instead, the researchers used a solid ultrasound gel, which they found works as well as the liquid version but without the leakage.

Finding the right materials, optimizing the overall layout, integrating the different electronics together in a seamless fashionthese challenges took a lot of time to overcome, said co-first author Muyang Lin, a nanoengineering Ph.D. student in Xus lab. We are fortunate to have this great collaboration between our lab and Professor Wangs lab. It has been so fun working together with them on this project.

Next Steps

The current prototype of the patch needs to be connected with cables to a benchtop machine and power source.

The team is already at work on a new version of the patch, one with even more sensors. There are opportunities to monitor other biomarkers associated with various diseases. We are looking to add more clinical value to this device, Sempionatto said.

Ongoing work also includes shrinking the electronics for the blood pressure sensor. Right now, the sensor needs to be connected to a power source and a benchtop machine to display its readings. The ultimate goal is to put these all on the patch and make everything wireless.

We want to make a complete system that is fully wearable, Lin said.

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New Skin Patch Brings Us Closer to Wearable, All-In-One Health Monitor - I-Connect007

Next: Superconducting nanowires could be used in circuits – Electronics Weekly

Researchers from Karl Berggrens group in MITs Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science have found that,although traditionally operated as single photon detectors, superconducting nanowires host a suite of attractive characteristics that have recently inspired their use in digital circuit applications for amplification, addressing, and memory.

Here, I take advantage of the electrothermal feedback that occurs in resistively shunted nanowires to develop two new technologies: (1) A multilevel memory cell made by incorporating a shunted nanowire into a superconducting loop, allowing flux to be controllably added and stored; and (2) An artificial neuron for use in spiking neural networks, consisting of two nanowire-based relaxation oscillators acting analogously to the two ion channels in a biological neuron. By harnessing the intrinsic dynamics of superconducting nanowires, these devices offer competitive energy performance and a step towards bringing memory and processing closer together on the same platform, writes Berggren.

Berggren is resurrecting the Cryotron a concept described in1956, by MITs Dudley Buck and he calls his device a nano-cryotron.

In Berggrens device, current runs through a superconducting, supercooled wire called the channel. That channel is intersected by an even smaller wire called a choke like a multilane highway intersected by a side road. When current is sent through the choke, its superconductivity breaks down and it heats up. Once that heat spreads from the choke to the main channel, it causes the main channel to also lose its superconducting state.

Berggrens group has already demonstrated proof-of-concept for the nano-cryotrons use as an electronic component.

A former student of Berggrens, Adam McCaughan, developed a device that uses nano-cryotrons to add binary digits.

Berggren has used nano-cryotrons as an interface between superconducting devices and classical, transistor-based electronics.

He thinks the nano-cryotron could one day find a home in superconducting quantum computers and supercooled electronics for telescopes. Wires have low power dissipation, so they may also be handy for energy-hungry applications, he said.

Its probably not going to replace the transistors in your phone, but if it could replace the transistor in a server farm or data center? That would be a huge impact says Berggren.

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Pendse named 2021 Distinguished Maine Professor – UMaine News – University of Maine – University of Maine

Hemant Pendse

Hemant Pendse, an internationally recognized leader in forest bioproducts research, has been named the University of Maine 2021 Distinguished Maine Professor.

The annual Distinguished Maine Professor Award honors a UMaine professor who exemplifies the highest qualities of teaching, research and public service. It is sponsored by the University of Maine Alumni Association and its classes of 1942 and 2002.

Pense was nominated for the award by College of Engineering Dean Dana Humphrey. The selection process is conducted by a 17-person committee of alumni, current and retired faculty, and a representative of the student body. Each nominee is evaluated on three criteria related to UMaines land-grant mission: teaching performance based on peer and student evaluations; the quality and productivity of the nominees research, scholarship, and creative activities; and the nominees contributions of professional expertise in a volunteer capacity in support of university and public causes, services, and initiatives.

The UMaine Alumni Association will honor Pendse at the annual Alumni Achievement Awards and Recognition Ceremony on Thursday, April 29. Due to COVID-19 precautions, this years event will be held online and streamed on YouTube.

Since joining the university in 1979, the professor of chemical engineering and chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering has spearheaded innovative research that has earned two patents, produced 82 publications, given more than 200 technical papers and garnered $17 million in external funding. He also has yielded new economic opportunities for Maine through his work on forest bioproducts.

