Sensor Detects Harmful Air Pollution In The Home

Scientists from the University of Southampton (UK) in partnership with the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST) have developed a graphene-based sensor and switch that can detect harmful air pollution in the home with very low power consumptionThe sensor detects individual CO2 molecules and volatile organic compounds (VOC) gas molecules found in building and interior materials, furniture and even household goods, which adversely affect our living in modern houses with good insulation. These harmful chemical gases have low concentrations of ppb (parts per billion) levels and are extremely difficult to detect with current environmental sensor technology, which can only detect concentrations of parts per million (ppm).

Graphene sensor.jpg_SIA_JPG_fit_to_width_INLINE

In recent years, there has been an increase in health problems due to air pollution in personal living spaces, known as sick building syndrome (SBS), along with other conditions such as sick car and sick school syndromes.

The research group, led by Professor Hiroshi Mizuta, who holds a joint appointment at the University of Southampton and JAIST, and Dr Jian Sun and Assistant Professor Manoharan Muruganathan of JAIST, developed the sensor to detect individual CO2 molecules adsorbed (the bond of molecules from a gas to a surface) onto the suspended graphene (single atomic sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb-like hexagonal crystal lattice structure) one by one by applying an electric field across the structure.

By monitoring the electrical resistance of the graphene beam, the adsorption and desorption (whereby a substance is released from or through a surface) processes of individual CO2 molecules onto the graphene were detected as ‘quantisedchanges in resistance (step-wise increase or decrease in resistance). In the study, published today in Science Advances, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a small volume of  CO2 gas (equivalent to a concentration of approximately 30 ppb) was released and the detection time was only a few minutes.

Professor Mizuta said: “In contrast to the commercially available environmental monitoring tools, this extreme sensing technology enables us to realise significant miniaturisation, resulting in weight and cost reduction in addition to the remarkable improvement in the detection limit from the ppm levels to the ppb levels“.

Source: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/

How To Destroy SuperBugs

A new discovery could control the spread of deadly antibiotic-resistant superbugs which experts fear are on course to kill 10 million people every year by 2050 – more than will die from cancer. A team of scientists, led by Professor Suresh C. Pillai from IT Sligo (Ireland), have made the significant breakthrough which will allow everyday items – from smartphones to door handles — to be protected against deadly bacteria, including MRSA and E. coli. News of the discovery comes just days after UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne warned that superbugs could become deadlier than cancer and are on course to kill 10 million people globally by 2050.

superbug bacteria

Speaking at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, Mr Osborne warned that the problem would slash global GDP by around €100 trillion if it was not tackled. Using nanotechnology, the discovery is an effective and practical antimicrobial solution — an agent that kills microorganisms or inhibits their growth — that can be used to protect a range of everyday items. Items include anything made from glass, metallics and ceramics including computer or tablet screens, smartphones, ATMs, door handles, TVs, handrails, lifts, urinals, toilet seats, fridges, microwaves and ceramic floor or wall tiles. It will be of particular use in hospitals and medical facilities which are losing the battle against the spread of killer superbugs. Other common uses would include in swimming pools and public buildings, on glass in public buses and trains, sneeze guards protecting food in delis and restaurants as well as in clean rooms in the medical sector.

The discovery is the culmination of almost 12 years of research by a team of scientists, led by Prof. Suresh C. Pillai initially at CREST (Centre for Research in Engineering Surface Technology) in Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and then at IT Sligo’s Nanotechnology Research Group (PEM Centre).

It’s absolutely wonderful to finally be at this stage. This breakthrough will change the whole fight against superbugs. It can effectvely control the spread of bacteria,” said Prof. Pillai. He continued: “Every single person has a sea of bacteria on their hands. The mobile phone is the most contaminated personal item that we can have. Bacteria grows on the phone and can live there for up to five months. As it is contaminated with proteins from saliva and from the hand, It’s fertile land for bacteria and has been shown to carry 30 times more bacteria than a toilet seat.”

The research started at Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT)’s CREST and involves scientists now based at IT Sligo, Dublin City University (DCU) and the University of Surrey. Major researchers included Dr Joanna Carroll and Dr Nigel S. Leyland.

The research was published today in the journal, Scientific Reports, published by the Nature publishing group.

Source: https://itsligo.ie/

Vaccine Against Herpes, Potentially HIV

An effective vaccine against the virus that causes genital herpes has evaded researchers for decades. But now, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) working with scientists from the Kiel University (Germany) have shown that zinc-oxide nanoparticles shaped like jacks can prevent the virus from entering cells, and help natural immunity to develop.

zinc oxyde tetrapod

We call the virus-trapping nanoparticle a microbivac, because it possesses both microbicidal and vaccine-like properties,” says corresponding author Deepak Shukla, professor of ophthalmology and microbiology & immunology in the UIC College of Medicine. “It is a totally novel approach to developing a vaccine against herpes, and it could potentially also work for HIV and other viruses,” he said. The particles could serve as a powerful active ingredient in a topically-applied vaginal cream that provides immediate protection against herpes virus infection while simultaneously helping stimulate immunity to the virus for long-term protection, explained Shukla. Herpes simplex virus-2, which causes serious eye infections in newborns and immunocompromised patients as well as genital herpes, is one of the most common human viruses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 15 percent of people from ages 14-49 carry HSV-2, which can hide out for long periods of time in the nervous system. The genital lesions caused by the virus increase the risk for acquiring human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. “Your chances of getting HIV are three to four times higher if you already have genital herpes, which is a very strong motivation for developing new ways of preventing herpes infection,” Shukla said. Treatments for HSV-2 include daily topical medications to suppress the virus and shorten the duration of outbreaks, when the virus is active and genital lesions are present. However, drug resistance is common, and little protection is provided against further infections. Efforts to develop a vaccine have been unsuccessful because the virus does not spend much time in the bloodstream, where most traditional vaccines do their work.
The tetrapod-shaped zinc-oxide nanoparticles, called ZOTEN, have negatively charged surfaces that attract the HSV-2 virus, which has positively charged proteins on its outer envelope. ZOTEN nanoparticles were synthesized using technology developed by material scientists at Germany’s Kiel University and protected under a joint patent with UIC. When bound to the nanoparticles, HSV-2 cannot infect cells.

Results of the study are published in The Journal of Immunology.

Source: https://news.uic.edu/

Hydrogen Electric Car Powered By Fuel Cells 4 Times More Efficient

Inspired by the humble cactus, a new type of membrane has the potential to significantly boost the performance of fuel cells and transform the electric vehicle industry. The membrane, developed by scientists from CSIRO (Australia) and Hanyang University in Korea, was described today in the journal Nature . The paper shows that in hot conditions the membrane, which features a water repellent skin, can improve the efficiency of fuel cells by a factor of four.

According to CSIRO researcher and co-author Dr Aaron Thornton, the skin works in a similar way to a cactus plant, which thrives by retaining water in harsh and arid environments.

cactus

Fuel cells, like the ones used in electric vehicles, generate energy by mixing together simple gases, like hydrogen and oxygen. However, in order to maintain performance, proton exchange membrane fuel cells – or PEMFCs – need to stay constantly hydrated,” Dr Thornton said.

At the moment this is achieved by placing the cells alongside a radiator, water reservoir and a humidifier. The downside is that when used in a vehicle, these occupy a large amount of space and consume significant power,” he added.

According to CSIRO researcher and co-author Dr Cara Doherty, the team’s new cactus-inspired solution offers an alternative. A cactus plant has tiny cracks, called stomatal pores, which open at night when it is cool and humid, and close during the day when the conditions are hot and arid. This helps it retain water,” Dr Doherty said. “This membrane works in a similar way. Water is generated by an electrochemical reaction, which is then regulated through nano-cracks within the skin. The cracks widen when exposed to humidifying conditions, and close up when it is drier. This means that fuel cells can remain hydrated without the need for bulky external humidifier equipment. We also found that the skin made the fuel cells up to four times as efficient in hot and dry conditions,” she added.

Professor Young Moo Lee from Hanyang University, who led the research, said that this could have major implications for many industries, including the development of electric vehicles.

Source: http://www.csiro.au/

Polymer Solar Cells, Low-Cost Alternative To Silicon

Polymer solar cells could be even cheaper and more reliable thanks to a breakthrough by researchers at Linköping University (Sweden) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). This work is about avoiding costly and unstable fullerenes. In recent years, polymer solar cells have emerged as a low cost alternative to silicon solar cells. In order to obtain high efficiency, fullerenes are usually required in polymer solar cells to separate charge carriers. However, fullerenes are unstable under illumination, and form large crystals at high temperatures.

Now, a team of chemists led by Professor Jianhui Hou at the CAS has set a new world record for fullerene-free polymer solar cells by developing a unique combination of a polymer called PBDB-T and a small molecule called ITIC. With this combination, the sun’s energy is converted with an efficiency of 11%, a value that strikes most solar cells with fullerenes, and all without fullerenes. Feng Gao, together with his colleagues Olle Inganäs and Deping Qian at Linköping University, have characterized the loss spectroscopy of photovoltage (Voc), a key figure for solar cells, and proposed approaches to further improving the device performance.

fulleren160

We have demonstrated that it is possible to achieve high efficiency without using fullerene, and that such solar cells are also highly stable to heat. Because solar cells are working under constant solar radiation, good thermal stability is very important,” says Feng Gao, a physicist at the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Linköping University.

The combination of high efficiency and good thermal stability suggests that polymer solar cells, which can be easily manufactured using low-cost roll-to-roll printing technology, now come a step closer to commercialization,” says Feng Gao.
The results have been published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Source: http://liu.se/

Friendly Alternative To Li-Ion Battery

An unexpected discovery has led to a rechargeable battery that’s as inexpensive as conventional car batteries, but has a much higher energy density. The new battery could become a cost-effective, environmentally friendly alternative for storing renewable energy and supporting the power grid.

A team based at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) identified this energy storage gem after realizing the new battery works in a different way than they had assumed. The journal Nature Energy published a paper today that describes the battery.

PNNL batteryPNNL’s improved aqueous zinc-manganese oxide battery offers a cost-effective, environmentally friendly alternative for storing renewable energy and supporting the power grid.

“The idea of a rechargeable zinc-manganese battery isn’t new; researchers have been studying them as an inexpensive, safe alternative to lithium-ion batteries since the late 1990s,” said PNNL Laboratory Fellow Jun Liu, the paper’s corresponding author. “But these batteries usually stop working after just a few charges. Our research suggests these failures could have occurred because we failed to control chemical equilibrium in rechargeable zinc-manganese energy storage systems.”

After years of focusing on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, researchers are used to thinking about the back-and-forth shuttle of lithium ions. Lithium-ion batteries store and release energy through a process called intercalation, which involves lithium ions entering and exiting microscopic spaces in between the atoms of a battery’s two electrodes.

This concept is so engrained in energy storage research that when PNNL scientists, collaborating with the University of Washington, started considering a low-cost, safe alternative to lithium-ion batteries − a rechargeable zinc-manganese oxide battery − they assumed zinc would similarly move in and out of that battery’s electrodes. After a battery of tests, the team was surprised to realize their device was undergoing an entirely different process. Instead of simply moving the zinc ions around, their zinc-manganese oxide battery was undergoing a reversible chemical reaction that converted its active materials into entirely new ones.

Source: http://www.pnnl.gov/

How To Harvest Heat In The Dark To Produce Electricity

Physicists have discovered radical new properties in a nanomaterial, opening new possibilities for highly efficient thermophotovoltaic cells that could one day harvest heat in the dark and turn it into electricity. The research team from the Australian National University (ANU/ARC Centre of Excellence CUDOS) and the University of California Berkeley demonstrated a new artificial material, or metamaterial, that glows in an unusual way when heated.

The findings could drive a revolution in the development of cells which convert radiated heat into electricity, known as thermophotovoltaic cells. “Thermophotovoltaic cells have the potential to be much more efficient than solar cells,” said Dr Sergey Kruk from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.

thermophotovoltaic

Our metamaterial overcomes several obstacles and could help to unlock the potential of thermophotovoltaic cells.”

Thermophotovoltaic cells have been predicted to be more than twice as efficient as conventional solar cells. They do not need direct sunlight to generate electricity, and instead can harvest heat from their surroundings in the form of infrared radiation. They can also be combined with a burner to produce on-demand power or can recycle heat radiated by hot engines. The team’s metamaterial, made of tiny nanoscopic structures of gold and magnesium fluoride, radiates heat in specific directions. The geometry of the metamaterial can also be tweaked to give off radiation in specific spectral range, in contrast to standard materials that emit their heat in all directions as a broad range of infrared wavelengths. This makes the new material ideal for use as an emitter paired with a thermophotovoltaic cell.

