Wireless Power

A new method developed by Disney Research for wirelessly transmitting power throughout a room enables users to charge electronic devices as seamlessly as they now connect to WiFi hotspots, eliminating the need for electrical cords or charging cradles. The researchers demonstrated their method, called quasistatic cavity resonance (QSCR), inside a specially built 16-by-16-foot room at their lab. They safely generated near-field standing magnetic waves that filled the interior of the room, making it possible to power several cellphones, fans and lights simultaneously.

wirelesspowe

This new innovative method will make it possible for electrical power to become as ubiquitous as WiFi,” said Alanson Sample, associate lab director & principal research scientist at Disney Research. “This in turn could enable new applications for robots and other small mobile devices by eliminating the need to replace batteries and wires for charging.

In this work, we’ve demonstrated room-scale wireless power, but there’s no reason we couldn’t scale this down to the size of a toy chest or up to the size of a warehouse,” said Sample, who leads the lab’s Wireless Systems Group.

According to Sample, is a long-standing technological dream. Celebrated inventor Nikola Tesla famously demonstrated a wireless lighting system in the 1890s and proposed a system for transmitting power long distances to homes and factories, though it never came to fruition. Today, most wireless power transmission occurs over very short distances, typically involving charging stands or pads.

The QSCR method involves inducing electrical currents in the metalized walls, floor and ceiling of a room, which in turn generate uniform magnetic fields that permeate the room’s interior. This enables power to be transmitted efficiently to receiving coils that operate at the same resonant frequency as the magnetic fields. The induced currents in the structure are channeled through discrete capacitors, which isolate potentially harmful electrical fields.

Our simulations show we can transmit 1.9 kilowatts of power while meeting federal safety guidelines,” Chabalko said. “This is equivalent to simultaneously charging 320 smart phones.”

A research report on QSCR by the Disney Research team of Matthew J. Chabalko, Mohsen Shahmohammadi and Alanson P. Sample was published in the online journal PLOS ONE.

Source: https://phys.org/

Printable solar cells

A University of Toronto (U of T) Engineering innovation could make building printing cells as easy and inexpensive as printing a newspaper. Dr. Hairen Tan and his team have cleared a critical manufacturing hurdle in the development of a relatively new class of solar devices called perovskite solar cells. This alternative solar technology could lead to low-cost, printable solar panels capable of turning nearly any surface into a power generator.

Printable Perovskite SolarCell

Economies of scale have greatly reduced the cost of silicon manufacturing,” says University Professor Ted Sargent (ECE), an expert in emerging solar technologies and the Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology and senior author on the paper. “Perovskite solar cells can enable us to use techniques already established in the printing industry to produce solar cells at very low cost. Potentially, perovskites and silicon cells can be married to improve efficiency further, but only with advances in low-temperature processes.”

Today, virtually all commercial solar cells are made from thin slices of crystalline silicon which must be processed to a very high purity. It’s an energy-intensive process, requiring temperatures higher than 1,000 degrees Celsius and large amounts of hazardous solvents.

In contrast, perovskite solar cells depend on a layer of tiny crystals — each about 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair — made of low-cost, light-sensitive materials. Because the perovskite raw materials can be mixed into a liquid to form a kind of ‘solar ink’, they could be printed onto glass, plastic or other materials using a simple inkjet process.

Source: http://news.engineering.utoronto.ca

How To Fine-Tune NanoFabrication

Daniel Packwood, Junior Associate Professor at Kyoto University’s Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (iCeMS), is improving methods for constructing tiny “nanomaterials” using a “bottom-up” approach called “molecular self-assembly”. Using this method, molecules are chosen according to their ability to spontaneously interact and combine to form shapes with specific functions. In the future, this method may be used to produce tiny wires with diameters 1/100,000th that of a piece of hair, or tiny electrical circuits that can fit on the tip of a needle.

nanofabrication

Molecular self-assembly is a spontaneous process that cannot be controlled directly by laboratory equipment, so it must be controlled indirectly. This is done by carefully choosing the direction of the intermolecular interactions, known as “chemical control”, and carefully choosing the temperature at which these interactions happen, known as “entropic control”. Researchers know that when entropic control is very weak, for example, molecules are under chemical control and assemble in the direction of the free sites available for molecule-to-molecule interaction. On the other hand, self-assembly does not occur when entropic control is much stronger than the chemical control, and the molecules remain randomly dispersed.

Packwood teamed up with colleagues in Japan and the U.S. to develop a computational method that allows them to simulate molecular self-assembly on metal surfaces while separating the effects of chemical and entropic controls. This new computational method makes use of artificial intelligence to simulate how molecules behave when placed on a metal surface. Specifically, a “machine learning” technique is used to analyse a database of intermolecular interactions. This machine learning technique builds a model that encodes the information contained in the database, and in turn this model can predict the outcome of the molecular self-assembly process with high accuracy.

Source: http://www.kyoto-u.ac.jp/

Nano-LED 1000 Times More Efficient

The electronic data connections within and between microchips are increasingly becoming a bottleneck in the exponential growth of data traffic worldwide. Optical connections are the obvious successors but optical data transmission requires an adequate nanoscale light source, and this has been lacking. Scientists at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) now have created a light source that has the right characteristics: a nano-LED that is 1000 times more efficient than its predecessors, and is capable of handling gigabits per second data speeds.

NANO LEDWith electrical cables reaching their limits, optical connections like fiberglass are increasingly becoming the standard for data traffic. Over longer distances almost all data transmission is optical. Within computer systems and microchips, too, the growth of data traffic is exponential, but that traffic is still electronic, and this is increasingly becoming a bottleneck. Since these connections (‘interconnects’) account for the majority of the energy consumed by chips, many scientists around the world are working on enabling optical (photonic) interconnects. Crucial to this is the light source that converts the data into light signals which must be small enough to fit into the microscopic structures of microchips. At the same time, the output capacity and efficiency have to be good. Especially the efficiency is a challenge, as small light sources, powered by nano– or microwatts, have always performed very inefficiently to date.
The researchers in Eindhoven believe that their nano-LED is a viable solution that will take the brake off the growth of data traffic on chips. However, they are cautious about the prospects. The development is not yet at the stage where it can be exploited by the industry and the production technology that is needed still has to get off the ground.
The findings are reported in the online journal Nature Communications.

Source: https://www.tue.nl/

Killing Cancer Cells From Inside

Researchers have witnessed – for the first time – cancer cells being targeted and destroyed from the inside, by an organo-metal compound discovered by the University of Warwick (UK). Professor Peter J. Sadler, and his group in the Department of Chemistry, have demonstrated that Organo-Osmium FY26 – which was first discovered at Warwick – kills cancer cells by locating and attacking their weakest part.

osmium compound fy26 in cancer cell
This is the first time that an Osmium-based compound – which is fifty times more active than the current cancer drug cisplatin – has been seen to target the disease. Using the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), researchers analysed the effects of Organo-Osmium FY26 in ovarian cancer cells – detecting emissions of X-ray fluorescent light to track the activity of the compound inside the cells

Looking at sections of cancer cells under nano-focus, it was possible to see an unprecedented level of minute detail. Organelles like mitochondria, which are the ‘powerhouses’ of cells and generate their energy, were detectable. In cancer cells, there are errors and mutations in the DNA of mitochondria, making them very weak and susceptible to attack.

FY26 was found to have positioned itself in the mitochondriaattacking and destroying the vital functions of cancer cells from within, at their weakest point. Researchers were also able to see natural metals which are produced by the body – such as zinc and calcium – moving around the cells. Calcium in particular is known to affect the function of cells, and it is thought that this naturally-produced metal helps FY26 to achieve an optimal position for attacking cancer.

Source: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk

Mental Viagra

As Valentines Day approaches, love may be in the air…. but it’s also in the mind. Scientists in London say a natural hormone – appropriately named kisspeptinenhances brain regions associated with sex and love. In placebo-controlled trials, 29 healthy young men were injected with kisspeptin and their brains scanned using MRI.

couple in loveCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

During the MRI they performed tasks designed to activate certain areas of the brain. So we used tasks to activate the sexual arousal centres of the brain and task to activate the romance sensors of the brain using images. And we observed that kisspeptin boosted the activity in sexual arousal and romantic circuits in the brain,” says Dr. Alexander Comninos, Endocrinologist at Imperial College  London.

Kisspeptin is found in all men and women, and is vital for stimulating puberty. “So there’s a link, not just with the hormones, but also the stimulation of reproductive hormones but also stimulating how we perceive sexual images in the brain, and that’s what the really exciting part of this study been; is how for the first time having a link between a hormone that’s stimulating reproductive hormones, but also how our brains perceive sexual images,” explains Waljit Dhillo, Professor in Endocrinology at Imperial College London .

Psychological sexual disorders can make it difficult for couples to conceive. Biological factors play a large part, but the role of the brain and emotion can’t be overlooked. A kisspeptin-based therapy could be an answer, say researchers. It differs from drugs like Viagra, which only trigger a physiological response. “Viagra is very different. So Viagra will cause vasodilation, it will make the vessels essentially dilate, blood will go down to the genital area. So it’s a completely different action, it’s mechanical if you like. Whereas this is much more psychological in terms of its altering how we perceive sexual images in our brains. So it’s a completely different mechanism of action“, adds Professor Dhillo.

More research is needed – including on women and then eventually in patients with psychological issues. Kisspeptin could one day help treat sexual disorders of the mind… in effect, mental Viagra.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

How To Turn Sunlight, Heat and Movement Into Electricity — All at Once

Many forms of energy surround you: sunlight, the heat in your room and even your own movements. All that energy — normally wasted — can potentially help power your portable and wearable gadgets, from biometric sensors to smart watches. Now, researchers from the University of Oulu in Finland have found that a mineral with the perovskite crystal structure has the right properties to extract energy from multiple sources at the same time.

perovskite solar panel

Perovskites are a family of minerals, many of which have shown promise for harvesting one or two types of energy at a time — but not simultaneously. One family member may be good for solar cells, with the right properties for efficiently converting solar energy into electricity. Meanwhile, another is adept at harnessing energy from changes in temperature and pressure, which can arise from motion, making them so-called pyroelectric and piezoelectric materials, respectively.

Sometimes, however, just one type of energy isn’t enough. A given form of energy isn’t always available — maybe it’s cloudy or you’re in a meeting and can’t get up to move around. Other researchers have developed devices that can harness multiple forms of energy, but they require multiple materials, adding bulk to what’s supposed to be a small and portable device.

This week in Applied Physics Letters, Yang Bai and his colleagues at the University of Oulu explain their research on a specific type of perovskite called KBNNO, which may be able to harness many forms of energy. Like all perovskites, KBNNO is a ferroelectric material, filled with tiny electric dipoles analogous to tiny compass needles in a magnet. Within the next year, Bai said, he hopes to build a prototype multi-energy-harvesting device. The fabrication process is straightforward, so commercialization could come in just a few years once researchers identify the best material. “This will push the development of the Internet of Things and smart cities, where power-consuming sensors and devices can be energy sustainable,” he said.

This kind of material would likely supplement the batteries on your devices, improving energy efficiency and reducing how often you need to recharge. One day, Bai said, multi-energy harvesting may mean you won’t have to plug in your gadgets anymore. Batteries for small devices may even become obsolete.

Source: https://publishing.aip.org/

A ”NaNose” Device Identifies 17 Types Of Diseases With A Single Sniff

The future of early diagnoses of disease could be this simple, according to a team of researchers in Israel. The ‘NaNose‘ as they call it can differentiate between 17 types of diseases with a single sniff identifying so-called smelly compounds in anything from cancers to Parkinson’s.

nanose2CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

Indeed, what we have found in our most recent research in this regard, that 17 types of disease have 13 common compounds that are found in all different types of disease, but the mixture of the compounds and the composition of these compounds changes from one disease to another disease. And this is what is really unique and what really we expect to see and utilize in order to make the diagnosis from exhaled breat,” says Professor Hossam  Haick ftom the Institute of Technology- Technion.

The NaNose uses “artificially intelligent nanoarraysensors to analyze the data obtained from receptors that “smell” the patient’s breath.

So our main idea is to try an imitate what’s going on in nature. So like we can take a canine, a dog and train it to scent the smell of drugs, of explosives or a missing person, we are trying to do it artificially. And we can do that by using these nano-materials and we build these nano material-based sensors. And of course there are many advantages and one of them of course is going all the way from sensors big as this to really small devices like this that have that have on them eight sensors and which can be incorporated to systems like this, or even smaller,” explains Doctor Yoav Broza from Technion .

Several companies are now trying to commercialize the technology – and encourage its use in healthcare systems… or see it incorporated into your smartphone.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

Solar Panels Reach 36.4 Percent Efficiency

Swiss start-up Insolight says its solar panels double the yield achieved by other sun-powered technology. In independent tests the panels reached an efficiency of 36.4 percent.


SOLAR CELL registers record efficiencyCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

Traditionally the market sits at around 18 percent and we can double this. Therefore we can double the return on investment for the final client….Our key innovation is that you do not need to rotate the panel in order to follow the sun. We can follow the sun in a flat manner, like any other solar panel, which makes it that our panel can be installed on standard rooftops, with standard mounting technology,” says Florian Gerlich Co-Founder of Insolight company.

Tiny square super cells capture all of the sun’s rays, underneath round lenses, using a patented microtracking system. “Why micro? Why tracking? Micro is a really really small movement that is encapsulated into the solar panel and tracking is to track the sun to concentrate the light into our really tiny solar cell,” comments Noe Bory from Insolight.  An injection-moulded transparent plate moves one centimetre throughout the day, a small sensor detecting the sun’s position.

“As you see here the small squares spread out over the whole surface and under each of these lenses there is a small solar cell. It’s a bit like the lenses that you’re using in your reading lenses or your reading glasses. It’s the same technology, it’s just a particular shape in order to be able to follow the sun from morning to the evening,” adds Florian Gerlich.

The panels may be more expensive to buy than current technology. But Insolight says energy prices will be slashed from 14 US cents per kilowatt hour to 9 cents. A large bed of panels will be tested in Lausanne this summer. Insolight says the system could be market-ready next year.

War: Never Underestimate The Power Of Small

If there is one lesson to glean from Picatinny Arsenal‘s new course in nanomaterials, it’s this: never underestimate the power of smallNanotechnology is the study of manipulating matter on an atomic, molecular, or supermolecular scale. The end result can be found in our everyday products, such as stained glass, sunscreen, cellphones, and pharmaceutical products. Other examples are in U.S. Army items such as vehicle armor, Soldier uniforms, power sources, and weaponry. All living things also can be considered united forms of nanotechnology produced by the forces of nature.
explosive3-dimensional tomography generated imaging of pores within a nanoRDEX-based explosive

People tend to think that nanotechnology is all about these little robots roaming around, fixing the environment or repairing damage to your body, and for many reasons that’s just unrealistic,” said Rajen Patel, a senior engineer within the Energetics and Warheads Manufacturing Technology Division, or EWMTD. The division is part of the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center or ARDEC. “For me, nanotechnology means getting materials to have these properties that you wouldn’t expect them to have.”

The subject can be separated into multiple types (nanomedicine, nanomachines, nanoelectronics, nanocomposites, nanophotonics and more), which can benefit areas, such as communications, medicine, environment remediation, and manufacturingNanomaterials are defined as materials that have at least one dimension in the 1-100 nm range (there are 25,400,000 nanometers in one inch.) To provide some size perspective: comparing a nanometer to a meter is like comparing a soccer ball to the earth.

Picatinny‘s nanomaterials class focuses on nanomaterials‘ distinguishing qualities, such as their optical, electronic, thermal and mechanical properties–and teaches how manipulating them in a weapon can benefit the warfighter. While you could learn similar information at a college course, Patel argues that Picatinny‘s nanomaterial class is nothing like a university class. This is because Picatinny‘s nanomaterials class focuses on applied, rather than theoretical nanotechnology, using the arsenal as its main source of examples. “We talk about things like what kind of properties you get, how to make materials, places you might expect to see nanotechnology within the Army,” explained Patel. The class is taught at the Armament University.

In 2010, an article in The Picatinny Voice titled “Tiny particles, big impact: Nanotechnology to help warfighters” discussed Picatinny’s ongoing research on nanopowders. It noted that Picatinny‘s Nanotechnology Lab is the largest facility in North America to produce nanopowders and nanomaterials, which are used to create nanoexplosives. It also mentioned how using nanomaterials helped to develop lightweight composites as an alternative to traditional steel.

Not too long ago making milligram quantities of nanoexplosives was challenging. Now, we have technologies that allow us make pounds of nanoexplosives per hour at low cost“. Pilot scale production of nanoexplosives is currently being performed at ARDEC. The broad interest in developing nanoenergetics such as nano-RDX and nano-HMX is their remarkably low initiation sensitivity. There are two basic approaches to studying nanomaterials: bottom-up (building a large object atom by atom) and top-down (deconstructing a larger material). Both approaches have been successfully employed in the development of nanoenergetics at ARDEC. One of the challenges with manufacturing nonmaterials can be coping with shockwaves. A shockwave initiates an explosive as it travels through a weapon‘s main fill or the booster. When a shockwave travels through an energetic charge, it can hit small regions of defects, or voids, which heat up quickly and build pressure until the explosive reaches detonation. By using nanoenergetics, one could adjust the size and quantity of the defects and voids, so that the pressure isn’t as strong and ultimately prevent accidental detonation.

It’s a major production challenge because if you want to process nanomaterials–if you want to coat it with some polymer for explosives–any kind of medium that can dissolve these types of materials can promote ripening and you can end up with a product which no longer has the nanomaterial that you began with,”  However, nanotechnology research continues to grow at Picatinny as the research advances in the U.S. Army.

Source: https://www.dvidshub.net/

How To Improve Hair Treatment

In shampoo ads, hair always looks like a shiny, smooth surface. But for physicists peering into microscopes, the hair surface looks much more rugged, as it is made of saw-tooth, ratchet-like scales. In a new theoretical study published in EPJ E, Matthias Radtke and Roland Netz have demonstrated that massaging hair can help to apply drug treatmentencapsulated in nanoparticles trapped in the channels formed around individual hairs – to the hair roots. This is because the oscillatory movement of the massaging directs the way these particles are transported.

hair

This phenomenon was previously discovered in experiments on pork skin samples, which were conducted by Jürgen Lademann, dermatologist at the Charité clinic in Berlin, Germany, and his team. It is also relevant at the microscopic scale, in the transport on microtubules taking place in two directions between the cells within our bodies. By constrast, these findings could also help find ways of preventing harmful nanoparticles from being transported along hairs into the wrong places.

In their work, the authors created a model in which a nanoparticle moves between two asymmetric surfaces. Using standard models of random motion, they moved one surface in an oscillatory fashion relative to the other. They demonstrated by virtue of their corrugated surfaces that channels created between individual hairs and the surrounding skin lead to nanoparticles being sucked into hair follicles if the hair is massaged, thanks to a “ratchetmechanism.

Further, the authors determined optimal transport conditions for different surface structures by varying the driving frequency, particle size, and the amplitude of the corrugated surface. They found that the ratchet effect switches from a flashing to a pushing effect, when the oscillation switches from perpendicular to parallel to the resting surface, respectively. Radtke and Netz also found that nanoparticles’ speed and ability to diffuse are greatly enhanced by the parallel oscillatory motion.

Source: https://www.springer.com/

SpaceX Hyperloop A Step Closer To Reality

The Hyperloop high-speed transportation system has moved a step closer to reality. Teams competed to design subscale versions of the transport pods that could one day whisk passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in under half an hour. The competition was hosted by SpaceX and its founder, Elon Musk. Although Musk is not directly involved in the construction of the Hyperloop, the billionaire entrepreneur originally envisioned the concept, having created an open-source plan that encouraged others to build it. The idea is that passengers would travel through low-pressure steel tubes at up to 800 mph (1,288 kph), propelled by a magnetic accelerator. The fastest pod in the competition reached 58mph (93 kph). That was designed and built by a 35-person team from the Technical University of Munich, Germany.

delft-hyperloopCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

What made our team stand out is actually a compressor which we bought out of an old aircraft. It’s there to reduce drag and give us some additional speed.” A team from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands achieved the highest overall score in the competition for their pod with a levitation, stabilization and braking system based on permanent magnets“, said Josef Fleischmann, member of the WARR team from Technical University of Munich.

Hyperloop, the technology is pretty much there already, we just have to implement it. One of the things this competition is for is to show the world that we can do this and convince them that we should build it somewhere and get the ball rolling,” explains Mars Geuze, technical of Delft Hyperloop.
SpaceX has said it will hold a second competition, open to both new and existing student teams, in Summer 2017, this time focused only on maximum speed.

Source: http://delfthyperloop.nl/#intro
AND
http://www.reuters.com

How To Color Textiles Without Polluting Environment

Fast fashion” might be cheap, but its high environmental cost from dyes polluting the water near factories has been well documented. To help stem the tide of dyes from entering streams and rivers, scientists report in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces a nonpolluting method to color textiles using 3-D colloidal crystals.

peacock feathers

Peacock feathers, opals and butterfly wings have inspired a new way to color voile fabrics without the pollutants of traditional dyes.

Dyes and pigments are chemical colors that produce their visual effect by selectively absorbing and reflecting specific wavelengths of visible light. Structural or physical colors — such as those of opals, peacock feathers and butterfly wings — result from light-modifying micro- and nanostructures. Bingtao Tang and colleagues from Universty of Maryland wanted to find a way to color voile textiles with structural colors without creating a stream of waste.

The researchers developed a simple, two-step process for transferring 3-D colloidal crystals, a structural color material, to voile fabrics. Their “dye” included polystyrene nanoparticles for color, polyacrylate for mechanical stability, carbon black to enhance color saturation and water. Testing showed the method could produce the full spectrum of colors, which remained bright even after washing. In addition, the team said that the technique did not produce contaminants that could pollute nearby water.

Source: http://pubs.acs.org/

Hand-Held Breath Monitor To Detect Flu

Perena Gouma, a professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Arlington, has devised a hand-held breath monitor that can detect the flu virus. The single-exhale sensing device is similar to the breathalyzers used by police officers when they suspect a driver of being under the influence of alcohol. A patient simply exhales into the device, which uses semiconductor sensors like those in a household carbon monoxide detector.  The difference is that these sensors are specific to the gas detected, yet still inexpensive, and can isolate biomarkers associated with the flu virus and indicate whether or not the patient has the flu. The device could eventually be available in drugstores so that people can be diagnosed earlier and take advantage of medicine used to treat the flu in its earliest stages. This device may help prevent flu epidemics from spreading, protecting both individuals as well as the public health.