Students know Pendse as an educator who challenges them to think critically, provides clear and concise lessons, is always willing to help, and dedicates himself to their success.

Dr. Pendse is a gifted leader who provides tremendous service to the university and industry, wrote UMaine College of Engineering Dean Dana Humphrey in his nomination. He is able to visualize the potential of the organizations and then work collaboratively with students, faculty, staff, administration and outside constituencies to achieve this vision.

Pendse founded the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute in 2010, and serves as its director. FBRI aims to identify the logistic, scientific, economic and policy factors that would allow forest-based products to be made at a commercial scale and inspire the creation of a biorefinery in Maine.

Under Pendses leadership, FBRI built the nations first pilot-scale plant for manufacturing nano-fibrillated cellulose, or nanocellulose. The institute earned $48 million for various projects, $17 million of which is attributable to Pendses efforts.

FBRI developed and secured patents for its breakthrough thermal deoxygenation process (TDO) for making biofuels for jets and marine engines, and for its process to create advanced materials like nanocellulose. Pendse was instrumental in scale up to continuous pilot operations that benefit researchers and private business alike.

Jake Ward, vice president of innovation and economic development at UMaine, wrote in his letter of recommendation that Pendses ability to not only lead, but collaborate with fellow faculty members and external partners from other academic institutions, communities and the private sector brought FBRI and the benefits it yields to fruition. His efforts have bolstered the universitys capacity for serving the public and fostering economic growth.

The success of this project has not only resulted in stronger research programs and more grant funding at UMaine, but true economic development success with the partnership with Old Town and a variety of owners of the mill. Ward wrote.

The UMaine chemical engineers research interests involve pulp and paper manufacturing, colloid systems, particulate and multiphase processes and sensor development. During his studies, he has developed forest biorefinery pilot-scale industrial process systems, an ultrasonic slurry characterization system, a laboratory instrument for particle surface charge characterization in concentrated colloids and an online particle size distribution sensor system for concentrated slurries. He also has developed multiple theories and methodologies to assist in particulate systems characterization and processing.

He is an inspiring scholar whose research has significantly impacted Maine industries, university faculty members and Maine research infrastructure, wrote colleagues Clayton Wheeler, chemical engineering professor and FBRI associate director, Jonathan Rubin, economics professor and director of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, and Jeffrey Benjamin, former associate professor of forestry, in their joint recommendation letter.

Pendses numerous awards include the 2009 College of Engineering Ashley Campbell Award, 2012 Genco Award from the University of Maine Pulp and Paper Foundation, and the 2012 UMaine Presidential Research and Creative Achievement.

Pendses record of public service includes advising the Municipal Review Committee, a group of 115 Maine cities and towns united to tackle solid municipal waste problems; and serving on the Economic Development Assessment Team, Maine Innovation Economy Advisory Board, the Governors Wood-to-Energy Taskforce and more He and the FBRI have also aided with the Forest Opportunity Roadmap/Maine (FOR/Maine), a public-private partnership seeking new markets for wood products and bolstering technological innovation to support new commercial uses for wood. He has also served on the Corporate Advisory Council for Nelson Industries, Stoughton, Wisconsin, and the Transport & Energy Processes Division of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) in various capacities.

Perhaps his greatest value in this respect is his willingness and ability to serve these communities as an unbiased technical expert, expertise many communities lack and could not afford, when vetting opportunities, Ward wrote in his recommendation letter. He is often called upon by Maines federal delegation to play this role and as a technical advisor on state-wide/nation-wide initiatives.

Contact: Marcus Wolf, 207.581.3721; marcus.wolf@maine.edu

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Pendse named 2021 Distinguished Maine Professor - UMaine News - University of Maine - University of Maine

4 UCSD Researchers Win Sloan Research Fellowships for Early Career Scientists – Times of San Diego

Four UC San Diego researchers have been awarded 2021 Sloan Research Fellowships, which honor extraordinary early career scientists in the U.S. and Canada, the university announced Tuesday.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has awarded the fellowships each year since 1955 to recipients whose creativity, innovation and research accomplishments make them stand out as the next generation of scientific leaders. A total of 140 faculty from UCSD have been awarded the fellowships.