The project started when Dr Kruk predicted the new metamaterial would have these surprising properties. The ANU team then worked with scientists at the University of California Berkeley, who have unique expertise in manufacturing such materials.

To fabricate this material the Berkeley team were operating at the cutting edge of technological possibilities,” Dr Kruk said. “The size of an individual building block of the metamaterial is so small that we could fit more than 12,000 of them on the cross-section of a human hair.

The research is published in Nature Communications.

Source: http://www.anu.edu.au/

Battery That Could Be Recharged 200,000 Times

Scientists have long sought to use nanowires in batteries. Thousands of times thinner than a human hair, they’re highly conductive and feature a large surface area for the storage and transfer of electrons. However, these filaments are extremely fragile and don’t hold up well to repeated discharging and recharging, or cycling. In a typical lithium-ion battery, they expand and grow brittle, which leads to cracking.

Researchers fron the University of California Irvine (UCI) have solved this problem by coating a gold nanowire in a manganese dioxide shell and encasing the assembly in an electrolyte made of a Plexiglas-like gel. The combination is reliable and resistant to failure.

Mya Le Thai

The study leader, UCI doctoral candidate Mya Le Thai, cycled the testing electrode up to 200,000 times over three months without detecting any loss of capacity or power and without fracturing any nanowires. The findings were published today in the American Chemical Society’s Energy Letters. Hard work combined with serendipity paid off in this case, according to senior author Reginald Penner.

Mya was playing around, and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it,” said Penner, chair of UCI’s chemistry department. “She discovered that just by using this gel, she could cycle it hundreds of thousands of times without losing any capacity”.

That was crazy,” he added, “because these things typically die in dramatic fashion after 5,000 or 6,000 or 7,000 cycles at most.

Source: https://news.uci.edu/

In 2029 Immortality May Be Possible

Scientist Ray Kurzweil (Google‘s Director of Engineering) reckons man could become immortal in just a few years’ time. The 61-year-old American – dubbed the smartest futurist on Earth by Microsoft founder Bill Gates – has consistently predicted new technologies many years before they arrived. Here, Ray explains why he believes today’s 60-year-olds could go on to live forever. We are living through the most exciting period of human historyComputer technology and our understanding of genes — our body’s software programs — are accelerating at an incredible rate. He and many other scientists now believe that in around 20 years we will have the means to reprogramme our bodies’ stone-age software so we can halt, then reverse, ageing. Then nano-technology will let us live for ever.

Already, blood cell-sized submarines cnanorobotsalled nanobots are being tested in animals. These will soon be used to destroy tumours, unblock clots and perform operations without scars.

Ultimately, nanobots will replace blood cells and do their work thousands of times more effectively. Within 25 years we will be able to do an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath, or go scuba-diving for four hours without oxygen. Heart-attack victims — who haven’t taken advantage of widely available bionic hearts — will calmly drive to the doctors for a minor operation as their blood bots keep them alive. Nanotechnology will extend our mental capacities to such an extent we will be able to write books within minutes. If we want to go into virtual-reality mode, nanobots will shut down brain signals and take us wherever we want to go. Virtual sex will become commonplace. And in our daily lives, hologram-like figures will pop up in our brain to explain what is happening.

These technologies should not seem at all fanciful. Our phones now perform tasks we wouldn’t have dreamed possible 20 years ago. In 1965, an university’s only computer cost £7million and was huge. Today your mobile phone is a million times less expensive and a thousand times more powerful. That’s a billion times more capable for the same price.

According to Kurrzweil’s theory — the Law of Accelerating Returns — we will experience another billion-fold increase in technological capability for the same cost in the next 25 years. So we can look forward to a world where humans become cyborgs, with artificial limbs and organs. This might sound far-fetched, but remember, diabetics already have artificial pancreases and Parkinson’s patients have neural implants. As we approach the 21st Century’s second decade, stunning medical breakthroughs are a regular occurrence.

In 2008 we discovered skin cells can be transformed into the equivalent of embryonic cells. So organs will soon be repaired and eventually grown. In a few years most people will have their entire genetic sequences mapped. Before long, we will all know the diseases we are susceptible to and gene therapies will mean virtually no genetic problems that can’t be erased. It’s important to ensure we get to take advantage of the upcoming technologies by living well and not getting hit by a bus.

By the middle of this century we will have back-up copies of the information in our bodies and brains that make us who we are. Then we really will be immortal.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com
AND
http://www.thesun.co.uk/

Diabetes: How To Avoid Amputation

Scientists from Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) in Russia along with National Autonomous Mexico University develop techniques to treat diabetic foot syndrome with silver nano-particles which special insoles are treated with. The techniques help to fight ulcers appearing on feet in diabetic patients, facilitates their healing and disinfection, reducing the risk of amputation.

Diabetic foot syndrome is one of the latest and most serious complications of diabetes. Due to the large amount of sugar in the body there are changes in peripheral nerves, blood vessels, skin and soft tissues, bones and joints of the patient. Infections, ulcers, suppurations and so on are emerging. Up to 15% of people with diabetes have the risk of developing ulcers on feet. In the advanced form diabetic foot syndrome can lead to amputation. Silver preparations being developed by Tomsk Polytechnic University jointly with Novosibirsk and Mexican counterparts are able to reduce such risks.

diabetes

 

The research has shown silver’s antibacterial properties facilitate rapid healing of ulcers and suppurations in patients with diabetic foot syndrome. Together with colleagues from Mexico, where the problem is particularly acute, we are working to create special insoles for diabetic patients. The development has passed clinical tests. In patients who had used the insoles impregnated with silver nanoparticles, leg ulcers healed up, the risk of amputations significantly reduced“, says TPU Professor Alexey Pestryakov, Head of the Department of Physical and Analytical Chemistry.

 Source: http://tpu.ru/

Solar Hubs Provide Clean Water, Electricity & Internet to 3000 people

The Italian company Watly aims to deliver a hat trick of very needful things to the developing world, in the form of both a standalone unit and as a network of units. The team of this ambitious company describes their creation as the “biggest solar-powered computer in the world,” which combines solar photovoltaics (PV) and battery storage for powering the unit (and for charging external devices), with a water filtration system and an internet connectivity and telecommunications hub. The Watly system, which has been in the works for the last few years, and has now attracted the attention of The Discovery Channel, was run as a pilot program at a village in Ghana, where the 2.0 version of the device was successfully deployed to deliver clean drinking water to residents.

watly solar hub

The next step, however, is to build out the Watly 3.0 system, which is the full-sized version of the device, measuring some 40 meters long, and which is expected to be able to provide as much as 5000 liters of water per day, every day, for at least 15 years, along with producing solar electricity and charging services to as many as 3000 people. According to the company, one unit could offset the emissions equivalent of 2500 barrels of oil over the course of those 15 years, along with providing clean water and an off-grid power source. To get to that next step, Watly has turned to – wait for it – crowdfunding with an Indiegogo campaign that seeks to raise money for the installation of the 3.0 version as a pilot program in Africa (location TBD).

Along with the solar power and drinking water, Watly aims to provide an internet/telecom hub for local residents, with an onboard system for connecting to 3G/4G, radio link data systems, and/or satellites, as well as to communicate with other Watly units to act as a node in an “EnergyNet.”

Watly is a powerful communication device that can collect and send any kind of data (videos, images, audios, texts, ratios, etc.) to the Internet as well as to any other compatible communication device. A single Watly is a standing alone machine, but two or more Watlys become a network where each node is auto-powered, self-sustained and multi-functional.

Source: https://watly.co/

Root, the Code-Teaching Robot

In the digital age, computing fuels some of the fastest-growing segments of the economy, making programming an increasingly important part of an American education. But the words “computer literacy” do not exactly excite the imaginations of most grade schoolers. So how to engage young minds with coding? One answer, say researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, is a robot named Root.

Root teaches kids codingCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

“Right now, coding is taught at a computer keyboard. It’s an abstract process that doesn’t have a relationship to the real world,” said Raphael Cherney, a research associate at the institute. “What Root does is bring coding to life in an extremely fun and approachable way. Kids with no experience in coding can be programming robots in a matter of minutes.

Fitting somewhere between old-time remote-controlled toy trains and today’s video games, Root is a robot that is programmed using a tablet interface called Square. Root has light and color sensors, bumpers, and a touch surface that enable it to respond to the physical world. In a classroom setting, Root would “drive” along a magnetic dry-erase whiteboard at the front of the class, giving the young programmers an “instant, physical manifestation” of the code, according to Zivthan Dubrovsky, who leads the robotics platform at Wyss.
Source: http://news.harvard.edu/

Brain Implant Moves Paralyzed Arm

This is Ian Burkhart of Ohio. His hands and legs were permanently paralyzed in a diving accident when he was 19 years old. But now with the help of a new, breakthrough computer chip implanted in his brain – the, now, 24-year-old is playing guitar hero.

brain implant helps paralized limbsCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO
When we first hooked everything up, you know for the first time being able to move my hand, it was a big shock because you know it was something that I have not moved in three and half years at that point, now it’s more of something where I expect it to move“,  says  Ian Burkhat, the quadriplegic patient at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.  The small pea-sized computer chip relays signals from Burkhart’s brain through 130 electrodes to his forearm, allowing his mind guide his hands and fingers, bypassing his damaged spinal cord. On Wednesday, scientists and neurosurgeons describing this quadriplegic’s accomplishments as a milestone in the evolution of brain-computer interface technology.

This really provides hope, we believe, for many patients in the future as this technology evolves and matures“, comments Doctor Ali Rezai, from the Ohio State’s Center for NeuroModulation. Burkhart says the progress is moving along faster than he imagined: “The biggest dream would be to get full function of my hand back, both my hands, because that would allow you to be much more independent, not to have to rely on people for simple day to day tasks that you take for granted.”

Scientists are working to improve the technology, which for now can only be used in the laboratory, and move toward a wireless system bringing Burkhart another step closer to his dream.

Source: http://wexnermedical.osu.edu/

Robots That Feel And Touch Like Humans

Smart synthetic skins have the potential to allow robots to touch and sense what’s around them, but keeping them powered up and highly sensitive at low cost has been a challenge. Now scientists report in the journal ACS Nano a self-powered, transparent smart skin that is simpler and less costly than many other versions that have been developed.

mother robot

Endowing robots and prosthetics with a human-like sense of touch could dramatically advance these technologies. Toward this goal, scientists have come up with various smart skins to layer onto devices. But boosting their sensitivity has involved increasing the numbers of electrodes, depending on the size of the skin. This leads to a rise in costs. Other systems require external batteries and wires to operate, which adds to their bulk. Haixia Zhang and colleagues wanted to find a more practical solution.

The researchers created a smart skin out of ultra-thin plastic films and just four electrodes made from silver nanowires. Other prototypes contain up to 36 electrodes. Additionally, one component harvests mechanical energy — for example, from the movement of a prosthetic hand’s fingers — and turns it into an electric current.

Source: http://www.acs.org/

Electronic Circuits Applied To Paper From A Pen

The electronics of the future will be printed. Flexible circuits can be produced inexpensively on foil or paper using printing processes and permit futuristic designs with curved diodes or input elements. This requires printable electronic materials that can be printed and retain a high level of conductivity during usage in spite of their curved surfaces. Some tried and tested materials include organic, conductive polymers and nanoparticles made of conductive oxides (TCOs). Research scientists at INMLeibniz-Institute for New Materials (Germany) have now combined the benefits of organic and inorganic electronic materials in a new type of hybrid inks. This allows electronic circuits to be applied to paper directly from a pen, for example. To create their hybrid inks, the research scientists coated nanoparticles made of metals with organic, conductive polymers and suspended them in mixtures of water and alcohol. These suspensions can be applied directly on paper or foil using a pen and they dry without any further processing to form electrical circuits.

ink to print electronics

Electrically conductive polymers are used in OLEDs, for example, which can also be manufactured on flexible substrates,” explains Tobias Kraus, Head of the research group Structure Formation at INM. “The combination of metal and nano-particles that we introduce here combines mechanical flexibility with the robustness of a metal and increases the electrical conductivity.”

The developers will be demonstrating their results and the possibilities they offer at stand B46 in hall 2 at this year’s Hanover Trade Fair as part of the leading trade show Research & Technology which takes place from 25th to 29th April.

