The bionic eye (well contact lens)

Imagine this, off in the distance something barely visible.  Hit 'zoom' and it enlarges the image so that you can see it clearly.  Great new digital thing? sure but it is built into a contact lens.  Scientists at the University of Washington are looking at ways to integrate new features into contact lenses but building in micro-sized circuits.  These circuits could help process images and maybe even give you a 'heads up' display of what is going on with your body.  Some of this might sound creepy but the concept is cool.  The biggest challenge with most of these devices is the power and then also how to make sure it is compatible with your eyes.  Long way to go but they have started looking at how they might make these devices biocompatible.

Save that pond scum

The slimy stuff that gunks up the bench or gives you that yucky feeling when you jump into a pond could be powering your iPod in the future.  Algae are being studied to see if they can form the basis for a 'conducting polymer' a material that like metals can conduct electricity.  Scientists at Uppsala a university in Sweden have been using that algae that make better cellulose, the same material that is used to make paper.  It holds a lot more charge and it is flexible meaning that it could also be used in clothing.  Now all they have to do it get rid of the nasty odor and figure out some other things to make it work.

Skating along

No doubt. Sliding down the street on a layer of ice is fun until you find yourself doing it in a car.  All by yourself, it might be a tough stop but for a while it is pretty cool.  Ice on the wing of a plane is bad news, and that is why in the winter time, airplanes need to be 'de-iced' which is where they pull the plane over and a person squirts lots of soapy stuff all over the plane.

Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh have been looking at nanoparticles as a way to prevent ice build up on just about any surface.  These particles make the surface 'superhydrophobic' meaning that they repeal water like a duck's back (and in fact that is the same kind of idea).  Ice is different than liquid water so these scientists needed to make a special coating, mainly a coating with nanoparticles that were less than 50 nanometers in size.  That means that about 2000 could fit across the width of a hair.  Outdoors this special nanoparticle coating prevented ice build up in chilly Pittsburgh. (see video).  So someday if this stuff can be made cheap enough it could be a great solution for a lot of surfaces.

Up, up and away

So you can jump on a rocket and get blasted into outer space or you can hit a button and take an elevator ride up into orbit.  Whoa. A space elevator?  Well the idea is cool but practically it isn't quite there yet but someday in the future it might be possible.  Scientists have been thinking for a while about the idea of having a satellite up in space in something called a 'geosynchronous' orbit.  Meaning that the satellite stays in one place.  Then you drop a line from the satellite to the Earth and pull yourself up!  What you need are long very very strong lines and that is where nanotechnology comes in.  Carbon nanotubes!  stronger than steel.

A bunch of engineers who got a robot to climb up a cable hung down from a helicopter that was almost a mile off the ground.  They used solar cells to power the robot and qualified to win the $2,000,000 prize.  Who says science doesn't pay!

Nothing lasts forever

You can buy socks that have tiny nanoparticles of silver. The nanoparticles are a few hundred nanometers in size and made up of mostly silver atoms.  The silver prevents microbes from growing which is what makes your feet stink. Scientists have found that washing these socks releases some of these nanoparticles which might not be good for the environment. It also means that the socks might someday become stinky because there are no more nanoparticles to kill the microbes.