How To Levitate Objects With Light

Researchers at Caltech have designed a way to levitate and propel objects using only light, by creating specific nanoscale patterning on the objects’ surfaces. Though still theoretical, the work is a step toward developing a spacecraft that could reach the nearest planet outside of our solar system in 20 years, powered and accelerated only by light. The research was done in the laboratory of Harry Atwater, Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science in Caltech’s Division of Engineering and Applied Science.

Decades ago, the development of so-called optical tweezers enabled scientists to move and manipulate tiny objects, like nanoparticles, using the radiative pressure from a sharply focused beam of laser light. This work formed the basis for the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. However, optical tweezers are only able to manipulate very small objects and only at very short distances. Ognjen Ilic, postdoctoral scholar and the study’s first author, gives an analogy: “One can levitate a ping pong ball using a steady stream of air from a hair dryer. But it wouldn’t work if the ping pong ball were too big, or if it were too far away from the hair dryer, and so on.”

With this new research, objects of many different shapes and sizes—from micrometers to meters—could be manipulated with a light beam. The key is to create specific nanoscale patterns on an object’s surface. This patterning interacts with light in such a way that the object can right itself when perturbed, creating a restoring torque to keep it in the light beam. Thus, rather than requiring highly focused laser beams, the objects’ patterning is designed to “encode” their own stability. The light source can also be millions of miles away.

“We have come up with a method that could levitate macroscopic objects,” says Atwater, who is also the director of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis. “There is an audaciously interesting application to use this technique as a means for propulsion of a new generation of spacecraft. We’re a long way from actually doing that, but we are in the process of testing out the principles.”

In theory, this spacecraft could be patterned with nanoscale structures and accelerated by an Earth-based laser light. Without needing to carry fuel, the spacecraft could reach very high, even relativistic speeds and possibly travel to other stars.

Atwater also envisions that the technology could be used here on Earth to enable rapid manufacturing of ever-smaller objects, like circuit boards.

A paper describing the research appears online in the journal Nature Photonics.


Molecular Nanocomputers

Computer scientists at Caltech have designed DNA molecules that can carry out reprogrammable computations, for the first time creating so-called algorithmic self-assembly in which the same “hardware” can be configured to run differentsoftware.”

A team headed by Caltech‘s Erik Winfree (PhD ’98), professor of computer science, computation and neural systems, and bioengineering, showed how the DNA computations could execute six-bit algorithms that perform simple tasks. The system is analogous to a computer, but instead of using transistors and diodes, it uses molecules to represent a six-bit binary number (for example, 011001) as input, during computation, and as output. One such algorithm determines whether the number of 1-bits in the input is odd or even, (the example above would be odd, since it has three 1-bits); while another determines whether the input is a palindrome; and yet another generates random numbers.

Think of them as nano apps,” says Damien Woods, professor of computer science at Maynooth University near Dublin, Ireland, and one of two lead authors of the study. “The ability to run any type of software program without having to change the hardware is what allowed computers to become so useful. We are implementing that idea in molecules, essentially embedding an algorithm within chemistry to control chemical processes.”

The system works by self-assembly: small, specially designed DNA strands stick together to build a logic circuit while simultaneously executing the circuit algorithm. Starting with the original six bits that represent the input, the system adds row after row of molecules—progressively running the algorithm. Modern digital electronic computers use electricity flowing through circuits to manipulate information; here, the rows of DNA strands sticking together perform the computation. The end result is a test tube filled with billions of completed algorithms, each one resembling a knitted scarf of DNA, representing a readout of the computation. The pattern on each “scarf” gives you the solution to the algorithm that you were running. The system can be reprogrammed to run a different algorithm by simply selecting a different subset of strands from the roughly 700 that constitute the system.

We were surprised by the versatility of programs we were able to design, despite being limited to six-bit inputs,” says David Doty, fellow lead author and assistant professor of computer science at the University of California, Davis. “When we began experiments, we had only designed three programs. But once we started using the system, we realized just how much potential it has. It was the same excitement we felt the first time we programmed a computer, and we became intensely curious about what else these strands could do. By the end, we had designed and run a total of 21 circuits.”

The findings have been reported in the journal Nature.


Cost-Effective Method For Hydrogen Fuel Production

Nanoparticles composed of nickel and iron have been found to be more effective and efficient than other, more costly materials when used as catalysts in the production of hydrogen fuel through water electrolysis. The discovery was made by University of Arkansas researchers Jingyi Chen, associate professor of physical chemistry, and Lauren Greenlee, assistant professor of chemical engineering, as well as colleagues from Brookhaven National Lab and Argonne National Lab. The researchers demonstrated that using nanocatalysts composed of nickel and iron increases the efficiency of water electrolysis, the process of breaking water atoms apart to produce hydrogen and oxygen and combining them with electrons to create hydrogen gas.

Chen and her colleagues discovered that when nanoparticles composed of an iron and nickel shell around a nickel core are applied to the process, they interact with the hydrogen and oxygen atoms to weaken the bonds, increasing the efficiency of the reaction by allowing the generation of oxygen more easily. Nickel and iron are also less expensive than other catalysts, which are made from scarce materials.

This marks a step toward making water electrolysis a more practical and affordable method for producing hydrogen fuel. Current methods of water electrolysis are too energy-intensive to be effective.

Chen, Greenlee and their colleagues recently published their results in the journal Nanoscale.


Rotating Black Holes Might Serve As Portals For Hyperspace Travel

Black holes skirt the line between science fiction and science fact. On the one hand, scientists have seen real black holes in action, consuming unsuspecting stars that pass too close. But where reality ends and fiction takes over is at the edge of a black hole — a place called the event horizon, where no spacecraft has ever gone.

So, whatever happens beyond that boundary, inside of a black hole, is anyone’s guess. Scientists agree that if you travel far enough into a black hole, gravity will eventually become so strong that it kills anything in its path. But sci-fi films are more optimistic, depicting black holes as portals through space and time or gateways to other dimensions. And it turns out, some scientists now think the sci-fi buffs may be onto something. Black holes might be suitable for hyperspace travel, after all; it just takes the right kind of black hole. At the center of every black hole is a point of infinite density, called a singularity. It’s what gives black holes their strong gravitational pull. And for decades, scientists thought singularities were all the same, so anything that passed the event horizon would be destroyed the same way: by being stretched and pulled like an infinitely long piece of spaghetti.

But that all changed in the early 1990s when different research teams in Canada and the US discovered a second singularity called a “mass inflation singularity.” It still has a strong gravitational pull, but it would only stretch you by a finite amount, and potentially NOT kill you in the process, meaning, you might survive the trip through a black hole. More specifically, through a large, rotating black hole, which is where these types of singularities exist.

Now, astronomers obviously can’t travel through a black hole yet to test this theory. In fact, the best place to test this is at the supermassive black hole in the center of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, which is 27,000 light years away. Not conveniently close to the least.

Therefore, scientists instead run computer simulations to see what would happen if we did manage to reach an isolated, rotating black hole, and now, for the first time, a team of scientists at UMass Dartmouth and Georgia Gwinnett College has done exactly that.


You would feel a slight increase in temperature, but it would not be a dramatic increase. It’s just that you don’t have enough time to respond to the very strong forces. It would just go through you too quickly,” said Lior Burko from Georgia Gwinnett College.  He added that passing through a weak singularity is like quickly running your finger through a candle flame that’s 1,000 degrees Celsius. If you hold your finger in the flame long enough, you’ll get burned, but pass your finger through quickly, and you’ll barely feel a thing. Similarly, if you pass through a weak singularity with the right speed and momentum, and at the right time, you may not feel much at all.

As for what happens once you get through to the other side, no one really knows, but Burko has his own ideas. He says one possibility is that we’d arrive at some other remote part of our galaxy, potentially light years away from any planets or stars, but a second, and perhaps more intriguing, possibility is that we’d arrive in a different galaxy altogether. That’s if you even make it that far. Scientists say more research is needed before we’re anywhere close to successfully traveling through a black hole. But when we are ready, one of the safest passageways might be the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy called Sagittarius A*, and it might just be our ticket out of the Milky Way.


Cancer’s ‘Internal Wiring’ Predicts Relapse Risk

The “internal wiring” of breast cancer can predict which women are more likely to survive or relapse, say researchers. The study shows that breast cancer is 11 separate diseases that each has a different risk of coming back. The hope is that the findings, in the journal Nature, could identify people needing closer monitoring and reassure others at low risk of recurrence.

Cancer Research UK said that the work was “incredibly encouraging” but was not yet ready for widespread use. The scientists, at the University of Cambridge and Stanford University, looked in incredible detail at nearly 2,000 women’s breast cancers. They went far beyond considering all breast cancers as a single disease and beyond modern medicine’s way of classifying the tumours.

Doctors currently classify breast cancers based on whether they respond to the hormone oestrogen or targeted therapies like Herceptin. The research team analysed the genetic mutations inside the tumour to create a new way of classifying them.

By following women for 20 years, they are now able to show which types of breast cancer are more likely to come back.  “This is really biology-driven, it’s the molecular wiring of your tumour, said Prof Carlos Caldas. Once and for all we need to stop talking about breast cancer as one disease, it’s a constellation of 11 diseases. “This is a very significant step to more precision-type medicine.”


How To Reverse Vascular Disease In Kidney Failure

By loading a chelation drug into a nano-sized homing device, researchers at Clemson University have reversed in an animal model the deadliest effects of chronic kidney disease, which kills more people in the United States each year than breast or prostate cancer. When kidneys stop working properly, calcium builds up in artery tissue, leading to heart disease. Although nearly half a million Americans receive kidney dialysis, heart disease is the leading cause of death for people with chronic kidney disease.

Human kidney cross section on scientific background

The findings are very exciting scientifically, but also for the thousands of patients who could potentially benefit from this technology one day,” said Naren Vyavahare, professor of bioengineering at Clemson and the principal investigator of the research.

Chelation, a method of removing metals such as iron and lead from the body, has been used experimentally for some people with heart disease. The therapy is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but the National Institutes of Health has sponsored two large-scale, multi-center studies using ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid, or EDTA, as chelation therapy for people with heart disease.

In clinical studies, EDTA is included in an infusion that circulates through the body; it’s systemic and non-specific. This method of chelation has shown good results in improving heart function, especially in diabetic patients, Vyavahare said. But EDTA infusion therapy is arduous (it requires 40 infusions over a period of a year), and it can cause side effects, including a depletion of calcium from the blood and from bone.

Now, in a paper published in Scientific Reports, a Nature publication, Vyavahare’s team describes how they developed an animal model that mimics a human’s chronic kidney disease. Animals were treated either with EDTA infusions, like in the NIH human trials, or with EDTA enclosed in a nanoparticle coupled with an antibody that seeks out damaged elastin. In animals that received the targeted therapy, calcium buildup was destroyed, without causing side effects, better than with EDTA infusions alone. Moreover, the calcification did not come back up to four weeks after the last injection, even though other signs of chronic kidney disease were present.


Nanorobots Probe Into Cells

U of T Engineering researchers have built a set of magnetic tweezers’ that can position a nano-scale bead inside a human cell in three dimensions with unprecedented precision. The nano-bot has already been used to study the properties of cancer cells, and could point the way toward enhanced diagnosis and treatment.

Professor Yu Sun (MIE, IBBME, ECE) and his team have been building robots that can manipulate individual cells for two decades. Their creations have the ability to manipulate and measure single cells — useful in procedures such as in vitro fertilization and personalized medicine. Their latest study, published today in Science Robotics, takes the technology one step further.

The magnetic bead introduced into the cell and controlled to be navigated onto the nuclear envelope.

So far, our robot has been exploring outside a building, touching the brick wall, and trying to figure out what’s going on inside,” says Sun. “We wanted to deploy a robot in the building and probe all the rooms and structures.” The team has created robotic systems that can manipulate sub-cellular structures inside electron microscopes, but that requires freeze-drying the cells and cutting them into tiny slices. To probe live cells, other teams have used techniques such as lasers or acoustics.

Optical tweezers — using lasers to probe cells — is a popular approach,” says Xian Wang (MIE), the PhD candidate who conducted the research. The technology was honoured with 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics, but Wang says the force that it can generate is not large enough for mechanical manipulation and measurement he wanted to do. “You can try to increase the power to generate higher force, but you run the risk of damaging the sub-cellular components you’re trying to measure,” says Wang.

The system Wang designed uses six magnetic coils placed in different planes around a microscope coverslip seeded with live cancer cells. A magnetic iron bead about 700 nanometres in diameter — about 100 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair — is placed on the coverslip, where the cancer cells easily take it up inside their membranes. Once the bead is inside, Wang controls its position using real-time feedback from confocal microscopy imaging. He uses a computer-controlled algorithm to vary the electrical current through each of the coils, shaping the magnetic field in three dimensions and coaxing the bead into any desired position within the cell.

We can control the position to within a couple of hundred nanometers down the Brownian motion limit,” says Wang. “We can exert forces an order of magnitude higher than would be possible with lasers.”

In collaboration with Dr. Helen McNeil and Yonit Tsatskis at Mount Sinai Hospital and Dr. Sevan Hopyan at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), the team used their robotic system to study early-stage and later-stage bladder cancer cells. Previous studies on cell nuclei required their extraction of from cells. Wang and Sun measured cell nuclei in intact cells without the need to break apart the cell membrane or cytoskeleton. They were able to show that the nucleus is not equally stiff in all directions. “It’s a bit like a football in shape — mechanically, it’s stiffer along one axis than the other,” says Sun. “We wouldn’t have known that without this new technique.”

They were also able to measure exactly how much stiffer the nucleus got when prodded repeatedly, and determine which cell protein or proteins may play a role in controlling this response. This knowledge could point the way toward new methods of diagnosing cancer. “We know that in the later-stage cells, the stiffening response is not as strong,” says Wang. “In situations where early-stage cancer cells and later-stage cells don’t look very different morphologically, this provides another way of telling them apart.”

According to Sun, the research could go even further. “You could imagine bringing in whole swarms of these nano-bots, and using them to either starve a tumour by blocking the blood vessels into the tumor, or destroy it directly via mechanical ablation,” says Sun. “This would offer a way to treat cancers that are resistant to chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy.”


Conflicting Realities

Physicists have long suspected that quantum mechanics allows two observers to experience different, conflicting realities. Now they’ve performed the first experiment that proves it. Back in 1961, the Nobel Prize–winning physicist Eugene Wigner outlined a thought experiment that demonstrated one of the lesser-known paradoxes of quantum mechanics. The experiment shows how the strange nature of the universe allows two observers—say, Wigner and Wigner’s friend—to experience different realities.

Since then, physicists have used the “Wigner’s Friend” thought experiment to explore the nature of measurement and to argue over whether objective facts can exist. That’s important because scientists carry out experiments to establish objective facts. But if they experience different realities, the argument goes, how can they agree on what these facts might be?
That’s provided some entertaining fodder for after-dinner conversation, but Wigner’s thought experiment has never been more than that—just a thought experiment. Last year, however, physicists noticed that recent advances in quantum technologies have made it possible to reproduce the Wigner’s Friend test in a real experiment. In other words, it ought to be possible to create different realities and compare them in the lab to find out whether they can be reconciled.

And today, Massimiliano Proietti at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and a few colleagues say they have performed this experiment for the first time: they have created different realities and compared them. Their conclusion is that Wigner was correct—these realities can be made irreconcilable so that it is impossible to agree on objective facts about an experiment.Wigner’s original thought experiment is straightforward in principle. It begins with a single polarized photon that, when measured, can have either a horizontal polarization or a vertical polarization. But before the measurement, according to the laws of quantum mechanics, the photon exists in both polarization states at the same time—a so-called superposition.

Wigner imagined a friend in a different lab measuring the state of this photon and storing the result, while Wigner observed from afar. Wigner has no information about his friend’s measurement and so is forced to assume that the photon and the measurement of it are in a superposition of all possible outcomes of the experiment.

But this is in stark contrast to the point of view of the friend, who has indeed measured the photon’s polarization and recorded it. The friend can even call Wigner and say the measurement has been done (provided the outcome is not revealed). So the two realities are at odds with each other. “This calls into question the objective status of the facts established by the two observers,” say Proietti and co. That’s the theory, but last year Caslav Brukner, at the University of Vienna in Austria, came up with a way to re-create the Wigner’s Friend experiment in the lab by means of techniques involving the entanglement of many particles at the same time.

The breakthrough that Proietti and co have made is to carry this out. “In a state-of-the-art 6-photon experiment, we realize this extended Wigner’s friend scenario,” they say. They use these six entangled photons to create two alternate realities—one representing Wigner and one representing Wigner’s friend. Wigner’s friend measures the polarization of a photon and stores the result. Wigner then performs an interference measurement to determine if the measurement and the photon are in a superposition.

The experiment produces an unambiguous result. It turns out that both realities can coexist even though they produce irreconcilable outcomes, just as Wigner predicted.  That raises some fascinating questions that are forcing physicists to reconsider the nature of reality.