Source: http://www.leibniz-inm.de/

Nanotechnology Improves Next Generation Of Batteries

In the global race to create more efficient and long-lasting batteries, some are betting on nanotechnology — the use of minuscule parts — as the most likely to yield a breakthrough. Improving batteries’ performance is key to the development and success of many much-hyped technologies, from solar and wind energy to electric cars. They need to hold more energy, last longer, be cheaper and safer. Research into how to achieve that has followed several avenues, from using different materials than the existing lithium-ion batteries to changing the internal structure of batteries using nanoparticles — parts so small they are invisible to the naked eye. Nanotechnology can increase the size and surface of batteries electrodes, the rods inside the batteries that absorb the energy. It does so by effectively making the electrodes sponge-like, so that they can absorb more energy during charging and ultimately increasing the energy storage capacity. Prague-based company HE3DA in Czech Republic has developed such a technology by using the nanotechnology to move from the current flat electrodes to make them three dimensional. With prototypes undergoing successful testing, it hopes to have the battery on the market at the end of this year.

Tesla Model 3

In the future, this will be the mainstream,” said Jan Prochazka, the president. He said it would be targeted at high-intensity industries like automobiles and the energy sector, rather than mobile phones, because that is where it can make the biggest difference through its use of his bigger electrodes.

In combination with an internal cooling system the batteries, which are being tested now, should be safe from overheating or exploding, a major concern with existing technologies. Researchers at the University of Michigan and MIT have likewise focused on nanotechnology to improve the existing lithium-ion technology. Others have sought to use different materials. One of the most promising is lithium oxygen, which theoretically could store five to 10 times the energy of a lithium ion battery, but there have been a number of technical problems that made it inefficient. Batteries based on sodium-ion, aluminium-air and aluminium-graphite are also being explored. There’s even research on a battery powered by urine.

Source: http://www.he3da.cz/
AND
http://bigstory.ap.org/

Artificial Molecules Revolutionize 3D Printing

Scientists at ETH Zurich and IBM Research Zurich have developed a new technique that enables for the first time the manufacture of complexly structured tiny objects joining together microspheres. The objects have a size of just a few micrometres and are produced in a modular fashion, making it possible to program their design in such a way that each component exhibits different physical properties. After fabrication, it is also very simple to bring the micro-objects into solution. This makes the new technique substantially different from micro 3D printing technology. With most of today’s micro 3D printing technologies, objects can only be manufactured if they consist of a single material, have a uniform structure and are attached to a surface during production.

3D printing process ETHArtificial molecules. The individual components are marked with different fluorescent dyes (molecule size: 2-7 micrometres; compilation of microscopic images)

To prepare the micro-objects, the ETH and IBM researchers use tiny spheres made from a polymer or silica as their building blocks, each with a diameter of approximately one micrometre and different physical properties. The scientists are able to control the particles and arrange them in the geometry and sequence they like.

The structures that are formed occupy an interesting niche in the size scale: they are much larger than your typical chemical or biochemical molecules, but much smaller than typical objects in the macroscopic world. “Depending on the perspective, it’s possible to speak of giant molecules or micro-objects,” says Lucio Isa, Professor for Interfaces, Soft matter and Assembly at ETH Zurich. He headed the research project together with Heiko Wolf, a scientist at IBM Research. “So far, no scientist has succeeded in fully controlling the sequence of individual components when producing artificial molecules on the micro scale,” says Isa.

Source: https://www.ethz.ch/

Impenetrable Body-Armor To Protect Soldiers

A team of engineers from the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) has developed and tested a type of steel with a record-breaking ability to withstand an impact without deforming permanently. The new steel alloy could be used in a wide range of applications, from drill bits, to body armor for soldiers, to meteor-resistant casings for satellites. The material is an amorphous steel alloy, a promising subclass of steel alloys made of arrangements of atoms that deviate from steel’s classical crystal-like structure, where iron atoms occupy specific locations.

Researchers are increasingly looking to amorphous steel as a source of new materials that are affordable to manufacture, incredibly hard, but at the same time, not brittle. The researchers believe their work on the steel alloy, named SAM2X5-630, is the first to investigate how amorphous steels respond to shock. SAM2X5-630 has the highest recorded elastic limit for any steel alloy, according to the researchers—essentially the highest threshold at which the material can withstand an impact without deforming permanently. The alloy can withstand pressure and stress of up to 12.5 giga-Pascals or about 125,000 atmospheres without undergoing permanent deformations.

record breaking steelTransmission electron microscopy image showing different levels of crystallinity embedded in the amorphous matrix of the alloy. Watch a video of the alloy being tested, click the image.
Because these materials are designed to withstand extreme conditions, you can process them under extreme conditions successfully,” said Olivia Graeve, a professor of mechanical engineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, who led the design and fabrication effort. Veronica Eliasson, an assistant professor at USC, led the testing efforts.

The researchers, from the University of California, San Diego, the University of Southern California and the California Institute of Technology, describe the material’s fabrication and testing in a recent issue of Nature Scientific Reports.

Source: http://jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/

Possible Soft Cure For Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Nanoparticles designed to block a cell-surface molecule that plays a key role in inflammation could be a safe treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according to researchers in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University and Southwest University in China. The scientists developed nanoparticles, or microscopic particles, to reduce the expression of  CD98, a glycoprotein that promotes inflammation.

IBD

Our results suggest this nanoparticle could potentially be used as an efficient therapeutic treatment for inflammation,” said Didier Merlin, professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State and researcher at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

We targeted CD98 because we determined in a previous study that CD98 is highly over-expressed in activated immune cells involved in IBD.”

In the United States, as many as 1.3 million people suffer from IBD, which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, conditions with chronic or recurring abnormal response to the body’s immune system and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. IBD gets worse over time and causes severe gastrointestinal symptoms, such as persistent diarrhea, cramping abdominal pain, fever, rectal bleeding, loss of appetite and weight loss. Surgery is required when medication can no longer control the symptoms, and patients also have an increased risk of colon cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This study suggests the development of nanotherapeutic strategies could be an alternative to currently available drugs, which are limited by serious side effects, in treating inflammatory conditions such as IBD.

The findings are published in the journal Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces.

Source: http://news.gsu.edu/

Electric Car: Safer, Cheaper Rechargeable Batteries

By chemically modifying and pulverizing a promising group of compounds, scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have potentially brought safer, solid-state rechargeable batteries two steps closer to reality.

sodiumChunks of this sodium-based compound (Na2B12H12) (left) would function well in a battery only at elevated temperatures, but when they are milled into far smaller pieces (right), they can potentially perform even in extreme cold, making them even more promising as the basis for safer, cheaper rechargeables.

These compounds are stable solid materials that would not pose the risks of leaking or catching fire typical of traditional liquid battery ingredients and are made from commonly available substances. Since discovering their properties in 2014, a team led by NIST scientists has sought to enhance the compounds’ performance further in two key ways: Increasing their current-carrying capacity and ensuring that they can operate in a sufficiently wide temperature range to be useful in real-world environments.

Considerable advances have now been made on both fronts, according to Terrence Udovic of the NIST Center for Neutron Research, whose team has published a pair of scientific papers that detail each improvement.  The first advance came when the team found that the original compounds — made primarily of hydrogen, boron and either lithium or sodium — were even better at carrying current with a slight change to their chemical makeup. Replacing one of the boron atoms with carbon improved their ability to conduct charged particles, or ions, which are what carry electricity inside a battery. As the team reported in February in their first paper, the switch made the compounds about 10 times better at conducting.

But perhaps more important was clearing the temperature hurdle. The compounds conducted ions well enough to operate in a battery — as long as it was in an environment typically hotter than boiling water. Unfortunately, there’s not much of a market for such high-temperature batteries, and by the time they cooled to room temperature, the materials’ favorable chemical structure often changed to a less conductive form, decreasing their performance substantially. One solution turned out to be crushing the compounds’ particles into a fine powder.

This approach can remove worries about whether batteries incorporating these types of materials will perform as expected even on the coldest winter day,” said Udovic, whose collaborators on the most recent paper include scientists from Japan’s Tohoku University, the University of Maryland and Sandia National Laboratories. “We are currently exploring their use in next-generation batteries, and in the process we hope to convince people of their great potential.”

Source: http://nist.gov

How To Monitor and Combat Diabetes With A Simple Patch

In the future, diabetics may be able to replace finger prick tests and injections with this non-invasive smart patch to keep their glucose levels in check.

patch against diabetesCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

The device is a type of patch which enables diabetic patients to monitor blood sugar levels via sweat without taking blood samples and control glucose levels by injecting medication“, says Kim Dae-Hyeong, researcher at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), Seoul National University, South Korea.

After analyzing the patient’s sweat to sense glucose, the patch’s embedded sensors constantly test pH, humidity, and temperature – important factors for accurate blood sugar readings. The graphene-based patch is studded with micro-needles coated with medication that pierce the skin painlessly. When the patch senses above normal glucose levels a tiny heating element switches on which dissolves the medication coating the microneedles and releases it into the body. The prototype worked well in mice trials.

Diabetic patients can easily use our device because it does not cause any pain or stress them out. So they can monitor and manage blood glucose levels more often to prevent increasing it. Therefore, our device can greatly contribute to helping patients avoid complications of the disease“, comments Professor Kim Dae-Hyeong. Researchers want to lower the cost of production, while figuring out how to delivery enough medication to effectively treat humans, both major hurdles towards commercialization. The research was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology in March.

Source: http://www.ibs.re.kr/

The Gene That Causes Grey Hair Is Now Identified

No matter who you are; for most of us grey hair is an inevitable part of getting older. But what if you could switch off the gene that causes it? For the first time, scientists have identified a gene called IRF4 as the culprit behind grey hair. DNA samples from over 6,000 volunteers were collected in Latin America; chosen for the diverse ancestry of its inhabitants. And it turns out if you have your roots in Europe, grey hair is much more likely.

Grey-HairCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

This genetic variant of IRF4 has two forms; one form is present world-wide and the other form is present only in Europeans. And we saw that this particular European specific form gives you almost double the chance of hair greying,” says Dr Kaustubh Adhikari from University College London (UCL), department of cell and developmental biology.

The gene IRF4 helps regulate melanin in the body, which determines – among other things – hair colour. Age and environmental factors will, of course, influence how quickly IRF4 triggers hair greying. But the researchers say their discovery could lead to a treatment that could stop it in its tracks.

Switching off a gene is of course feasible, the issue is whether it will have the desired effect and whether it’s the right thing to do… But in terms of trying to develop a therapy to delay or prevent hair greying, that is something that is potentially feasible; yes“, comments Professor Andres Ruiz-Linares, UCL (department of BioSciences).

Scientists think that a simple cosmetic treatment for switching off the grey gene would take many more years of research. But for those keen to banish the grey forever, your prayers might one day be answered.

The study has been published in the journal  Nature Communications.

Source: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/

Transparent Wood Brightens Homes

When it comes to indoor lighting, nothing beats the sun’s rays streaming in through windows. Soon, that natural light could be shining through walls, too. Scientists from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden) have developed transparent wood that could be used in building materials and could help home and building owners save money on their artificial lighting costs. Their material, reported in ACS’ journal Biomacromolecules, also could find application in solar cell windows.

transparent wood

Homeowners often search for ways to brighten up their living space. They opt for light-colored paints, mirrors and lots of lamps and ceiling lights. But if the walls themselves were transparent, this would reduce the need for artificial lighting — and the associated energy costs. Recent work on making transparent paper from wood has led to the potential for making similar but stronger materials. Lars Berglund and colleagues from KTH the wanted to pursue this possibility.

The researchers removed lignin from samples of commercial balsa wood. Lignin is a structural polymer in plants that blocks 80 to 95 percent of light from passing through. But the resulting material was still not transparent due to light scattering within it. To allow light to pass through the wood more directly, the researchers incorporated acrylic, often known as Plexiglass. The researchers could see through the resulting material, which was twice as strong as Plexiglass. Although the wood isn’t as crystal clear as glass, its haziness provides a possible advantage for solar cells. Specifically, because the material still traps some light, it could be used to boost the efficiency of these cells, the scientists note.

Source: http://www.acs.org/
AND
https://www.kth.se/

Bionic Patch Could Replace Heart Transplantation

In this Lab at the University of Tel Aviv, the future of heart medicine is taking shape. Researchers have developed a bionic patch that can monitor and treat heart conditions in real time.

heartCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

Well, this is the first time that engineered tissue, thick engineered tissue, functional tissues, are integrated with electronics to become cyborg tissues, meaning that there is integration of machine and living tissues“, says Professor Tal Dvir of Tel Aviv University (Department of Bio Technology and Center for Nano Technology).

