Super Smart Band-Aids

This is what a band-aid in the future might look like. It’s a stretchable hydrogel that in many ways mimics
the properties of human tissue.

smart band-aid

Hydrogel is a polymer network infiltrated with water. Even though it is only 5 to 10 percent polymer, this network is extremely important“, says Xuanhe Zhao, Professor of Mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Important because the polymer makes up a microscopic scaffold that endows it with special properties uncommon to synthetic hydrogels. It is highly stretchable and can adhere easily to surfaces. Most importantly, it is specifically designed to be compatible with the human body – both inside and out. That compatibility could potentially give rise to a new class of biomedical devices.

We further embed electronic devices such as sensors, such as different drug delivery devices into this matrix to achieve what we call the smart applications“, comments Zhao.  Applications that could turn an ordinary band-aid into a tool to actively monitor and heal wounds autonomously. Zhao uses burns as an example… “Once the sensor senses an abnormal increase in temperature for example It will send out a command. Then the controlled drug delivery system can deliver a specific drug to that specific location“, he adds. The researchers are now fine tuning the properties and functionality of their hydrogels. They hope that soon healing everything from a scratch to an ulcer will be as simpleas putting on a band-aid.


How To Fight Against The Number One Killer Of Babies

Using nanoparticles to engineer a special drug, a team of researchers has demonstrated in mice a new way to both reduce preterm birth and avoid the risks of medication in pregnancy to unborn babies.

Jerrie S. Refuerzo, M.D., of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston (UTHealth) was frustrated with the limitations of existing tocolytic (anti-contraction or labor-repressant) medications such as indomethacin in treating women experiencing preterm labor. These drugs can cross the placental barrier and cause a heart defect or other problems in the fetus. Dr. Refuerzo and Monica Longo, M.D., Ph.D. (UT Health), in collaboration with colleagues from Houston Methodist Research Institute, Biana Godin, PharmD, Ph.D., bioengineered an innovative microscopic nanoparticle of indomethacin aimed at reaching the pregnant uterus but not crossing the placenta to the fetus. This targeted liposomal indomethacin, called LIPINDORA, was coated with an oxytocin receptor antagonist to make it bind to uterine tissue. LIPINDORA was given to near-term pregnant mice and the researchers found that the treated mice were significantly less likely than controls to have preterm uterine contractions or to deliver prematurely.


These findings are exciting because we don’t currently have any medication that can reliably stop contractions or prevent preterm birth without also crossing the mom’s placenta and causing risks to babies,” explained Edward R. B. McCabe, M.D., Ph.D,, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the March of Dimes.

Preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy) is the number one killer of babies in the United States.


Do-It-Yourself Technique To Produce Flat Optics

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a simplified approach to fabricating flat, ultrathin optics. The new approach enables simple etching without the use of acids or hazardous chemical etching agents.

Do It Yourself Flat opticsExperimentally obtained image of a Fresnel zone plate (left) for focusing light that is fabricated with plasmon-assisted etching. A two-dimensional array of pillar-supported bowtie nanoantennas [zoomed in image (right)] comprises this flat lens

Our method brings us closer to making do-it-yourself optics a reality by greatly simplifying the design iteration steps,” explained Kimani Toussaint, an associate professor of mechanical science and engineering who led the research published in Nature Communications. “The process incorporates a nanostructured template that can be used to create many different types of optical components without the need to go into a cleanroom to make a new template each time a new optical component is neededIn recent years, the push to foster increased technological innovation and basic scientific and engineering interest from the broadest sectors of society has helped to accelerate the development of do-it-yourself (DIY) components, particularly those related to low-cost microcontroller boards,” Toussaint remarked.
Simplifying and reducing the steps between a basic design and fabrication is the primary attraction of DIY kits, but typically at the expense of quality. We present plasmon-assisted etching as an approach to extend the DIY theme to optics with only a modest tradeoff in quality, specifically, the table-top fabrication of planar optical components.

Our method uses the intuitive design aspects of diffractive optics by way of simple surface modification, and the electric-field enhancement properties of metal nanoantennas, which are typically the building blocks of metasurfaces,” stated Hao Chen, a former postdoctoral researcher in Toussaint’s lab and first author of the paper, “Towards do-it-yourself planar optical components using plasmon-assisted etching.


3D Printed Prosthetic Leg For Dog

After losing both her front legs in an accident three years ago, doctors are fitting Romina with a one-of-a-kind 3D printed prosthetic leg, that will help her get back on her feet. And as Fernanda Ortiz, one of the specialists treating the Greyhound Whippet at the Universidad Del Valle De Mexico explains, it will enable her joints to move in a way that mimics what natural limbs do.

3D prosthetic limb



When she flexes her elbow, the whole prosthesis flexes and so she has to learn to make this movement in order to learn how to use it. Obviously, we’re unable to tell her: ‘Flex and walk normally with your elbow,’ because she doesn’t understand and so it’s very important for us – through exercises and indications – to show her how to do it“, says Fernanda Ortiz, Head of the Department of Rehabilitation at the Veterinary Hospital of the Universidad Del Valle De Mexico (UVM).
Romina’s left limb was rebuilt using titanium plates, which joined the limb but resulted in her losing all movement in that leg. It took about six months for a multidisciplinary team to design and develop prototypes. Prosthetics specialist Santiago Garcia says that printing the model in 3D, made adjusting the prototypes easy.
When we have the 3D model of the patient’s limb, we are able to adjust the size of the piece to the patient, in terms of millimeters. It’s a limb that is designed especially for this patient. Secondly and this is very important, it allows us to adjust it quickly. If I re-print a piece and I detect it has – for example, two millimeters in size I have to repair, it’s much easier for me to print it in a 3D printer than to redesign the mold and the whole traditional process“, comments Santiago Garcia,  specialist in prosthetics at UVM.  Once Romina adjusts to her new limb, the team will prepare a final prosthesis designed in aluminum, which will be covered with skin-like material.


How Cellulose Nanogenerators Power Bio-Implants

Implantable electronics that can deliver drugs, monitor vital signs and perform other health-related roles are on the horizon. But finding a way to power them remains a challenge. Now scientists have built a flexible nanogenerator out of cellulose, an abundant natural material, that could potentially harvest energy from the body — its heartbeats, blood flow and other almost imperceptible but constant movements.

implants to monitor vital signsImplantable electronics to monitor vital signs and perform other functions could one day be powered with tiny generators that harvest the body’s energy.

Efforts to convert the energy of motion — from footsteps, ocean waves, wind and other movement sources — are well underway. Many of these developing technologies are designed with the goal of powering everyday gadgets and even buildings. As such, they don’t need to bend and are often made with stiff materials. But to power biomedical devices inside the body, a flexible generator could provide more versatility. So Md. Mehebub Alam and Dipankar Mandal at Jadavpur University in India set out to design one.

The researchers turned to cellulose, the most abundant biopolymer on earth, and mixed it in a simple process with a kind of silicone called polydimethylsiloxane — the stuff of breast implants — and carbon nanotubes. Repeated pressing on the resulting nanogenerator lit up about two dozen LEDs instantly. It also charged capacitors that powered a portable LCD, a calculator and a wrist watch. And because cellulose is non-toxic, the researchers say the device could potentially be implanted in the body and harvest its internal stretches, vibrations and other movements.

The findings appear in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.


Revolution In The Nanotechnology Industry

After six years of painstaking effort, a group of University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) materials scientists believe their breakthrough in growing tiny sheets of zinc oxide could have huge implications for the future of nanomaterial manufacturing—and in turn, on a host of electronic and biomedical devices.
The group, led by Xudong Wang, an associate professor of science and engineering at UW-Madison, and postdoctoral researcher Fei Wang, has developed a novel technique for synthesizing two-dimensional nanosheets from compounds that do not naturally form the atomic-layer-thick materials. Essentially the microscopic equivalent of a single sheet of paper, a 2D nanosheet is a material that is constrained to up to only a few atomic layers in one direction. Nanomaterials—materials that are constrained in at least one dimension to a maximum of a handful of atomic layers—have unique physical properties that alter their electronic and chemical properties in relation to their compositionally identical but conventional, and larger, material counterparts.


What’s nice with a 2D nanomaterial is that because it’s a sheet, it’s much easier for us to manipulate compared to other types of nanomaterials,” says Xudong Wang. Xudong Wang first had the idea for using a surfactant to grow nanosheets during a lecture he was giving in a course on nanotechnology in 2009. “The course includes a lecture about self-assembly of monolayers,” adds Xudong Wang. “Under the correct conditions, a surfactant will self-assemble to form a monolayer. This is a well-known process that I teach in class. So while teaching this I wondered why we wouldn’t be able to reverse this method and use the surfactant monolayer first to grow the crystalline face.

It is the first time such a technique has been successful, and the researchers described their findings in the journal Nature Communications.


Robots Replace Human Hand To Pick Fruits

Fruit is delicate, so picking it is still often done by human hand. But this robotic system is smart enough to autonomously sort and move different fruits without damaging them. Developers Cambridge Consultants say it has the cognitive ability to work out how to best handle items that vary in shape.


Traditional robotic systems typically pick up exactly the same object from exactly the same place and move it to somewhere new; always doing the same action over and over again. But there are places, there are applications where robotics aren’t used at the moment where they could be if you can build in this capability of dealing with natural variations and small changes in the environment into the robotic system itself“, says Chris Roberts, head of industrial robotics at Cambridge Consultants.

The robot uses low-cost and easily available hardware, such as Microsoft‘s Kinect image sensor, that takes into account not only size and shape, but also colour. Its intuitive algorithms help it recognise the correct objects and calculate the order in which to pick them. The claw-like gripper uses sensor-packed vacuum tubes that adapt to handle the fruit securely without damaging it.
Roberts explains: “And only applying a vacuum to the ones that gripped, the ones where there’s a seal, we can spread the pressure across the fruit so we’re not bruising it but we still apply a consistent pressure that allows us to pick up heavier objects.” Similar ‘smart’ robots could transform many industrial and commercial processes, and collaborate better with humans.  “When robots come to interact with people, people aren’t as predictable as a production line. So the robot needs to be able to deal with changes in the environment and if someone moves an object from one place to another the robot needs to cope with that,” he adds.
Humans co-operating with robots in the workplace might still be some way off. But ever more advanced processing power means it’s closer than ever to being within our grasp.


Bionic Human

A new  program from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) aims to develop an implantable neural interface able to provide unprecedented signal resolution and data-transfer bandwidth between the human brain and the digital world. The interface would serve as a translator, converting between the electrochemical language used by neurons in the brain and the ones and zeros that constitute the language of information technology. The goal is to achieve this communications link in a biocompatible device no larger than one cubic centimeter in size, roughly the volume of two nickels stacked back to back.

The program, Neural Engineering System Design (NESD), stands to dramatically enhance research capabilities in neurotechnology and provide a foundation for new therapies.

artificial intelligence

Today’s best brain-computer interface systems are like two supercomputers trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem,” said Phillip Alvelda, the NESD program manager. “Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics.”

To familiarize potential participants with the technical objectives of NESD, DARPA will host a Proposers Day meeting that runs Tuesday and Wednesday, February 2-3, 2016, in Arlington, Va. The Special Notice announcing the Proposers Day meeting is available at
More details about the Industry Group that will support NESD is available at
A Broad Agency Announcement describing the specific capabilities sought is available at:


Molecules Tell Bone To Repair Itself

Scientists at the University of Michigan have developed a polymer sphere that delivers a molecule to bone wounds that tells cells already at the injury site to repair the damage. Using the polymer sphere to introduce the microRNA molecule into cells elevates the job of existing cells to that of injury repair by instructing the cellshealing and bone-building mechanisms to switch on, said Peter Ma, professor of dentistry and lead researcher on the project. It’s similar to a new supervisor ordering an office cleaning crew to start constructing an addition to the building, he said.

Using existing cells to repair wounds reduces the need to introduce foreign cells — a very difficult therapy because cells have their own personalities, which can result in the host rejecting the foreign cells, or tumors. The microRNA is time-released, which allows for therapy that lasts for up to a month or longer, said Ma, who also has appointments in the College of Engineering.

nano-shells-deliver-molecules-that-tell-bone-to-repair-itselfThe polymer sphere delivers the microRNA into cells already at the wound site, which turns the cells into bone repairing machines

The new technology we have been working on opens doors for new therapies using DNA and RNA in regenerative medicine and boosts the possibility of dealing with other challenging human diseases,” Ma said. It’s typically very difficult for microRNA to breach the fortress of the cell wall, Ma added. The polymer sphere developed by Ma’s lab easily enters the cell and delivers the microRNA. The technology can help grow bone in people with conditions like oral implants, those undergoing bone surgery or joint repair, or people with tooth decay.

Bone repair is especially challenging in patients with healing problems, but Ma’s lab was able to heal bone wounds in osteoporotic mice, he said. Millions of patients worldwide suffer from bone loss and associated functional problems, but growing and regenerating high-quality bone for specific applications is still very difficult with current technology.

The findings have been published in the journal Nature Communications.


Very Cheap Solar Cells With Very Good Efficiency

Some of the most promising solar cells today use light-harvesting films made from perovskites – a group of materials that share a characteristic molecular structure. However, perovskite-based solar cells use expensive “hole-transporting” materials, whose function is to move the positive charges that are generated when light hits the perovskite film.

Perovskite cheap Publishing in Nature Energy,  scientists from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have now engineered a considerably cheaper hole-transporting material that costs only a fifth of existing ones while keeping the efficiency of the solar cell above 20%.

As the quality of perovskite films increases, researchers are seeking other ways of improving the overall performance of solar cells. Inadvertently, this search targets the other key element of a solar panel, the hole-transporting layer, and specifically, the materials that make them up. There are currently only two hole-transporting materials available for perovskite-based solar cells. Both types are quite costly to synthesize, adding to the overall expense of the solar cell.

To address this problem, a team of researchers led by Mohammad Nazeeruddin at EPFL developed a molecularly engineered hole-transporting material, called FDT, that can bring costs down while keeping efficiency up to competitive levels. Tests showed that the efficiency of FDT rose to 20.2% – higher than the other two, more expensive alternatives. And because FDT can be easily modified, it acts as a blueprint for an entire generation of new low-cost hole-transporting materials.

The best performing perovskite solar cells use hole transporting materials, which are difficult to make and purify and are prohibitively expensive, costing over €300 per gram, preventing market penetration,” says Nazeeruddin. “By comparison, FDT is easy to synthesize and purify, and its cost is estimated to be a fifth of that for existing materials – while matching, and even surpassing their performance.”


Smart Windows Clean Themselves, Save Energy

A revolutionary new type of smart window could cut window-cleaning costs in tall buildings while reducing heating bills and boosting worker productivity. Developed by University College London (UCL) with support from EPSRC, prototype samples confirm that the glass can deliver three key benefits:
Self-cleaning: The window is ultra-resistant to water, so rain hitting the outside forms spherical droplets that roll easily over the surface – picking up dirt, dust and other contaminants and carrying them away. This is due to the pencil-like, conical design of nanostructures engraved onto the glass, trapping air and ensuring only a tiny amount of water comes into contact with the surface.
 Energy-saving: The glass is coated with a very thin (5-10nm) film of window-cleaning of vanadium dioxide which during cold periods stops thermal radiation escaping and so prevents heat loss; during hot periods it prevents infrared radiation from the sun entering the building.
 Anti-glare: The design of the nanostructures also gives the windows the same anti-reflective properties found in the eyes of moths and other creatures that have evolved to hide from predators.

self cleaning windowA scanning electron miscroscope photograph shows the pyramid-like nanostructures engraved onto glass: at 200nm they are 100 times smaller than a human hair. Controlling the surface morphology at the nanoscale allows scientists to tailor how the glass interacts with liquids and light with high precision

This is the first time that a nanostructure has been combined with a thermochromic coating. The bio-inspired nanostructure amplifies the thermochromics properties of the coating and the net result is a self-cleaning, highly performing smart window, said Dr Ioannis Papakonstantinou of UCL. The UCL team calculate that the windows could result in a reduction in heating bills of up to 40 per cent.


Bubble-Pen To Build Nanocomputer, Sensor, Solar Panel…

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have solved a problem in micro- and nanofabrication — how to quickly, gently and precisely handle tiny particles — that will allow researchers to more easily build tiny machines, biomedical sensors, optical computers, solar panels and other devices. They have developed a device and technique, called bubble-pen lithography, that can efficiently handle nanoparticles — the tiny pieces of gold, silicon and other materials used in nanomanufacturing. The new method relies on microbubbles to inscribe, or write, nanoparticles onto a surface.

A research team led by Texas Engineering assistant professor Yuebing Zheng has invented a way to handle these small particles and lock them into position without damaging them. Using microbubbles to gently transport the particles, the bubble-pen lithography technique can quickly arrange particles in various shapes, sizes, compositions and distances between nanostructures.

bubble-pen litho

The ability to control a single nanoparticle and fix it to a substrate without damaging it could open up great opportunities for the creation of new materials and devices,” Zheng said. “The capability of arranging the particles will help to advance a class of new materials, known as metamaterials, with properties and functions that do not exist in current natural materials.

The team, which includes Cockrell School associate professor Deji Akinwande and professor Andrew Dunn, describe their patented device and technique in a paper published in Nano Letters.


Brain Injury: How To Monitor Temperature, Pressure

 A new class of small, thin electronic sensors can monitor temperature and pressure within the skullcrucial health parameters after a brain injury or surgery – then melt away when they are no longer needed, eliminating the need for additional surgery to remove the monitors and reducing the risk of infection and hemorrhage.

Nanoparticles Destroy Antibiotic-Resistant “Superbugs”

In the ever-escalating evolutionary battle with drug-resistant bacteria, humans may soon have a leg up thanks to adaptive, light-activated nanotherapy developed by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU-Boulder). Antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as Salmonella, E. Coli and Staphylococcus infect some 2 million people and kill at least 23,000 people in the United States each year. Efforts to thwart these so-called “psuperbugs” have consistently fallen short due to the bacteria’s ability to rapidly adapt and develop immunity to common antibiotics such as penicillin.  New research from CU-Boulder, however, suggests that the solution to this big global problem might be to think small—very small.

In findings published today in the journal Nature Materials, researchers at the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and the BioFrontiers Institute describe new light-activated therapeutic nanoparticles known as “quantum dots.” The dots, which are about 20,000 times smaller than a human hair and resemble the tiny semiconductors used in consumer electronics, successfully killed 92 percent of drug-resistant bacterial cells in a lab-grown culture.

salmonella bacteria

By shrinking these semiconductors down to the nanoscale, we’re able to create highly specific interactions within the cellular environment that only target the infection,” said Prashant Nagpal, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at CU-Boulder and a senior author of the study.


Efficient Triboelectric Generator Embedded In A Shoe

A two-stage power management and storage system could dramatically improve the efficiency of triboelectric generators that harvest energy from irregular human motion such as walking, running or finger tapping. The system uses a small capacitor to capture alternating current generated by the biomechanical activity. When the first capacitor fills, a power management circuit then feeds the electricity into a battery or larger capacitor. This second storage device supplies DC current at voltages appropriate for powering wearable and mobile devices such as watches, heart monitors, calculators, thermometers – and even wireless remote entry devices for vehicles. By matching the impedance of the storage device to that of the triboelectric generators, the new system can boost energy efficiency from just one percent to as much as 60 percent.