3D printing becoming a surgical game changer

Imagine 1,000 puzzle pieces without any picture of what it’s ultimately supposed to look like. With few, if any, reference points, the challenge of fitting them together would be daunting. That’s what surgeons often confront when a patient suffering from a traumatic injury or condition has a portion of their body that is dramatically damaged or changed. The “puzzle” can be exponentially harder when the injuries involve a person’s face or skull – areas of the human anatomy that are complex, difficult to surgically navigate, and often require both functional and near-perfect cosmetic repair.

Now, thanks to high-tech equipment that is sometimes not much bigger than a home printer, UC Davis Health physicians are enhancing their capabilities and mapping out surgeries in ways that benefit patients and surgical outcomes.


3D printing, which for us means manufacturing that’s accurate, affordable and on-site, can be a game changer in health care,” said David Lubarsky, vice chancellor for Human Health Sciences and CEO of UC Davis Health, who is very encouraged by the university’s newest technology initiatives and promising results.

The new device is a specialized but fairly affordable printer that produces three-dimensional models of an individual’s skull or body part. The 3D models enable a surgeon to visualize, practice and then perform the reconstructive surgery while saving time and increasing precision.

Facial reconstructive surgery involves intricate anatomy within an extremely narrow operative field in which to maneuver our instruments,” said E. Bradley Strong, a professor of otolaryngology who specializes in facial reconstructive surgery. “Being able to print out a high-resolution 3D model of the injury, allows us to do detailed preoperative planning and preparation that is more efficient and accurate. We can also use these patient specific models in the operating room to improve the accuracy of implant placement.”

The 3D printer used by Strong and his colleagues for the past year is about the size of a mini-refrigerator and costs approximately $4,000. It uses the imaging data from a patient’s computed tomography (CT) scans to provide the modeling output information. Like an inkjet printer, the 3D version spits out layer upon layer of material over a period of hours, sometimes taking nearly a day to complete, depending on the complexity of the model. The finished replica can save time during surgery, which means less time on the operating table for a patient and potentially a better outcome.

By creating a 3D model prior to surgery, Strong is able to bend and customize generic surgical plates into patient-specific shapes that fit perfectly for each individual patient.


How To Turn Data Into Ultrasonic Sound Waves

The ultrasonic communication technology company Sonarax in Israel, unveils a new standard in machine-to-machine (m2m) connectivity allowing devices to communicate with one another using sound waves. The protocol is the largest global infrastructure install base and operates on any device that has a built-in speaker or microphone. Sonarax provides a highly reliable alternative for m2m connectivity and it works even when the internet, GPS, and cellular networks are unavailable.

The protocol performs pairing between devices and transfer of data on both encrypted and open channels using sound waves. It provides significantly easier and faster deployments of m2m applications such as sonic QR codes, mobile payments, and ID authentication.

Sonarax‘s protocol requires no special hardware and is easy to deploy and use. This protocol can be integrated with any application across various operating systems, including Windows, Android, and iOS, and is already embedded in leading sonic processors. Sonarax utilizes frequencies beyond the threshold of human hearing and can be intertwined with any audio channel carried by media, including, TV, and others to introduce additional communication data, such as advertising information and more.

Sonarax’s ultrasonic technology was designed to provide initial solutions in three main important areas:

  • Ultrasonic Payments: Facilitating secure pairing for mobile payments and contactless ATM interaction – already in pilot with major global banks and financial institutions.
  • Ultrasonic Authentication: Providing a seamless and secure identification solution –  a fully developed and off-the-shelf SDK that can be easily integrated and used by any third party application
  • Ultrasonic Indoor Positioning: Allowing indoor positioning in buildings such as shopping malls and hospitals where GPS stops working. Sonarax is working to implement its technology for novel indoor navigation functionality to be launched at a later date.


We’re utilizing the existing element of sound to modernize machine-to-machine connectivity so that it enhances payment authentication and for the first time can also be used for indoor positioning,” explains Benny Saban, CEO of Sonarax. “Sound cannot fail or be compromised and we’re excited to finally reveal our product at MWC and get consumers onboard to the next generation of device communication.


Tiny 4-Inch Wafer Holds One Million NanoRobots

Researchers have harnessed the latest nanofabrication techniques to create bug-shaped robots that are wirelessly powered, able to walk, able to survive harsh environments and tiny enough to be injected through an ordinary hypodermic needle.

When I was a kid, I remember looking in a microscope, and seeing all this crazy stuff going on. Now we’re building stuff that’s active at that size. We don’t just have to watch this world. You can actually play in it,” said Marc Miskin, who developed the nanofabrication techniques with his colleagues professors Itai Cohen and Paul McEuen and researcher Alejandro Cortese at Cornell University while Miskin was a postdoc in the laboratory for atomic and solid state physics there. In January, he became an assistant professor of electrical and systems engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.

Miskin will present his microscopic robot research on this week at the American Physical Society March Meeting in Boston. He will also participate in a press conference describing the work. Information for logging on to watch and ask questions remotely is included at the end of this news release.

Over the course of the past several years, Miskin and research colleagues developed a multistep nanofabrication technique that turns a 4-inch specialized silicon wafer into a million microscopic robots in just weeks. Each 70 micron long (about the width of a very thin human hair), the robots’ bodies are formed from a superthin rectangular skeleton of glass topped with a thin layer of silicon into which the researchers etch its electronics control components and either two or four silicon solar cells — the rudimentary equivalent of a brain and organs.

Robots are built massively in parallel using nanofabrication technology: each wafer holds 1 million machines

The really high-level explanation of how we make them is we’re taking technology developed by the semiconductor industry and using it to make tiny robots,” said Miskin.

Each of a robot’s four legs is formed from a bilayer of platinum and titanium (or alternately, graphene). The platinum is applied using atomic layer deposition. “It’s like painting with atoms,” said Miskin. The platinum-titanium layer is then cut into each robot’s four 100-atom-thick legs. “The legs are super strong,” he said. “Each robot carries a body that’s 1,000 times thicker and weighs roughly 8,000 times more than each leg.”

The researchers shine a laser on one of a robot’s solar cells to power it. This causes the platinum in the leg to expand, while the titanium remains rigid in turn, causing the limb to bend. The robot’s gait is generated because each solar cell causes the alternate contraction or relaxing of the front or back legs. The researchers first saw a robot’s leg move several days before Christmas 2017. “The leg just twitched a bit,” recalled Miskin. “But it was the first proof of concept — this is going to work!

Teams at Cornell and Pennsylvania are now at work on smart versions of the robots with on-board sensors, clocks and controllers. The current laser power source would limit the robot’s control to a fingernail-width into tissue. So Miskin is thinking about new energy sources, including ultrasound and magnetic fields, that would enable these robots to make incredible journeys in the human body for missions such as drug delivery or mapping the brain.

We found out you can inject them using a syringe and they survive — they’re still intact and functional — which is pretty cool,” he said.


‘Epigenetic’ Gene Tweaks Could Trigger Cancer

You could be forgiven for thinking of cancer as a genetic disease. Sure, we know it can be triggered by things you do – smoking being the classic example – but most of us probably assume that we get cancer because of a genetic mutation – a glitch in our DNA. It turns out that this is not quite the end of the story.

We now have the first direct evidence that switching off certain genes – something that can be caused by our lifestyle or the environment we live in – can trigger tumours, without mutating the DNA itself. The good news is that these changes are, in theory, reversible.

All cells contain the same DNA, but individual genes in any cell can be switched on or off by the addition or subtraction of a methyl group – a process known as epigenetic methylation.

For years, researchers have known that mutations to our DNA – either those passed on at birth or those acquired as a result of exposure to radiation, for example – can cause cancer. But epigenetic changes have also been implicated in cancer because abnormal patterns of gene methylation are seen in virtually all types of human tumours.

For example, a gene called MLH1 produces a protein that repairs DNA damage. It is often mutated in colon cancer tumours, but in some tumour samples the gene is healthy, but appears to have been silenced by methylationThe problem is that it has been difficult to test whether abnormal methylation occurs as a result of a tumour or is a cause of its growth.

In genetics you can easily delete a gene and see what the consequence is, but it’s much harder to direct methylation to specific regions of the genome,” says Lanlan Shen of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

To get round this problem, Shen and her colleagues used a naturally occurring sequence of DNA, which draws in methyl groups to methylate nearby genes. They call it their “methylation magnet”.

The team inserted this sequence next to the tumour suppressor gene, p16, in mouse embryonic stem cells. These embryos then developed into mice that carry the “methylation magnet” in all of their cells. The team focused on methylating p16 because it is abnormally methylated in numerous cancers.

They monitored the rodents for 18 months – until they reached the mouse equivalent of middle age. Over this time, 30 per cent of the mice developed tumours around their body, including in their liver, colon, lungs and spleen. None of a control group of genetically identical mice developed tumours.

Some tissues showed faster methylation than others, for example in the liver, colon and spleen, and that’s exactly where we saw the tumours grow,” says Shen. “It seems like methylation predisposed the tissue to tumour development.” She reckons that methylation silences p16, which lifts the break that it normally places on any abnormal cell division.


Self-Sterilizing Microneedles

Vaccinations are the world’s frontline defence against infectious diseases yet despite decades of interventions, unsafe injection practices continue to expose billions of people to serious infection and disease.

Now, new technology from the University of South Australia is revolutionising safe vaccination practices through antibacterial, silver-loaded dissolvable microneedle patches, which not only sterilise the injection site to inhibit the growth of bacteria, but also physically dissolve after administration.

These first generation microneedles have the potential to transform the safe administration of transdermal vaccinations and drug delivery”, explains Lead researcher, Professor Krasimir Vasilev .

Injections are one of the most common health care procedures used for vaccinations and curative care around the world,” Prof Vasilev adds. “But up to 40 per cent of injections are given with improperly sterilised syringes and needles, placing millions of people at risk of contracting a range of illnesses or diseases. “Our silver-loaded microneedles have inherently potent antibacterial properties which inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria and reduce the chance of infection.”

The UniSA study tested the antibacterial efficacy of silver-loaded microneedles against bacteria associated with common skin infections – Golden staph, staphylococcus epidermis, escherichia coli and pseudomonas aeruginosa – and found that the silver-loaded microneedle patches created a 24-hour bacteria-free zone around the patch administration site, a feature unique to the new technology.

The silver-loaded microneedles comprise an array of 15 x 15 needles each 700 micron in length, which pierce only the top layer of the skin without reaching the underlying nerves, making them 100 per cent painless.

The microneedles are made from a safe, biocompatible and highly water-soluble polymer that completely dissolve within one minute of application, leaving behind no sharp waste.


New Quantum Sensor Improves Cancer Treatment

A new quantum sensor developed by researchers at the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) in Canada, has proven it can outperform existing technologies and promises significant advancements in long-range 3D imaging and monitoring the success of cancer treatments.

The sensors are the first of their kind and are based on semiconductor nanowires that can detect single particles of light with high timing resolution, speed and efficiency over an unparalled wavelength range, from ultraviolet to near-infrared.

The technology also has the ability to significantly improve quantum communication and remote sensing capabilities.

Interaction of single incident photon pulses and a tapered semiconductor nanowire array photodetector

A sensor needs to be very efficient at detecting light. In applications like quantum radar, surveillance, and nighttime operation, very few particles of light return to the device,” said principal investigator Michael Reimer, an IQC faculty member and assistant professor in the Faculty of Engineering’s electrical and computer engineering department. “In these cases, you want to be able to detect every single photon coming in.

The next generation quantum sensor designed in Reimer’s lab is so fast and efficient that it can absorb and detect a single particle of light, called a photon, and refresh for the next one within nanoseconds. The researchers created an array of tapered nanowires that turn incoming photons into electric current that can be amplified and detected.

Remote sensing, high-speed imaging from space, acquiring long range high resolution 3D images, quantum communication, and singlet oxygen detection for dose monitoring in cancer treatment are all applications that could benefit from the kind of robust single photon detection that this new quantum sensor provides.

The semiconducting nanowire array achieves its high speed, timing resolution and efficiency thanks to the quality of its materials, the number of nanowires, doping profile and the optimization of the nanowire shape and arrangement. The sensor detects a broad spectrum of light with high efficiency and high timing resolution, all while operating at room temperature. Reimer emphasizes that the spectrum absorption can be broadened even further with different materials.

This device uses Indium Phosphide (InP) nanowires. Changing the material to Indium Gallium Arsenide (InGaAs), for example, can extend the bandwidth even further towards telecommunications wavelengths while maintaining performance,” Reimer said. “It’s state of the art now, with the potential for further enhancements.”

Once the prototype is packaged with the right electronics and portable cooling, the sensor is ready for testing beyond the lab.  “A broad range of industries and research fields will benefit from a quantum sensor with these capabilities,” said Reimer.


The Vatican’s Swiss Guards Are Now Using 3D Printed Helmets

For hundreds of years, the Swiss Guard have worn a distinctive, brightly-colored dress uniform while protecting the Pope and Vatican City, with only a couple of minor changes over the years. This year, they’re making a big change: the traditional, metal helmet — called a morion — is being replaced with ones that are 3D printed.

The uniforms and equipment of the Swiss Guard are imbued with tradition. The modern uniform was introduced in 1914, inspired by Renaissance-era artwork featuring the soldiers. Over the years, the Vatican has retained the traditional elements of the uniform, employing blacksmiths to provide replacement parts for their armor. Last year, the Swiss Guard announced that it ould replace the iconic helmet with one made out of PA-12, which were lighter and cheaper than their metal predecessors. This isn’t a trivial thing — as the soldiers spend a lot of time outdoors in the sun, the helmets would become uncomfortably hot, to the point where they would get burned.
The first batch of 98 of the new helmets (120 were ordered in all) were delivered to the Vatican on January 22nd, on the 513th anniversary of the founding of the Guard. Those new helmets were designed using scans of helmets from the 16th century, and are printed in just 14 hours using an HP 3D printer, as opposed to the older metal ones, which took nearly 130 hours to manufacture. The new morions also considerably lighter (weighting in at 570 grams; the ones they are replacing weighed 2 kilograms), are UV resistant, and incorporate ventilation slots to keep the soldiers’ heads cooler. There’s also no tradeoff on security for the soldiers, according to Swiss Guard spokesman Sergeant Urs Breitenmoser, because they’re used for ceremonial purposes such as papal masses and state visits.


New Perovskite Solar Cells Increase Efficiency By 17%

Researchers have layered different mineral forms of titanium oxide on top of one another to improve perovskite-type solar cell efficiency by one-sixth. The layered titanium oxide layer was better able to transport electrons from the center of the cell to its electrodes. This novel approach could be used to fabricate even more efficient perovskite-type solar cells in future. While most solar cells are made of silicon, such cells are difficult to manufacture, requiring vacuum chambers and temperatures above 1000 °C. Research efforts have therefore recently focused on a new type of solar cell, based on metal halide perovskites. Perovskite solutions can be inexpensively printed to create more efficient, inexpensive solar cells.

In solar cells perovskites can turn light into electricity—but they have to be sandwiched between a negative and positive electrode. One of these electrodes has to be transparent, however, to allow the sun’s light to reach the perovskites. Not only that, any other materials used to help charges flow from the perovskites to the electrode must also be transparent. Researchers have previously found that thin layers of titanium oxide are both transparent and able to transport electrons to the electrode.

Now, a Japan-based research team centered at Kanazawa University has carried out a more detailed study into perovskite solar cells using electron transport layers made of anatase and brookite, which are different mineral forms of titanium oxide. They compared the impact of using either pure anatase or brookite or combination layers (anatase on top of brookite or brookite on top of anatase). The anatase layers were fabricated by spraying solutions onto glass coated with a transparent electrode that was heated to 450 °C. Meanwhile, the researchers used water-soluble brookite nanoparticles to create the brookite layers, as water-soluble inks are more environmentally friendly than conventional inks. These nanoparticles have been yielded poor results in the past; however, the team predicted that combination layers would solve the issues previously encountered when using the nanoparticles.

By layering brookite on top of anatase we were able to improve solar cell efficiency by up to 16.82%,” study coauthor Koji Tomita says.

These results open up a new way to optimize perovskite solar cells, namely via the controlled stacking and manipulation of the different mineral forms of titanium oxide.

The team’s study was recently published in the ACS journal Nano Letters.


How To Hide Hot Objects From Infrared Detection

Hiding an object from heat-sensing cameras could be useful for military and technology applications as well as for research. Efforts to develop such a method have been underway for decades with varying degrees of success. Now, researchers report in ACS Nano that they have fabricated an inexpensive, easy-to-produce film that makes objects completely invisible to infrared detectors.

Several prior systems have been developed to mask the difference in temperature between an object and its surroundings. But each of these alternatives has weaknesses, such as difficulty in making the devices, the need for a power supply, the use of rigid materials or the addition of thick and heavy thermal blankets that can lead to heat buildup. Xuetong Zhang and colleagues wanted to find a better way.