That integration could potentially give doctors new options when treating a myriad of heart problems. The patch is comprised of live, lab-grown heart tissue and nano electronics embedded on a 3D printed scaffold. The team says the patch could offer an alternative to heart transplantation in the future by releasing medications as well as repopulating the defected area with cells that are capable of contraction. In the short term, the device could monitor and activate the entire organ as needed as well as alert a doctor to a potentially fatal problem in real time.

The patient is sitting in his house and not feeling well and the physician immediately sees the condition of the heart on his computer and can remotely activate the heart: can provide electrical stimulation, can release drugs. And if you really think about this technology, we don’t even need a physician because the cardiac patch can regulate its own function“, adds Tal Dvir.
As exciting as it may be, the bionic heart patch is still years from commercial viability. The next step is a series of animals trials that if successful could lead to clinical trials in humans.

The findings were published this month in the Journal ‘Nature Materials‘.

Source: https://english.tau.ac.il

Nanoparticle-Based Cancer Therapies Shown to Work in Humans

A team of researchers led by Caltech scientists has shown that nanoparticles can function to target tumors while avoiding adjacent healthy tissue in human cancer patients.

nanoparticle against brain cancer

Our work shows that this specificity, as previously demonstrated in preclinical animal studies, can in fact occur in humans“, says study leader Mark E. Davis, the Warren and Katharine Schlinger Professor of Chemical Engineering at Caltech. “The ability to target tumors is one of the primary reasons for using nanoparticles as therapeutics to treat solid tumors.
The scientists demonstrate that nanoparticle-based therapies can act as a “precision medicine” for targeting tumors while leaving healthy tissue intact. In the study, Davis and his colleagues examined gastric tumors from nine human patients both before and after infusion with a drug—camptothecin—that was chemically bound to nanoparticles about 30 nanometers in size.

Our nanoparticles are so small that if one were to increase the size to that of a soccer ball, the increase in size would be on the same order as going from a soccer ball to the planet Earth,” says Davis, who is also a member of the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, California, where the clinical trial was conducted.

The team found that 24 to 48 hours after the nanoparticles were administered, they had localized in the tumor tissues and released their drug cargo, and the drug had had the intended biological effects of inhibiting two proteins that are involved in the progression of the cancer. Equally important, both the nanoparticles and the drug were absent from healthy tissue adjacent to the tumors.

The findings, have been published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: https://www.caltech.edu/

Cost-effective Hydrogen Production From Water

Groundbreaking research at Griffith University (Australia) is leading the way in clean energy, with the use of carbon as a way to deliver energy using hydrogen. Professor Xiangdong Yao and his team from Griffith’s Queensland Micro- and Nanotechnology Centre have successfully managed to use the element to produce hydrogen from water as a replacement for the much more costly platinum.

Tucson fuel cellTucson fom Hyundai: A Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car

Hydrogen production through an electrochemical process is at the heart of key renewable energy technologies including water splitting and hydrogen fuel cells,” says Professor Yao. “Despite tremendous efforts, exploring cheap, efficient and durable electrocatalysts for hydrogen evolution still remains a great challenge. “Platinum is the most active and stable electrocatalyst for this purpose, however its low abundance and consequent high cost severely limits its large-scale commercial applications. “We have now developed this carbon-based catalyst, which only contains a very small amount of nickel and can completely replace the platinum for efficient and cost-effective hydrogen production from water.

In our research, we synthesize a nickel–carbon-based catalyst, from carbonization of metal-organic frameworks, to replace currently best-known platinum-based materials for electrocatalytic hydrogen evolution“, he adds. “This nickel-carbon-based catalyst can be activated to obtain isolated nickel atoms on the graphitic carbon support when applying electrochemical potential, exhibiting highly efficient hydrogen evolution performance and impressive durability.”

Proponents of a hydrogen economy advocate hydrogen as a potential fuel for motive power including cars and boats and on-board auxiliary power, stationary power generation (e.g., for the energy needs of buildings), and as an energy storage medium (e.g., for interconversion from excess electric power generated off-peak).

Source: https://app.secure.griffith.edu.au/

Sensor One Million Times More Sensitive Detects Cancer Far Earlier

Physicists and engineers at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) have developed an optical sensor, based on nanostructured metamaterials, that’s 1 million times more sensitive than the current best available–one capable of identifying a single lightweight molecule in a highly dilute solution. Their goal: to provide oncologists a way to detect a single molecule of an enzyme produced by circulating cancer cells. Such detection could allow doctors to diagnose patients with certain cancers far earlier than possible today, monitor treatment and resistance and more.

cwru sensor

The prognosis of many cancers depends on the stage of the cancer at diagnosis” said Giuseppe “Pino” Strangi, professor of physics at Case Western Reserve and leader of the research.

Very early, most circulating tumor cells express proteins of a very low molecular weight, less than 500 Daltons,” Strangi explained. “These proteins are usually too small and in too low a concentration to detect with current test methods, yielding false negative results.

“With this platform, we’ve detected proteins of 244 Daltons, which should enable doctors to detect cancers earlier–we don’t know how much earlier yet,” he said. “This biosensing platform may help to unlock the next era of initial cancer detection.”

The researchers believe the sensing technology will also be useful in diagnosing and monitoring other diseases as well.

Their research is published online in the journal Nature Materials.

Source: http://www.eurekalert.org

Inhibited On/Off Switch Protein Could Prevent Prostate Cancer

Researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) have created a new therapeutic for prostate cancer that has shown great efficacy in mouse models of the disease. The treatment is designed to inhibit the activity of a protein called PAK-1, which contributes to the development of highly invasive prostate cancer cells. Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is also one of the leading causes of cancer death among men of all races.

prostateCANCERcells

PAK-1 is kind of like an on/off switch,” said study co-author Somanath Shenoy, an associate professor in UGA‘s College of Pharmacy. “When it turns on, it makes cancerous cells turn into metastatic cells that spread throughout the body.

With the help of Brian Cummings, an associate professor in UGA‘s College of Pharmacy, the researchers developed a way to package and administer a small molecule called IPA-3, which limits the activity of PAK-1 proteins.

Researchers have published their findings recently in the journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine.

Source: http://news.uga.edu/

The Genome Editor

French biochemist Emmanuelle Charpentier, from the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, was recently awarded the L’oreal-Unesco Prize For Women in Science. The scientist is listed as one of the 100 Most Influential People by Time Magazine. Her discovery, the CRISPR-Cas9, is a gene-editing technology that could revolutionize medical treatments in ways we can only begin to imagine. Marking an incredible leap forward in the long history of genome studies, Emmanuelle Charpentier and her lab partner, scientist Jennifer Doudna, jointly discovered CRISPR-Cas9 (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). Behind this name, which sounds like something from a sci-fi novel, is a technology that works like a pair of molecular scissors, allowing to precisely snip the genetic code, letter by letter, along with the programmable enzyme Cas9 able to perform a cut on a double DNA strand. This is a never-before-reached level of precision in genome studies. And one Emmanuelle Charpentier claims could change everyone’s life :

emmanuelle charpentier2

I am excited about the potential of our findings to make a real difference in people’s lives. The discovery demonstrates the relevance of basic research and how it can transform application in bioengineering and biomedicine, said Emmanuelle Charpentier.

While the scientific community agrees that CRISPR-Cas9 is a revolution, the stakes are so high that the question of what’s next seems a difficult one to answer. The technology could be the key to eradicate certain viruses like HIV, haemophilia or Huntington, to screen for cancer genes or to undertake genome engineering. The latter obviously raises moral and ideological issues.

The recent scientific article « CRISPR/Cas9-mediated Gene Editing In Human Tripronuclear Zygotes » published by Protein Cell reports the first experiment on a foetus by a team of scientists in China, and illustrates the potential dangerous consequences (eugenics)  of CRISPR-Cas9 on future generations. Nature & Science refused to publish this experiment, mainly for ethical reasons. This question of ethics reminds us that science and society cannot be isolated from one another.

Source: https://www.mpg.de/
AND
http://discov-her.com/

Dye Solar Cells Make Your Mouse Battery Obsolete

These little glass squares could just be the answer to charging all your electronics. The glass-printed photovoltaic cells are a form of Dye Solar Cell technology created by Israeli company 3G Solar Photovoltaics. They’re so sensitive they can generate power from indirect, indoor lighting. Check it out. The company’s head of R&D Nir Stein is taking the batteries out of this mouse, which has the company’s dye solar cell module installed on top.


solar cells powered mouseCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

What you see here is a computer mouse that has a bluetooth connectivity inside it and is powered by 3G solar photovoltaic cells. So when you have thousands of sensors, for instance in a building, which is going to happen in the next few years, you’ll never have to change a battery again,” says Nir Stein.
Dye-sensitized solar cells, or Graetzel cells, were discovered about 20 years ago. When they’re exposed to sunlight the dye becomes excited and creates an electronic charge without the need for pricey semiconductors. Kind of like the way plants use chlorophyll to turn sunlight into energy through photosynthesis. While the technology is the same, 3G Solar Voltaics‘ CEO Barry Breen says that being able to embed the cells on small surfaces has the potential to change the way we charge everyday devices. ) BARRY N. BREEN, CEO OF 3GSOLAR PHOTOVOLTAICS, SAYING: “What we offer in our cells, in our light power devices, is a solution that gives three times the power of anything else that exists, and we’re talking indoors, where most the electronics are used. So three times the power to run these new electronics, the new sensors, the smart watches and other wearables. So it’s a way to keep those powered that couldn’t be done before,” comments Barry Breen, CEO of 3G Solar Photovoltaics.

The small modules are durable and last for about 10 years. They can be colored and fitted to the shape of a device so they don’t stand out. Although still a prototype, the makers say the technology could make batteries a thing of the past.

Source: http://www.3gsolar.com/

 

Nano-enhanced Textiles Clean Themselves Of Stains

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have developed a cheap and efficient new way to grow special —which can degrade organic matter when exposed to lightdirectly onto . The work paves the way towards nano-enhanced textiles that can spontaneously clean themselves of stains and grime simply by being put under a light bulb or worn out in the sun. Dr Rajesh Ramanathan said the process developed  by the team had a variety of applications for catalysis-based industries such as agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and natural products, and could be easily scaled up to industrial levels.

no more washing textileClose-up of the nanostructures grown on cotton textiles by RMIT University researchers. Image magnified 150,000 times

The advantage of textiles is they already have a 3D structure so they are great at absorbing light, which in turn speeds up the process of degrading organic matter,”said Dr Ramanathan. “There’s more work to do to before we can start throwing out our washing machines, but this advance lays a strong foundation for the future development of fully self-cleaning textile, he adds.”

The researchers from the Ian Potter NanoBioSensing Facility and NanoBiotechnology Research Lab at RMIT worked with copper and silver-based nanostructures, which are known for their ability to absorb visible light.

Source: http://phys.org/

Low Cost Solar Power Charger For Smartphones

Could this be the future for low-cost solar power? Unlike the silicon-based solar cells that currently make up most of the market, perovskites are flexible, easily made in the lab and form thin films. Various research centres are competing to make the technology stable enough for mass production. A Polish team has developed a working prototype of a cell phone charger using the material.

dual junctio solar cellCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

“It’s very cost effective so producing films of this material is extremely cheap and it’s flexible so it can be used in portable electronics. This is an example of prototype device. It’s basically a battery and it can be used for charging our mobile phones, laptops or tablets“, says Konrad Wojtkowski, from the Polish company Saule Technologies .

The team plans further work on the prototype, to make it more durable and withstand everyday use. If they succeed, the potential uses could be expanded to a wide range of devices, including tablets and laptops. The next step in producing perovskite solar cells is expanding their surface to allow application on any large area — such as home windows and roofs. This would be possible thanks to the flexibility of perovskite layers. However it’s used, these researchers say it is the best hope for harnessing the sun’s power without costing the earth.

Source: http://sauletech.com

Nano Biosensor Detects Rapidly Flu Virus At Low Cost

The Department of Applied Physics (AP) and Interdisciplinary Division of Biomedical Engineering (BME) of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) have jointly developed a novel nano biosensor for rapid detection of flu and other viruses. PolyU‘s new invention utilizes an optical method called upconversion luminescence resonance energy transfer (LRET) process for ultrasensitive virus detection. It involves simple operational procedures, significantly reducing its testing duration from around 1-3 days to 2-3 hours, making it more than 10 times quicker than traditional clinical methods. Its cost is around HK$20 per sample, which is 80% lower than traditional testing methods. The technology can be widely used for the detection of different types of viruses, shedding new light on the development of low-cost, rapid and ultrasensitive detection of different viruses.

flu virusTraditional biological methods for flu virus detection include genetic analysis — reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) used in immunology. However, RT-PCR is expensive and time-consuming while the sensitivity for ELISA is relatively low. Such limitations make them difficult for clinical use as a front-line and on-site diagnostic tool for virus detection, paving the way for PolyU‘s development of the new upconversion nanoparticle biosensor which utilizes luminescent technique in virus detection.

