Working at tiny scales, scientists transform gold into something even more incredible.

You've heard of nanotech, right? It's basically working with things that are really, really tiny.*

When you zoom into something to a super small scale, really surprising things can happen.

Take gold. We like it because it lasts a lifetime (and longer)! It makes good watches, rings, and coins because it doesn't react with oxygen and become tarnished or corroded. It just sits there, a gleaming symbol of never-ending love and power.


But if you zoom in much, much more closely to a tiny particle of gold, it transforms to something very different!

One of your grandparents can wear a gold ring that doesn't change in a lifetime. But up close, gold becomes a much more exciting scene.

Scientists have been able to attach molecules of drugs to surfaces of gold at this scale and use gold as a delivery vehicle to take medicines to particular sites in the body. Vroom!

Rod-shaped nano gold particles can be loaded up with antibodies that bond only to cancer cells. The nano gold can by made to oscillate via infrared light until — boom! Bad day for cancer cell.

Zoom in even farther, and things get really weird.

Super tiny pieces of gold can be used to change carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide. That kind of magic suggests that maybe we can use gold to make better breathing apparatus for fire fighters, for example, or to purify water.

We're already surrounded by products using nanotech. Nano silver in clothing and packaging fights bacteria that makes things stinky. Nano titanium dioxide makes sunscreens, paints, and other coatings more reflective, helping shield your body and your house from the sun.

These wondrous tiny things can also easily pass through cell membranes, taking new materials where they've never gone before. So, like with all new technologies, we do want to be careful to research the risks as well as the benefits as we develop and deploy it.

That said, the future looks pretty sparkly for nano gold!


*For an excellent overview of scale check out this video that zooms from the smallest thing we know to the largest. You hit nano scale at about 0:39.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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One little girl took pictures of her school lunches. The Internet responded — and so did the school.

If you listened to traditional news media (and sometimes social media), you'd begin to think the Internet and technology are bad for kids. Or kids are bad for technology. Here's a fascinating alternative idea.

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Norton

This article originally appeared on 03.31.15

Kids can innovate, create, and imagine in ways that are fresh and inspiring — when we "allow" them to do so, anyway. Despite the tendency for parents to freak out because their kids are spending more and more time with technology in schools, and the tendency for schools themselves to set extremely restrictive limits on the usage of such technology, there's a solid argument for letting them be free to imagine and then make it happen.

It's not a stretch to say the kids in this video are on the cutting edge. Some of the results he talks about in the video at the bottom are quite impressive.

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