A new, flexible infrared stealth cloak is made of a porous film of Kevlar nanofibers impregnated with polyethylene glycol.

The researchers fabricated an aerogel film made of DuPont™ Kevlar® fibers. By itself, the aerogel turned out to be a good thermal insulator, but the researchers enhanced its capabilities by coating its fibers with polyethylene glycol (PEG) and a protective waterproof layer. PEG stores heat when it melts and releases heat when it solidifies. In simulated sunlight, the composite film covering an object soaked up heat from the sun while only slowly increasing in temperature, just like the surroundings, making the object invisible to a thermal camera.

When the light was turned off to simulate night, the coating gradually surrendered its stored heat energy to match the surroundings. Without the coating, the object heated up or cooled off much faster than its environment, making it visible. In a second type of application, a combined structure consisting of aerogel films and the PEG composite film could hide hot targets from a thermal camera. The researchers say their film performs comparably to other stealth films but is simpler and cheaper to make.


Driven by a Desire to Build Smarter Robots

Founded in 2015, CloudMinds’ unique Cloud Robot Service Platform consists of Human Augmented Robotics Intelligence with Extreme Reality (HARIX), Secure virtual backbone network (VBN over 4G/5G), and Robot Control Unit (RCU). HARIX is a highly scalablecloud brain” that can operate millions of cloud robots of different types and service roles. HARIX features a highly efficient multi-media switching engine, a MMO gaming engine, and a powerful AI Cloud that seamlessly integrates best-of-breed AI technologies developed by CloudMinds and others, such as face and object recognition, voice recognition and NLP, navigation, and motion control (vision controlled robotic grasping and move) as well as third party AI services. With a broad ecosystem of partners,


CloudMindscloud robotic services are empowering customer engagements in retail, hospitality, real estate, smart city and a wide range of vertical applications.

How to make robots marter? CoudMinds is connecting robots and devices over secure Virtual Backbone Networks (VBN) to Cloud AI. The Human Augmented Robotics Intelligence with Extreme Reality (HARIX) platform is an ever evolving “cloud brain”. It is capable of operating millions of cloud robots performing different tasks. It also empowers robots and devices with Cloud AI capabilities such as Natural Language Processing (NLP), Computer Vision (CV), navigation, and vision-controlled manipulation.

For sure in the vision of CloudMinds initiators, by 2025 helpful humanoid robots will be affordable for the average household.


Have China’s CRISPR Twins Enhanced Brains?

New research suggests that a controversial gene-editing experiment to make children resistant to HIV may also have enhanced their ability to learn and form memories. The twins, called Lulu and Nana, reportedly had their genes modified before birth by a Chinese scientific team using the new editing tool CRISPR. The goal was to make the girls immune to infection by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Now, new research shows that the same alteration introduced into the girls’ DNA, deletion of a gene called CCR5, not only makes mice smarter but also improves human brain recovery after stroke, and could be linked to greater success in school.

The answer is likely yes, it did affect their brains,” says Alcino J. Silva, a neurobiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, whose lab uncovered a major new role for the CCR5 gene in memory and the brain’s ability to form new connections.

“The simplest interpretation is that those mutations will probably have an impact on cognitive function in the twins,” says Silva. He says the exact effect on the girls’ cognition is impossible to predict, and “that is why it should not be done.”

The Chinese team, led by He Jiankui of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, claimed it used CRISPR to delete CCR5 from human embryos, some of which were later used to create pregnanciesHIV requires the CCR5 gene to enter human blood cells.

The experiment has been widely condemned as irresponsible, and He is under investigation in China. News of the first gene-edited babies also inflamed speculation about whether CRISPR technology could one day be used to create super-intelligent humans, perhaps as part of a biotechnology race between the US and China.

There is no evidence that He actually set out to modify the twins’ intelligence. MIT Technology Review contacted scientists studying the effects of CCR5 on cognition, and they say the Chinese scientist never reached out to them, as he did to others from whom he hoped to get scientific advice or support.
As far as I know, we never heard from him,” says Miou Zhou, a professor at the Western University of Health Sciences in California.

Although He never consulted the brain researchers, the Chinese scientist was certainly aware of the link between CCR5 and cognition.  It was first shown in 2016 by Zhou and Silva, who found that removing the gene from mice significantly improved their memory. The team had looked at more than 140 different genetic alterations to find which made mice smarter.


Sharpen Molecular Scissors And Expand The Gene Editing Toolbox

Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) scientists have figured out a better way to deliver a DNA editing tool to shorten the presence of the editor proteins in the cells in what they describe as a “hit and run” approach.

CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) technology is used to alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. CRISPR/Cas9 is an enzyme that is used like a pair of scissors to cut two strands of DNA at a specific location to add, remove or repair bits of DNA. But CRISPR/Cas9 is not 100 percent accurate and could potentially cut unexpected locations, causing unwanted results.

One of the major challenges of CRISPR/Cas9 mRNA technologies is the possibility of off-targets which may cause tumors or mutations,” said Baisong Lu, Ph.D, assistant professor of regenerative medicine at WFIRM and one of the lead authors of the paper. Although other types of lentivirus-like bionanoparticles (LVLPs) have been described for delivering proteins or mRNAs, Lu said, “the LVLP we developed has unique features which will make it a useful tool in the expanding genome editing toolbox.

To address the inaccuracy issue, WFIRM researchers asked the question: Is there a way to efficiently deliver Cas9 activity but achieve transient expression of genome editing proteins? They tested various strategies and then took the best properties of two widely used delivery vehicles – lentivirus vector and nanoparticles – and combined them, creating a system that efficiently packages Cas9 mRNA into LVLPs, enabling transient expression and highly efficient editing.

Lentiviral vector is a widely used gene delivery vehicle in research labs and is already widely used for delivering the CRISPR/Cas9 mRNA technology for efficient genome editing. Nanoparticles are also being used but they are not as efficient in delivery of CRISPR/Cas9.

By combining the transient expression feature of nanoparticle-delivery strategies while retaining the transduction efficiency of lentiviral vectors, we have created a system that may be used for packaging various editor protein mRNA for genome editing in a ‘hit and run’ manner,” said Anthony Atala, M.D., director of WFIRM and co-lead author of the paper. “This system will not only improve safety but also avoid possible immune response to the editor proteins, which could improve in vivo gene editing efficiency which will be useful in research and clinical applications.

The WFIRM team published its findings in a paper published recently in the journal  Nucleic Acids Research.



How To Extend The Charge-to-charge Life of Phones And Electric Cars By 40 %

The need to store energy for portable devices, vehicles and housing is ever increasing.The transformation from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources need to be hastened to decrease greenhouse gases and limit global warming. The utilization of wind and solar power requires effective storage system to ensure continuous energy supply as a part of smart grid. Li-ion batteries are considered to be the best route for many advanced storage applications related to the clean electricity due to their high energy density.

The latest lithium-ion batteries on the market are likely to extend the charge-to-charge life of phones and electric cars by as much as 40 percent. This leap forward, which comes after more than a decade of incremental improvements, is happening because developers replaced the battery’s graphite anode with one made from silicon. Research from Drexel University and Trinity College in Ireland now suggests that an even greater improvement could be in line if the silicon is fortified with a special type of material called MXene.

Regarding the present Li-ion batteries, one of the limiting factors in their performance is the anode material that most commonly is graphite. Silicon is a promising material for Li-ion battery anodes: By using silicon instead of graphite, the energy density of a battery cell ccould be increased by 30 %. To achieve this, several obstacles have to be overcome: First, silicon experiences a volume expansion of 300 % when lithiated. During discharging, the particles tend to fracture and lose contact. Secondly, the volume expansion prevents the formation of a stable electrode-electrolyte interface resulting in a continuous decomposition of the electrolyte. These two reasons are main causes for the limited use of silicon in commercial batteries.

The image shows PSi microparticles connected to each other with CNTs to improve the conductivity of the material

Both of the above mentioned problems with silicon material can be avoided by designing optimal porous structures of mesoporous silicon (PSi). Porosity of PSi needs to be high enough for the material to be able to withstand the volume expansion but also low enough so that the volumetric capacity/energy density is still better than for graphite anodes.


Battery-free Pacemakers Powered By A Patient’s Heartbeat

A new device powered by the heart could finally solve the pacemaker problem. Some 1.5 million Americans have pacemakers implanted to keep their hearts beating steadily. The devices are life-saving, but they don’t last forever. Currently, most pacemaker batteries have to be replaced every five to 12 years, and doing so means invasive surgery each time. Researchers at the National Key Laboratory for Science and Technology in Shanghai, China have developed a tiny device that piggybacks off the heart itself to generate energy – meaning a pacemaker battery would never have to be replaced.

A healthy heart can keep time for itself, by way of an internal pacemaker called the sinus node in the upper right chamber. It fires off an electrical charge some 60 to 100 times a minute, and that electrical energy sets off a series of contractions of heart muscle which in turn pumps blood throughout the body. But as the heart ages or once it becomes diseased, the sinus node takes a hit, too, and may fail to keep the heart beating in time or at all. Fortunately, since the late 1950s, we’ve been able to substitute a small, implantable, battery-powered device to send these electrical signals once the heart can’t any more. Even 60 years later, however, we haven’t figured out what to do about the device’s power supply, however.

Surgery to place the pacemaker and wires that feed its electrical pulses to the heart is complex, requiring doctors to open the chest cavity. The pacemaker itself is tucked away in a ‘pocket’ much closer to the skin surface. Once the battery runs out, usually only a local anesthetic is required to remove the old device and put a new, fully charged one.  Still, the procedure is an unpleasant hassle that comes with a risk of infection, and it’s expensive to have done. Depending on the pacemaker, the device itself may cost anywhere from $19,000 to $96,000, according to Costhelper – and that doesn’t include the expenses for the operation.

But the new Chinese-developed device shows promise to end the procedure.  The new pacemaker accessory can actually harness the heart’s beats to power a pacemaker. The key to innovation is its flexible plastic frame, which allows the device to capture more energy from the heart than previous hard cases have done. At the device’s center are layers of piezoelectric material, which generates power whenever it is bent. Many materials acquire an electrical charge when force is applied to them, including natural ones in our bodies. Crystals, DNA and even bone are capable of capturing electrical energy. The trick is to apply enough force to a piezoelectric material, then supercharge it, because, on their own, these materials don’t work up all that much energy.

Scientists have long been looking to piezoelectricity as an elegant solution to recapturing otherwise wasted energy, and some have even applied it to the pacemaker before. But, previously, other researchers have not been able to create a device that bends enough to generate sufficient power. Now, the Chinese scientists have shown their device can fuel a pacemaker and keep a pig’s heart beating. The devices frame allows it to flex significantly with as little movement as is created by a heartbeat. While the pacemaker itself is implanted in its usual place, near the collar bone and just under the skin, the new power device is tucked underneath the heart, where the organ’s contractions bend it rhythmically.  In tests in pigs, the new pacemaker generated just as much power as a pacemaker, using a completely renewable energy source.


2-D nanoparticles boost Cartilage Regeneration

Researchers have developed a new way to deliver treatment for cartilage regeneration. The nanoclay-based platform for sustained and prolonged delivery of protein therapeutics could improve the treatment of osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease that affects nearly 27 million Americans, according to Akhilesh K. Gaharwar, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Texas University  A&MOsteoarthritis is caused by breakdown of cartilage that can lead to damage of the underlying bone. As America’s population ages, osteoarthritis incidences are likely to increase. One of the greatest challenges with treating osteoarthritis and subsequent joint damage is repairing the damaged tissue, especially as cartilage tissue is difficult to regenerate.

One method for repair or regeneration of damaged cartilage tissue is to deliver therapeutic growth factors, a special class of proteins that can aid in tissue repair and regeneration. However, current versions of growth factors break down quickly and require a high dose to achieve a therapeutic potential. Recent clinical studies have demonstrated significant adverse effects to this kind of treatment, including uncontrolled tissue formation and inflammation.

In the study, published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, Gaharwar’s lab designed two-dimensional mineral nanoparticles to deliver growth factors for a prolonged duration to overcome this drawback. These nanoparticles provide a high surface area and dual charged characteristics that allow for easy electrostatic attachment of growth factors.

These nanoparticles could prolong delivery of growth factors to human mesenchymal stem cells, which are commonly utilized in cartilage regeneration,” Gaharwar said. “The sustained delivery of growth factors resulted in enhanced stem cell differentiation towards cartilage lineage and can be used for treatment of osteoarthritis.”


This Person Does Not exist

With the help of artificial intelligence, you can manipulate video of public figures to say whatever you like — or now, create images of people’s faces that don’t even exist. You can see this in action on a website called It uses an algorithm to spit out a single image of a person’s face, and for the most part, they look frighteningly realHit refresh in your browser, and the algorithm will generate a new face. Again, these people do not exist.

The website is the creation of software engineer Phillip Wang, and uses a new AI algorithm called StyleGAN, which was developed by researchers at NvidiaGAN, or Generative Adversarial Networks, is a concept within machine learning which aims to generate images that are indistinguishable from real ones. You can train GANs to remember human faces, as well bedrooms, cars, and cats, and of course, generate images of them.

Wang explained that he created the site to create awareness for the algorithm, and chose facesbecause our brains are sensitive to that kind of image.”  He added that it costs $150 a month to hire out the server, as he needs a good amount of graphical power to run the website.


It also started off as a personal agenda mainly because none of my friends seem to believe this AI phenomenon, and I wanted to convince them,” Wang said. “This was the most shocking presentation I could send them. I then posted it on Facebook and it went viral from there.

I think eventually, given enough data, a big enough neural [network] can be teased into dreaming up many different kinds of scenarios,” Wang added.


3D-Printed On-Demand Drugs

A pharmaceutical scientist at the University of Sussex has published a guide to 3D and 4D printing technology in the biomedical and pharmaceutical arenas. Dr Mohammed Maniruzzaman, a lecturer in Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery, edited 3D and 4D Printing in Biomedical Applications: Process Engineering and Additive Manufacturing’. He also authored sections of the book, alongside an international panel of academic scholars and industry experts. The book, written for pharmaceutical chemists, medicinal chemists, biotechnologists and pharma engineers, covers the key aspects of the printing of medical and pharmaceutical products and the challenges and advances associated with their development. It explores the process optimization, innovation process, engineering and technology behind printed medicine and provides information on biomedical developments such as shape memory polymers, 4D bio-fabrications and bone printing.


There are numerous potential applications of this emerging technology. In the future we predict doctors would be able to send a 3D prescription to a Pharmacy, via e-mail or a shared server, and the Pharmacists would then be able to print the required dosage via a 3D printer placed right at the dispensing counter- at the point of need, eliminating the need for paper-based prescriptions. Similarly, we are not far off from when patients would be able to print their own medication on demand by using their small printing unit right at the kitchen or bedside”, explains Dr Maniruzzaman.

Another example can be that a 3D printer or bio-printer placed right by the operation bed in the operation theatre can print the medical implants required for that patient lying on the bed just right at the point of care. The dimensions and geometry of the implants can be tailored specifically for that patient saving both time and cost for manufacturing. Above all, this would enhance the patient compliance significantly,” he adds.

3D printing has appeared as one of the most promising additive manufacturing techniques across many industries, now including the medical and pharmaceutical arenas. 4D printing is an emerging technology that, simply put, refers to a printed object that transforms over time. It is envisaged this technology will revolutionize biomedical developments.


Ai-Da The Artist Robot

A British arts engineering company says it has created the world’s first AI robot capable of drawing people who pose for it. The humanoid called Ai-Da can sketch subjects using a microchip in her eye and a pencil in her robotic hand – coordinated by AI processes and algorithmsAi-Da‘s ability as a life-like robot to draw and paint ultra-realistic portraits from sight has never been achieved before, according to the designers in Cornwall. It is the brainchild of art impresario and galleries Aidan Meller.

Named after Ada Lovelace , the first female computer programmer in the world, Ai-Da the robot has been designed and built by Cornish robotics company Engineered Arts who make robots for communication and entertainment.

In April 2018, Engineered Arts created an ultra-realistic robot to promote the Westworld TV show.


Pioneering a new AI art movement, we are excited to present Ai-Da, the first professional humanoid artist, who creates her own art, as well as being a performance artist. “As an AI robot, her artwork uses AI processes and algorithms. “The work engages us to think about AI and technological uses and abuses in the world today.” explains Aidan Meller.

Professors and post-Phd students at Oxford University and Goldsmiths are providing Ai-Da with the programming and creative design for her art work. While students at Leeds University are custom designing and programming a bionic arm to create her art work.

Ai-Da has a “RoboThespian” body , featuring an expressive range of movements and she has the ability to talk and respond to questions. The robot also has a “Mesmer” head, featuring realistic silicone skin, 3D printed teeth and gums, integrated eye cameras, as well as hair.


