Nano-agents for read / write microscopy and nano-macro bridging

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering


The nanoscale is extremely important to our world, for instance:

- At this scale many of properties of materials we use at the macroscale are determined

- Many biological systems have structure at the nanoscale and operate through series of reactions that take place on the nanoscale

Communicating with the nanoscale is increasingly important for our understanding of our wider world, however, it is much more difficult to do this than at larger scales. There are lots of tools for probing things at the small scale but these have many drawbacks, for instance, optical microscopy does not have sufficient resolution to see things at the nanoscale; atomic force microscopy, which is often used to image object at the nanoscale, can't see inside things like cells; and electron microscopy which is widely used to image and write objects at the nanoscale can't be used on large or living objects.

This proposal aims to develop a new method of communicating with the nanoscale by using small devices, "nano-agents", which can get information in and out of the nanoscale environment. These will operate remotely and without contact with the instrument so they can be placed inside objects, even large and living ones. They will enable the nanoscale environment to be sensed and provide a way to change the nanoscale environment. This will open up new ways to explore and interact with the nanoscale.

Planned Impact

The potential impact of this proposal is very significant. The proposed technology is a generic read / write imaging platform with applications in a great many areas. It turns microscopy from passive observation to active interaction and bridges between the nano-scale and macro-scale. The impact from this proposal will be across a wide range of research areas and applications well beyond the scope of the original proposal.

It will enable two way communication between the macro and nano scale and it will enable this for large and living samples. This is a revolutionary idea that can change the way basic science experiments are performed and allowing researchers to change the environment at the nanoscale at will.

This will enable new ways to inspect and interact with nano engineered materials devices and allow them to be adopted by advanced manufacturing areas such as aerospace which demand performance and safety at the same time. This will allow lighter and safer airframes and engines to be developed leading to societal benefits by allowing lighter, quieter and more fuel efficient aeroplanes to be flown.

It will also enable the interaction with cells and tissue at the sub cellular level so that diagnostics and treatment can be performed at the sub cellular level and bacterial behaviour can be directed.

As well as impacts in science and engineering research this will lead to impacts in manufacturing and healthcare resulting in economic and societal benefits.
Description Nanoscale ultrasound with wavelengths less than that of light in the visible part of the spectrum can be used for high resolution imaging of live biological cells and that significantly higher than optical resolution maybe generate with this system.
Exploitation Route Ultrasonics of small things
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Electronics,Energy,Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description To perform ultrasonics of small objects like cells
First Year Of Impact 2014
Impact Types Societal,Economic