The new Sloan Research Fellows from UCSD are:

Being named a Sloan Research Fellow is a remarkable achievement and Im delighted that four of our early career faculty members were named to the 2021 list of honorees, said UCSD Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. From biological oceanography to mathematics, nanoengineering to chemistry, this years recipients truly capture the stimulating breadth of research initiatives featured across the UC San Diego campus.

More than 1,000 researchers are nominated each year for 128 fellowship slots. Winners receive a two-year, $75,000 fellowship which can be spent to advance the fellows research.

Fifty-one fellows have received a Nobel Prize in their respective field, 17 have won the Fields Medal in mathematics, 69 have received the National Medal of Science, and 20 have won the John Bates Clark Medal in economics, including every winner since 2007.

Fellows from the 2021 cohort are drawn from 58 institutions across the U.S. and Canada, from large public university systems to Ivy League institutions and small liberal arts colleges.

Candidates must be nominated by fellow scientists. Winners are selected by independent panels of senior scholars on the basis of a candidates research accomplishments, creativity and potential to become a leader in his or her field.

City News Service

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New Polymer Cores Added to Windows Could Solve Energy Issues for Buildings – AZoBuild

Written by AZoBuildFeb 17 2021

Engineers from Rice University have proposed a colorful solution to futuristic energy collectionadding luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) to windows in buildings.

The team of researchers headed by Rafael Verduzco and postdoctoral researcher and lead author Yilin Li from Rices Brown School of Engineering engineered and developed foot square 'windows'in which a conjugated polymer is interspersed between two clear acrylic panels.

The thin middle layer is the secret to success. It has been designed to harness light in a particular wavelength and guide it to the edges of the panel that are lined with solar cells.

Conjugated polymers are chemical compounds that can be tailored with particular physical or chemical properties for a range of applications, such as conductive films or sensors for biomedical devices.

The polymer compound developed at Rice lab is named PNV (for poly[naphthalene-alt-vinylene]) and harnesses and discharges red light. However, tweaking its molecular ingredients should enable it to harness light in a range of colors.

The strategy is that the compound is a waveguide and accepts light from any direction but controls how it leaves, thereby focusing it onto the solar cells that transform it into electricity.

The motivation for this research is to solve energy issues for buildings through integrated photovoltaics. Right now, solar rooftops are the mainstream solution, but you need to orient them toward the sun to maximize their efficiency, and their appearance isnt very pleasing. We thought, why cant we make colorful, transparent or translucent solar collectors and apply them to the outside of buildings?

Yilin Li, Study Lead Author and Postdoctoral Researcher, Brown School of Engineering, Rice University

Li started the project as part of a 'smart glass'competition. The research was published in the Polymer International journal.

In fact, the quantity of juice produced by the test units developed by the Rice team is very less compared to that collected by even average commercial solar cells, which usually transform nearly 20% of sunlight into electricity.

However, LSC windows never cease working. They readily convert light from the inner side of the building into electricity when the sun sets. Tests demonstrated that they exhibited more efficiency at converting ambient light from LEDs than from direct sunlight, although the sunlight was 100 times stronger.

Even indoors, if you hold up a panel, you can see very strong photoluminescence on the edge, Li noted during the demonstration. The panels tested by him demonstrated a power conversion efficiency of nearly 3.6% under ambient LED light and 2.9% in direct sunlight.

In the past decade, researchers have developed various types of luminophores, but not many with conjugated polymers, stated Verduzco, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of materials science and nanoengineering.

Part of the problem with using conjugated polymers for this application is that they can be unstable and degrade quickly. But weve learned a lot about improving the stability of conjugated polymers in recent years, and in the future, we can engineer the polymers for both stability and desired optical properties.

Rafael Verduzco, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Materials Science and Nanoengineering, Rice University

The lab also replicated the return of energy from panels measuring up to 120 square inches. According to the researchers, these panels would offer relatively less energy, but they can still be sufficient for a households power requirements.

Li added that the polymer may even be tweaked to transform energy from ultraviolet and infrared light, thus enabling the panels to remain transparent.

The polymers can even be printed in patterns in the panels, so they can be turned into artwork.

Yilin Li, Study Lead Author and Postdoctoral Researcher, Brown School of Engineering, Rice University

The co-authors of the study include University of Washington alumnus Yujian Sun; Yongcao Zhang, a graduate assistant at the University of Houston; and Yuxin Li, a graduate assistant at the University of Cincinnati.

