It´s going like clock-work
Friction and stick at the nano scale
Vehicle transmissions, artificial hip joints or tiny sensors for airbags: the respective parts have to slide over each other with minimal friction to prevent energy loss and material wear. Now NIM scientists use a single molecule to investigate friction at the nano scale. Read more
Physics at the dawn of life
After accretion of the Earth, chemical evolution in the oceans led to the production of molecules that could store and transmit genetic information. LMU physicists now show how modest temperature gradients could have started the process.
Make way for electrons
Electron transport through organic transistors
Electrons and holes should not encounter any obstacles in their pathways through solar cells and other semiconductor based devices. NIM – scientists have thus been investigating their transport through ultrathin organic structures during device fabrication.
Live and let live
The balance of nature
Predator-prey systems are a classic example of the field of Theoretical Biology to describe a state of equilibrium in nature. Now NIM scientists have analyzed under which conditions these systems are stable.
Our Genome - always on the move
Statistical model for nucleosome arrangements
NIM-Scientists have developed a model that accounts for the stochastic distribution of histones, “packaging” proteins, along our DNA. As a basis for the computational model, they use the entire genome of twelve different yeasts.
The exceptional behaviour of complex liquids
New numerical model
Complex liquids as blood, paint or ketchup have special properties. In the currrent issue of the journal “Physical Review Letters” NIM scientists and their colleagues from the ETH Zurich present a newly developed description model. Read more
New catalyst for water splitting
Energy from sunlight
The splitting of water via sunlight is one promission option for the production of renewable energies. New catalysts based on carbon nitride might be able to foster this technology. Read more
Good fences make good neighbors
Nature abhors a vacuum, they say, but it also prefers sharp boundaries. LMU researchers have now come up with a theoretical model of how nature establishes such stable demarcations. Read more
A single molecule in sight
Intelligence is not only a matter of humans and animals. Scientists speak also of intelligent molecules. The latter directly react to external stimuli and change reversibly their shape. NIM physicists demonstrate the process for the first time with a single molecule.
Cryo-electron microscopy allows accurate analysis of complex 3D DNA objects
Icy insights into 3D-DNA objects
With nature as their model scientists are developing nanoobjects for a number of years. One goal is the construction of artifical enzymes. The mostly entangled 3D-structures are built from artificial DNA strands and hard to examine. Now a team around the NIM scientist Hendrik Dietz (TU München) was able to simulate and syntetise a particular complex object and finally to analyse it via Cryo-electron microscopy. Read more
The coupling of cytoskeleton and cytomembrane
A strong relationship
NIM scientist Thomas Franke from the University of Augsburg and his team revealed the role of the cytoskeleton for the enormous flexibiliy of red blood cells. Their newly developed method is based on micro channels and has a high application potential for the diagnosis of genetic diseases.The paper was chosen as Front Cover article in the current issue of "Soft Matters". Read more
Science reports on new nature-inspired nanostructures
Nanostructures mimic nature's way of tunneling through cell walls
NIM scientists and colleagues from the University of Michigan have shown that synthetic membrane channels can be constructed through “DNA nanotechnology.” The researchers present evidence that their nature-inspired nanostructures may also behave like biological ion channels. Read more
NIM calendar production
Witness the production of the NIM calendar 2013! The calendar presents appealing images illustrating and resulting from the NIM research activities. The calendar will be sent to the partners and friends of NIM during the first weeks of December. Watch video
Next generation drug discovery
Drugs act by binding exclusively to specific target molecules. Now NIM scientists together with other research groups are able to study binding affinities based on the natural fluorescence of the target proteins, using the method of microscale thermophoresis. Read more
Solar cell consisting of a single molecule
Individual protein complex generates electric currents
A team of scientists from Munich, including NIM member Alexander Holleitner (TU Munich), and physicists from the University of Tel Aviv developed a method to measure photocurrents of a single functionalized photosynthetic protein system. The results are published in the current issue of Nature Nanotechnology. Read more
NIM-NanoDay attracted great interest
More than a thousand visitors joined the NIM NanoDay at the Deutsches Museum in Munich on 8 September 2012. They were offered an interesting stage program and took actively part in science with hands on experiments organised by young NIM scientists. Read more
One particle - a lot of functions
Nanoparticles can save lives when they target and destroy diseased cells. NIM scientists have developed an exceptionally small particle that is very well equipped for this task. Read more
A recharging record
The future of energy storage
Whether your electric vehicle has two or four wheels, the chances are that it runs on a lithium-ion battery. LMU researchers have developed a more efficient matrix for storing electrical energy, based on a novel lithium titanate nanostructure. Read more
Easy come, easy go
New insights into the live of microtubules
Every second, around 25 million cell divisions take place in our bodies. This process is driven by microtubule filaments which continually grow and shrink. Now a study shows how so-called motor proteins from the cytosol can controll this dynamic (PRL). Read more
See also article in Nature - Research Highlights
Good news coming from Bonn
NIM receives funding for another five years within the German Excellence Initiative
The final decisions about the second phase of the Excellence Initiative have been made. The Munich Cluster of Excellence “Nanosystems Initiative Munich” (NIM) is one of the winners and will be funded for another five years. This has been announced by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Council of Science and Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat) on June 15, 2012. Read more
Gute Nachrichten aus Bonn
NIM erhält weitere fünf Jahre Förderung im Rahmen der Exzellenzinitiative des Bundes und der Länder
Die Förderentscheidungen für die zweite Phase der Exzellenzinitiative sind gefallen. Der Münchner Exzellenzcluster „Nanosystems Initiative Munich“ (NIM) gehört zu den Siegern des Wettbewerbs und wird nun weitere fünf Jahre lang gefördert. Das haben die Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) und der Wissenschaftsrat am 15. Juni 2012 bekannt gegeben. Mehr dazu
High-resolution measurement of photocurrents
The continuing trend toward miniaturization in electronics demands the use of new materials. Components made of carbon nanotubes may meet this need – and the properties of single nanotube devices can now be characterized with the required resolution. Read more
The curse of measurement
Uncontrolled back-action effects influence transistors
Cutting-edge computer processors consist of 1.4 billion transistors. Such tiny structures, however, have a major drawback: The read-out process can influence their states in an uncontrolled way. A new model, presented in Nature Physics, is able to detect and to avoid these “back-action effects” particularly at the quantum level. Read more
News from the evolution
Imposing order on the primordial soup
Life began in a chemical soup when molecular precursors spontaneously assembled to form short nucleic acids. But how could these molecules replicate and transmit information in the absence of proteins? With the aid of temperature variations, perhaps. Read more
Greater than the Sum of their Parts
Functional Molecular Complexes
For the first time, scientists around NIM member Prof. Hermann Gaub were able to assemble individual biomolecules to form a molecular complex with its own unique function.