Gouma and her team relied on existing medical literature to determine the quantities of known biomarkers present in a person’s breath when afflicted with a particular disease, then applied that knowledge to find a combination of sensors for those biomarkers that is accurate for detecting the flu. For instance, people who suffer from asthma have increased nitric oxide concentration in their breath, and acetone is a known biomarker for diabetes and metabolic processes. When combined with a nitric oxide and an ammonia sensor, Gouma found that the breath monitor may detect the flu virus, possibly as well as tests done in a doctor’s office. Gouma’s sensors are at the heart of her breath analyzer device.

breath monitor prototype

I think that technology like this is going to revolutionize personalized diagnostics. This will allow people to be proactive and catch illnesses early, and the technology can easily be used to detect other diseases, such as Ebola virus disease, simply by changing the sensors,” said Gouma, who also is the lead scientist in the Institute for Predictive Performance Measurement at the UTA Research Institute.
Before we applied nanotechnology to create this device, the only way to detect biomarkers in a person’s breath was through very expensive, highly-technical equipment in a lab, operated by skilled personnel. Now, this technology could be used by ordinary people to quickly and accurately diagnose illness.”

The findings are described  in the journal Sensors Source.

https://www.uta.edu/

How To Track Stem Cells In The Body

Rice University researchers have synthesized a new and greatly improved generation of contrast agents for tagging and real-time tracking of stem cells in the body. The agent combines ultrashort carbon nanotubes and bismuth clusters that show up on X-rays taken with computed tomography (CT) scanners. The stable compound performs more than eight times better than the first-generation material introduced in 2013, according to the researchers.

XRAY
An improved compound of bismuth and carbon nanotubes called Bi4C@US-tubes, developed at Rice University could enhance the ability to track stem cells as they move through the body and target diseases

The primary application will be to track them in stem-cell therapies to see if the cells are attracted to the site of disease — for example, cancer — and in what concentration,” said Rice chemist Lon Wilson of the compound the researchers call Bi4C@US-tubes.

Magnetic resonance imaging is currently used for that purpose and it works quite well, but X-ray technology in the clinic is much more available,” he said. “It’s faster and cheaper, and it could facilitate preclinical studies to track stem cells in vivo.”

Bismuth is used in cosmetics, pigments and pharmaceuticals, notably as the active ingredient in pink bismuth (aka Pepto-Bismol), an antacid. For this application, bismuth nanoclusters developed by the lab of Rice chemist Kenton Whitmire, a co-author of the paper, are combined with carbon nanotubes chemically treated to shorten them to between 20 and 80 nanometers and add defects to their side walls. The nanoclusters, which make up about 20 percent of the compound, appear to strongly attach to the nanotubes via these defects.

When introduced into stem cells, the treated nanotubes become easy to spot, Wilson said. “It’s very interesting to see a cell culture that is opaque to X-rays. They’re not as dark as bone (which X-rays cannot penetrate), but they’re really dark when they’re loaded with these agents.”

The process developed by Wilson’s team and colleagues at CHI St. Luke’s Health-Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center and Baylor College of Medicine is detailed this month in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

Source: http://news.rice.edu/

‘Protective’ DNA strands are shorter in adults who had more infections as infants

New research indicates that people who had more infections as babies harbor a key marker of cellular aging as young adults: the protective stretches of DNA which “cap” the ends of their chromosomes are shorter than in adults who were healthier as infants.

TELOMERESThe 46 chromosomes of the human genome, with telomeres highlighted in white

These are important and surprising findings because — generally speaking — shorter chromosome ‘caps’ are associated with a higher burden of disease later in life,” said lead author Dan Eisenberg, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Washington.

The ‘caps’ Eisenberg and his co-authors measured are called telomeres. These are long stretches of DNA at the ends of our chromosomes, which protect our genes from damage or improper regulation. One Nobel Prize-winning scientist who studies telomeres has compared them to aglets — the plastic or metal sheath covering ends of shoelaces. When aglets wear down, the shoelace is exposed to fraying and degradation from environmental forces.

Like aglets, telomeres don’t last forever. In most of our cells, telomeres get shorter each time that cell divides. And when they get too short, the cell either quits dividing or dies.

That makes telomere length particularly important for the cells of our immune system, especially the white blood cells circulating in our bloodstream. When activated against a pathogen, white blood cells undergo rapid rounds of cell division to raise a defensive force against the infectious invader. But if telomeres in white blood cells are already too short, the body may struggle to mount an effective immune response.

Many studies — in laboratory animals and humans — have associated shorter telomeres with poor health outcomes, especially in adults,” said Eisenberg. But few studies have addressed whether or not events early in a person’s life might affect telomere length. To get at this question, Eisenberg turned to the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey, which has tracked the health of over 3,000 infants born in 1983-1984 in Cebu City in the Philippines. Researchers collected detailed data every two months from mothers on the health and feeding habits of their babies up through age two. Mothers reported how often their babies had diarrhea — a sign of infection — as well as how often they breastfed their babies. As these babies grew up, scientists collected additional health data during follow-up surveys over the next 20 years. In 2005, 1,776 of these offspring donated a blood sample. By then, they were 21- or 22-year-old young adults.

Eisenberg measured telomere length in cells from those blood samples. He then combined the data on adult telomere length with information about their health and feeding habits as babies. He found that babies with higher reported cases of diarrhea at 6 to 12 months also had the shortest telomeres as adults.

The findings have been published in the American Journal of Human Biology.

Source: http://www.washington.edu/

Understanding The Risks Of Nanotechnology

When radioactive materials were first introduced into society, it took a while before scientists understood the risks. The same is true of nanotechnology today, according to Dr Vladimir Baulin, from University Rovira i Virgili, in Tarragona, Spain, who together with colleagues has shown for the first time how nanoparticles can cross biological – or lipidmembranes in a paper published in the journal Science Advances
Nanotechnology is all around us, in building materials, in toothpaste and in cleaning products. Across Europe, hundreds of institutions are working together to look at how to monitor exposure, manage the risks and advise on what regulations may be needed under the EU’s NanoSafety Cluster.

nanoparticles effects on lipids

This is the first observation to show directly how tiny gold nanoparticles can cross a lipid bilayer (main part of a biological membrane). This process was quantified and the time of each step was estimated. The lipid membrane is the ultimate barrier protecting cells from the outside environment and if the nanoparticles can cross this barrier they may go into cells.’

‘Dr Jean-Baptiste Fleury (from Saarland University in Germany) designed a special set-up with two chambers separated by a lipid bilayer, which contained fluorescent lipids (fat molecules). Non-fluorescent nanoparticles were added to only one of the chambers. In this set-up, nanoparticles became visible only when they touched the fluorescent bilayer and exchanged lipids with it. If one sees the fluorescent nanoparticle in the second chamber, this means it was in contact with the bilayer and it crossed the bilayer from one chamber to another. This was the proof. In addition, the process of translocation was quantified and the time of the crossing was estimated as milliseconds.’

All biological objects, biomolecules, proteins that exist in living organisms evolved over billions of years to adapt to each other. Nanoparticles which are synthesised in the laboratory are thus considered by a living organism as something foreign. It is a big challenge to make them compatible and not toxic.’ ‘I would count the applications of nanoparticles as starting from the 1985 Nobel Prize for the discovery of fullerenes (molecules of hollow football-shaped carbon). This was the start of the nanoparticle boom.’

This is becoming urgent because nanoparticles and nanotechnology in general are entering our lives. Now it is possible to synthesise nanomaterials with precise control, fabricate nanostructures on surfaces and do precise tailoring of the properties of nanoparticles.

‘It is becoming quite urgent to understand the exact mechanisms of nanotoxicity and make a classification depending on the mechanism. Radioactivity or X-rays entered our lives the same way. It took time until researchers understood the mechanisms of action on living organisms and the regulations evolved with our understanding.’

gold nanoparticles cross the membrane

This is the first observation to show directly how tiny gold nanoparticles can cross a lipid bilayer.

An empirical test of toxicity is that you put nanoparticles into the cells and you see the cells are dead, but you don’t understand what has happened, this is empirical. This is a legitimate tool, but it is not enough to address toxicity. Instead, one could start from the properties of nanoparticles and think about classifying nano-objects based on their physical or chemical properties by trying to predict the effect of a given nanoparticle on a cell or tissue beforehand.

I understand, it may look too ambitious, since there are a lot of tiny details that are not considered at the moment in theoretical models or any classification. However, even if it may not be exact, it can give some guidance and it would be possible to make predictions on how nanoparticles and polymers interact with lipid membranes. For example, in this study we used theoretical modelling to suggest the size and surface properties of the nanoparticle that is able to cross the lipid membrane through a certain pathway and it was observed experimentally.’

Source: https://horizon-magazine.eu/

Breakthrough In The BioMedical Industry

Polyhedral boranes, or clusters of boron atoms bound to hydrogen atoms, are transforming the biomedical industry. These manmade materials have become the basis for the creation of cancer therapies, enhanced drug delivery and new contrast agents needed for radioimaging and diagnosis. Now, a researcher at the University of Missouri has discovered an entirely new class of materials based on boranes that might have widespread potential applications, including improved diagnostic tools for cancer and other diseases as well as low-cost solar energy cells.

Mark Lee Jr., an assistant professor of chemistry in the MU College of Arts and Science, discovered the new class of hybrid nanomolecules by combining boranes with carbon and hydrogen. Boranes are chemically stable and have been tested at extreme heat of up to 900 degrees Celsius or 1,652 degrees Fahrenheit. It is the thermodynamic stability these molecules exhibit that make them non-toxic and attractive to the biomedical, personal computer and alternative energy industries.
Polyhedral boranes

Despite their stability, we discovered that boranes react with aromatic hydrocarbons at mildly elevated temperatures, replacing many of the hydrogen atoms with rings of carbon,” Lee said. “Polyhedral boranes are incredibly inert, and it is their reaction with aromatic hydrocarbons like benzene that will make them more useful.”

Lee also showed that the attached hydrocarbons communicate with the borane core. “The result is that these new materials are highly fluorescent in solution,” Lee said. “Fluorescence can be used in applications such as bio-imaging agents and organic light-emitting diodes like those in phones or television screens. Solar cells and other alternative energy sources also use fluorescence, so there are many practical uses for these new materials.
The findings have been recently published in the international journal Angewandte Chemie.

Source: http://munews.missouri.edu/

First Driverless Electric Bus Line Opened In Paris

Shuttling their way to a greener city. Paris opening its first driverless buses to the public on Monday. Fully electric and fully autonomous, the ‘EZ 10‘ transports up to 10 passengers across the Seine between two main stations. The buses use laser sensors to analyse their surroundings on the road and for now they don’t have to share it with any other vehicles.

driverless Bus Paris CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

“Fewer people come on board, its slower, its electric, it doesn’t pollute and it can be stored away more easily but it will never replace a traditional bus“, says Jose Gomes, who has been driving buses here for 26 years. He’ll oversee the smooth operation of the autonomous bus.

The shuttles come as Paris faces high pollution levels. City mayor Anna Hidalgo wants to reduce the number of cars, while authorities crack down on traffic restrictions. It may be a short 130m stretch for the buses but for Paris, it’s a big step towards promoting cleaner transport.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

Stem Cells Boost Bones Repair

A recent study, affiliated with UNIST (South Korea) has developed a new method of repairing injured bone using stem cells from human bone marrow and a carbon material with photocatalytic properties, which could lead to powerful treatments for skeletal system injuries, such as fractures or periodontal disease. In the study, the research team reported that the use of human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hBMSCs) has been tried successfully in fracture treatment due to their potential to regenerate bone in patients who have lost large areas of bone from either disease or trauma. Recently, many attempts have been made to enhance the function of stem cells using carbon nanotubes, graphenes, and nano-oxides.

Professor Kim and Professor Suh (UNIST) examined the C₃N₄sheets. They discovered that this material absorbs red light and then emits fluorescence, which can be used to speed up bone regeneration. Professor Suh conducted a biomedical application of this material. After two days of testing, the material showed no cytotoxicity, making it useful as biomaterials.

bone-repairUpper left) Chemical bonding and physical structure of C₃N₄4 sheets. (Lower left) In a liquid state, red light is transmitted at a maximum of 450nm and emitted at a wavelength of 635 nm. (Right) After 4 weeks of loading C₃N₄4 sheets into the skull-damaged mice, the skull was regenerated by more than 90%.

This research has opened up the possibility of developing a new medicine that effectively treats skeletal injuries, such as fractures and osteoporosis,” said Professor Young-Kyo Seo. “It will be a very useful tool for making artificial joints and teeth with the use of 3D printing. This is an important milestone in the analysis of biomechanical functions needed for the development of biomaterials, including adjuvants for hard tissues such as damaged bones and teeth.”

This research has been jointly conducted by Professor Youngkyo Seo of Life Sciences and Dr. Jitendra N. Tiwari of Chemistry in collaboration with Professor Kwang S. Kim of Natural Science, Professor Pann-Ghill Suh of Life Sciences, and seven other researchers from UNIST.  The results of the study has been published in the January issue of ACS Nano journal.

Source: https://news.unist.ac.kr/

Reconfigurable Materials

Metamaterialsmaterials whose function is determined by structure, not composition — have been designed to bend light and sound, transform from soft to stiff, and even dampen seismic waves from earthquakes. But each of these functions requires a unique mechanical structure, making these materials great for specific tasks, but difficult to implement broadly. But what if a material could contain within its structure, multiple functions and easily and autonomously switch between them?

Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have developed a general framework to design reconfigurable metamaterials. The design strategy is scale independent, meaning it can be applied to everything from meter-scale architectures to reconfigurable nano-scale systems such as photonic crystals, waveguides and metamaterials to guide heat.

In terms of reconfigurable metamaterials, the design space is incredibly large and so the challenge is to come up with smart strategies to explore it,” said Katia Bertoldi, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Natural Sciences at SEAS and senior author of the paper. “Through a collaboration with designers and mathematicians, we found a way to generalize these rules and quickly generate a lot of interesting designs.”

The research is published in Nature.

Device Doubles The Energy Conversion Of Solar Cells

Scientists from Japan are utilizing nanotechnology advancements to strengthen solar cellsSolar cells convert light into electricity using a bevy of sources, including light from the sun and the burning of natural resources such as oil and natural gas. However, the cells do not convert all light to power equally, which led to scientists attempting to find ways to produce more power. The flame of a gas burner will shift from red to blue as the heat increases because higher temperatures emit light at shorter wavelengths. Higher heat offers more energy, making short wavelengths an important target in the design of solar cells. Kyoto University‘s Takashi Asano, began using optical technologies to improve energy production.

device to double the power of solar cells

Current solar cells are not good at converting visible light to electrical power. The best efficiency is only around 20 percent,” Asano said in a statement. “The problem is that heat dissipates light of all wavelengths, but a solar cell will only work in a narrow range. To solve this, we built a new nano-sized semiconductor that narrows the wavelength bandwidth to concentrate the energy.

The researchers were able to use their nanoscale semiconductor to raise the energy conversion rate to at least 40 percent. Asano and researchers at the Susumu Noda lab had previously attempted to work with higher wavelengths. “Our first device worked at high wavelengths but to narrow output for visible light required a new strategy, which is why we shifted to intrinsic silicon in this current collaboration with Osaka Gas,” Asano said. Visible wavelengths are emitted at 1000 degrees Celsius but conveniently silicon has a melting temperature of over 1,400 degrees Celsius.

This concept was utilized by the scientists, who etched silicon plates to have a large number of identical and equidistantly-spaced rods, the height, radii and spacing of which was optimized for the target bandwidth. Susumu Noda, a professor at Kyoto University, explained the benefits of the advancement: “Our technology has two important benefits. First is energy efficiency: we can convert heat into electricity much more efficiently than before. Secondly is design:  we can now create much smaller and more robust transducers, which will be beneficial in a wide range of applications.”

The study was published in Science Advances.

Source: http://www.rdmag.com/

New Material Ten Times Stronger Than Steel, Designed From Graphene

A team of researchers at MIT has designed one of the strongest lightweight materials known, by compressing and fusing flakes of graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon. The new material, a sponge-like configuration with a density of just 5 percent, can have a strength 10 times that of steel. In its two-dimensional form, graphene is thought to be the strongest of all known materials. But researchers until now have had a hard time translating that two-dimensional strength into useful three-dimensional materials.

The new findings show that the crucial aspect of the new 3-D forms has more to do with their unusual geometrical configuration than with the material itself, which suggests that similar strong, lightweight materials could be made from a variety of materials by creating similar geometric features.

graphene material

The team was able to compress small flakes of graphene using a combination of heat and pressure. This process produced a strong, stable structure whose form resembles that of some corals and microscopic creatures called diatoms. These shapes, which have an enormous surface area in proportion to their volume, proved to be remarkably strong. “Once we created these 3-D structures, we wanted to see what’s the limit — what’s the strongest possible material we can produce,” says Zhao Qin, research scientist at MIT. To do that, they created a variety of 3-D models and then subjected them to various tests. In computational simulations, which mimic the loading conditions in the tensile and compression tests performed in a tensile loading machine, “one of our samples has 5 percent the density of steel, but 10 times the strength,” Qin says.
The findings have been reported in the journal Science Advances.

Source: http://news.mit.edu/

How To Fast Manufacture NanoRobots

A team of researchers led by Biomedical Engineering Professor Sam Sia at Columbia Engineering has developed a way to manufacture microscale machines from biomaterials that can safely be implanted in the body. Working with hydrogels, which are biocompatible materials that engineers have been studying for decades, Sia has invented a new technique that stacks the soft material in layers to make devices that have three-dimensional, freely moving parts. The study, published online January 4, 2017, in Science Robotics, demonstrates a fast manufacturing method Sia calls “implantable microelectromechanical systems” (iMEMS).

By exploiting the unique mechanical properties of hydrogels, the researchers developed a “locking mechanism” for precise actuation and movement of freely moving parts, which can function as valves, manifolds, rotors, pumps, and drug delivery systems. They were able to tune the biomaterials within a wide range of mechanical and diffusive properties and to control them after implantation without a sustained power supply, such as a toxic battery. They then tested the payload delivery in a bone cancer model and found that the triggering of releases of doxorubicin from the device over 10 days showed high treatment efficacy and low toxicity, at 1/10th of the standard systemic chemotherapy dose.

implantable nanorobot

Overall, our iMEMS platform enables development of biocompatible implantable microdevices with a wide range of intricate moving components that can be wirelessly controlled on demand and solves issues of device powering and biocompatibility,” says Sia, also a member of the Data Science Institute. “We’re really excited about this because we’ve been able to connect the world of biomaterials with that of complex, elaborate medical devices.  Our platform has a large number of potential applications, including the drug delivery system demonstrated in our paper which is linked to providing tailored drug doses for precision medicine.”

Source: http://engineering.columbia.edu/

Electric Motorbike Round-The-World Trip

80-day round-the-world trips aren’t new – but using an electric motorbike built from scratch by students on them certainly is. Eindhoven University of Technology (Netherlands) riders drove up to 500 kilometres a day on their self-constructed Storm Wave bike, relying entirely on battery power. Other students rode behind in a bus, with one change of driver and battery swap per day.

Storm electric motorcycleCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

With a full pack you can ride 400 kilometres on one single charge. But during our tour we had to drive more, so we had to re-energise quickly. So we just took the empty ones out, replaced them with charged ones, and we could ride again,” says Bas Verkaik, Spokeperson for Storm Eindhoven.  Key to the Storm Wave is its unique modular system of 24 individual batteries. This helped ease navigation of difficult roads in countries like Turkmenistan and Uzbekhistan.

When we faced those bad roads we just took, for example half of the batteries out, we have a lighter motorcycle, lower centre of gravity, which makes it easier to handle,” comments Bas Verkaik. Storm Wave also contains a gearbox, unusual for an electric motorcycle, but allowing greater acceleration and efficiency at high speeds.

The misconceptions people have about electric vehicles is that either they’re slow or they don’t have enough power or they can’t drive fast or far enough. With our motorcycle it can go from zero to 100 (kilometres per hour) in under five seconds, and probably could go even faster if we changed some specs… I think it looks pretty nice. That’s also a misconception that people have, that electric vehicles have to be futuristic and they don’t like the design, but I’ve only heard good things about this motorcycle” , explains Storm Wave driver Yorick Heidema.

The 23 students returned home in November after receiving huge interest in cities they drove through. They say they’ve showed the world that long-distance electric vehicle travel isn’t just feasible, but cool too.

Source: https://www.storm-eindhoven.com/
AND
http://www.reuters.com/

Nanoparticles Trigger Dormant Viruses In Lung Cells

Nanoparticles from combustion engines can activate viruses that are dormant in lung tissue cells. This is the result of a study by researchers of Helmholtz Zentrum München, a partner in the German Center for Lung Research (DZL), which has now been published in the journal ‘Particle and Fibre Toxicology‘.

To evade the immune system, some viruses hide in cells of their host and persist there. In medical terminology, this state is referred to as a latent infection. If the immune system becomes weakened or if certain conditions change, the viruses become active again, begin to proliferate and destroy the host cell. A team of scientists led by Dr. Tobias Stöger of the Institute of Lung Biology and Prof. Dr. Heiko Adler, deputy head of the research unit Lung Repair and Regeneration at Helmholtz Zentrum München, now report that nanoparticles can also trigger this process.

car engine nanoparticles

From previous model studies we already knew that the inhalation of nanoparticles has an inflammatory effect and alters the immune system,” said study leader Stöger. Together with his colleagues Heiko Adler and Prof. Dr. Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin, he showed that “an exposure to nanoparticles can reactivate latent herpes viruses in the lung.

Source: https://www.helmholtz-muenchen.de/

No More Speakers For Television

Sony has created the world’s first television which can emit sound from the screen itself, removing the need for separate speakers. Unveiled at CES 2017 in Las Vegas, the A1 BRAVIA OLED series features a unique “Acoustic Surface“, which sees the sound being emitted from the whole of the screen.

Sony Bravia

Sony creates a 3D sound scape by pairing the objects you’re viewing on the screen to the sound that they are making. For example, if you were watching a movie where a car drives across the screen, the sound will follow the movement of the car, adding a whole new level of immersion to your home entertainment experience. The screen transmits sound through two transducers which are located on the back of screen. These generate vibrations onto the area of the screen that’s required to transmit the sound. Despite the BRAVIA screen working as both a screen and a speaker, it remains impressively streamline. The display also comes with clean cable management to keep wires out of view. The technology could eventually expand to include LED screens, but Sony don’t have any plans do this just yet, as the multiple layers that make up a LED screen makes it harder to retain the picture and audio quality.

By truly fusing together the image and sound, Sony’s new BRAVIA TV gives a heightened TV viewing experience without you having to set up a complex system of surround sound speakers.

Source: http://www.mirror.co.uk/

3D Printing and Nanotechnology To Detect Toxic Liquids

Carbon nanotubes have made headlines in scientific journals for a long time, as has 3D printing. But when both combine with the right polymer, in this case a thermoplastic, something special occurs: electrical conductivity increases and makes it possible to monitor liquids in real time. This is a breakthrough for Polytechnique Montréal.

