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Monday, April 9, 2012

Spicy News

BBC World News Horizons examines advances in nanotechnology
in Houston, USA and Cambridge, England

Broadcasting on BBC World News on Saturday, April 14th  and Sunday, April 15th 2012

In the second episode of the series, Horizons presenters Adam Shaw and Saima Mohsin travel to the United States and the United Kingdom to explore the burgeoning science of nanotechnology. The technology enables scientists to arrange atoms and molecules to create new materials and devices which could have the potential to change our world through applications in medicine, electronics, biomaterials and energy production.

Horizons co-presenter Saima Mohsin begins at Rice University in Houston, Texas where she meets  Professor James Tour, one of the world’s leading pioneers of nanotechnology.  Saima explores technology that enables engineers to manipulate substances at the nano-scale and advances which could see the development of much faster and even flexible electronics, such as the production of a carbon based ink which can be printed onto flexible films to create electronic circuits powered by radio waves.  Saima also learns about what’s being called the next super material-- Graphene, one of the strongest and most conductive materials ever found. 

Professor James Tour said: “Graphene is a single sheet of graphite only one atom thick.  This is an amazing material.  It’s made up of all carbon and the carbon bond is one of the strongest bonds in the universe.  The other thing about Graphene that is really quite amazing is its electronic properties.  You can move information through Graphene at a very high rate, probably one hundred times faster than we can compute today.  It has materials applications, electronics applications.  The applications go into entirely new types of devices we haven’t even begun to envision yet.  It’s huge.”

Back in the UK, award-winning business journalist Adam Shaw visits Cambridge to learn about two companies using nanotechnology in applications which could save lives.  At Endomagnetics, Adam finds out how nanotechnology research is already offering an alternative way to detect breast cancer, using a new technology called Sentimag which uses magnetic tracers that are safer and more widely available than the radioactive tracers currently in use.  He sees the technique being trialed by specialists at Guys Hospital in London and explores whether it could ultimately revolutionize the treatment of cancer globally.

Mr Michael Douek, Guys Hospital, London explained: “I have been working on breast magnetic resonance imaging for many years.  It’s the first time we can use a hand held device to guide us to something we can actually see on magnetic resonance imaging.  It does assist the surgeon in finding the lymph gland to drain a breast tumour.  The technology is novel and has many exciting applications in breast cancer treatment.”

Finally Adam visits Owlstone Nanotech, another Cambridge-based company which is leading the field in chemical detection systems.  Using the latest nanofabrication techniques, the organization has created a device that can be programmed to detect a wide range of airborne chemical agents in extremely small quantities.  This technology could have a huge range of applications including, as Adam discovers, the development of a breathalyzer that would allow doctors to detect the presence of individual chemicals in a subject’s breath which could play a vital role in the non-invasive diagnosis of disease like diabetes in the future.

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