NIM member leads new Collaborative Research Center
NIM member Joachim Rädler, professor for physics at LMU, is the coordinator of the new Collaborative Research Center SFB 1032. Read more...
DNA origami puts a smart lid on solid-state nanopore sensors
Two TUM advances combine for new capabilities in single-molecule sensing
The latest advance in solid-state nanopore sensors are devices which can offer single-molecule sensitivity for label-free protein screening. Now these constructions expand their bag of tricks through bionanotechnology. NIM researchers at the TU München have enhanced the capabilities of solid-state nanopores by fitting them with cover plates made of DNA. Read more
Sulfur in every pore
Improved Batteries with Carbon Nanoparticles
Lithium-sulfur batteries may be the power storage devices of the future. In an important step for the further development of this type of battery, NIM member Thomas Bein and his colleagues have prepared porous carbon nanoparticles which utilize sulfur molecules to achieve the greatest possible power output. Read more
Researchers demonstrate versatility of solid-state protein sensor
"Identity check" selectively screens single molecules passing through nanopores
A novel type of sensor, based on nanometer-scale pores in a semiconductor membrane, is a step closer to practical use in applications such as analyzing the protein contents of a single cell. NIM member Ulrich Rant, his colleagues at the TU München and biochemists at Goethe University Frankfurt have been able to enhance the selectivity of the sensor while maintaining its sensitivity. They report the latest results in Nature Nanotechnology. Read more
More space for research
Building plans for nanoscience institute at LMU München take another hurdle in Bavarian Parlament
The realisation of the new building for nanosciences at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) München ("Nano Institute Munich") took a major step forward. On March, 27th the Bavarian Parlament layed down the foundations for the construction within the supplementary budget for 2012. Read more
Sculpting Light with Gold Nanoparticles
NIM scientists develop a nanomaterial that precisely modulates light
An international team led by the NIM-scientists Tim Liedl, Friedrich Simmel and Alexander Högele has developed a synthetic, three-dimensional material that allows visible light to be modified in specific and desired ways. To produce this “metamaterial” the physicists utilize synthetic DNA segments that fold into a designed shape: a cylinder that is enveloped by a helical arrangement of gold nanoparticles. The results are published in the current issue of Nature. Read more
NIM research project exhibited in the German Bundestag
"From idea to knowledge"
During March 2012 a special exhibition takes place in the German Bundestag. The German Research Foundation (DFG) presents ten out of 20,000 of their funded research projects. One of these projects belongs to the NIM members Prof. Jörg Kotthaus and Dr. Eva Weig. It deals with vibrating nanostrings which can serve as very sensitive detectors for tiny amounts of material. Read more
Validation of Landauer's principle
Results of an experiment that validates an important principle for information theory and computer science are published in Nature this week. NIM member Eric Lutz and his colleagues show that erasing information produces heat, as predicted by Rolf Landauer fifty years ago, and demonstrates the intimate link between information theory and thermodynamics. Read more
Charging up qubits in diamonds
Nitrogen vacancy-centers in diamond have a great potential as qubits in quantum computers. The NIM members Jose Garrido and Martin Stutzmann, together with other colleagues, established a method for manipulating the charge of these centers. As reported in Nature Communications this week the approach relies on the use of electrolytes similar to those used in batteries. Read more
Introducing plug-and-play nanoelectromechanical systems
Vibrating nanostrings can serve as very sensitive detectors for tiny amounts of material. But such devices usually require complex instrumentation or function only at extremely low temperatures. Now LMU member Eva Weig and her team have developed a nanosensor that is simple to operate and works at room temperature.