PolyU‘s researchers have developed a biosensor based on luminescent technique which operates like two matching pieces of magnet with attraction force. It involves the development of upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) conjugated with a probe oligo whose DNA base pairs are complementary with that of the gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) flu virus oligo.

The related results have been recently published in ACS Nano and Small, specialized journals in nano material research.

Source: http://www.polyu.edu.hk/

How To Kill Bacteria Using Gold Nanoparticles And Light

Researchers have developed a new technique for killing bacteria in seconds using highly porous gold nanodisks and light. The method could one day help hospitals treat some common infections without using antibiotics, which could help reduce the risk of spreading antibiotics resistance.

killing bacteriaWe showed that all of the bacteria were killed pretty quickly . . . within 5 to 25 seconds. That’s a very fast process,” said corresponding author Wei-Chuan Shih, a professor in the electrical and computer engineering department, University of Houston, Texas.

Scientists create gold nanoparticles in the lab by dissolving gold, reducing the metal into smaller and smaller disconnected pieces until the size must be measured in nanometers. One nanometer equals a billionth of a meter. A human hair is between 50,000 to 100,000 nanometers in diameter. Once miniaturized, the particles can be crafted into various shapes including rods, triangles or disks.

Previous research shows that gold nanoparticles absorb light strongly, converting the photons quickly into heat and reaching temperatures hot enough to destroy various types of nearby cells – including cancer and bacterial cells.

The research has been published in Optical Materials Express, a journal published by The Optical Society
Source: http://www.osa.org/

Biological NanoComputer Is Living

The substance that provides energy to all the cells in our bodies, Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), may also be able to power the next generation of supercomputers. That is what an international team of researchers led by Prof. Nicolau, the Chair of the Department of Bioengineering at McGill (Université McGill – Canada), believe. They’ve published an article on the subject earlier this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), in which they describe a model of a biological computer that they have created that is able to process information very quickly and accurately using parallel networks in the same way that massive electronic super computers do. Except that the model bio supercomputer they have created is a whole lot smaller than current supercomputers, uses much less energy, and uses proteins present in all living cells to function. 

biocomputer“We’ve managed to create a very complex network in a very small area,” says Dan Nicolau, Sr. with a laugh. He began working on the idea with his son, Dan Jr., more than a decade ago and was then joined by colleagues from Germany, Sweden and The Netherlands, some 7 years ago. “This started as a back of an envelope idea, after too much rum I think, with drawings of what looked like small worms exploring mazes.”

The model bio-supercomputer that the Nicolaus (father and son) and their colleagues have created came about thanks to a combination of geometrical modelling and engineering knowhow (on the nano scale). It is a first step, in showing that this kind of biological supercomputer can actually work.

Source: https://www.mcgill.ca/

6.3 nanometre lens to revolutionise cameras

Scientists have created the world’s thinnest lens, one two-thousandth the thickness of a human hair, opening the door to flexible computer displays and a revolution in miniature cameras. Lead researcher Dr Yuerui (Larry) Lu from ANU Research School of Engineering  (Australia) said the discovery hinged on the remarkable potential of the molybdenum disulphide crystal.

nanometre lens

This type of material is the perfect candidate for future flexible displays,” said Dr Lu, leader of Nano-Electro-Mechanical System (NEMS) Laboratory in the ANU Research School of Engineering. “We will also be able to use arrays of micro lenses to mimic the compound eyes of insects.”

The 6.3-nanometre lens outshines previous ultra-thin flat lenses, made from 50-nanometre thick gold nano-bar arrays, known as a metamaterial. “Molybdenum disulphide is an amazing crystal,” said Dr Lu. “It survives at high temperatures, is a lubricant, a good semiconductor and can emit photons too. “The capability of manipulating the flow of light in atomic scale opens an exciting avenue towards unprecedented miniaturisation of optical components and the integration of advanced optical functionalities.”

Molybdenum disulphide is in a class of materials known as chalcogenide glasses that have flexible electronic characteristics that have made them popular for high-technology components.

Source: https://cecs.anu.edu.au/

New Cancer Treatment Could Eliminate Lung Metastases

A team of investigators from Houston Methodist Research Institute may have transformed the treatment of metastatic triple negative breast cancer by creating the first drug to successfully eliminate lung metastases in mice.
The majority of cancer deaths are due to metastases to the lung and liver, yet there is no cure. Existing cancer drugs provide limited benefit due to their inability to overcome biological barriers in the body and reach the cancer cells in sufficient concentrations. Houston Methodist nanotechnology and cancer researchers have solved this problem by developing a drug that generates nanoparticles inside the lung metastases in mice.
In this study, 50 percent of the mice treated with the drug had no trace of metastatic disease after eight months. That’s equivalent to about 24 years of long-term survival following metastatic disease for humans.

Due to the body’s own defense mechanisms, most cancer drugs are absorbed into healthy tissue causing negative side effects, and only a fraction of the administered drug actually reaches the tumor, making it less effective, said Mauro Ferrari, Ph.D, president and CEO of the Houston Methodist Research Institute. This new treatment strategy enables sequential passage of the biological barriers to transport the killing agent into the heart of the cancer. The active drug is only released inside the nucleus of the metastatic disease cell, avoiding the multidrug resistance mechanism of the cancer cells. This strategy effectively kills the tumor and provides significant therapeutic benefit in all mice, including long-term survival in half of the animals.

cancer treatment by injection

This may sound like science fiction, like we’ve penetrated and destroyed the Death Star, but what we discovered is transformational. We invented a method that actually makes the nanoparticles inside the cancer and releases the drug particles at the site of the cellular nucleus. With this injectable nanoparticle generator, we were able to do what standard chemotherapy drugs, vaccines, radiation, and other nanoparticles have all failed to do,” said Ferrari.

The research has been published in Nature Biotechnology .

Source: http://houstonmethodist.org/

Flexible Skin Cloaks Objects, Avoids Radar

Iowa State University engineers have developed a new flexible, stretchable and  tunablemetaskin” that uses rows of small, liquid-metal devices to cloak an object from the sharp eyes of radar. The meta-skin takes its name from metamaterials, which are composites that have properties not found in nature and that can manipulate electromagnetic waves. By stretching and flexing the polymer meta-skin, it can be tuned to reduce the reflection of a wide range of radar frequencies.

The journal Scientific Reports recently reported the discovery online. Lead authors from Iowa State’s department of electrical and computer engineering are Liang Dong, associate professor; and Jiming Song, professor. Co-authors are Iowa State graduate students Siming Yang, Peng Liu and Qiugu Wang; and former Iowa State undergraduate Mingda Yang. The National Science Foundation and the China Scholarship Council have partially supported the project.

flexible skin

It is believed that the present meta-skin technology will find many applications in electromagnetic frequency tuning, shielding and scattering suppression,” the engineers wrote in their paper.

Source: http://www.news.iastate.edu/

Nuclear Hazard: Major Step To Cure Radiation Sickness

At the labs of the biotech firm Pluristem Therapeutics in Haifa (Israel), researchers have developed an injection of cells from the placenta that can treat radiation exposure. Cells from the donated placentas are harvested to create a cocktail of therapeutic proteins.

nuclear radiationCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

With these cells, we are injecting these cells to the bodies’ muscles and over there they capture stress signal from the body and they start secreting factors like… that will help the bone marrow to recover after radiation“, says Esther Lukasiewicz, Vice President (Medical Affairs)  at Pluristem Therapeutics.
The treatment is currently undergoing trials in Jerusalem and the United States. Animals exposed to radiation during testing have shown nearly a 100 percent recovery rate. The company says it’s most effective if injected within 48 hours of exposure to radiation, which could make it a vital tool in emergencies.

Yaky Yanay, President at Pluristem Therapeutics and  comments: “So it will be very easy to use, off-the-shelf and readily available. We designed it to be simple to treat it in the combat field or in case of the catastrophe itself, you just have to take the vial, take the cells out and inject it into the patients muscle so we will be able to treat or the agencies will be able to treat a lot of people in a short time.” The meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant following an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 is one such scenario. Pluristem Therapeutics is now working with Fukushima Medical University to treat people in case they are exposed to radiation.

When the Fukushima disaster happened it inspired our feeling that we have to do it stronger and quicker and we developed an aggressive plan in order to bring the product into awareness and today with NIH (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) support and the cooperation of the Fukushima center we strongly believe that we can bring the product to cure many patients“, says Zami Aberman, Chairman and CEO at Pluristem Therapeutics.
Further trials are currently underway, and the company says the U.S. is keen to stockpile the treatment in case of emergency. They’re now developing similar treatments for disorders like Crohn’s Disease and other disorders of the central nervous system.

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

Bionic Finger Feels Texture

An amputee was able to feel smoothness and roughness in real-time with an artificial fingertip that was surgically connected to nerves in his upper arm. Moreover, the nerves of non-amputees can also be stimulated to feel roughness, without the need of surgery, meaning that prosthetic touch for amputees can now be developed and safely tested on intact individuals.

The technology to deliver this sophisticated tactile information was developed by Silvestro Micera and his team at EPFL (Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) and SSSA (Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna) together with Calogero Oddo and his team at SSSA. The results, published today in eLife, provide new and accelerated avenues for developing bionic prostheses, enhanced with sensory feedback.

BionicFingerCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

“The stimulation felt almost like what I would feel with my hand,” says amputee Dennis Aabo Sørensen about the artificial fingertip connected to his stump. He continues, “I still feel my missing hand, it is always clenched in a fist. I felt the texture sensations at the tip of the index finger of my phantom hand.

Sørensen is the first person in the world to recognize texture using a bionic fingertip connected to electrodes that were surgically implanted above his stump.

Nerves in Sørensen’s arm were wired to an artificial fingertip equipped with sensors. A machine controlled the movement of the fingertip over different pieces of plastic engraved with different patterns, smooth or rough. As the fingertip moved across the textured plastic, the sensors generated an electrical signal. This signal was translated into a series of electrical spikes, imitating the language of the nervous system, then delivered to the nerves.

Sørensen could distinguish between rough and smooth surfaces 96% of the time.

Source: https://actu.epfl.ch/

Artificial Intelligence: The Rise Of The Machines

In a milestone for artificial intelligence, a computer has beaten a human champion at a strategy game that requires “intuition” rather than brute processing power to prevail, its makers said Wednesday. Dubbed AlphaGo, the system honed its own skills through a process of trial and error, playing millions of games against itself until it was battle-ready, and surprised even its creators with its prowess.

go game

AlphaGo won five-nil, and it was stronger than perhaps we were expecting,” said Demis Hassabis, the chief executive of Google DeepMind, a British artificial intelligence (AI) company.

A computer defeating a professional human player at the 3,000-year-old Chinese board game known as Go, was thought to be about a decade off. The clean-sweep victory over three-time European Go champion Fan Huisignifies a major step forward in one of the great challenges in the development of artificial intelligence—that of game-playing,” the British Go Association said in a statement. The two-player game is described as perhaps the most complex ever designed, with more configurations possible than there are atoms in the Universe, Hassabis says. Players take turns placing stones on a board, trying to surround and capture the opponent’s stones, with the aim of controlling more than 50 percent of the board. There are hundreds of places where a player can place the first stone, black or white, with hundreds of ways in which the opponent can respond to each of these moves and hundreds of possible responses to each of those in turn.

Source: http://phys.org/

New 2D Material Upstages Graphene

A new one atom-thick flat material that could upstage the wonder material graphene and advance digital technology has been discovered by a physicist at the University of Kentucky working in collaboration with scientists from Daimler in Germany and the Institute for Electronic Structure and Laser (IESL) in Greece. The new material is made up of silicon, boron and nitrogen — all light, inexpensive and earth abundant elements — and is extremely stable, a property many other graphene alternatives lack.

2D material University of Kentucky

We used simulations to see if the bonds would break or disintegrate — it didn’t happen,” said Madhu Menon, a physicist in the UK Center for Computational Sciences. “We heated the material up to 1,000-degree Celsius and it still didn’t break.

Using state-of-the-art theoretical computations, Menon and his collaborators Ernst Richter from Daimler and a former UK Department of Physics and Astronomy post-doctoral research associate, and Antonis Andriotis from IESL, have demonstrated that by combining the three elements, it is possible to obtain a one atom-thick, truly 2D material with properties that can be fine-tuned to suit various applications beyond what is possible with graphene.