New Revolutionary All-Electric Pickup Truck Accelerates As A Lamborghini

Following the unveiling of the Rivian R1T all-electric pickup truck, we took a closer look at what is becoming one of the most anticipated EVs scheduled to come out in the next two years.As we already reported, the R1T’s specs are unbelievable.


It’s equipped with 4 electric motors, each a 147 kW power capacity at the wheel, while the total power output can be configured to different levels from 300 kW to 562 kW (input to gearbox). The acceleration from 0 t0 60 MpH takes 3 seconds!

The different power levels match different choices of battery packs, which are another impressive feature since they have the highest capacity of any other passenger electric vehicle out there: 105 kWh, 135 kWh, and 180 kWhRivian says that it will translate to “230+ miles, 300+ miles, and 400+ miles” of range on a full charge. They’re talking about a charge rate of up to 160 kW at fast-charging stations and an 11-kW onboard charger for level 2 charging.

The entire powertrain is fitted on a slick modular skateboard platform for the different battery capacity: If this thing can really deliver the specs that Rivian is promising, the vehicle is likely to be a success, but the powertrain is only one part of it. The Rivian R1T is a utility vehicle and it has some great utility features – most of them unique in an electric vehicle. First of all, the truck is a 5-seater and it has a ton of enclosed storage space. The frunk is absolutely huge and Rivian also designed another storage space behind the back seat called a “gear tunnel”:

You can actually sit or stand on the door of the gear tunnel when it’s open and it gives you great access to the roof, which can be fitted with different roof racks. It still leaves plenty of room for the cabin and it doesn’t seem to affect the bed too much — though the size of the bed appears to be the most criticized feature so far.

Amazon and GM are in talks to invest massively in Rivian.


The Ionocraft, Insect-sized Drone That Flies Without Any Moving Parts

Developed by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, it’s not only described as the smallest flying robot ever made, but one which flies with zero moving parts: meaning no rotors, wings, or similar appendages. Instead, the insect-scale robot relies on atmospheric ion thrusters which allow it to move completely silently.


To understand how it works, imagine two asymmetric — [such as] a wire and a plate — electrodes,” said Daniel Drew, currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Mechanical Engineering department at Stanford University. “When a voltage is applied between the two, the electric field will be stronger in the vicinity of the wire as a function of its geometry. If this field is strong enough, an ambient electron can be pulled in with enough kinetic energy to initiate avalanche breakdown through impact ionization. There’s now a stable plasma, glowing purple in the dark, around the top wire. Generated ions will be ejected from this plasma, drifting in the electric field towards the bottom electrode. Along the way, they collide with neutral air molecules and impart momentum, producing a net thrust.”


Optical Circuits Up To 100 Times Faster Than Electronic Circuits

Optical circuits are set to revolutionize the performance of many devices. Not only are they 10 to 100 times faster than electronic circuits, but they also consume a lot less power. Within these circuits, light waves are controlled by extremely thin surfaces called metasurfaces that concentrate the waves and guide them as needed. The metasurfaces contain regularly spaced nanoparticles that can modulate electromagnetic waves over sub-micrometer wavelength scales.

Metasurfaces could enable engineers to make flexible and ultra-thin optics for a host of applications, ranging from flexible tablet computers to solar panels with enhanced light-absorption characteristics. They could also be used to create flexible sensors for direct placement on a patient’s skin, for example, in order to measure things like pulse and blood pressure or to detect specific chemical compounds.

The catch is that creating metasurfaces using the conventional method, lithography, is a fastidious process that takes several hours and must be done in a cleanroom. But EPFL engineers from the Laboratory of Photonic Materials and Fiber Devices (FIMAP) in Switzerland have now developed a simple method for making them in just a few minutes at low temperatures—or sometimes even at room temperature—with no need for a cleanroom. The EPFL‘s School of Engineering method produces dielectric glass metasurfaces that can be either rigid or flexible. The results of their research appear in Nature Nanotechnology.

The new method employs a natural process already used in : dewetting. This occurs when a thin film of material is deposited on a substrate and then heated. The heat causes the film to retract and break apart into tiny nanoparticles.

Dewetting is seen as a problem in manufacturing—but we decided to use it to our advantage,” says Fabien Sorin, the study’s lead author and the head of FIMAP.

With their method, the engineers were able to create dielectric glass metasurfaces, rather than metallic metasurfaces, for the first time. The advantage of dielectric metasurfaces is that they absorb very little light and have a high refractive index, making it possible to modulate the light that propagates through them.


Micromotors Deliver Oral Vaccines

Researchers are working on new generations of oral vaccines for infectious diseases. But to be effective, oral vaccines must survive digestion and reach immune cells within the intestinal wall. As a step in this direction, UC San Diego nanoengineering researchers have developed oral vaccines powered by micromotors that target the mucus layer of the intestine.

The work appears in the ACS journal Nano Letters. It’s a collaboration between the labs of nanoengineering professors Joseph Wang and Liangfang Zhang at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.


The lack of needles is one reason oral vaccines are attractive. Another reason: oral vaccines can generate a broad immune response by stimulating immune cells within the mucus layer of the intestine to produce a special class of antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA). The NanoLetters paper documents the team’s efforts to use magnesium particles as tiny motors to deliver an oral vaccine against the bacterial pathogen Staphylococcus aureus. When coated over most of their surfaces with titanium dioxide, magnesium microparticles use water as fuel to generate hydrogen bubbles that power their propulsion.

To develop the oral vaccine, the researchers coated magnesium micromotors with red blood cell membranes that displayed the Staphylococcal α-toxin, along with a layer of chitosan to help them stick to the intestinal mucus. Then, they added an enteric coating that protects drugs from the acidic conditions of the stomach.

The micromotors safely passed through the stomach to the intestine, at which point the enteric coating dissolved, activating the motors. Imaging of mice that had been given the vaccine showed that the micromotors accumulated in the intestinal wall much better than non-motorized particles. The micromotors also stimulated the production of about ten times more IgA antibodies against the Staphylococcal α-toxin than the static particles.


Ruthenium-based Catalyst Outperforms Platinum To Produce Hydrogen

A novel ruthenium-based catalyst developed at UC Santa Cruz has shown markedly better performance than commercial platinum catalysts in alkaline water electrolysis for hydrogen production. The catalyst is a nanostructured composite material composed of carbon nanowires with ruthenium atoms bonded to nitrogen and carbon to form active sites within the carbon matrix.

The electrochemical splitting of water to produce hydrogen is a crucial step in the development of hydrogen as a clean, environmentally friendly fuel (for car or heating system). Much of the effort to reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of this process has focused on finding alternatives to expensive platinum-based catalysts. At UC Santa Cruz, researchers led by Shaowei Chen, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, have been investigating catalysts made by incorporating ruthenium and nitrogen into carbon-based nanocomposite materials. Their new findings, published February 7 in Nature Communications, not only demonstrate the impressive performance of their ruthenium-based catalyst but also provide insights into the mechanisms involved, which may lead to further improvements.

Electron microscopy of carbon nanowires co-doped with ruthenium and nitrogen shows ruthenium nanoparticles decorating the surface of the nanowires. Elemental mapping analysis shows individual ruthenium atoms within the carbon matrix (red arrows, below).









This is a clear demonstration that ruthenium can have remarkable activity in catalyzing the production of hydrogen from water,” Chen said. “We also characterized the material on the atomic scale, which helped us understand the mechanisms, and we can use these results for the rational design and engineering of ruthenium-based catalysts.

Electron microscopy and elemental mapping analysis of the material showed ruthenium nanoparticles as well as individual ruthenium atoms within the carbon matrix. Surprisingly, the researchers found that the main sites of catalytic activity were single ruthenium atoms rather than ruthenium nanoparticles.


Facial Recognition And AI Identify 90% Of Rare Genetic Disorders

A facial recognition scan could become part of a standard medical checkup in the not-too-distant future. Researchers have shown how algorithms can help identify facial characteristics linked to genetic disorders, potentially speeding up clinical diagnoses.

In a study published this month in the journal Nature Medicine, US company FDNA published new tests of their software, DeepGestalt. Just like regular facial recognition software, the company trained their algorithms by analyzing a dataset of faces. FDNA collected more than 17,000 images covering 200 different syndromes using a smartphone app it developed named Face2Gene.

Rare genetic disorders are collectively common, affecting 8 percent of the population

In two first tests, DeepGestalt was used to look for specific disorders: Cornelia de Lange syndrome and Angelman syndrome. Both of these are complex conditions that affect intellectual development and mobility. They also have distinct facial traits, like arched eyebrows that meet in the middle for Cornelia de Lange syndrome, and unusually fair skin and hair for Angelman syndrome.

When tasked with distinguishing between pictures of patients with one syndrome or another, random syndrome, DeepGestalt was more than 90 percent accurate, beating expert clinicians, who were around 70 percent accurate on similar tests. When tested on 502 images showing individuals with 92 different syndromes, DeepGestalt identified the target condition in its guess of 10 possible diagnoses more than 90 percent of the time.


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Self-Healing Coating Protects Metals From Corrosion

It’s hard to believe that a tiny crack could take down a gigantic metal structure. But sometimes bridges collapse, pipelines rupture and fuselages detach from airplanes due to hard-to-detect corrosion in tiny cracks, scratches and dents. A Northwestern University team has developed a new coating strategy for metal that self-heals within seconds when scratched, scraped or cracked. The novel material could prevent these tiny defects from turning into localized corrosion, which can cause major structures to fail.


Localized corrosion is extremely dangerous,” said Jiaxing Huang, who led the research. “It is hard to prevent, hard to predict and hard to detect, but it can lead to catastrophic failure.” Huang is a professor of materials science and engineering in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering.

When damaged by scratches and cracks, Huang’s patent-pending system readily flows and reconnects to rapidly heal right before the eyes. The researchers demonstrated that the material can heal repeatedly — even after scratching the exact same spot nearly 200 times in a row.While a few self-healing coatings already exist, those systems typically work for nanometer- to micron-sized damages. To develop a coating that can heal larger scratches in the millimeter-scale, Huang and his team looked to fluid. “When a boat cuts through water, the water goes right back together,” Huang said. “The ‘cut’ quickly heals because water flows readily. We were inspired to realize that fluids, such as oils, are the ultimate self-healing system.” But common oils flows too readily, Huang noted. So he and his team needed to develop a system with contradicting properties: fluidic enough to flow automatically but not so fluidic that it drips off the metal’s surface.

The team met the challenge by creating a network of lightweight particles — in this case graphene capsules — to thicken the oil. The network fixes the oil coating, keeping it from dripping. But when the network is damaged by a crack or scratch, it releases the oil to flow readily and reconnect. Huang said the material can be made with any hollow, lightweight particlenot just graphene. “The particles essentially immobilize the oil film,” Huang said. “So it stays in place.”

The study was published  in Research, the first Science Partner Journal recently launched by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in collaboration with the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST).


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A Super Protein Brings The Equivalence Of Meat For Vegeterian Diet

Protein is what’s for dinner, but only if the world’s biggest food companies can keep up. The rise in global appetites for everything from meat to beans and peas is creating what experts call a “perfect storm” for environmental concern, as farmers must increasingly crank out more food with less land and water.

A new startup has one possible solution. called Sustainable Bioproducts, the company sources protein from ingredients found deep inside an unlikely source: the searing volcanic hot springs in Yellowstone National Park. To make the product, the company brews it up using a process similar to that used to make beer.

What comes out, explained CEO Thomas Jonas , is a neutral-tasting, naturally high-protein substance that can either be mixed into yogurt for an alternative to the Greek variety or shaped into patties for the next plant-based burger. Plus, the startup’s product is naturally rich in some of the same key amino acids that the body needs to function. Often found in animal products like eggs, these protein building blocks are especially tough to procure from a vegan or vegetarian diet.

What we have here is a super protein,” Jonas said. “And it comes from one of the most pristine wild places on the planet.”

On Monday, the startup launched publicly with $33 million in funds from Silicon Valley-based venture firm 1955 Capital and the venture arms of two leading global food suppliersgrain company Archer Daniels Midland and multinational food producer Danone. Based in Chicago, the startup is using the funds to build a production plant and cook up several prototype products.

Key to the startup’s operation, Jonas said, is that it will require a fraction of the natural resources needed for making other proteins like meat and nuts. In place of wasteful factory farms or large parcels of land, all they need, according to Jonas, is essentially a series of brewer’s vats. The company’s core technology is the process it uses to ferment a set of unique microorganisms first discovered in Yellowstone by Montana State University scientist Mark Kozubal nearly a decade ago. Now serving as the startup’s chief science officer, Kozubal came across the organisms as part of a research project supported by grants from the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, and NASA. Sustainable Bioproducts also independently received grants from all three organizations.


How To Eradicate Breast Tumors In 11 Days

Despite unbelievable advances in medical science in recent decades, breast cancer kills. Approximately 1 in 8 American women will develop breast cancer cells during the course of their lifetime.

Finding a cure is imperative, and as such, fervent research continues. At the European Breast Cancer Conference in Amsterdam, scientists presented a pair of drugs with an astounding claim: this treatment can eradicate some types of breast cancer in only 11 days, eliminating the need for chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy, whilst an amazing feat of medical-scientific engineering, is known for its uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating side effects. Women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer treatment may lose their hair, suffer extreme fatigue, and even loss of cognitive functionCancers may also recur after long, painful months of chemotherapy treatment.

The new trial, raising hopes across the medical community, is focused upon two drugs: Herceptin and Lapatinib. The drugs, in tandem, target a protein known as HER2, which is instrumental in stimulating the growth of certain cancer cells.

A pair of drugs can dramatically shrink and eliminate some breast cancers in just 11 days, UK doctors have shown.

They both target HER2 – a protein that fuels the growth of some women’s breast cancersHerceptin works on the surface of cancerous cells while lapatinib is able to penetrate inside the cell to disable HER2.

The study, which also took place at NHS hospitals in Manchester, gave the treatment to women with tumours measuring between 1 and 3cm. But Prof Bliss believes the findings could eventually mean some women do not need chemotherapy.

In less than two weeks of treatment, the cancer disappeared entirely in 11% of cases, and in a further 17% they were smaller than 5mm.

Current therapy for HER2 positive breast cancers is surgery, followed by chemotherapy and Herceptin. But Prof Bliss believes the findings could eventually mean some women do not need chemotherapy.


How To ConVert Waste Heat Into Electricity

Thermoelectric materials, capable of transforming heat into electricity, are very promising when converting residual heat into electrical energy, since they allow us to utilize hardly usable or almost lost thermal energy in an efficient way. Researchers at the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC) have created a new thermoelectric material: a paper capable of converting waste heat into electricity. These devices could be used to generate electricity from residual heat to feed sensors in the field of the Internet of Things, Agriculture 4.0 or Industry 4.0.

This device is composed of cellulose, produced in situ in the laboratory by bacteria, with small amounts of a conductor nanomaterial, carbon nanotubes, using a sustainable and environmentally friendly strategy” explains Mariano Campoy-Quiles, researcher at the ICMAB.

“In the near future, they could be used as wearable devices, in medical or sports applications, for example. And if the efficiency of the device was even more optimized, this material could lead to intelligent thermal insulators or to hybrid photovoltaic-thermoelectric power generation systems” predicts Campoy-Quiles. In addition “due to the high flexibility of the cellulose and to the scalability of the process, these devices could be used in applications where the residual heat source has unusual forms or extensive areas, as they could be completely covered with this material” indicates Anna Roig, researcher at the ICMAB.

Since bacterial cellulose can be home made, perhaps we are facing the first step towards a new energy paradigm, where users will be able to make their own electric generators. We are still far away, but this study is a beginning. We have to start somewhere. “Instead of making a material for energy, we cultivate it” explains Mariano Campoy-Quiles, a researcher of this study. “Bacteria, dispersed in an aqueous culture medium containing sugars and carbon nanotubes, produce the nanocellulose fibers that will end up forming the device, in which the carbon nanotubes are embedded” continues Campoy-Quiles.”We obtain a mechanically resistant, flexible and deformable material, thanks to the cellulose fibers, and with a high electrical conductivity, thanks to the carbon nanotubes,” adds Anna Laromaine, researcher at the ICMAB. “The intention is to approach the concept of circular economy, using sustainable materials that are not toxic for the environment, which are used in small amounts, and which can be recycled and reused,“says Roig.

The study has been published in the Energy & Environmental Science journal.



Invisible Plastic For Super Efficient Solar Panels

Antireflection (AR) coatings on plastics have a multitude of practical applications, including glare reduction on eyeglasses, computer monitors and the display on your smart-phone when outdoors. Now, researchers at Penn State have developed an AR coating that improves on existing coatings to the extent that it can make transparent plastics, such as Plexiglas, virtually invisible.

Plastic dome coated with a new antireflection coating (right), and uncoated dome (left)

This discovery came about as we were trying to make higher-efficiency solar panels,” said Chris Giebink, associate professor of electrical engineering, Penn State. “Our approach involved concentrating light onto small, high-efficiency solar cells using plastic lenses, and we needed to minimize their reflection loss.”