With nanometer precision
Protein transportation via “Cut & Paste” method
Peptides and antibodies open up a new way to “cut and paste” single molecules via Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). So far the exact placement of molecules worked only with artificial complementary DNA strands as general molecular handles and anchors. Now NIM scientists employed a system based on short peptides on the molecular building blocks and specific antibodies at the AFM tip. As published and highlighted in ChemPhysChem this all-protein approach enables the physicists for example to arrange proteins in enzymatic networks. Read more
Ultra-fast photodetector and terahertz generator
New applications for graphene
Extremely thin, more stable than steel and widely applicable: the material graphene is full of interesting properties. As such, it is currently the shining star among the electric conductors. Photodetectors made with graphene can process and conduct light signals and also electric signals extremely fast. Within picoseconds (10-12 seconds) the optical stimulation of graphene generates a photocurrent. Until now, none of the available methods were fast enough to measure these processes in graphene. Professor Alexander Holleitner and Dr. Leonhard Prechtel, scientists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM), now developed a method to measure the temporal dynamics of this photo current. Read more
Tidy up a nanoparticle mixture
High-resolution particle separation in opposite directions
Fast, easy to use and highly accurate: these are the most important features of a perfect analytic device. In all existing methods there is still major potential for development. Recently a team around the NIM scientist Professor Peter Hänggi from the University Augsburg developed a very accurate separating process for DNA fragments with different sizes. They took advantage of the several entropy potentials of the particle dynamics. The calculations demonstrate that the new technique can reach a degree of purity of 99,9 percent which lies clearly above the common methods. Read more Featured by Physics Focus
A nanoear to listen into the silence
Gold nanoparticles detect tiny acoustic vibrations
How noisy is a walking flea? What sorts of sound waves are caused by motile bacteria? It is still a vision to listen into this microcosm. But physicists at the Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM) have recently managed for the first time to detect sound waves at such minuscule length scales. Their nanoear is a single gold nanoparticle that is kept in a state of levitation by a laser beam. This work has been featured by Science News and Nature Research Highlights. Read more
Backing out of the nanotunnel
New method for nucleic acid analysis
Nanopores provide a versatile tool for probing molecular structures. Two NIM researchers and their teams developed a method to obtain more detailed information about the dynamic behavior of nucleic acids during passage through nanopores. For this purpose they directed them to asymmetric pores for the return journey. Read more
Energy conversion in chaperones
Chaperone protein Hsp90 makes large conformational changes even without ATP
A special group of proteins, the so-called chaperones, helps other proteins to obtain their correct conformation. Until now scientists supposed that the chaperone Hsp90 needs energy from hydrolyzing ATP for its large conformational changes. Now a research team from the Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM) could prove that Hsp90 utilizes thermal fluctuations as the driving force for its conformational changes. The renowned journal PNAS reports on their findings. Read more
The art of molecular carpet-weaving
Two-dimensional networks from boronic acids
Stable two-dimensional networks of organic molecules are important components in various nanotechnology processes. However, producing these networks, which are only one atom thick, in high quality and with the greatest possible stability currently still poses a great challenge. Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM) have now successfully created just such networks made of boronic acid molecules. The current issue of the scientific journal ACSnano reports on their results. Read more
Targeted immune stimulation based on DNA Nanotechnology
DNA is usually known as the genetic code for protein synthesis in all living organisms. The application of DNA as a molecular building block on the other hand, allows for the construction of sophisticated nanoscopic shapes that are built entirely from DNA. In particular the recent invention of the so-called DNA origami method facilitates the fabrication of almost all imaginable 3D shapes.
Now NIM member Prof. Tim Liedl (LMU München) and his team developed a DNA origami construct that serves as a carrier system to selectively stimulate immune responses of living cells. Together with the group of Prof. Carole Bourquin from the Klinikum der Universität München the biophysicists investigated the systematic immune stimulatory effect and the potential cytotoxicity of these DNA nanostructures. Read more
Zeolite synthesis made easy
Zeolites are porous materials with perfectly regular pores and high surface area that can act as molecular sieves. This property has led to important applications including the purification of air or water such as the contaminated seawater around Fukushima. Zeolites are used as catalysts and for the separation and adsorption of numerous substances. Synthesis of one of the most attractive, stable zeolites with very large pores, called EMT, has so far required a very expensive template, which has precluded industrial applications. Now an international team of researchers including NIM member Prof. Thomas Bein (Department of Chemistry, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich) has discovered a novel route for the synthesis of EMT from colloidal precursors at near ambient temperature within a short time.The results have been published in the current issue of Science Magazine.
Novel nano-carbon platform shows potential for future bioelectronic implants:
Biocompatible graphene transistor array reads cellular signals
NIM researchers have demonstrated, for the first time, a graphene-based transistor array that is compatible with living biological cells and capable of recording the electrical signals they generate. This proof-of-concept platform opens the way for further investigation of a promising new material. Graphene's distinctive combination of characteristics makes it a leading contender for future biomedical applications requiring a direct interface between microelectronic devices and nerve cells or other living tissue. A team of scientists from the Technische Universität München (TUM) and the Jülich Research Center published the results in the journal Advanced Materials.
Nanohealth Conference Seoul 2011
NIM delegation travelled to South Korea
In November 2011 experts of five world-leading Nanoscience Centers met in Seoul, South Korea, for the „6th Global Symposium on NanoBio Technology“. After the Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM) had hosted the conference in 2010, this year the Yonsei Medical National Core Research Center invited the scientists. In addition to other NIM members eight PhD students from the NIM Graduate Program travelled to Seoul.