Triboelectric shoes

llustration shows how a triboelectric generator embedded in a shoe would produce electricity as a person walked

With a high-output triboelectric generator and this power management circuit, we can power a range of applications from human motion,” said Simiao Niu, a graduate research assistant in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “The first stage of our system is matched to the triboelectric nanogenerator, and the second stage is matched to the application that it will be powering.

The research has been reported in the journal Nature Communications.


Your Own Farm Indoors

Growing your own produce just got really easy. This is a farm cube – a fully enclosed ecosystem capable of growing hydroponic vegetables indoors.

growing vegetables indoorsCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO
In this one (Farm Cube), the one cycle, around six weeks, 200 pieces or 100 pieces depending on different vegetable”, says Jack Ting, CEO of the company Opcom (Taiwan). Seedlings are loaded into the cube. The growth cycle is then completely automated using farming software that monitors the plants and adjusts the environment accordingly, adding the perfect amount of air, light, and water needed for different stages of development. Not home and worried about your farm cube? There’s an App for that. Cameras and sensors allow you to monitor everything from the PH levels to the LED light settings from anywhere with an Internet connection. Its makers boast that the veg produced in their cubes are better for you than anything you can pick up at the market.

All water is UV light purified so it is very safe, even our vegetables, no need to wash“, adds Jack Ting. The company also makes the Farm Container. This solar powered multi-cube system can grow 2,000 plants at once…enough lettuce to feed an army of vegetarians with big appetites.


Virtual Hug

Skin care giant Nivea has allowed a mother and son to have a ‘virtual hug’ from two different countries thanks to its ‘Second Skin Project’ involving nanotechnology. However, all is not as it seems.

second skin

A video was created with Leo Burnett Madrid to highlight the importance of the human touch and initially discloses how nanotechnology helped the company recreate the effect from thousands of miles apart. A mother and son who were based in Uruguay and Spain were selected for the experiment, with Beiersdorf-owned Nivea using a ground-breaking fabric that is said to simulate human skin. According to the video, the material is woven with a number of sensors and can retain electrical impulses. As a result of this, when one person touches it, the other can feel the touch from thousands of miles away.

However, at the end of the video the project is ousted as not being real, and is instead a shrewd marketing campaign for the importance of the human touch, and, in effect, its skin cream. Watch the video, and get your tissues at the ready, to see it unfold.


Nanotechnology To Help Fixing Extreme Poverty

Cranfield University (UK) is developing the Nano Membrane Toilet, designed for single-household use (equivalent to ten people). The toilet is designed to accept urine and faeces as a mixture. The toilet flush uses a unique rotating mechanism to transport the mixture into the toilet without demanding water whilst simultaneously blocking odour and the user’s view of the waste.

nano membrane toilet

Solids separation (faeces) is principally accomplished through sedimentation. Loosely bound water (mostly from urine) is separated using low glass transition temperature hollow-fibre membranes. The unique nanostructured membrane wall facilitates water transport in the vapour state rather than as a liquid state which yields high rejection of pathogens and some odorous volatile compounds. A novel nano-coated bead enables water vapour recovery through encouraging the formation of water droplets at the nanobead surface. Once the droplets form a critical size, the water drains into a collection vessel for reuse at the household level in washing or irrigation applications.

Following release of unbound water, the residual solids (around 20-25% solids) are transported by mechanical screw which drops them into into a coating chamber lined with a replaceable bag. Once inside the coating chamber, the solid matrix is periodically coated with a biodegradable nano-polymer. The nanopolymer coating serves to block odour and acts as a barrier to pathogen transport. The toilet will be powered using a modular hand crank or bicycle power generator supplied for household use that can also power other low voltage items (eg mobile phones).

The replaceable bag comprising the coated solids is periodically collected for transport to a locally sited small scale gasifier sized to accommodate around 40 toilets. Both toilet maintenance and solids collection will be undertaken with a trained operative responsible for the franchised area.


Battery Shuts Down When Overheating, Then Restarts

Stanford researchers have developed the first lithium-ion battery that shuts down before overheating, then restarts immediately when the temperature cools. The new technology could prevent the kind of fires that have prompted recalls and bans on a wide range of battery-powered devices, from recliners and computers to navigation systems and hoverboards.


People have tried different strategies to solve the problem of accidental fires in lithium-ion batteries,” said Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford. “We’ve designed the first battery that can be shut down and revived over repeated heating and cooling cycles without compromising performance.

Several techniques have been used to prevent battery fires, such as adding flame retardants to the electrolyte. In 2014, Stanford engineer Yi Cui created a “smart” battery that provides ample warning before it gets too hot. “Unfortunately, these techniques are irreversible, so the battery is no longer functional after it overheats,” said study co-author Cui, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and of photon science. “Clearly, in spite of the many efforts made thus far, battery safety remains an important concern and requires a new approach.”

Bao and her colleagues describe the new battery in a study published in the Jan. 11 issue of the new journal Nature Energy.


Nano-Reactor Produces Hydrogen

Scientists at Indiana University (IU) have created a highly efficient biomaterial that catalyzes the formation of hydrogen — one half of the “holy grail” of splitting H2O to make hydrogen and oxygen for fueling cheap and efficient cars that run on water. A modified enzyme that gains strength from being protected within the protein shell — or “caps id” — of a bacterial virus, this new material is 150 times more efficient than the unaltered form of the enzyme.

indianaP22-Hyd, a new biomaterial created by encapsulating a hydrogen-producing enzyme within a virus shell.

Essentially, we’ve taken a virus’s ability to self-assemble myriad genetic building blocks and incorporated a very fragile and sensitive enzyme with the remarkable property of taking in protons and spitting out hydrogen gas,” said Trevor Douglas, Professor of Chemistry in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Chemistry, who led the study “The end result is a virus-like particle that behaves the same as a highly sophisticated material that catalyzes the production of hydrogen.”

The process of creating tahe material was recently reported in “Self-assembling biomolecular catalysts for hydrogen production” in the journal Nature Chemistry.


How To Combat Arteriosclerosis

A particularly high number of people suffer from arteriosclerosis—with fatal consequences: Deposits in the arteries lead to strokes and heart attacks. A team of researchers under the leadership of the University of Bonn has now developed a method for guiding replacement cells to diseased vascular segments using nanoparticles. The scientists demonstrated in mice that the fresh cells actually exert their curative effect in these segments.

Blood_Heart_CirculationIn arterial calcification (arteriosclerosis), pathological deposits form in the arteries and this leads to vascular stenosis. Strokes and heart attacks are a frequent outcome due to the resultant insufficient blood flow. Endothelial which line the blood vessels play an important role here.  Damage to the is generally the insidious onset of arteriosclerosis.

The scientists introduced tiny nanoparticles with an iron core. “The iron changes the properties of the endothelial cells: They become magnetic,” explains Dr. Sarah Rieck from the Institute of Physiology I of the University of Bonn. The nanoparticles ensure that the endothelial cells equipped with the ‘turbogene can be delivered to the desired site in the blood vessel using a magnet where they exert their curative effect.

The researchers tested this combination method in mice whose carotid artery endothelial cells were injured. They injected the replacement cells into the artery and were able to position them at the correct site using the magnet. “After half an hour, the endothelial cells adhered so securely to the vascular wall that they could no longer be flushed away by the bloodstream,” says Jun.-Prof. Wenzel. The scientists then removed the magnets and tested whether the fresh cells had fully regained their function. As desired, the new endothelial cells produced nitric oxide and thus expanded the vessel, as is usual in the case of healthy arteries. “The mouse woke up from the anesthesia and ate and drank normally,” reported the physiologist.

The results are now being published in the journal ACS Nano.


New Efficiency Record with Dual-Junction Solar Cell

Scientists at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and at the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) have jointly set a new world record for converting non-concentrated (1-sun) sunlight into electricity using a dual-junction III-V/Si solar cellThe newly certified record conversion efficiency of 29.8 percent was set using a top cell made of gallium indium phosphide developed by NREL, and a bottom cell made of crystalline silicon developed by CSEM using silicon heterojunction technology. The two cells were made separately and then stacked by NREL.

dual junctio solar cell

It’s a record within this mechanically stacked category,” said David Young, a senior researcher at NREL. “The performance of the dual-junction device exceeded the theoretical limit of 29.4 percent for crystalline silicon solar cells.”

Young is co-author of a paper, “Realization of GaInP/Si dual-junction solar cells with 29.8 percent one-sun efficiency,” which details the steps taken to break the previous record. His co-authors from NREL are Stephanie Essig, Myles Steiner, John Geisz, Scott Ward, Tom Moriarty, Vincenzo LaSalvia, and Pauls Stradins. The paper has been submitted for publication in the IEEE Journal of Photovoltaics.

Essig attracted interest from CSEM when she presented a paper, “Progress Towards a 30 percent Efficient GaInP/Si Tandem Solar Cell,” to the 5th International Conference on Silicon Photovoltaics, in Germany in March. “We believe that the silicon heterojunction technology is today the most efficient silicon technology for application in tandem solar cells” said Christophe Ballif, head of PV activities at CSEM.

CSEM partnered with the NREL scientists with the objective to demonstrate that 30 percent efficient tandem cells can be realized using silicon heterojunction bottom cells, thanks to the combination with high performance top cells such as those developed by NREL,” said Matthieu Despeisse, the manager of crystalline silicon activities at CSEM.

The record was published in “Solar cell efficiency tables.”


How To Build Stronger Airplanes, Space Shuttles

Thousands bound together are still thinner than a single strand of human hair, but with research from Binghamton University, boron nitride nanotubes may help build better fighter planes and space shuttles.

A team of scientists led by Changhong Ke, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Binghamton University‘s Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science, and researcher Xiaoming Chen were the first to determine the interface strength between boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs) and epoxy and other polymers.



We think that this could be the first step in a process that changes the way we design and make materials that affect the future of travel on this planet and exploration of other worlds beyond our own,” said Ke. “Those materials may be way off still, but someone needed to take the first step, and we have.”


Metaphorically, think of the epoxy or other polymer materials with the BNNT nanotubes inside like a piece of reinforced concrete. That concrete gets much of its strength from the makeup of the steel rebar and cement; the dispersion of rebar within the cement; the alignment of rebar within the cement; and “stickiness” of the connection between the rebar and the surrounding cement. The scientists essentially measured the “stickiness” of a single nanotube ‘rebar’ — helped by molecular and electrostatic interactions — by removing it from polymer “cement.”


Tesla’s Competitor Faraday Future Presents Its Electric Car

A car firm hoping to disrupt the auto industry has shown off its first concept vehicle at the CES tech show (Las Vegas). Faraday Future said its battery-powered FFZero1 would project information over the driver’s view and include a smartphone dock in its steering wheel. The firm highlighted, however, that the modular basis of its design meant it could easily reconfigure the elements to create other types of electric vehicles including pick-up trucks.
The company – which is backed by the Chinese internet TV provider LeTV – said it was on course to deliver its first production vehicle in two years’ time. Its research chief Nick Sampson – who was formerly an engineer at rival electric car-maker Tesla – suggested his firm was able to move faster than others thanks to its adoption of “variable production architecture“. He explained this meant it would use the same basic underlying structure on all its vehicles, adapting it to include anywhere from one to four motors, battery packs of various sizes, different types of wheelbases and other optional parts.

faraday future electric car

The internet-connected 1,000-horsepower FFZero1 incorporates several ambitious elements including:
– The ability to top 200mph (321 kph) and accelerate from zero to 60mph in less than three seconds
– A helmet that provides oxygen and water to the driver
– “Aero tunnels” that channel air through the vehicle to reduce drag and cool the batteries
– A multi-touch screen interface and augmented reality views projected onto the road ahead

The car’s obviously very radical but that’s what concepts are all about,” commented Thilo Koslowski from the tech consultancy Gartner. “I think Faraday has a good understanding of what it has to do in order to be successful. But we will have to see if it will be successful. I can tell you that the established vehicle manufacturers are not standing still either.

Scott Evans, associate editor at the Motor Trend news site, was more doubtful: “Faraday Future claims to be disrupting the industry and completely rethinking the car, but is promising stuff everyone else is doing,” he tweeted.

How To Detect Contaminants In One Single Molecule

A technique to combine the ultrasensitivity of surface enhanced Raman* scattering (SERS) with a slippery surface invented by Penn State researchers will make it feasible to detect single molecules of a number of chemical and biological species from gaseous, liquid or solid samples. This combination of slippery surface and laser-based spectroscopy will open new applications in analytical chemistry, molecular diagnostics, environmental monitoring and national security.

The researchers, led by Tak-Sing Wong, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, call there invention SLIPSERS, which is a combination of Wong’s slippery liquid-infused porous surfaces (SLIPS), which is a biologically inspired surface based on the Asian pitcher plant, and SERS.

Detect contaminants in one single moleculeWe have been trying to develop a sensor platform that allows us to detect chemicals or biomolecules at a single molecule level whether they are dispersed in air, liquid phase, or bound to a solid,” Wong said. “Being able to identify a single molecule is already very difficult. Being able to detect those molecules in all three phases, that is really challenging.”

Our technique opens up larger possibilities for people to use other types of solvents to do single molecule SERS detection, such as environmental detection in soil samples. If you can only use water, that is very limiting,” Yang said. “In biology, researchers might want to detect a single base pair mismatch in DNA. Our platform will give them that sensitivity.”

One of the next steps will be to detect biomarkers in blood for disease diagnosis at the very early stages of cancer when the disease is more easily treatable. “We have detected a common protein, but haven’t detected cancer yet,” Yang said.

*Raman spectroscopy is a well-known method of analyzing materials in a liquid form using a laser to interact with the vibrating molecules in the sample. The molecule’s unique vibration shifts the frequency of the photons in the laser light beam up or down in a way that is characteristic of only that type of molecule.


Nanotechnology Hero

Judith Driscoll, 49, is professor of materials science at the University of Cambridge and an expert on nanotechnology. She read materials science at Imperial College London, followed by a PhD in superconductivity at Cambridge and post-doctoral research at Stanford University, California and IBM Almaden Research Centre. Following  is her testimony.


Science is Passion

I’m always surprised more people don’t study materials science. It’s broad and creative and so important to our everyday lives. I loved physics, chemistry and maths at school and hit on materials science as a great way of continuing with them.”

“Studying for a PhD was tough. It’s completely different from a first degree. Intelligence isn’t enough. You have to be creative, have your own ideas, cope with setbacks and work largely unaided. But it is a great way of finding out whether a career in research is right for you.” “The research for which I’m most famous happened on sabbatical. After eight years mostly spent teaching, doing admin and raising money I really wanted to get back into the lab, so I went to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico to work on a new idea I had to combine superconductivity and nanotechnology.” “Nanotechnology is unbelievably small. A nanometre is one billionth of a metre, roughly the length a human hair grows in the time it takes to pick up a razor.” “Nanotechnology lets you create substances as small as one molecule thick, giving enormous surface area for speeding up chemical reactions. You can also miniaturise computer components, potentially storing a terabyte of data per square inch.” “And you can achieve quantum confinement, where particles are so small that electrons behave differently from normal, enabling new optical, electrical and magnetic properties to be realised.”

“My big breakthrough concerned the creation of “perfectdefects in very thin films of superconductors. My brainwave was to create nanoparticles within a thin film superconductor using a different material that I knew the superconductor wouldn’t react with.” “It worked right away, achieving very much higher currents in the superconductor and opening up a whole new world of applications in power transmission, conversion and storage, and in high-power magnets for important science experiments such as the Large Hadron Collider and fusion research.” Nanotechnology may be tiny but its potential is huge. It could give us much more efficient solar power, better storage of renewable energy, cancer-killing drugs delivered to just the right cells in the body, biotechnology to clean polluted environments, even molecular-scale robots called nanobots.

“My latest research involves making new kinds of composite thin films that mimic how the brain works.”

“Being a senior academic is rather like running a small business. Your “product” is your research output and you have to raise funding, manage the lab and the people, supervise the work and “market” your work to other academics.” “The wonderful thing about my job is the freedom. In my research nobody tells me what to do or when, and when my daughters were young I was able to work very flexibly”. “You need to be really passionate to succeed in science. If you’re not the type to give up your weekend to really understand something then you’re probably not cut out for it.”


Stealth Planes: China versus USA

A team of Chinese researchers have made a breakthrough in stealth plane technology that could be so significant even local military sources say it should be kept out of the public realm. The team released the technical and design details of an “invisibility circuit” they claim has the potential to help aircraft trick the best early warning systems in use today. The researchers are affiliated with the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province.

Chinese stealth aircraft

It sounds like something that should be kept in the drawer,” said Professor Huang Jun, a military stealth technology researcher at the School of Aeronautic Science and Engineering at Beihang University. Huang was not involved in the research. “This will be a breakthrough if it works as they claim,” he said. “That will be really bad news for early warning radars,” he added.

They published their research in last month’s Journal of Applied Physics, run by the American Institute of Physics. According to their paper, they have created a multi-layer electrical circuit that can “trapmicrowaves at ultra-high frequencies, thus confusing radar systems and enabling aircraft to sneak past them.


Nanoparticles Trigger Immune System To Destroy Cancer

The shells of a common plant virus, inhaled into a lung tumor or injected into ovarian, colon or breast tumors, not only triggered the immune system in mice to wipe out the tumors, but provided systemic protection against metastases, researchers from Case Western Reserve University and Dartmouth University report. The scientists tested a 100-year-old idea called in-situ vaccination. The idea is to put something inside a tumor and disrupt the environment that suppresses the immune system, thus allowing the natural defense system to attack the malignancy.

That something—the hard coating of cowpea* mosaic virus—caused no detectible side effects, which are a common problem with traditional therapies and some immunotherapies.


The cowpea virus-based nanoparticles act like a switch that turns on the immune system to recognize and fight against the tumor – as well as to remember it,” said Nicole Steinmetz, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve, appointed by the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.

The particles are shockingly potent,” said Steven Fiering, professor of microbiology and immunology at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine. “They’re easy to make and don’t need to carry antigens, drugs or other immunostimmulatory agents on their surface or inside.”

The team’s research is published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

* Cowpeas are one of the most important food legume crops in the semiarid tropics covering Asia, Africa, southern Europe, and Central and South America


Super-Strong, Light New Metal For Airplanes, Cars

team led by researchers from the Univeristy of California Los Angleles (UCLA) Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has created a super-strong yet light structural metal with extremely high specific strength and modulus, or stiffness-to-weight ratio. The new metal is composed of magnesium infused with a dense and even dispersal of ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticles. It could be used to make lighter airplanes, spacecraft, and cars, helping to improve fuel efficiency, as well as in mobile electronics and biomedical devices.

To create the super-strong but lightweight metal, the team found a new way to disperse and stabilize nanoparticles in molten metals. They also developed a scalable manufacturing method that could pave the way for more high-performance lightweight metals.

strong metalAt left, a deformed sample of pure metal; at right, the strong new metal made of magnesium with silicon carbide nanoparticles. Each central micropillar is about 4 micrometers across.