This study was supported by Solera City Energy.

Li, Y., et al. (2020) Highperformance hybrid luminescentscattering solar concentrators based on a luminescent conjugated polymer. Polymer International. doi.org/10.1002/pi.6189.

Source: https://www.rice.edu/

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New Polymer Cores Added to Windows Could Solve Energy Issues for Buildings - AZoBuild

Caltech Professor Inducted into the National Academy of Engineering Pasadena Now – Pasadena Now

Yu-Chong Y.C. TaiCredit: Caltech

Yu-Chong Y.C. Tai, the Anna L. Rosen Professor of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).Induction into the NAE, one of the three national academies in the United States, is among the highest professional honors an engineer can receive.

Tai, also the Andrew and Peggy Cherng Medical Engineering Leadership Chair and executive officer for medical engineering, works in the field of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) and nano-electro-mechanical systems (NEMS). MEMS and NEMS are highly miniaturized electro-mechanical devices that are found in modern devices like inkjet printers, movie projectors, and the gyroscopes of smartphones. They also have uses outside the consumer marketplace in medical devices, optical data communications, and microscopy, among other applications.

During his time at the Institute, Tai founded the Caltech MEMS Laboratory, a facility dedicated to the development of MEMS and NEMS devices for use in medical settings. Research conducted at the laboratory has led to the creation of devices that can perform a variety of blood tests on a single chip, microscopic drug-delivery systems, and MEMS medical implants.

The NAE elected 106 members and 23 international members this year. Also elected was B. Gentry Lee, chief engineer for the Solar System Exploration Directorate at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which Caltech manages for NASA. Lee, who has worked on a variety of NASA missions and programs including Viking (1975), Voyager (1977), Galileo (1989), Spirit (2003) and Opportunity (2003), and Curiosity and Dawn (2007), was recognized for contributions to 20 planetary exploration missions to Mars, Jupiter, asteroids, and comets, according to the NAE.

In addition, Caltech alumnus Francis J. Doyle III (PhD 91), John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor and dean of Harvard Universitys Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, was named as a member of the NAE for insights into natural biological control systems and innovative engineering of diabetes control devices. Another Caltech alumnus, Sudhir K. Jain (PhD83), director of the Indian Institute of Technology-Gandhinagar, was elected as an international member of NAE for leadership in earthquake engineering in developing countries.

The newly elected class will be formally inducted into the NAE during a ceremony at the academys annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on October 3.

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How Nanotechnology Has Improved the Auto Industry – Salon Priv Magazine

The automotive industry is constantly in pursuit of innovation. New technology has made the modern car faster, lighter, more comfortable and increasingly efficient. Many technologies have disrupted the field, and nanotechnology is one of the latest and most impactful.

Innovation has perhaps never been more critical to the industrys success than right now. As of 2018, 67% of people worldwide saw climate change as a significant threat, compared to just 56% in 2013. Since transportation is a substantial contributor to carbon emissions, theres a rising demand for the industry to become eco-friendly.

Environmental concerns aside, there are more drivers now than ever before, and that number keeps climbing. Automakers have to keep improving to satisfy the needs and desires of their growing consumer base. Nanotechnology provides a solution.

Nanotechnology refers to the applications of science, engineering and technology that occur on a nanoscale. The nanoscale deals with materials between one and 100 nanometers, so small that theyre invisible to the naked eye. Given this tiny scale, companies havent had the technology to work with these materials extensively until relatively recently.

When engineers and scientists work with nanotech, they manipulate the very atoms that make up other materials. They adjust the physical and chemical properties of matter. This level of precision enables tremendous advances and changes in how materials, parts and devices interact with the world.

This field has applications across many industries, but automakers have taken a particular interest in it. Its no exaggeration to say that nanotech has revolutionized the sector. Heres how.

One of the most common applications of nanotechnology in the auto industry is in weight reduction. Lighter cars can accelerate faster and are more fuel-efficient, as they take less power to move. Nanotechnology can create novel materials that provide the strength cars need without weighing them down.

While steel and aluminium may be comparatively light for metals, theyre still heavy. With nanotechnology, engineers can design plastics and carbon-based materials that are far lighter than these metals. Car components made from some nanoengineered plastics can be up to 40% lighter than traditional steel parts.