Perfect micro rings woven from muscle fibers
A biological model system that dead ends in an "absorbing state"
Supplied with sufficient energy, a freight train would ride the rails as far as they go. But nature also knows systems whose dynamics suddenly turn into a kind of endless loop. Like in a hamster wheel, a train caught up in such a system would continue running, but without moving forward. Scientists from the Cluster of Excellence Nanosystems Initiative Munich have now succeeded in building a simple model system consisting of only three components to study the laws of such so-called absorbing states. Read more
Designing enzyme complexes via Single Molecule Cut & Paste
ERC Advanced Grant for Hermann E. Gaub
One of the Advanced Grants awarded by the European Research Council (ERC) in its latest funding round has gone to NIM member Professor Hermann E. Gaub for his research project on “Designer Cellulosomes by Single Molecule Cut & Paste”. Cellulosomes are complexes of cellulolytic enzymes created by bacteria. The award is worth approximately 2.5 million Euros over a period of five years.
Attention! End of traffic jam!
How a molecular traffic jam impacts cell division
Interdisciplinary research conducted in biology and physics aims to understand the cell and how it organizes internally. NIM scientist Erwin Frey is working with his group on one particular issue involved in the cell’s “life”. The professor for statistical and biological physics at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) in Munich and his team, Anna Melbinger and Louis Reese, investigate the interplay of so-called molecular motors with the skeleton of the cell, the cytoskeleton. A 3D-Model of their object of study became cover picture of the current issue of Biophysical Journal.
Glowing beacons reveal hidden order in dynamical systems
Experimental confirmation of a fundamental physical theorem
The so-called ergodic theorem formulates a fundamental physical principle relating to the behavior of dynamical systems. Essentially the theorem states that in a multiparticle system each individual particle behaves just as “chaotically” as does the system as a whole. A collaborative effort mounted by NIM members Professor Christoph Bräuchle, Professor Jens Michaelis and there teams in the Department of Chemistry at LMU Munich and a group at Leipzig University has now confirmed the validity of the theorem. They could measure the diffusive behavior of ensembles of particles and the trajectories of single molecules in the same system. Read more See also article in "Physik Journal" (12/2011)
Doping for solar cells
New approach enhances the formation of charge carriers in organic solar cells
Organic solar cells could play and important role in the field of environmentally friendly technologies for the conversion of usable energy from renewable sources. LMU physicists have shown that incorporation of dopant molecules enhances the photogeneration of charge carriers a process which holds promise for the improvement of the efficiency in these cells.
Within a two week project, master students of media informatics at LMU created 3D animations about current nano research in cooperation with NIM graduate students.
NIM scientists examine tiny objects, which are difficult to imagine. In order to visualize them, 3D animations are a very powerful tool. Nonetheless, creating those videos requires both technical and artistic know-how.
The dynamics of transcription
New methods allow visualization
In every living cell a complex system is continuously translating coded DNA into proteins. The first step in this process is called transcription. For each protein the so-called RNA polymerase produces a second version of the corresponding DNA segment (i.e. the gene): this product is referred to as messenger-RNA (mRNA). It serves as a model with which to build proteins. Recently an international team of scientists was able to visualize the dynamics of this complex transcription process. This was possible by using special fluorescence methods and a so-called nano-positioning-system. Jens Michaelis, a member of NIM, and his team were part of this project. The results are published in the latest issue of the journal Molecular Cell.
Illuminating the origins of life
An RNA reactor might have facilitated pre-biotic information transfer
One important question of mankind is about the transition from pre-biotic chemical compounds to biologically active molecules found in all living organisms today. A newly developed computer model provides a plausible scenario. It is based on the so-called “RNA world” hypothesis and was developed by LMU researchers led by the NIM member Professor Ulrich Gerland.
GO Bio Award for three NIM members
On May 26, 2011, three NIM members received the GO Bio Prize, awarded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF): Prof. Christian Plank (Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technische Universität München), PD Dr. Carsten Rudolph (Dr. von Haunersches Kinderspital, LMU Munich) and Dr. Ulrich Rant (Walter-Schottky Institut, TUM).
Christian Plank and Carsten Rudolph work together on the implementation of a new kind of drugs, synthetic RNA molecules, in regenerative medicine. Their award includes a 3,6 million Euro endowment for a period of three years. Ulrich Rant and his team have developed a new kind of diagnosis biochip. Fixed DNA molecules "catch" the sought for proteins and can than be detected by moving more slowly (see movie). The funding of GO-Bio will help to bring this new technology ready for market.
An important step towards highly effective drugs
Microscale thermophoresis paves the way for a new kind of drug-screening assay based on G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs)
Receptor proteins located within the cell membrane serve to convey molecules or information into the interior. Because numerous drugs function by binding to such receptors, their interactions play important roles in the fight against various diseases. For example, the coupling can activate a signal chain which in the end specifically changes the metabolism of malignant cells. A collaboration between biophysicists from the LMU and researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston has found a very elegant and potentially revolutionary new way to screen for drug binding to membrane receptors. The Munich part of the project was led by scientists of the Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM) and of NanoTemper, a commercial spin-off of the LMU (PNAS Early Edition, May 12, 2011).
