As technology advances, so does the need for more powerful and efficient power sources that can keep up with computing demands while remaining scalable and inexpensive. New nanotechnology innovations are opening the door to the technology of the future.
Low-tech methods for killing waterborne bacteria—like boiling or letting water sit in a plastic bottle in the sun to absorb microbe-zapping UV rays—are inefficient, time consuming, and inconsistent.
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and at Stanford University have created a riff on the water bottle method that’s much quicker, but still easy to use. Their nanostructure device is made from extremely thin layers of an industrial lubricant called molybdenum disulfide. When the device is placed in a container of dirty water and subjected to sunlight, it produces bacteria-destroying chemicals, like hydrogen peroxide, that make the water safe to drink in 20 minutes. Once the water is clean, the chemicals dissolve.
Nanopatches offer a needle-free way to deliver vaccines for infectious diseases like tuberculosis and polio. The tiny 1cm2 silicon square, inserted under the skin using a spring-loaded device, contains an array of about 20,000 tiny spikes that deliver vaccine directly into key immune cells. It’s more efficient than a needle, and it requires less vaccine to be effective. In addition, nanopatches don’t need to be kept cold to preserve the vaccine, because the design ensures temperature stability—a potential boon for public health in places without access to consistent refrigeration. And trypanophobics—people who fear needles—will be happy: the tiny, spiky grid doesn’t hit nerve endings like a conventional syringe does, so using it is pain free.
University of Queensland biomechanical scientist Professor Mark Kendall won the CSL Young Florey Medal—named after the co-inventor of penicillin—for his innovation, which took 20 years to reach fruition. The World Health Organization plans to use it in a polio vaccine study in Cuba this year.
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About Danielle Beurteaux
Danielle Beurteaux is a New York–based writer who covers business, technology, and philanthropy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and on Popular Mechanics, CNN, and Institutional Investor's Alpha, among other outlets.