In practical terms, the result of this research, led by  Professor Daniel Therriault, looks like a cloth; but as soon as a liquid comes into contact with it, said cloth is able to identify its nature. In this case, it is ethanol, but it might have been another liquid. Such a process would be a terrific advantage to heavy industry, which uses countless toxic liquids.

carbon nanotubes

While deceptively simple, the recipe is so efficient that Professor Therriault protected it with a patent. In fact, a U.S. company is already looking at commercializing this material printable in 3D, which is highly conductive and has various potential applications. The first step: take a thermoplastic and, with a solvent, transform it into a solution so that it becomes a liquid. Second step: as a result of the porousness of this thermoplastic solution, carbon nanotubes can be incorporated into it like never before, somewhat like adding sugar into a cake mix. The result: a kind of black ink that’s fairly viscous and whose very high conductivity approximates that of some metals. Third step: this black ink, which is in fact a nanocomposite, can now move on to 3D printing. As soon as it comes out of the printing nozzle, the solvent evaporates and the ink solidifies. It takes the form of filaments slightly bigger than a hair. The manufacturing work can then begin.

Findings are described in the journal Small.

Source: http://www.polymtl.ca/

Damaged teeth can be regrown naturally

A way to naturally regrow damaged teeth has been discovered by scientists in a breakthrough that could significantly reduce the need for fillings. Researchers at King’s College London (KCL) found that a drug designed to treat Alzheimer’s disease was able to stimulate the tooth to create new dentine capable of filling in large cavitiesTeeth can already cope with small areas of damage using the same process, but when the holes become too large a dentist must insert artificial cements or the tooth will be lost.

dentistCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

The simplicity of our approach makes it ideal as a clinical dental product for the natural treatment of large cavities, by providing both pulp protection and restoring dentine,” said Professor Paul Sharpe, lead author of a paper in the journal Scientific Reports.  “In addition, using a drug that has already been tested in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease provides a real opportunity to get this dental treatment quickly into clinics.”

If a tooth is damaged or infected, the soft inner pulp can become exposed, risking further infection. When this happens, a band of dentine, the hard material that makes up most of the tooth, will attempt to bridge the gap and seal off the pulp. But the researchers found that the natural repair mechanism could be boosted if the drug  Tideglusib was used. Previously it has been trialled as a treatment for various neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s. It works by stimulating stem cells, which can turn into any type of tissue in the body, already present in the pulp to create new dentine.

The drug and a substance called glycogen synthase kinase were applied to the tooth on a biodegradable sponge made from collagen. As the sponge degraded, it was replaced by dentineleading to complete, natural repair”, according to a statement about the research issued by KCL.

Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/

Paracetamol On Mars

How to produce medicine sustainably and cheaply, anywhere you want, whether in the middle of the jungle or even on Mars? Looking for a ‘mini-factory’ whereby sunlight can be captured to make chemical products? Inspired by the art of nature where leaves are able to collect enough sunlight to produce food, chemical engineers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in Netherlands have presented such a scenario. 
Using sunlight to make chemical products has long been a dream of many a chemical engineer. The problem is that the available sunlight generates too little energy to kick off reactions. However, nature is able to do this. Antenna molecules in leaves capture energy from sunlight and collect it in the reaction centers of the leaf where enough solar energy is present for the chemical reactions that give the plant its food (photosynthesis).

Luminescent Solar Concentrator-based Photomicroreactor (LSC-PM, artificial leaf for organic synthesis), research by PhD Dario Cambie & Timothy Noël, group Micro Flow Chemistry and Process Technology, Chemical Engineering and Chemistry, TU Eindhoven. photo: TU/e, Bart van Overbeeke

Luminescent Solar Concentrator-based Photomicroreactor (LSC-PM, artificial leaf for organic synthesis), research by PhD Dario Cambie & Timothy Noël

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO
The researchers came across relatively new materials, known as luminescent solar concentrators (LSC’s), which are able to capture sunlight in a similar way. Special light-sensitive molecules in these materials capture a large amount of the incoming light that they then convert into a specific color that is conducted to the edges via light conductivity. These LSC’s are often used in practice in combination with solar cells to boost the yield.

 


The results surpassed all their expectations, and not only in the lab. “Even an experiment on a cloudy day demonstrated that the chemical production was 40 percent higher than in a similar experiment without LSC material”, says research leader Noël. “We still see plenty of possibilities for improvement. We now have a powerful tool at our disposal that enables the sustainable, sunlight-based production of valuable chemical products like drugs or crop protection agents.”

For the production of drugs there is certainly a lot of potential. The chemical reactions for producing drugs currently require toxic chemicals and a lot of energy in the form of fossil fuels. By using visible light the same reactions become sustainable, cheap and, in theory, countless times faster. But Noël believes it should not have to stop there. “Using a reactor like this means you can make drugs anywhere, in principle, whether malaria drugs in the jungle or paracetamol on Mars. All you need is sunlight and this mini-factory.

The findings are described in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Source: https://www.tue.nl/

How To Convert Heat Into Electricity

The same researchers who pioneered the use of a quantum mechanical effect to convert heat into electricity have figured out how to make their technique work in a form more suitable to industry. In Nature Communications, engineers from The Ohio State University (OSU) describe how they used magnetism on a composite of nickel and platinum to amplify the voltage output 10 times or more—not in a thin film, as they had done previously, but in a thicker piece of material that more closely resembles components for future electronic devices.

Many electrical and mechanical devices, such as car engines, produce heat as a byproduct of their normal operation. It’s called “waste heat,” and its existence is required by the fundamental laws of thermodynamics, explained study co-author Stephen Boona.

devices-that-convert-heat-into-electricityOver half of the energy we use is wasted and enters the atmosphere as heat,” said Boona, a postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State. “Solid-state thermoelectrics can help us recover some of that energy. These devices have no moving parts, don’t wear out, are robust and require no maintenance. Unfortunately, to date, they are also too expensive and not quite efficient enough to warrant widespread use. We’re working to change that.”But a growing area of research called solid-state thermoelectrics aims to capture that waste heat inside specially designed materials to generate power and increase overall energy efficiency.

Source: https://news.osu.edu/

Nanoparticles And Immunotherapy, Allies To Eradicate Cancer

Some researchers are working to discover new, safer ways to deliver cancer-fighting drugs to tumors without damaging healthy cells. Others are finding ways to boost the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University   (Penn State) have combined the two approaches by taking biodegradable polymer nanoparticles encapsulated with cancer-fighting drugs and incorporating them into immune cells to create a smart, targeted system to attack cancers of specific types.

new-anti-cancer-drugs

The traditional way to deliver drugs to tumors is to put the drug inside some type of nanoparticle and inject those particles into the bloodstream,” said Jian Yang, professor of biomedical engineering, Penn State. “Because the particles are so small, if they happen to reach the tumor site they have a chance of penetrating through the blood vessel wall because the vasculature of tumors is usually leaky.”

The odds of interacting with cancer cells can be improved by coating the outside of the nanoparticles with antibodies or certain proteins or peptides that will lock onto the cancer cell when they make contact. However, this is still a passive drug delivery technology. If the particle does not go to the tumor, there is no chance for it to bind and deliver the drug.

Yang and Cheng Dong, professor of biomedical engineering, wanted a more active method of sending drugs to the cancer wherever it was located, whether circulating in the blood, the brain, or any of the other organs of the body.

“I have 10 years of working in immunology and cancer,” Dong said. “Jian is more a biomaterials scientist. He knows how to make the nanoparticles biodegradable. He knows how to modify the particles with surface chemistry, to decorate them with peptides or antibodies. His material is naturally fluorescent, so you can track the particles at the same time they are delivering the drug, a process called theranostics that combines therapy and diagnostics. On the other hand, I study the cancer microenvironment, and I have discovered that the microenvironment of the tumor generates kinds of inflammatory signals similar to what would happen if you had an infection.”

Immune cells, which were built to respond to inflammatory signals, will be naturally attracted to the tumor site. This makes immune cells a perfect active delivery system for Yang’s nanoparticles. The same technology is also likely to be effective for infectious or other diseases, as well as for tissue regeneration, Dong said.

Source: http://news.psu.edu/

Nanowire Inks For Printable Electronics

By suspending tiny metal nanoparticles in liquids, Duke University scientists are brewing up conductive ink-jet printer “inks” to print inexpensive, customizable circuit patterns on just about any surfacePrinted electronics, which are already being used on a wide scale in devices such as the anti-theft radio frequency identification (RFID) tags you might find on the back of new DVDs, currently have one major drawback: for the circuits to work, they first have to be heated to melt all the nanoparticles together into a single conductive wire, making it impossible to print circuits on inexpensive plastics or paper. A new study by Duke researchers shows that tweaking the shape of the nanoparticles in the ink might just eliminate the need for heat.

By comparing the conductivity of films made from different shapes of silver nanostructures, the researchers found that electrons zip through films made of silver nanowires much easier than films made from other shapes, like nanospheres or microflakes. In fact, electrons flowed so easily through the nanowire films that they could function in printed circuits without the need to melt them all together.

silvernanostructures

The nanowires had a 4,000 times higher conductivity than the more commonly used silver nanoparticles that you would find in printed antennas for RFID tags,” said Benjamin Wiley, assistant professor of chemistry at Duke. “So if you use nanowires, then you don’t have to heat the printed circuits up to such high temperature and you can use cheaper plastics or paper.”

There is really nothing else I can think of besides these silver nanowires that you can just print and it’s simply conductive, without any post-processing,” Wiley added.

These types of printed electronics could have applications far beyond solar cells; researchers envision using the technology to make solar cells, printed displays, LEDS, touchscreens, amplifiers, batteries and even some implantable bio-electronic devices. The results appeared online Dec. 16 in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

Source: https://today.duke.edu/

DNA DataStorage, New Frontier For Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology holds a lot of promise to almost every aspect of our lives from consumer electronics to ending life-threatening illnesses. However, the greatest challenge nanotechnology is facing is the limitation of how much smaller they can shrink the physical size of semiconductors. However, a group of scientists are taking that challenge and if they are successful, we may be well on our way to a future much wilder than science fiction – molecular electronics.

dna

Molecular electronics works at the most minute scale using single molecules including its sub properties and characteristics. The concept of molecular electronics was first originated in 1997 by Mark Reed and his colleagues.

This is what a team of Russian and Israeli scientists are trying to explore as the demand for smaller electronic devices proliferate. Their study proposes to “metallizeDNA using nanoparticles of silver.

First of all, the DNA can hold a great amount of information despite its small size. What’s more intriguing is that the ability of DNA is not limited to storing only genetic information. The study has revealed that the DNA has more uncanny and unique features.

The first feature they discovered was that the DNA has superconducting abilities when placed between two superconductors. The second feature was that they can effect charge transport, which happen when you introduce metal atoms along the strand. Moreover, the scientists also discovered that the conductivity of the DNA molecules depend on the type of substrate they are placed on.

Although the scientists were able to ‘metallize‘ atoms, the distribution was not even along the entire length of the strands, which means not all of it becomes ‘metal.’ However, they found out that these DNA molecules can interact with silver nanoparticles resulting in an even metal DNA strand.

If further experimentation and testing become successful, such nanowire would be 1.1 nanometers high and 400 nanometers long.

The study is published in Advanced Materials.

Source: http://www.universityherald.com/

£25,000 To Fabricate A New Beer According To Your DNA

Can’t quite find the perfect pint? A London brewer claims to have the answer – a beer designed around your DNA profile. The Meantime Brewing Company in Greenwich says designing a product to suit a particular person’s palate is a world first.

meantime-beerCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

What we looked at doing was trying to create a beer where we could produce a beer specifically to that person, so looking at their DNA to understand the taste profile of the individual to then say OK, you particularly identify bitter flavours, sweet flavours what have you and then produce a beer which has that characteristic so you would ultimately like that beer and it would be a great beer to taste and it would suit your taste buds perfectly.” explains Ciaran Giblin, Brewmaster at Meantime Brewing Company.

Launching in February, Meantime Bespoke customers will have their DNA analysed They’re looking for variations in the gene that allows us to taste bitter compounds like those found in cabbage, coffee and certain dark beers. Then it’s back to the brewery and tried and tested variations of barley, hops, yeast and water.

It’s about interpreting all these different facets to bring it together to produce one beer that someone is going to like. So it’s a complex process. It’s not a simple case of just putting it all in together and off it goes. There’s lots of elements that we’ve got to draw in together to focus on in order to deliver the beer that is perfect for someone to drink,” comments Ciaran Giblin.

Customers will pay 25,000 pounds for the privilege – and for a little extra can impact the whole process of creating a new beer .

You have influence on what the label looks like, on what the taste of the beer looks like. You can even get a glass perfectly formed to your hand so you can enjoy it in the perfect way. A glass can influence the flavour of the beer as well. So it really ticks off every box that you go through and then you get to share it with friends or if you’re a business or wherever you go,” says Richard Myers, Marketing Director of the company. Customers will get 12 hectolitres of their unique brew in bottles – more than 2,000 pints It can also be delivered in kegs to your favourite pub – where you’ll have even more friends than you realised.

Source: https://www.meantimebrewing.com/

The Rise Of The Hydrogen Electric Car

Right now, if you want an alternative-fuel vehicle, you have to pick from offerings that either require gasoline or an electrical outlet. The gas-electric hybrid and the battery-powered car — your Toyota Priuses, Chevy Volts, and Teslas — are staples in this space. There are drawbacks for drivers of both types. You still have to buy gas for your hybrid and you have to plug in your Tesla — sometimes under less than favorable conditions — lest you be stranded someplace far away from a suitable plug. Beyond that, automakers have been out to find the next viable energy source. Plug-in vehicles are more or less proven to be the answer, but Toyota and a handful of other carmakers are investigating hydrogen.

toyota-mirai

That’s where the Toyota Mirai comes in. The Mirai‘s interior center stack has all the technology you would expect from a car that retails for $57,500, including navigation, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity. It’s all accessible by touch screens and robust digital displays.
A fill-up on hydrogen costs just about as much as regular gasoline in San Francisco. The Mirai gets an estimated 67 MPGe (67 Miles per gallon gasoline equivalent = 28,5 kilometers per liter)), according to Toyota.
It’s an ambitious project for Toyota because the fueling infrastructure for this car is minimal. There are only 33 public hydrogen-filling stations in the US, according to the US Department of Energy. Twenty-six of those stations are in California, and there’s one each in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina.

If you include public and private hydrogen stations, then the total climbs to 58 — nationwide. Compare that to the more than 15,100 public electric-charging stations and the 168,000 retail gas stations in the US, and you can see the obvious drawback of hydrogen-powered cars. Despite this, the Mirai is an interesting project, and you must keep in mind that Japan at the Government level seems to bet on a massively hydrogen powered economy in the near future (fuel, heating, replacement of nuclear energy, trains, electric vehicles, etc…).

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com

Hyperloop Competition

Elon Musk’s futuristic Hyperloop concept was unveiled in 2013… …a transport system allowing people to travel at almost the speed of sound inside reduced-pressure tubes. To bring the idea closer to reality Musk launched the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod contest. 30 teams, like this one from Delft University of Technology (Netherlands), will test their pods on a mile-long track in California next month. The Delft Hyperloop uses passive magnetic bearing to allow contact-free levitation.

delft-hyperloopCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

What’s so nice about it is that these magnets they’re not electro-magnets that require current, but they’re passive, permanent magnets, so the ones you can put on your fridge, for example – and that makes the entire system very energy efficient. You don’t need to put in any power to start levitating. You just gain speed and then the vehicle wants to go up and levitate by itself,” explains Sascha Lamme, chief engineer for Delft Hyperloop.

The half-size pod prototype weighs just 149 kilograms. It’s designed to reach Musk’s 750 mile per hour target… …though the small test track will limit competitors to around half that. The Delft team insists its pod has proved safe in tests.
It starts levitating at a height of almost two centimetres. But also our braking system really controls the vehicle very smoothly, to get to a controlled stop, so that all the passengers still feel comfortable….Even when the power is lost in the entire vehicle, the vehicle will come to a quick standstill, so everyone is safe,” adds Sascha Lamme.  January’s competition winners will hope victory brings them closer to making Elon Musk’s high-speed dream a reality.

Source: http://delfthyperloop.nl/
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ImmunoTherapy Registers Success Against Brain Cancer

Using the immune system to beat cancer is quickly becoming a promising new strategy for battling tumors. But most of the success so far has been with blood cancers like lymphomas and leukemias. Immunotherapy, as it’s called, has yet to prove itself with solid tumors like breast, prostate, lung, colon and brain cancers.But in a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers led by Dr. Behnam Badie from the City of Hope Beckman Research Institute and Medical Center say that the same immune-based therapy that is successful against blood cancers also helped a patient with advanced brain cancer.

brain cancer

The 50-year-old man with glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive type of brain tumor, had already been treated with surgery, radiation and anti-tumor drug therapies. Despite these treatments, his cancer had returned and also spread to other parts of his brain and spinal cord. Badie and his team extracted immune cells from him, then engineered them to express proteins on their surface that would recognize and destroy glioblastoma tumor cells. After surgery to remove the bulk of the brain tumor, Badie and his colleagues directly injected the site with the modified immune cells (called chimeric antigen receptor T cells, or CAR T cells) six times, and the remaining part of this tumor stopped growing.

Other smaller growths in the brain continued to grow, however, so the patient received 10 more doses of the CAR T cells injected into the cavities in the brain, called the ventricles. This is the first time that immune cells have been injected into these brain regions, because introducing anything into the ventricles can cause dangerous and possibly deadly inflammation. The man did not develop such serious complications, however, and after about four months, these tumors too started to shrink. By six months, almost all had disappeared.

If the patient had not received the CAR T therapy, he likely would only have survived a few weeks after his cancer recurred, says Badie. But after being treated with the immune therapy, his cancer did not grow or recur for nearly eight months. “If we can do the same for other patients, that would be an amazing accomplishment that many decades of work and research on glioblastoma have never done,” says Badie, whose own father passed away a decade ago from glioblastoma.

Source: http://time.com/

Robotic Sommelier Blends The Wine That Matches Your Personal Taste

It’s a device that may have wine aficionados spluttering into their claret. Vinfusion is a robotic sommelier that helps you blend a glass of wine to your specific taste. It’s pre-loaded with four distinct base wines that can be mixed together into hundreds of new flavour combinations.

wineCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

We took about 30-odd wines into the lab and analysed the chemical profile of those individual wines… we narrowed it down to four base wines; these are a Chilean Pinot Noir, a Chilean Merlot, an Australian Shiraz and a French sweet wine which is a Muscat. And we chose these wines to represent the extremes of the flavour space that we developed,” says Sajith Wimalaratne, Manager at Cambridge Consultants. Using simple terms like full-bodied or light, and dry or sweet the user simply adjusts the parameters on a sliding scale. Vinfusion also makes recommendations based on the wine you’ve created.

I’m going to blend my own wine. So I’m going to have quite a full-bodied wine, pretty soft and fairly sweet. And it says that this wine is similar to a ruby port. And now I’m going to blend this wine; so you can see we’ve got four wines blending in the chamber here, they’re coming in the top and they’re also being aerated to open up the bouquet of the wine, just as you would open a red wine for a while before you drink it.” adds Andrew Stratton, fluids engineer at Cambridge Consultants.

The wine dispensed – while certainly quaffable – would be unlikely to pass muster with serious wine lovers. The makers deliberately chose base wines priced around the 10-dollars the average consumer spend on a bottle.  “Wine is a complex beverage. And a lot of people just tend to stick to one or two that they know. But what we wanted to do was actually make this amazing range of wines out there, and make it more accessible to the consumer,” comments Sajith Wimalaratne.   Winemaking is steeped in history, largely defying technological interference. Vinfusion could, in theory, be loaded with finer wines producing a higher quality beverage. For wine snobs, however, any Vinfusion vintage might just be too unpalatable.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

Melanoma Detector

Even experts can be fooled by melanoma. People with this type of skin cancer often have mole-looking growths on their skin that tend to be irregular in shape and color, and can be hard to tell apart from benign ones, making the disease difficult to diagnose. Now, researchers at The Rockefeller University have developed an automated technology that combines imaging with digital analysis and machine learning to help physicians detect melanoma at its early stages.

melanoma-detectorMalignant or benign?: An image of a skin lesion is processed by a new technology to extract quantitative data, such as irregularities in the shape of pigmented skin, which could help doctors determine if the growth is cancerous

 

There is a real need for standardization across the field of dermatology in how melanomas are evaluated,” says James Krueger, D. Martin Carter Professor in Clinical Investigation and head of the Laboratory of Investigative Dermatology. “Detection through screening saves lives but is very challenging visually, and even when a suspicious lesion is extracted and biopsied, it is confirmed to be melanoma in only about 10 percent of cases.”

In the new approach, images of lesions are processed by a series of computer programs that extract information about the number of colors present in a growth, and other quantitative data. The analysis generates an overall risk score, called a Q-score, which indicates the likelihood that the growth is cancerous.

Published in Experimental Dermatology, a recent study evaluating the tool’s usefulness indicates that the Q-score yields 98 percent sensitivity, meaning it is very likely to correctly identify early melanomas on the skin. The ability of the test to correctly diagnose normal moles was 36 percent, approaching the levels achieved by expert dermatologists performing visual examinations of suspect moles under the microscope.

The success of the Q-score in predicting melanoma is a marked improvement over competing technologies,” says Daniel Gareau, first author of the report and instructor in clinical investigation in the Krueger laboratory.

The researchers developed this tool by feeding 60 photos of cancerous melanomas and an equivalent batch of pictures of benign growths into image processing programs. They developed imaging biomarkers to precisely quantify visual features of the growths. Using computational methods, they generated a set of quantitative metrics that differed between the two groups of images—essentially identifying what visual aspects of the lesion mattered most in terms of malignancy—and gave each biomarker a malignancy rating.

By combining the data from each biomarker, they calculated the overall Q-score for each image, a value between zero and one in which a higher number indicates a higher probability of a lesion being a cancerous.

Source: http://newswire.rockefeller.edu/

Artificial Skin Breathes like Human Skin

A scientist in Chile is using microscopic algae to make skingreen skin. These very small, very simple plants are being used to develop a new artificial skin for humans. The problem with most current artificial skin is that there are no blood vessels – so the man-made skin cannot produce the oxygen it needs to live. But with algae, the skin can breathe through the process of photosynthesis.

artificial-skin-breathesCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

What we’re basically doing is incorporating micro-algae, which are like microscopic plants into different types of materials. For example, when we apply artificial skin what we have is the characteristics of plants which means when it is lit up it can produce oxygen,” says Tomas Egana from the Chile’s Catholic University, professor at the Institute of biological engineering. And the benefits of the algae could go beyond just a cosmetic improvement. It may help human skin heal itself: “These micro-algae can be genetically modified. So that in addition to producing oxygen they will produce different factors, for example antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and pro-regenerative molecules. So, we are going to have material which is completely artificial and still, which is a structure that has material that is alive.