From Microscope to Gallery - NanoArt Exhibition in New York
Including pictures from NIM scientists
From April 13 until June 10, 2011, NIM presents - together with other German Nano Institutes - NanoArt pictures in New York, produced by its scientists. The exhibition takes place at the German Center for Research and Innovation (GCRI) and starts with a panel discussion: "Nanovation New York: Discovering the Invisible Frontier". The nano images come from laboratories at the Center for Nanointegration Duisburg-Essen (CeNIDE), the Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM), the Center for NanoScience (CeNS), the University Alliance Metropolis Ruhr, the Leibniz Institute for Analytical Sciences (ISAS e.V.), and the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft.
Green light for nanoelectronics
Single molecules form optical switch
The technology of nanophotonics studies and manipulates the behavior of light within the nanometre scale. One of the scientists’ visions is that light could take over the role of electric current in future by building up optical circuits. This kind of circuit requires only minimal space and has the potential to widely exceed the capability and operating speed of electric circuits. Now NIM scientists have used a new model to demonstrate how to manipulate the direction of propagation of light or light energy at the level of single molecules. The biophysicists around professor Philip Tinnefeld (until fall 2010 at LMU Munich, now at TU Braunschweig) placed a cascade of four different fluorescent dye molecules on a platform of DNA. By means of a so-called "jumping dye" they can control the direction of the light path and hence of energy transfer. With their new single-molecule four-colour technique, the scientists made the success of the strategy clearly visible (JACS 2011).
A Quantum Pen for Single Atoms
Physicists around the world are searching for the best way to realize a quantum computer. Now scientists of the team around Stefan Kuhr and the NIM member Immanuel Bloch at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ) in Garching / Munich took a decisive step in this direction. They could address and change the spin of single atoms with laser light and arrange them in arbitrary patterns. In this way, the physicists strung the atoms along a line and could directly observe their tunnelling dynamics in a “racing duel” of the atoms (Nature 471, 2011) (Source: MPQ).
Winter School 2011
March 27 - April 2, 2011, St. Christoph, Arlberg, Austria
During the winter school more than 25 top class nanoscientists from all over the world present their current research in front of approx. 120 participants, mainly NIM graduate students. The traditional biennial meeting is organized by NIM jointly with the Center for NanoScience (CeNS).
This year, the scientific program of the winter school will concentrate on the new five research areas of NIM: Quantum Nanophysics, Hybride Nanosystems, Nanosystems for Energy Conversion, Biomolecular Nanosystems, and Biomedical Nanotechnologies.
Just like at the past winter schools, NIM is very proud to present a list of internationally renowned nano scientists as invited speakers. Amongst them are Daniel Fletcher (University of California, Santa Barbara), Jørgen Kjems (Aarhus Universitet, Denmark), Cécile Leduc (Université de Bordeaux, France), Serdar Sariciftci (Universität Linz, Austria) and Herre van der Zant (Kavli Institute Delft, Netherlands).
How long does a tuning fork ring?
“Quantum-mechanics” solve a very classical problem
Researchers at the University of Vienna and from the Nanosystems Initiative Munich (Dr. Wilson-Rae, TU München) have solved a long-standing problem in the design of mechanical resonators: the numerical prediction of the design-limited damping. They report their achievement, which has a broad impact on diverse fields such as sensing and communications, in the forthcoming issue of Nature Communications. The article describes both a numerical method to calculate the mechanical damping as well as a stringent test of its performance on a set of mechanical microstructures.
Pushing HIV out the door
How host factors aid in the release of HIV particles
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) – which causes AIDS – invades human immune cells and causes them to produce new copies of the virus, which can then infect new cells. A research team led by NIM researcher Professor Don C. Lamb (LMU Munich) and Priv.-Doz. Dr. Barbara Müller of Heidelberg University Hospital have now analyzed the involvement of particular components of the infected cell in virion release, and discovered that the enzyme VPS4A plays a more active role in the process than was previously thought. VPS4A was already known to act after virus budding was complete. Using an advanced microscopy technique, the group was able to show that complexes containing about a dozen VPS4A molecules form at points in the membrane at which newly assembled virions later emerge. According to Lamb, “We can now demonstrate in detail, for the first time, how host proteins interact with components of HIV, to enable them to bud from infected cells. Our ultimate goal is to elucidate the entire life cycle of the virus.” “With the methods we have at our disposal, we can also study the effects of drugs on infected cells, which may allow us to improve their efficacy or even lead to the development of new classes of active compounds.” (Nature Cell Biology online, 10 March 2011)
Stop and go
How the cell deals with transcriptional roadblocks
Gene transcription is central to cell function, as it converts the information stored in the DNA into RNA molecules of defined sequence, which then program protein synthesis. The enzyme RNA polymerase II (Pol II) is responsible for this genetic readout, but is prone to transcriptional arrest. NIM member Professor Patrick Cramer, Director of LMU’s Genzentrum, and his research associate Dr. Alan Cheung have now shown for the first time – and captured on film - what happens when Pol II arrests at a “roadblock”. They were even able to observe how transcript is reactivated. Reactivation of arrested transcriptional complexes is a normal part of the readout process, and is therefore of fundamental significance in all cells. Indeed, as Patrick Cramer points out, “It is also utilized to regulate gene activity in stem and tumor cells.” (Nature online, 23. February 2011)
Modified mRNAs open up new therapeutical possibilites
Defects in the genome are the cause of many diseases. Gene therapy – direct replacement of mutant genes by intact DNA copies – offers a means of correcting such defects. Now a research team based at the Medical Center of the University of Munich, and led by the NIM Associate PD Dr. Carsten Rudolph, has taken a new approach that avoids DNA delivery. The team shows for the first time that chemical modification of mRNAs provides a promising alternative to DNA-based procedures. mRNAs are messenger molecules and chemically very close to DNA. In contrast to the latter, the modified RNAs do not increase the risk of cancer, and do not induce frequently observed severe immune reactions seen with DNA or unmodified mRNA. (Nature Biotechnology, 7. Februar 2011)
Created as if by magic
Deciphering the conformational cycle of the chaperone BiP
A finishing school for proteins
Proteins are the cells´ "workhorses". But to fulfill their versatile functions they have to be folded in specific three-dimensional structures. So-called chaperons support these processes and prevent failures during the protein synthesis. Scientists around the NIM-member Professor Don C. Lamb (Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, LMU München) and Professor Johannes Buchner (Department of Chemistry, TU München) identified how the important chaperone BiP changes its own structure and how it is influenced by the co-chaperone ERdJ3. The scientists present their results in the recent issue of the Journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.