It’s been proposed that nanoparticles could really enhance the strength of metals without damaging their plasticity, especially light metals like magnesium, but no groups have been able to disperse ceramic nanoparticles in molten metals until now,” said Xiaochun Li, the principal investigator on the research and Raytheon Chair in Manufacturing Engineering at UCLA. “With an infusion of physics and materials processing, our method paves a new way to enhance the performance of many different kinds of metals by evenly infusing dense nanoparticles to enhance the performance of metals to meet energy and sustainability challenges in today’s society.

The research has been  published  in Nature.


3D Printing To Help Disabled Children

Orthotics is a medical discipline that deals in creating physical supports and braces for those with disabilities. Things like back braces, arm and leg splints, and anything that helps your posture. But it’s a practice under pressure. In the UK just a few hundred specialists look after all those needing their services. World-wide one company estimates that the number of disabled people is as high as 100 million. That company is Andiamo – a company created by British couple Naveed and Samiya Parvez. And they reckon they’re about to revolutionise the industry.

3D printed leg

“What Andiamo does is we create 3D printed orthotics which are custom bracing for the outside of the body. We do that specifically for children, and we do 3D scanning alongside 3D printing to cut the wait time down from about six months down to one week.”

Where Andiamo says their technology is revolutionary is in the execution process. Traditional fittings for orthotics can take hours and delivery even longer – frequently months or more. That’s a timeframe in which children can outgrow the supports that are meant to help them as well. Andiamo say they can 3D print their orthotics and deliver them in 48 hours.

You get 3D scanned, which takes anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds, and that gets a 3D image that’s accurate to under a millimetre, and that 3D image is turned into a medical device using a computer edited design, and then that’s sent to a 3D printer, that’s fitted and then you’re sent away. So rather than taking six months and a very distressing process it can take less than a week.” Andiamo hope to have helped around a thousand families by the end of 2017, and 100,000 by the end of 2020. But with as much as 80 percent of those needing devices unable to currently get one, Naveed and Parvez hope even that will be just the beginning.


Brain Cells Death Provokes Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis* (MS) may be triggered by the death of brain cells that make myelin, the insulation around nerve fibers, according to research on a novel mouse model developed by scientists from the University of Chicago and Northwestern Medicine. The death of these cells initiates an autoimmune response against myelin, the main characteristic of the disease, which leads to MS-like symptoms in mice.This reaction can be prevented, however, through the application of specially developed nanoparticles, even after the loss of those brain cells. The nanoparticles are being developed for clinical trials that could lead to new treatments in humans.

multiple sclerosisAn image of the cerebellum from an animal early in the demyelinating phase of the late-onset disease. The green marks myelinated axons and the dark area in the center is a demyelinated lesion with T-cell inflammation (pink)

Although this was a study in mice, we’ve shown for the first time one possible mechanism that can trigger MS—the death of the cells responsible for generating myelin can lead to the activation of an autoimmune response against myelin,” said study co-senior author Brian Popko, the Jack Miller Professor of Neurological Disorders. “Protecting these cells in susceptible individuals might help delay or prevent MS.”


The study was published in Nature Neuroscience.

* Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease involving an abnormal immune response against myelin, which leads to the progressive deterioration of a wide range of body functions. MS is thought to affect 2.5 million people worldwide, and has unclear causes and no known cure.


Omnidirectional Solar Cells Boost Efficiency

In recent years, a complicated discussion over which direction solar cells should facesouth or west — has likely left customers uncertain about the best way to orient their panels. Now researchers from 3 different universities in Taiwan  are attempting to resolve this issue by developing solar cells that can harvest light from almost any angle, and the panels self-clean to boot.

solar farm

Commercial solar panels work best when sunlight hits them at a certain angle. Initially, experts had suggested that solar panels face south to collect the most energy from the sun. But an influential 2013 report by Pecan Street, an energy-research organization, advised that systems tilt westward to maximize efficiency. Further analysis has found that determining the ideal angle is more complicated — in essence, it depends on where you live. And even if customers get the positioning correct, they’re still losing out on prime sunlight because most residential systems can’t move or adjust to the sun’s track across the sky. Jr-Hau He, Kun-Yu Lai fron the National Taiwan University and colleagues wanted to address this shortcoming. The researchers developed a glass coating that incorporates ultrathin nanorods and honeycomb nanowalls that can help underlying solar cells harvest sunlight from multiple angles. The cell efficiency can be boosted by 5.2 to 27.7 percent, depending on the angle of the light, and the efficiency enhancement can be up to 46 percent during long-term use. 

The material also repelled dust and pollution that would otherwise block some rays from getting absorbed and converted to electricity. The new glass coating kept panels working outdoors at optimum levels for six weeks while the efficiency of panels with an unmodified coating dropped over the same period.


How To Detect Alzheimer’s Years Before Memory Loss

Chilean neurologists say they’ve found a key to diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease early, even before memory loss and other symptoms develop. Researchers at Chile’s Biomedical Neuroscience Institute (BNI) believe they can identify early stages of dementia and other psychiatric diseases in sufferers through observing eye movement patterns and the brain’s electrical activity. The neurologists study patients navigating a virtual location, where they must find “keys” to complete a task. Lead neurologist Enzo Brunetti said the tests were able to detect very early signs of cognitive impairment in patients who apparently presented no symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Eye movement link to Alzheimer's

Eye movements and brain activity may be the key to diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease earlier and more accurately, according to research led by Chilean neurologists.

In this study, what we did was that we applied spatial navigation tasks using a computer, and with the help of a software we examined in detail which were the early functions that became altered in Alzheimer’s disease (patients) and focused on a very specific function, linked to the codification and development of cognitive memory, that helps people move through the physical environment. This is one of the cognitive functions that were altered in patients with Alzheimer’s and we observed that they were altered from very early stages. Therefore we believe this is a biomarker for the disease, which would give us an opportunity to shed light on an early diagnosis for this disease“, says Enzo Brunetti, neurologist.
Brunetti says the patients who are likely to develop some form of dementia make similar eye movements while navigating through the virtualroom” to those at a developed stage of the disease. With the help of electrodes that measure the brain’s electrical activity, the neurologists run non-invasive electroencephalogram (EEG) tests on patients while they navigate through the computer-made universe.
More tests and a larger clinical trial are needed before the treatment can be made available. An early Alzheimer’s diagnosis may not only help patients and their families plan better for the future, but also offer them a possibility of delaying the symptoms with drugs and other existing treatments. Alzheimer’s is very difficult to detect until it has progressed from mild memory loss to clear impairment. Patients eventually lose all ability to care for themselves.


Power Source Woven Into Fabrics

Wearable power sources for wearable electronics are limited by the size of garments. With that in mind, researchers at Case Western Reserve University ( CWRU)  have developed flexible wire-shaped micro *supercapacitors that can be woven into a jacket, shirt or dress. By their design or by connecting the capacitors in series or parallel, the devices can be tailored to match the charge storage and delivery needs of electronics donned.

While there’s been progress in development of those electronics–body cameras, smart glasses, sensors that monitor health, activity trackers and more–one challenge remaining is providing less obtrusive and cumbersome power sources.

wearable electronics

The area of clothing is fixed, so to generate the power density needed in a small area, we grew radially-aligned titanium oxide nanotubes on a titanium wire used as the main electrode,” said Liming Dai, the Kent Hale Smith Professor of Macromolecular Science and Engineering. “By increasing the surface area of the electrode, you increase the capacitance.

Dai and Tao Chen, a postdoctoral fellow in molecular science and engineering at Case Western Reserve, published their research on the microsupercapacitor in the journal Energy Storage Materials. The study builds on earlier carbon-based supercapacitors.

*A capacitor is cousin to the battery, but offers the advantage of charging and releasing energy much faster.


Sunscreen Nanoparticles Eliminate Skin-Cancer

A research team including scientists funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) has developed a nanotechnology-based sunscreen that provides excellent protection from ultraviolet (UV) damage while eliminating a number of harmful effects of currently used sunscreens. The team encapsulated the UV-blocking compounds in bio-adhesive nanoparticles (BNPs), which adhere to the skin well, but do not penetrate beyond the skin’s surface. These properties resulted in highly effective UV protection in a mouse model, without the adverse effects observed with commercial sunscreens, including penetration into the bloodstream and generation of reactive oxygen species, which can damage DNA and lead to cancer. Commercial sunscreens use compounds that effectively filter out damaging UV light. However, there is concern that these agents have a variety of harmful effects due to penetration past the surface skin. For example, these products have been found in human breast tissue and urine and are known to disrupt the normal function of some hormones. Also, the exposure of the UV filters to light can produce toxic reactive oxygen species that are destructive to cells and tissues and can cause tumors through DNA damage.



BNPs remain on skin for a full day but are gone due to normal exfoliation in five days

This work applies a novel bioengineering idea to a little known but significant health problem, adds Jessica Tucker, Ph.D., Director of the NIBIB Program in Delivery Systems and Devices for Drugs and Biologics. “While we are all familiar with the benefits of sunscreen, the potential toxicities from sunscreen due to penetration into the body and creation of DNA-damaging agents are not well known.Bioengineering sunscreen to inhibit penetration and keep any DNA-damaging compounds isolated in the nanoparticle and away from the skin is a great example of how a sophisticated technology can be used to solve a problem affecting the health of millions of people.

Bioengineers and dermatologists at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut combined their expertise in nanoparticle-based drug delivery and the molecular and cellular characteristics of the skin to address these potential health hazards of current commercial sunscreens. The results of their collaboration were reported in the September issue of Nature Materials.


Bomb-proof Bag To Suppress Explosion On Aircraft

This is what happens when a bomb goes off inside the luggage hold of a normal passenger jet. Authorities believe it was a blast like this which downed a Russian aircraft over Egypt in October, killing all 224 people on board. A team of international scientists are working on a device that could mitigate the effect of such an explosion. They’ve developed the Fly-Bag – a bomb-proof lining made from layers of fabrics and composites that have high strength and impact, and heat resistance. In field-tests, an explosive device was placed in a suitcase and then zipped up inside the Fly-Bag. When detonated, the bag expands and contracts but does not tear. The structural integrity of the fuselage is maintained. The Fly-Bag could be a fail-safe in the event an explosive device is smuggled aboard an aircraft, according to a leading British security consultant.


I think it has the capacity to transform how we look at hold baggage. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the reconciliation of passengers and their bags; since 1988, since the Lockerbie Disaster, that’s been a big focus of the airline industry”, says Matthew Finn, security consultant at Augmeniq, a Brtish company. “What the Fly-Bag does is look to those situations where there may be the device on board and how do we contain that. I think it’s a really interesting development and I’d like to see it deployed more widely“, he adds.
The Fly-Bag is being developed by Blastech, a spin out company from the University of Sheffield, as well as partners from across Europe..


How To Increase Photovoltaic Efficiency

Researchers from the The Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have built tiny “match-headwires that act as built-in light concentrators, enhancing solar cell efficiency.

Crystal growth on a nano/microscale level results in the formation of “match-head”-like, three-dimensional structures that enhance light absorption and photovoltaic efficiency. Match-head semiconductor nanowires focus incident light for greater overall efficiency. The match heads are naturally formed during the wire-growth process, which can be applied to various materials and structures for photonic and optoelectronic devices. This is the first large structure grown on a nanowire tip and it creates a completely new architecture for harnessing energy.

match-head(Left) Silicon wires with match heads and (right) light absorption profile of a single match-head wire at 587 nm absorption

Enhanced light absorption and efficient, photogenerated carrier collection are essential characteristics of highly efficient solar cells. Nanowires with embedded radial junctions are promising building blocks for highly efficient photovoltaics because of their ability to achieve these two characteristics. The new technology in this highlight provides a novel method for enhancing optical absorption and photovoltaic efficiency with crystal growth. Controlled silicon crystal growth on the tops of silicon wires creates a match-head structure. The match head acts as a light concentrator. Light absorptance was increased by 36% and photovoltaic efficiency was increased by 20%. Because the match-head crystal is naturally grown and minimizes surface energy, this technique is applicable for a wide range of materials and device architectures to boost performance. The ability to control the shape of the nanostructure is essential for manufacturing next-generation semiconductor devices, such as photodetectors and light emitters.


How To Remove All Nanomaterials From Water

Nano implies small—and that’s great for use in medical devices, beauty products and smartphones—but it’s also a problem. The tiny nanoparticles, nanowires, nanotubes and other nanomaterials that make up our technology eventually find their way into water. The Environmental Protection Agency says more 1,300 commercial products use some kind of nanomaterial. And we just don’t know the full impact on health and the environment.

Michigan Technological

Look at plastic,” says Yoke Khin Yap, a professor of physics at Michigan Technological University. “These materials changed the world over the past decades—but can we clean up all the plastic in the ocean? We struggle to clean up meter-scale plastics, so what happens when we need to clean on the nano-scale?”

That challenge is the focus of a new study co-authored by Yap, recently published in the American Chemical Society’s journal Applied Materials and Interfaces. Yap and his team found a novel—and very simple—way to remove nearly 100 percent of nanomaterials from water.


Fusion Power Is Close

Fusion power is the Holy Grail of energy production – seen by some as a silver bullet for a carbon-neutral future. The failure of the multi-billion dollar ITER project to produce reactor relevant fusion has disappointed scientists and environmentalists. But a batch of small firms like Tokamak Energy believes they’re close to cracking the mystery. The UK firm says its reactor‘s spherical shape and magnets made using high-temperature superconductors means it could be two years from reaching 100 million degrees Celsius. That’s seven times hotter than the sun’s core and the temperature necessary to achieve fusion.


We’ve got a slightly different shape from traditional fusion and this allows us to get a higher plasma pressure for a given magnetic field. It’s a measure of efficiency called beta“, says Dr  Bill Huang, Senior engineer for Tokamak Energy.
Fusion is how stars produce energy. Investors are spending millions on small-scale fusion projects. Vast potential return makes them attractive, as does the fact that multiple methods of achieving fusion could all be profitable.  “First of all they can be constructed in a factory, so you’re talking about economies of scale; and the second key thing is the way in which the grid itself, the future grid, is likely to be more dispersed” , says Mark White, of  Rainbow Seeds, and investor.
Tokamak Energy is constructing its third reactor and hopes the fifth generation can transfer energy to the grid by 2030.  Dr David Kinghan, CEO of Tokamak Energy. adds: “If it could be harnessed, could be scaled up rapidly to be deployed world-wide by 2050 and could make a very big difference from 2050 onwards.”
With world leaders meeting in Paris to hammer out a deal to limit global emissions, fusion power may help them meet those promises.


How To Soak Up Oil Spills

In hopes of limiting the disastrous environmental effects of massive oil spills, Materials scientists from Drexel University and Deakin University, in Australia, have teamed up to manufacture and test a new material, called a boron nitride nanosheet, that can absorb up to 33 times its weight in oils and organic solvents—a trait that could make it an important technology for quickly mitigating these costly accidents.

The material, which literally absorbs the oil like a sponge, is the result of support from the Australian Research Council and is now ready to be tested by industry after two years of refinement in the laboratory at Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM).

Alfred Deakin Professor Ying (Ian) Chen, PhD, the lead author of a paper, recently published in Nature Communications, said the material is the most exciting advancement in oil spill remediation technology in decades.

nanopores to soak up oil spillsThe pores found in boron nitride nanosheets allow them to absorb more than 33 times its weight in oil and organic solvents

Oil spills are a global problem and wreak havoc on our aquatic ecosystems, not to mention cost billions of dollars in damage,” Chen said. “Everyone remembers the Gulf Coast disaster, but here in Australia they are a regular problem, and not just in our waters. Oil spills from trucks and other vehicles can close freeways for an entire day, again amounting to large economic losses,” he added.


How To Store Electricity In Paper

Researchers at Linköping University’s Laboratory of Organic Electronics, Sweden, have developed power paper – a new material with an outstanding ability to store energy. The material consists of nanocellulose and a conductive polymer.

One sheet, 15 centimetres in diameter and a few tenths of a millimetre thick can store as much as 1 F, which is similar to the supercapacitors currently on the market. The material can be recharged hundreds of times and each charge only takes a few seconds.

It’s a dream product in a world where the increased use of renewable energy requires new methods for energy storage – from summer to winter, from a windy day to a calm one, from a sunny day to one with heavy cloud cover.


Thin films that function as capacitors have existed for some time. What we have done is to produce the material in three dimensions. We can produce thick sheets,” says Xavier Crispin, professor of organic electronics and co-author to the article just published in Advanced Science.

The material, power paper, looks and feels like a slightly plasticky paper and the researchers have amused themselves by using one piece to make an origami swan – which gives an indication of its strength.

The structural foundation of the material is nanocellulose, which is cellulose fibres which, using high-pressure water, are broken down into fibres as thin as 20 nm in diameter. With the cellulose fibres in a solution of water, an electrically charged polymer (PEDOT:PSS), also in a water solution, is added. The polymer then forms a thin coating around the fibres.

The covered fibres are in tangles, where the liquid in the spaces between them functions as an electrolyte,” explains Jesper Edberg, doctoral student, who conducted the experiments together with Abdellah Malti, who recently completed his doctorate. Other co-authors are researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Innventia, Technical University of Denmark and the University of Kentucky.

The results have been published in Advanced Science.


Red Light To Attack Viruses

Light is helping Rice University scientists control both the infectivity of viruses and gene delivery to the nuclei of target cells. The researchers have developed a method to use two shades of red to control the level and spatial distribution of gene expression in cells via an engineered virus.

Although viruses have evolved to deliver genes into host cells, they still face difficulties getting their payloads from the cytoplasm into a cell’s nucleus, where gene expression occurs. The Rice labs of bioengineers Junghae Suh and Jeffrey Tabor have successfully found a way to overcome this critical hurdle. The result from labs at Rice’s BioScience Research Collaborative combines Suh’s interest in designing viruses to deliver genes to target cells with Tabor’s skills in optogenetics, in which light-responsive proteins can be used to control biological behavior. They built custom adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors by incorporating proteins that naturally come together when exposed to red light (650-nanometer wavelengths) and break apart when exposed to far red (750-nanometer wavelengths). These naturally light-responsive proteins help the viral capsids – the hard shells that contain genetic payloadsenter the host cell nuclei.

red light against virusesViruses in general are relatively efficient at delivering genes into cells, but they still experience great limiting barriers,” she said. “If you add these viruses to cells, most of them seem to hang out outside of the nucleus, and only a small fraction make their way inside, which is the goal,” said Junghae Suh.

The team drew upon the Tabor lab’s expertise in optogenetics to increase the AAVs’ efficiency. “Jeff works with many different types of light-responsive proteins. The particular pair we decided upon was first identified in plants. Light is really nice because you can apply it externally and you can control many aspects: at what areas the light is exposed, the duration of exposure, the intensity of the light and, of course, its wavelength,” she added.


