While drug companies cast about for a better pill to treat cancer, Naomi Halas has turned to nanotechnology. The Rice University engineer is the inventor of the “nanoshell,” a gold-coated globe of silica about 1/20 the size of a red blood cell that attaches itself to tumors. When we first reported on nanoshells [see “Engineers Light Up Cancer Research,” October 2003], Halas had just shown, in petri dishes, that flashes of near-infrared light burn the shells and cancerous tissue without destroying healthy cells. Now, just under a year later, Halas says the nanoshells work just as effectively in rodents. Tumorous mice injected with nanoshells and then exposed to infrared light became cancer-free within 10 days, and stayed that way after treatment. Good news for rodents, but will it work in humans? We’ll find out next year when Halas begins clinical trials.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.