They needed an antireflection coating that worked well over the entire solar spectrum and at multiple angles as the sun crossed the sky. They also needed a coating that could stand up to weather over long periods of time outdoors. “We would have liked to find an off-the-shelf solution, but there wasn’t one that met our performance requirements,” he said. “So, we started looking for our own solution.”

That was a tall order. Although it is comparatively easy to make a coating that will eliminate reflection at a particular wavelength or in a particular direction, one that could fit all their criteria did not exist. For instance, eyeglass AR coatings are targeted to the narrow visible portion of the spectrum. But the solar spectrum is about five times as broad as the visible spectrum, so such a coating would not perform well for a concentrating solar cell system.

Reflections occur when light travels from one medium, such as air, into a second medium, in this case plastic. If the difference in their refractive index, which specifies how fast light travels in a particular material, is large — air has a refractive index of 1 and plastic 1.5 — then there will be a lot of reflection. The lowest index for a natural coating material such as magnesium fluoride or Teflon is about 1.3. The refractive index can be graded — slowly varied — between 1.3 and 1.5 by blending different materials, but the gap between 1.3 and 1 remains.

In a paper recently posted online ahead of print in the journal Nano Letters, Giebink and coauthors describe a new process to bridge the gap between Teflon and air. They used a sacrificial molecule to create nanoscale pores in evaporated Teflon, thereby creating a graded index Teflon-air film that fools light into seeing a smooth transition from 1 to 1.5, eliminating essentially all reflections.

The interesting thing about Teflon, which is a polymer, is when you heat it up in a crucible, the large polymer chains cleave into smaller fragments that are small enough to volatize and send up a vapor flux. When these land on a substrate they can repolymerize and form Teflon,” Giebink explained.


We’ve been interacting with a number of companies that are looking for improved antireflection coatings for plastic, and some of the applications have been surprising,” he said. “They range from eliminating glare from the plastic domes that protect security cameras to eliminating stray reflections inside virtual/augmented -reality headsets.”


Metallic Wood

Researchers at the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, and the University of Cambridge have built a sheet of nickel with nanoscale pores that make it as strong as titanium, but four to five times lighter. The empty space of the pores, and the self-assembly process in which they’re made, make the porous metal akin to a natural material, such as wood. And just as the porosity of wood grain serves the biological function of transporting energy, the empty space in the researchers’ “metallic wood” could be infused with other materials. Infusing the scaffolding with anode and cathode materials would enable this metallic wood to serve double duty: a plane wing or prosthetic leg that’s also a battery. The study was led by James Pikul, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at Penn Engineering.

Metallic wood foil on a plastic backing

The reason we call it metallic wood is not just its density, which is about that of wood, but its cellular nature,” Pikul says. “Cellular materials are porous; if you look at wood grain, that’s what you’re seeing—parts that are thick and dense and made to hold the structure, and parts that are porous and made to support biological functions, like transport to and from cells.

The study has been published in Nature Scientific Reports,



Artificial Skin Opens SuperHuman Perception

A new type of sensor could lead to artificial skin that someday helps burn victimsfeel’ and safeguards the rest of us, University of Connecticut (UConn)  researchers suggest in a paper in Advanced Materials.

Our skin’s ability to perceive pressure, heat, cold, and vibration is a critical safety function that most people take for granted. But burn victims, those with prosthetic limbs, and others who have lost skin sensitivity for one reason or another, can’t take it for granted, and often injure themselves unintentionally. Chemists Islam Mosa from UConn, and James Rusling from UConn and UConn Health, along with University of Toronto engineer Abdelsalam Ahmed, wanted to create a sensor that can mimic the sensing properties of skin. Such a sensor would need to be able to detect pressure, temperature, and vibration. But perhaps it could do other things too, the researchers thought.

It would be very cool if it had abilities human skin does not; for example, the ability to detect magnetic fields, sound waves, and abnormal behaviors,” said Mosa.

Mosa and his colleagues created such a sensor with a silicone tube wrapped in a copper wire and filled with a special fluid made of tiny particles of iron oxide just one billionth of a meter long, called nanoparticles. The nanoparticles rub around the inside of the silicone tube and create an electric current. The copper wire surrounding the silicone tube picks up the current as a signal. When this tube is bumped by something experiencing pressure, the nanoparticles move and the electric signal changes. Sound waves also create waves in the nanoparticle fluid, and the electric signal changes in a different way than when the tube is bumped.

The researchers found that magnetic fields alter the signal too, in a way distinct from pressure or sound waves. Even a person moving around while carrying the sensor changes the electrical current, and the team found they could distinguish between the electrical signals caused by walking, running, jumping, and swimming.

Metal skin might sound like a superhero power, but this skin wouldn’t make the wearer Colossus from the X-men. Rather, Mosa and his colleagues hope it could help burn victimsfeelagain, and perhaps act as an early warning for workers exposed to dangerously high magnetic fields. Because the rubber exterior is completely sealed and waterproof, it could also serve as a wearable monitor to alert parents if their child fell into deep water in a pool, for example.



How To Make Fuel From Tree Waste

Might tree roots, twigs and branches one day be used to power cars? That’s what a Swedish researcher is hoping after developing a pulp byproduct that – on a modest scale – does just that.

Chemical engineering scientist Christian Hulteberg, from Lund University, has used the black liquor residue from pulp and paper manufacturing to create a polymer called lignin.

After purification and filtration, that is then turned into a gasoline mixture.


We’re actually using the stuff of the wood that they don’t use when they make paper and pulp… It adds value to low-value components of the tree,” he told Reuters.

In environmental terms, he says that gives it an advantage over other biofuels such as ethanol. “A lot of the controversy with ethanol production has been the use of feedstock that you can actually eat,” he said.


Atom-Thin Processor

An international team of researchers has reported a breakthrough in fabricating atom-thin processors — a discovery that could have far-reaching impacts on nanoscale chip production and in labs across the globe where scientists are exploring 2D materials for ever-smaller and –faster semiconductors.

The team, headed by New York University Tandon School of Engineering Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Elisa Riedo, outlined the research results in the latest issue of Nature Electronics.They demonstrate that lithography using a probe heated above 100 degrees Celsius outperformed standard methods for fabricating metal electrodes on 2D semiconductors such as molybdenum disulfide (MoS₂). Such transitional metals are among the materials that scientists believe may supplant silicon for atomically small chips.

The team’s new fabrication method — called thermal scanning probe lithography (t-SPL) — offers a number of advantages over today’s electron beam lithography (EBL). First, thermal lithography significantly improves the quality of the 2D transistors, offsetting the Schottky barrier, which hampers the flow of electrons at the intersection of metal and the 2D substrate. Also, unlike EBL, the thermal lithography allows chip designers to easily image the 2D semiconductor and then pattern the electrodes where desired. Also, t-SPL fabrication systems promise significant initial savings as well as operational costs: They dramatically reduce power consumption by operating in ambient conditions, eliminating the need to produce high-energy electrons and to generate an ultra-high vacuum. Finally, this thermal fabrication method can be easily scaled up for industrial production by using parallel thermal probes.


Lead-Free Perovskites Boost Generation Of Electric Current

Lead-based perovskites are quite promising in applications of large-scale photovoltaic technology. However, toxicity is one of the crucial issues in these materials.

In the search for Lead-free perovskite, UNIST scientists have taken a major step forward toward a new generation of solar cells. They have developed new perovskite material that works as a charge regenerator with dye‐sensitized solar cells and have higher efficiency and stability.

Scientists used the vacancy‐ordered double perovskite (Cs2SnI6). They primarily examined the charge transfer mechanism of Cs2SnI6 with the aim of clarifying the function of its surface state.

For this reason, a 3‐electrode system was produced to observe charge exchange through the surface state of Cs2SnI6.  “Due to a high volume of electrical charges in organic dyes that show high connectivity with the surface state of Cs2SnI6, more electric current was generated,” said Byung-Man Kim from the Department of Chemistry at UNIST. “Consequently, Cs2SnI6 shows efficient charge transfer with a thermodynamically favorable charge acceptor level, achieving a 79% enhancement in the photocurrent density compared with that of a conventional liquid electrolyte.”


Graphene’s Consequences On Human Health

As the drive to commercialise graphene continues, it is important that all safety aspects are thoroughly researched and understood. The Graphene Flagship project has a dedicated Work Package studying the impact of graphene and related materials on our health, as well as their environmental impact. This enables safety by design to become a core part of innovation.

Researches and companies are currently using a range of materials such as few layered graphene, graphene oxide and heterostructures. The first step to assess the toxicology is to fully characterise these materials. This work overviews the production and characterisation methods, and considers different materials, which biological effects depend on their inherent properties.

One of the key messages is that this family of materials has varying properties, thus displaying varying biological effects. It is important to emphasize the need not only for a systematic analysis of well-characterized graphene-based materials, but also the importance of using standardised in vitro or in vivo assays for the safety assessment,” says Bengt Fadeel, lead author of this paper working at Graphene Flagship partner Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.

This review correlates the physicochemical characteristics of graphene and related materials to the biological effects. A classification based on lateral dimensions, number of layers and carbon-to-oxygen ratio allows us to describe the parameters that can alter graphene’s toxicology. This can orient future development and use of these materials,” explains Alberto Bianco, from Graphene Flagship partner CNRS, France and deputy leader of the Graphene Flagship Work Package on Health and Environment.


Nanoparticle Targets Tumor-infiltrating Immune Cells, Flips Switch Telling Them To Fight

Immunotherapy’s promise in the fight against cancer drew international attention after two scientists won a Nobel Prize this year for unleashing the ability of the immune system to eliminate tumor cells.

But their approach, which keeps cancer cells from shutting off the immune system’s powerful T-cells before they can fight tumors, is just one way to use the body’s natural defenses against deadly disease. A team of Vanderbilt University bioengineers today announced a major breakthrough in another: penetrating tumor-infiltrating immune cells and flipping on a switch that tells them to start fighting. The team designed a nanoscale particle to do that and found early success using it on human melanoma tissue.

Tumors are pretty conniving and have evolved many ways to evade detection from our immune system,” said John T. Wilson, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and biomedical engineering. “Our goal is to rearm the immune system with the tools it needs to destroy cancer cells. “Checkpoint blockade has been a major breakthrough, but despite the huge impact it continues to have, we also know that there are a lot of patients who don’t respond to these therapies. We’ve developed a nanoparticle to find tumors and deliver a specific type of molecule that’s produced naturally by our bodies to fight off cancer.

That molecule is called cGAMP, and it’s the primary way to switch on what’s known as the stimulator of interferon genes (STING) pathway: a natural mechanism the body uses to mount an immune response that can fight viruses or bacteria or clear out malignant cells. Wilson said his team’s nanoparticle delivers cGAMP in a way that jump-starts the immune response inside the tumor, resulting in the generation of T-cells that can destroy the tumor from the inside and also improve responses to checkpoint blockade.

While the Vanderbilt team’s research focused on melanoma, their work also indicates that this could impact treatment of many cancers, Wilson said, including breast, kidney, head and neck, neuroblastoma, colorectal and lung cancer.

The  findings are reported in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.


Nanorobots Deliver Drugs Directly To Diseased Tissue

Scientists at EPFL and ETH Zurich in Switzerland have developed tiny elastic robots that can change shape depending on their surroundings. Modeled after bacteria and fully biocompatible, these robots optimize their movements so as to get to hard-to-reach areas of the human body. They stand to revolutionize targeted drug delivery.

One day we may be able to ingest tiny robots that deliver drugs directly to diseased tissue, thanks to research being carried out at EPFL and ETH Zurich.


The robots are modeled after bacteria and fully biocompatible© 2019 EPFL/ ETHZ

The group of scientists – led by Selman Sakar at EPFL and Bradley Nelson at ETH Zurich – drew inspiration from bacteria to design smart, biocompatible microrobots that are highly flexible. Because these devices are able to swim through fluids and modify their shape when needed, they can pass through narrow blood vessels and intricate systems without compromising on speed or maneuverability. They are made of hydrogel nanocomposites that contain magnetic nanoparticles allowing them to be controlled via an electromagnetic field.

In an article appearing in Science Advances, the scientists describe the method they have developed for “programming the robot’s shape so that it can easily travel through fluids that are dense, viscous or moving at rapid speeds. When we think of robots, we generally think of bulky machines equipped with complex systems of electronics, sensors, batteries and actuators. But on a microscopic scale, robots are entirely different.

Fabricating miniaturized robots presents a host of challenges, which the scientists addressed using an origami-based folding method. Their novel locomotion strategy employs embodied intelligence, which is an alternative to the classical computation paradigm that is performed by embedded electronic systems.Our robots have a special composition and structure that allow them to adapt to the characteristics of the fluid they are moving through. For instance, if they encounter a change in viscosity or osmotic concentration, they modify their shape to maintain their speed and maneuverability without losing control of the direction of motion,” says Sakar.

These deformations can be “programmed” in advance so as to maximize performance without the use of cumbersome sensors or actuators. The robots can be either controlled using an electromagnetic field or left to navigate on their own through cavities by utilizing fluid flow. Either way, they will automatically morph into the most efficient shape.


New Cheap Test Boosts Detection Of Diseases

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have developed a highly innovative new enzyme biomarker test that has the potential to indicate diseases and bacterial contamination saving time, money and possibly lives. The test, developed by scientists at the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s, can detect enzyme markers of disease known as proteases in humans, animals and food products.

Proteases are crucial for microorganism growth and are responsible for the progression of many diseasesLevels of proteases can be highly elevated in the urine of patients with diabetic kidney disease, or at the sites of infected wounds. Similarly, in cows, an elevation of proteases in their milk can reveal diseases such as bovine mastitis, a type of mammary gland infection. In food, proteases produced by bacteria contaminated in meat and dairy products can lead to rancidity, as well as decreased shelf life and quality. Current protease detection methods are costly, time-consuming and are not always effective. Scientists at Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security have developed a nanosensor which has resulted in sensitive, fast and cost effective protease detection in milk and urine.

Not only is the test cheap to produce, but it can be used anywhere and is not reliant on laboratory conditions. Eliminating the need to carry out tests in a laboratory setting is life-changing. As well as being cost-effective, it means faster diagnosis,” says Dr Claire McVey, Queen’s researcher and co-author on the study.

The gold-nanoparticle based nanosensor devised by Queen’s researchers indicates when proteases are present through a visible colour-change reactionGold nanoparticles are well known for their capability in speeding up the oxidization of a chemical called tetramethylbenzidine (TMB), visible through a vivid blue-colour formation.

When we add TMB to the casein-covered gold nanoparticles, we can tell virtually instantly if proteases are present by whether or not the solution turns blue. Normally such testing takes much longer,” explains Dr Cuong Cao, the lead academic on the study.

Using this approach, proteases can be detected within 90 minutes without the need for complicated or expensive laboratory equipment.

The findings have been published in the journal Nano Research,


Electronic Braille: Reimagined

The British company Bristol Braille Technology is developing Canute 360, the world’s first multi-line digital Braille e-reader. Developed with, by, and for the blind community, Canute 360 will make reading digital Braille books affordable, practical and enjoyable.

Canute 360 is a standalone desktop multi-line Braille e-reader. Compatible with all six-dot Braille codes, Canute 360 can condense an entire Braille library into one device.






  • 360 cells: nine lines of forty characters of Braille
  • Supports all six-dot Braille codes (including music, maths and foreign languages) and tactile graphics
  • Dimensions: 36.5 X 18.5 X 8 cm (approx 14 x 7 x 1.5 inches), 2.8KG
  • 2 X USB A; 1 X USB A; Video out; SD Card slot;
  • 3.55mm audio out
  • 3 page navigation buttons
  • 9 line select keys
  • Contextual help button


Potential Revolutionnary Treatment For Alzheimer’s

Leaky capillaries in the brain portend early onset of Alzheimer’s disease as they signal cognitive impairment before hallmark toxic proteins appear, new USC research shows. The findings, which appear in Nature Medicine, could help with earlier diagnosis and suggest new targets for drugs that could slow or prevent the onset of the disease.

The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s is expected to more than double to about 14 million in 40 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Five Alzheimer’s drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to temporarily help with memory and thinking problems, but none treats the underlying cause of the disease or slow its progression. Researchers believe that successful treatment will eventually involve a combination of drugs aimed at multiple targets.

USC’s five-year study, which involved 161 older adults, showed that people with the worst memory problems also had the most leakage in their brain’s blood vessels — regardless of whether abnormal proteins amyloid and tau were present.

This image depicts a blood vessel in the brain that has become leaky, or permeable.

The fact that we’re seeing the blood vessels leaking, independent of tau and independent of amyloid, when people have cognitive impairment on a mild level, suggests it could be a totally separate process or a very early process,” said senior author Berislav Zlokovic, director of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “That was surprising that this blood-brain barrier breakdown is occurring independently.”