Extremly fast photodetectors
Speed detection of electrons in nanoscale photodetectors
In solar cells and photodetectors, an optical radiation excites electrons to higher energy states, thereby a photocurrent begins to flow. Scientists led by Professor Alexander Holleitner, physicist at the Technische Universität Muenchen (TUM), have found a way to directly measure the time during which photo-excited electrons flow in nanoscale photodetectors.
Picture (TUM): A carbon nanotube network is contacted by two metal strip lines
Muscle filaments make mechanical strain visible
New model system for examining plastics properties
Manufacturers of plastics-based materials are facing a serious hurdle in their quest for new developments: Substantial influences of the microscopic material structure on mechanical material properties cannot be observed directly. The synthetic polymer molecules are simply too small for microscopic observation in mechanical experiments. A team of physicists led by professor Andreas Bausch of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) has now developed a method that allows just these kinds of measurements. They present their results in Nature Communications
Printing gold nanoparticles
Until now the positioning of nanoparticles onto surfaces required complex techniques. Recently a team of scientists around the NIM physicists Dr. Andrey Lutich and Prof. Jochen Feldmann developed a simple but highly precise procedure: The scientists use light pressure produced by a laser to shoot single gold nanoparticles with a diameter of 80 nanometer onto a surface. By that they can reach a precision of about 50 nanometer.
Highly endowed ERC Grants for three NIM members
The LMU professors and NIM members Patrick Cramer (Director of the Gene Center Munich), Jochen Feldmann (Photonics and Optoelectronics Chair) and Theodor Hänsch (Chair of Experimental Physics and Director at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) receive Advanced Investigator Grants, offered by the European Research Council (ERC). These highly endowed grants are handed to outstanding european scientists to provide further innovative scientific projects.
Observed for the first time: Atomic growth of Sapphire Nanowires
NIM publication in Science
Gauzy nanowires might be part of the future development of various electronic devices. NIM member Professor Christina Scheu (Physical Chemistry Department, LMU München) and a group of international scientists were able to observe the growth of Sapphire Nanowires on an atomic level with the helf of high-resolution electron microscopy. There findings were now published in the current issue of the Science magazine.
The beauty of flock patterns
A model system for group behavior of nanomachines
For the casual observer it is fascinating to watch the orderly and seemingly choreographed motion of hundreds or even thousands of fish, birds or insects. However, the formation and the manifold motion patterns of such flocks raise numerous questions fundamental to the understanding of complex systems. A team of physicists from Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) and LMU Muenchen has developed a versatile biophysical model system that opens the door to studying these phenomena and their underlying principles. More information...
NANOSYSTEMS NEWS - the new issue
We kindly invite you to read the latest news from our cluster of excellence.