Professor Egana says the green-colored skin could eventually be used to help patients treat open wounds, tumors and possibly avoid amputations. But patients need not worry about looking like the Incredible Hulk. Egana believes the green color will fade over time as the algae dies. At the moment, animal testing has proven a success. Human trials are expected next year.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

Japan Bets On Hydrogen As A Green Energy Source

Hydrogen gas is a promising alternative energy source to overcome our reliance on carbon-based fuels, and has the benefit of producing only water when it is reacted with oxygen. However, hydrogen is highly reactive and flammable, so it requires careful handling and storage. Typical hydrogen storage materials are limited by factors like water sensitivity, risk of explosion, difficulty of control of hydrogen-generation.

alstom-hydrogen-electric-train Hydrogen gas can be produced efficiently from organosilanes, some of which are suitably air-stable, non-toxic, and cheap. Catalysts that can efficiently produce hydrogen from organosilanes are therefore desired with the ultimate goal of realizing safe, inexpensive hydrogen production in high yield. Ideally, the catalyst should also operate at room temperature under aerobic conditions without the need for additional energy input. A research team led by Kiyotomi Kaneda and Takato Mitsudome at Osaka University have now developed a catalyst that realizes efficient environmentally friendly hydrogen production from organosilanes. The catalyst is composed of gold nanoparticles with a diameter of around 2 nm supported on hydroxyapatite.

The team then added the nanoparticle catalyst to solutions of different organosilanes to measure its ability to induce hydrogen production. The nanoparticle catalyst displayed the highest turnover frequency and number attained to date for hydrogen production catalysts from organosilanes. For example, the  converted 99% of dimethylphenylsilane to the corresponding silanol in just 9 min at room temperature, releasing an equimolar amount of hydrogen gas at the same time. Importantly, the catalyst was recyclable without loss of activity. On/off switching of hydrogen production was achieved using the nanoparticle catalyst because it could be easily separated from its organosilane substrate by filtration. The activity of the catalyst increased as the nanoparticle size decreased.

A prototype portable hydrogen fuel cell containing the nanoparticle catalyst and an organosilane substrate was fabricated. The fuel cell generated power in air at room temperature and could be switched on and off as desired.

Generation of hydrogen from inexpensive organosilane substrates under ambient conditions without additional energy input represents an exciting advance towards the goal of using hydrogen as a green energy source.

Source: https://www.eurekalert.org/
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http://www.nature.com/

Bones Could Be 3D Printed With Unbreakable Materials

Scientists from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) have discovered the secret behind the toughness of deer antlers and how they can resist breaking during fights.

3d-printed-bones

The fibrils that make up the antler are staggered rather than in line with each other. This allows them to absorb the energy from the impact of a clash during a fight,” said first author Paolino De Falco from QMUL‘s School of Engineering and Materials Science .

The research, published in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering, provides new insights and fills a previous gap in the area of structural modelling of bone. It also opens up possibilities for the creation of a new generation of materials that can resist damage.

Co-author Dr Ettore Barbieri, also from QMUL‘s School of Engineering and Materials Science, comments: “Our next step is to create a 3D printed model with fibres arranged in staggered configuration and linked by an elastic interface. The aim is to prove that additive manufacturing – where a prototype can be created a layer at a time – can be used to create damage resistant composite material.”

Source: http://www.qmul.ac.uk/

Neuron Triggers Insulin

Research led by a Johns Hopkins University biologist demonstrates the workings of a biochemical pathway that helps control glucose in the bloodstream, a development that could potentially lead to treatments for diabetes. In a paper published in the current issue of Developmental Cell, Jessica Houtz, a graduate student working with Rejji Kuruvilla in the Department of Biology at Johns Hopkins, shows that a protein that regulates the development of nerve cells also plays a role in prompting cells in the pancreas to release insulin, a hormone that helps to maintain a normal level of blood sugar.

jessica_houtzCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO
Kuruvilla worked on the project with Johns Hopkins colleagues, Houtz who is the lead author, and Philip Borden and Alexis Ceasrine, all doctoral students in the biology department. Also taking part was Liliana Minichiello of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Oxford.

The research is potentially relevant to type-2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, affecting nearly one in ten Americans. With this form of the condition, which can appear at any time of life, the body makes insulin, but is either not releasing enough of it or not using the regulatory chemical efficiently to control blood sugar. In type-1 diabetes, which appears in childhood, an immune response gone awry destroys the body’s ability to produce insulin altogether.

The research on insulin represents a detour for Kuruvilla, whose work has focused on development of the peripheral nervous system. She has studied a group of proteins called neurotrophins, and in particular nerve growth factor [NGF]. These proteins nurture the growth of neurons, the cells of the nervous system.

neurons-fly-through-3d-model

It has been known for some time that neurons and the pancreatic beta cells, or β-cells, that reside in clusters called islets of Langerhans and produce insulin, have many similarities in molecular makeup and signaling receptors. Receptors are proteins on cell surfaces that respond to particular chemicals and have critical roles in biochemical pathways. Both neurons and pancreatic β-cells have the receptors for neurotrophins.

This project was sparked by seeing NGF receptors present in beta-cells,” said Kuruvilla. The question was, she said: “what are these receptors doing outside the nervous system?”

Turns out that NGF performs a function in the mature pancreas that has nothing to do with supporting neurons. Specifically, the research team traced a chain of biochemical signals showing that elevated blood glucose causes NGF to be released from blood vessels in the pancreas, and that the NGF signal then prompts pancreatic β-cells to relax their rigid cytoskeletal structure, releasing insulin granules into the blood stream. Although β-cells also make NGF, Kuruvilla and her team found that it was the NGF released from the blood vessels that is needed for insulin secretion.

Using genetic manipulation in mice and drugs to block NGF signaling in β-cells, they were able to disrupt distinct elements of this signaling sequence, to show that this classical neuronal pathway is necessary to enhance insulin secretion and glucose tolerance in mice. Importantly, Kuruvilla and colleagues found that NGF’s ability to enhance insulin secretion in response to high glucose also occurs in human β-cells.

It is not yet clear how this system is affected in people with diabetes. “We are very interested in knowing whether aspects of this pathway are disrupted in pre-diabetic individuals,” said Kuruvilla. It would be of interest to determine if NGF or small molecules that bind and activate NGF receptors in the pancreas could be of potential use in the treatment of type-2 diabetes.

Source: http://releases.jhu.edu/

Graphene Detects Early Cancer

What can’t graphene do? You can scratch “detect cancer” off of that list. By interfacing brain cells onto graphene, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have shown they can differentiate a single hyperactive cancerous cell from a normal cell, pointing the way to developing a simple, noninvasive tool for early cancer diagnosis.

graphene-cancer-detectionNormal and cancerous brain cells interfaced with graphene show different activity levels under Raman imaging.
This graphene system is able to detect the level of activity of an interfaced cell,” says Vikas Berry, associate professor and head of chemical engineering at UIC, who led the research along with Ankit Mehta, assistant professor of clinical neurosurgery in the UIC College of Medicine.
The cell’s interface with graphene rearranges the charge distribution in graphene, which modifies the energy of atomic vibration as detected by Raman spectroscopy,” Berry said, referring to a powerful workhorse technique that is routinely used to study graphene. The atomic vibration energy in graphene’s crystal lattice differs depending on whether it’s in contact with a cancer cell or a normal cell, Berry said, because the cancer cell’s hyperactivity leads to a higher negative charge on its surface and the release of more protons.“Graphene is the thinnest known material and is very sensitive to whatever happens on its surface,” Berry said. The nanomaterial is composed of a single layer of carbon atoms linked in a hexagonal chicken-wire pattern, and all the atoms share a cloud of electrons moving freely about the surface.

The study, reported in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, looked at cultured human brain cells, comparing normal astrocytes to their cancerous counterpart, the highly malignant brain tumor glioblastoma multiforme. The technique is now being studied in a mouse model of cancer, with results that are “very promising,” Berry said. “Once a patient has brain tumor surgery, we could use this technique to see if the tumor relapses,” Berry said. “For this, we would need a cell sample we could interface with graphene and look to see if cancer cells are still present.”

The same technique may also work to differentiate between other types of cells or the activity of cells. “We may be able to use it with bacteria to quickly see if the strain is Gram-positive or Gram-negative,” Berry said. “We may be able to use it to detect sickle cells.”

Earlier this year, Berry and other coworkers introduced nanoscale ripples in graphene, causing it to conduct differently in perpendicular directions, useful for electronics. They wrinkled the graphene by draping it over a string of rod-shaped bacteria, then vacuum-shrinking the germs. “We took the earlier work and sort of flipped it over,” Berry said. “Instead of laying graphene on cells, we laid cells on graphene and studied graphene’s atomic vibrations.”

Co-authors on the study are Bijentimala Keisham and Phong Nguyen of UIC chemical engineering and Arron Cole of UIC neurosurgery.

Source: https://news.uic.edu/

Immunotherapy Could Eradicate A Third of All Cancers

In August 2015, former US President Jimmy Carter, then 91, announced he had cancer. The diagnosis was metastatic melanoma, and it had spread to his brain. He thought he had merely weeks to live. Just four months later, he made headlines again, revealing he had tested cancer-free. Before long, doctors said he no longer needed treatment. That remarkable turn came from a combination of a traditional therapy, radiation, and a new one, an immunotherapy drug called Keytruda, which was delivered intravenously once every three weeks. Keytruda had only been approved for about a year at that point.

Drug companies see potential for a new group of mega moneymakers. Investors and billionaires, like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Silicon Valley billionaire Sean Parker, have invested hundreds of millions into researching new treatments. New drugs such as Keytruda are a type of immunotherapy called checkpoint inhibitors. Most people have a type of protein that stops their immune systems from fighting the cancerous cells. Keytruda and similar drugs block those proteins. It’s like taking down a guard tower, allowing the body’s own immune system force to flood past a barrier, where it then gets to work killing and clearing away the cancer cellsCheckpoint inhibitors were first approved to treat melanoma but have since gone on to tackle lung cancer, bladder cancer, blood cancers, and other cancers.

Dan Chen, vice president and global head of cancer immunotherapy development at Genentech considers  checkpoint inhibitor Tecentriq to be the foundation of the company’s cancer immunotherapy program.

cancer-cells

This is a critical program for us. It allowed us to learn an enormous amount about cancer immunity,” like how the drugs work to inhibit the checkpoints, Chen said. Genentech points to patients like Bob Schoenbauer to show why the company is “investing more than ever to bring personalized cancer immunotherapy (PCI) to people with cancer.”

Schoenbauer had been diagnosed with late-stage inoperable lung cancer in 2013. Soon after, Schoenbauer was connected with a clinical trial of Tecentriq out of Georgetown University. “Almost immediately, the cough was going away,” his wife, Frances, said. “It worked so fast, I couldn’t believe how good he was feeling.” Schoenbauer, who still gets Tecentriq every three weeks, is active and walks to the mall in his Maryland town every morning. He’s in remission.

Still there are some major caveats. First, not everyone is responding to the drugs — for advanced stages of melanoma, the number of people still alive after two years was about 35%, compared to 29.7% over the same time for those taking chemotherapy. And sometimes new checkpoint inhibitors under development fail key trials.

Source: http://uk.businessinsider.com/

“Liquid Biopsy” Chip Detects Metastatic Cancer Cells in a Drop of Blood

A chip developed by mechanical engineers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) can trap and identify metastatic cancer cells in a small amount of blood drawn from a cancer patient. The breakthrough technology uses a simple mechanical method that has been shown to be more effective in trapping cancer cells than the microfluidic approach employed in many existing devices.

liquid-biopsy-chip-test

The chip is tested in the lab. The electrodes detect electrical changes that occur when cancer cells are captured (click on the image to enjoy the video)

The WPI device uses antibodies attached to an array of carbon nanotubes at the bottom of a tiny well. Cancer cells settle to the bottom of the well, where they selectively bind to the antibodies based on their surface markers (unlike other devices, the chip can also trap tiny structures called exosomes produced by cancers cells). This “liquid biopsy,”  could become the basis of a simple lab test that could quickly detect early signs of metastasis and help physicians select treatments targeted at the specific cancer cells identified.

Metastasis is the process by which a cancer can spread from one organ to other parts of the body, typically by entering the bloodstream. Different types of tumors show a preference for specific organs and tissues; circulating breast cancer cells, for example, are likely to take root in bones, lungs, and the brain. The prognosis for metastatic cancer (also called stage IV cancer) is generally poor, so a technique that could detect these circulating tumor cells before they have a chance to form new colonies of tumors at distant sites could greatly increase a patient’s survival odds.

The focus on capturing circulating tumor cells is quite new,” said Balaji Panchapakesan, associate professor of mechanical engineering at WPI and director of the Small Systems Laboratory. “It is a very difficult challenge, not unlike looking for a needle in a haystack. There are billions of red blood cells, tens of thousands of white blood cells, and, perhaps, only a small number of tumor cells floating among them. We’ve shown how those cells can be captured with high precision.

The findings have been described in  the journal Nanotechnology,

Source: https://www.wpi.edu/

Nanoparticles Overcome Treatment-Resistant Breast Cancer

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine have been able to generate multifunctional RNA nanoparticles that could overcome treatment resistance in breast cancer, potentially making existing treatments more effective in these patients. The research team  led by Xiaoting Zhang, PhD, associate professor at the UC College of Medicine, demonstrates that using a nanodelivery system to target HER2-positive breast cancer and stop production of the protein MED1 could slow tumor growth, stop cancer from spreading and sensitize the cancer cells to treatment with tamoxifen, a known therapy for estrogen-driven cancer.
nanoparticles-300x225
Most breast cancers express estrogen receptors, and the anti-estrogen drug tamoxifen has been widely used for their treatment,” says Zhang, who is also a member of the Cincinnati Cancer Center and the UC Cancer Institute. “Unfortunately, up to half of all estrogen receptor-positive tumors are either unresponsive or later develop resistance to the therapy. In this study, we have developed a highly innovative design that takes advantage of the co-overexpression of HER2 and MED1 in these tumors.”
Zhang and researchers in his lab found that these RNA nanoparticles were able to selectively bind to HER2-overexpressing breast tumors, eliminating MED1 expression and significantly decreasing estrogen receptor-controlled target gene production. The RNA nanoparticles not only reduced the growth and spread of the HER2-overexpressing breast cancer tumors, but also sensitized them to tamoxifen treatment.

The study, has been published in the online edition of ACS Nano.

Source: http://healthnews.uc.edu/

Why North Atlantic Tuna Is Less Toxic ?

In a piece of welcome news for seafood lovers, a Stony Brook-led research team has found declining levels of mercury in bluefin tuna caught in the North Atlantic over the past decadeMercury is a neurotoxin harmful to humans, and tuna provide more mercury to humans than any other source.

A study led by Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) and published in Environmental Science & Technology provides a new data set, the largest of its kind, of mercury concentrations in Atlantic bluefin tuna. The data demonstrate that, while tissue concentrations were higher than in most other fish species, there has been a consistent decline in mercury concentrations in these tuna over time, regardless of age of the fish.

blue-sea

KEY FINDINGS:

The researchers measured mercury concentrations from the tissue of 1,292 bluefin tuna caught between 2004 and 2012

  • Over the eight-year period, mercury levels in the fish fell 19 percent.
  • Mercury concentrations were generally high, and were highest in the largest, oldest fish; no differences were noted between males and females.
  • Mercury in the air over the North Atlantic fell 20 percent from 2001 to 2009.
  • Global levels of mercury emissions have fallen 2.8 percent a year from 1990 to 2007.

The rate of decline parallels the declines – over the same time period — of mercury emissions, mercury levels in North Atlantic air, and mercury concentrations in North Atlantic seawater. Authors of the study include Stony Brook’s Cheng-Shiuan Lee, a Ph.D student in chemical/biological oceanography, and Nicholas S. Fisher, Distinguished Professor & Director, Consortium for Inter-Disciplinary Environmental Research at SoMAS.

According Fisher, the finding appears to indicate that changes in mercury levels in fish tissue respond in real time to changes in mercury loadings into the ocean. The study suggests that mercury levels may be improving as a result of declining coal use, reducing emissions that drift over the Atlantic.

Source: http://www.stonybrook.edu/

How To Fabricate The Hardest Diamond

The Australian National University (ANU) has led an international project to make a diamond that’s predicted to be harder than a jeweller’s diamond and useful for cutting through ultra-solid materials on mining sites. ANU Associate Professor Jodie Bradby said her team – including ANU PhD student Thomas Shiell and experts from RMIT, the University of Sydney and the United States – made nano-sized Lonsdaleite, which is a hexagonal diamond only found in nature at the site of meteorite impacts such as Canyon Diablo in the US.

diamond

This new diamond is not going to be on any engagement rings. You’ll more likely find it on a mining site – but I still think that diamonds are a scientist’s best friend. Any time you need a super-hard material to cut something, this new diamond has the potential to do it more easily and more quickly,” said Dr Bradby from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.

Her research team made the Lonsdaleite in a diamond anvil at 400 degrees Celsius, halving the temperature at which it can be formed in a laboratory. “The hexagonal structure of this diamond’s atoms makes it much harder than regular diamonds, which have a cubic structure. We’ve been able to make it at the nanoscale and this is exciting because often with these materials ‘smaller is stronger‘.”

Lonsdaleite is named after the famous British pioneering female crystallographer Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, who was the first woman elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society.

The research is published in Scientific Reports.

Source: http://www.anu.edu.au/

Ultra Thin Nightvision Glasses Based On NanoPhotonics

Scientists from the Australian National University (ANU) have designed a nano crystal around 500 times smaller than a human hair that turns darkness into visible light and can be used to create light-weight night-vision glasses. Professor Dragomir Neshev from ANU said the new night-vision glasses could replace the cumbersome and bulky night-vision binoculars currently in use.

ultra-thin-nano-crystal-film_anu-1

The nano crystals are so small they could be fitted as an ultra-thin film to normal eye glasses to enable night vision,” said Professor Neshev from the Nonlinear Physics Centre within the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.

This tiny device could have other exciting uses including in anti-counterfeit devices in bank notes, imaging cells for medical applications and holograms.”

Co-researcher Dr Mohsen Rahmani said the ANU team’s achievement was a big milestone in the field of nanophotonics, which involves the study of behaviour of light and interaction of objects with light at the nano-scale.

nightvision-glasses

These semi-conductor nano-crystals can transfer the highest intensity of light and engineer complex light beams that could be used with a laser to project a holographic image in modern displays,” said Dr Rahmani, a recipient of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award based at the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.

PhD student Maria del Rocio Camacho-Morales said the team built the device on glass so that light can pass through, which was critical for optical displays.

Source: http://www.anu.edu.au/

How To Capture Energy From Human Motion

The day of charging cellphones with finger swipes and powering Bluetooth headsets simply by walking is now much closer. Michigan State University engineering researchers have created a new way to harvest energy from human motion, using a film-like device that actually can be folded to create more power. With the low-cost device, known as a nanogenerator, the scientists successfully operated an LCD touch screen, a bank of 20 LED lights and a flexible keyboard, all with a simple touching or pressing motion and without the aid of a battery.

energy-from-human-motionThe foldable keyboard, created by Michigan State University engineer Nelson Sepulveda and his research team, operates by touch; no battery is needed. Sepulveda developed a new way to harvest energy from human motion using a pioneering device called a biocompatible ferroelectret nanogenerator, or FENG.

We’re on the path toward wearable devices powered by human motion,” said Nelson Sepulveda, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and lead investigator of the project. “What I foresee, relatively soon, is the capability of not having to charge your cell phone for an entire week, for example, because that energy will be produced by your movement,” said Sepulveda,.

The innovative process starts with a silicone wafer, which is then fabricated with several layers, or thin sheets, of environmentally friendly substances including silver, polyimide and polypropylene ferroelectret. Ions are added so that each layer in the device contains charged particles. Electrical energy is created when the device is compressed by human motion, or mechanical energy. The completed device is called a biocompatible ferroelectret nanogenerator, or FENG. The device is as thin as a sheet of paper and can be adapted to many applications and sizes. The device used to power the LED lights was palm-sized, for example, while the device used to power the touch screen was as small as a finger.

Advantages such as being lightweight, flexible, biocompatible, scalable, low-cost and robust could make FENGa promising and alternative method in the field of mechanical-energy harvesting” for many autonomous electronics such as wireless headsets, cell phones and other touch-screen devices, the study says. Remarkably, the device also becomes more powerful when folded.

Each time you fold it you are increasing exponentially the amount of voltage you are creating,” Sepulveda said. “You can start with a large device, but when you fold it once, and again, and again, it’s now much smaller and has more energy. Now it may be small enough to put in a specially made heel of your shoe so it creates power each time your heel strikes the ground.” Sepulveda and his team are developing technology that would transmit the power generated from the heel strike to, say, a wireless headset.

The  findings have been published in the journal Nano Energy.

How To Erase Chips Remotely

A military drone flying on a reconnaissance mission is captured behind enemy lines, setting into motion a team of engineers who need to remotely delete sensitive information carried on the drone’s chips. Because the chips are optical and not electronic, the engineers can now simply flash a beam of UV light onto the chip to instantly erase all content. Disaster averted.

This James Bond-esque chip is closer to reality because of a new development in a nanomaterial developed by Yuebing Zheng, a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering. His team described its findings in the journal Nano Letters.

drone

The molecules in this material are very sensitive to light, so we can use a UV light or specific light wavelengths to erase or create optical components,” Zheng said. “Potentially, we could incorporate this LED into the chip and erase its contents wirelessly. We could even time it to disappear after a certain period of time.”

To test their innovation, the researchers used a green laser to develop a waveguide — a structure or tunnel that guides light waves from one point to another — on their nanomaterial. They then erased the waveguide with a UV light, and re-wrote it on the same material using the green laser. The researchers believe they are the first to rewrite a waveguide, which is a crucial photonic component and a building block for integrated circuits, using an all-optical technique.

Source: https://www.eurekalert.org/

Buildings That Grow Their Own Foundations

Could buildings one day grow their own foundations? This British architect thinks so. He says that within a decade his research team will create bacteria that interacts with the soil, strengthening buildings above and rendering concrete-filled trenches obsolete.

buildings-that-grow-their-own-foundationsCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

Dr  Martyn Dade-Robertson, Reader in Design  Computation, Newcastle University, explains: “What we want to do is design a type of bacteria that would detect the mechanical changes in that soil, essentially synthesise materials so they would make materials in response. So they’re strengthening the soils where those loads are. The first part of that has been to identify pressure sensing genes, so genes in the bacteria that will respond to relatively low levels of pressure – and we can use that as a switch, effectively to turn on a process of material synthesis in the bacteria.”

His research team has identified dozens of genes in E. Coli bacteria, modifying them to create a ‘gene circuit‘.  This enables bacteria to respond to its environment and produce ‘biocement‘. Research is at an early stage, although self-healing material is already used in some concrete. Here the concept is being taken much further. Dr  Martyn Dade-Robertson adds: “We want to make the ground respond to the loads that are placed on it. The idea is that as you load the ground you get these pressures within this material and you get the ground essentially intelligently responding to those pressures by reinforcing itself, so you could construct large-scale civil engineering projects without digging those foundation trenches, by essentially seeding the ground with these microscopic bacteria.”

