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Nanotechnology: The Next Industrial Revolution

Read more: Nanotechnology: The Next Industrial Revolution(Translated from the Ynet article of 26.11.15 by Hadar Bohbot)

The tremendous potential of the nanotech to bring about major changes in our lives is a stone's throw away, as can be seen when considering the newest developments in the field - and what's the connection to jelly fish?

The field of nanotechnology, which is considered to be relatively new within the larger sphere of science and technology, encompasses various areas that touch all of our lives: from electrical engineering and technological systems to fields such as chemistry and biology – the "nanotech" is interdisciplinary by definition. Scores of labs and research centers in the field of nanotechnology are at work in Israel, in addition to tens of start-up companies working on various developments, the main ones of which are advanced by Tel Aviv University's Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, which is working with Tsinghua University in China; together they have established the XIN, considered to be an international focus for scientific and technological innovation.

Nanotechnology has been chosen as one of the fields in which this year's Dan David Prize will be awarded. The Dan David Prize is an international prize which annually awards three prizes of US$ 1 million each for achievements having an outstanding contribution to humanity. Each year fields are chosen within the three Time Dimensions - Past, Present and Future. In addition to Nanoscience, prizes will also be awarded this year in Social History and Combatting Poverty. This is the 15th year in which the Dan David Prize is being awarded, the prize being named after the Jewish entrepreneur Dan David who died in 2011. Furthermore, each year doctoral and postdoctoral scholarships are awarded to students in the selected fields from Israel and abroad. "The choice of nanoscience as one of this year's three selected fields demonstrates its importance in far-reaching advances for humanity" commented the Dan David Prize management.

Nanotechnology has already been described as "the next industrial revolution", yet it appears that we are still able to see only the tip of the iceberg. The tremendous potential of the nanotech to bring about major changes in our lives – is a stone's throw away, as can be seen when considering the newest developments in the field.

"We are actually providing a solution to a problem which is perhaps the greatest problem that we have today with modern devices – warming", says Dr. Ziv Hermon, CEO of NanoAir. "What happens is that on the one hand we want more and more performance, more options, more capabilities, more apps. Every phone that we have today is multiple times stronger than the computers of yesterday. However, on the other hand, we want devices that are smaller or thinner. These two demands cause the problem of warming since it's not possible to put fans into devices of this size. People are not always aware of it, but manufacturers deliberately develop and plan devices with lessened performance – in order to avoid situations in which the device works very slowly or even shuts down".

To this end NanoAir is developing an especially thin solution. "One can imagine thin winglets moving up and down, causing an air flow drawing the heat from the hot areas of the device – the battery and the processor". The nanometric cooling system is expected to suit additional devices – apparel technology such as watches and bracelets, tablets and laptops, led bulbs, and all the small gadgets that work within the framework of more complex technologies such as the smart home. "The range of products is huge. Furthermore, since the technology is very thin we intend to incorporate it into the field of chips. We'll be able to provide cooling at the level of a chip, thus achieving much better performance and increasing the capabilities of the device.

In which stage of development are you?

"We exist less than one year and have already created a number of demonstrations of various designs. We already have an advanced model which we are currently checking and the preliminary results are very promising. In addition, we have embarked upon a project in cooperation with a large international company, which has requested us to find a solution to one of its devices that tends to warming. We are in the process of an additional recruitment of investors and we already have a number of well-known investors; yet there is still place for more to join".

Lens Development, Optic Devices, and Detection of Gas in the Air

And here is something else your mobile phones are expected to learn to do: to detect gas in the air in the home and even in your lungs. "What we are developing is actually a sensor for chemical matter" explains Prof. Yossi Rosenwaks, who is working on a gas sensor for mobile devices. "If the development is successful, in two or three years we will be able to install it in all sorts of devices, including apparel technology. We are talking about a slice of silicon, transistor silicon, which, at the moment a molecule of gas is placed on it, it changes the flow in the transistor, this being the sensory mechanism".

Why do we need such a technology?

This sensor has many uses: in the quality of the environment – for instance, our mobile phone will be able to warn us in real time when there is a rise in dangerous gases such as ammonia. In the medical field, there are illnesses in which there is an emission of molecules in the breath. For instance, one of the indicators of asthma is the emission of the molecule MO; a sensor in a mobile telephone or a bracelet on which one could breathe would be able to predict an asthma attack. It is relevant also for the field of food freshness, a fast-growing market, or in the field of the quality of air in the home, a topic very much focused on in the United States, China and Japan. Pollution in a room can be caused by an external hazard, from mold on the walls, or from gas-emitting furniture. If this sensor works well, it will be able to give an indication as to the quality of the air within structures".

Another useful development pertains to the field of lenses and optical products. Prof. Koby Scheuer, of Tel Aviv University's School of Electrical Engineer and Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, is working in cooperation with Prof. Amir Boag on the development of flat lenses based on nanometric structures. "What we are going to do is to create a very thin surface on which very tiny structures will be placed, which will have the same effect that the thickness of lenses give today. In a thick lens the light has more distance to go and in a thin lens, less, thus enabling the light to concentrate or to spread, in other words to do what the lens wants. We will create the same effect by means of nanometric structures: their organization and design on the lens surface will imitate the thickness differences, thereby enabling all the lenses to have a uniform thickness".

Will they be less expensive?

"There won't be expensive and cheap lenses – they'll all be the same. We know that people who need multifocals pay a lot of money for the lenses".  This is also relevant for other optical products – optical devices, laser markers, all sorts of microscopes – instead of making a great many lenses, we will create the necessary effect by using structures on a surface".

It appears that by using this technology it will be possible to harness hazards such as jellyfish to the benefit of humanity. "The problem of jellyfish is a worldwide problem caused in part by man and in part by other factors", explains Prof. Shachar Richter, of Tel Aviv University's Materials Science and Engineering Department and Center for Nanoscience and Nano technology. Together with Dr. Camilla Goyhamdova and students Roman Nudelman and Liron Reshef, the team has developed an entire line of products based on the jellyfish as a raw material. "The result of the jellyfish problem is that in any body of water there is a surplus population of jellyfish which causes extreme economic damage: harm to the surrounding fish and seaside tourism, and even the blockage of power stations. We have taken this issue one step further and have found biodegradable and green solutions using a renewable raw material – the jellyfish".

What's in the development pipeline now?

"What I'm permitted to say is that we have developed a variety of renewable plastics for packaging, products for the para-medical industry which are blood and water absorbent, and various kinds of special bandages. All the above are based on the jellyfish as raw material, in addition to natural additives. We have a number of patents we have submitted which are pending final approval, and there is much interest from companies in Israel and abroad".

It will end in the Blood

Dr. Yuval Evenstein, of Tel Aviv University's School of Chemistry and Center for Nanoscience and Nano Technology is working on a method which enables one to see the chemical changes in the base of the DNA in a way that can identify the development of cancer in the body. "It appears that there is more information beyond the sequence and it expresses itself in these changes. We have advanced imaging capability which enables us to see unique molecules and changes in the base of the DNA. In many forms of cancer there are chemical changes which are very variable. We took blood from healthy patients and from blood cancer patients and saw that we could identify the cancerous transformations in the blood."

Dr. Evenstein explains that it is the nanometric capability that enables us to see and precisely determine the extent of these chemical changes. "The treatment significance of this development is the capability to check, in one blood test, the reaction of the patient and of the cells to the given treatment. One of the great problems today is that some of the patients react to one treatment and some to another. We are talking about a long-term process which can also be fatal. Here we have the theoretical opportunity to check the effects of the treatment on the blood and not on the patient and to see how the cells react".

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