- Opening "Center for Nanotechnology and Nanomaterials (ZNN)"
- Effective exchange of Knowledge: "Wiki" for the NIM Ph.D. students
- We proudly present: the NIM Student Board
- NaNaX4 - The Conference Report
- Examples for Research Funding at NIM
- "Nanoscience reveals Oetzi´s Beauty Secret"
- Announcement: Symposium nano + Health
The perfect wave
Surface acoustic waves convert cell membrane into nano-conveyor
Membranes protect every single cell of our body and control exactly which substances are allowed to enter the cell. Illustrations often give the impression that membranes are stiff formations. In reality they are as viscous as olive oil and moreover highly dynamic: This fact was used by the research groups of Professor Joachim Rädler (LMU), Professor Achim Wixforth (Universität Augsburg) and Professor Matthias Schneider (Boston University) through collaboration within the cluster of excellence “Nanosytems Initiative Munich (NIM)”. The scientists discovered that exposure to standing surface acoustic waves (SAWs) influences the distribution of the membrane´s lipids. The physicists could demonstrate that the new method also works for the separation of lipid-bound proteins: it can concentrate the proteins at predefined parts of the membrane, separate various kinds of proteins and, by using SAWs, transport them similar to conveyor belts. This fact could be an important contribution for the realization of extremely small laboratories, so-called “Lab-on-a-Chip”. (NanoLetters, August 2010)
Highly concentrated right into the target
Cancer cells are hard to stop. They proliferate without control and thereby affect the healthy tissue. One possible way to fight their growth is to infiltrate the cells with anticancer agents. In close collaboration, three research groups of the Cluster of Excellence “Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM)” developed a method using nanoparticles to smuggle concentrated colchicine into the cells. Colchicine, a natural plant toxin from autumn crocus blocks the cell division and therefore stops the proliferation of cancer cells. The scientists of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München used tiny porous silicate particles with an average size of about 50 nanometers. The porous silicate easily absorbs the colchicine and the particles are small enough to penetrate the cell membrane. To hinder the loss of agent on the particle’s way into the cell, the scientists developed a kind of protective layer. In only one synthesis step they were able to coat the nanoparticles with a lipid bilayer. Thereby the particles can effectively transport the colchicine through the cell membrane into the cell. This principle should be highly versatile, according to Prof. Bein:”Colchicine is only one example for many other agents that could be carried into the cells the same way”.
The attraction of gold
Electric voltage controls the chemical bonding of DNA
There are two ways to create nanostructures: scientists either split larger structures into pieces or they combine tiny building blocks to build new systems. In order to succeed in the latter approach they have to pick up the separate parts and place them with nanometer precision. Biophysicists at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) München have now developed a technique for the exact arrangement of separate DNA molecules on a gold electrode, without any extensive preparation needed, neither for the gold surface nor for the DNA.
NIM scientist Hermann Gaub, Professor for Biophysics, and his group members made use of electro chemistry. By switching an electric voltage applied to the gold electrode, the researchers are able to control, whether the DNA binds chemically with the gold atoms or not. A negative voltage lets the molecule bind to the surface. A positive voltage leaves it free.
The world´s smallest building site
Tensegrity model on the nanometer scale
Light as a veil the tent roof of the Munich Olympic stadium seems to rest on its columns. Its construction proves that stable building is possible even with low material expense. It is the optimal stress distribution that really matters: compression-resistent and tension-stable building elements have to be arranged and connected in a way so that pressure and tension can balance within the system. Thereby the whole object is able to stabilise itself. The english made-up expression for this principle is „tensegrity“, a combination of tension and integrity. The world´s smallest artificial tensegrity structures are Tim Liedl´s topic of research. Since 2009 Liedl is professor for physics at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and member of the Cluster of Excellence "Nanosystems Initiative Munich" (NIM). During a research period at the Harvard Medical School, Boston, Tim Liedl and his local colleagues were able to rebuild a tensegrity model on the nanometer scale for the first time.
Programmable DNA-based valve for nanoparticles
Medical drugs often have to be given highly dosed, because much of the active agent is lost during its way throuh the body. But in many cases the high dose of the agent leads to unwanted side effects. In order to keep the dose as low as possible, the agents should ideally be transported through the organism directly to the desired destination, and be released there. Therefore the agent may be enclosed in nanoparticles, being opened at specific conditions. The NIM chemists Prof. Thomas Bein and Prof. Thomas Carell at LMU München have now found an easy way to produce silica particles, which open at a specific temperature. (Angewandte Chemie online, 11. Juni 2010).
How the first molecules could have met up
More than 3 billion years ago, the first forms of life on earth came into existence. The first complex chemical structures developed and formed the basis for the later protozoa. According to a scientific theory, this first step to life presumably took place in the oceans. But to build up complex structures, the dissolved and low- concentrated reactants had to meet each other.
Now the LMU physicists Christoph Mast and Prof. Dieter Braun – both members of the NIM Cluster of Excellence - simulated the principle of these matching molecules in the lab. The scientists were thereby able to re-concentrate and also replicate dissolved genetic material purely by means of a temperature gradient. “Presumably similar thermal conditions have been existing inside of stone pores which lay close to warm submarine springs in the “Urmeer”, explains Braun. “Our examination is only a first step. For physicists like us it is extremely interesting to see how an equilibrium – as the homogenous distribution of molecules - has to be destabilized to breed live.
Interface between two worlds
Atoms coupled to a micromechanical oscillator
Ultracold atoms and mechanical oscillators belonged to separate worlds of physics so far. Researchers of the LMU have now coupled a Bose-Einstein condensate to the oscillations of a micromechanical oscillator for the first time. Such a controlled interaction could permit to control mechanical oscillators at the quantum level in the future, leading to applications in quantum information processing or as novel sensors for extremely small forces.