The team’s new computer aided design application is already predicting where underground bacteria may produce materials. If a grant application succeeds, they hope to have created and tested large-scale responsive material within three years.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

Lab-grown Bones Transplanted With Success

A lab-grown, semi-liquid bone graft has been successfully injected into 11 patients’ jaws to repair bone loss. Israeli biotech firm Bonus Biogroup announced the early stage clinical trial results.

bones

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO
What we are announcing to the world is that real success in our clinical study in regenerating new bone in maxillofacial site in the jaws, it was 100 percent successful in all 11 patients,” says Ora Burger, Vice President of Regulations Affairs at Bonus BioGroup.

The injectable bone grafts are made in the company’s Haifa plant, using cells extracted from patients’ fat tissue. They’re grown in sterile clean rooms, on biodegradable 3D scaffolds, before being injected into the voids in the jawbones.

We inject our semi-solid product inside of this defect and here we can see 12 weeks later that the bone is functional, we can see a full bone, a whole bone which is strong and hard and functional” comments Atara Novaks , Head of Research at Bonus BioGroup.

What we inject is a live bone. This is the first time ever that it’s been done,” adds Ora Burger. A clinical study into longer – so-called extremity – bones is now planned.

Source: http://www.bonus-bio.com/

First Graphene-Enhanced Aircraft

Prospero, the first model aircraft to incorporate a graphene skinned wing, was successfully flown at the Farnborough International Air Show in the UK earlier this year. The flight sets an example of how graphene might be used within the aerospace sector. Prospero has been exhibited at Composites Europe in Düsseldorf, Germany. Graphene exhibits impressive mechanical, thermal, electrical and barrier properties which are important features within the aerospace and automotive sector. It can be used as a nano-additive within thermoplastics and thermosets to improve the mechanical properties of the base material and also reduce weight. Upon further optimisation, thermal, electrical and barrier properties can also be imparted into a material, opening opportunities for multifunctional performance.

prospero

GRAPHENE: The one atom-thick material is 200 times stronger than steel and conducts electricity better than any material known to man. Scientists believe graphene has thousands of potential commercial applications, including being used in the next generation of aeroplanes and high-speed trains.

 

The test flight of Prospero represents a new stage in a research partnership which is investigating the effects of graphene in drag reduction, thermal management and ultimately the ability to achieve lightning strike protection for aerospace and other related sectors. This research is a joint collaboration between the University of Manchester and the University of Central Lancashire and several SMEs, including Haydale Composite Solutions. The University of Manchester is a partner of the Graphene Flagship, EU’s largest ever research initiative. During Composites Europe the Graphene Connect Workshop will highlight the wide range of applications for graphene in the aerospace sector.

Source: http://phys.org/

How To Prevent Heart Attacks, Strokes

As men and women grow older, their chances for coronary heart disease also increase. Atherosclerosis is a condition in which plaque builds up inside the arteries, which can lead to serious problems, including heart attacks, strokes or even death. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri (MU)  have found that Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1), a protein that is naturally found in high levels among adolescents, can help prevent arteries from clogging. They say that increasing atherosclerosis patients’ levels of the protein could reduce the amount of plaque buildup in their arteries, lowering their risk of heart disease.

heart

The body already works to remove plaque from arteries through certain types of white blood cells called macrophages,” said Yusuke Higashi, PhD, assistant research professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the MU School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “However, as we age, macrophages are not able to remove plaque from the arteries as easily. Our findings suggest that increasing IGF-1 in macrophages could be the basis for new approaches to reduce clogged arteries and promote plaque stability in aging populations.”

In a previous study, Higashi and Patrice Delafontaine, MD, the Hugh E. and Sarah D. Stephenson Dean of the MU School of Medicine, examined the arteries of mice fed a high-fat diet for eight weeks. IGF-1 was administered to one group of mice. Researchers found that the arteries of mice with higher levels of IGF-1 had significantly less plaque than mice that did not receive the protein. Since the macrophage is a key player in the development of atherosclerosis, the researchers decided to investigate potential anti-atherosclerosis effects of IGF-1 in macrophages. The team also found that the lack of IGF-1 action in macrophages changed the composition of the plaque, weakening its strength and making it more likely to rupture and cause a heart attack.

Source: http://medicine.missouri.edu/

Nanoparticles Eradicate PreCancerous Cells In The Liver

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 700,000 new cases of liver cancer are diagnosed worldwide each year. Currently, the only cure for the disease is to surgically remove the cancerous part of the liver or transplant the entire organ. However, an international study led by University of Missouri (MU) – School of Medicine  researchers has proven that a new minimally invasive approach targets and destroys precancerous tumor cells in the livers of mice and invitro human cells.

liver cancer

The limitations when treating most forms of cancer involve collateral damage to healthy cells near tumor sites,” said Kattesh Katti, PhD, Curators’ Professor of Radiology and Physics at the MU School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “For more than a decade we have studied the use of nanotechnology to test whether targeted treatments would reduce or eliminate damage to nearby healthy cells. Of particular interest has been the use of green nanotechnology approaches pioneered here at MU that use natural chemical compounds from plants.”

The study was conducted in the United States and Egypt, and it involved the use of gold nanoparticles encapsulated by a protective stabilizer called gum Arabic. The nanoparticles were introduced to the livers of mice intravenously and were heated with a laser through a process known as photothermal therapy.

Gum Arabic is a natural gum made of the hardened sap from acacia trees,” said Katti, who also serves as director of the MU Institute of Green Nanotechnology and Professor of Medical Research at the MU School of Medicine. “It is FDA-approved for human consumption and is primarily used in the food industry as an additive. It also promotes adhesion of gold nanoparticles engineered to attract to precancerous and malignant cells – which are much more susceptible to lower levels of heat than healthy cells. Once the nanoparticles travel and adhere to cancerous cells, they are heated to a temperature that destroys them but leaves healthy tissue unaffected.”

Katti’s team studied a total of 224 mice. Half were identified as having precancerous cells in their livers. The other half had normal liver tissue. Outside of the control group, the mice received either an intravenous injection of gum Arabic alone or gum Arabic-encapsulated gold nanoparticles with or without laser therapy.

The administration of gum Arabic, gold nanoparticles and photothermal therapy caused no change to healthy tissue, which confirmed the safe use of these treatments,” Katti said. “However, the use of gum Arabic-encapsulated nanoparticles combined with photothermal therapy resulted in the targeted eradication of the precancerous cells and their genetic code in both our mice model and the human invitro cell model we developed for this study.”

Source: http://medicine.missouri.edu/

Robots Surpass Humans to Perform Cataract Surgery

Axsis is a new robotic surgeondexterous but delicate enough to perform cataract surgery. Just 1.8 millimetres in diameter, its two tiny robotic arms would eventually be tipped with surgical instruments. The surgeon teleoperates it using two haptic joysticks, giving instant feedback to the user. Sensing algorithms minimise the risk of human error.

robots-better-than-humans-to-achieve-cataract-surgery

You can see where the robot is, see where the lens is, see where the relevant anatomy is. And by having a computer in the loop between when the surgeon’s moving their hands and the robot moving, that computer can recognise when the surgeon’s about to make a motion that can go outside and actually puncture the lens, for example, and stop that motion“, says Chris Wagner, Head of Advanced Surgical Systems at Cambridge Consultants.

Traditional surgical robots, such as Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci system, are large. But Axsis has all components built into a small external body. Inside, tendon-like cables control precise movements; each cable just 110 microns in diameter.

“...the same size as a human hair. And yet this material is gel-spun polyethylene which is stronger than kevlar, stronger than steel by volume and it’s what Nasa uses in some of their solar sails. So it’s an extremely efficient material, extremely strong for making this high performance actuator“, adds Wagner. Routine cataract surgery can already be performed quickly and with a relatively low complication rate. Some ophthalmologists have questioned whether this device offers much improvement. But the makers say Axsis demonstrates how miniaturised robotics could help surgeons with numerous precision procedures, without the barrier of large equipment.

“I think the fact that it’s a 1.8 millimetre diameter robot that’s operating on the size scale of the eye, it’s exciting. This just opens the door to a number of different types of procedures that you can do that previously weren’t possible.” The team says it will still take significant investment and several years to turn this prototype into a viable tool. But, they say, Axsis demonstrates how scaled-down surgical robots could be a cut above the rest.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

The Biggest Solar Plant Ever Built produces electricity at $0.10/kWh

The massive, 648-megawatt array was officially linked to the grid after being hooked up to a 400kV substation, the operator Adani Green Energy Ltd announced. The plant is spread across 2,500 acres in the town of Kamuthi in the Ramanathapuram district (India)  and will supply enough clean, green energy for 300,000 homes. The Deccan Chronicle reported that the $679 million solar park consists of 380,000 foundations, 2.5 million solar modules, 576 inverters, 154 transformers and 6,000-kilometers of cables. The plant was built with parts and machinery from around the world. Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani formally dedicated the structure to the nation.

solar-plant-in-india

“This is a momentous occasion for the state of Tamil Nadu as well as the entire country“, he said. “We are extremely happy to dedicate this plant to the nation; a plant of this magnitude reinstates the country’s ambitions of becoming one of the leading green energy producers in the world.”

India has an ambitious solar energy goal. In 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced plans to increase solar power capacity to 100 gigawatts by 2022, five times higher than the previous target.

The plant was commissioned by Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa. Indian Express reported in July 2015 that the state government would buy the entire 648 megawatts produced by Adani at a fixed price of $0.10/kWh (Rs 7.01/kWh) for 25 years.

Source: http://www.ecowatch.com/

Electronics: How To Dissipate Heat in A Nanocomputer

Controlling the flow of heat through semiconductor materials is an important challenge in developing smaller and faster computer chips, high-performance solar panels, and better lasers and biomedical devices. For the first time, an international team of scientists led by a researcher at the University of California, Riverside has modified the energy spectrum of acoustic phononselemental excitations, also referred to as quasi-particles, that spread heat through crystalline materials like a wave—by confining them to nanometer-scale semiconductor structures. The results have important implications in the thermal management of electronic devices. Led by Alexander Balandin, Professor of Electrical and Computing Engineering and UC Presidential Chair Professor in UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering, the research is described in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.

computer-in-fire

The team used semiconductor nanowires from Gallium Arsenide (GaAs), synthesized by researchers in Finland, and an imaging technique called Brillouin-Mandelstam light scattering spectroscopy (BMS) to study the movement of phonons through the crystalline nanostructures. By changing the size and the shape of the GaAs nanostructures, the researchers were able to alter the energy spectrum, or dispersion, of acoustic phonons. The BMS instrument used for this study was built at UCR’s Phonon Optimized Engineered Materials (POEM) Center, which is directed by Balandin.

Controlling phonon dispersion is crucial for improving heat removal from nanoscale electronic devices, which has become the major roadblock in allowing engineers to continue to reduce their size. It can also be used to improve the efficiency of thermoelectric energy generation, Balandin said. In that case, decreasing thermal conductivity by phonons is beneficial for thermoelectric devices that generate energy by applying a temperature gradient to semiconductors.

For years, the only envisioned method of changing the thermal conductivity of nanostructures was via acoustic phonon scattering with nanostructure boundaries and interfaces. We demonstrated experimentally that by spatially confining acoustic phonons in nanowires one can change their velocity, and the way they interact with electrons, magnons, and how they carry heat. Our work creates new opportunities for tuning thermal and electronic properties of semiconductor materials,” Balandin said.

Source: https://ucrtoday.ucr.edu

Pain Relief Spot Identified In Brain

Scientists have identified for the first time the region in the brain responsible for the “placebo effect” in pain relief, when a fake treatment actually results in substantial reduction of pain, according to new research from Northwestern Medicine and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC).

placebo_brain

The yellow and red sections of this brain image shows the unique brain region — the mid frontal gyrus — which Northwestern scientists discovered is responsible for placebo response in pain relief

Pinpointing the sweet spot of the pain killing placebo effect could result in the design of more personalized medicine for the 100 million Americans with chronic pain. The fMRI technology developed for the study has the potential to usher in an era of individualized pain therapy by enabling targeted pain medication based on how an individual’s brain responds to a drug.

Given the enormous societal toll of chronic pain, being able to predict placebo responders in a chronic pain population could both help the design of personalized medicine and enhance the success of clinical trials,” said Marwan Baliki, research scientist at RIC and an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The finding also will lead to more precise and accurate clinical trials for pain medications by eliminating individuals with high placebo response before trials.

The study was published Oct. 27, 2016, in PLOS Biology.

Source: https://news.northwestern.edu/

Supersonic spray delivers high-quality graphene layer

A simple, inexpensive spray method that deposits a graphene film can heal manufacturing defects and produce a high-quality graphene layer on a range of substrates, report researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC and Korea UniversityGraphene, a two-dimensional wonder-material composed of a single layer of carbon atoms, is strong, transparent, and an excellent conductor of electricity. It has potential in a wide range of applications, such as reinforcing and lending electrical properties to plastics; creating denser and faster integrated circuits; and building better touch screens.

Although the potential uses for graphene seem limitless, there has been no easy way to scale up from microscopic to large-scale applications without introducing defects, says Alexander Yarin, UIC professor of mechanical and industrial engineering and co-principal investigator on the study.

graphene-spray

Normally, graphene is produced in small flakes, and even these small flakes have defects,” Yarin said. Worse, when you try to deposit them onto a large-scale area, defects increase, and graphene’s useful properties — its “magic” — are lost, he said.

Yarin first turned to solving how to deposit graphene flakes to form a consistent layer without any clumps or spaces. He went to Sam S. Yoon, professor of mechanical engineering at Korea University and co-principal investigator on the study. Yoon had been working with a unique kinetic spray deposition system that exploits the supersonic acceleration of droplets through a Laval nozzle. Although Yoon was working with different materials, Yarin believed his method might be used to deposit graphene flakes into a smooth layer.

Their supersonic spray system produces very small droplets of graphene suspension, which disperse evenly, evaporate rapidly, and reduce the tendency of the graphene flakes to aggregate. But to the researchers’ surprise, defects inherent in the flakes themselves disappeared, as a by-product of the spray method. The result was a higher quality graphene layer. The energy of the impact stretches the graphene and restructures the arrangement of its carbon atoms into the perfect hexagons of flawless graphene.

Imagine something like Silly Putty hitting a wall — it stretches out and spreads smoothly,” said Yarin. “That’s what we believe happens with these graphene flakes. They hit with enormous kinetic energy, and stretch in all directions. “We’re tapping into graphene’s plasticity — it’s actually restructuring.”

Their study is available online in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Source: https://news.uic.edu/

Charging Phones, Electric Cars Very Fast

Scientists from the University of Central Florida (UCF)  has developed a new process for creating flexible supercapacitors that can store more energy and be recharged more than 30,000 times without degrading.

The novel method from the UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center could eventually revolutionize technology as varied as mobile phones and electric vehicles.

bendable mobile phone

If they were to replace the batteries with these supercapacitors, you could charge your mobile phone in a few seconds and you wouldn’t need to charge it again for over a week,” said Nitin Choudhary, a postdoctoral associate who conducted much of the research published recently in the academic journal ACS Nano.

Anyone with a smartphone knows the problem: After 18 months or so, it holds a charge for less and less time as the battery begins to degrade.

Scientists have been studying the use of nanomaterials to improve supercapacitors that could enhance or even replace batteries in electronic devices. It’s a stubborn problem, because a supercapacitor that held as much energy as a lithium-ion battery would have to be much, much larger.

The team at UCF has experimented with applying newly discovered two-dimensional materials only a few atoms thick to supercapacitors. Other researchers have also tried formulations with graphene and other two-dimensional materials, but with limited success.

There have been problems in the way people incorporate these two-dimensional materials into the existing systems – that’s been a bottleneck in the field. We developed a simple chemical synthesis approach so we can very nicely integrate the existing materials with the two-dimensional materials,” said principal investigator Yeonwoong “Eric” Jung, an assistant professor with joint appointments to the NanoScience Technology Center and the Materials Science & Engineering Department.

Jung’s team has developed supercapacitors composed of millions of nanometer-thick wires coated with shells of two-dimensional materials. A highly conductive core facilitates fast electron transfer for fast charging and discharging. And uniformly coated shells of two-dimensional materials yield high energy and power densities.

Source: https://today.ucf.edu/

Solar Nanotech-Powered Clothing

Marty McFly’s self-lacing Nikes in Back to the Future Part II inspired a University of Central Florida’s (UCF) scientist who has developed filaments that harvest and store the sun’s energy — and can be woven into textile.

The breakthrough would essentially turn jackets and other clothing into wearable, solar-powered batteries that never need to be plugged in. It could one day revolutionize wearable technology, helping everyone from soldiers who now carry heavy loads of batteries to a texting-addicted teen who could charge his smartphone by simply slipping it in a pocket.

back-to-the-future

That movie was the motivation,” Associate Professor Jayan Thomas, a nanotechnology scientist at the University of Central Florida’s NanoScience Technology Center, said of the film released in 1989. “If you can develop self-charging clothes or textiles, you can realize those cinematic fantasies – that’s the cool thing.

Thomas already has been lauded for earlier ground-breaking research. Last year, he received an R&D 100 Award – given to the top inventions of the year worldwide – for his development of a cable that can not only transmit energy like a normal cable but also store energy like a battery. He’s also working on semi-transparent solar cells that can be applied to windows, allowing some light to pass through while also harvesting solar power.

His new work builds on that research. “The idea came to me: We make energy-storage devices and we make solar cells in the labs. Why not combine these two devices together?” Thomas said.

Thomas, who holds joint appointments in the College of Optics & Photonics and the Department of Materials Science & Engineering, set out to do just that.

Taking it further, he envisioned technology that could enable wearable tech. His research team developed filaments in the form of copper ribbons that are thin, flexible and lightweight. The ribbons have a solar cell on one side and energy-storing layers on the other.

The research was published Nov. 11 in the academic journal Nature Communications.

Source: https://today.ucf.edu

How To Generate Wonderful Colors

Colors are produced in a variety of ways. The best known colors are pigments. However, the very bright colors of the blue tarantula or peacock feathers do not result from pigments, but from nanostructures that cause the reflected light waves to overlap. This produces extraordinarily dynamic color effects.

blue-tarantulaScientists from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany, in cooperation with international colleagues, have now succeeded in replicating nanostructures that generate the same color irrespective of the viewing angle.

In contrast to pigments, structural colors are non-toxic, more vibrant and durable. In industrial production, however, pigments have the drawback of being strongly iridescent, which means that the color perceived depends on the viewing angle. An example is the rear side of a CD. Hence, such colors cannot be used for all applications. Bright colors of animals, by contrast, are often independent of the angle of view. Feathers of the kingfisher always appear blue, no matter from which angle we look. The reason lies in the nanostructures: While regular structures are iridescent, amorphous or irregular structures always produce the same color. Yet, industry can only produce regular nanostructures in an economically efficient way. Radwanul Hasan Siddique, researcher at KIT in collaboration with scientists from USA and Belgium has now discovered that the blue tarantula does not exhibit iridescence in spite of periodic structures on its hairs. First, their study revealed that the hairs are multi-layered, flower-like structure. Then, the researchers analyzed its reflection behavior with the help of computer simulations. In parallel, they built models of these structures using nano-3D printers and optimized the models with the help of the simulations. In the end, they produced a flower-like structure that generates the same color over a viewing angle of 160 degrees. This is the largest viewing angle of any synthetic structural color reached so far.

Apart from the multi-layered structure and rotational symmetry, it is the hierarchical structure from micro to nano that ensures homogeneous reflection intensity and prevents color changes. Via the size of the “flower,” the resulting color can be adjusted, which makes this coloring method interesting for industry. “This could be a key first step towards a future where structural colorants replace the toxic pigments currently used in textile, packaging, and cosmetic industries,” says Radwanul Hasan Siddique of KIT’s Institute of Microstructure Technology, who now works at the California Institute of Technology. He considers short-term application in textile industry feasible. Dr. Hendrik Hölscher thinks that the scalability of nano-3D printing is the biggest challenge on the way towards industrial use. Only few companies in the world are able to produce such prints.

Source: http://www.kit.edu

Adhesive Holds From Extreme Cold To Extreme Heat

Researchers from Case Western Reserve University, Dayton Air Force Research Laboratory and China have developed a new dry adhesive that bonds in extreme temperatures—a quality that could make the product ideal for space exploration and beyond.

The gecko-inspired adhesive loses no traction in temperatures as cold as liquid nitrogen or as hot as molten silver, and actually gets stickier as heat increases, the researchers report.

The research, which builds on earlier development of a single-sided dry adhesive tape based on vertically aligned carbon nanotubes, is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Liming Dai, professor of macromolecular science and engineering at Case Western Reserve and an author of the study teamed with Ming Xu, a senior research associate at Case School of Engineering and visiting scholar from Huazhong University of Science and Technology.

hanging

Ming Xu, senior research associate at Case Western Reserve, hangs from two wooden blocks held to a painted wall with six small pieces of the double-sided adhesive.

Vertically aligned carbon nanotubes with tops bundled into nodes replicate the microscopic hairs on the foot of the wall-walking reptile and remain stable from -320 degrees Fahrenheit to 1,832 degrees, the scientists say.

When you have aligned nanotubes with bundled tops penetrating into the cavities of the surface, you generate sufficient van der Waal’s forces to hold,” Xu said. “The dry adhesive doesn’t lose adhesion as it cools because the surface doesn’t change. But when you heat the surface, the surface becomes rougher, physically locking the nanotubes in place, leading to stronger adhesion as temperatures increase.”

Because the adhesive remains useful over such a wide range of temperatures, the inventors say it is ideally suited for use in space, where the shade can be frigid and exposure to the sun blazing hot.

In addition to range, the bonding agent offers properties that could add to its utility. The adhesive conducts heat and electricity, and these properties also increase with temperature. “When applied as a double-sided sticky tape, the adhesive can be used to link electrical components together and also for electrical and thermal management,”said Ajit Roy, of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory.

This adhesive can thus be used as connecting materials to enhance the performance of electronics at high temperatures,” Dai comments. “At room temperature, the double-sided carbon nanotube tape held as strongly as commercial tape on various rough surfaces, including paper, wood, plastic films and painted walls, showing potential use as conducting adhesives in home appliances and wall-climbing robots.”

Source: http://thedaily.case.edu/

How An Implant Could Help Humans With Spinal Cord Injury To Walk Again

This rhesus monkey has a partial spinal cord lesion, which paralysed its right leg. But a neuroprosthetic implant has allowed the primate to walk again. The brain-to-spine interface decodes motor intention from brain signals, then relays this to the spinal cord, bypassing the injury. Small electrical pulses stimulate neural pathways to trigger specific muscles on the legs – restoring locomotion in real-time.

paralized-primate-walks-againCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

We inserted one of the electrodes in the small region of the cortex that controls the leg. And send the information from all the neurone we recorded to a computer that decoded the motor intention of the primates based on this signal. This means the extension or flexion movement of the leg. And the computer then sends this information to the implantable stimulator that has the capacity to deliver stimulation at the correct location with the correct timing in order to reproduce the intended extension or flexion movement of the leg“, says Grégoire Courtine, a neuroscientist at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

The research was led by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, alongside international collaborators. Other neuroprosthetics have previously given amputees basic control over prosthetics. And in 2012 the team here were able to stimulate a paralysed rat’s muscles to help it walk. This development takes spinal cord stimulation to a new level.