So Strong And Thousands Of Times Thinner Than A Sheet Of Paper

Scientists and engineers are engaged in a global race to make new materials that are as thin, light and strong as possible. These properties can be achieved by designing materials at the atomic level, but they are only useful if they can leave the carefully controlled conditions of a lab. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have now created the thinnest plates that can be picked up and manipulated by hand. Despite being thousands of times thinner than a sheet of paper and hundreds of times thinner than household cling wrap or aluminum foil, their corrugated plates of aluminum oxide spring back to their original shape after being bent and twisted.


The researchers’ plates are strong enough to be picked up by hand and retain their shape after being bent and squeezed
Like cling wrap, comparably thin materials immediately curl up on themselves and get stuck in deformed shapes if they are not stretched on a frame or backed by another material.

Being able to stay in shape without additional support would allow this material, and others designed on its principles, to be used in aviation and other structural applications where low weight is at a premium.


Sonic Tractor Beam

The world’s first sonic tractor beams that can lift and move objects using soundwaves have been built by a team that includes researchers at the University of SussexTractor beams are mysterious rays that can grab and lift objects. The concept was created by science-fiction writers  but has since come to fascinate scientists and engineers.

Researchers at the Universities of Sussex and Bristol (UK), in collaboration with Ultrahaptics, have now built a working tractor beam that uses high-amplitude soundwaves to generate an acoustic hologram that can pick up and move small objects. The technique, published in Nature Communications today (27 October 2015), could be developed for a wide range of applications. For example, a sonic production line could transport delicate objects and assemble them, all without physical contact. Or a miniature version could grip and transport drug capsules or microsurgical instruments through living tissue.


In our device we manipulate objects in mid-air and seemingly defy gravity. We can individually control dozens of loudspeakers to tell us an optimal solution to generate an acoustic hologram that can manipulate multiple objects in real-time without contact”, explains Sriram Subramanian, Professor of Informatics at the University of Sussex and co-founder of Ultrahaptics.

The researchers used an array of 64 miniature loudspeakers (driven at 40Khz with 15Vpp. The whole system consumes 9 Watts of power) to create high-pitched and high-intensity sound waves to levitate a spherical bead (of up to 4mm in diameter) made of expanded polystyrene.

The tractor beam works by surrounding the object with high-intensity sound to create a force field that keeps the objects in place. By carefully controlling the output of the loudspeakers, the object can be either held in place, moved or rotated. Asier Marzo, PhD student and the lead author, said: “It was an incredible experience the first time we saw the object held in place by the tractor beam. All my hard work has paid off. It’s brilliant.” Bruce Drinkwater, Professor of Ultrasonics in the University of Bristol‘s Department of Mechanical Engineering, added: “We all know that soundwaves can have a physical effect. But here we have managed to control the sound to a degree never previously achieved.



Nano-Terminators Target Cancer

Researchers at North Carolina State University (NC State) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  (NC-CH) have developed a new drug delivery technique that uses a biodegradable liquid metal to target cancer cells. The liquid metal drug delivery method promises to boost the effect of cancer drugs. To date, the technique has only been tested in an animal model.

Liquid-Metal nanoterminator

The advance here is that we have a drug-delivery technique that may enhance the effectiveness of the drugs being delivered, can help doctors locate tumors, can be produced in bulk, and appears to be wholly biodegradable with very low toxicity,” says Zhen Gu, corresponding author of a Nature Communications paper on the work and an assistant professor in the joint biomedical engineering program at NC State and UNC-CH. “And one of the advantages of this technique is that these liquid metal drug carriers – or ‘nano-terminators’ – are very easy to make.”

To create the nano-terminators, researchers place the bulk liquid metal (gallium indium alloy) into a solution that contains two types of molecules called polymeric ligands. The solution is then hit with ultrasound, which forces the liquid metal to burst into nanoscale droplets approximately 100 nanometers in diameter. The ligands in the solution attach to the surface of the droplets as they break away from the bulk liquid metal. Meanwhile, an oxidized “skin” forms on the surface of the nanodroplets. The oxidized skin, together with the ligands, prevents the nanodroplets from fusing back together.

The anticancer drug doxorubicin (Dox) is then introduced into the solution. One of the ligands on the nanodroplet sucks up the Dox and holds on to it. These drug-laden nanodroplets can then be separated from the solution and introduced into the bloodstream. The second type of ligand on the nanodroplets effectively seeks out cancer cells, causing receptors on the surface of the cancer cell to latch on to the nanodroplets. The cancer cell then absorbs the nanodroplets.

.Once absorbed, the higher level of acidity inside the cancer cell dissolves the oxidized skin of the nanodroplets. This releases the ligands, which will go on to release the Dox inside the cell. “Without the oxidized skin and ligands, the nanodroplets fuse together, forming larger drops of liquid metal,” says Michael Dickey, a co-author on this paper and professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at NC State. “These larger droplets are fairly easy to detect using diagnostic techniques, which can potentially help doctors locate tumors.”


The Biggest Clone Factory Built In China

The world’s largest animal cloning factory is under construction in China, with plans to churn out dogs, horses and up to a million beef cattle a year. The 200-million-yuan ($31-million) facility will include cloning laboratories and a gene bank, the official Xinhua news agency reported. It is being set up by Chinese biotechnology firm Boyalife and South Korea’s Sooam Biotech—whose founder was embroiled in controversy a decade ago over claims to have cloned human embryos—along with two Chinese research institutions. It will develop animals such as pet and police dogs, racehorses and cows, to be sold on the open market on an industrial scale. The factory in the northern port of Tianjin is set to start production next year, with initial capacity of 100,000 cattle embryos a year, growing to one million, Xinhua cited Boyalife chairman Xu Xiaochun as saying.

cloned animals

Chinese farmers are struggling to produce enough beef cattle to meet market demand,” he said. But social media users expressed scepticism over consumer appetite for cloned meat, pointing out that the plant will be near the site of chemical explosions that killed at least 165 people in August, and that China is plagued with food safety scandals. “Is this meat going to be sold in South Korea or China? If in China, please make our leaders eat it first,” said one user.


Huge Solar Farm Opens In South France

France has opened the largest solar farm in Europe, producing enough electricity to power a city the size of Bordeaux. The 260 hectare park, situated at Cestas in the Gironde, is slightly larger than the principality of Monaco, and has the same power as an old coal power station. It cost €360million and has been built by the independent renewable electricity producer Neoen. The company’s director general said that the work had been completed on time and in budget.

solar farmLe Figaro compared the project to France’s latest nuclear reactor EPR nuclear reactor under construction in Flamanville whose budget has risen from €3.3billion to €10.5bn and is currently due to start production six years late, in 2018.

Also by comparison, the price of electricity from the solar park is set at €105 per megawatt hour (MWh) for the first 20 years, compared to €114 MWh for the EPR reactor. Wind power is typically around €80 MWh.

The panels were manufactured by three different factories in China and installed by Schneider Electric, a subsidiary of the construction group Eiffage who fitted 15,000 panels a day to complete the project.
The site has 680km of underground cable, 3,700km of solar cable and 116km of high tension cable.
More than 16,500 metal support tables and 3,826 fuse boxes were fitted.

Perovskite Could Convert Two-Third of Solar Energy To Electricity

Scientists at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have demonstrated a way to significantly increase the efficiency of perovskite solar cells by reducing the amount of energy lost to heat.

peroskite solar cell

Present-day photovoltaic cells can only effectively utilize about a third of the available energy, with another third lost to heat and the rest lost to other processes instead of being converted to electricity. The NREL research determined that charge carriers created by absorbing sunlight by the perovskite cells encounter a bottleneck where phonons (heat carrying particles) that are emitted while the charge carriers cool cannot decay quickly enough. Instead, the phonons re-heat the charge carriers, thereby drastically slowing the cooling process and allowing the carriers to retain much more of their initial energy for much longer periods of time. This potentially allows this extra energy to be tapped off in a hot-carrier solar cell.

The theoretical limit of how much solar energy perovskite cells can convert to electricity if the hot-carriers are utilized could climb from about 33% to 66%. Additional research is needed, including tests on perovskites made from other materials.

Ye Yang is lead author of the paper. NREL colleagues David Ostrowski, Ryan France, Kai Zhu, Jao van de Lagemaat, Joey Luther and Matthew Beard also contributed to the research. A paper on the discovery, “Observation of a hot-phonon bottleneck in lead-iodide perovskites,” was published online this week in the journal Nature Photonics. The research also will appear in the January print edition of the journal.


Give Deaf People A New Voice

A smart device that translates sign language while being worn on the wrist could bridge the communications gap between the deaf and those who don’t know sign language, says a Texas A&M University biomedical engineering researcher who is developing the technology. The wearable technology combines motion sensors and the measurement of electrical activity generated by muscles to interpret hand gestures, explains Roozbeh Jafari, associate professor in the university’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and researcher at the Center for Remote Health Technologies and Systems. Although the device is still in its prototype stage, it can already recognize 40 American Sign Language words with nearly 96 percent accuracy, notes Jafari who presented his research at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 12th Annual Body Sensor Networks Conference this past June. The technology was among the top award winners in the Texas Instruments Innovation Challenge this past summer.

sign language

We decode the muscle activities we are capturing from the wrist. Some of it is coming from the fingers indirectly because if I happen to keep my fist like this versus this the muscle activation is going to be a little different“, said Jafari.  It’s those differences that present the researchers with their biggest challenge. Fine tuning the device to process and translate the different signals accurately, in real time, requires sophisticated algorithms. The other problem is that no two people sign exactly alike, which is why they designed the system to learn from its user.  “When you wear the system for the first time the system operates with some level of accuracy. But as you start using the system more often, the system learns from your behavior and it will adapt its own learning models to fit you“,  he added.

Going forward the team hope to miniaturize the device so it can be worn on a users’ wrist like a watch and program it to decipher complete sentences rather than just individual words. The researchers also want to incorporate a synthetic voice speaker, an upgrade that could potentially give the 70 million deaf people around the world…a new voice.


‘Self-Healing’ Gel Repairs Electronic Circuit

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a first-of-its-kind self-healing gel that repairs and connects electronic circuits, creating opportunities to advance the development of flexible electronics, biosensors and batteries as energy storage devices. Although technology is moving toward lighter, flexible, foldable and rollable electronics, the existing circuits that power them are not built to flex freely and repeatedly self-repair cracks or breaks that can happen from normal wear and tear.

Until now, self-healing materials have relied on application of external stimuli such as light or heat to activate repair. The UT Austinsupergel” material has high conductivity (the degree to which a material conducts electricity) and strong mechanical and electrical self-healing properties.

self-healed gelSelf-repaired supergel supports its own weight after being sliced in half

In the last decade, the self-healing concept has been popularized by people working on different applications, but this is the first time it has been done without external stimuli,” said mechanical engineering assistant professor Guihua Yu, who developed the gel. “There’s no need for heat or light to fix the crack or break in a circuit or battery, which is often required by previously developed self-healing materials.


Green: How To Clean Oil Sands Water Waste

Researchers have developed a process to remove contaminants from oil sands wastewater using only sunlight and nanoparticles that is more effective and inexpensive than conventional treatment methods.

Frank Gu, a professor in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Waterloo and Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology Engineering, is the senior researcher on the team that was the first to find that photocatalysis — a chemical reaction that involves the absorption of light by nanoparticles — can completely eliminate naphthenic acids in oil sands wastewater, and within hours. Naphthenic acids pose a threat to ecology and human health. Water in tailing ponds left to biodegrade naturally in the environment still contains these contaminants decades later.

oil sands pond

With about a billion tonnes of water stored in ponds in Alberta, removing naphthenic acids is one of the largest environmental challenges in Canada,” said Tim Leshuk, a PhD candidate in chemical engineering at Waterloo and the leader of the study . “Conventional treatments people have tried either haven’t worked, or if they have worked, they’ve been far too impractical or expensive to solve the size of the problem.  Waterloo’s technology is the first step of what looks like a very practical and green treatment method.


How To Remove Nanoparticles From Blood

Engineers at the University of California, San Diego developed a new technology that uses an oscillating electric field to easily and quickly isolate drug-delivery nanoparticles from blood. The technology could serve as a general tool to separate and recover nanoparticles from other complex fluids for medical, environmental, and industrial applications.

Nanoparticles, which are generally one thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair, are difficult to separate from plasma, the liquid component of blood, due to their small size and low density. Traditional methods to remove nanoparticles from plasma samples typically involve diluting the plasma, adding a high concentration sugar solution to the plasma and spinning it in a centrifuge, or attaching a targeting agent to the surface of the nanoparticles. These methods either alter the normal behavior of the nanoparticles or cannot be applied to some of the most common nanoparticle types.

nanoparticles in blood

Nanoparticle removal chip developed by researchers in Professor Michael Heller’s lab at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. An oscillating electric field (purple arcs) separates drug-delivery nanoparticles (yellow spheres) from blood (red spheres) and pulls them towards rings surrounding the chip’s electrodes.

This is the first example of isolating a wide range of nanoparticles out of plasma with a minimum amount of manipulation,” said Stuart Ibsen, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of NanoEngineering at UC San Diego and first author of the study published October in the journal Small.
We’ve designed a very versatile technique that can be used to recover nanoparticles in a lot of different processes.”


Google Glass Used For Arteries Surgery

Doctors in Poland used a virtual reality system combining a custom mobile application and Google Glass to clear a blocked coronary artery, one of the first uses of the technology to assist with surgery. The imaging system was used with a patient who had chronic total occlusion, a complete blockage of the artery, which doctors said is difficult to clear using standard catheter-based percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI.

The system provides three-dimensional reconstructions of the artery and includes a hands-free voice recognition system allowing for zoom and changes of the images. The head-mounted display system allows doctors to capture images and video while also interacting with the environment around them. In patients with chronic total occlusion, the standard procedure is not always successful, at least partially because of difficulty visualizing the blockage with conventional coronary tomography angiography, or CTA, imaging.


This case demonstrates the novel application of wearable devices for display of CTA data sets in the catheterization laboratory that can be used for better planning and guidance of interventional procedures, and provides proof of concept that wearable devices can improve operator comfort and procedure efficiency in interventional cardiology,” Dr. Maksymilian Opolski, of the Department of Interventional Cardiology and Angiology at the Institute of Cardiology in Warsaw (Poland), said in a press release.


Cheaper, High Performing LED

A team of Florida State University materials researchers has developed a new type of light-emitting diode, or LED, using an organic-inorganic hybrid that could lead to cheaper, brighter and mass produced lights and displays in the future. Assistant Professor of Physics Hanwei Gao and Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering Biwu Ma are using a class of materials called organometal halide perovskites to build a highly functioning LED.

LED Florida

Early work suggested perovskites could be a promising material to build LEDs,” Gao said. “But, the performance was not up to their potential. We believed there was significant room for improvement.”

Perovskites are any materials with the same type of crystal structure as calcium titanium oxide. Other researchers experimented with perovskites to build LEDs in the past but could not build particularly effective ones. Gao and Ma believed this organic-inorganic hybrid could perform better, if the formula could be appropriately tweaked. “When we thought about this class of material, we knew it should perform better than this,” Ma said. “We came up with our novel approach to solve some critical problems and get a high-performance LED.”

After months of experiments using synthetic chemistry to fine-tune the material properties and device engineering to control the device architectures, they ultimately created an LED that performed even better than expected. The material glowed exceptionally bright. It is measured at about 10,000 candelas per square meter at a driving voltage of 12Vcandelas are the unit of measurement for luminescence. As a benchmark, LEDs glowing at about 400 candelas per square meter are sufficiently bright for computer screens. “Such exceptional brightness is, to a large extent, owing to the inherent high luminescent efficiency of this surface-treated, highly crystalline nanomaterial,” Gao said. It was also quick and easy to produce.

They lay out their findings in the journal Advanced Materials.


Nanodentistry Regenerates Your Teeth

Salvatore Sauro, professor of Dentistry at the Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera in Valencia (Spain), has collaborated with experts from the College of Dental Medicine at Georgia Regents University in Augusta, US, and the Brazilian Universidade Federal do Ceará and Universidade Estadual de Campinas, on an exhaustive study of  nanomaterials and their clinical applications within “nanodentistry.” A detailed overview was published in Trends in Biotechnology, analyzing the cutting-edge properties of polymeric, metallic and inorganic nano-based materials and their potential use in therapeutic and restorative dental care.


One of the most promising features of these nanomaterials is their capacity to imitate the natural physicochemical, mechanic and aesthetic properties of dentine and dental enamel, underlines Sauro. “This is what is meant by biomimetic: human-made materials that imitate nature and natural processes. “For instance, nanoceramic materials have yielded good results in dental restoration, imitating the aesthetic properties of dental enamel.”

Some dental resins and composites used today to treat tooth loss have already been given the “nano treatment,” incorporating ceramic or silica-rich nanoparticles which, aside from imitating the natural aesthetics of teeth, they are stronger, harder and more resistant to decay. Stronger still are new nanomaterials based on sapphires and diamonds, which have proven twenty times as strong as their ceramic-based counterparts. “The field of dental materials is one that will feel the benefit of advances in nanotechnology on the short-term,” adds Sauro, meaning the door is wide open to restorative dental materials that are even more natural-looking, long-lasting and easier to work with in the clinic setting.

Another area of development is that of remineralising and regenerating dental tissue, whose natural capacity for regeneration in adults is very limited. Nanomaterials are being used in conjunction with stem cells to regenerate dentin, dental cement and even enamel, the tissue least able to regenerate naturally. Incorporated into composites and injectable biomaterials, this is a promising approach to dental tissue repair which harnesses biological responses. However, Sauro warns that further testing is required to ascertain the toxicity of these materials, which may also affect the healthy cells in the treated tissue.


Blood Test Can Diagnose Pancreatic Cancer

Indiana University cancer researchers have found that a simple blood test might help diagnose pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly forms of the disease.

In research published today in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, Murray Korc, M.D., Professor of Cancer Research at the Indiana University School of Medicine and a researcher at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, and colleagues found that several microRNAs – small RNA molecules — circulate at high levels in the blood of pancreatic cancer patients.

blood cells

This is a new finding that extends previous knowledge in this field,” Dr. Korc said. “The key new feature here is that there is a panel of microRNAs that can be measured accurately in the plasma component of blood to determine if a patient has pancreatic cancer.”

Specifically, the IU research team found that an increased expression of miRNA-10b, -155, and -106b in plasma appears highly accurate in diagnosing pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is by far the most common type of pancreatic malignancy.


Nanoscale Submarines Will Carry Cargoes Through The Blood

Though they’re not quite ready for boarding a lá “Fantastic Voyage,” nanoscale submarines created at Rice University are proving themselves seaworthy. Each of the single-molecule, 244-atom submersibles built in the Rice lab of chemist James Tour has a motor powered by ultraviolet light. With each full revolution, the motor’s tail-like propeller moves the sub forward 18 nanometers.

And with the motors running at more than a million RPM, that translates into speed. Though the sub’s top speed amounts to less than 1 inch per second, Tour said that’s a breakneck pace on the molecular scale.

submarine at nanoscale

These are the fastest-moving molecules ever seen in solution,” he said.

Expressed in a different way, the researchers reported this month in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters that their light-driven nanosubmersibles show an “enhancement in diffusion” of 26 percent. That means the subs diffuse, or spread out, much faster than they already do due to Brownian motion, the random way particles spread in a solution. While they can’t be steered yet, the study proves molecular motors are powerful enough to drive the sub-10-nanometer subs through solutions of moving molecules of about the same size.