In addition to creating new materials, nanotechnology can improve preexisting ones. Engineers can use nanotech to modify the physical properties of steel or aluminium, improving their relative strength to achieve similar results with less material.

As the world becomes more concerned about climate change, sustainability becomes increasingly crucial for automakers. Since nanotechnology makes cars lighter, it makes them more fuel-efficient, leading to fewer carbon emissions. Nano carbons also have a thermal conductivity five times higher than other materials, reducing heat waste to improve efficiency further.

Nanotechnology has green applications beyond increasing the efficiency of fossil fuel cars, too. Nano engineers have recently developed methods for embedding silicon nanoparticles into graphene battery components to make lithium-silicon batteries. This technology can make batteries last 20% longer per charge, making electric cars a more viable option.

Nanotechnology also paves the way for thinner, more efficient hydrogen fuel cells. These technologies provide another green alternative to fossil fuel cars, producing water and heat as their only emissions. As these sustainable alternatives improve, car owners will have more options for zero-emission vehicles.

Nanoengineered materials are also typically more durable than traditionally manufactured alternatives. Research has shown that nanoparticles substantially improve scratch and abrasion resistance and maintain these properties for longer. These improvements come mostly from the way nanoparticles move as a vehicles coating encounters more elements.

As cars face adverse weather or even prolonged UV exposure from the sun, they develop microscopic scratches and cracks in their coating. Nanoparticles tend to fill pores as they appear, clogging up these minute blemishes and protecting the materials underneath. As a result, it takes longer for the elements to affect the metal under the paint, preventing rust and other corrosion.

Nanotech can improve the durability of tires, too. Materials like soot and silica improve rubbers natural properties, and the size of these particles directly impacts their efficacy. By applying these materials on a nanoscale, automakers can maximize their benefits, making tires more resistant without sacrificing grip.

Another leading application of nanotechnology in the auto industry is in the interior of a car. Vehicle interiors hold a lot of soft materials like felt and leather to make seats more comfortable. While excellent for comfort, these porous surfaces can trap bacteria and other microorganisms that could pose a risk to passengers health.

Metallic nanoparticles like silver and titanium oxide have unique antimicrobial properties that can solve this problem. Many of these tiny metal particles destroy the cell membrane of harmful microbes while posing no risk to humans. Hospitals have started using them extensively to disinfect equipment and manufacture drugs, and the auto industry has caught on.

Car manufacturers can coat interiors with these metallic nanoparticles, helping prevent the spread of disease. Similar coatings in a vehicles air filter can eliminate harmful microbes from the air, too.

Not all improvements from nanotechnology deal with vehicle performance and safety. Some are less crucial yet still central to the business side of the auto industry. Namely, nanotechnology makes cars more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.

Some nanomaterial coatings can make surfaces hydrophobic and dirt-repellant. These improvements can help keep cars clean, both inside and outside. The anti-corrosion properties of nanoparticle-infused paints dont just protect the chassis but maintain the paints factory polish. With fewer scratches and blemishes, cars retain their initial beauty for longer.

Since some nanomaterials have tremendous heat conductivity, theyre ideal for heated seats. Seat cushions woven from nanofibers can heat up and cool faster than traditional materials, providing a more comfortable ride.

As technology advances, cars are featuring more and more of it. The more tech features a vehicle has, the more likely it is to sell, and some of this tech improves performance as well. Nanotechnology is just the latest in a long tradition of the industry embracing cutting-edge tech.

Nanotech is still relatively new, yet the automotive industry has already capitalized on it. As these technologies become cheaper and more versatile, theyll see even broader implementation. Nanotechnology could easily revolutionize transportation.

Oscar Collins is the managing editor at Modded, where he writes about a variety of topics, including the most recent trends in tech. Follow him on Twitter @TModded for regular updates!

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How Nanotechnology Has Improved the Auto Industry - Salon Priv Magazine

Caltech: Tai Inducted into the National Academy of Engineering – India Education Diary

Yu-Chong Y.C. Tai, the Anna L. Rosen Professor of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Induction into the NAE, one of the three national academies in the United States, is among the highest professional honors an engineer can receive.

