Tool for Learning How to "Grow" Computer Chips and Dental
With the help of a $535,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense,
NYUCD has acquired a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer (NMR)
with a 600-megahertz, 2,400-pound magnet that is the only NMR at
New York University that can analyze molecules in both liquid and
solid states. Dr. John Evans, an Associate Professor of Basic Science
and Craniofacial Biology and of Chemistry, and collaborators at
half a dozen other research centers, will share data from the spectrometer,
the first NMR to be acquired by a dental school.
High-resolution nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry uses powerful
magnets and radio waves to record information about molecular structure.
Atoms placed inside the spectrometer's gleaming five-foot-high steel
cylinder are exposed to electromagnetic fields so powerful they
can lift a truck. As electromagnetic radio waves push the atoms
from a low energy state to a high, or "excited" one, the atoms spin
like tiny tops and exhibit varying patterns of electromagnetic absorption.
A computer records those patterns in the form of charts and graphs
for plotting molecular structure.
Dr. Evans and his team are using the newly acquired NMR to analyze
molecules that could be incorporated into nanotechnology, a process
in which particles one nanometer (a billionth of a meter) in diameter
are assembled, one molecule at a time, to create a new generation
of stronger materials. The Defense Department's grant reflects military
planners' keen interest in nanotechnology's potential battlefield
uses, which include explosive-resistant materials for tanks and
"Being able to manipulate matter on this tiniest of scales will
lead to the introduction of novel materials and products affecting
many areas of life," says Dr. Evans. "Dentistry is one case in point.
Proteins and silicon could be combined in a culture dish to 'grow'
or self-assemble into more resilient, yet lighter, materials than
the composites currently used for implants and restorations." And
as smaller, yet more potent computer chips are assembled from protein-silicon
compounds and other innovative materials in years to come, dentists
will incorporate computers in ways that can only be imagined today.
One example: Microscopic robots could be implanted in a patient's
mouth to rebuild decayed teeth one atom or molecule at a time.
Dr. Evans anticipates the NMR also will be used by faculty in NYUCD's
expanding biomaterials research program, which has received over
$9 million in funding from the NIH in the past three years to study
tissue engineering, how to improve ceramic crowns, and how to develop
biomaterials that promote bone formation and inhibit bone loss in