This is akin to a person walking across a basketball court with 1,000 people throwing basketballs at him,” Tour said. Rice’s researchers hope future nanosubs will be able to carry cargoes for medical and other purposes. “There’s a path forward,” García-López said. “This is the first step, and we’ve proven the concept. Now we need to explore opportunities and potential applications.”


NanoComputers That Imitate Human Brain

Making a nanocomputer that learns and remembers like a human brain is a daunting challenge. The complex organ has 86 billion neurons and trillions of connections — or synapses — that can grow stronger or weaker over time. But now scientists from the Tsinghua University (China) report in ACS’ journal Nano Letters the development of a first-of-its-kind synthetic synapse that mimics the plasticity of the real thing, bringing us one step closer to human-like artificial intelligence.


While the brain still holds many secrets, one thing we do know is that the flexibility, or plasticity, of neuronal synapses is a critical feature. In the synapse, many factors, including how many signaling molecules get released and the timing of release, can change. This mutability allows neurons to encode memories, learn and heal themselves. In recent years, researchers have been building artificial neurons and synapses with some success but without the flexibility needed for learning. Tian-Ling Ren and colleagues set out to address that challenge.

The researchers created an artificial synapse out of aluminum oxide and twisted bilayer graphene. By applying different electric voltages to the system, they found they could control the reaction intensity of the receiving “neuron.” The team says their novel dynamic system could aid in the development of biology-inspired electronics capable of learning and self-healing.


How To Charge A Phone Battery In 30 Seconds

If you add quantum dotsnanocrystals 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair – to a smartphone battery it will charge in 30 seconds, but the effect only lasts for a few recharge cycles.

However, a group of researchers at Vanderbilt University report in  of the journal ACS Nano that they have found a way to overcome this problem: Making the quantum dots out of iron pyrite, commonly known as fool’s gold, can produce batteries that charge quickly and work for dozens of cycles.

The research team headed by Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Cary Pint and led by graduate student Anna Douglas became interested in iron pyrite because it is one of the most abundant materials in the earth’s surface. It is produced in raw form as a byproduct of coal production and is so cheap that it is used in lithium batteries that are bought in the store and thrown away after a single use.

Despite all their promise, researchers have had trouble getting nanoparticles to improve battery performance.


Researchers have demonstrated that nanoscale materials can significantly improve batteries, but there is a limit,” Pint said. “When the particles get very small, generally meaning below 10 nanometers (40 to 50 atoms wide), the nanoparticles begin to chemically react with the electrolytes and so can only charge and discharge a few times. So this size regime is forbidden In commercial lithium-ion batteries.”


Water To Drink From The Sea

University of Illinois (U. of I.) engineers have found an energy-efficient material for removing salt from seawater that could provide a rebuttal to poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s lament, “Water, water, every where, nor any drop to drink.” The material, a nanometer-thick sheet of molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) riddled with tiny holes called nanopores, is specially designed to let high volumes of water through but keep salt and other contaminates out, a process called desalination. In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, the Illinois team modeled various thin-film membranes and found that MoS2 showed the greatest efficiency, filtering through up to 70 percent more water than graphene membranes.


Even though we have a lot of water on this planet, there is very little that is drinkable,” said study leader Narayana Aluru, a U. of I. professor ofmechanical science and engineering. “If we could find a low-cost, efficient way to purify sea water, we would be making good strides in solving the water crisis”.
Finding materials for efficient desalination has been a big issue, and I think this work lays the foundation for next-generation materials. These materials are efficient in terms of energy usage and fouling, which are issues that have plagued desalination technology for a long time,” said Aluru, who also is affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the U. of I.

Most available desalination technologies rely on a process called reverse osmosis to push seawater through a thin plastic membrane to make fresh water. “Reverse osmosis is a very expensive process,” Aluru said. “It’s very energy intensive. A lot of power is required to do this process, and it’s not very efficient. In addition, the membranes fail because of clogging. So we’d like to make it cheaper and make the membranes more efficient so they don’t fail as often. We also don’t want to have to use a lot of pressure to get a high flow rate of water.


How To Extract Easily Gold From The Waste

Research by scientists at the University of York has demonstrated an innovative way of using a gel to extract precious metals such as silver and gold from waste and convert them into conducting nanoparticles to form a hybrid nanomaterial potentially suitable for a range of high-tech applications.

Discarded electronic devices are an ever-increasing waste stream containing high-value precious metals such as silver and gold.  Making use of this resource was the inspiration for the research by a team from the Department of Chemistry at York. Professor David Smith and Babatunde Okesola, a PhD student supported by The Wild Fund, discovered that their self-assembling gels derived from sorbitol, a simple sugar, could selectively extract precious metals from complex mixtures of other metals typical of the electronics or mining industries.



On exposure to the gel, not only were the precious metals selectively extracted, but they were also then converted into conducting nanoparticles via an in situ chemical reduction process, caused by the nanofibres of the gel network.  These conducting nanoparticles become embedded in the gel giving it enhanced electrical conductance.

Babatunde Okesola said: “Importantly, gels have properties of both solids and liquids so these conducting gels are potentially ideal to bridge between the soft, wet world of biology and the hard, dry world of electronics.  Being able to ‘wire up’ this interface will be of increasing importance in future technologies.
Dr Smith added: “We hope to go on and test our gels using real-world electronic waste, and also explore the potential applications of the resulting materials at the interface between biology and electronics.


How To Interact With Virtual Reality

An interactive swarm of flying 3D pixels (voxels) developed at Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab (Canada) is set to revolutionize the way people interact with virtual reality. The system, called BitDrones, allows users to explore virtual 3D information by interacting with physical self-levitating building blocks.

Queen’s professor Roel Vertegaal and his students have unveiled the BitDrones system  at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in Charlotte, North Carolina. BitDrones is the first step towards creating interactive self-levitating programmable mattermaterials capable of changing their 3D shape in a programmable fashion – using swarms of nano quadcopters. The work highlights many possible applications for the new technology, including real-reality 3D modeling, gaming, molecular modeling, medical imaging, robotics and online information visualization.

interact with virtual realityCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

BitDrones brings flying programmable matter, such as featured in the futuristic Disney movie Big Hero 6, closer to reality,” says Dr. Vertegaal. “It is a first step towards allowing people to interact with virtual 3D objects as real physical objects.

Dr. Vertegaal and his team at the Human Media Lab created three types of BitDrones, each representing self-levitating displays of distinct resolutions. “PixelDrones” are equipped with one LED and a small dot matrix display. “ShapeDrones” are augmented with a light-weight mesh and a 3D printed geometric frame, and serve as building blocks for complex 3D models. “DisplayDrones” are fitted with a curved flexible high resolution touchscreen, a forward-facing video camera and Android smartphone board.  All three BitDrone types are equipped with reflective markers, allowing them to be individually tracked and positioned in real time via motion capture technology. The system also tracks the user’s hand motion and touch, allowing users to manipulate the voxels in space.

We call this a Real Reality interface rather than a Virtual Reality interface. This is what distinguishes it from technologies such as Microsoft HoloLens and the Oculus Rift: you can actually touch these pixels, and see them without a headset,” says Dr. Vertegaal.


Infrared Vision Using Graphene Makes Man Superior To Predator

Movies such as 1987’s “Predator,” in which an alien who sees in the infrared hunts down Arnold Schwarzenegger and his team, introduced a generation of sci-fi fans to thermal imaging. Since then, heat-sensing devices have found many real-word applications but have remained relatively expensive and rigid. But a new development featuring graphene, reported in ACS’ journal Nano Letters, could lead to a flexible, transparent and low-cost infrared vision system.


The concept of humans — or aliens — having the power to see in the infrared to help fight enemies in the dark has been around for decades. Technology has allowed real-life military, police, firefighters and others to do their jobs successfully at night and in smoky conditions. It also helps manufacturers and building inspectors identify overheating equipment or circuits. But currently, many of these systems require cryogenic cooling to filter out background radiation, or “noise,” and create a reliable image. This approach, however, complicates the design of these imaging devices, and adds to the cost and the unit’s bulkiness. Tomás Palacios, Pablo Jarillo-Herrero and colleagues wanted to find a more practical solution.

The researchers integrated graphene with silicon microelectromechanical systems (known as MEMS) to make their device. Testing showed it could be used to detect a person’s heat signature at room temperature without cryogenic cooling. In the future, advances could make the device even more versatile. The researchers say that a thermal sensor could be based on a single layer of graphene, which would make it transparent and flexible. Also, manufacturing could be simplified, which would bring costs down.


Genetically Engineered Cells Save Baby From Leukaemia

A baby girl with aggressive leukaemia has become the first in the world to be treated with designer immune cells that were genetically engineered to wipe out her cancer. The one-year-old, Layla Richards, was given months to live after conventional treatments failed to eradicate the disease, but she is now cancer free and doing well, a response one doctor described as “almost a miracle”. Specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London treated the girl two months ago and stressed that it could be more than a year before they know for sure whether the therapy has cured the disease, or simply delayed its progression.


We have only used this treatment on one very strong little girl, and we have to be cautious about claiming this will be a suitable treatment option for all children,” said Waseem Qasim, professor of cell and gene therapy at University College London’s (UCL) Institute of Child Health, and a consultant immunologist at GOSH. “But this is a landmark in the use of new gene engineering technology and the effects for this child have been staggering,” he said.


3D Printed Hair

3-D printers typically produce hard plastic objects, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) have found a way to produce hair-like strands, fibers and bristles using a common, low-cost printer. The technique for producing 3-D-printed hair is similar to — and inspired by — the way that gossamer plastic strands are extruded when a person uses a hot glue gun.

3D printed hair

You just squirt a little bit of material and pull away,” said Gierad Laput, a Ph.D. student in Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII). “It’s a very simple idea, really.” The plastic hair is produced strand by strand, so the process isn’t fast — it takes about 20-25 minutes to generate hair on 10 square millimeters. But it requires no special hardware, just a set of parameters that can be added to a 3-D print job.

The resulting hair can be cut, curled with hot air, or braided. Dense, close-cropped strands can form a brush.

The researchers developed their technique using a fused deposition modeling (FDM) printer. FDM printers are inexpensive; the one Laput and his colleagues use cost $300.


DNA Nano Machine Walks Through The Body To Detect Cancer

Researchers at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin have developed a nanoscale machine made of DNA that can randomly walk in any direction across bumpy surfaces. Future applications of such a DNA walker might include a cancer detector that could roam the human body searching for cancerous cells and tagging them for medical imaging or drug targeting.

The study by researchers Cheulhee Jung, Peter B. Allen and Andrew Ellington, published this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, developed DNA machines that were able to walk, unprogrammed and in different directions, over a DNA-coated surface. Previously, nanoparticle walkers were only able to walk on precise and programmed one- and two-dimensional paths. This walker was able to move 36 steps, and its movement in a random fashion is different from movement seen in other studies.

dna walker green

This is an important step forward in developing nanoscale nucleic acid machines that can autonomously act under a variety of conditions, including in the body,” said Ellington, professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences and member of the UT Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology. “DNA nanotechnology is especially interesting because it explores the world of ‘matter computers,’ where computations (including walking) are carried out by physical objects, rather than by electronic or magnetic shuttles. DNA walkers may eventually allow protective cells to walk the surface of organs, constantly computing whether a cancer is present.”

More immediate practical applications may include deploying the DNA walker in the body so that it can amplify signals from cancer cells to make them more easily identified and targeted by doctors. There also may be implications for future delivery of nanoscale therapeutics.

Although it may be a long march from diagnosing cancer to curing it, “All breakthroughs begin with baby steps. Only in this case, they are the steps of a DNA walker,” said co-author Jung.


Arrhythmia: How To Prevent Heart Attack

A new nanoparticle developed by University of Michigan researchers could be the key to a targeted therapy for cardiac arrhythmia, a condition that causes the heart to beat erratically and can lead to heart attack and stroke. The disease affects more than 4 million Americans and causes more than 750,000 hospitalizations and 130,000 deaths per year in the U.S. alone.

The new treatment uses nanotechnology to precisely target and destroy the cells within the heart that cause cardiac arrhythmia. In studies conducted on rodents and sheep, the U-M team found that the treatment successfully kills the cells that cause cardiac arrhythmia while leaving surrounding cells unharmed. Cardiac arrhythmia is caused by malfunctions in a certain type of heart muscle cell, which normally helps regulate the heartbeat. Today, the disease is usually treated with drugs, which can have serious side effects. It can also be treated with a procedure called cardiac ablation that burns away the malfunctioning cells using a high-powered laser that’s threaded into the heart on a catheter. The laser also damages surrounding cells, which can cause artery damage and other serious problems.

The U-M team, led by Dr. Jérôme Kalifa, a cardiologist and assistant professor of internal medicine, and Raoul Kopelman, Professor of Chemistry, set out to target and destroy the cells with a far more precise technique that uses low-level red light illumination instead of a high-power laser. Widely used today to treat cancer, the technique requires doctors to mark unwanted cells with a chemical that makes them sensitive to low-level red light. The red light then destroys the marked cells while leaving surrounding tissue unharmed.

cardiologyMicroscopy photos show a cardiac myocyte cell (top) and an attached fibroblast cell (bottom) in a rat heart, after the injection of the newly developed nanoparticle. In the second frame, red light has been applied. The red coloring indicates that the myocyte, which causes cardiac arrhythmia, has been killed, while the fibroblast remains unharmed.

The great thing about this treatment is that it’s precise down to the level of individual cells,” Kopelman said. “Drugs spread all over the body and high-power lasers char the tissue in the heart. This treatment is much easier and much safer.”

The findings are detailed in a new study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.


Nanoparticles Activated By Solar Energy Boil Water

Young researchers created a superconducting heat ink that functions as a solar heater. It heats water up to 68 degrees Celsius and is 40 percent cheaper than commercial inks.

hot shower 2

A pipe exposed to the sun reaches a temperature of 40 C°, if we add the superconducting ink the temperature increases 70 percent and reaches 68 C°,” says Sandra Casillas Bolaños, master at the Technological Institute of the Lagoon (ITL), in north of Mexico, and head of the project.

She explains that the ink acts as a boiler that contains nanoparticles activated by solar energy and increasing the temperature.


The ink is made of two layers, the first is an internal magnetic titanium nanoparticle, which is responsible for trapping the heat and the second is external and consists of a coating of tungsten (filament in light bulbs) which researchers transform into a nano salt and adhere with polyvinyl alcohol, to finish with a layer of copper.

Casillas Bolaños states that by a treatment called burnishing copper blackens in order that trap and retain heat inside the particles. “Thus the center is heated more intensely: first the titanium, then tungsten and finally the copper“.

The project has been developed for two years and the product is classified as an ink because it uses a series of solvents making it fast drying and with an odor similar to hair dye. The ink is applied on the surface of a conventional pipe that carries water and to potentiate the heat, students working on the project with professor Casillas Bolaños in the nonmetallic materials field, put two layers of PET bottles over the tubes in order to create a greenhouse effect and raise the temperature faster, as well as protect the ink from outdoor wear.

The technology has been implemented in some houses, where, by flowing for five meters water at 68 C° is obtained instantly, and even in cloudy weather the ink nicely captures the heat. Sandra Casillas adds that the ink was implemented in a major sports complex of the city to heat the pool, where two million cubic meters of water are heated from 26 to 37 C°. To achieve this, the researcher and her team placed tubes covered with ink on the edge of the indoor pool and a pump pulls the liquid from seven o’clock until the sun sets. As it flows, the water is heated and reaches the ideal temperature.

The ink is in the process of patenting and is intended to be market at 600 pesos a liter (about 40 dollars); however, for house piping only 150 pesos (10 dollars) are invested because very little is needed, says Casillas Bolaños.


Restore Your Hair Growth

Inhibiting a family of enzymes inside hair follicles that are suspended in a resting state restores hair growth, a new study from researchers at Columbia University Medical Center has found.

In experiments with mouse and human hair follicles, Angela M. Christiano, PhD, and colleagues found that drugs that inhibit the Janus kinase (JAK) family of enzymes promote rapid and robust hair growth when applied to the skin.

The study raises the possibility that JAK inhibitors could be used to restore hair growth in forms of hair loss induced by male pattern baldness, and other types of hair loss that occur when hair follicles are trapped in a resting state.  Two JAK inhibitors have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. One is approved for treatment of blood diseases (ruxolitinib) and the other for rheumatoid arthritis (tofacitinib). Both are being tested in clinical trials for the treatment of plaque psoriasis and alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.


What we’ve found is promising, though we haven’t yet shown it’s a cure for pattern baldness,” said Dr. Christiano. “More work needs to be done to test if JAK inhibitors can induce hair growth in humans using formulations specially made for the scalp.”
Christiano and her colleagues serendipitously discovered the effect of JAK inhibitors have on hair follicles when they were studying alopecia areata, a form of hair loss that’s caused by an autoimmune attack on the hair follicles. Christiano and colleagues reported last year that JAK inhibitors shut off the signal that provokes the autoimmune attack, and that oral forms of the drug restore hair growth in some people with the disorder.

The research was published today in the online edition of Science Advances.


Biodegradable Implants Heal Broken Bones

A plastic derived from cornstarch combined with a volcanic ash compound, Montmorillonite clay, could help heal the bones of hundreds of thousands of patients with orthopedic injuries who need bone replacement after tumor removal, spinal fusion surgery or fracture repair.
Using a synthetic material will likely lead to a reduction in the surgery complication rate. The patient will only need to heal from one surgery because harvesting bone would not be necessary.Researchers at Beaumont Hospital – Royal Oak will publish their preclinical findings in the journal Nanomedicine. Kevin Baker, Ph.D., director, Beaumont Orthopaedic Research Laboratories, worked on the study with Rangaramanujam Kannan, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins, formerly with Wayne State University.
Traditional bone graft procedures require surgeons to remove bone from another part of the patient’s body to heal the affected area and encourage new bone growth. Harvesting a patient’s bone can result in complications at the harvest site. Some surgeons also use bone donated from cadavers. However, there is a limited supply of donor bones available.

The goal is to use the material without any additional permanent hardware placed in a patient’s body. Current procedures often require a metal or non-resorbable plastic implant because traditional bone grafts are not strong enough without the added support.


This improves outcomes for the patient because internal hardware can pose a challenge with respect to being a potential site for infection, and can complicate MRI and CT imaging tests. In addition, from the surgeon’s perspective, not having to worry about a large piece of metal or hard plastic in the area may make future procedures easier,” Baker says.

The biodegradable polymer, reinforced with Montmorillonite clay nanoparticles for strength, dissolves in the body within 18 months. As the material dissolves, new bone formation takes its place.


Stabilized Perovskite Solar Cells Clear the Way To The Market

UCLA professor Yang Yang, member of the California NanoSystems Institute, is a world-renowned innovator of solar cell technology whose team in recent years has developed next-generation solar cells constructed of perovskite, which has remarkable efficiency converting sunlight to electricity.

