Skip to Content

55,000 Tiny Pens

Nanoscale protein printouts could speed drug delivery.
November 1, 2006

Researchers have developed a device that uses 55,000 microscopic “pens” to write patterns with nanoscale features–and could even use biological molecules such as DNA or proteins as “ink.” The tool could someday lead to powerful new diagnostic tests and cancer therapies. Created by Northwestern University chemist Chad ­Mirkin, the device is a leap forward from earlier versions that had just one pen (see “Nanobiotech Makes the Diagnosis,” May 2002). The greater numbers translate to added speed, which could allow researchers to run thousands of experiments at once. For example, they could print nearly infinite combinations of proteins and test their effects on cells, a process that could lead to new drugs. The new nano machine is fast: as a demonstration, ­Mirkin printed 55,000 images of a nickel in an area smaller than a dime–and did it in less than half an hour.

Each pyramid-shaped pen tip is about 20 nanometers wide. (Credit: Chad A. Mirkin, Northwestern University/Nanoink, Inc)

Keep Reading

Most Popular

open sourcing language models concept
open sourcing language models concept

Meta has built a massive new language AI—and it’s giving it away for free

Facebook’s parent company is inviting researchers to pore over and pick apart the flaws in its version of GPT-3

transplant surgery
transplant surgery

The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus

The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.

Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research
Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging

The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.

Yann LeCun
Yann LeCun

Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI

One of the godfathers of deep learning pulls together old ideas to sketch out a fresh path for AI, but raises as many questions as he answers.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.