Oetzi´s beauty secret
5300 years enclosure in a glacier could not harm the predominant part of the connective tissue of the tyrolean iceman “Oetzi”. Scientists from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) Munich together with their colleagues from the European Research Academy (EURAC) at Bozen, Italy, demonstrated that the mummy´s collagen is almost identical with the collagen of a fresh skin sample. The reason for this exceptional conservation seems to be the freeze-drying of the Oetzi for thousands of years. In its’ recent publication, the group of PD Dr. Robert Stark, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, LMU, and member of the Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM), presents its’ studies on the molecular structure of collagen, the composition of molecule bundles, the collagen fibrils and on their elasticity. (Proceedings of Royal Society B online, March 31, 2010)
Beyond the Quantum Limit
MPQ-LMU scientists create multi-particle entanglement of atoms in a Bose Einstein condensate on a microchip. The microcosm, the realm of quantum physics, is ruled by probability and chance. The behaviour of quantum particles cannot be predicted with certainty but only with certain probabilities given by quantum physics. This results in a so-called quantum noise, which fundamentally limits the precision of the most refined atomic clocks and interferometers. The solution to this problem is the use of entangled atomic systems. A break-through has now been achieved by a team around Professor Theodor W. Hänsch and Professor Philipp Treutlein (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich and Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Philipp Treutlein is Professor at the Universität Basel since February 2010). For the first time the scientists succeeded in generating multi-particle entanglement on an atom-chip (Nature, Advance Online Publication, DOI: 10.1038/nature08988). This technique opens a way to significantly enhance the precision of chip-based atomic clocks or interferometers and could also form the basis for quantum computers on microchips. The Munich experiments have been carried out in cooperation with theoretical physicists around Dr. Alice Sinatra from the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris.
The next chip-generation
Organic molecules as components for nanoelectronics
Electronic engineering based on silicon chips in the range of only few nanometers has reached its limit. Within a new international project scientists from the Walter Schottky Institute (Technical University Munich, TUM) currently develop chips that are even smaller and more effective: they apply organic molecules as components of the new generation of chips.
A hot road to new drugs
The search for new therapeutic agents is time-consuming and expensive. Pharmaceutical companies may have to screen thousands of compounds for the ability to bind a target molecule before they hit upon a promising drug candidate. A group of Biophysicists at LMU Munich led by Professor Dieter Braun, a member of the Cluster of Excellence “Nanosystems Initiative Munich“ (NIM), and a partner in NanoTemper (an LMU spin-off), have now developed a unique technology called “microscale thermophoresis” that allows to measure intereactions under close-to-native conditions, thus improving the decision making process in drug development.
NANOSYSTEMS NEWS - the new issue
We kindly invite you to read the latest news from our cluster of excellence. In 2009, we discussed the status of NIM intensively and worked out strategies for its future. One important result has been the focusing on five research areas instead of ten. In particular, a new research area at the interface between nanoscience and energy research will be established.
In 2009 NIM has been invited by two renowned Nano Institutes to join an international symposium on “Nano and Health” in Los Angeles. The next workshop takes place in Munich in autumn 2010 and is organized by NIM. Another NIM-event will also emphasize the importance of nanoscience in Munich: in April 120 international scientists will meet at the conference “Nanoscience with Nanocrystals” (NaNax 4) in Tutzing near Munich. This and more you will read in the fourth edition of NanosystemsNEWS.
Nanoscience for everyone
NanoDay 2009 attracted interested public into Deutsches Museum - visit the online gallery!
What is behind the term Nanoscience was shown at the NanoDay 2009 by around 100 scientists of the Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM). The presentation took place on November 19 in the Center for New Technologies (ZNT) of the Deutsches Museum that had been opened by German President Horst Köhler only two days before. At more than 25 stands the scientists explained their current research projects to many interested visitors. The invisibly small subjects of science became literally tangible by particular experimental models like replacing electrons by chocolate eggs or by oversized wood patterns.
Joint workshop on "New Directions in NanoHealth"
NIM started collaboration with Nano Institutes in Los Angeles, Tokyo and Seoul - NIM will organize the next workshop
As a first joint action within a collaboration with the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), NIM took part in the 3rd Annual Symposium on Nanobiotechnology, which was held on "New directions in NanoHealth" in the auditorium of the CNSI (Photo) on the UCLA campus. As a great honour for NIM, the next joint workshop shall be held in October 2010 in Munich, organized by NIM.
Review: NIM Workshop October 2009
Three years after the start of NIM, the NIM scientists gathered in a workshop to present and discuss their current research. Over 300 participants listened to talks and visited the poster session on the five main NIM topics: Quantum Nanophysics, Hybrid Nanosystems, Biomolecular Nanosystems, Biomedical Nanotechnologies and Energy Conversion & Storage.
NIM physicists invent the smallest electric motor world-wide
The principle is easy: one starter and one motor atom in a ring of laser light - and a bit of fine tuning, in order to keep moving into the right direction.
The research group around the theoretical physicist Prof. Peter Hänggi from the University of Augsburg has invented a concept for the minimal version of an electric motor, which runs on merely two atoms. The study has recently been published in the renowned scientific journal Physical Review Letters. An ordinary electric motor is based on the principle that mechanical work is done by electrical energy. Hänggi and his co-authors Dr. Alexey Ponomarev and Dr. Sergey Denisov have now transferred this principle into the nano world, even to the level of
NIM / CeNS / SFB 486 Winter School 2009
Minister visited NIM groups
The new Bavarian Science Minister Dr. Wolfgang Heubisch (image: front) visited the LMU on 22nd January. He met the NIM Coordinator Professor Jochen Feldmann (image: right) and Professor Hermann Gaub, Deputy Coordinator of NIM area H and member of the NIM executive committee. On a laboratory tour he received an impression of the current research in NIM. Dr. Heubisch has taken over the ministry from Dr. Thomas Goppel in November 2008.