Despite this success, the delicate nature of perovskite — a very cheap, very light, flexible, organic-inorganic hybrid material — stalled further development toward its commercialized use. When exposed to air, perovskite cells broke down and disintegrated within a few hours to few days. The cells deteriorated even faster when also exposed to moisture, mainly due to the hydroscopic nature of the perovskite.

Now Yang’s team has conquered the primary difficulty of perovskite by protecting it between two layers of metal oxide. This is a significant advance toward stabilizing perovskite solar cells. Their new cell construction extends the cell’s effective life in air by more than 10 times, with only a marginal loss of efficiency converting sunlight to electricity.

perovskite solar panel

There has been much optimism about perovskite solar cell technology,” Meng said. In less than two years, the Yang team has advanced perovskite solar cell efficiency from less than 1 percent to close to 20 percent. “But its short lifespan was a limiting factor we have been trying to improve on since developing perovskite cells with high efficiency.”

The study was published online in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. Researchers Jingbi You and Lei Meng from the Yang Lab were the lead authors on the paper.


HIV New Treatment: Once per Year

Protease inhibitors are a class of antiviral drugs that are commonly used to treat HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Scientists at the University of Nebraska Medical Center designed a new delivery system for these drugs that, when coupled with a drug developed at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, rid immune cells of HIV and kept the virus in check for long periods. The results appear in the journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine.

While current HIV treatments involve pills that are taken daily, the new regimens’ long-lasting effects suggest that HIV treatment could be administered perhaps once or twice per year.

Nebraska researcher Howard E. Gendelman designed the investigational drug delivery system–a so-called “nanoformulated” protease inhibitor. The nanoformulation process takes a drug and makes it into a crystal, like an ice cube does to water.  Next, the crystal drug is placed into a fat and protein coat, similar to what is done in making a coated ice-cream bar.  The coating protects the drug from being degraded by the liver and removed by the kidney.

When tested together with URMC-099, a new drug discovered in the laboratory of UR scientist Harris A. (“Handy”) Gelbard M.D., Ph.D., the nanoformulated protease inhibitor completely eliminated measurable quantities of HIV. URMC-099 boosted the concentration of the nanoformulated drug in immune cells and slowed the rate at which it was eliminated, thereby prolonging its therapeutic effect.

HIV virus

The chemical marriage between URMC-099 and antiretroviral drug nanoformulations could increase drug longevity, improve patient compliance, and reduce general toxicities,” said Gendelman, lead study author and professor and chair of the Dept.  of Pharmacology and Neuroscience at Nebraska, who has collaborated with Gelbard for 24 years. “We are excited about pursing this research for the treatment and eradication of HIV infections.


New Cheap Catalyst To Produce Hydrogen From Water

Graphene doped with nitrogen and augmented with cobalt atoms has proven to be an effective, durable catalyst for the production of hydrogen from water, according to scientists at Rice University. The Rice lab of chemist James Tour and colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Houston have reported the development of a robust, solid-state catalyst that shows promise to replace expensive platinum for hydrogen generation.

Tucson fuel cell

Catalysts can split water into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen atoms, a process required for fuel cells. Hydrogen electric cars as the Tucson from Hyundai are powered by fuel cells.
The latest discovery, detailed in Nature Communications, is a significant step toward lower-cost catalysts for energy production, according to the researchers.

What’s unique about this paper is that we show not the use of metal particles, not the use of metal nanoparticles, but the use of atoms,” Tour said. “The particles doing this chemistry are as small as you can possibly get.
We’re getting away with very little cobalt to make a catalyst that nearly matches the best platinum catalysts.” In comparison tests, he said the new material nearly matched platinum’s efficiency to begin reacting at a low onset voltage, the amount of electricity it needs to begin separating water into hydrogen and oxygen.


How To Manipulate Light

Electrons are so 20th century. In the 21st century, photonic devices, which use light to transport large amounts of information quickly, will enhance or even replace the electronic devices that are ubiquitous in our lives today. But there’s a step needed before optical connections can be integrated into telecommunications systems and computers: researchers need to make it easier to manipulate light at the nanoscale.

Researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have done just that, designing the first on-chip metamaterial with a refractive index of zero, meaning that the phase of light can travel infinitely fast.

This new metamaterial was developed in the lab of Eric Mazur, the Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics and Area Dean for Applied Physics at SEAS, and is described in the journal Nature Photonics.

manipulated light

New zero-index material made of silicon pillar arrays embedded in a polymer matrix and clad in gold film creates a constant phase of light, which stretches out in infinitely long wavelengths

Light doesn’t typically like to be squeezed or manipulated but this metamaterial permits you to manipulate light from one chip to another, to squeeze, bend, twist and reduce diameter of a beam from the macroscale to the nanoscale,” said Mazur. “It’s a remarkable new way to manipulate light.”

Although this infinitely high velocity sounds like it breaks the rule of relativity, it doesn’t. Nothing in the universe travels faster than light carrying information — Einstein is still right about that. But light has another speed, measured by how fast the crests of a wavelength move, known as phase velocity. This speed of light increases or decreases depending on the material it’s moving through.

When light passes through water, for example, its phase velocity is reduced as its wavelengths get squished together. Once it exits the water, its phase velocity increases again as its wavelength elongates. How much the crests of a light wave slow down in a material is expressed as a ratio called the refraction index — the higher the index, the more the material interferes with the propagation of the wave crests of light. Water, for example, has a refraction index of about 1.3.

When the refraction index is reduced to zero, really weird and interesting things start to happen.


How To Move Ten Times Faster in Water

Scientists at the University College London (UCL) have identified a new and potentially faster way of moving molecules across the surfaces of certain materials.

The team carried out sophisticated computer simulations of tiny droplets of water as they interact with graphene surfaces. These simulations reveal that the molecules can “surf” across the surface whilst being carried by the moving ripples of graphene.

moving fast in water

The study, published in Nature Materials, demonstrates that because the molecules were swept along by the movement of strong ripples in the carbon fabric of graphene, they were able to move at an exceedingly fast rate, at least ten times faster than previously observed.

Furthermore, the researchers found that by altering the size of the ripples, and the type of molecules on the surface, they could achieve fast and controlled motion of molecules other than water. This opens up a range of possibilities for industrial applications such as improved sensors and filters.

graphene and water

Professor Angelos Michaelides, from the Thomas Young Centre and London Centre for Nanotechnology (LCN) at UCL, lead researcher of the study, explained: “Atoms and molecules usually move across materials by hopping from one point on their surface to the next. However, through computer simulations we have uncovered an interesting new diffusion mechanism for motion across graphene that is inherently different from the usual random movements we see on other surfaces.


3D Printing Applied To Nanotechnology = Revolution

It seems that the in the area of technology, the new age will belong a combination of nanotechnology and 3D printing, informed Professor Hari Kishan Sahajwani during a re-union meeting of 1966-68 batch of M.Sc.-physics of Kurukshetra University (India).
3D printing
Applying 3D printing concepts to nanotechnology are doing to revolutionize nanofabrication in terms of manufacturing speed, minimizing of waste and reduction of cost. In all kinds of human services, the manufacturing technologies will be dependent on the combination of nanotechnology and 3D printing,” said Sahjwani, who goes around the country to make presentations and delivering lectures on nanotechnology.

The UK scientists have developed nanoscale specks of semiconductor called ‘Quantum Dots‘ to restore vision lost due to damaged retinas. He added that this was indication how nanotechnology aided by 3D printing will bring new vistas in medical science and treatment of diseases.

quantum dotsQuantum dots are said to have the advantages that no external power source is needed for their functioning and can be coated with a bioactive material that causes them to become lodged in only specific tissues in the retina without any side effects.

He told that 3D-printing has been successfully used to generate replicas of bioimplants like living human cartilage and future seems be bright with advanced 3D printing techniques capable of creating nanoscale complex structures.

The efforts are on to develop the techniques for more precise and accurate 3D control of electro-spun nano-jets to take current nanofabrication technologies to a new height. With research and invention, sophisticated methods and precise methods to control the nano-jets will be able to realize rapid 3D printing usable for bioscaffolds and nanofilters to have inroads into all aspects of life, it is being felt.


Nanoscope Sees Images 100,000 Times Smaller Than A Human Hair

A microscope that produces images a hundred-thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair wasn’t quite enough for Dr David Dowsett. At the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), Dowsett and his team added a specially designed prototype spectrometer. They say their secondary ion mass spectrometer – or SIMS – analysis tool, is one of the most powerful in the world.

nanoscope list

A human hair is about 50 to 100 microns in diameter. The resolution of our microscope images is half a nanometer and the resolution of our SIMS images is about 10 nanometres. So, that’s about 100,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair“, says Dr. David Dowsett, Senior research & Technology Associate at the  Luxembourg Institute of  Science and  Technology (LIST). And it’s attracting interest from big business for it’s immense imaging and chemical mapping capabilities… including from cosmetic companies.  “So when they say ‘this is the science bit’ – that’s actually us. We’ve worked for a least one of the big pharmaceutical companies developing shampoo, so looking at whether the shampoo really penetrates into the hair,” he adds.
The precision tool’s impact could be huge for many industries, including the development of new semiconductors and Lithium ion batteries. It could also play a vital role in the the improvement and development of medicine.
We can follow where those nanoparticles have been uptaken into, for example, human cells. And also we can see whether or not a labelled drug is present within the cell, in the same place as the nanoparticle; so we can really start to test whether a delivery system is effective“, concludes Dowsett. Now he is working with his team on an improved version of the device and investigating possibilities to commercialise the development.


Powered by plants your phone is charged in 2 hours

It’s a common problem across the world. Too many smartphones and not enough electrical sockets to charge them. But thanks to three engineering students from Chile, charging your device may soon be as easy as plugging it into your favorite household plant. The idea sprouted back in 2009 during a chaotic exam week. Desperate to charge their devices, the students stepped outside to the school garden to catch a breath of fresh air and quell their frustrations. That’s when they realized that the plants producing the oxygen they were breathing also produce energy.

biocircuit_buried_in_the_soilCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO
After that, we thought, why don’t they have a socket? Because there are so many plants and living things which have the potential to produce energy, why not?” asks Evelyn Aravena,  electrical engineering and industrial automation student at  Duoc Institute in Valparaiso (Chile).

The trio began prototyping a device they call E-Kaia. It’s a biocircuit buried in the soil that harnesses energy produced by plants during photosynthesis and converts it into electricity. The team explains that the device feeds off the natural energy cycle of a plant.  “There is a complete cycle of the plant and when making this cycle, we decided to incorporate into it, then we would not affect the plant’s growth. And the biocircuit makes an acquisition and transforms it into energy to later make charges of low consumption“, adds Camila Rupchich, also student at Duoc Insitute.

The device can fully charge a smartphone in under two hours. The team is currently fine tuning the biocircuit with the hopes of launching it commercially in late 2016.

The Rise Of The NanoRobots

Nanomachines – including nano-sized motors, rockets and even cars – are many orders of magnitude smaller than a human cell, but they have huge promise. In the future, they could deliver drugs anywhere in the body, clean up oil spills and might even be used as artificial muscle cells. Find out more about these molecular machines (and the challenges that nanobot researchers still face) in Reactions’ latest video, produced in collaboration with the University of Nebraska‘s SciPop series.




How To Integrate Graphene To Produce Solar Cells

Binghamton University researchers have demonstrated an eco-friendly process that enables unprecedented spatial control over the electrical properties of graphene oxide. This two-dimensional nanomaterial has the potential to revolutionize flexible electronics, solar cells and biomedical instruments.

By using the probe of an atomic force microscope to trigger a local chemical reaction, Jeffrey Mativetsky, assistant professor of physics at Binghamton University, and PhD student Austin Faucett showed that electrically conductive features as small as four nanometers can be patterned into individual graphene oxide sheets. One nanometer is about one hundred thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair.

graphene solar cells
Our approach makes it possible to draw nanoscale electrically-conductive features in atomically-thin insulating sheets with the highest spatial control reported so far,” said Mativetsky. “Unlike standard methods for manipulating the properties of graphene oxide, our process can be implemented under ambient conditions and is environmentally-benign, making it a promising step towards the practical integration of graphene oxide into future technologies.


The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for the discovery of graphene, an atomically-thin, two-dimensional carbon lattice with extraordinary electrical, thermal and mechanical properties. Graphene oxide is a closely-related two-dimensional material with certain advantages over graphene, including simple production and processing, and highly tunable properties. For example, by removing some of the oxygen from graphene oxide, the electrically insulating material can be rendered conductive, opening up prospects for use in flexible electronics, sensors, solar cells and biomedical devices.


Solar Roads Power Houses, Lights, Vehicles

For the first time ever, roads can produce electricity, while preserving their full capacity to bear vehicle traffic. The french company Colas, a world leader in transport infrastructure, in a partnership with the Institut national de l’énergie solaire (Ines), has developed Wattway, a new concept of photovoltaic road surfacing that is now market-ready. This innovation is a major technological breakthrough, a building block for cutting-edge projects involving intelligent roads and Smart Cities.

solar road
Extra thin and extremely sturdy, Wattway photovoltaic panels provide excellent grip and durable performance. They are directly applied to existing roads, highways, bike paths, parking areas, etc., without any civil engineering work and can safely bear vehicle traffic of all types, while producing electricity


To supply an average single home (not including heating), only 20 m² of Wattway are needed.

With 1km-long section of Wattway panels, it is possible to power the street lights for a town of 5,000 inhabitants, said Colas. The system is also seen as a first step in creating ‘intelligent roads’ that can manage traffic, gather maintenance information and even charge electric vehicles.

The photovoltaic road surfacing concept is said to be the first of its kind in the world. Wattway panels comprise photovoltaic cells embedded in a multilayer substrate. These cells collect solar energy via a very thin film of polycrystalline silicon that enables the production of electricity. On the underside of the panels, there is a connection to a lateral module containing the electrical safety components.

Wattway is able to provide power to street lights, signs, tramways, as well as housing, offices and so on, said the company.

Protected by two patents, the cutting-edge technique is a major breakthrough, as it provides the road with a new function: producing clean, renewable energy locally, in addition to a road’s conventional use.


Electron Super Highway

TV screens that roll up. Roofing tiles that double as solar panels. Sun-powered cell phone chargers woven into the fabric of backpacks. A new generation of organic semiconductors may allow these kinds of flexible electronics to be manufactured at low cost, says University of Vermont physicist and materials scientist Madalina Furis. But the basic science of how to get electrons to move quickly and easily in these organic materials remains murky. To help, Furis and a team of UVM materials scientists have invented a new way to create what they are calling “an electron superhighway” in one of these materials — a low-cost blue dye called phthalocyanine — that promises to allow electrons to flow faster and farther in organic semiconductors.

Their discovery, reported Sept. 14 in the journal Nature Communications, will aid in the hunt for alternatives to traditional silicon-based electronics.


Many of these types of flexible electronic devices will rely on thin films of organic materials that catch sunlight and convert the light into electric current using excited states in the material called “excitons.” Roughly speaking, an exciton is a displaced electron bound together with the hole it left behind. Increasing the distance these excitons can diffuse — before they reach a juncture where they’re broken apart to produce electrical current — is essential to improving the efficiency of organic semiconductors.

Using a new imaging technique, the UVM team was able to observe nanoscale defects and boundaries in the crystal grains in the thin films of phthalocyanine roadblocks in the electron highway.We have discovered that we have hills that electrons have to go over and potholes that they need to avoid,” Furis explains.

To find these defects, the UVM team — with support from the National Science Foundation — built a scanning laser microscope, “as big as a table” Furis says.

Marrying these two techniques together is new; it’s never been reported anywhere,” says Lane Manning ’08 a doctoral student in Furis’ lab and co-author on the new study. The scientists have now a deeper understanding of how the arrangement of molecules and the boundaries in the crystals influence the movement of excitons. It’s these boundaries that form a “barrier for exciton diffusion,” the team writes.


Electronic Tatoo On The Skin Monitors Vital Signals

A team of researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin has invented a method for producing inexpensive and high-performing wearable patches that can continuously monitor the body’s vital signs for human health and performance tracking, potentially outperforming traditional monitoring tools such as cardiac event monitors. Led by Assistant Professor Nanshu Lu, the team’s manufacturing method aims to construct disposable tattoo-like health monitoring patches for the mass production of epidermal electronics, a popular technology that Lu helped develop in 2011.

The team’s breakthrough is a repeatable “cut-and-paste” method that cuts manufacturing time from several days to only 20 minutes. The researchers believe their new method is compatible with roll-to-roll manufacturing — an existing method for creating devices in bulk using a roll of flexible plastic and a processing machine.

Reliable, ultrathin wearable electronic devices that stick to the skin like a temporary tattoo are a relatively new innovation. These devices have the ability to pick up and transmit the human body’s vital signals, tracking heart rate, hydration level, muscle movement, temperature and brain activity. Although it is a promising invention, a lengthy, tedious and costly production process has until now hampered these wearables’ potential.

epidermal electronics

One of the most attractive aspects of epidermal electronics is their ability to be disposable,” Lu said. “If you can make them inexpensively, say for $1, then more people will be able to use them more frequently. This will open the door for a number of mobile medical applications and beyond.”

The UT Austin method is the first dry and portable process for producing these electronics, which, unlike the current method, does not require a clean room, wafers and other expensive resources and equipment. Instead, the technique relies on freeform manufacturing, which is similar in scope to 3-D printing but different in that material is removed instead of added.

The researchers published a paper on their patent-pending process in Advanced Materials.


How To Repair Nerve Tissue Injuries

Regenerative medicine using stem cells is an increasingly promising approach to treat many types of injury. Transplanted stem cells can differentiate into just about any other kind of cell, including neurons to potentially reconnect a severed spinal cord and repair paralysis.

A variety of agents have been shown to induce transplanted stem cells to differentiate into neurons.  Tufts University biomedical engineers recently published the first report of a promising new way to induce human mesenchymal stem cells (or hMSCs, which are derived from bone marrow) to differentiate into neuron-like cells:  treating them with exosomes.

exosome2Exosomes are very small, hollow particles that are secreted from many types of cells. They contain functional proteins and genetic materials and serve as a vehicle for communication between cells. In the nervous system, exosomes guide the direction of nerve growth, control nerve connection and help regenerate peripheral nerves.

In a series of experiments reported in PLOS ONE in August, the Tufts researchers showed that exosomes from PC12 cells (neuron-like progenitor cells derived from rats) at various stages of their own differentiation could, in turn, cause hMSCs to become neuron-like cells. Exosomes had not previously been studied as a way to induce human stem cell differentiation.

The biomedical engineers also showed that the exosomes contain miRNAs—tiny pieces of RNA that regulate cell behavior and are known to play a role in neuronal differentiation. The researchers hypothesize that the exosomes caused the hMSCs to differentiate by delivering miRNA into the stem cells. The researchers plan future studies to determine the exact mechanism.

“In combination with synthetic nanoparticles that my laboratory is developing, we may ultimately be able to use these identified miRNAs or proteins to make synthetic exosomes, thereby avoiding the need to use any kind of neural progenitor cell line to induce neuron growth,” said the paper’s senior and corresponding author Qiaobing Xu, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Tufts School of Engineering.