To make the link between the decoding of the brain and the stimulation of the spinal cord, and to make this communication exist – this is completely new“, comments Jocelyne Bloch, neurosurgeon at the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV).  A clinical study is now underway in Switzerland to access the feasibility of the implant in helping humans with spinal cord injury.

The research is published in the scientific journal Nature.

Source: http://actu.epfl.ch/

Swiss SmartWatch For Doctors

Intensive care doctors may soon be able to wear a smartwatch connected to the system that keeps tabs on the vital parameters of patients in the intensive care unit. If the patients’ readings – which are monitored in real time and stored on a central server – reach a dangerous level, an alert is sent directly to the doctor’s wrist via WiFi. The patient’s name and readings appear on the watch, so the doctor can react quickly and precisely. This application is the second step in a comprehensive monitoring system developed by EPFL’s Integrated Systems Laboratory (LSI). The Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) is located in Switzerland.

It began with the creation of a miniaturized microfluidic device that allows medical staff to monitor patients’ critical blood levels. The researchers embedded biosensors in it along with an array of electronics to transmit the results in real time to a tablet via Bluetooth. Seven blood levels are closely monitored: glucose, lactate, bilirubin, sodium, calcium, temperature and pH. The ability to send these readings to a portable device could make it easier to effectively monitor high-risk patients. It means that doctors can get the information they need at any time and place, and they can be alerted in an instant.

smartwatch-for-doctors

We deliberately chose a standard smartwatch so that we could see what it was capable of,” said Francesca Stradolini from EPFL. “Since we can’t send a huge amount of data to it, we use a central server that can evaluate the information and send an urgent request for a medical response to whoever is in charge of the intensive care unit.

The main advantage of this new approach, which was developed in collaboration with the Polytechnic University of Turin, is that it frees up doctors and other medical staff. They can move freely around the hospital and work on other things while keeping close tabs on their patients, thanks to the technology on their wrist.

Source: http://actu.epfl.ch/

Apple Testing Augmented Reality ‘Smart Glasses’

As part of its effort to expand further into wearable devices, Apple is working on a set of smart glasses, reports Bloomberg. Citing sources familiar with Apple‘s plans, the site says the smart glasses would connect wirelessly to the iPhone, much like the Apple Watch, and would display “images and other information” to the wearer. Apple has contacted potential suppliers about its glasses project and has ordered “small quantities” of near-eye displays, suggesting the project is in the exploratory prototyping phase of development. If work on the glasses progresses, they could be released in 2018.

apple-iglass

AR can be really great,” says Tim Cook, CEO of Apple in July. “We have been and continue to invest a lot in this. We’re high on AR in the long run.

Apple‘s glasses sound similar to Google Glass, the head-mounted display that Google first introduced in 2013. Google Glass used augmented reality and voice commands to allow users to do things like check the weather, make phone calls, and capture photographs. Apple‘s product could be similar in functionality. The glasses may be Apple‘s first hardware product targeted directly at AR, one of the people said. Cook has beefed up AR capabilities through acquisitions. In 2013, Apple bought PrimeSense, which developed motion-sensing technology in Microsoft Corp.’s Kinect gaming system. Purchases of software startups in the field, Metaio Inc. and Flyby Media Inc., followed in 2015 and 2016.

Google Glass was highly criticized because of privacy concerns, and as a result, it never really caught on with consumers. Google eventually stopped developing Google Glass in January of 2015. It is not clear how Apple would overcome the privacy and safety issues that Google faced, nor if the project will progress, but Apple CEO Tim Cook has expressed Apple‘s deep interest in augmented reality multiple times over the last few months, suggesting something big is in the works.

Past rumors have also indicated Apple is exploring a number of virtual and augmented reality projects, including a full VR headset. Apple has a full team dedicated to AR and VR research and how the technologies can be incorporated into future Apple products. Cook recently said that he believes augmented reality would be more useful and interesting to people than virtual reality.

Source: http://www.macrumors.com/

Self-healing Materials

A team of engineers at the University of California San Diego has developed a magnetic ink that can be used to make self-healing batteries, electrochemical sensors and wearable, textile-based electrical circuits. The key ingredient for the ink is microparticles oriented in a certain configuration by a magnetic field. Because of the way they’re oriented, particles on both sides of a tear are magnetically attracted to one another, causing a device printed with the ink to heal itself. The devices repair tears as wide as 3 millimeters—a record in the field of self-healing systems.

self-healing-wearable

Our work holds considerable promise for widespread practical applications for long-lasting printed electronic devices,” said Joseph Wang, director of the Center for Wearable Sensors and chair of the nanoengineering department at UC San Diego.

Existing self-healing materials require an external trigger to kick start the healing process. They also take anywhere between a few minutes to several days to work. By contrast, the system developed by Wang and colleagues doesn’t require any outside catalyst to work. Damage is repaired within about 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds).

Engineers used the ink to print batteries, electrochemical sensors and wearable, textile-based electrical circuits. They then set about damaging these devices by cutting them and pulling them apart to create increasingly wide gaps. Researchers repeatedly damaged the devices nine times at the same location. They also inflicted damage in four different places on the same device. The devices still healed themselves and recovered their function while losing a minimum amount of conductivity.

For example, nanoengineers printed a self-healing circuit on the sleeve of a T-shirt and connected it with an LED light and a coin battery. The researchers then cut the circuit and the fabric it was printed on. At that point, the LED turned off. But then within a few seconds it started turning back on as the two sides of the circuit came together again and healed themselves, restoring conductivity.

Researchers detail their findings in the journal Science Advances.

Source: http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/

Light-Controlled NanoRobot Attacks Tumors

A team of researchers led by Dr Jinyao Tang of the Department of Chemistry, the University of Hong Kong, has developed the world’s first light-seeking synthetic Nano robot. With size comparable to a blood cell, those tiny robots have the potential to be injected into patients’ bodies, helping surgeons to remove tumors and enabling more precise engineering of targeted medications.

It has been a dream in science fiction for decades that tiny robots can fundamentally change our daily life. The famous science fiction movie “Fantastic Voyage” is a very good example, with a group of scientists driving their miniaturized Nano-submarine inside human body to repair a damaged brain. In the film “Terminator 2”, billions of Nanorobots were assembled into the amazing shapeshifting body: the T-1000.

light-seeking-nanorobot

“Light is a more effective option to communicate between microscopic world and macroscopic world. We can conceive that more complicated instructions can be sent to Nanorobots which provide scientists with a new tool to further develop more functions into Nanorobot and get us one step closer to daily life applications”

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 was awarded to three scientists for “the design and synthesis of molecular machines”. They developed a set of mechanical components at molecular scale which may be assembled into more complicated Nano machines to manipulate single molecule such as DNA or proteins in the future. The development of tiny nanoscale machines for biomedical applications has been a major trend of scientific research in recent years. Any breakthroughs will potentially open the door to new knowledge and treatments of diseases and development of new drugs.

One difficulty in Nanorobot design is to make these nanostructures sense and respond to the environment. Given each Nanorobot is only a few micrometer in size which is ~50 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, it is very difficult to squeeze normal electronic sensors and circuits into Nanorobots with reasonable price. Currently, the only method to remotely control Nanorobots is to incorporate tiny magnetic inside the Nanorobot and guide the motion via external magnetic field.

The Nanorobot developed by Dr Tang’s team use light as the propelling force, and is the first research team globally to explore the light-guided Nanorobot and demonstrate its feasibility and effectiveness. In their paper published in Nature Nanotechnology, Dr Tang’s team demonstrated the unprecedented ability of these light-controlled Nanorobots as they are “dancing” or even spell a word under light control. With a novel Nanotree structure, the Nanorobots can respond to the light shining on it like moths being drawn to flames. Dr Tang described the motions as if “they can “see” the light and drive itself towards it”.

The findings have been published in the scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Source: http://www.hku.hk/

Diamond NanoThread, The New Wonder Material

Would you dress in diamond nanothreads? It’s not as far-fetched as you might think. And you’ll have a Brisbane-based carbon chemist and engineer to thank for it. QUT’s Dr Haifei Zhan is leading a global effort to work out how many ways humanity can use a newly-invented material with enormous potential – diamond nanothread (DNT). First created by Pennsylvania State University last year, one-dimensional DNT is similar to carbon nanotubes, hollow cylindrical tubes 10,000 times smaller than human hair, stronger than steel – but brittle.

diamond-nanothread

DNT, by comparison, is even thinner, incorporating kinks of hydrogen in the carbon’s hollow structure, called Stone-Wale (SW) transformation defects, which I’ve discovered reduces brittleness and adds flexibility,” said Dr Zhan, from QUT’s School of Chemistry, Physics and Mechanical Engineering.

That structure makes DNT a great candidate for a range of uses. It’s possible DNT may become as ubiquitous a plastic in the future, used in everything from clothing to cars.

DNT does not look like a rock diamond. Rather, its name refers to the way the carbon atoms are packed together, similar to diamond, giving it its phenomenal strength. Dr Zhan has been modelling the properties of DNT since it was invented, using large-scale molecular dynamics simulations and high-performance computing. He was the first to realise the SW defects were the key to DNT’s versatility.

While both carbon nanotubes and DNT have great potential, the more I model DNT properties, the more it looks to be a superior material,” Dr Zhan said. “The SW defects give DNT a flexibility that rigid carbon nanotubes can’t replicate – think of it as the difference between sewing with uncooked spaghetti and cooked spaghetti. “My simulations have shown that the SW defects act like hinges, connecting straight sections of DNT. And by changing the spacing of those defects, we can a change – or tune – the flexibility of the DNT.

That research is published in the peer-reviewed publication Nanoscale.

Source: https://www.qut.edu.au/

Swiches For Electricity: Atomic-Scale Manufacturing

Robert Wolkow is no stranger to mastering the ultra-small and the ultra-fast. A pioneer in atomic-scale science with a Guinness World Record to boot (for a needle with a single atom at the point), Wolkow’s team, together with collaborators at the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg, have just released findings that detail how to create atomic switches for electricity, many times smaller than what is currently used. With applications for practical systems like silicon semi-conductor electronics, it means smaller, more efficient, more energy-conserving nanocomputers, as just one example of the technology revolution that is unfolding right before our very eyes (if you can squint that hard).

atomic-scale-manufacturing

It’s something you don’t even hear about yet, but atom-scale manufacturing is going to be world-changing. This is just the beginning of what will be at least a century of developments in atom-scale manufacturing, and it will be transformational“.  “This is the first time anyone’s seen a switching of a single-atom channel,” explains Wolkow, a physics professor at the University of Alberta and the Principal Research Officer at Canada’s National Institute for Nanotechnology. “You’ve heard of a transistor—a switch for electricity—well, our switches are almost a hundred times smaller than the smallest on the market today.

Today’s tiniest transistors operate at the 14 nanometer level, which still represents thousands of atoms. Wolkow’s and his team at the University of Alberta, NINT, and his spinoff QSi, have worked the technology down to just a few atoms. Since computers are simply a composition of many on/off switches, the findings point the way not only to ultra-efficient general purpose computing but also to a new path to quantum computing.

Source: https://www.ualberta.ca/

How To Turn Plants Into Bomb-Sniffing Machines

Spinach is no longer just a superfood: By embedding leaves with carbon nanotubes, MIT engineers have transformed spinach plants into sensors that can detect explosives and wirelessly relay that information to a handheld device similar to a smartphone. This is one of the first demonstrations of engineering electronic systems into plants, an approach that the researchers call “plant nanobionics”.

spinach-detects-bombsCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

The goal of plant nanobionics is to introduce nanoparticles into the plant to give it non-native functions,” says Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and the leader of the research team.

In this case, the plants were designed to detect chemical compounds known as nitroaromatics, which are often used in landmines and other explosives. When one of these chemicals is present in the groundwater sampled naturally by the plant, carbon nanotubes embedded in the plant leaves emit a fluorescent signal that can be read with an infrared camera. The camera can be attached to a small computer similar to a smartphone, which then sends an email to the user.

This is a novel demonstration of how we have overcome the plant/human communication barrier,” says Strano, who believes plant power could also be harnessed to warn of pollutants and environmental conditions such as drought.

Strano is the senior author of a paper describing the nanobionic plants in  Nature Materials. The paper’s lead authors are Min Hao Wong, an MIT graduate student who has started a company called Plantea to further develop this technology, and Juan Pablo Giraldo, a former MIT postdoc who is now an assistant professor at the University of California at Riverside.

Michael McAlpine, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota, says this approach holds great potential for engineering not only sensors but many other kinds of bionic plants that might receive radio signals or change color. “When you have manmade materials infiltrated into a living organism, you can have plants do things that plants don’t ordinarily do,” says McAlpine, who was not involved in the research. “Once you start to think of living organisms like plants as biomaterials that can be combined with electronic materials, this is all possible.”

In the 2014 plant nanobionics study, Strano’s lab worked with a common laboratory plant known as Arabidopsis thaliana. However, the researchers wanted to use common spinach plants for the latest study, to demonstrate the versatility of this technique. “You can apply these techniques with any living plant,” Strano says. So far, the researchers have also engineered spinach plants that can detect dopamine, which influences plant root growth, and they are now working on additional sensors, including some that track the chemicals plants use to convey information within their own tissues. “Plants are very environmentally responsive,” Strano says. “They know that there is going to be a drought long before we do. They can detect small changes in the properties of soil and water potential. If we tap into those chemical signaling pathways, there is a wealth of information to access.”

These sensors could also help botanists learn more about the inner workings of plants, monitor plant health, and maximize the yield of rare compounds synthesized by plants such as the Madagascar periwinkle, which produces drugs used to treat cancer. “These sensors give real-time information from the plant. It is almost like having the plant talk to us about the environment they are in,” Wong says. “In the case of precision agriculture, having such information can directly affect yield and margins.”

Source: http://news.mit.edu/

Self-Driving Truck Delivered 50,000 Beers

If you drank a cold beer in Colorado Springs this weekend, it may have been delivered by a self-driving truck. Outfitted with $30,000 worth of hardware and software from San Francisco startup Otto, a company just bought by UBER, , the truck had just hours before made the world’s first autonomous truck delivery.

self-driving-truck-otto

computer take control on the road and delivered 50,000 cans of Budweiser  — in what the beer company says was the first commercial delivery using the tech. The truck that made the 120-mile journey is one of a handful of Volvo rigs equipped with tech developed by Otto, a start-up Uber acquired in August. Unlike other self-driving systems on the market, such as Tesla‘s autopilot, Otto‘s tech lets drivers get out from behind the wheel altogether.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/

How To Store Hydrogen Fuel In Electric Cars

Layers of graphene separated by nanotube pillars of boron nitride may be a suitable material to store hydrogen fuel in cars, according to Rice University scientists. The Department of Energy has set benchmarks for storage materials that would make hydrogen a practical fuel for light-duty vehicles. The Rice lab of materials scientist Rouzbeh Shahsavari determined in a new computational study that pillared boron nitride and graphene could be a candidate.

hydrogenSimulations by Rice scientists show that pillared graphene boron nitride may be a suitable storage medium for hydrogen-powered vehicles. Above, the pink (boron) and blue (nitrogen) pillars serve as spacers for carbon graphene sheets (grey). The researchers showed the material worked best when doped with oxygen atoms (red), which enhanced its ability to adsorb and desorb hydrogen (white).

 

Just as pillars in a building make space between floors for people, pillars in boron nitride graphene make space for hydrogen atoms. The challenge is to make them enter and stay in sufficient numbers and exit upon demand.Shahsavari’s lab had already determined through computer models how tough and resilient pillared graphene structures would be, and later worked boron nitride nanotubes into the mix to model a unique three-dimensional architecture. (Samples of boron nitride nanotubes seamlessly bonded to graphene have been made.)

In their latest molecular dynamics simulations, the researchers found that either pillared graphene or pillared boron nitride graphene would offer abundant surface area (about 2,547 square meters per gram) with good recyclable properties under ambient conditions. Their models showed adding oxygen or lithium to the materials would make them even better at binding hydrogen. They focused the simulations on four variants: pillared structures of boron nitride or pillared boron nitride graphene doped with either oxygen or lithium. At room temperature and in ambient pressure, oxygen-doped boron nitride graphene proved the best, holding 11.6 percent of its weight in hydrogen (its gravimetric capacity) and about 60 grams per liter (its volumetric capacity); it easily beat competing technologies like porous boron nitride, metal oxide frameworks and carbon nanotubes.

The study by Shahsavari and Farzaneh Shayeganfar appears in the American Chemical Society journal Langmuir.

Source: http://news.rice.edu/

How To Process Nuclear Waste

In the last decades, nanomaterials have gained broad scientific and technological interest due to their unusual properties compared to micrometre-sized materials. At this scale, matter shows properties governed by size. At the present time, nanomaterials are studied to be employed in many different fields, including the nuclear one. Thus, nuclear fuels production, structural materials, separation techniques and waste management, all may benefit from an excellent knowledge in the nano-nuclear technology. No wonder researchers are on the constant lookout for better ways to improve their production.

nuclear radiation

Scientists from Joint Research Center have come up with a way to do just that. Olaf Walter, Karin Popa and Oliver Dieste Blanco, have devised a simple access to produce highly crystalline, reactive actinide oxide nanocrystals. The shape of the crystals, together with their increased reactivity, enables the consolidation of homogeneous nanostructured mixed oxides as intermediates towards very dense nuclear fuels for advanced reactors. Moreover, such materials can be used as precursors for the production of compounds with special properties, which mimic structures those are found in spent nuclear fuel, and will also be of great use in the study of how such radioactive material migrates in nearby geological environments.

This new process could enable scientists further research on the properties of these types of materials. Surprisingly, this new route proved uncomplicated, fast, and reproducible. It contains fewer procedural steps than typical oxalate precipitation-decomposition processes, allowing for production using a single vessel and under continuous flow.

The article, published recently in Open Chemistry may lead to the development of a process to remove uranium from wastewater at the front-end of the nuclear fuel cycle, or even extracting natural uranium from sea water.

Source: https://www.degruyter.com/

Solar Powered House: Tiles Instead Of Panels

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk wasn’t kidding when he said that the new Tesla solar roof product was better looking than an ordinary roof: the roofing replacement with solar energy gathering powers does indeed look great. It’s a far cry from the obvious and somewhat weird aftermarket panels you see applied to roofs after the fact today.

tesla-solar-tiles

The solar roofing comes in four distinct styles that Tesla presented at the event, including “Textured Glass Tile,” “Slate Glass Tile,” “Tuscan Glass Tile, and “Smooth Glass Tile.” Each of these achieves a different aesthetic look, but all resembled fairly closely a current roofing material style. Each is also transparent to solar, but appears opaque when viewed from an angle.

The current versions of the tiles actually have a two percent loss on efficiency, so 98 percent of what you’d normally get from a traditional solar panel, according to Elon Musk. But the company is working with 3M on improved coatings that have the potential to possibly go above normal efficiency, since it could trap the light within, leading to it bouncing around and resulting in less energy loss overall before it’s fully diffused.

Of course, there’s the matter of price: Tesla’s roof cost less than the full cost of a roof and electricity will be competitive or better than the cost of a traditional roof combined with the cost of electricity from the grid, Musk said. Tesla declined to provide specific pricing at the moment, since it will depend on a number of factor including installation specifics on a per home basis.

Standard roofing materials do not provide fiscal benefit back to the homeowner post-installation, besides improving the cost of the home. Tesla’s product does that, by generating enough energy to fully power a household, with the power designed to be stored in the new Powerwall 2.0 battery units so that homeowners can keep a reserve in case of excess need.

The solar roof product should start to see installations by summer next year, and Tesla plans to start with one or two of its four tile options, then gradually expand the options over time. As they’re made from quartz glass, they should last way longer than an asphalt tile — at least two or three times the longevity, though Musk later said “they should last longer than the house”.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/

How To Prevent Alzheimer’s

Researchers from Imperial College London (ICL) have prevented the development of Alzheimer’s disease in mice by using a virus to deliver a specific gene into the brain. The early-stage findings by scientists open avenues for potential new treatments for the disease. In the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team used a type of modified virus to deliver a gene to brain cells.

Previous studies by the same team suggest this gene, called PGC1 – alpha, may prevent the formation of a protein called amyloid-beta peptide in cells in the lab. Amyloid-beta peptide is the main component of amyloid plaques, the sticky clumps of protein found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. These plaques are thought to trigger the death of brain cellsAlzheimer’s disease affects around 520,000 people in the UK. Symptoms include memory loss, confusion, and change in mood or personality. Worldwide 47.5 million people are affected by dementia – of which Alzheimer’s is the most common form. There is no cure, although current drugs can help treat the symptoms of the disease.

Dr Magdalena Sastre, senior author of the research from the Department of Medicine at Imperial, hopes the new findings may one day provide a method of preventing the disease, or halting it in the early stages.

alzheimer_s_disease_vs_normal-spl

She explained: “Although these findings are very early they suggest this gene therapy may have potential therapeutic use for patients. There are many hurdles to overcome, and at the moment the only way to deliver the gene is via an injection directly into the brain. However this proof of concept study shows this approach warrants further investigation.”

The modified virus used in the experiments was called a lentivirus vector, and is commonly used in gene therapy explained Professor Nicholas Mazarakis, co-author of the study from the Department of Medicine: “Scientists harness the way lentivirus infects cells to produce a modified version of the virus, that delivers genes into specific cells. It is being used in experiments to treat a range of conditions from arthritis to cancer. We have previously successfully used the lentivirus vector in clinical trials to deliver genes into the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients.

Source: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/

Nanocomputer Packed Into a 50 Nanometers Block

In 1959 renowned physicist Richard Feynman, in his talk “Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” spoke of a future in which tiny machines could perform huge feats. Like many forward-looking concepts, his molecule and atom-sized world remained for years in the realm of science fiction. And then, scientists and other creative thinkers began to realize Feynman’s nanotechnological visions.

In the spirit of Feynman’s insight, and in response to the challenges he issued as a way to inspire scientific and engineering creativity, electrical and computer engineers at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) have developed a design for a nanocomputer, with functional nanoscale computing. The concept involves a dense, three-dimensional circuit operating on an unconventional type of logic that could, theoretically, be packed into a block no bigger than 50 nanometers on any side.

nanochipenlarged

Novel computing paradigms are needed to keep up with the demand for faster, smaller and more energy-efficient devices,” said Gina Adam, postdoctoral researcher at UCSB’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and lead author of the paper “Optimized stateful material implication logic for three dimensional data manipulation,” published in the journal Nano Research. “In a regular computer, data processing and memory storage are separated, which slows down computation. Processing data directly inside a three-dimensional memory structure would allow more data to be stored and processed much faster.