In healthy brains, the cells that make up blood vessels fit together so tightly they form a barrier that keeps stray cells, pathogens, metals and other unhealthy substances from reaching brain tissue. Scientists call this the blood-brain barrier. In some aging brains, the seams between cells loosen, and the blood vessels become permeable.

If the blood-brain barrier is not working properly, then there is the potential for damage,” said co-author Arthur Toga, director of the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute at the Keck School of Medicine. “It suggests the vessels aren’t properly providing the nutrients and blood flow that the neurons need. And you have the possibility of toxic proteins getting in.

Participants in the study had their memory and thinking ability assessed through a series of tasks and tests, resulting in measures of cognitive function and a “clinical dementia rating score.” Individuals diagnosed with disorders that might account for cognitive impairment were excluded. The researchers used neuroimaging and cerebral spinal fluid analysis to measure the permeability, or leakiness, of capillaries serving the brain’s hippocampus, and found a strong correlation between impairment and leakage.

“The results were really kind of eye-opening,” said first author Daniel Nation, an assistant professor of psychology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “It didn’t matter whether people had amyloid or tau pathology; they still had cognitive impairment.”


How To Drive A Wheelchair With Facial Expressions

Combustible engines. Wind power. Solar power. Now, apparently, we have face power.

A Brazilian startup called HOO.BOX Robotics is developing a wheelchair that’s completely powered by facial-recognition technology. In other words, your pretty smile actually can move you forward in life.
More seriously, the HOO.BOX team envisions this tech-powered wheelchair will be extremely useful for people suffer from conditions that limit the use of their hands and arms, such as cerebral palsy or results of a stroke. The prototype, called Wheelie, was initially developed by researchers at Brazil’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, State University of Campinas (FEEC / Unicamp).


Wheelie utilizes a laptop and Intel’s RealSense facial-recognition camera to capture and decipher nearly 80 points from person’s face. The software can be programed to recognize facial movements such as a full smile, half smile, wrinkled nose, kissy face, tongue out or puffed-out cheeks and then assign those actions to driving the wheelchair forward, backward, turning left or right, or stopping it.

The trick to making this practical was finding facial cues that were comfortable for, say, stroke patients to perform, while also not so common as to limit the user’s ability to have a conversation while driving.


Hyundai’s New Car Has Legs

We’ve all read the studies—or heard our doctors’ diatribes—telling us to stop sitting all day, stand up, and start walking around. The movement has been going on for years. But for the first time, it appears as if the benefits of walking has trickled down from humans to cars.


At CES Monday, Hyundai introduced Americans to the Elevate, a walking concept vehicle with four robotic, bendable legs and a look made for the movies. (If Transformers director Michael Bay had a “meltdown” over a teleprompter issue at CES in 2014, we wonder what his reaction would have been to these puppies.)

Although Hyundai didn’t present a full-scale prototype, the mock-up design of the Elevate as well as its intended purpose to rapidly respond to natural disasters and humanitarian crises are impressive.

When a tsunami or earthquake hits, current rescue vehicles can only deliver first responders to the edge of the debris field. They have to go the rest of the way by foot. Elevate can drive to the scene and climb right over flood debris or crumbled concrete,” John Suh, Vice President and Head of Hyundai CRADLE, said in a press release.

This technology goes well beyond emergency situations. People living with disabilities worldwide that don’t have access to an ADA ramp could hail an autonomous Hyundai Elevate that could walk up to their front door, level itself, and allow their wheelchair to roll right in,” Suh continued. “The possibilities are limitless.”


Cartilage-like Material Boosts Batteries Durability

Your knees and your smartphone battery have some surprisingly similar needs, a University of Michigan professor has discovered, and that new insight has led to a “structural battery” prototype that incorporates a cartilage-like material to make the batteries highly durable and easy to shape.The idea behind structural batteries is to store energy in structural components—the wing of a drone or the bumper of an electric vehicle, for example. They’ve been a long-term goal for researchers and industry because they could reduce weight and extend range. But structural batteries have so far been heavy, short-lived or unsafe.

In a study published in ACS Nano, the researchers describe how they made a damage-resistant rechargeable zinc battery with a cartilage-like solid electrolyte. They showed that the batteries can replace the top casings of several commercial drones. The prototype cells can run for more than 100 cycles at 90 percent capacity, and withstand hard impacts and even stabbing without losing voltage or starting a fire.


A battery that is also a structural component has to be light, strong, safe and have high capacity. Unfortunately, these requirements are often mutually exclusive,” said Nicholas Kotov, the Joseph B. and Florence V. Cejka Professor of Engineering, who led the research.

To sidestep these trade-offs, the researchers used zinc—a legitimate structural material—and branched nanofibers that resemble the collagen fibers of cartilageAhmet Emrehan Emre, a biomedical engineering PhD candidate, sandwiches a thin sheet of a cartilage-like material between a layer of zinc on top and a layer of manganese oxide underneath to form a battery

Nature does not have zinc batteries, but it had to solve a similar problem,” Kotov said. “Cartilage turned out to be a perfect prototype for an ion-transporting material in batteries. It has amazing mechanics, and it serves us for a very long time compared to how thin it is. The same qualities are needed from solid electrolytes separating cathodes and anodes in batteries.”

In our bodies, cartilage combines mechanical strength and durability with the ability to let water, nutrients and other materials move through it. These qualities are nearly identical to those of a good solid electrolyte, which has to resist damage from dendrites while also letting ions flow from one electrode to the other.


Cheap Nano-Catalysts For Better Fuel Cells

Researchers at Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science & Technology (DGIST) in Korea have developed nano-catalysts that can reduce the overall cost of clean energy fuel cells, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Catalysis B: Environmental.

Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) transform the chemical energy produced during a reaction between hydrogen fuel and oxygen into electrical energy. While PEMFCs are a promising source of clean energy that is self-contained and mobile – much like the alkaline fuel cells used on the US Space Shuttle – they currently rely on expensive materials. Also, the substances used for catalysing these chemical reactions degrade, raising concerns about reusability and viability.

DGIST energy materials scientist Sangaraju Shanmugam and his team have developed active and durable catalysts for PEMFCs that can reduce the overall manufacturing costs. The catalysts were nitrogen-doped carbon nanorods with ceria and cobalt nanoparticles on their surfaces; essentially carbon nanorods containing nitrogen, cobalt and ceria. Ceria (CeO2), a combination of cerium and oxygen, is a cheap and environmentally friendly semiconducting material that has excellent oxygen reduction abilities.

The fibres were made using a technique known as electrospinning, in which a high voltage is applied to a liquid droplet, forming a charged liquid jet that then dries midflight into uniform, nanosized particles. The researchers’ analyses confirmed that the ceria and cobalt particles were uniformly distributed in the carbon nanorods and that the catalysts showed enhanced electricity-producing capacity.

The ceria-supported cobalt on nitrogen-doped carbon nanorod catalyst was found to be more active and durable than cobalt-only nitrogen-doped carbon nanorods and platinum/carbon. They were explored in two important types of chemical reactions for energy conversion and storage: oxygen reduction and oxygen evolution reactions.

The researchers conclude that ceria could be considered among the most promising materials for use with cobalt on nitrogen-doped carbon nanorods to produce stable catalysts with enhanced electrochemical activity in PEMFCs and related devices.


How To Reduce Fuel Burn By 60 Percent In Future Planes

Boeing Co unveiled a speedier and higher-flying version of a concept plane on Tuesday aimed at sharply reducing fuel use thanks to its elongated ultra-light wings. The so-called Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) aircraft boasts a 170-foot (52 meter) wingspan that sits atop the fuselage and is braced from underneath by a truss in a design reminiscent of biplanes from the early years of aviation. The world’s largest planemaker and U.S. space agency NASA have been studying the concept plane for nearly a decade as part of the Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research program. Boeing unveiled a reconfigured model or prototype and artist’s rendering at an aerospace conference in San Diego.

Chicago-based Boeing said it tweaked the plane’s designs with an optimized truss and a modified wing sweep that allow it to fly at speeds of Mach .8, or about 600 miles (965 km) per hour, slightly faster than previous designs but on par with current passenger jetliners. Boeing said the jet ideally would reduce fuel burn by 60 percent compared to an aircraft in 2005, but said it did not have final data to compare the fuel savings to present-day aircraft.


How To Use The Body’s Inbuilt Healing System

Imperial researchers have developed a new bioinspired material that interacts with surrounding tissues to promote healing. Materials are widely used to help heal wounds: Collagen sponges help treat burns and pressure sores, and scaffold-like implants are used to repair broken bones. However, the process of tissue repair changes over time, so scientists are looking to biomaterials that interact with tissues as healing takes place.

Now, Dr Ben Almquist and his team at Imperial College London have created a new molecule that could change the way traditional materials work with the body. Known as traction force-activated payloads (TrAPs), their method lets materials talk to the body’s natural repair systems to drive healing.


The researchers say incorporating TrAPs into existing medical materials could revolutionise the way injuries are treated.

Our technology could help launch a new generation of materials that actively work with tissues to drive healing,” said Dr Almquist, from mperial’s Department of Bioengineering.
After an injury, cells ‘crawl’ through the collagen ‘scaffolds’ found in wounds, like spiders navigating webs. As they move, they pull on the scaffold, which activates hidden healing proteins that begin to repair injured tissue. The researchers in the study designed TrAPs as a way to recreate this natural healing method. They folded the DNA segments into three-dimensional shapes known as aptamers that cling tightly to proteins. Then, they attached a customisable ‘handle’ that cells can grab onto on one end, before attaching the opposite end to a scaffold such as collagen.
During laboratory testing of their technique, they found that cells pulled on the TrAPs as they crawled through the collagen scaffolds. The researchers tailor TrAPs to release specific therapeutic proteins based on which cells are present at a given point in time.

This is the first time scientists have activated healing proteins using differing cell types in man-made materials. The technique mimics healing methods found in nature. “Creatures from sea sponges to humans use cell movement to activate healing. Our approach mimics this by using the different cell varieties in wounds to drive healing,” explains Dr Almquist.”

This approach is adaptable to different cell types, so could be used in a variety of injuries such as fractured bones, scar tissue after heart attacks, and damaged nerves. New techniques are also desperately needed for patients whose wounds won’t heal despite current interventions, like diabetic foot ulcers, which are the leading cause of non-traumatic lower leg amputationsTrAPs are relatively straightforward to create and are fully man-made, meaning they are easily recreated in different labs and can be scaled up to industrial quantities.

TrAPs could harness the body’s natural healing powers to repair bone

TrAPs provide a flexible method of actively communicating with wounds, as well as key instructions when and where they are needed. This intelligent healing is useful during every phase of the healing process, has the potential to increase the body’s chance to recover, and has far-reaching uses on many different types of wounds. This technology could serve as a conductor of wound repair, orchestrating different cells over time to work together to heal damaged tissues,” said Dr Almquist.

The findings are published in Advanced Materials.



Guided Bullet Modifies Its Course To Hit Moving Target

DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program, which developed a self-steering bullet to increase hit rates for difficult, long-distance shots, completed in February its most successful round of live-fire tests to date. An experienced shooter using the technology demonstration system repeatedly hit moving and evading targets. Additionally, a novice shooter using the system for the first time hit a moving target.


This video shows EXACTO rounds maneuvering in flight to hit targets that are moving and accelerating. EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that can impede successful hits.

True to DARPA’s mission, EXACTO has demonstrated what was once thought impossible: the continuous guidance of a small-caliber bullet to target,” said Jerome Dunn, DARPA program manager. “This live-fire demonstration from a standard rifle showed that EXACTO is able to hit moving and evading targets with extreme accuracy at sniper ranges unachievable with traditional rounds. Fitting EXACTO’s guidance capabilities into a small .50-caliber size is a major breakthrough and opens the door to what could be possible in future guided projectiles across all calibers.

The EXACTO program developed new approaches and advanced capabilities to improve the range and accuracy of sniper systems beyond the current state of the art. The program sought to improve sniper effectiveness and enhance troop safety by allowing greater shooter standoff range and reduction in target engagement timelines.


Hydroponic Farming To Address Water Shortage

Saudis are turning to hydroponic soil-free culture technology to grow vegetables, requiring less water and land and offering yields up to ten times the crop grown in an open field.

Mahdi al-Sanabeer hopes to solve the problem with hydroponics technology. He built a greenhouse on the roof of his house and experimented by planting seeds on sponges, without using chemicals fertilisers or pesticides.
“We save 90 percent of irrigation water and 80 percent of fertiliser. It is also faster to harvest and reduces the use of the pesticides…it is a smart form of farming so there is no need for extra workers. And we get produce of a high nutritional value and delicious taste,“says owner of Smart Rooftop Greenhouse Farm, Mahdi Al-Sanabeer.
Sanabeer spent $4,800 on his set-up and has now helped farmers establish seven other farms in the eastern province.

Where this European variety of lettuce grows well, despite the harsh conditions outside. Consumers are pleased because their produce comes chemical-free.

The Immune System’s Fountain of Youth

If only we could keep our bodies young, healthy and energetic, even as we attain the wisdom of our years. New research at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel suggests this dream could be at least partly obtainable in the future. The results of this research, led by Prof. Valery Krizhanovsky and Dr. Yossi Ovadya in the Molecular Cell Biology Department, were recently published in Nature Communications.

The research began with an investigation into the way that the immune system is involved in a crucial activity: clearing away old, senescent cells that spell trouble for the body when they hang around. Senescent cells – not completely dead but suffering loss of function or irreparable damage – have been implicated in diseases of aging by promoting inflammation. The researchers used mice in which a crucial gene for this immune activity was missing. At two years (elderly, for mice), the bodies of these mice had a greater accumulation of senescent cells compared with the mice in which the gene for removing these cells was intact. The mice missing the gene suffered from chronic inflammation, and various functions in their bodies appeared to be diminished. They also looked older – and died earlier – than their normal counterparts.

Drug treatment eliminates senescent cells from tissues of old mice. The blue staining shows senescent cells in lung and liver tissue. The amount of the staining is significantly reduced following the drug treatment

Next, the researchers gave the mice a drug that inhibits the function of certain proteins that help the aging cells survive in their senescent state, to see if this would contribute to the removal of these cells from the body. The drugs were administered to mice whose aging was a result of the malfunctions the group had uncovered in the immune system as well as those suffering premature aging from a different genetic error. The treated mice responded exceptionally well to the drug: Their blood tests and activity tests showed improvement, and their tissues appeared to be much closer to those of young mice. The scientists counted senescent cells, finding many fewer of them remaining in the treated mice’s bodies; and when they looked for signs of inflammation, they found that this, too, was significantly lower. The mice treated with the drug were more active and their median lifespan rose.


Better Treat Salmonella Than Face Cancer

An interdisciplinary team of three Virginia Tech faculty members affiliated with the Macromolecules Innovation Institute has created a drug delivery system that could radically expand cancer treatment options. The conventional cancer treatment method of injecting nanoparticle drugs into the bloodstream results in low efficacy. Due to the complexities of the human body, very few of those nanoparticles actually reach the cancer site, and once there, there’s limited delivery across the cancer tissue.

The new system created at Virginia Tech is known as Nanoscale Bacteria-Enabled Autonomous Drug Delivery System (NanoBEADS). Researchers have developed a process to chemically attach nanoparticles of anti-cancer drugs onto attenuated bacteria cells, which they have shown to be more effective than the passive delivery of injections at reaching cancer sites.

NanoBEADS has produced results in both in vitro (in tumor spheroids) and in vivo (in living mice) models showing up to 100-fold improvements in the distribution and retention of nanoparticles in cancerous tissues.This is a product of Bahareh Behkam, associate professor of mechanical engineering. Collaborators on this interdisciplinary team are Rick Davis, professor of chemical engineering, and Coy Allen, assistant professor of biomedical sciences and pathobiology in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

You can make the most amazing drugs, but if you cannot deliver it where it needs to go, it cannot be very effective,” Behkam said. “By improving the delivery, you can enhance efficacy.

Humans have noticed, even as far back as Ancient Egypt, that cancer went into remission if the patient also contracted an infection like salmonella. Neither are ideal, but humans can treat salmonella infections more effectively than cancer.

In modern times, Allen said the idea of treating cancer with infections traces back to the late 1800s and has evolved into immunotherapy, in which doctors try to activate the immune system to attack cancerous cells. Of course, salmonella is harmful to humans, but a weakened version could in theory provide the benefits of immunotherapy without the harmful effects of salmonella infection. The concept is similar to humans receiving a weakened flu virus in a vaccine to build immunity.

The work, which combines expertise in mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, and veterinary medicine, was recently detailed in Advanced Science.


The more words the children had heard by age 3, the better they did on tests of cognitive development

Talking is important for building your baby’s brain. In the first 3 years of life, your baby’s brain triples in size. It also becomes much more complex—and this doesn’t just happen without outside help.  The brain develops as your baby interacts with the world—seeing what will happen if the baby fusses, giggles, blows bubbles, snuggles up to mom, dad, or grandparents, says “mama” or “dada”—or throws  the cereal on the floor.