Candle Soot Powers Lithium Ion Battery

A new study reveals that carbon from candle soot could be used to power the kind of lithium ion battery in plug-in hybrid electric cars. Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology in Hyderabad, India claim that their findings could open up possibilities for using carbon in more powerful batteries, which could drive down the costs of portable power.

Lithium ion batteries are used to power a wide range of devices, including smartphones, digital cameras, electric cars and even aircraft. The batteries produce current through two electrically charged materials suspended in a liquid. Carbon, while used as one of the materials in smaller batteries, is considered unsuitable for bigger and more powerful batteries because of its structure, which cannot produce the required current density.

In the new study, published in the journal Electrochimica Acta, the researchers found that because of the shape and configuration of the tiny carbon nanoparticles, the carbon in candle soot could be used in bigger batteries. The team also said that their research introduces a more scalable approach to making batteries because the soot could be produced quickly and easily.


If you put water droplet on candle soot it rolls off – that’s an observation that’s been made in the last few years. The material candle soot is made of, carbon, also has electric potential. So why not use it as an electrode? We looked into it and saw it also shows some exceptional electrochemical properties, so we decided to test it further,” said Dr Chandra Sharma, one of the study’s authors.

Using a technique called cyclic charge-discharge, or CCD, the researchers analysed the effectiveness of soot as a conducting material to use in a battery. The technique shows how powerful the battery is based on the rate of charge or discharge: the higher the rate, the more powerful the battery. According to the study’s results, the candle soot carbon performed better at higher rates.

Sharma said the technology is not only efficient and cost-effective but also scalable, which could make battery production cheaper. One hybrid car would need approximately 10 kilograms of carbon soot, which would be deposited in about an hour using candles, Sharma explained.


Energy From Trees Can Power Everything

Researchers Emily Cranston and Igor Zhitomirsky from the Faculty of Engineering at McMaster University (Canada)  are turning trees into energy storage devices capable of powering everything from a smart watch to a hybrid car.

The scientists are using cellulose, an organic compound found in plants, bacteria, algae and trees, to build more efficient and longer-lasting energy storage devices or capacitors. This development paves the way toward the production of lightweight, flexible, and high-power electronics, such as wearable devices, portable power supplies and hybrid and electric vehicles.

treesUltimately the goal of this research is to find ways to power current and future technology with efficiency and in a sustainable way,” says Cranston, whose joint research was recently published in Advanced Materials.This means anticipating future technology needs and relying on materials that are more environmentally friendly and not based on depleting resources“.

Cellulose offers the advantages of high strength and flexibility for many advanced applications; of particular interest are nanocellulose-based materials. The work by Cranston, an assistant chemical engineering professor, and Zhitomirsky, a materials science and engineering professor, demonstrates an improved three-dimensional energy storage device constructed by trapping functional nanoparticles within the walls of a nanocellulose foam.


How Nanoparticles Can Repair Damaged Teeth

Researchers at the University of Birmingham have shown how the development of coated silica nanoparticles could be used in restorative treatment of sensitive teeth and preventing the onset of tooth decay.

The study, led by Professor Damien Walmsley, from the School of Dentistry at the University of Birmingham (UK), has been published in the Journal of Dentistry, and shows how sub-micron silica particles can be prepared to deliver important compounds into damaged teeth through tubules in the dentine. The tiny particles can be bound to compounds ranging from calcium tooth building materials to antimicrobials that prevent infection.


The dentine of our teeth have numerous microscopic holes, which are the entrances to tubules that run through to the nerve. When your outer enamel is breached, the exposure of these tubules is really noticeable. If you drink something cold, you can feel the sensitivity in your teeth because these tubules run directly through to the nerve and the soft tissue of the tooth”, explains Damien Walmsley.

Our plan was to use target those same tubules with a multifunctional agent that can help repair and restore the tooth, while protecting it against further infection that could penetrate the pulp and cause irreversible damage.”

The aim of restorative agents is to increase the mineral content of both the enamel and dentine, with the particles acting like seeds for further growth that would close the tubules.



Mention the word ‘teleportation’ and for many people it conjures up “Beam me up, Scottie” images of Captain James T Kirk.
teleportation2But in the last two decades quantum teleportation – transferring the quantum structure of an object from one place to another without physical transmission — has moved from the realms of Star Trek fantasy to tangible reality.

Quantum teleportation is an important building block for quantum computing, quantum communication and quantum network and, eventually, a quantum Internet. While theoretical proposals for a quantum Internet already exist, the problem for scientists is that there is still debate over which of various technologies provides the most efficient and reliable teleportation system. This is the dilemma which an international team of researchers, led by Dr Stefano Pirandola of the Department of Computer Science at the University of York (UK), set out to resolve.

In a paper published in Nature Photonics, the team, which included scientists from the Freie Universität Berlin and the Universities of Tokyo and Toronto, reviewed the theoretical ideas around quantum teleportation focusing on the main experimental approaches and their attendant advantages and disadvantages. None of the technologies alone provide a perfect solution, so the scientists concluded that a hybridisation of the various protocols and underlying structures would offer the most fruitful approach.

For instance, systems using photonic qubits work over distances up to 143 kilometres, but they are probabilistic in that only 50 per cent of the information can be transported. To resolve this, such photon systems may be used in conjunction with continuous variable systems, which are 100 per cent effective but currently limited to short distances.

Most importantly, teleportation-based optical communication needs an interface with suitable matter-based quantum memories where quantum information can be stored and further processed.

Dr Pirandola, who is also a member of the York Centre for Quantum Technologies, said: “We don’t have an ideal or universal technology for quantum teleportation. The field has developed a lot but we seem to need to rely on a hybrid approach to get the best from each available technology.


The use of quantum teleportation as a building block for a quantum network depends on its integration with quantum memories. The development of good quantum memories would allow us to build quantum repeaters, therefore extending the range of teleportation. They would also give us the ability to store and process the transmitted quantum information at local quantum computers.
“This could ultimately form the backbone of a quantum Internet. The revised hybrid architecture will likely rely on teleportation-based long-distance quantum optical communication, interfaced with solid state devices for quantum information processing.


Ultra-Fast Cheap Diagnosis At Home For Cancer And Many Diseases

Chemists at the University of Montreal used DNA molecules to developed rapid, inexpensive medical diagnostic tests that take only a few minutes to perform. Their findings, which will has been published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, may aid efforts to build point-of-care devices for quick medical diagnosis of various diseases ranging from cancer, allergies, autoimmune diseases, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and many others.

The new technology may also drastically impact global health, due to its potential low cost and easiness of use, according to the research team. The rapid and easy-to-use diagnostic tests are made of DNA and use one of the simplest force in chemistry, steric effects – a repulsion force that arises when atoms are brought too close together – to detect a wide array of protein markers that are linked to various diseases.

The design was created by the research group of Alexis Vallée-Bélisle, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at University of Montreal.

molecular diagnosis

Despite the power of current diagnostic tests, a significant limitation is that they still require complex laboratory procedures. Patients typically must wait for days or even weeks to receive the results of their blood tests,” Vallée-Bélisle said. “The blood sample has to be transported to a centralized lab, its content analyzed by trained personnel, and the results sent back to the doctor’s office. If we can move testing to the point of care, or even at home, it would eliminates the lag time between testing and treatment, which would enhance the effectiveness of medical interventions.

The key breakthrough underlying this new technology came by chance. “While working on the first generation of these DNA-base tests, we realized that proteins, despite their small size (typically 1000 times smaller than a human hair) are big enough to run into each other and create steric effect (or traffic) at the surface of a sensor, which drastically reduced the signal of our tests,” said Sahar Mahshid, postdoctoral scholar at the University of Montreal and first author of the study. “Instead of having to fight this basic repulsion effect, we instead decided to embrace this force and build a novel signaling mechanism, which detects steric effects when a protein marker binds to the DNA test.



A Phone So Smart, It Sniffs Out Cancer

Scientists have been exploring new ways to “smell” signs of cancer by analyzing what’s in patients’ breath. Funded by a grant from the European Commission, the SNIFFPHONE project will link Prof. Haick’s from Technion Israel acclaimed breathalyzer screening technology to the smartphone to provide non-invasive, fast and cheap disease detection. It will work by using micro- and nano-sensors that read exhaled breath and then transfer the information through the attached mobile phone to an information-processing system for interpretation. The data is then assessed and disease diagnosis and other details are ascertained. In ACS‘ journal Nano Letters, the team now reports new progress toward this goal. The researchers have developed a small array of flexible sensors, which accurately detect compounds in breath samples that are specific to ovarian cancer.

Nano sensor to detect cancer

Diagnosing cancer today usually involves various imaging techniques, examining tissue samples under a microscope, or testing cells for proteins or genetic material. In search of safer and less invasive ways to tell if someone has cancer, scientists have recently started analyzing breath and defining specific profiles of compounds in breath samples. But translating these exhaled disease fingerprints into a meaningful diagnosis has required a large number of sensors, which makes them impractical for clinical use. Hossam Haick and colleagues sought to address this problem.

The researchers developed a small, breath-diagnostic array based on flexible gold-nanoparticle sensors for use in an “electronic nose.” The system — tested on breath samples from 43 volunteers, 17 of whom had ovarian cancer — showed an accuracy rate of 82 percent. This approach could also apply to diagnostics for other diseases.


How To Spray Solar Cells

A new study out of St. Mary’s College of Maryland puts us closer to do-it-yourself spray-on solar cell technology—promising third-generation solar cells utilizing a nanocrystal ink deposition that could make traditional expensive silicon-based solar panels a thing of the past.

In a 2014 study, published in the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, St. Mary’s College of Maryland energy expert Professor Troy Townsend introduced the first fully solution-processed all-inorganic photovoltaic technology.

spray-on solar cells
While progress on organic thin-film photovoltaics is rapidly growing, inorganic devices still hold the record for highest efficiencies which is in part due to their broad spectral absorption and excellent electronic properties. Considering the recorded higher efficiencies and lower cost per watt compared to organic devices, combined with the enhanced thermal and photo stability of bulk-scale inorganic materials, Townsend, in his 2014 study, focused on an all-inorganic based structure for fabrication of a top to bottom fully solution-based solar cell.

A major disadvantage compared to organics, however, is that inorganic materials are difficult to deposit from solution. To overcome this, Townsend synthesized materials on the nanoscale. Inorganic nanocrystals encased in an organic ligand shell are soluble in organic solvents and can be deposited from solution (i.e., spin-, dip-, spray-coat) whereas traditional inorganic materials require a high temperature vacuum chamber. The solar devices are fabricated from nanoscale particle inks of the light absorbing layers, cadmium telluride/cadmium selenide, and metallic inks above and below. This way, the entire electronic device can be built on non-conductive glass substrates using equipment you can find in your kitchen.

When you spray on these nanocrystals, you have to heat them to make them work,” explained Townsend, “but you can’t just heat the crystals by themselves, you have to add a sintering agent and that, for the last 40 years, has been cadmium chloride, a toxic salt used in commercial thin-film devices. No one has tested non-toxic alternatives for nanoscale ink devices, and we wanted to explore the mechanism of the sintering process to be able to implement safer salts.”


Blindness Cure From Stem Cells

The first patient has been treated in Britain in a pioneering trial of a new treatment co-developed by Pfizer and derived from embryonic stem cells designed for patients with a condition that can cause blindness. Specialists at London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital said the operation, described as “successful”, was the first of 10 planned for participants in a trial of the treatment for a disease called ‘wetage-related macular degeneration (AMD). The trial will test the safety and efficacy of transplanting eye cells known as retinal pigment epithelium, which have been derived from embryonic stem cells.

eye2Stem cells are the body’s master cells, the source of all other cells. Scientists who support the use of embryonic stem cells say they could transform medicine, providing treatments for blindness, juvenile diabetes or severe injuries. But critics object to them because they are harvested from human embryos.

This trial involves surgeons inserting a specially engineered patch behind the retina to deliver the treatment cells to replace diseased cells at the back of the eye. The first surgery was successfully performed on a patient last month, Moorfields said in a statement on Tuesday, and “there have been no complications to date“.

The patient wishes to remain anonymous, but the team hope to determine her outcome in terms of initial visual recovery by early December,” it added.

Retinal surgeon Lyndon Da Cruz, who is performing the operations, said he hoped many patients “will benefit in the future from transplantation of these cells.”

Macular degeneration accounts for almost 50 percent of all cases of blindness or vision loss in the developed world. It usually affects people over 50 and comes in two forms, wet and dry. Wet AMD, which is less common than dry AMD, is generally caused by abnormal blood vessels that leak fluid or blood into a region in center of the retina.


Ocean: NanoMotors Remove Ninety Percent Of The Carbon Dioxide

Machines that are much smaller than the width of a human hair could one day help clean up carbon dioxide pollution in the oceans. Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego have designed enzyme-functionalized micromotors that rapidly zoom around in water, remove carbon dioxide and convert it into a usable solid form. The proof of concept study represents a promising route to mitigate the buildup of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas in the environment, said researchers.

nanomotorsNanoengineers have invented tiny tube-shaped micromotors that zoom around in water and efficiently remove carbon dioxide. The surfaces of the micromotors are functionalized with the enzyme carbonic anhydrase, which enables the motors to help rapidly convert carbon dioxide to calcium carbonate

We’re excited about the possibility of using these micromotors to combat ocean acidification and global warming,” said Virendra V. Singh, a postdoctoral scientist in Wang’s research group and a co-first author of this study. In their experiments, nanoengineers demonstrated that the micromotors rapidly decarbonated water solutions that were saturated with carbon dioxide. Within five minutes, the micromotors removed 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from a solution of deionized water. The micromotors were just as effective in a sea water solution and removed 88 percent of the carbon dioxide in the same timeframe.

In the future, we could potentially use these micromotors as part of a water treatment system, like a water decarbonation plant,” said Kevin Kaufmann, an undergraduate researcher in Wang’s lab and a co-author of the study.

The team, led by nanoengineering professor Joseph Wang, has published the work this month in the journal Angewandte Chemie.


“Chewing gum” Material 3 Times Stronger Than Steel

Creating futuristic, next generation materials called ‘metallic glass’ that are ultra-strong and ultra-flexible will become easier and cheaper, based on UNSW Australia research that can predict for the first time which combinations of metals will best form these useful materials.

Just like something from science fiction – think of the Liquid-Metal robot assassin in the Terminator films – these materials behave more like glass or plastic than metal.

While still being metals, they become as malleable as chewing gum when heated and can be easily moulded or blown like glass. They are also three times stronger and harder than ordinary metals, on average, and are among the toughest materials known.


liquid_terminatorThe Terminator‘s Liquid Metal Man: While still being metals, they become as malleable as chewing gum when heated and can be easily moulded or blown like glass.

They have been described as the most significant development in materials science since the discovery of plastics more than 50 years ago,” says study author, UNSW’s Dr Kevin Laws.

Most metals are crystalline when solid, with their atoms arranged in a highly organised and regular manner. Metallic glass alloys, however, have a highly disordered structure, with the atoms arranged in a non-regular way.


How To Trap Greenhouse Gases

Emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, petroleum and natural gas tend to collect within Earth’s atmosphere as “greenhouse gases” that are blamed for escalating global warming.

So researchers around the globe are on a quest for materials capable of capturing and storing greenhouse gases. This shared goal led researchers at Technische Universität Darmstadt in Germany and the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur to team up to explore the feasibility of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes (VACNTs) to trap and store two greenhouse gases in particular: carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). As the team reports in The Journal of Chemical Physics, from AIP Publishing, they discovered that gas adsorption in VACNTs can be influenced by adjusting the morphological parameters of the carbon nanotube thickness, the distance between nanotubes, and their height.

Carbon nanotubes against greenhouse gases
Snapshots of CO2 adsorption in double-walled carbon nanotube arrays (with an inner tube diameter of 2r=3 nanometers and various inter-tube distance at T=303 K and p=1 bar)


These parameters are fundamental for ‘tuning’ the hierarchical pore structure of the VACNTs,” explained Mahshid Rahimi and Deepu Babu, the paper’s lead authors and doctoral students in theoretical physical chemistry and inorganic chemistry at the Technische Universität Darmstadt. “This hierarchy effect is a crucial factor for getting high-adsorption capacities as well as mass transport into the nanostructure. Surprisingly, from theory and by experiment, we found that the distance between nanotubes plays a much larger role in gas adsorption than the tube diameter does.


Electronic Circuits Mimic The Human Brain

Researchers of the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology and the CTIT Institute for ICT Research at the University of Twente in The Netherlands have demonstrated working electronic circuits that have been produced in a radically new way, using methods that resemble Darwinian evolution. The size of these circuits is comparable to the size of their conventional counterparts, but they are much closer to natural networks like the human brain. The findings promise a new generation of powerful, energy-efficient electronics, and have been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. The approach of the researchers at the University of Twente is based on methods that resemble those found in Nature. They have used networks of gold nanoparticles for the execution of essential computational tasks. Contrary to conventional electronics, they have moved away from designed circuits. By using ‘designless‘ systems, costly design mistakes are avoided. The computational power of their networks is enabled by applying artificial evolution. This evolution takes less than an hour, rather than millions of years. By applying electrical signals, one and the same network can be configured into 16 different logical gates. The evolutionary approach works around – or can even take advantage of – possible material defects that can be fatal in conventional electronics.

One of the greatest successes of the 20th century has been the development of digital computers. During the last decades these computers have become more and more powerful by integrating ever smaller components on silicon chips. However, it is becoming increasingly hard and extremely expensive to continue this miniaturisation. Current transistors consist of only a handful of atoms. It is a major challenge to produce chips in which the millions of transistors have the same characteristics, and thus to make the chips operate properly. Another drawback is that their energy consumption is reaching unacceptable levels. It is obvious that one has to look for alternative directions, and it is interesting to see what we can learn from nature. Natural evolution has led to powerful ‘computers’ like the human brain, which can solve complex problems in an energy-efficient way. Nature exploits complex networks that can execute many tasks in parallel.


Matter: How To See The Structural Arrangements Of Atoms

Atoms are the building blocks of all matter on Earth, and the patterns in which they are arranged dictate how strong, conductive or flexible a material will be. Now, scientists at UCLA have used a powerful microscope to image the three-dimensional positions of individual atoms to a precision of 19 trillionths of a meter, which is several times smaller than a hydrogen atom.

Their observations make it possible, for the first time, to infer the macroscopic properties of materials based on their structural arrangements of atoms, which will guide how scientists and engineers build aircraft components, for example. The research, led by Jianwei (John) Miao, a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy and a member of UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute, has been published in the online edition of the journal Nature Materials.


atoms+image+(2015)The scientists were able to plot the exact coordinates of nine layers of atoms with a precision of 19 trillionths of a meter

For more than 100 years, researchers have inferred how atoms are arranged in three-dimensional space using a technique called X-ray crystallography, which involves measuring how light waves scatter off of a crystal. However, X-ray crystallography only yields information about the average positions of many billions of atoms in the crystal, and not about individual atoms’ precise coordinates.

“It’s like taking an average of people on Earth,” Miao said. “Most people have a head, two eyes, a nose and two ears. But an image of the average person will still look different from you and me.”