Tai, also the Andrew and Peggy Cherng Medical Engineering Leadership Chair and executive officer for medical engineering, works in the field of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) and nano-electro-mechanical systems (NEMS). MEMS and NEMS are highly miniaturized electro-mechanical devices that are found in modern devices like inkjet printers, movie projectors, and the gyroscopes of smartphones. They also have uses outside the consumer marketplace in medical devices, optical data communications, and microscopy, among other applications.

During his time at the Institute, Tai founded the Caltech MEMS Laboratory, a facility dedicated to the development of MEMS and NEMS devices for use in medical settings. Research conducted at the laboratory has led to the creation of devices that can perform a variety of blood tests on a single chip, microscopic drug-delivery systems, and MEMS medical implants.

The NAE elected 106 members and 23 international members this year. Also elected was B. Gentry Lee, chief engineer for the Solar System Exploration Directorate at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which Caltech manages for NASA. Lee, who has worked on a variety of NASA missions and programs including Viking (1975), Voyager (1977), Galileo (1989), Spirit (2003) and Opportunity (2003), and Curiosity and Dawn (2007), was recognized for contributions to 20 planetary exploration missions to Mars, Jupiter, asteroids, and comets, according to the NAE.

In addition, Caltech alumnus Francis J. Doyle III (PhD 91), John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor and dean of Harvard Universitys Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, was named as a member of the NAE for insights into natural biological control systems and innovative engineering of diabetes control devices. Another Caltech alumnus, Sudhir K. Jain (PhD83), director of the Indian Institute of Technology-Gandhinagar, was elected as an international member of NAE for leadership in earthquake engineering in developing countries.

The newly elected class will be formally inducted into the NAE during a ceremony at the academys annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on October 3.

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Caltech: Tai Inducted into the National Academy of Engineering - India Education Diary

New coalmine questioned and high-density hydro planned: 10 top stories of the week – Professional Engineering

High-density pumped hydro could store energy in small hills

Professional Engineering

Thousands of hillsides around the UK could host a new type of pumped-hydro energy storage system, its developers have claimed. Unlike conventional hydro power, the system from RheEnergise uses dense liquid instead of water. The fluid is two-and-a-half-times denser than water, and could therefore potentially provide two-and-a-half-times the power of equivalent conventional systems.

The Guardian

Cumbria County Council is to reconsider planning permission for a controversial coalmine project, which would be the first such deep coalmine in the UK for three decades. The council will reconsider planning permission in light of new information about the governments carbon budgets and net-zero aims.

Professional Engineering

A new ultimate mobility vehicle (UMV) will use wheels, legs and an attachable drone to traverse the most inhospitable and remote environments. Designed to carry deliveries, aid packages or scientific equipment, the uncrewed Transforming Intelligent Ground Excursion Robot (Tiger) is being developed by Hyundai Motor Group in California.

Professional Engineering

Complete printed human organs are coming ever closer, thanks to some innovative engineering. Before being implanted in patients, they could radically transform drug development by replacing animal testing and human volunteers, helping speed up the process massively.

The Engineer

United Airlines is partnering with Archer Aviation on a fleet of up to 200 flying taxis. The four-passenger tilt-rotor taxis have a predicted range of about 100km. They could fly from Manhattan to JFK airport in just seven minutes.

E&T

A team of researchers from New York University and New York Stem Cell Foundation have precisely replicated natural bone tissue using biothermal imaging and a heated nano-chisel. The system could be used for studying drugs and diseases, or creating orthopaedic implants.

Professional Engineering

More than 40% of people aged 16-24 are putting their career or education plans on hold until the pandemic is over, a new survey has found. The research, commissioned by BAE Systems to mark National Apprenticeship Week, found a fifth (21%) said they are more confused about their career path than before the pandemic, with 20% saying the industry they had wanted to work in has been deeply impacted.

Renewable Energy Magazine

A new trial from H2GO Power, the European Marine Energy Centre (Emec) and Imperial College London is using artificial intelligence (AI) software to control hydrogen storage technology. The system will make real-time asset management decisions to optimise renewable energy integration.

Professional Engineering

A new form of 3D-printed material made by combining common plastics with carbon nanotubes is tougher and lighter than similar forms of aluminium, its developers have said. The team, led by University of Glasgow engineers, developed a new plate-lattice cellular metamaterial. It could lead to the development of safer, lighter and more durable structures for aerospace or automotive.