Many of your baby’s most important experiments are about communicating with parents and other caregivers. Research has shown that lots of talking with children in the first 3 years of life builds the brain architecture that will be needed later to support reading and thinking skills.Some families are talkative.  The parents, grandparents, and other caregivers talk with babies a lot, even before the baby can understand or answer—imitating facial expressions and sounds, giving a “play-by-play” when changing a diaper, telling stories, asking the baby questions, singing, talking about pictures in books, and telling the baby how wonderful the he or she is. Other families don’t talk much with their babies. The parents may not understand how important it is to talk with very young children, or they may not have grown up with that experience, or they may have other things on their minds.  Imagine—research has shown that children from talkative families may have heard 30 million more words directed to them by age 3 than children from less-talkative families!  And the same research study showed that the more words the children had heard by age 3, the better they did on tests of cognitive development.Those same children from talkative families also did better on reading readiness tests in the third grade.  Why?  One reason may be that their brains got more stimulation during that important period of brain growth. Learning to read greatly depends on having and hearing a big vocabulary; lots of talking by parents and other adults, especially when combined with reading, is wonderful for building vocabulary. Of course, it’s not only your baby’s brain that we care about!  Lots of talk from loving adults also builds healthy relationships and social skills.  It’s the relationship that matters—your baby can’t learn language, or much else, from a television set.  You are your baby’s first and best teacher in matters of building trust, dealing with emotional and physical needs, and interacting with others in positive ways. All of these skills will be important for your child’s later success in school and beyond.That’s why many organizations serving young families have come together to bring this message to our community: talk with your baby, a lot, during the brain’s most formative first three years, and set your child on a path to lifelong learning


Short Patients Are More Likely To Die In Intensive Care

If you end up in the intensive care unit (ICU) of a hospital or clinic there’s a number of things that can affect your eventual outcome. How healthy you are, your age, and the conditions that you’re suffering from are all obvious factors, but a new study suggests that your height might actually play a role in whether you’re able to pull through or not.

New research published in Intensive Care Medicine suggests that taller patients tend to survive at a higher rate than shorter individuals. The study reaches a rather bold conclusion in that short stature may actually be a risk factor if you end up in the ICU.

The cohort study looked at over 400,000 cases from the UK in total, with 233,308 men and 184,070 women who passed through a hospital intensive care unit. After accounting for anything that could skew the data one way or another, the team crunched the numbers and discovered that shorter people die more often in the ICU by a significant margin.

Hospital mortality decreased with increasing height; predicted mortality decreased from 24.1 to 17.1% for women and from 29.2 to 21.0% for men across the range of heights,” the study explains. Those are stunning numbers, but why would height affect health outcomes in such a drastic way?

We can’t say for sure why this is happening,” Dr. Hannah Wunsh, co-author of the study, said in a statement. “It’s speculative that all the things we do to people might in some way be harmful to patients who are smaller.”


Perovskite Solar Panels Go To The Market

Across the globe, a clutch of companies from Oxford, England to Redwood City, Calif. are working to commercialize a new solar technology that could further boost the adoption of renewable energy generation. Earlier this year, Oxford PV, a startup working in tandem with Oxford Universityreceived $3 million from the U.K. government to develop the technology, which uses a new kind of material to make solar cells. Two days ago, in the U.S., a company called Swift Solar raised $7 million to bring the same technology to marketaccording to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Called a perovskite cell, the new photovoltaic tech uses hybrid organic-inorganic lead or tin halide-based material as the light-harvesting active layer. It’s the first new technology to come along in years to offer the promise of better efficiency in the conversion of light to electric power at a lower cost than existing technologies.

Perovskite has let us truly rethink what we can do with the silicon-based solar panels we see on roofs today,” said Sam Stranks, the lead scientific advisor and one of the co-founders of Swift Solar, in a Ted Talk. “Another aspect that really excites me: how cheaply these can be made. These thin crystalline films are made by mixing two inexpensive readily abundant salts to make an ink that can be deposited in many different ways… This means that perovskite solar panels could cost less than half of their silicon counterparts.”

First incorporated into solar cells by Japanese researchers in 2009, the perovskite solar cells suffered from low efficiencies and lacked stability to be broadly used in manufacturing. But over the past nine years researchers have steadily improved both the stability of the compounds used and the efficiency that these solar cells generate.

Oxford PV, in the U.K., is now working on developing solar cells that could achieve conversion efficiencies of 37 percentmuch higher than existing polycrystalline photovoltaic or thin-film solar cells.

New chemistries for solar cell manufacturing have been touted in the past, but cost has been an obstacle to commercial rollout, given how cheaply solar panels became thanks in part to a massive push from the Chinese government to increase manufacturing capacity.


Using Graphene, Munitions Go Further, Much Faster

Researchers from the U.S. Army and top universities discovered a new way to get more energy out of energetic materials containing aluminum, common in battlefield systems, by igniting aluminum micron powders coated with graphene oxide.

This discovery coincides with the one of the Army‘s modernization priorities: Long Range Precision Fires. This research could lead to enhanced energetic performance of metal powders as propellant/explosive ingredients in Army’s munitions.

Lauded as a miracle material, graphene is considered the strongest and lightest material in the world. It’s also the most conductive and transparent, and expensive to produce. Its applications are many, extending to electronics by enabling touchscreen laptops, for example, with light-emitting diode, or LCD, or in organic light-emitting diode, or OLED displays and medicine like DNA sequencing. By oxidizing graphite is cheaper to produce en masse. The result: graphene oxide (GO).

Scanning electron micrograph shows the Al/GO composite.

Although GO is a popular two-dimensional material that has attracted intense interest across numerous disciplines and materials applications, this discovery exploits GO as an effective light-weight additive for practical energetic applications using micron-size aluminum powders (µAl), i.e., aluminum particles one millionth of a meter in diameter.

The research team published their findings in the October edition of ACS Nano with collaboration from the RDECOM Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory (ARL), Stanford University, University of Southern California, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Argonne National Laboratory.


Plastic Waste Desintegrates Into Nanoparticles

There is a considerable risk that plastic waste in the environment releases nano-sized particles known as nanoplastics, according to a new study from Lund University in Sweden. The researchers studied what happened when takeaway coffee cup lids, for example, were subjected to mechanical breakdown, in an effort to mimic the degradation that happens to plastic in the ocean.The majority of all marine debris is plastic. Calculations have shown that ten per cent of all plastic produced globally ends up in the sea. This plastic waste is subjected to both chemical and mechanical degradation. The sun’s UV rays contribute to the degradation, as do waves, which cause plastic waste to grind against stones on the water’s edge, against the sea floor or against other debris.

Is there a risk that this plastic waste disintegrates to the extent that nanoplastics are released? The research community is divided on whether the degradation process stops at slightly larger plastic fragmentsmicroplastics – or actually continues and creates even smaller particles. The researchers behind the study have now investigated this issue by subjecting plastic material to mechanical degradation under experimental conditions.

We have been able to show that the mechanical effect on the plastic causes the disintegration of plastic down to nano-sized plastic fragments,” says Tommy Cedervall, chemistry researcher at Lund University.

The emphasis of a number of other recent studies from the research community has been on microplastics and their increased distribution among organisms. There are now intense attempts to also identify nanoplastics in the environment. Last year, in an earlier study from Lund University, researchers showed that nano-sized plastic particles can enter the brains of fish and that this causes brain damage which probably disturbs fish behaviour.

It’s important to begin mapping what happens to disintegrated plastic in nature, concludes Tommy Cedervall.


Megalibrary To Boost Discovery of New Materials

Different eras of civilization are defined by the discovery of new materials, as new materials drive new capabilities. And yet, identifying the best material for a given application—catalysts, light-harvesting structures, biodiagnostic labels, pharmaceuticals and electronic devices—is traditionally a slow and daunting task. The options are nearly infinite, particularly at the nanoscale (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter) where material propertiesoptical, structural, electrical, mechanical and chemical—can significantly change, even at a fixed composition.

A new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) supports the efficacy of a potentially revolutionary new tool developed at Northwestern University to rapidly test millions (even billions) of nanoparticles to determine the best for a specific use.

Laser-induced heating of nanoparticles on micropillars for carbon nanotube growth

When utilizing traditional methods to identify new materials, we have barely scratched the surface of what is possible,” said Northwestern’s Chad A. Mirkin, the study’s corresponding author and a world leader in nanotechnology research and its applications. “This research provides proof-of-concept—that this powerful approach to discovery science works.”

The novel tool utilizes a combinatorial library, or megalibrary, of nanoparticles in a very controlled way. (A combinatorial library is a collection of systematically varied structures encoded at specific sites on a surface). The libraries are created using Mirkin’s Polymer Pen Lithography (PPL) technique, which relies on arrays (sets of data elements) with hundreds of thousands of pyramidal tips to deposit individual polymerdots” of various sizes and composition, each loaded with different metal salts of interest, onto a surface. Once heated, these dots are reduced to metal atoms forming a single nanoparticle at fixed composition and size.

By going small, we create two advantages in high throughput materials discovery,” said Mirkin, the executive director of Northwestern’s International Institute for Nanotechnology (IIN). “First, we can pack millions of features into square-centimeter areas, creating a path for making the largest and most complex libraries, to date. Second, by working at the sub-100 nanometer-length scale, size can become a library parameter, and much of the action, for example, in the field of catalysis, is on this length scale.”


Jell-O To Make Powerful New Hydrogen Fuel Catalyst

A cheap and effective new catalyst developed by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, can generate hydrogen fuel from water just as efficiently as platinum, currently the best — but also most expensivewater-splitting catalyst out there.

The catalyst, which is composed of nanometer-thin sheets of metal carbide, is manufactured using a self-assembly process that relies on a surprising ingredient: gelatin, the material that gives Jell-O its jiggle.

Two-dimensional metal carbides spark a reaction that splits water into oxygen and valuable hydrogen gas. Berkeley researchers have discovered an easy new recipe for cooking up these nanometer-thin sheets that is nearly as simple as making Jell-O from a box

Platinum is expensive, so it would be desirable to find other alternative materials to replace it,” said senior author Liwei Lin, professor of mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley. “We are actually using something similar to the Jell-O that you can eat as the foundation, and mixing it with some of the abundant earth elements to create an inexpensive new material for important catalytic reactions.

The work appears in the print edition of the journal Advanced Materials.


How To Shrink Objects To The Nanoscale

MIT researchers have invented a way to fabricate nanoscale 3-D objects of nearly any shape. They can also pattern the objects with a variety of useful materials, including metals, quantum dots, and DNA.

MIT engineers have devised a way to create 3-D nanoscale objects by patterning a larger structure with a laser and then shrinking it. This image shows a complex structure prior to shrinking.

It’s a way of putting nearly any kind of material into a 3-D pattern with nanoscale precision,” says Edward Boyden, the Y. Eva Tan Professor in Neurotechnology and an associate professor of biological engineering and of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT. Using the new technique, the researchers can create any shape and structure they want by patterning a polymer scaffold with a laser. After attaching other useful materials to the scaffold, they shrink it, generating structures one thousandth the volume of the original.

These tiny structures could have applications in many fields, from optics to medicine to robotics, the researchers say. The technique uses equipment that many biology and materials science labs already have, making it widely accessible for researchers who want to try it. Boyden, who is also a member of MIT’s Media Lab, McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, is one of the senior authors of the paper, which appears in the Dec. 13 issue of Science. The other senior author is Adam Marblestone, a Media Lab research affiliate, and the paper’s lead authors are graduate students Daniel Oran and Samuel Rodriques.

As they did for expansion microscopy, the researchers used a very absorbent material made of polyacrylate, commonly found in diapers, as the scaffold for their nanofabrication process. The scaffold is bathed in a solution that contains molecules of fluorescein, which attach to the scaffold when they are activated by laser light.

Using two-photon microscopy, which allows for precise targeting of points deep within a structure, the researchers attach fluorescein molecules to specific locations within the gel. The fluorescein molecules act as anchors that can bind to other types of molecules that the researchers add.

You attach the anchors where you want with light, and later you can attach whatever you want to the anchors,” Boyden says. “It could be a quantum dot, it could be a piece of DNA, it could be a gold nanoparticle.” “It’s a bit like film photography — a latent image is formed by exposing a sensitive material in a gel to light. Then, you can develop that latent image into a real image by attaching another material, silver, afterwards. In this way implosion fabrication can create all sorts of structures, including gradients, unconnected structures, and multimaterial patterns,” Oran explains.


How To Fight Against Weakened Immune System When Getting Older

Scientists pinpoint metabolic pathway behind age-related immunity lossThe elderly suffer more serious complications from infections and benefit less from vaccination than the general population. Researchers have long known that a weakened immune system is to blame but the exact mechanisms behind this lagging immunity have remained largely unknownNow research led by investigators at Harvard Medical School suggests that weakened metabolism of immune T cells may be partly to blame.

The findings, published Dec. 10 in PNAS and based on experiments in mouse immune cells, pinpoint a specific metabolic pathway called one-carbon metabolism that is deficient in the aged T cells of rodents. The work also suggests possible ways to restore weakened immune function with the use of small-molecule compounds that boost T cell performance.

We believe our findings may help explain the basic malfunction that drives loss of immune defenses with age,” said senior study author Marcia Haigis, professor of cell biology in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School. “If affirmed in further studies, we hope that our findings can set the stage for the development of therapies to improve immune function.


Chinese ‘Death Star’ For Submarines

China is developing a satellite with a powerful laser for anti-submarine warfare that researchers hope will be able to pinpoint a target as far as 500 metres below the surface. It is the latest addition to the country’s expanding deep-sea surveillance programme, and aside from targeting submarines – most operate at a depth of less than 500 metres – it could also be used to collect data on the world’s oceansProject Guanlan, meaning “watching the big waves”, was officially launched in May at the Pilot National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology in Qingdao, Shandong. It aims to strengthen China’s surveillance activities in the world’s oceans, according to the laboratory’s website.

Scientists are working on the satellite’s design at the laboratory, but its key components are being developed by more than 20 research institutes and universities across the country. Song Xiaoquan, a researcher involved in the project, said if the team can develop the satellite as planned, it will make the upper layer of the seamore or less transparent”. “It will change almost everything,” Song said.

While light dims 1,000 times faster in water than in the air, and the sun can penetrate no more than 200 metres below the ocean surface, a powerful artificial laser beam can be 1 billion times brighter than the sun. But this project is ambitious – naval researchers have tried for more than half a century to develop a laser spotlight for hunting submarines using technology known as light detection and ranging (lidar). In theory, it works like this – when a laser beam hits a submarine, some pulses bounce back. They are then picked up by sensors and analysed by computer to determine the target’s location, speed and three-dimensional shape.

But in real life, lidar technology can be affected by the device’s power limitations, as well as cloud, fog, murky water – and even marine life such as fish and whales. Added to that, the laser beam deflects and scatters as it travels from one body of water to another, making it more of a challenge to get a precise calculation. Experiments carried out by the United States and former Soviet Union achieved maximum detection depths of less than 100 metres, according to openly available information. That range has been extended in recent years by the US in research funded by Nasa and the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).


How To Nullify Proteins That Allow Cancer Cells To Grow

A physicist in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University hopes to improve cancer detection with a new and novel class of nanomaterials. Liviu Movileanu, professor of physics, creates tiny sensors that detect, characterize and analyze protein-protein interactions (PPIs) in blood serum. Information from PPIs could be a boon to the biomedical industry, as researchers seek to nullify proteins that allow cancer cells to grow and spread.

Movileanu’s findings are the subject of a paper in Nature Biotechnology (Springer Nature, 2018), co-authored by Ph.D. student Avinash Kumar Thakur. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has supported their work with a four-year, $1.17 million grant award.


A digital illustration of a cancer cell undergoing mitosis

Detailed knowledge of the human genome has opened up a new frontier for the identification of many functional proteins involved in brief physical associations with other proteins,” Movileanu says. “Major perturbations in the strength of these PPIs lead to disease conditions. Because of the transient nature of these interactions, new methods are needed to assess them.”

Enter Movileanu’s lab, which designs, creates and optimizes a unique class of biophysical tools called nanobiosensors. These highly sensitive, pore-based tools detect mechanistic processes, such as PPIs, at the single-molecule level.


Could Spruce Forests Offset Global Warming?

Researchers from the University of Lund in Sweden,  are measuring terpene particles emitted by spruce/fir forests, which are believed to have a cooling effect on the climate. They believe that planting more of this type of forest could help offset global warmingPlanting spruce forests could increase the carbon uptake. They would release aerosol particles which have a cooling effect on the earth.