However, the continuing development and fabrication of progressively smaller components is bringing this virus-sized computing device closer to reality, said Dmitri Strukov, a UCSB professor of computer science.  “Our contribution is that we improved the specific features of that logic and designed it so it could be built in three dimensions,” he said.

Key to this development is the use of a logic system called material implication logic combined with memristors — circuit elements whose resistance depends on the most recent charges and the directions of those currents that have flowed through them. Unlike the conventional computing logic and circuitry found in our present computers and other devices, in this form of computing, logic operation and information storage happen simultaneously and locally. This greatly reduces the need for components and space typically used to perform logic operations and to move data back and forth between operation and memory storage. The result of the computation is immediately stored in a memory element, which prevents data loss in the event of power outages — a critical function in autonomous systems such as robotics.

Source: http://www.news.ucsb.edu/

Self-Healable Lithium Ion Battery For Electronic Textile

Electronics that can be embedded in clothing are a growing trend. However, power sources remain a problem. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, scientists have now introduced thin, flexible, lithium ion batteries with self-healing properties that can be safely worn on the body. Even after completely breaking apart, the battery can grow back together without significant impact on its electrochemical properties.

Existing lithium ion batteries for wearable electronics can be bent and rolled up without any problems, but can break when they are twisted too far or accidentally stepped on—which can happen often when being worn. This damage not only causes the battery to fail, it can also cause a safety problem: Flammable, toxic, or corrosive gases or liquids may leak out.

A team led by Yonggang Wang and Huisheng Peng from  Fudan University in Shanghai – China, has now developed a new family of lithium ion batteries that can overcome such accidents thanks to their amazing self-healing powers. In order for a complicated object like a battery to be made self-healing, all of its individual components must also be self-healing. The scientists from Fudan University  the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (South Korea), and the Samsung R&D Institute China, have now been able to accomplish this.

self-healing-batteryThe electrodes in these batteries consist of layers of parallel carbon nanotubes. Between the layers, the scientists embedded the necessary lithium compounds in nanoparticle. In contrast to conventional lithium ion batteries, the lithium compounds cannot leak out of the electrodes, either while in use or after a break. The thin layer electrodes are each fixed on a substrate of self-healing polymer. Between the electrodes is a novel, solvent-free electrolyte made from a cellulose-based gel with an aqueous lithium sulfate solution embedded in it. This gel electrolyte also serves as a separation layer between the electrodes.

After a break, it is only necessary to press the broken ends together for a few seconds for them to grow back together. Both the self-healing polymer and the carbon nanotubes “stick” back together perfectly. The parallel arrangement of the nanotubes allows them to come together much better than layers of disordered carbon nanotubes. The electrolyte also poses no problems. Whereas conventional electrolytes decompose immediately upon exposure to air, the new gel is stable. Free of organic solvents, it is neither flammable nor toxic, making it safe for this application.

The capacity and charging/discharging properties of a batteryarmband” placed around a doll’s elbow were maintained, even after repeated break/self-healing cycles.

Source: http://eu.wiley.com/

Algorithm helps patients to choose a new nose

Having plastic surgery of any kind is a major decision, but knowing how you’ll look in advance of going under the knife can help dispel some of the anxiety. Surgeons have been using imaging software for some time to help patients visualise the results of prospective work. But researchers from Belgium have developed software they say can help surgeons deliver even better results, while increasing the interaction with their patients.

At the Meaningful Interactions Lab (mintlab), a research group of the University of Leuven (Belgium) and research institute IMEC, they’ve collaborated with a consortium of research partners and companies to develop a 3D tool to accurately simulate the outcome of nose surgery. The tool uses a combination of facial modelling statistics with morphing algorithms. The ‘average nose‘ is used as a baseline, computed based on the characteristics of a couple of hundreds of faces in their database.

noseCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

The new algorithm delivers more realistic results for rhinoplasty, commonly called a nose job. First, a 3D model is built using off-the-shelf components. Once imported into their software, it creates the most appropriate looking nose, using hundreds of previously scanned faces as a baseline.

We combined this with an algorithm that was based on faces that were scanned – a lot of faces were scanned – so that the algorithm could calculate what a realistic nose could look like. So in Photoshop you could very easily make like a Pinocchio nose and that’s really unrealistic, but with this software we’ve managed to keep the boundaries to what’s really realistic“, says Arne Jansen, resarcher at the Mintlab.
The computer-created nose can still be adjusted to the patient’s liking. The team says it also has important applications for designing prosthetic replacements for patients whose noses have been amputated, often due to cancer. It uses facial characteristics to ‘predict‘ a perfectly fitting whole new nose – even though there is no existing nasal structure to base it on. Key landmarks on the face are pinpointed; such as cheekbones, tip of the nose and corners of the eyes to help it design a well-suited nose.  “And the software can look at the same characteristics of the face and use that to calculate a nose that is fitting for this particular face. And so what the software won’t do is make a general nose; make on nose for all – it will make a characteristic nose that you can still alter towards the needs of the patients“, he adds.

Source: https://www.kuleuven.be/

Solar-powered Wireless Charging Station For Electric Bikes

Members of the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in Netherlands have presented the first solar-powered wireless charging station for electric bikes.

electric-station-for-electric-bikes

This is a major step forward in terms of sustainable transport and accelerating the energy transition because the combination of solar energy, wireless charging and electric bikes is unique. In this charging station, we charge the DC battery in the bike with the solar energy from the eight solar panels via the DC supply. The charging station can also store 10 kWh of solar energy in the batteries, enabling it to function independently“, sayd  Pavol Bauer, who leads the Direct Current (DC) Systems, Energy Conversion & Storage group at the University.

The charging station is ready for immediate use: it can accommodate four electric bikesan electric scooter and a research bike that are charged wirelessly. The charging station also serves as a living lab, a testbed for further research. In the last two years, ten students have graduated on the strength of their work on the project. For example, a student of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science designed a DC system and created a system to enable the bike to be charged wirelessly, another calculated and determined the output and position of the solar panels, and an Industrial Design Engineering student was responsible for designing the charging station.

The electric research bike is equipped with a dual stand and a small coil. At the charging station, the bike can be parked on the stand on a magnetic tile. The bike is charged directly via the coil. The user can monitor the charging status on a built-in screen on the charging station or on his or her mobile phone. Wireless charging takes around the same time as the ‘conventional‘ charging of electric bikes.

It is anticipated that the eight panels will generate sufficient energy to power the electric bikes and the scooter in winter. In summer, any excess power will be fed to the electricity grid. Pavol Bauer’s group now plans to work on the further development of wireless charging for various bikes and scooters. The ultimate aim is for the charging station to consist solely of several tiles used as a solar panel, which can be cycled on, known as solar roads. Integrating solar cells and the wireless charging system makes an expensive system unnecessary.

Source: http://www.tudelft.nl/

How To Stop The Spread Of Breast Cancer

A breakthrough technology that harnesses manmade nanoparticles could one day become an important new weapon in the fight against cancer. The technique, which appeared to successfully stop the spread of breast cancer in mice, was unveiled by scientists from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Stony Brook University, and a host of other research institutions in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Next-generation cancer fighting therapies on the market today use the body’s immune system to combat tumors, as does experimental technology like CRISPR gene-editing. But the new nanotech has a different target: The cells that actually help cancer metastasize and spread throughout the body. These immune cells, which are meant to ward off infections, create structures called neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) that help them fight bacteria. But NETs can actually wind up helping spread the cancer by creating tissue openings that cancerous cells can exploit, study co-author Mikala Egeblad explained.

 breast-cancer-cells

A high magnification of an intact neutrophil (yellow arrow) and a NET (white arrow)

So the researchers created a new particle coated with a special enzyme that can kill these cells before the cancer can use them to metastasize. The results were modest, but promising: Three out of the nine mice given the nanoparticle showed no evidence of breast cancer progression, while all mice in the control group continued to worsen.

New Perovskite Solar Cell Outperforms Silicon Cells

Stanford and Oxford have created novel solar cells from crystalline perovskite that could outperform existing silicon cells on the market today. This design converts sunlight to electricity at efficiencies of 20 percent, similar to current technology but at much lower cost. Writing in the journal Science, researchers from Stanford and Oxford describe using tin and other abundant elements to create novel forms of perovskite – a photovoltaic crystalline material that’s thinner, more flexible and easier to manufacture than silicon crystals.

perovskite solar panelCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

Perovskite semiconductors have shown great promise for making high-efficiency solar cells at low cost,” said study co-author Michael McGehee, a professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford. “We have designed a robust, all-perovskite device that converts sunlight into electricity with an efficiency of 20.3 percent, a rate comparable to silicon solar cells on the market today.”

The new device consists of two perovskite solar cells stacked in tandem. Each cell is printed on glass, but the same technology could be used to print the cells on plastic, McGehee added.

The all-perovskite tandem cells we have demonstrated clearly outline a roadmap for thin-film solar cells to deliver over 30 percent efficiency,” said co-author Henry Snaith, a professor of physics at Oxford. “This is just the beginning.”

Previous studies showed that adding a layer of perovskite can improve the efficiency of silicon solar cells. But a tandem device consisting of two all-perovskite cells would be cheaper and less energy-intensive to build, the authors said.

Source: http://news.stanford.edu/

How To Produce Music Hits With The Help Of Artificial Intelligence

Sony is developing a new software system containing algorithms that create songs based on existing music and help their arrangement and performance..

It sounds like The Beatles…..but wasn’t written by the Fab Four.  ‘Daddy’s Car‘ was created by Sony‘s artificial intelligence system Flow Machines, with the aim of sounding like Lennon and McCartney. It was written using algorithms at Sony‘s Computer Science Lab in Paris.

the-beatlesCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

What the algorithm will do is always try to cope with your constraints, with what you are imposing to the system, to the score, the lead sheet – and the algorithm will always try to repair if you want, or generate stuff that is at the same time compatible with what you imposed and in the same style of the training song set“, says computer scientist Pierre Roy.

Each song‘s starting point is the machine’s database of sheet music from 13,000 existing tracks. Users choose a title whose sound or feel they like. The machine does the rest. Professional musician Benoit Carre recorded ‘Daddy’s Car‘, along with this track, ‘Mister Shadow‘. He insists the music created isn’t devoid of feeling, despite being artificially created.

We can find a soul in whatever type of music, including that generated by a computer. 1980s music was generated by a synthesiser. Music is what the person makes of it. It doesn’t exist alone. Each song is a partition sheet, with a lot of things around it“, comments Benoit carré, music composer from the band Liliclub.

After the song is created, musicians can write their own parts to broaden the sound. The  British rock star Peter Hook doesn’t like the idea: “Nearly every song I’ve written, in New Order and outside of New Order, has been with somebody else, and that is the beauty of it. Writing with a machine – what feedback, what buzz, are you going to get from a machine? All machines do is drive you crazy. You’re forever turning them off and on. So not for me, mate. I’ll stick with people.”

Sony wants to launch albums with songs created entirely by algorithm – one based on Beatles music. It says the algorithms ensure songs are unique and avoid plagiarism….but admit the issue of songwriting credits could be tricky to determine.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

Gold Nanoparticles Fight Pancreatic Cancer

A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is often a death sentence because chemotherapy and radiation have little impact on the disease. In the U.S. this year, some 53,000 new cases will be diagnosed, and 42,000 patients will die of the disease, according to the National Institute of Health. But research now being reported in ACS Nano could eventually lead to a new type of treatment based on gold nanoparticles.

pancreas2Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive, often fatal condition, but researchers are looking to gold nanoparticles to develop new treatments

Scientists from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHCS) have previously studied these tiny gold particles as a vehicle to carry chemotherapy drug molecules into tumors or as a target to enhance the impact of radiation on tumors. In addition, Priyabrata Mukherjee and colleagues previously found that gold nanoparticles themselves could limit tumor growth and metastasis in a model of ovarian cancer in mice.

Now, the team has determined that the same holds true for mouse models of pancreatic cancer. But interestingly, the new work revealed details about cellular communication in the area surrounding pancreatic tumors. By interrupting this communication — which is partly responsible for this cancer’s lethal nature — the particles reduced the cell proliferation and migration that ordinarily occurs near these tumors. Gold nanoparticles of the size used in the new study are not toxic to normal cells, the researchers note.

Source: https://www.acs.org/

Electric Car: Graphene Is The Next Revolution

Henrik Fisker, the famed automotive designer known for his work on iconic vehicles such as the Aston Martin DB9, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and the BMW Z8, did not do well in an electric car venture that he launched in 2007. Fisker Automotive was a rival to Tesla Motors in the early days of the electric car industry, but it was not able to deliver its promised vehicles and had to declare bankruptcy in 2013. However, it seems that Fisker has not pushed electric cars out of his mind, as it was recently reported that he is returning to the electric vehicle scene with a new company named Fisker Inc. that will be taking form next year.

With rival Tesla Motors now the perceived leader in the industry, Fisker Inc. is looking to make a splash. It seems that the new company would be able to do so, as Fisker revealed that instead of the traditional lithium-ion batteries, Fisker Inc. vehicles will be powered by a new kind of battery known as graphene supercapacitors.

graphene-electric-car

It was earlier reported that the luxury electric car that Fisker Inc. is working on will have a full-charge range that will reach over 400 miles, which is significant because the longest range that Tesla Motors offers through its vehicles is 315 miles on the high-end version of the Model S. The 400-mile range is said to be made possible by the usage of graphene in electric car batteries, with the technology being referred to by Fisker as the “next big step” in the industry.

According to Michigan Technological University assistant professor Lucia Gauchia, graphene has a higher electron mobility and presents a higher active surface, which are characteristics that lead to faster charging times and expanded energy storage, respectively, when used for batteries.

Graphene, however, has so far been associated with high production costs. Fisker is looking to solve that problem and mass produce graphene through a machine that his battery division, named Fisker Nanotech, is looking to have patented. Through the machine, 1,000 kilograms of graphene can be produced at a cost of just 10 cents per gram.

Our battery technology is so much better than anything out there,” Fisker said, amid the many improvements that his company has made on the material’s application to electric car batteries.

Fisker also said that the first Fisker Inc. electric car is being planned to be unveiled in the second half of next year. The luxury electric vehicle will only have limited production, and will be in the price range of the higher-end models of the Model S. However, Fisker said that he will then be producing consumer-friendly electric vehicles that will be even cheaper compared with the Tesla Model 3 and the Chevrolet Bolt, following the footsteps of its rival.

Source: http://www.techtimes.com/

NanoRobots With Grippers Travel Through the Bloodstream To Capture Cancer Cells

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used in a variety of applications, including microscopic actuators and grippers for surgical robots, light-powered micro-mirrors for optical telecommunications systems, and more efficient solar cells and photodetectors.

nanorobotsThis is a new area of science,” said Balaji Panchapakesan, associate professor of mechanical engineering at WPI and lead author of a paper about the new material published in Scientific Reports, an open access journal from the publishers of Nature. “Very few materials are able to convert photons directly into mechanical motion. In this paper, we present the first semiconductor nanocomposite material known to do so. It is a fascinating material that is also distinguished by its high strength and its enhanced optical absorption when placed under mechanical stress.”

Tiny grippers and actuators made with this material could be used on Mars rovers to capture fine dust particles.” Panchapakesan noted. “They could travel through the bloodstream on tiny robots to capture cancer cells or take minute tissue samples. The material could be used to make micro-actuators for rotating mirrors in optical telecommunications systems; they would operate strictly with light, and would require no other power source.”

Like other semiconductor materials, molybdenum disulfide, the material described in the Scientific Report paper, is characterized by the way electrons are arranged and move about within its atoms.

Source: https://www.wpi.edu/

Smart Textile Senses And Moves Like A Muscle

The ARC Center of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES – Australia) researchers have for the first time, developed a smart textile from carbon nanotube and spandex fibres that can both sense and move in response to a stimulus like a muscle or joint.

Lead researcher Dr Javad Foroughi explains that the key difference between this, and previous ACES work, is the textile’s dual functionality.

katharina_schirmer_graduates

We have already made intelligent materials as sensors and integrated them into devices such as a knee sleeve that can be used to monitor the movement of the joint, providing valuable data that can be used to create a personalised training or rehabilitation program for the wearer,” Dr Foroughi said. “Our recent work allowed us to develop smart clothing that simultaneously monitors the wearer’s movements, senses strain, and adjusts the garment to support or correct the movement,” he adds.

The smart textile, which is easily scalable for the fabrication of industrial quantities, generates a mechanical work capacity and a power output which higher than that produced by human muscles. It has many potential applications ranging from smart textiles to robotics and sensors for lab on a chip devices. The team, having already created the knee sleeve prototype, is now working on using the smart textile as a wearable antenna, as well as in other biomedical applications.

Source: http://www.electromaterials.edu.au/

The Glove That Gives You Super-Human Strength

The Bioservo or Soft Extra Muscles (SEM) glove mimics the human hand by using artificial tendons, motors and sensors for added muscle strength. The Swedish company is partnering with GMNASA to develop a glove to be used in manufacturing and other industrial applications.

GM-NASA Space Robot ‘Power’ Glove Finds New Life on EarthCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

In 2012, General Motors and NASA developed a technology that could be used by both auto workers and astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Using actuators, artificial tendons, and sensors to mimic and multiply the function of the human hand, the battery-powered RoboGlove was designed to alleviate the stress and muscle fatigue of repetitive mechanical work in space. Now, according to The Verge, GM has licensed the RoboGlove to Bioservo Technologies, a Swedish medical tech company, so that it can finally be used to help workers here on Earth. Bioservo will fuse the RoboGlove technology with its own Soft Extra Muscle (SEM) Glove technology in order to make gloves for industrial use, according a press release from GM. “Combining the best of three worlds—space technology from NASA, engineering from GM and medtech from Bioservo—in a new industrial glove could lead to industrial scale use of the technology,” comments Tomas Ward, CEO of Bioservo Technologies.

Factory workers are about to get super-human strength. The glove helped scientists control Robonaut 2, a humanoid that provided engineering and technical assistance on space mission just like Star Wars’ R2-D2. But now it has been given power-boosting technologies.
Being a combination of sensors that function like human nerves, muscles and tendons the new Power Glove has the same dexterity of the human hand – but with mammoth strength. The ground-breaking muscle-mimicking technologies could help employees in health care. The glove could slash the amount of force an assembly operator needs to hold a tool during an operation in half.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

NonCarbon SuperCapacitor Produces More Power

Energy storage devices called supercapacitors have become a hot area of research, in part because they can be charged rapidly and deliver intense bursts of power. However, all supercapacitors currently use components made of carbon, which require high temperatures and harsh chemicals to produce. Now researchers at MIT and elsewhere have for the first time developed a supercapacitor that uses no conductive carbon at all, and that could potentially produce more power than existing versions of this technology.

mit-supercapacitor

We’ve found an entirely new class of materials for supercapacitors,” Dincă says.

Dincă and his team have been exploring for years a class of materials called metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs, which are extremely porous, sponge-like structures. These materials have an extraordinarily large surface area for their size, much greater than the carbon materials do. That is an essential characteristic for supercapacitors, whose performance depends on their surface area. But MOFs have a major drawback for such applications: They are not very electrically conductive, which is also an essential property for a material used in a capacitor.

One of our long-term goals was to make these materials electrically conductive,” Dincă says, even though doing so “was thought to be extremely difficult, if not impossible.” But the material did exhibit another needed characteristic for such electrodes, which is that it conducts ions (atoms or molecules that carry a net electric charge) very well.

All double-layer supercapacitors today are made from carbon,” Dincă says. “They use carbon nanotubes, graphene, activated carbon, all shapes and forms, but nothing else besides carbon. So this is the first noncarbon, electrical double-layer supercapacitor.”

The team’s findings are being reported in the journal Nature Materials, in a paper by Mircea Dincă, an MIT associate professor of chemistry; Yang Shao-Horn, the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy; and four others.

Source: http://news.mit.edu/

Light Makes OscillatorTo Oscillate Indefinitely

Researchers have designed a device that uses light to manipulate its mechanical properties. The device, which was fabricated using a plasmomechanical metamaterial, operates through a unique mechanism that couples its optical and mechanical resonances, enabling it to oscillate indefinitely using energy absorbed from light.

metamaterialThis work demonstrates a metamaterial-based approach to develop an optically-driven mechanical oscillator. The device can potentially be used as a new frequency reference to accurately keep time in GPS, computers, wristwatches and other devices, researchers said. Other potential applications that could be derived from this metamaterial-based platform include high precision sensors and quantum transducers..

Researchers engineered the metamaterial-based device by integrating tiny light absorbing nanoantennas onto nanomechanical oscillators. The study was led by Ertugrul Cubukcu, a professor of nanoengineering and electrical engineering at the University of California San Diego. The work, which Cubukcu started as a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania and is continuing at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, demonstrates how efficient light-matter interactions can be utilized for applications in novel nanoscale devices.

Metamaterials are artificial materials that are engineered to exhibit exotic properties not found in nature. For example, metamaterials can be designed to manipulate light, sound and heat waves in ways that can’t typically be done with conventional materials.

Metamaterials are generally considered “lossy” because their metal components absorb light very efficiently. “The lossy trait of metamaterials is considered a nuisance in photonics applications and telecommunications systems, where you have to transmit a lot of power. We’re presenting a unique metamaterials approach by taking advantage of this lossy feature,” Cubukcu said. The researchers also point out that because the plasmomechanical metamaterial can efficiently absorb light, it can function under a broad optical resonance. That means this metamaterial can potentially respond to a light source like an LED and won’t need a strong laser to provide the energy.

Using plasmonic metamaterials, we were able to design and fabricate a device that can utilize light to amplify or dampen microscopic mechanical motion more powerfully than other devices that demonstrate these effects. Even a non-laser light source could still work on this device,” said Hai Zhu, a former graduate student in Cubukcu’s lab and first author of the study.

Optical metamaterials enable the chip-level integration of functionalities such as light-focusing, spectral selectivity and polarization control that are usually performed by conventional optical components such as lenses, optical filters and polarizers. Our particular metamaterial-based approach can extend these effects across the electromagnetic spectrum,” adds Fei Yi, a postdoctoral researcher who worked in Cubukcu’s lab.

The research was published in the journal Nature Photonics.