Professional Engineering

Schools, parents and businesses should collectively push the message that apprenticeships are of equal value to traditional academic routes, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has said. Skills and education lead Stephanie Baxter called for a shift in perception after IET research revealed that a third (32%) of engineering companies are still looking to recruit and train apprentices and graduates to fill skill gaps.

Want the best engineering stories delivered straight to your inbox? TheProfessional Engineeringnewslettergives you vital updates on the most cutting-edge engineering and exciting new job opportunities. To sign up, clickhere.

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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New coalmine questioned and high-density hydro planned: 10 top stories of the week - Professional Engineering

Plastic-nanotube composite ‘tougher and lighter than similar forms of aluminium’ – Professional Engineering

The material could lead to the development of lighter and more durable structures for use in aerospace or automotive (Credit: University of Glasgow)

A new form of 3D-printed material made by combining common plastics with carbon nanotubes is tougher and lighter than similar forms of aluminium, its developers have said.

The material could lead to the development of safer, lighter and more durable structures for use in the aerospace, automotive, renewable energy and marine sectors, the researchers said.

The team, led by University of Glasgow engineers, developed a new plate-lattice cellular metamaterial capable of impressive resistance to impacts.

Metamaterials are a class of artificially created cellular solids, designed and engineered to have properties which do not occur in the natural world. One form of metamaterials, known as plate-lattices, are cubic structures made from intersecting layers of plates that exhibit unusually high stiffness and strength, despite featuring a significant amount of space between the plates. That porosity also makes plate-lattices unusually lightweight.

The researchers set out to investigate whether new forms of plate-lattice design, manufactured from a plastic-nanotube composite they developed, could make a metamaterial with even more advanced stiffness, strength and toughness.

The composite includes a mixture of polypropylene or polyethylene low-cost, reuseable plastics widely used in everyday items like bags and bottles and multi-wall carbon nanotubes.

The team used its nanoengineered filament composite as the feedstock in a 3D printer, which fused the filaments together to build a series of plate-lattice designs. Those designs were then subjected to a series of impact tests by dropping a 16.7kg mass from a range of heights to determine their ability to withstand physical shocks.

A hybrid plate-lattice design, including multi-faceted aspects, proved to be the most effective in absorbing impacts. The polypropylene version showed the greatest impact resistance. The team found that it could withstand 19.9 joules per gram a superior performance over similarly-designed micro-architected aluminium metamaterials.

Dr Shanmugam Kumar, reader in composites and additive manufacturing in the James Watt School of Engineering, led the research project. The research team also involved mechanical and chemical engineers from Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi and Texas A&M University.

Dr Kumar said: This work sits right at the intersection of mechanics and materials. The balance between the carbon nanostructure-engineered filaments weve developed as a feedstock for 3D printing, and the hybrid composite plate-lattice designs weve created, has produced a really exciting result.

In the pursuit of lightweight engineering, there is a constant hunt for ultra-lightweight materials featuring high performance. Our nano-engineered hybrid plate-lattices achieve extraordinary stiffness and strength properties and exhibit superior energy absorption characteristics over similar lattices built with aluminium.

He added: Advances in 3D printing are making it easier and cheaper than ever to fabricate the kinds of complicated geometries with tailored porosity that underpin our plate-lattice design. Manufacture of this kind of design at industrial scales is becoming a real possibility.

One application for this new kind of plate-lattice might be in automobile manufacture, where designers perpetually strive to build more lightweight bodies without sacrificing safety during crashes. Aluminium is used in many modern car designs, but our plate-lattice offers greater impact resistance, which could make it useful in those kinds of applications in the future.

The recyclability of the plastics were using in these plate-lattices also makes them attractive as we move towards a net-zero world, where circular economic models will be central to making the planet more sustainable.

The teams paper, titled Impact behaviour of nanoengineered, 3D-printed plate-lattices, was published inMaterials & Design. The work was supported by funding from the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and the University of Glasgow.

Want the best engineering stories delivered straight to your inbox? TheProfessional Engineeringnewslettergives you vital updates on the most cutting-edge engineering and exciting new job opportunities. To sign up, clickhere.

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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Plastic-nanotube composite 'tougher and lighter than similar forms of aluminium' - Professional Engineering



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