The findings are reported in the journal Physical Review B, Rapid Communications,

Source: http://uknow.uky.edu/

Nanotechnology Fights Skin Disease

Researchers at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed a nanotechnology-based delivery system containing a protective cellular pathway inducer that activates the body’s natural defense against free radicals efficiently, a development that could control a variety of skin pathologies and disorders. The human skin is constantly exposed to various pollutants, UV rays, radiation and other stressors that exist in our day-to-day environment. When they filter into the body they can create Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) – oxygen molecules known as Free Radicals, which are able to damage and destroy cells, including lipids, proteins and DNA. In the skin – the largest organ of the body – an excess of ROS can lead to various skin conditions, including inflammatory diseases, pigmenting disorders, wrinkles and some types of skin cancer, and can also affect internal organs. This damage is known as Oxidative Stress. The body is naturally equipped with defense mechanisms to counter oxidative stress. It has anti-oxidants and, more importantly, anti-oxidant enzymes that attack the ROS before they cause damage.

In a review article published in the journal Cosmetics, a PhD student from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, working in collaboration with researchers at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, suggested an innovative way to invigorate the body to produce antioxidant enzymes, while maintaining skin cell redox balance – a gentle equilibrium between Reactive Oxygen Species and their detoxification.

skin nano

The approach of using the body’s own defense system is very effective. We showed that activation of the body’s defense system with the aid of a unique delivery system is feasible, and may leverage dermal cure,” said Hebrew University researcher Maya Ben-Yehuda Greenwald.

She showed that applying nano-size droplets of microemulsion liquids containing a cellular protective pathway inducer into the skin activates the natural skin defense systems.

Currently, there are many scientific studies supporting the activation of the body’s defense mechanisms. However, none of these studies has demonstrated the use of a nanotechnology-based delivery system to do so,” adds Ben-Yehuda Greenwald.

Source: http://new.huji.ac.il/

How To Turn Off Cancer Cells

Researchers offer proof of concept for new nanomedicine designed to inhibit tumor growth by keeping cancer dormant. A new Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel study offers tangible hope of a therapeutic pathway to keep osteosarcoma* lesions dormant. It also provides the fundamental basic-science for novel nanomedicines tailored to maintain cancer cells in an asymptomatic state. The proof of concept was pioneered by Prof. Ronit Satchi-Fainaro,  Head of TAU‘s Cancer Angiogenesis and Nanomedicine Laboratory.

onoffswitch

We want to keep the cancer ‘switchturned off,” said Prof. Satchi-Fainaro. “Once osteosarcoma metastasizes away from the primary tumor site, there is no effective treatment, just different ways of prolonging life“.
A 1993 article in the New England Journal of Medicine by William C. Black and H. Gilbert Welch about dormant tumor lesions discovered in the autopsies of people who were considered healthy until their accident-related deaths provided the basis for our research. We decided to investigate osteosarcoma recurrence, with an eye toward the potentially therapeutic value of dormancy.”

Osteosarcoma* tumors may return with a vengeance, even if they’re caught early and excised from a primary site. In the case of “minimal residual disease,” cancerous cells left after surgery in a localized spot suddenlyturn on,” and the disease reappears. In the other case of “dormant micrometastatic lesions,” mini-tumors undetected by current imaging technologies suddenly reemerge as large macro-metastases, primarily in the lungs.

We wanted to understand what causes the cancer cells to ‘switch on’ in these cases,” said Prof. Satchi-Fainaro. “As long as cancer cells remain asymptomatic and dormant, cancer is a manageable disease. Many people live with thyroid lesions without their knowledge, for example. Ours is a very optimistic approach, and we believe it could apply to other cancers as well.”

The study is the fruit of a five-year collaboration between Prof. Satchi-Fainaro’s team, led by TAU PhD student Galia Tiram, and the laboratories of Rainer Haag and Marcelo Calderón of Freie Universität Berlin (Germany). It was recently published in the journal ACS Nano.

Osteosarcoma is a cancer that develops in the bones of children and adolescents. It is one of the most aggressive cancers, with only a 15 per cent, five-year survival rate when diagnosed in an advanced metastatic stage. There are approximately 800 new cases diagnosed each year in the US, and no viable treatments.

Source: https://www.aftau.org/

Electric Cars That Eat CO2

An interdisciplinary team of scientists has worked out a way to make electric vehicles that only are not only carbon neutral but carbon negative, capable of actually reducing the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide as they operate.

They have done so by demonstrating how the graphite electrodes used in the lithium-ion batteries that power electric automobiles can be replaced with carbon material recovered from the atmosphere. The unusual pairing of carbon dioxide conversion and advanced battery technology is the result of a collaboration between the laboratory of Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Cary Pint at Vanderbilt University and Professor of Chemistry Stuart Licht at George Washington University. The team adapted a solar-powered process that converts carbon dioxide into carbon so that it produces carbon nanotubes and demonstrated that the nanotubes can be incorporated into both lithium-ion batteries like those used in electric vehicles and electronic devices and low-cost sodium-ion batteries under development for large-scale applications, such as the electric grid.

Tesla Model 3

This approach not only produces better batteries but it also establishes a value for carbon dioxide recovered from the atmosphere that is associated with the end-user battery cost unlike most efforts to reuse CO2 that are aimed at low-valued fuels, like methanol, that cannot justify the cost required to produce them,” said Pint. “Our climate-change solution is two fold: (1) to transform the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into valuable products and (2) to provide greenhouse gas emission-free alternatives to today’s industrial and transportation fossil fuel processes,” adds Licht. “In addition to better batteries other applications for the carbon nanotubes include carbon composites for strong, lightweight construction materials, sports equipment and car, truck and airplane bodies.

The project builds upon a solar thermal electrochemical process (STEP) that can create carbon nanofibers from ambient carbon dioxide developed by the Licht group and described in the journal Nano Letters last August. STEP uses solar energy to provide both the electrical and thermal energy necessary to break down carbon dioxide into carbon and oxygen and to produce carbon nanotubes that are stable, flexible, conductive and stronger than steel.

The recipe for converting carbon dioxide gas into batteries is described in the paper titled “Carbon Nanotubes Produced from Ambient Carbon Dioxide for Environmentally Sustainable Lithium-Ion and Sodium-Ion Battery Anodes” published online on Mar. 2 by the journal ACS Central Science.

Source: http://news.vanderbilt.edu/

How To Cheaply Convert Natural Gas To Liquid Form

Within six months, scientists believe they may be close to completing a nanotechnology catalyst to allow affordable, marketable petroleum product using nanotechnology to convert natural gas to liquid formJupiter Fuels LLC, located at Camp Minden, in partnership with Louisiana Tech University, has been working for the last three years to develop a more affordable way to convert natural gas, thereby making it more affordable to consumers. David Madden, president of the company, says the ultimate goal is a cheaper way to convert natural gas to liquid.

natural gas car2

It would be a new catalyst to make Fischer-Tropsch more efficient,” he said. “There’s lots of natural gas. We have natural gas everywhere. If you convert natural gas and turn it into a stable liquid that will not evaporate at room temperature, then you can transport it anywhere you want to.”

Currently, some energy companies are using cryogenic technology that compresses natural gas into a frozen liquefied natural gas, around -120 Fahrenheit. They put it on a ship, transport it to Europe or Asia and then thaw it out for use.

The new process would eliminate all that, he said.

Officials with Jupiter Fuels say converting it to liquid fuels allows the use of existing fuel production infrastructure and existing transportation technologies.

It is the goal of this project to continue the process of developing catalysts used in the Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis that can be utilized on a commercial scale,” according to a description of the project from Louisiana Tech University’s Research Center. “Operational analysis will examine variables including temperature, pressure, conversion on catalyst performance, and space velocity pertaining to product distribution and catalyst lifetime. In order to increase production, efforts will focus on ultimate catalyst deposition and catalyst substrate preparation.”

Source: http://press-herald.com/

Vaccine For Type 1 Diabetes?

New findings suggesting that children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before the age of seven have a very different form of the disease could lead to new ways of treating it, potentially including a vaccine. Nine year old Bethan has Type 1 diabetes. She uses an omnipod pump to deliver insulin when required, while Mum Lizzie watches her diet. Before her diagnosis, life was tough.


type1 diabetes
I felt very weak and tired all the time“complains BethanWestcott-Storer, the nine-year old Diabetes type 1 patient.

Her mother comments: “We noticed that she’d become quite thin, she’d lost a lot of weight, but she didn’t have all of the signs that other children normally have with type 1 – she didn’t have the excess thirst and urinating. Just lost a lot of weight, so she’s been diagnosed for 15 months now.”
Now Bethan’s the picture of health…and the news could get better. The University of Exeter Medical School (UK)  has made a major discovery that could lead to better treatment and even prevention of the disease.

It’s always been thought that when people get type 1 diabetes they’ve lost as many as 90 percent of their insulin producing cells from their pancreas. What we’ve found is that while that might be the case for the younger children it certainly doesn’t appear to be true for those that are older. They have quite a considerable reserve of cells left. That’s a new insight and it might mean that if we could reactivate those cells we could help them to cope better with their illness.“, says Prof. Noel Morgan, of the University of Exeter Medical School.

Researchers examined around 100 pancreas samples in Exeter‘s biobank. They found that those diagnosed before the age of seven develop a more aggressive form of the disease than teenagers.

Those samples are extremely important because we do not understand the underlying disease process that goes on in these individuals and it’s that recent diagnosis that’s critical for us to actually look inside the pancreas and see what is going wrong, and the pancreas itself is an extremely inaccessible organ“, says Dr. Sarah Richardson, from the University of Exeter Medical School. “We’re trying to understand what the trigger is and it may be possible to use a vaccine to stop the triggering process, but it might also be able to use a different kind of vaccine to target the specific immune cells that are causing the illness, and that’s where the excitement lies“, adds Prof.  Morgan. Although well adjusted to her daily routine, Bethan also has high hopes for the ongoing research: “If one day in the future they find a cure or something lots and lots of people are going to be really happy“!

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

Nanostructure of Humboldt Penguins Feather Makes Them Ice-Proof

Humboldt penguins live in places that dip below freezing in the winter, and despite getting wet, their feathers stay sleek and free of ice. Researchers from Beihang University in Beijing (China)  have now figured out what could make that possible. The key is in the microstructure of penguins’ feathers. Based on their findings, the scientists replicated the architecture in a nanofiber membrane that could be developed into an ice-proof material.

penguins ChinaThe range of Humboldt penguins extends from coastal Peru to the tip of southern Chile. Some of these areas can get frigid, and the water the birds swim in is part of a cold ocean current that sweeps up the coast from the Antarctic. Their feathers keep them both warm and ice-free. Scientists had suspected that penguin feathers’ ability to easily repel water explained why ice doesn’t accumulate on them: Water would slide off before freezing. But research has found that under high humidity or ultra-low temperatures, ice can stick to even superhydrophobic surfaces. So Jingming Wang and colleagues sought another explanation.

The researchers closely examined Humboldt penguin feathers using a scanning electron microscope. They found that the feathers were comprised of a network of barbs, wrinkled barbules and tiny interlocking hooks. In addition to being hydrophobic, this hierarchical architecture with grooved structures is anti-adhesive. Testing showed ice wouldn’t stick to it. Mimicking the feathers’ microstructure, the researchers developed an icephobic polyimide fiber membrane. They say it could potentially be used in applications such as electrical insulation.

Source: http://www.acs.org/
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World’s First Thermal Imaging Phone Camera

It’s billed as the world’s first thermal imaging phone. Until now users wanting to access thermal imaging on their smartphone required an accessory to clip onto it. Developed by UK firm Bullitt, it’s branded by construction equipment maker Caterpillar.

thermal imaging phone cameraCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

You can capture the temperature of a point. We can do that at multiple points as well, so we can capture multiple points on the screen at the same time. The temperature range at the side of the screen gives you the minimum and maximum temperature in that scene at the time,” says Pete Cunningham. senior projet manager, Bullit company.

The Cat S60 has a fully integrated sensor developed in a microcamera by tech firm FLIR. The phone is primarily aimed at tradespeople.

They want builders and electricians and mechanics and they can use that device and you can do simple diagnostics with it, so you can hold it up to a wall, you can see if a pipe’s leaking, you can hold it up looking at an engine and you can see where gas is leaking. You can look at a wall and see where the cavities are“, comments Ben Wood, chief of research, CCS Insight.
If I want to buy a new house then I can go around and I can check to see whether there is damp patches around or whether the current owners have painted over and tried to hide any issues with leaks or damp patches, so that’s another great example,” adds Pete Cunningham.

