Issue 86, May 2017
bullet Nanotechnology
bullet Innovation: NanoTherm® Therapy - Destroying Tumors From Within
bullet Interview with Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wernsdorfer, Alexander von Humboldt-Professor at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institute of Physics
bullet True3DGlass - The 3D-Printing Glass Technique
bullet The Superconducting Foil Production Method
Although nanotechnology is a relatively new science, it has numerous applications in our daily lives, ranging from consumer goods to medicine to improving the environment. In medicine, for example, nanoparticles are being employed to deliver drugs and other substances to specific types of cells, such as cancer cells. Environmental applications of nanotechnology include the cleaning up of pollution and making alternative energy sources more cost effective. Nanoelectronics allow us to improve display screens on electronic devices and increase the density of memory chips.

Nanoscience and nanotechnology are a key priority area for many of the world's innovation leaders, including Germany. This month's newsletter highlights some of the new developments in the German nanotech landscape. The German company MagForce AG, for example, has developed a new method known as NanoTherm® therapy, based on the local treatment of solid tumors for patients diagnosed with prostate cancer. Our interview partner this month, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wernsdorfer, speaks optimistically about a second quantum revolution and the realization of an operational quantum computer, one of today's most ambitious technological goals.

To learn more about nanotechnology, you can read the GCRI Blog interview with Prof. Dr. Wernsdorfer here.

For patients diagnosed with prostate cancer or glioblastoma, standard treatments often come with severe side effects, and in many cases are unable to provide a cure. For men diagnosed with prostate cancer, surgery and other current standard treatments often cause side effects, such as impairment of the urinary and sexual functions. Patients diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor are currently being treated with a combination of three standard procedures: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. On average, glioblastoma patients have one year before the tumor starts to grow again. A cure remains elusive.

NanoTherm® therapy is a new approach to the local treatment of solid tumors. The method is based on the principle of introducing superparamagnetic nanoparticles (NanoTherm®) directly into a tumor. The particles are activated by an alternating magnetic field that changes its polarity up to 100,000 times per second, generating heat. With this new procedure, it is possible to combat the tumor from within while sparing surrounding healthy tissue.

The principle of intratumoral thermotherapy is based on a magnetic fluid (NanoTherm®) consisting of superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles dispersed in an aqueous solution. The patented aminosilane coating of these nanoparticles enables these tiny magnets to be finely suspended in water to create what is known as a colloidal dispersion, which can be injected with a syringe directly into tumor tissue. Due to this special coating, the particles aggregate in the tumor directly after injection and remain at the treatment site, allowing repeated treatments and multimodal therapy concepts.

NanoTherm® treatment (nanoparticles activation) is performed in an alternating magnetic field applicator, the NanoActivator®. This magnetic field induces the oscillation of the iron oxide nanoparticles (NanoTherm®) and thereby generates heat, reaching therapeutic treatment temperatures within the tumor. The heat either destroys the tumor cells directly (thermoablation) or sensitizes them to any concomitant therapy, e.g. radio or chemotherapy (hyperthermia). This depends on the temperature that is reached.

The MagForce AG has CE mark (European Certification) in Germany and in the EU 28 to treat brain tumors with NanoTherm® therapy. Furthermore, the company has filed an Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) with the USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for NanoTherm® therapy to treat Intermediate Risk Prostate Cancer.

Source & Image: MagForce AG

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wernsdorfer is one of the world's leading experts on nanomagnets and their use in quantum spintronics. He is the head of the Research Group Wernsdorfer at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institute of Physics. As an Alexander von Humboldt Professor he is known as a specialist in experimental solid state physics at the interface with chemistry and material science. Before joining the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, he was a research director at the Institut Néel, CNRS in Grenoble, France from 2004 to 2016 where he also received the CNRS Silver Medal 2016.

Prof. Dr. Wernsdorfer's research is driven by the aim to contribute to one of today's most ambitious technological goals: the realization of an operational quantum computer.
In this interview with the GCRI, Prof. Dr. Wernsdorfer discusses the most exciting practical applications of nanotechnology and how they are transforming everyday life. He describes his current research on the realization of an operational quantum computer and how the transition from being the research director at the Institut Néel to becoming an Alexander von Humboldt Professor at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology has contributed to his research. To read the full interview, click here.

