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Posts tagged: Nanotechnology

Nanostructured Biosensors Detect Pesticide, Help Preserve Environment

Artist conception of the creation of a biosensor that is created with graphene ink

Artist conception of the creation of a biosensor that is created with graphene ink. (Image reproduced by permission of Dr. Jonathan Claussen from Nanoscale, 2016, 8, 15870.)

When does too much of a good thing become a bad thing? That’s the question Dr. Jonathan Claussen, assistant professor at Iowa State University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and his team of researchers aim to help farmers answer when it comes to pesticide use. Underuse can harm farmers’ crops, while overuse can result in runoff into the soil or waterways.

Claussen and his team created a flexible, low cost and disposable biosensor that can detect pesticides in soil. This biosensor is made of graphene, a strong and stable nanoparticle, and provides instantaneous feedback, as opposed to the time and money it would otherwise take to send a sample to a lab and await results. Read more »

NIFA, Agricultural Research Tackle Society’s ‘wicked’ problems

NIFA-funded research used genetics to hornless dairy cattle.  (Image courtesy of Recombinetics)

NIFA-funded research used genetics to hornless dairy cattle. (Image courtesy of Recombinetics)

Our charge in the food and agricultural sciences is to move from evolutionary discoveries, which contribute to marginal changes over long periods of time, to revolutionary thinking to deal with ‘wicked’ problems by deploying transdisciplinary approaches that solve complex societal challenges. Similar to how the Internet-driven disruptive technologies have transformed America and the rest of the world, advances in data science, information science, biotechnology and nanotechnology can transform agriculture and our capacity to address societal challenges.

Advances in the field of genomics have helped breeders produce desirable varieties of crops and livestock and overcome challenges that had previously been undertaken via conventional breeding. For example, in the dairy industry, most cattle are mechanically or chemically dehorned early in life to protect against injury to other cattle and their handlers. To eliminate this bloody and painful process, a team of NIFA-funded researchers at Recombinetics have successfully used gene editing to introduce the hornless gene into the cells of horned bulls. While the majority of hornless cattle generated via conventional breeding produce low quality milk, gene editing offers a simple and rapid solution of generating hornless cattle that produce high quality milk. Read more »

Nanotechnology to be Discussed at Outlook Forum

USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum: The Changing Face of Agriculture logo

USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum: The Changing Face of Agriculture logo

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Say it: nanotechnology.

The word alone sounds intriguing, futuristic. But what is nanotechnology?

In simple terms, nanotechnology is understanding and controlling matter on a molecular scale—at dimensions between approximately 1 and 100 nanometers. Read more »

USDA Secretary Vilsack Tours the Forest Products Laboratory

Research Microbiologist Carol Clausen discusses wood durability and protection research with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during his visit to the Forest Products Laboratory.

Research Microbiologist Carol Clausen discusses wood durability and protection research with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during his visit to the Forest Products Laboratory.

The Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) recently guided USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack through its unique set of research facilities. Basic and applied research at FPL supports a number of objectives, including forest management and restoration, the wise use of forest resources, job creation, and expanding economic opportunities through public-private partnerships on a national scale.

Throughout his tour, Secretary Vilsack talked with lab leadership about FPL’s diverse and innovative research efforts. Project leaders used the opportunity to field questions from the Secretary and explain work ranging from wood preservation and durability to advances in “green” building strategies and technology, use of beetle-killed trees, work on historic timber bridges, and advances in nanocellulose-related materials and applications. Read more »

USDA Under Secretary Sherman Unveils Nanocellulose Production Facility

The U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory recently opened a $1.7 million production facility for renewable, forest-based nanomaterials.  This facility is the first of its kind in the United States and one that positions the laboratory as the country’s leading producer of these materials, also called nanocellulose.

Nanocellulose is simply wood fiber broken down to the nanoscale. For perspective, a nanometer is roughly one-millionth the thickness of an American dime. Materials at this minute scale have unique properties; nanocellulose-based materials can be stronger than Kevlar fiber and provide high strength properties with low weight. These attributes have attracted the interest of the Department of Defense for use in lightweight armor and ballistic glass. Companies in the automotive, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, and medical device industries also see massive potential for these innovative materials. Read more »

Nanotechnology Project Opens at Disney World

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

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A visit to the happiest place on earth now opens a window to some of the smallest things on earth.

A new long-term exhibit at Walt Disney World’s INNOVNTIONS at Epcot® opened last month to educate the public about nanotechnology and the science of the very small. Take a Nanooze Break features a number of interactive activities that allow visitors to explore common objects at the nanometer scale, manipulate models of molecules and interact with scientists and engineers who conduct the latest nanotechnology research.

The exhibit gives new meaning to the phrase “it’s a small world after all” using six dynamic videos produced by Cornell University researcher Carl Batt and funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.  The episodes, which were produced in collaboration with the international radio program EarthSky, cover both the potential benefits and risks of nanotechnology.  As part of the grant to Batt, the public will be surveyed to gain an understanding of their opinions about nanotechnology and the information conveyed by the videos.

Nanotechnology is the science of studying and producing materials and devices of nanometer size–billionths of a meter, or about 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.  The emerging field of nanotechnology will no doubt lead to unprecedented understanding and control of the fundamental building blocks of all physical things. Potential applications are possible in plant and animal agricultural production, diagnostic devices to ensure food safety, food processing and manufacturing, human health and nutrition, biotechnology, medicine and drug delivery, information technology, homeland defense, energy production and efficiency, and environmental improvement.

Additional USDA funding into nanotechnology research has led to the development of a fabric that can detect biohazards such as E. coli, biosensors that can help detect diseases on farms and in hospitals, and to tracers that can uncover the sources of pollution in farm fields and waters.

The Epcot exhibit was based on the National Science Foundation-supported Nanooze children’s magazine and Web site designed to get kids excited about science and nanotechnology. With millions of people who visit Epcot each year, this work presents a great opportunity to share the latest advances in nanotechnology and how it can benefit our daily lives.

NIFA-funded videos are part of this exhibit, now being displayed at Epcot Center. Credit: Cornell University Chronicle
NIFA-funded videos are part of this exhibit, now being displayed at Epcot Center.
Credit: Cornell University Chronicle

Dr. Hongda Chen, National Program Leader for Bioprocessing Engineering and Nanotechnology at USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.