Its makers say the phone could also be used by dog owners to locate their pet during night walks or fussy consumers wanting to find the freshest loaf at the baker’s. The Cat S60 goes on sale in June for 599 dollars.

Source:  http://www.reuters.com/

New Efficient Materials For Solar Fuel Cells

University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) chemists have developed new high-performing materials for cells that harness sunlight to split carbon dioxide and water into useable fuels like methanol and hydrogen gas. These “green fuels” can be used to power cars, home appliances or even to store energy in batteries.

solar fuel cells

Technologies that simultaneously permit us to remove greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide while harnessing and storing the energy of sunlight as fuel are at the forefront of current research,” said Krishnan Rajeshwar, UTA distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry and co-founder of the University’s Center of Renewable Energy, Science and Technology. “Our new material could improve the safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of solar fuel generation, which is not yet economically viable,” he added.

The new hybrid platform uses ultra-long carbon nanotube networks with a homogeneous coating of copper oxide nanocrystals. It demonstrates both the high electrical conductivity of carbon nanotubes and the photocathode qualities of copper oxide, efficiently converting light into the photocurrents needed for the photoelectrochemical reduction process. Morteza Khaledi, dean of the UTA College of Science, said Rajeshwar’s work is representative of the University’s commitment to addressing critical issues with global environmental impact under the Strategic Plan 2020.

Source: https://www.uta.edu/

How To Kill Ocular Cancer

Researchers at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center have developed a new nanoparticle that uses a tumor cell’s protective mechanism against itselfshort-circuiting tumor cell metabolism and killing tumor cells.

eye cancer

This image shows the disruption of the tumor cell due to treatment with nanoparticles and visible light

Our work uses a semiconducting nanoparticle with an attached platinum electrode to drive the synthesis of an anti-cancer compound when illuminated by light,” says Howard R. Petty, Ph.D., Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and of Microbiology and Immunology. “The nanoparticle mimics the behavior of NADPH oxidase, an enzyme used by immune cells to kill tumor cells and infectious agents. Since tumor cells typically use NADPH to protect themselves from toxins, the more NADPH they synthesize for protection, the faster they die.

In a four-year study conducted on the mouse model in advanced breast cancer metastasis in the eye’s anterior chamber, Dr. Petty and colleagues found that the new nanoparticle not only killed tumor cells in the eye, but also extended the survival of experimental mice bearing 4T1 tumors, a cell line that is extremely difficult to kill. “Previous monotherapies have not extended the lifetimes of mice bearing this type of tumor,” says Dr. Petty. “Our work has shown that we can extend survival of the mice.”

This treatment offers many advantages,” adds Dr. Petty. “The nanoparticle produces about 20 million toxins per hour in each cell. Also, the nanoparticle is activated by light, so it can be turned on and off simply by exposing it to the correct color of visible light.”

This nanotechnology also has the potential to be used for multiple applications in ophthalmology and other disciplines.

Source: http://www.kellogg.umich.edu/

Compact, Ultra Sensitive BioSensor Gives Infos From A Blood Drop

Imagine a hand-held environmental sensor that can instantly test water for lead, E. coli, and pesticides all at the same time, or a biosensor that can perform a complete blood workup from just a single drop. That’s the promise of nanoscale plasmonic interferometry, a technique that combines nanotechnology with plasmonics—the interaction between electrons in a metal and light.

Now researchers from Brown University’s School of Engineering have made an important fundamental advance that could make such devices more practical. The research team has developed a technique that eliminates the need for highly specialized external light sources that deliver coherent light, which the technique normally requires. The advance could enable more versatile and more compact devices.

  • FluorescencePlasmonicInterferometryPlasmonic interferometers that have light emitters within them could make for better, more compact biosensors.

It has always been assumed that coherent light was necessary for plasmonic interferometry,” said Domenico Pacifici, a professor of engineering who oversaw the work with his postdoctoral researcher Dongfang Li, and graduate student Jing Feng. “But we were able to disprove that assumption.”

The research is described in Nature Scientific Reports.

Source: https://news.brown.edu/

New Immunotherapy Destroys Almost All Types Of Blood Cancer

cancer in bloodExperimental, living T-cell* therapy shows promise for treating advanced disease, making immunotherapy a ‘pillar’ of cancer care. Fred Hutch’s Dr. Stan Riddell and colleagues are making significant strides in this exciting field, and continue to refine ways to use the human immune system to overcome cancer and other diseases.

Twenty-seven out of 29 patients (more than 93%) with an advanced blood cancer who received an experimental, “living immunotherapy as part of a clinical trial experienced sustained remissions, according to preliminary results of the ongoing study at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Some of the patients in the trial, which began in 2013, were originally not expected to survive for more than a few months because their disease had previously relapsed or was resistant to other treatments, said Dr. Stanley Riddell, an immunotherapy researcher and oncologist Fred Hutch. Today, there is no sign of disease.

He shared the results as part of an update on new adoptive T-cell therapy strategies for cancer at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. Riddell, who has studied how to empower the immune system to effectively treat human disease for more than 25 years, said that progress now being made, underscored by these latest results, is finally making immunotherapya pillar of cancer therapy.” But, he cautioned, “Much like chemotherapy and radiotherapy, it’s not going to be a save-all.” Some patients may require other treatments. The trial is designed to test the safety of the latest iteration of an experimental immunotherapy in which a patient’s own T cells are reprogrammed to eliminate his or her cancer. The reprogramming involves genetically engineering the T cells with synthetic molecules called chimeric antigen receptors, or CARs, that enable them to target and destroy tumor cells bearing a particular target. Trial participants include patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

* T cells are white blood cells that can detect foreign or abnormal cells, including cancerous ones, and initiate a process that targets those abnormal cells for attack. But even when triggered, the natural immune response to a tumor is often neither strong nor persistent enough to overcome cancer cells.

Source: https://www.fredhutch.org/

2D Nanomaterials Boost Computers Speed

University of Utah engineers have discovered a new kind of 2D semiconducting material for electronics that opens the door for much speedier computers and smartphones that also consume a lot less power.

The semiconductor, made of the elements tin and oxygen, or tin monoxide (SnO), is a layer of 2D material only one atom thick, allowing electrical charges to move through it much faster than conventional 3D materials such as silicon. This material could be used in transistors, the lifeblood of all electronic devices such as computer processors and graphics processors in desktop computers and mobile devices. The material was discovered by a team led by University of Utah materials science and engineering associate professor Ashutosh Tiwari.

material

Transistors and other components used in electronic devices are currently made of 3D materials such as silicon and consist of multiple layers on a glass substrate. But the downside to 3D materials is that electrons bounce around inside the layers in all directions.

The benefit of 2D materials, which is an exciting new research field that has opened up only about five years ago, is that the material is made of one layer the thickness of just one or two atoms. Consequently, the electronscan only move in one layer so it’s much faster,” says Tiwari.

While researchers in this field have recently discovered new types of 2D material such as graphene, molybdenun disulfide and borophene. In order to create an electronic device, however, you need semiconductor material that allows the movement of both negative electrons and positive charges known as “holes.” The tin monoxide material discovered by Tiwari and his team is the first stable P-type 2D semiconductor material ever in existence.
Transistors made with Tiwari’s semiconducting material could lead to computers and smartphones that are more than 100 times faster than regular devices.

A paper describing the research was published online in the journal, Advanced Electronic Materials.

Source: http://unews.utah.edu/

Color Printer Uses A Colorless Ink

From dot-matrix to 3-D, printing technology has come a long way in 40 years. But all of these technologies have created hues by using dye inks, which can be taxing on the environment. Now a team reports in ACS Nano the development of a colorless, non-toxic ink for use in inkjet printers. Instead of relying on dyes, the team exploits the nanostructure of this ink to create color on a page with inkjet printing.

squirrelThis image of a squirrel was printed in color by controlling the thickness of a colorless ink deposited on a thin film

Current technologies blend dyes — think CMYK or RGB — to print in color. But these substances can harm the environment. Aleksandr V. Yakovlev, Alexandr V. Vinogradov and colleagues at ITMO University (Russia) wanted to develop a nanostructure color printing technology that is “greener” and can be printed on a wide variety of surfaces.

The team found that a colorless titanium dioxide-based colloidal ink was the best suited for the job. It does not require high temperature fixing and can be deposited on many surfaces. The researchers can control the color produced on surfaces by varying the thickness of ink deposition from a normal inkjet printer. Creating a vibrant color red with this method and this very narrow angle of coloring remains a challenge. This method, however, has generated the first reported “green” ink that is both safe for the ecosystem and does not fade from UV exposure, the researchers say.

Source: http://www.acs.org/

Very Efficient Nanowires Store Solar Energy

California is committed to 33 percent energy from renewable resources by 2020. With that deadline fast approaching, researchers across the state are busy exploring options. Solar energy is attractive but for widespread adoption, it requires transformation into a storable form. This week in ACS Central Science, researchers report that nanowires made from multiple metal oxides could put solar ahead in this race. One way to harness solar power for broader use is through photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting that provides hydrogen for fuel cells. Many materials that can perform the reaction exist, but most of these candidates suffer from issues, ranging from efficiency to stability and cost. Peidong Yang from Berkeley University of California  and colleagues designed a system where nanowires from one of the most commonly used materials (TiO2) acts as a “host” for “guestnanoparticles from another oxide called BiVO4.

nanowires splitting waterTIO2 NANOWIRES ACT AS HOSTS FOR BIVO4 GUESTS IN A WATER-SPLITTING REACTION

BiVO4 is a newly introduced material that is among the best ones for absorbing light and performing the water splitting reaction, but does not carry charge well while TiO2 is stable, cheap and an efficient charge carrier but does not absorb light well. Together with a unique studded nanowire architecture, the new system works better than either material alone. The authors state their approach can be used to improve the efficiencies of other photoconversion materials.

Source: http://www.eurekalert.org/
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How To 3D Print Bones, Muscles, Cartilage

A new method of 3D printing can produce human-sized bone, muscle, and cartilage templates that survive when implanted into animals, researchers report.

3D ear

It has been challenging to produce human scale tissues with 3D printing because larger tissues require additional nutrition,” said Dr. Anthony Atala from Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

His team developed a process they call “the integrated tissue and organ printing system,” or ITOP for short. ITOP produces a network of tiny channels that allows the printed tissue to be nourished after being implanted into a living animal. The researchers produced three types of tissuebone, cartilage, and muscle – and transplanted it into rats and mice. Five months after implantation, the bone tissue looked similar to normal bone, complete with blood vessels and with no dead areas, the research team reported in Nature Biotechnology.

Results with 3D-printed skeletal muscle were equally impressive. Not only did the implants look like normal muscle when examined two weeks after implantation, but the implants also contracted like immature, developing muscle when stimulated.

It is often frustrating for physicians to have patients receive a plastic or metal part during surgery knowing that the best replacement would have been the patient’s own tissue,” Dr. Atala said. “The results of this study bring us closer to the reality of using 3D printing to repair defects using the patient’s own engineered tissue.” “We are also using similar strategies to print solid organs”,  he added.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

How To Kill Liver Cancer Cells

An experimental nanoparticle therapy that combines low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and fish oil preferentially kills primary liver cancer cells without harming healthy cells, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers report.

liver cancerPrimary liver cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma, is the sixth most prevalent type of cancer and third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Incidence of the disease is rising in the U.S., principally in relation to the spread of hepatitis C virus infection

This approach offers a potentially new and safe way of treating liver cancer, and possibly other cancers,” said study senior author Dr. Ian Corbin, Assistant Professor in the Advanced Imaging Research Center (AIRC) and of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern. “The method utilizes the cholesterol carrier LDL, combined with fish oil to produce a unique nanoparticle that is selectively toxic to cancer cells.”

Fish oils are particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid, also known as DHA. A 2012 study in Gastroenterology found that consumption of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids was associated with protection against the development of liver cancer in patients with hepatitis B or hepatitis C infections. In the UT Southwestern study, conducted in rats, the newly formulated LDL-DHA nanoparticles were injected into the artery leading to the liver, the site of the cancer, he said.

This research study clearly demonstrates the anticancer potential of omega-3 fatty acids,” he said, adding that while the study showed significant cancer cell toxicity, it is too soon to tell whether the approach is able to kill every cancer cell.

The study was published in the February issue of the journal Gastroenterology.

Source: http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/

China: A Cheap And Frugal Electric Car

Renault-Nissan will develop an affordable electric car for China because the alliance’s current offering, the Nissan Leaf, is too expensive for the local market. Nissan sold just 1,273 units of the Venucia e30, a local version of the Leaf, in China last year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). The car starts at 242,800 yuan ($36,900).

