A medical example of the significance of nanotechnology comes in the form of molecular nanocapsules, which can deliver small volumes of medicine to exactly the right point in the body, to combat a tumour for example. Other examples are nanostructuring of surfaces to assist implant adhesion and small ‘nano-satellites’, which can make analyses and send the results to the home base.
“The dream of small nanorobots that can cure our diseases in a completely revolutionary way will for the time being remain a dream. However, we ought to realise that this revolution is in reality an ongoing evolutionary process – in 20 years we will be able to look back and reflect on the incredible progress that is being made step by step,” says Göran Wendin, Professor of Theoretical Physics at Chalmers.
The significance of nanotechnology in everything from revolutionising medicines to producing quantum computers for advanced code-breaking and secure transactions on the internet, is the theme for these two major seminars at Chalmers.
First up is the Nobel Symposium on quantum computers “Qu-bits for quantum information”, which will take place on May 25-28. Thirty of the world’s leading quantum computer researchers, including the Nobel prize-winner in physics in 1997, William D. Phillips, will gather at Chalmers. Another of the participants, David DiVincenzo, is a pioneer in design and software for quantum computers.
“David DiVincenzo, a researcher at IBM, has since 1994 published highly influential articles on the conditions for quantum computers to function. Back in 1998, David DiVincenzo and Daniel Loss published an article – which attracted a great deal of attention at the time – on how to build a quantum computer with Qu-bits in the form of quantum dots based on semiconductor technology. This is now in the process of being realised and will be discussed at the Nobel Symposium,” says Göran Wendin.
One week later, on June 1-2, the Chalmers initiative seminar will be held under the banner: “At the interface between life and matter”. The focus is the interface between life and matter from the point of view of the researcher and those who apply scientific results.
“The aim is that the seminar will pave the way for co-operation between engineers, medical experts and companies to create a technology platform for the development of diagnostics and clinical methods, nano-4-life-and-health so to speak. This type of co-operation involves major challenges and will without doubt contribute to revolutionary advances in the relatively near future. The Gothenburg region has every chance of keeping pace and ample opportunity to take the lead,” says Göran Wendin.
One of the people attending the seminar is professor of physics John Clarke from Berkeley in the USA, who is developing a new type of low-field magnetic resonance imaging, lf-MRI, which makes it possible to portray tissue using a considerably lower magnetic field than previously.
“With these low fields a completely different contrast can be obtained between different substances and John Clarke and his colleagues have demonstrated that with this technique it is possible to distinguish between healthy and cancerous prostate tissue from biopsies. If this were to be done directly in the body, a great deal of patient suffering could be avoided,” says Dag Winkler, Professor of Physics at Chalmers.
lf-MRI technology is now being brought a step further by combining it with magnetoencephalography, MEG, where using the same type of detectors the functioning of the brain is measured and mapped. The detectors are manufactured in the Chalmers clean room using nanotechnology.
“The combination of lf-MRI and MEG offers both tissue formation and a “wiring diagram” between the brain and vital functions such as motor activity and language. This is possible as MEG measures the magnetic field from the weak electric currents that arise from the nerve cells when we work. This knowledge could in time contribute to better rehabilitation for people with brain damage,” says Dag Winkler.