Massive Use Of Nanoparticles Found In Popular Foods

Popular lollies, sauces and dressings have been found to contain nanotechnology that the national food regulator has long denied is being widely used in Australia’s food supply.

For many years, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has claimed there is “little evidence” of nanotechnology in food because no company had applied for approval. It has therefore not tested for nor regulated the use of nanoparticles.​ Frustrated at the inertia, environment group Friends of the Earth commissioned tests that found potentially harmful nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and silica in 14 popular products, including Mars’ M&Ms, Woolworths white sauce and Praise salad dressing.

nanoparticles found in foodNanoparticles of silica found in Maggi‘s Roast Meat Gravy

FSANZ kept saying there’s no evidence of it, we’re not going to do any testing. But all 14 samples came back positive, indicating widespread use of nanoparticles in foods in Australia,” said the group’s emerging tech campaigner, Jeremy Tager. “​Everybody would want to think food is tested and assured to be safe before it hits supermarket shelves. FSANZ is conducting a living experiment with people. It has inexcusably failed in its role as a regulator.

(A human hair is about 100,000 nanometers wide. Nanoparticles are typically less than 100 nanometres and are used to stretch the shelf life and improve the texture of food).

There is no conclusive evidence that nano-titanium dioxide, which whitens and brightens, and nano-silica, which prevents caking, are completely safe to eat. They have been shown to interfere with the immune system and cause cell damage.

The lab test of the 14 supermarket goods, which also included Eclipse chewy mints, Old El Paso taco mix, and Moccona Cappuccino, was conducted by a world-class nanotechnology research facility at Arizona State University.The Food Standards code does not require nanoparticles to be declared on labelling. Nano-titanium dioxide (E171) can be simply described as the conventional-sized type and as “Colour (171)“. Nano-silica (E551) can be listed as the conventional version and as “Anti-caking agent (551)“. FSANZ told Fairfax Media it had not identified any health impacts linked with the consumption of the two types of nanoparticles.


How To Make Objects Invisible

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have devised an ultra-thin invisibilityskincloak that can conform to the shape of an object and conceal it from detection with visible light. Although this cloak is only microscopic in size, the principles behind the technology should enable it to be scaled-up to conceal macroscopic items as well.

Working with brick-like blocks of gold nanoantennas, the Berkeley researchers fashioned a “skin cloak” barely 80 nanometers in thickness, that was wrapped around a three-dimensional object about the size of a few biological cells and arbitrarily shaped with multiple bumps and dents. The surface of the skin cloak was meta-engineered to reroute reflected light waves so that the object was rendered invisible to optical detection when the cloak is activated.

Invisible objectsA 3D illustration of a metasurface skin cloak made from an ultrathin layer of nanoantennas (gold blocks) covering an arbitrarily shaped object. Light reflects off the cloak (red arrows) as if it were reflecting off a flat mirror

This is the first time a 3D object of arbitrary shape has been cloaked from visible light,” said Xiang Zhang, director of Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and a world authority on metamaterials – artificial nanostructures engineered with electromagnetic properties not found in nature. “Our ultra-thin cloak now looks like a coat. It is easy to design and implement, and is potentially scalable for hiding macroscopic objects.”


Nano Is eco-friendly

The root of the humble sugar beet is used to make much of the world’s sugar. But the remainder of the plant is destroyed or made into cheap animal feed. But now Scottish scientists are transforming the sugar byproduct into a wonder material named Curran.


The feed stock that we use is from a sidestream of the sugar producing industry. It’s the waste pulp that comes after they’re removed the sugar, which is then pressed and dried into pellets for ease of shipment. So you can see the bottom of this stick here I’ve got the dried pellets…..but obviously we want to take this material and turn it into something that has a lot more value“,  says  Dr. David Hepworth, co-founder of the company Cellucomp (UK).

In its factory near Edinburgh, Cellucomp is doing just that. Having originally demonstrated Curran‘s strength by using it to make fishing rods, the firm turned its attention to selling it in granule form, for use in industrial liquids and composites. Its creators say Curran is eco-friendly, twice as strong as carbon fibre, with impressive viscosity. Decorating guru Cait Whitson worked with Cellucomp to create her new range of Whitson paint.,

One of the things I wanted to talk about was durability and one of the things that excited me about the Curran product was that a very small amount of Curran adds a significant amount of durability to the paint product. Secondly was the rheology, about how the paint flowed from the brush“, says Cait Whitson, founder of Whitson Paint. He adds that Curran makes paint scrub-resistant, avoids unsightly brush marks, and helps prevent cracking. With the paint additive business worth a billion dollars, Cellucomp could be sitting on a goldmine. It wants to expand production fivefold within three years.

There are all kinds of potential applications that Curran can be used for. It can go into things like paint and coatings, it can go into concrete, cosmetics. It can even be used for drilling fluids, be an additive to go into your food, and go into composites. So you can imagine one day airplane wings made from Curran“, concludes Christian Kemp-Griffin, CEO of Cellucomp. All of which paints a very bright future for the company..


Hybrid Solar Cells 20% More Efficient

Scientists have developed a new hybrid, solar-energy system that harnesses the full spectrum of the sun’s radiation by pairing a photovoltaic cell with polymer films. The films convert the light that goes unused by the solar cell into heat and then converts the heat into electricity. The device produces a voltage more than five times higher than other hybrid systems.

Solar cells today are getting better at converting sunlight to electricity, but commercial panels still harvest only part of the radiation they’re exposed to. Scientists are working to change this using various methods. One approach is to hybridize solar cells with different materials to capture more of the sun’s energy. Professor Eunkyoung Kim, from Seoul’s Yonsei University (Korea), and colleagues turned to a clear, conductive polymer known as PEDOT to try to accomplish this.

hybrid solar cells

A display changes colors, powered solely by a new hybrid solar-energy device

The researchers layered a dye-sensitized solar cell on top of a PEDOT film, which heats up in response to light. Below that, they added a pyroelectric thin film and a thermoelectric device, both of which convert heat into electricity. The efficiency of all components working together was more than 20 percent higher than the solar cell alone. With that boost, the system could operate an LED lamp and an electrochromic display.

A report has been published in the journal ACS Nano.


Car, Boat, Airplane: Bye Bye Sickness

The misery of motion sickness could be ended within five to ten years thanks to a new treatment being developed by scientists. The cause of motion sickness is still a mystery but a popular theory among scientists says it is to do with confusing messages received by our brains from both our ears and eyes, when we are moving. It is a very common complaint and has the potential to affect all of us, meaning we get a bit queasy on boats or rollercoasters. However, around three in ten people experience hard-to-bear motion sickness symptoms, such as dizziness, severe nausea, cold sweats, and more.

Research from Imperial College London, published today (4 September) in the journal Neurology, shows that a mild electrical current applied to the scalp can dampen responses in an area of the brain that is responsible for processing motion signals. Doing this helps the brain reduce the impact of the confusing inputs it is receiving and so prevents the problem that causes the symptoms of motion sickness. This technique offers a safe and effective intervention that is likely to be available for anyone to buy, in the future.


We are confident that within five to ten years people will be able to walk into the chemist and buy an anti-seasickness device. It may be something like a tens machine that is used for back pain”, said Dr Qadeer Arshad from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London who led the research. “We hope it might even integrate with a mobile phone, which would be able to deliver the small amount of electricity required via the headphone jack. In either case, you would temporarily attach small electrodes to your scalp before travelling – on a cross channel ferry, for example.


How To Fight Septic Shock, Save Millions

Last year, a Wyss Institute (Harvard) team of scientists described the development of a new device to treat sepsis that works by mimicking our spleen. It cleanses pathogens and toxins from blood circulating through a dialysis-like circuit. Now, the Wyss Institute team has developed an improved device that synergizes with conventional antibiotic therapies and that has been streamlined to better position it for near-term translation to the clinic. Sepsis is a common and frequently fatal medical complication that can occur when a person’s body attempts to fight off serious infection. Resulting widespread inflammation can cause organs to shut down, blood pressure to drop, and the heart to weaken. This can lead to septic shock, and more than 30 percent of septic patients in the United States eventually die. In most cases, the pathogen responsible for triggering the septic condition is never pinpointed, so clinicians blindly prescribe an antibiotic course in a blanket attempt to stave off infectious bacteria and halt the body’s dangerous inflammatory response.

But sepsis can be caused by a wide-ranging variety of pathogens that are not susceptible to antibiotics, including viruses, fungi and parasites. What’s more, even when antibiotics are effective at killing invading bacteria, the dead pathogens fragment and release toxins into the patient’s bloodstream.
The inflammatory cascade that leads to sepsis is triggered by pathogens, and specifically by the toxins they release,” said Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., who leads the Wyss team developing the device and is the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science. “Thus, the most effective strategy is to treat with the best antibiotics you can muster, while also removing the toxins and remaining pathogens from the patient’s blood as quickly as possible.”

The Wyss team’s blood-cleansing approach can be administered quickly, even without identifying the infectious agent. This is because it uses the Wyss Institute‘s proprietary pathogen-capturing agent, FcMBL, that binds all types of live and dead infectious microbes, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, as well as toxins they release. FcMBL is a genetically engineered blood protein inspired by a naturally-occurring human molecule called Mannose Binding Lectin (MBL), which is found in the innate immune system and binds to toxic invaders, marking them for capture by immune cells in the spleen.

The findings are described in the October volume 67 of Biomaterials.


Solar Cells Collect 30 Times More From Sun’s Photons

By combining designer quantum dot light-emitters with spectrally matched photonic mirrors, a team of scientists with Berkeley Lab and the University of Illinois created solar cells that collect blue photons at 30 times the concentration of conventional solar cells, the highest luminescent concentration factor ever recorded. This breakthrough paves the way for the future development of low-cost solar cells that efficiently utilize the high-energy part of the solar spectrum.


 Solar (or photovoltaic) cells convert the sun’s energy into electricity. Whether they’re adorning your calculator or orbiting our planet on satellites, they rely on the the photoelectric effect: the ability of matter to emit electrons when a light is shone on it. Silicon is what is known as a semi-conductor, meaning that it shares some of the properties of metals and some of those of an electrical insulator, making it a key ingredient in solar cells. Let’s take a closer look at what happens when the sun shines onto a solar cell.
Sunlight is composed of miniscule particles called photons, which radiate from the sun. As these hit the silicon atoms of the solar cell, they transfer their energy to loose electrons, knocking them clean off the atoms. The photons could be compared to the white ball in a game of pool, which passes on its energy to the coloured balls it strikes. Freeing up electrons is however only half the work of a solar cell: it then needs to herd these stray electrons into an electric current. This involves creating an electrical imbalance within the cell, which acts a bit like a slope down which the electrons will flow in the same direction. Creating this imbalance is made possible by the internal organisation of silicon.


“Nanopore” Scanners To Find Early Signs Of Cancer

Using tiny “nanopore” scanners that can detect individual DNA molecules, Professor Amit Meller and colleagues are on the hunt for biological markers in cancer cells tha t may help clinicians diagnose colorectal and lung cancers at their earliest stages. Prof. Meller, of the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, leads a research group that is a partner in BeyondSeq, an international research consortium looking for new methods of decoding genetic and epigenetic information from medical samples. BeyondSeq, supported by a €6 million grant from Horizon 2020, the European Union’s framework program, was one of only eight consortia chosen out of 450 submitted proposals.


We are the only lab in the consortium working on early diagnosis of cancer biomarkers, which…will allow doctors to combat the cancers much more effectively and save human lives,” Meller explained. “Currently there are no good ways to diagnose colorectal cancer and lung cancer at early stages. Usually these cancers are diagnosed at later stage (stage 2 or above) in which the patients may already have multiple secondary tumors, hence highly complicating treatment.


Nanotube-based Transistor For Nanocomputers

Individual transistors made from carbon nanotubes are faster and more energy efficient than those made from other materials. Going from a single transistor to an integrated circuit full of transistors, however, is a giant leap.

carbon nanotube integrated circuits

A single microprocessor has a billion transistors in it,” said Northwestern Engineering’s Mark Hersam. “All billion of them work. And not only do they work, but they work reliably for years or even decades.

When trying to make the leap from an individual, nanotube-based transistor to wafer-scale integrated circuits, many research teams, including Hersam’s, have met challenges. For one, the process is incredibly expensive, often requiring billion-dollar cleanrooms to keep the delicate nano-sized components safe from the potentially damaging effects of air, water, and dust. Researchers have also struggled to create a carbon nanotube-based integrated circuit in which the transistors are spatially uniform across the material, which is needed for the overall system to work.

Now Hersam and his team have found a key to solving all these issues. The secret lies in newly developed encapsulation layers that protect carbon nanotubes from environmental degradation.

Supported by the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation, the research appears online in Nature Nanotechology on September 7. Tobin J. Marks,  professor of materials science and engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering, coauthored the paper. Michael Geier, a graduate student in Hersam’s lab, was first author. “One of the realities of a nanomaterial, such as a carbon nanotube, is that essentially all of its atoms are on the surface,” said Hersam, the Walter P. Murphy Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. “So anything that touches the surface of these materials can influence their properties. If we made a series of transistors and left them out in the air, water and oxygen would stick to the surface of the nanotubes, degrading them over time. We thought that adding a protective encapsulation layer could arrest this degradation process to achieve substantially longer lifetimes.

Hersam compares his solution to one currently used for organic light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which experienced similar problems after they were first realized. Many people assumed that organic LEDs would have no future because they degraded in air. After researchers developed an encapsulation layer for the material, organic LEDs are now used in many commercial applications, including displays for smartphones, car radios, televisions, and digital cameras. Made from polymers and inorganic oxides, Hersam’s encapsulation layer is based on the same idea but tailored for carbon nanotubes.

To demonstrate proof of concept, Hersam developed nanotube-based static random-access memory (SRAM) circuits. SRAM is a key component of all microprocessors, often making up as much as 85 percent of the transistors in the central-processing unit in a common computer. To create the encapsulated carbon nanotubes, the team first deposited the carbon nanotubes from a solution previously developed in Hersam’s lab. Then they coated the tubes with their encapsulation layers.

Using the encapsulated carbon nanotubes, Hersam’s team successfully designed and fabricated arrays of working SRAM circuits. Not only did the encapsulation layers protect the sensitive device from the environment, but they improved spatial uniformity among individual transistors across the wafer. While Hersam’s integrated circuits demonstrated a long lifetime, transistors that were deposited from the same solution but not coated degraded within hours.

After we’ve made the devices, we can leave them out in air with no further precautions,” Hersam said. “We don’t need to put them in a vacuum chamber or controlled environment. Other researchers have made similar devices but immediately had to put them in a vacuum chamber or inert environment to keep them stable. That’s obviously not going to work in a real-world situation.”


Paralyzed Man Controls His Leg Muscles, Walks Again

UCLA scientists publish findings that show a paralyzed man was able to voluntarily control his leg muscles and take steps in a robotic exoskeleton device. Jim Drury reports.

paralyzed man walks again

Mark Pollock gets back on his feet – five years after becoming paralysed from the waist down. The Briton is wearing a battery-powered exoskeleton that allows him to move his legs in a step-like fashion. The device captures data that allows scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles to see whether he’s moving his limbs independently or being aided by the suit. Data showed Pollock – who’s also blind – is the first person with complete paralysis to regain enough voluntary control to actively work with an exoskeleton. The Commonwealth Games medallist was also able to flex his knee with the aid of electrical spinal stimulation. The researchers do not describe his steps as “walking” because of the need for the robotic device and stimulation. But the 39-year-old has now taken thousands of steps, describing his training as “addictive“.


Electric Power: How To Increase Solar Cells Efficiency

Rice University researchers have demonstrated an efficient new way to capture the energy from sunlight and convert it into clean, renewable energy by splitting water molecules.

Hot elsplitting water Riceectrons have the potential to drive very useful chemical reactions, but they decay very rapidly, and people have struggled to harness their energy,” said lead researcher Isabell Thomann, assistant professor of nanoengineering at Rice. “For example, most of the energy losses in today’s best photovoltaic solar panels are the result of hot electrons that cool within a few trillionths of a second and release their energy as wasted heat.” Capturing these high-energy electrons before they cool could allow solar-energy providers to significantly increase their solar-to-electric power-conversion efficiencies  and reduce  the cost of solar electricity.

In the light-activated nanoparticles studied by Thomann and colleagues at Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP), light is captured and converted into plasmons, waves of electrons that flow like a fluid across the metal surface of the nanoparticles. Plasmons are high-energy states that are short-lived, but researchers at Rice and elsewhere have found ways to capture plasmonic energy and convert it into useful heat or light. Plasmonic nanoparticles also offer one of the most promising means of harnessing the power of hot electrons, and LANP researchers have made progress toward that goal in several recent studies.

Thomann and her team created a system that uses the energy from hot electrons to split molecules of water into oxygen and hydrogen. That’s important because oxygen and hydrogen are the feedstocks for fuel cells, electrochemical devices that produce electricity cleanly and efficiently.

Because of the inherent inefficiencies, we wanted to find a new approach to the problem,” Thomann said. “We took an unconventional approach: Rather than driving off the hot electrons, we designed a system to carry away the electron holes. In effect, our setup acts like a sieve or a membrane. The holes can pass through, but the hot electrons cannot, so they are left available on the surface of the plasmonic nanoparticles.”

The technology, is described online in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.



Robot Mother Builds Its Own Children

Researchers led by the University of Cambridge have built a mother robot that can independently build its own children and test which one does best; and then use the results to inform the design of the next generation, so that preferential traits are passed down from one generation to the next. Without any human intervention or computer simulation beyond the initial command to build a robot capable of movement, the mother created children constructed of between one and five plastic cubes with a small motor inside. In each of five separate experiments, the mother designed, built and tested generations of ten children, using the information gathered from one generation to inform the design of the next.

mother robot

Natural selection is basically reproduction, assessment, reproduction, assessment and so on,” said lead researcher Dr Fumiya Iida of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, who worked in collaboration with researchers at ETH Zurich. “That’s essentially what this robot is doing – we can actually watch the improvement and diversification of the species.” For each robot child, there is a unique ‘genome’ made up of a combination of between one and five different genes, which contains all of the information about the child’s shape, construction and motor commands. As in nature, evolution in robots takes place through ‘mutation’, where components of one gene are modified or single genes are added or deleted, and ‘crossover’, where a new genome is formed by merging genes from two individuals.
The results, reported in the open access journal PLOS One, found that preferential traits were passed down through generations, so that the ‘fittest’ individuals in the last generation performed a set task twice as quickly as the fittest individuals in the first generation.


Water-powered MotorBike

Ricardo Azevedo was frustrated with the ever increasing price of gas. So he used his skills as a mechanic and took some tips from his son’s chemistry book to build a water powered motorcycle.

hydrogen motobike

I still haven’t developed everything is it capable of, but I did some tests and in certain settings it can go 500 kilometres (310 miles) using one litre of water,” says Azevedo.
An electrical current is fed into a canister of water which breaks the liquid down into hydrogen and oxygen using the process of electrolysis. The hydrogen gas is then used to power the engine. Research into hydrogen combustion power has increased dramatically over the past decade and while the chemical process used to generate energy from water is well understood, its market potential is curbed until a way to safely contain and use the highly fl