Venucia-Viwa-500x283I am unhappy with Venucia sales. We envisaged much more than that. We know price is a handicap,” said Carlos Ghosn, Chief Excecutive Officer of Renault-Nissan. “For me the solution will be a very cheap electric car,” Ghosn told journalists at the opening of Renault’s plant here in central China.. Ghosn did not comment on possible sales in markets outside China such as Europe or the size of the car.

China’s market for cars termed ‘new energy vehicles‘ — pure EVs and plug-in hybrids — has rapidly expanded in the last few years to reach 379,000 in 2015, according to government figures quoted by the China Daily newspaper. Ghosn said that despite the incentives, most sales were very cheap electric vehicles made by local brands costing between 30,00050,000 yuan ($4,600$7,000). The biggest selling electric car last year was the tiny Kandi EV city car with 16,736 sold, according to CAAM.

The government is saying we want more electric cars. The public is saying ‘yes, but we want them cheap‘, Ghosn said. He added Renault-Nissan would start development of an affordable electric car but the automakers first had to define what the public would accept. “We need to work out what are the best compromises between acceptable performance and lowest price possible“.

Source: http://europe.autonews.com/

Electric Car: Will the Next Tesla Sell for $25,000?

Tesla Motors Inc. was built with one overriding objective: to bring electric cars to the masses. After more than a decade of work, Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk believes it’s just about time. The company is set to begin taking pre-orders on its$35,000 Model 3 next month—and by $35,000, Tesla really means as little as $25,000Tesla has confirmed that the $35,000 price tag on the Model 3 doesn’t include the significant federal and state incentives available to electric car buyers. Official confirmation from the company echoes what Musk told reporters at an auto show more than a year ago: “When I say $35,000, I’m talking about without any credits.

The distinction Tesla is making here between the price before and after tax subsidies is crucial; these tax incentives can knock off as much as $10,000 from the cost of purchase, drastically increasing the size of the market for the Model 3. The pre-subsidy price was increasingly in doubt after the company set the starting price of its Model X luxury SUV at $80,000, more than analysts initially expected1.

Tesla Model 3
We can confirm it’s $35,000 before incentives,” a Tesla spokeswoman, Khobi Brooklyn, told Bloomberg.
We haven’t changed our minds.

To understand why pricing is so important, just look at what Americans are currently willing to spend. The average new car costs about $31,000, according to an analysis by Salim Morsy of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Almost all the mass-market vehicles sold above that price threshold are SUVs and trucks. There’s only one car comparable in size to the Model 3 that amasses more than 100,000 in annual sales with a $35,000 price tag: the BMW 3 Series.

Another crucial figure: the range. Tesla announces 250 miles. At 25,000 dollars, the Tesla Model 3 is definitively competitive.

Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/

Bandage Stops Bleeding After A Gunshot, Saves Lives

Stab and gunshot wounds that cause profuse bleeding, if not treated quickly, can bring about a rapid death. Professional help is not always close at hand… which is why an Israeli company called Core Scientific Solutions (CSC) has invented WoundClot, an innovative new bandage they say will save lives.

 

BAND8AID cscCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

It comes in a long ribbon. When we place it into the wound, in this case it is only water, but when it is exposed to liquids, this product starts to absorb enormous amount of blood and then it transforms into a gel state“, says Dr. Shani Gross, Vice-President of CSC.
Gross says the bandage not only stops otherwise unmanageable bleeding within minutes, it does it without the need to apply pressure — usually critical after certain wounds to areas like the neck or head. The more blood absorbed — the quicker the clotting process. And the bandage is stable for 24 hours, its creators say — enough time for getting patients, like wounded soldiers to hospital.

These products allows us to treat very severe bleeding in the field, with minimum amount of, I would say, training, with minimum amount of interfering with the regular medical treatment or protocols that are used today“, adds Company CEO Yuval Yaski.

The company says it’s providing WoundClot to Israeli police forces and the army and selling it to hospitals for as little as $10 per bandage. Saving money — but also they hope…saving lives.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

Brain: Graphene Interacts Safely With Neurons

Researchers from the University of Trieste (Italy) and the University of Cambridge have successfully demonstrated how it is possible to interface graphene – a two-dimensional form of carbon – with neurons, or nerve cells, while maintaining the integrity of these vital cells. The work may be used to build graphene-based electrodes that can safely be implanted in the brain, offering promise for the restoration of sensory functions for amputee or paralysed patients, or for individuals with motor disorders such as epilepsy or Parkinson’s disease. Previously, other groups had shown that it is possible to use treated graphene to interact with neurons. However the signal to noise ratio from this interface was very low. By developing methods of working with untreated graphene, the researchers retained the material’s electrical conductivity, making it a significantly better electrode.

graphene interacts in the brain

For the first time we interfaced graphene to neurons directly,” said Professor Laura Ballerini of the University of Trieste in Italy. “We then tested the ability of neurons to generate electrical signals known to represent brain activities, and found that the neurons retained their neuronal signalling properties unaltered. This is the first functional study of neuronal synaptic activity using uncoated graphene based materials.

The research, published in the journal ACS Nano, was an interdisciplinary collaboration coordinated by the University of Trieste in Italy and the Cambridge Graphene Centre.

Source: http://www.cam.ac.uk/

How To Store 10 Times More Energy In A Li-ion Battery

Scientists have been trying for years to make a practical lithium-ion battery anode out of silicon, which could store 10 times more energy per charge than today’s commercial anodes and make high-performance batteries a lot smaller and lighter. But two major problems have stood in the way: Silicon particles swell, crack and shatter during battery charging, and they react with the battery electrolyte to form a coating that saps their performance. Now, a team from Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has come up with a possible solution: Wrap each and every silicon anode particle in a custom-fit cage made of graphene, a pure form of carbon that is the thinnest and strongest material known and a great conductor of electricity.

In a report published Jan. 25 in Nature Energy, they describe a simple, three-step method for building microscopic graphene cages of just the right size: roomy enough to let the silicon particle expand as the battery charges, yet tight enough to hold all the pieces together when the particle falls apart, so it can continue to function at high capacity. The strong, flexible cages also block destructive chemical reactions with the electrolyte.

graphene_cageThis time-lapse movie from an electron microscope shows the new battery material in action: a silicon particle expanding and cracking inside a graphene cage while being charged. The cage holds the pieces of the particle together and preserves its electrical conductivity and performance

In testing, the graphene cages actually enhanced the electrical conductivity of the particles and provided high charge capacity, chemical stability and efficiency,” said Yi Cui, an associate professor at SLAC and Stanford who led the research. “The method can be applied to other electrode materials, too, making energy-dense, low-cost battery materials a realistic possibility.

This new method allows us to use much larger silicon particles that are one to three microns, or millionths of a meter, in diameter, which are cheap and widely available,” Cui adds. “In fact, the particles we used are very similar to the waste created by milling silicon ingots to make semiconductor chips; they’re like bits of sawdust of all shapes and sizes. Particles this big have never performed well in battery anodes before, so this is a very exciting new achievement, and we think it offers a practical solution.

Source: https://www6.slac.stanford.edu/

Super Smart Band-Aids

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

smart band-aid

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

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

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

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

How To Fight Against The Number One Killer Of Babies

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

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

baby

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

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

Source: http://www.eurekalert.org/

Do-It-Yourself Technique To Produce Flat Optics

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

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

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

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

Source: http://engineering.illinois.edu/

3D Printed Prosthetic Leg For Dog

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

3D prosthetic limb

 

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

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

Source: http://www.reuters.com

How Cellulose Nanogenerators Power Bio-Implants

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

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

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

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

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

Source: http://www.acs.org/

Revolution In The Nanotechnology Industry

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

newnanosheet

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

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

Soource: https://www.engr.wisc.edu/

Robots Replace Human Hand To Pick Fruits

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

robot fruit pickerCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

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

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

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

Bionic Human

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

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

artificial intelligence

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

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

Source: http://www.darpa.mil/

Molecules Tell Bone To Repair Itself

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

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

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

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

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

The findings have been published in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: http://ns.umich.edu/

Very Cheap Solar Cells With Very Good Efficiency

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

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

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

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

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

Source: https://actu.epfl.ch/

Smart Windows Clean Themselves, Save Energy

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

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

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

Source: https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/

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

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

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

bubble-pen litho

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

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

Source: https://news.utexas.edu/

Brain Injury: How To Monitor Temperature, Pressure

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

Nanoparticles Destroy Antibiotic-Resistant “Superbugs”

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

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

salmonella bacteria

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

Source: http://www.colorado.edu/

Efficient Triboelectric Generator Embedded In A Shoe

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

Triboelectric shoes

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

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

The research has been reported in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: http://www.news.gatech.edu/

Your Own Farm Indoors

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

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

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

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

Virtual Hug

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

second skin
CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

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

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

Source: https://globalcosmeticsnews.com/

Nanotechnology To Help Fixing Extreme Poverty

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

nano membrane toilet

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

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

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

Source: https://www.cranfield.ac.uk/

Battery Shuts Down When Overheating, Then Restarts

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

hoverboard

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

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

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

Source: http://news.stanford.edu/

Nano-Reactor Produces Hydrogen

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

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

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

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

Source: http://news.indiana.edu/

How To Combat Arteriosclerosis

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

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

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

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

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

Source: http://phys.org/

New Efficiency Record with Dual-Junction Solar Cell

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

dual junctio solar cell

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

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

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

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

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

Source: http://www.nrel.gov/

How To Build Stronger Airplanes, Space Shuttles

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

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

SpaceSolarStation

 

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

 

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

Source: http://www.eurekalert.org/

Tesla’s Competitor Faraday Future Presents Its Electric Car

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

faraday future electric car

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

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

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

How To Detect Contaminants In One Single Molecule

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: http://www.newswise.com/

Nanotechnology Hero

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

DRISCOLL.J

Science is Passion

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

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

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

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

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

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
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https://www.msm.cam.ac.uk/

Stealth Planes: China versus USA

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

Chinese stealth aircraft

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

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

Source: http://www.scmp.com/

Nanoparticles Trigger Immune System To Destroy Cancer

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

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

cowpeas

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

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

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

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

Source: http://blog.case.edu/

Super-Strong, Light New Metal For Airplanes, Cars

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

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

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

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

The research has been  published  in Nature.

Source: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/

3D Printing To Help Disabled Children

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

3D printed leg

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

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

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

Source: http://andiamo.io/

Brain Cells Death Provokes Multiple Sclerosis

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

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

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

 

The study was published in Nature Neuroscience.

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

Source: http://news.uchicago.edu/

Omnidirectional Solar Cells Boost Efficiency

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

solar farm

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

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

Source: http://pubs.acs.org/

How To Detect Alzheimer’s Years Before Memory Loss

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

Eye movement link to Alzheimer's

Eye movements and brain activity may be the key to diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease earlier and more accurately, according to research led by Chilean neurologists.
CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

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

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/

Power Source Woven Into Fabrics

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

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

wearable electronics

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

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

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

Source: http://www.eurekalert.org/

Sunscreen Nanoparticles Eliminate Skin-Cancer

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


sunscreen

 

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

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

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

Source: http://www.nibib.nih.gov/

Bomb-proof Bag To Suppress Explosion On Aircraft

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

bomb on aircraftCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

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

Source:  http://www.augmentiq.com/
AND
http://www.blastech.co.uk/

How To Increase Photovoltaic Efficiency

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

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

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

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

Source: http://science.energy.gov/

How To Remove All Nanomaterials From Water

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

Michigan Technological

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

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

Source: http://www.mtu.edu/

Fusion Power Is Close

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

fusion powerCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

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

Source: http://www.tokamakenergy.co.uk/
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http://uk.reuters.com/

How To Soak Up Oil Spills

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

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

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

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

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

Source: http://drexel.edu/now/

How To Store Electricity In Paper

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

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

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

Power-paper

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

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

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

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

The results have been published in Advanced Science.

Source: http://www.liu.se/

Red Light To Attack Viruses

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

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

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

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

Source: http://news.rice.edu/

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

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

nanomaterial

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

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

Source: http://www.upenn.edu/

Sonic Tractor Beam

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

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

sonic tractor beamCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

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

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

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

Source: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/

 

Nano-Terminators Target Cancer

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

Liquid-Metal nanoterminator

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

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

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

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

Source: https://news.ncsu.edu/

The Biggest Clone Factory Built In China

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

cloned animals

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

Source: http://phys.org/

Huge Solar Farm Opens In South France