Source: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Image: Andreas Drollinger, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology 


Glass is one of the oldest materials that mankind has used. Yet it has been largely inaccessible to modern 3D printing techniques, which are currently revolutionizing the way we manufacture objects for everyday use. With True3DGlass, researchers from the NeptunLab at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have now presented a method which allows modern 3D printing methods to include glass in the palette of accessible materials.

The researchers embedded glass nanoparticles in a polymer matrix that can be turned from liquid to solid through exposure to light. This "Liquid Glass" then becomes accessible for 3D printing. After defining the three-dimensional shape of the object by selectively exposing the liquid to light, the polymer is thermally decomposed and the remaining powder object sintered to a solid piece of glass. The resulting material is chemically, mechanically, and physically identical to commercial optical-grade fused silica glass. The technology uses commercially-available 3D printing equipment, which makes it widely applicable to users who have access to these systems.

The components can be structured at resolutions sufficient for optical applications. The lateral dimensions are restricted only by the size of the 3D printer that is being used. "It really is a material innovation," says Bastian E. Rapp, head of the NeptunLab and senior author of the recent article, "Three-dimensional Printing of Transparent Fused Silica Glass," which was published in Nature in April 2017.  By modifying the glass compositions, the researchers were able to produce glass in a variety of colors. "This technology will make glass, one of the most important high-performance materials, accessible for rapid prototyping and modern manufacturing techniques," says Rapp. Applications of this material range from high-performance optics to the manufacturing of household objects, such as drinking glasses and potentially even objects of art or facade elements.

Further information can be found in the KIT press release here.
Source & Image: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
InnovationTechnology for De-icing Aircraft
Have you ever waited in the airport for your plane to be de-iced and missed your connecting flight? The Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (IGB) has found a solution to this problem by developing anti-ice coatings that are suitable for polymer surfaces. These water-repelling microstructured and nanostructured coatings ensure that water remains liquid, even at temperatures below zero. The coatings reduce the ice adhesion by 90%, and the surfaces prevent crystallization of the water molecules. Plasma technology is used to deposit the structured coatings onto plastic films made of impact-resistant polyurethane (PU).

The anti-ice surfaces created by this innovative technology can now be applied to aircraft wings in order to avoid hazardous flight conditions. The technology can also be used on the rotor blades of helicopters and wind turbines, which become aerodynamically imbalanced when ice formation occurs.

In addition to the aforementioned products, Fraunhofer IGB develops and optimizes processes, products and technologies in the fields of health, chemistry and process industry, as well as environment and energy. 

BionaticThe Superconducting Foil Production Method
The research group at Saarland University's Institute of Experimental Physics has developed superconducting foils based on superconducting nanowire networks in combination with a polymer. The foils can be used as magnetic shields to protect certain objects. Their extremely low weight is important for applications in space, such as satellites and in future superconducting electric machinery, including ship propulsion and wind generators.

The superconducting foils can sustain the low temperatures required for the operation of superconductors. A technique known as electrospinning that is used to prepare the nanowire networks, has already produced polymer and ceramic oxide nanowires, and in preliminary tests it successfully produced nanoribbons. Electrospinning can be used for various superconducting materials.

When compared to other superconductor production methods, electrospinning can be employed at a relatively low cost. It results in a high yield, and the parallel use of spinning setups can produce large-area samples of superconductors. No other superconductor material production method has this capability. A great advantage of the electrospinning approach is that the production can be arbitrarily upgraded to prepare large-area samples, which combine elements of nanotechnology with an already-established industrial process.

Further work will focus on the physical properties of the superconducting nanowires and their networks, as well as improvements in the production method. An important step forward will be the use of a superconducting material with a higher transition temperature to enable the operation at 77 K. As a result, applications in machine tool building, like a superconducting carpet, where magnetic objects can float, will be possible.
Source & Image: Saarland University