Source: http://jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/

Perovskite Solar Cells One Step Closer To Mass Production

With the high environmental cost of conventional energy sources and the finite supply of fossil fuels, the importance of renewable energy sources has become much more apparent in recent years. However, efficiently harnessing solar energy for human use has been a difficult task. While silicon-based solar cells can be used to capture sunlight energy, they are costly to produce on an industrial scale. Research from the Energy Materials and Surface Sciences Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) in Japan, led by Prof. Yabing Qi, has focused on using organo-metal halide perovskite films in solar cells. These perovskite films are highly crystalline materials that can be formed by a large number of different chemical combinations and can be deposited at low cost. Recent publications from Prof. Qi’s lab cover three different areas of innovation in perovskite film research: a novel post annealing treatment to increase perovskite efficiency and stability, a discovery of the decomposition products of a specific perovskite, and a new means of producing perovskites that maintains solar efficiency when scaled up.

perovskite solar panel

In order to be useful as solar cells, perovskite films must be able to harvest solar energy at a high efficiency that is cost-effective, be relatively easy to manufacture, and be able to withstand the outdoor environment over a long period of time. Dr. Yan Jiang in Prof. Qi’s lab has recently published research in Materials Horizons that may help increase the solar efficiency of the organo-metal halide perovskite MAPbI3. He discovered that the use of a methylamine solution during post-annealing led to a decrease in problems associated with grain boundaries. Grain boundaries manifest as gaps between crystalline domains and can lead to unwanted charge recombination. This is a common occurrence in perovskite films and can reduce their efficiency, making the improvement of grain boundary issues essential to maintain high device performance. Dr. Jiang’s novel post annealing treatment produced solar cells that had fused grain boundaries, reduced charge recombination, and displayed an outstanding conversion efficiency of 18.4%. His treated perovskite films also exhibited exceptional stability and reproducibility, making his method useful for industrial production of solar cells.

 Source: https://www.oist.jp/

Nanocomputer Confirms The Moore’s Law

A research team led by faculty scientist Ali Javey at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has done just that by creating a transistor with a working 1-nanometer gate. For comparison, a strand of human hair is about 50,000 nanometers thick. The development could be key to keeping alive Intel co-founder Gordon Moore’s prediction that the density of transistors on integrated circuits would double every two years, enabling the increased performance of our laptops, mobile phones, televisions, and other electronics. For more than a decade, engineers have been eyeing the finish line in the race to shrink the size of components in integrated circuits. They knew that the laws of physics had set a 5-nanometer threshold on the size of transistor gates among conventional semiconductors, about one-quarter the size of high-end 20-nanometer-gate transistors now on the market.

nanotransistor

We made the smallest transistor reported to date,” said Javey, lead principal investigator of the Electronic Materials program in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Science Division. “The gate length is considered a defining dimension of the transistor. We demonstrated a 1-nanometer-gate transistor, showing that with the choice of proper materials, there is a lot more room to shrink our electronics.” The key was to use carbon nanotubes and molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), an engine lubricant commonly sold in auto parts shops. MoS2 is part of a family of materials with immense potential for applications in LEDs, lasers, nanoscale transistors, solar cells, and more.

The findings were published in the journal Science.

Source: http://newscenter.lbl.gov/

Nobel Prize For Building A Molecular Motor

nano-motor

It all has to do with “molecular machines” — teeny devices made out of individual atoms — that mark the start of a wave of nano-innovation that could drastically change, well, a LOT. You want transparent solar panels? Tiny, super-efficient nanocomputers? Cancer-killing robots that wander your bloodstream like assassins? Nanotechnology could be the way.
nobel

 

 

Jean-Pierre Sauvage (Strasbourg University in France) , Sir James Frasier Stoddart, and Bernard L. Feringa — will split the $930,000 prize for their work, including building a “molecular motor,” a light-powered device powerful enough to rotate a glass tube.

The molecular motor is at the same stage as the electric motor was in the 1830s, when scientists displayed various spinning cranks and wheels, unaware that they would lead to electric trains, washing machines, fans, and food processors,” the Nobel committee said in thepress release announcing the prize.

Of course, nanomaterials come with some troubling potential side effects, from extra-sharp nanotubes that could act like asbestos in the lungs to teeny tiny pesticide nanodroplets that might never go away. But the Nobel committee, for one, is betting that these technologies, deployed correctly, have a whole lot of good to offer us.

Source: http://grist.org/

Yahoo secretly scanned emails for U.S. intelligence

In compliance with a classified U.S. government demand, Yahoo scanned hundreds of millions e-mails for specific information, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. Sources who did not want to be identified say that would have meant a specific phrase in an e-mail or attachment. Some surveillance experts say this is the first such major case to surface of an Internet company agreeing to an intelligence request by searching all arriving messages. The content of the information intelligence officers were looking for is not known. Reuters was unable to determine what data, if any, Yahoo may have handed over.

yahoo-headquarters

A day after the Reuters report broke, Yahoo issued a statement denying the story. The statement from a Yahoo spokesperson and sent to TechRadar reads, “The [Reuters] article is misleading. We narrowly interpret every government request for user data to minimize disclosure. The mail scanning described in the article does not exist on our systems.”

It’s interesting to note that the statement says the Reuters report is “misleading” and not unequivocally false. There may be some truth to the original story, but Yahoo is not saying which parts are accurate.

However, Yahoo does deny the existence of the email scanning tool that anonymous sources revealed to Reuters. It’s unknown why Yahoo originally provided us with a statement that read, “Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States,” only to follow up with a denial 12 hours later with the statement above.

Yahoo built custom software for the US government to help its spy agencies look for specific information in any of its users’ emails, according to a new report.

Reuters claims Yahoo built the program last year at the behest of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). The publication learned about the company’s alleged actions through interviews with two anonymous former Yahoo employees and another anonymous source familiar with the matter.

While technically legal according to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act  (FISA), Yahoo‘s move to allow real-time mass surveillance of its users is unprecedented. It’s also unknown what exactly the NSA and FBI were looking for.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

How To Extend Food Life

In order to extend the life of fruits and vegetables and preserve them for longer refrigeration, UNAM (Mexico) researchers developed an edible coating with added functional ingredients applied to freshly cut foods.

Dr. Maria de la Luz Zambrano Zaragoza, researcher at the Faculty of Higher Cuautitlán (FES) in Mexico, explained that the benefits range from having a cut product attractive, “by oxidation, many fruits no longer consumed with this technology, crop losses will decrease also retain nutrients from fruits or vegetables”. With university technology have been preserved apple cut up to 25 days and a kiwi for two weeks. In addition, their production is not costly because it costs 70 pesos a liter of dispersion that  can coated 20 kilograms of cut fruit ready to be placed in convenience stores and consumed later.

After nine years of research, university scientists found that if nanocapsules loaded with alpha tocopherol and beta-carotene in fruits and fresh-cut vegetables are dispersed, homogeneous film forms a flexible, inhibits enzymatic browning and prolongs the life of these.

fruits

The microencapsulated we design are food additives with a similar to that of a ball of nanometric size ranging between one hundred to 500 nanometers structure internally can place you active substance such as lemon oil or rosemary, or antioxidant alpha tocopherol or beta-carotene; drops out of this area of the active substance through the wall that migrate to the fruit achieving their conservation”, explained the academic responsible for the investigation.

Physically, the coating is not apparent to the eye, is not a film due to immersion applied to the fruit surface active substances absorbed, obtaining a product ready to eat. In addition, coatings with different flavors can be developed to make the product attractive.

Scientific development is already patented and  researchers aim to bring to a pilot plant for industrial production.

http://www.alphagalileo.org/

Tatoo Therapy

A temporary tattoo to help control a chronic disease might someday be possible, according to scientists at Baylor College of Medicine who tested antioxidant nanoparticles created at Rice University. A proof-of-principle study led by Baylor scientist Christine Beeton published by Nature’s online, open-access journal Scientific Reports shows that nanoparticles modified with polyethylene glycol are conveniently choosy as they are taken up by cells in the immune system. That could be a plus for patients with autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, one focus of study at the Beeton lab.

tatoo-therapy

“Placed just under the skin, the carbon-based particles form a dark spot that fades over about one week as they are slowly released into the circulation,” Beeton said. T and B lymphocyte cells and macrophages are key components of the immune system. However, in many autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, T cells are the key players. One suspected cause is that T cells lose their ability to distinguish between invaders and healthy tissue and attack both.

In tests at Baylor, nanoparticles were internalized by T cells, which inhibited their function, but ignored by macrophages. “The ability to selectively inhibit one type of cell over others in the same environment may help doctors gain more control over autoimmune diseases,” Beeton said. “The majority of current treatments are general, broad-spectrum immunosuppressants,” said Redwan Huq, lead author of the study and a graduate student in the Beeton lab. “They’re going to affect all of these cells, but patients are exposed to side effects (ranging) from infections to increased chances of developing cancer. So we get excited when we see something new that could potentially enable selectivity.” Since the macrophages and other splenic immune cells are unaffected, most of a patient’s existing immune system remains intact, he added.

 

Source: http://news.rice.edu/

How To Safely Use Graphene Implants Into Tissues

In the future, our health may be monitored and maintained by tiny sensors and drug dispensers, deployed within the body and made from grapheneone of the strongest, lightest materials in the world. Graphene is composed of a single sheet of carbon atoms, linked together like razor-thin chicken wire, and its properties may be tuned in countless ways, making it a versatile material for tiny, next-generation implants. But graphene is incredibly stiff, whereas biological tissue is soft. Because of this, any power applied to operate a graphene implant could precipitously heat up and fry surrounding cells.

Now, engineers from MIT and Tsinghua University in Beijing have precisely simulated how electrical power may generate heat between a single layer of graphene and a simple cell membrane. While direct contact between the two layers inevitably overheats and kills the cell, the researchers found they could prevent this effect with a very thin, in-between layer of water. By tuning the thickness of this intermediate water layer, the researchers could carefully control the amount of heat transferred between graphene and biological tissue. They also identified the critical power to apply to the graphene layer, without frying the cell membrane.

Co-author Zhao Qin, a research scientist in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), says the team’s simulations may help guide the development of graphene implants and their optimal power requirements.

graphene2014

We’ve provided a lot of insight, like what’s the critical power we can accept that will not fry the cell,” Qin says. “But sometimes we might want to intentionally increase the temperature, because for some biomedical applications, we want to kill cells like cancer cells. This work can also be used as guidance [for those efforts.

Qin’s co-authors include Markus Buehler, head of CEE and the McAfee Professor of Engineering, along with Yanlei Wang and Zhiping Xu of Tsinghua University.
The results are published today in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: http://news.mit.edu/

Wave Of Destruction In Cancer Cells

Nanoparticles known as Cornell dots, or C dots, have shown great promise as a therapeutic tool in the detection and treatment of cancer.

Now, the ultrasmall particles – developed more than a dozen years ago by Ulrich Wiesner, the Spencer T. Olin Professor of Engineering at Cornell University – have shown they can do something even better: kill cancer cells without attaching a cytotoxic drug.

The study was led by Michelle Bradbury, director of intraoperative imaging at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and associate professor of radiology at Weill Cornell Medicine, and Michael Overholtzer, cell biologist at MSKCC, in collaboration with Wiesner. Their work details how C dots, administered in large doses and with the tumors in a state of nutrient deprivation, trigger a type of cell death called ferroptosis.

wave-of-destruction-against-cancer

If you had to design a nanoparticle for killing cancer, this would be exactly the way you would do it,” Wiesner said. “The particle is well tolerated in normally healthy tissue, but as soon as you have a tumor, and under very specific conditions, these particles become killers.”

In fact,” Bradbury said, “this is the first time we have shown that the particle has intrinsic therapeutic properties.

Source: http://mediarelations.cornell.edu/

Osteoarthritis: NanoParticles Stop Destruction Of Cartilage

Osteoarthritis is a debilitating condition that affects at least 27 million people in the United States, and at least 12 percent of osteoarthritis cases stem from earlier injuries. Over-the-counter painkillers, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, help reduce pain but do not stop unrelenting cartilage destruction. Consequently, pain related to the condition only gets worse. Now, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown in mice that they can inject nanoparticles into an injured joint and suppress inflammation immediately following an injury, reducing the destruction of cartilage.

osteoarthritisResearchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that injecting nanoparticles into an injured joint can inhibit the inflammation that contributes to the cartilage damage seen in osteoarthritis. Shown in green is an inflammatory protein in cartilage cells. After nanoparticles are injected, the inflammation is greatly reduced

 

I see a lot of patients with osteoarthritis, and there’s really no treatment,” said senior author Christine Pham, MD, an associate professor of medicine. “We try to treat their symptoms, but even when we inject steroids into an arthritic joint, the drug only remains for up to a few hours, and then it’s cleared. These nanoparticles remain.

Frequently, an osteoarthritis patient has suffered an earlier injury — a torn meniscus or ACL injury in the knee, a fall, car accident or other trauma. The body naturally responds to such injuries in the joints with robust inflammation. Patients typically take drugs such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, and as pain gets worse, injections of steroids also can provide pain relief, but their effects are short-lived.

In this study, the nanoparticles were injected shortly after an injury, and within 24 hours, the nanoparticles were at work taming inflammation in the joint. But unlike steroid injections that are quickly cleared, the particles remained in cartilage cells in the joints for weeks.

The nanoparticles used in the study are more than 10 times smaller than a red blood cell, which helps them penetrate deeply into tissues. The particles carry a peptide derived from a natural protein called melittin that has been modified to enable it to bind to a molecule called small interfering RNA (siRNA). The melittin delivers siRNA to the damaged joint, interfering with inflammation in cells.

Source: https://source.wustl.edu/

Triggered Immune Cells Attack Cancer

Stanford researchers accidentally discovered that iron nanoparticles invented for anemia treatment have another use: triggering the immune system’s ability to destroy tumor cellsIron nanoparticles can activate the immune system to attack cancer cells, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The nanoparticles, which are commercially available as the injectable iron supplement ferumoxytol, are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat iron deficiency anemia.

The mouse study found that ferumoxytol prompts immune cells called tumor-associated macrophages to destroy cancer cells, suggesting that the nanoparticles could complement existing cancer treatments.

macrophages-attack-cancerA mouse study found that ferumoxytol prompts immune cells called tumor-associated macrophages to destroy tumor cells.

It was really surprising to us that the nanoparticles activated macrophages so that they started to attack cancer cells in mice,” said Heike Daldrup-Link, MD, who is the study’s senior author and an associate professor of radiology at the School of Medicine. “We think this concept should hold in human patients, too.

The study showed that the iron nanoparticles switch the macrophages back to their cancer-attacking state, as evidenced by tracking the products of the macrophages’ metabolism and examining their patterns of gene expression.

Furthermore, in a mouse model of breast cancer, the researchers demonstrated that the ferumoxytol inhibited tumor growth when given in doses, adjusted for body weight, similar to those approved by the FDA for anemia treatment.

Daldrup-Link’s team conducted an experiment that used three groups of mice: an experimental group that got nanoparticles loaded with chemo, a control group that got nanoparticles without chemo and a control group that got neither. The researchers made the unexpected observation that the growth of the tumors in control animals that got nanoparticles only was suppressed compared with the other controls.

The discovery, described in a paper published online in Nature Nanotechnology, was made by accident while testing whether the nanoparticles could serve as Trojan horses by sneaking chemotherapy into tumors in mice.
Source: http://med.stanford.edu/

Acidity In Atmosphere Produced By Industries Has Vanished

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Researchers from the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) have shown that human pollution of the atmosphere with acid is now almost back to the level that it was before the pollution started with industrialisation in the 1930s.  The Greenland ice sheet is a unique archive of the climate and atmospheric composition far back in time. The ice sheet is made up of snow that falls and never melts, but rather remains year after year and is gradually compressed into ice. By drilling ice cores down through the kilometre-thick ice sheet, the researchers can analyse every single annual layer, which can tell us about past climate change and concentration of greenhouse gases and pollutants in the atmosphere.

Acid in the atmosphere can come from large volcanic eruptions and manmade emissions from industry. You can measure acidity in the ice by simply passing an instrument that can measure conductivity over the ice core. If there is a high level of acidity, the measurement turns out and it works great for measuring the climate of the past all the way back to the last interglacial period 125,000 years ago. But if you want to measure atmospheric acidity for the last 100 years, it is more difficult as the annual layers are located in the uppermost 60 metres and there the ice is more porous as it has not yet been compressed into hard ice. But the last 100 years are interesting for climate researchers as it is the period where we have had massive pollution of the atmosphere from industrialisation, vehicle use and people’s energy consuming lifestyles.

banquiseWe have therefore developed a new method that can directly measure the acidity of the ice using a spectrometer. We have an ice rod that is cut along the length of the ice core. This ice core rod is slowly melted and the meltwater runs into a laboratory where they take a lot of chemical measurements. With our new method you can also measure the acidity, that is to say, we measure the pH value and this is seen when the water changes colour after the addition of a pH dye. We can directly see the fluctuations from year to year,” explains Helle Astrid Kjær, postdoc in the Centre for Ice and Climate at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen.

The results come from studies of the Greenland ice sheet and are published in the scientific journal, Environmental Science and Technology.

Source: http://news.ku.dk/

Electric Train: Bye Bye Diesel, Hello Pure Air !

The French company Alstom has presented its zero-emission train at InnoTrans, the railway industry’s largest trade fair (Berlin September 2016). Despite numerous electrification projects in several countries, a significant part of Europe’s rail network will remain non-electrified in the long term. In many countries, the number of diesel trains in circulation is still high – more than 4,000 cars in Germany, for instance.

Coradia iLint from Alstom is a new CO2-emission-free regional train and alternative to diesel power. It is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, its only emission being steam and condensed water while operating with a low level of noise. Alstom is among the first railway manufacturers in the world to develop a passenger train based on such a technology. To make the deployment of the Coradia iLint as simple as possible for operators, Alstom offers a complete package, consisting of the train and maintenance, as well as also the whole hydrogen infrastructure out of one hand thanks to help from partners.

Alstom expects to sign a firm order for a production build of hydrogen fuel cell powered multiple-units by the end of the year, Coradia LINT Product Manager Stefan Schrank told Railway Gazette on September 20.

The expected initial firm order would cover units for service in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Alstom has already signed letters of intent with four German Länder covering a total of 60 trainsets, and anticipates firm orders for between 40 and 70 units by the end of 2017. Schrank was speaking at InnoTrans following the unveiling of the first of two pre-production iLINT fuel cell multiple-units which are to be tested on regional services around Hannover under an agreement with the Land of Niedersachsen. The two pre-production units are owned by Alstom, which plans to conduct testing throughout 2017, including at the Velim test circuit. Type approval from Germany’s Federal Railway Office is expected by the end of 2017, enabling the start of trial passenger running around Hannover in late 2017 or early 2018.

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The fuel cell trainsets have the same bodies, bogies and drive equipment as the conventional diesels, and the two units will directly replace two diesel units to provide a real-world comparison of performance.

The hydrogen tanks and fuel cells are mounted on the car roofs, with the tanks carrying 94 kg of hydrogen per car, enough for around one day or 700 km of operation. The fuel cells were supplied by Hydrogenics, after Alstom took a decision to partner with an experienced specialist rather than develop its own technology. The fuel cells are linked to lithium ion batteries from Akasol.

Alstom anticipates that operating costs will be comparable to diesel units. The environmental footprint of the trainsets will depend on how the hydrogen is produced; under Germany’s current electricity generating mix and electrolysis produces an unfavourable comparison to diesel, but the generating mix predicted for 2020 would make the hydrogen greener, Schrank said.

He sees a bright future for fuel cells, which he believes have now reached a comparable level of development to diesel engines 100 years ago.

Source: http://www.railwaygazette.com/

SuperRobot Arm Drone

Japanese company Prodrone has released what it calls “the world’s first dual robot arm large-format drone“, with the ability to carry heavy objects and perform detailed tasks. The PD6B-AW-ARM drone weighs 20 kilograms and can carry objects with a maximum weight of 10 kilograms. It can fly for up to 30 minutes, with a maximum forward speed of 60 kilometers per hour (37 miles per hour), and has a maximum operating altitude of 5,000 meters (16,404 feet).

prodroneCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

The PD6B-AW-ARM, a large-format drone equipped with two internally-developed robotic arms, enabling it to directly accomplish a variety of tasksProdrone, headquartered in Nagoya, Japan, has developed a wide range of commercial and industrial drones through development agreements with numerous industrial drone companies.

Examples of these operations include the abilities to grasp and carry differently shaped cargo using its arms; to attach or join things; to cut cables; to turn dials; to flick switches; to drop lifesaving buoys; to retrieve hazardous materials, etc. Drones must be able to perform a variety of operations at high altitudes, over long distances, and in places where it would be too dangerous for humans.

Up to now the industrial and commercial drone market has focused on using drones for photography and filming, mapping, surveying, spraying pesticides, etc., but there is increasingly strong demand for drones to be able to directly perform specific “hands-on” operations.

Source: http://news.asiaone.com/
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https://www.prodrone.jp/

Algorithm Replicates Perfectly Your Handwriting

In a world increasingly dominated by the QWERTY keyboard, computer scientists from University College London (UCL) have developed software which may spark the comeback of the handwritten word by analysing the handwriting of any individual and accurately replicating it.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEOcomputer-program-replicates-handwriting

The scientists have created ‘My Text in Your Handwriting’, a programme which semi-automatically examines a sample of a person’s handwriting, which can be as little as one paragraph, and generates new text saying whatever the user wishes, as if the author had handwritten it themselves. “Our software has lots of valuable applications. Stroke victims, for example, may be able to formulate letters without the concern of illegibility, or someone sending flowers as a gift could include a handwritten note without even going into the florist. It could also be used in comic books where a piece of handwritten text can be translated into different languages without losing the author’s original style”, said First author, Dr Tom Haines (UCL Computer Science).

Co-author, Dr Oisin Mac Aodha (UCL Computer Science), adds: “Up until now, the only way to produce computer-generated text that resembles a specific person’s handwriting would be to use a relevant font. The problem with such fonts is that it is often clear that the text has not been penned by hand, which loses the character and personal touch of a handwritten piece of text. What we’ve developed removes this problem and so could be used in a wide variety of commercial and personal circumstances.”

Published in ACM Transactions on Graphics, the machine learning algorithm is built around glyphs – a specific instance of a character.

Source: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/

New Drug Reduces Osteoporosis dramatically

Felicia Cosman, MD, an endocrinologist at Helen Hayes Hospital Regional Bone Center in West Haverstraw, New York, and professor of medicine at Columbia University, and colleagues performed a prespecified subgroup analysis of data from 2,463 postmenopausal women with osteoporosis (aged 49-86 years; mean age, 69 years) enrolled in the phase 3 ACTIVE trial. Participants were randomly assigned 80 g subcutaneous abaloparatide (n = 824) or placebo (n = 821), or open-label 20 g subcutaneous teriparatide (n = 818).

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At 18 months, participants assigned abaloparatide had a 9.2% increase in Bone Mass Measurement (BMD) from baseline at the lumbar spine, 3.4 % at the total hip,  3.4% and 2.9% at the femoral neck compared with placebo. Morphometric vertebral fractures were reduced by 86%, nonvertebral fractures by 43% and major osteoporotic fractures by 70% in the abaloparatide group compared to placebo. Compared with teriparatide, major osteoporotic fractures were reduced by 55% in the aloparatide group.
Reductions in new morphometric vertebral and nonvertebral fractures were similar across subgroups, as were increases in BMD, and researchers observed no meaningful interactions between baseline risk factor subgroups and treatment effects. “Our findings suggest that abaloparatide-SC, if approved, has the potential to provide consistent protection against fractures and to increase BMD in a broad group of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, regardless of baseline age, BMD or prior fracture history,” Cosman said.

http://www.healio.com/