We saw that in the 1990s there was a big eruption of a volcano called Mount Pinatubo. It released an enormous amount of atmospheric particles into the air. Then the global climate was cooled for two years. And that’s how the atmospheric particles are acting on the climate. That’s one example of how the terpenes can cool the climate via atmospheric particles,” says Adam Kristensson, Nuclear physicist at the Lund University. Various of air samples  are being tested through solution reacting with carbon to find out if carbon comes from natural sources or fossil fuel burning.


Artificial Synapses Made from Nanowires

Scientists from Jülich together with colleagues from Aachen and Turin have produced a memristive element made from nanowires that functions in much the same way as a biological nerve cell. The component is able to both save and process information, as well as receive numerous signals in parallel. The resistive switching cell made from oxide crystal nanowires is thus proving to be the ideal candidate for use in building bioinspired “neuromorphic” processors, able to take over the diverse functions of biological synapses and neurons.

Image captured by an electron microscope of a single nanowire memristor (highlighted in colour to distinguish it from other nanowires in the background image). Blue: silver electrode, orange: nanowire, yellow: platinum electrode. Blue bubbles are dispersed over the nanowire. They are made up of silver ions and form a bridge between the electrodes which increases the resistance.

Computers have learned a lot in recent years. Thanks to rapid progress in artificial intelligence they are now able to drive cars, translate texts, defeat world champions at chess, and much more besides. In doing so, one of the greatest challenges lies in the attempt to artificially reproduce the signal processing in the human brain. In neural networks, data are stored and processed to a high degree in parallel. Traditional computers on the other hand rapidly work through tasks in succession and clearly distinguish between the storing and processing of information. As a rule, neural networks can only be simulated in a very cumbersome and inefficient way using conventional hardware.

Systems with neuromorphic chips that imitate the way the human brain works offer significant advantages. Experts in the field describe this type of bioinspired computer as being able to work in a decentralised way, having at its disposal a multitude of processors, which, like neurons in the brain, are connected to each other by networks. If a processor breaks down, another can take over its function. What is more, just like in the brain, where practice leads to improved signal transfer, a bioinspired processor should have the capacity to learn.

With today’s semiconductor technology, these functions are to some extent already achievable. These systems are however suitable for particular applications and require a lot of space and energy,” says Dr. Ilia Valov from Forschungszentrum Jülich. “Our nanowire devices made from zinc oxide crystals can inherently process and even store information, as well as being extremely small and energy efficient,” explains the researcher from Jülich’s Peter Grünberg Institute.


AI and Big Data To Fight Eye Diseases

In future, it will be possible to diagnose diabetes from the eye using automatic digital retinal screening, without the assistance of an ophthalmologist‘: these were the words used by Ursula Schmidt-Erfurth, Head of MedUni Vienna‘s Department of Ophthalmology and Optometrics. The scientist has opened the press conference about the ART-2018 Specialist Meeting on new developments in retinal therapy. The automatic diabetes screening, has been recently implemented at MedUni Vienna.
Patients flock to the Department to undergo this retinal examination to detect any diabetic changes. It takes just a few minutes and is completely non-invasive

Essentially this technique can detect all stages of diabetic retinal diseasehigh-resolution digital retinal images with two million pixels are taken and analyzed within seconds – but Big Data offers even more potential: nowadays it is already possible to diagnose an additional 50 other diseases in this way. Diabetes is just the start. And MedUni Vienna is among the global leaders in this digital revolution.

The Division of Cardiology led by Christian Hengstenberg within the Department of Medicine II is working on how digital retinal analysis can also be used in future for the early diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases.

This AI medicine is ‘super human’,” emphasizes Schmidt-Erfurth. “The algorithms are quicker and more accurate. They can analyze things that an expert cannot detect with the naked eye.” And yet the commitment to Big Data and Artificial Intelligence is not a plea for medicine without doctors, which some experts predict for the not-to-distant future. “What we want are ‘super doctors’, who are able to use the high-tech findings to make the correct, individualized therapeutic decision for their patients, in the spirit of precision medicine, rather than leaving patients on their own.”

However, it is not only in the diagnosis of diseases that Artificial Intelligence and Big Data, plus virtual reality, provide better results. “We are already performing digitized operations with support from Artificial Intelligence. This involves projecting a virtual and precise image of the area of the eye being operated on onto a huge screen – and the surgeon then performs the operation with a perfect viewon screen” as it were, while actually operating on the patient with a scalpel.”


How To Heal Arthritis

Osteoarthritis, a disease that causes severe joint pain, affects more than 20 million people in the United States. Some drug treatments can help alleviate the pain, but there are no treatments that can reverse or slow the cartilage breakdown associated with the disease.

In an advance that could improve the treatment options available for osteoarthritis, MIT engineers have designed a new material that can administer drugs directly to the cartilage. The material can penetrate deep into the cartilage, delivering drugs that could potentially heal damaged tissue.

Six days after treatment with IGF-1 carried by dendrimer nanoparticles (blue), the particles have penetrated through the cartilage of the knee joint.

This is a way to get directly to the cells that are experiencing the damage, and introduce different kinds of therapeutics that might change their behavior,” says Paula Hammond, head of MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering, a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and the senior author of the study. Treating  rats, the researchers showed that delivering an experimental drug called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) with this new material prevented cartilage breakdown much more effectively than injecting the drug into the joint on its own.

Brett Geiger, an MIT graduate student, is the lead author of the paper, which appears in Science Translational Medicine.


3D Printed Electric Motorcycle

BigRep has revealed the world’s first 3D-printed electric motorcycle with groundbreaking features like airless tires, embedded electronics, and forkless steering.developed by marco Mattia Cristofori and Maximilian Sedlak, part of the german manufacturer’s innovation lab and consultancy NOWlab, Nera features fully 3D-printed parts such as tires, rims, frame, fork, and seat, excluding only electrical components.


‘The Nera combines several innovations developed by NOWlab, such as the airless tire, functional integration and embedded sensor technology,’ explains Daniel Büning, co-founder and managing director of the lab.  ‘This bike and our other prototypes push the limits of engineering creativity and will reshape am technology as we know it.’ For now, the motorcycle has only been launched in the form of a prototype as part of BigRep’s research into the potential of 3D printing.

In building Nera, the engineers didn’t simply adapt existing motorcycle designs, but instead envisioned a bike for large-format FFF technology. Among the many innovations featured in Nera are the airless tires with customized tread; a lightweight rhomboid wheel rim, as well as flexible bumpers (instead of suspension) and the electric engine, which is fitted in a customizable case.


Telepathy For Real Within 8 Years

Imagine if telepathy were real. If, for example, you could transmit your thoughts to a computer or to another person just by thinking them. In just eight years it will be, says Openwater founder Mary Lou Jepsen, thanks to technology her company is working on.

Jepsen is a former engineering executive at Facebook, Oculus, Google[x] (now called X) and Intel. She’s also been a professor at MIT and is an inventor on over 100 patents. And that’s the abbreviated version of her resume. Jepsen left Facebook to found Openwater in 2016. The San Francisco-based start-up is currently building technology to make medical imaging less expensive.

I figured out how to put basically the functionality of an M.R.I. machine — a multimillion-dollar M.R.I. machine — into a wearable in the form of a ski hat,” Jepson said, though she does not yet have a prototype completed.

Current M.R.I. technology can already see your thoughts: “If I threw [you] into an M.R.I. machine right now … I can tell you what words you’re about to say, what images are in your head. I can tell you what music you’re thinking of,” says Jepsen. “That’s today, and I’m talking about just shrinking that down.”

One day Jepsen’s tech hat could “literally be a thinking cap,” she says. Jepsen explains the goal is for the technology to be able to both read and to output your own thoughts, as well as read the thoughts of others. In iconic Google vocabulary, “the really big moonshot idea here is communication with thought — with telepathy,”adds Jepsen.

How To Fine-Tune the Gene Scissors CRISPR

When researchers and doctors use the tool CRISPR to correct genetic errors, it may have side effects on the human genome. Now, researchers from the University of Copenhagen have learned how the molecular machinery behind CRISPR works and thus expect to be able to fine-tune CRISPR and remove the undesired effects.

The introduction of the tool for gene editing, the so-called gene scissors CRISPR, in 2007 was a revolution within medical science and cell biology. But even though the perspectives are great, the launch of CRISPR has been followed by debate, especially focussing on ethical issues and the technology’s degree of accuracy and side effects.

However, in a new study published in the scientific journal Cell researchers from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research have described how one of the CRISPR technologies, the so-called Cas12a, works – all the way down to the molecular level. This makes it possible to fine-tune the gene-editing process to only achieve the desired effects.

If we compare CRISPR to a car engine, what we have done is make a complete 3D map of the engine and thus gained an understanding of how it works. This knowledge will enable us to fine-tune the CRISPR engine and make it work in various ways – as a Formula 1 racer as well as an off-road truck’, says Professor Guillermo Montoya from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research.

The researchers have used a so-called cryo-electron microscope to map the technology. The recently inaugurated cryoEM facility at the University of Copenhagen has established the state-of-the-art technology enabling the researchers to take photographs of the different shapes of the molecule when CRISPR-Cas12a cuts up the DNA strand.

According to the researchers, their new findings can explain why CRISPR technology can have side effects on the genome. Once the DNA strand has been cut, the three ‘security checks’ remain open. This can cause the process to last longer than wanted, because the machinery behind gene editing continues to run and can cause genetic changes. However, now the researchers expect their new knowledge to put an end to this. They believe it can be used to fine-tune the gene-editing technology right away.


Electricity Speeds Up Skin Healing

A new, low-cost wound dressing developed by University of Wisconsin–Madison engineers could dramatically speed up healing in a surprising way. The method leverages energy generated from a patient’s own body motions to apply gentle electrical pulses at the site of an injury. In rodent tests, the dressings reduced healing times to a mere three days compared to nearly two weeks for the normal healing process.

“We were surprised to see such a fast recovery rate,” says Xudong Wang, a professor of materials science and engineering at UW–Madison.We suspected that the devices would produce some effect, but the magnitude was much more than we expected.

Researchers have known for several decades that electricity can be beneficial for skin healing, but most electrotherapy units in use today require bulky electrical equipment and complicated wiring to deliver powerful jolts of electricity.  “Acute and chronic wounds represent a substantial burden in healthcare worldwide,” says collaborator Angela Gibson, professor of surgery at UW–Madison and a burn surgeon and director of wound healing services at UW Health. “The use of electrical stimulation in wound healing is uncommon.” In contrast with existing methods, the new dressing is much more straightforward. “Our device is as convenient as a bandage you put on your skin,” says Wang. “The nature of these electrical pulses is similar to the way the body generates an internal electric field,” explains Wang.

Wang and collaborators described their wound dressing method in the journal ACS Nano.


Want to Sound Like Barack Obama?

For your hair, there are wigs and hairstylists; for your skin, there are permanent and removable tattoos; for your eyes, there are contact lenses that disguise the shape of your pupils. In short, there’s a plethora of tools people can use if they want to give themselves a makeover—except for one of their signature features: their voice.

Sure a Darth Vader voice changing mask would do something about it, but for people who want to sound like a celebrity or a person of the opposite sex, look no further than Boston-based startup Modulate.


Founded in August 2017 by two MIT grads, this self-funded startup is using machine learning to change your voice as you speak. This could be a celebrity’s voice (like Barack Obama’s), the voice of a game character or even a totally custom voice. With potential applications in the gaming and movie industries, Modulate has launched  with a free online demo that allows users to play with the service.

The cool thing about Modulate is that the software doesn’t simply disguise your voice, but it does something far more radical: it converts a person’s speech into somebody’s else vocal chords, changing the very I.D. of someone’s speech but keeping intact cadence and word choice. As a result, you sound like you, but have in fact someone’s else voice.


How To Manipulate And Move Cells With Light

Wits physicists demonstrate a new device for manipulating and moving tiny objects with light. When you shine a beam of light on your hand, you don’t feel much, except for a little bit of heat generated by the beam. When you shine that same light into a world that is measured on the nano– or micro scale, the light becomes a powerful manipulating tool that you can use to move objects around – trapped securely in the light.

Researchers from the Structured Light group from the School of Physics at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, have found a way to use the full beam of a laser light, to control and manipulate minute objects such as single cells in a human body, tiny particles in small volume chemistry, or working on future on-chip devices. While the specific technique, called holographic optical trapping and tweezing, is not new, the Wits Researchers found a way to optimally use the full force of the light – including vector light that was previously unavailable for this application. This forms the first vector holographic trap.


Previously holographic traps were limited to particular classes of light (scalar light), so it is very exciting that we can reveal a holistic device that covers all classes of light, including replicating all previous trapping devices,” explains Professor Andrew Forbes, team leader of the collaboration and Distinguished Professor in the School of Physics where he heads up the Wits Structured Light Laboratory.

What we have done is that we have demonstrated the first vector holographic optical trapping and tweezing system. The device allows micrometer sized particles, such as biological cells, to be captured and manipulated only with light.”


Lulu And Nana, First Gene-Edited Babies

A Chinese researcher who claims to have created the first gene-edited babies, He Jiankui of the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUST), in Shenzhen, is now facing investigation over whether the experiment broke Chinese laws or regulations. The children have their genomes modified to make them resistant to HIV.

He, who led that effort, later released a video statement in which he said that healthy twin girls, Lulu and Nana, had been born “a few weeks ago.”

He said the girls had been conceived using In vitro fertilization (IVF) but that his team had added “a little protein and some information” to the fertilized eggs. That was a reference to the ingredients of CRISPR, the gene-editing technology he apparently employed to delete a gene called CCR5.

The claim set off a wave of criticism in China and abroad from experts who said the experiment created unacceptable risks for a questionable medical purpose. Feng Zhang, one of the inventors of CRISPR, called for a moratorium on its use in editing embryos for IVF procedures.

Documents connected to the trial named the study’s sponsors as He along with Jinzhou Qin and said it was approved by the ethics committee of HarMoniCare Shenzhen Women and Children’s Hospital.


How To Neutralize Poisonous Carbon Monoxide

Scientists from the Nagoya Institute of Technology (NITech) in Japan have developed a sustainable method to neutralize carbon monoxide, the odorless poison produced by cars and home boilers.

Traditionally, carbon monoxide needs a noble metal – a rare and expensive ingredient – to convert into carbon dioxide and readily dissipate into the atmosphere. Although the noble metal ensures structural stability at a variety of temperatures, it’s a cost-prohibitive and finite resource and researchers have been anxious to find an alternative.

Now, a team led by Dr. Teruaki Fuchigami at the NITech has developed a raspberry-shaped nanoparticle capable of the same oxidation process that makes carbon monoxide gain an extra oxygen atom and lose its most potent toxicity.

Synthesis of cobalt oxide particles with complex, three-dimensional, raspberry-shaped nanostructures via hydrothermal treatment. Sodium sulfates functioned as bridging ligands to promote self-assembly and suppress particle growth. The highly ordered and complex surface nanostructure with 7-8 nm in diameter shows good structural stability and high activity in CO oxidation reaction.

We found that the raspberry-shaped particles achieve both high structural stability and high reactivity even in a single nanoscale surface structure,” said Dr. Fuchigami, an assistant professor in the Department of Life Science and Applied Chemistry at the NITech and first author on the paper.

The key, according to Dr. Fuchigami, is ensuring the particles are highly complex but organized. A single, simple particle can oxidize carbon monoxide, but it will naturally join with other simple particles. Those simple particles compact together and lose their oxidation abilities, especially as temperatures rise in an engine or boiler. Catalytic nanoparticles with single nano-scale and complex three-dimensional (3D) structures can achieve both high structural stability and high catalytic activity.

Th results were featured on the cover of the September issue of the journal, Nanomaterials.


The Waterless Toilet Of The Future

U.S. billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates unveiled in Beijing a futuristic toilet that doesn’t need water or sewers and uses chemicals to turn human waste into fertilizer. The Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) co-founder, who a day earlier was one of the high profile guests at a major trade event in Shanghai, also lauded the globalized and free trade systems that made the toilet technology possible.

So when I talk about components of this toilet being made in China, others in Thailand, others in the United States – you really want to be bringing together all of that IQ so that you’re getting that combination.

Gates’ trip comes amid trade tension between China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies, which have slapped tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth billions of dollars. The toilet, which Gates said was ready for sale after years of development, is the brainchild of research projects funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s biggest private philanthropy organization. There are multiple designs of the toilet but all work by separating liquid and solid waste.


Plane Propelled Via Ionic Wind

MIT engineers fly first-ever plane with no moving parts. The silent, lightweight aircraft doesn’t depend on fossil fuels or batteries. Since the first airplane took flight over 100 years ago, virtually every aircraft in the sky has flown with the help of moving parts such as propellers, turbine blades, and fans, which are powered by the combustion of fossil fuels or by battery packs that produce a persistent, whining buzz.
Now MIT engineers have built and flown the first-ever plane with no moving parts. Instead of propellers or turbines, the light aircraft is powered by an “ionic wind” — a silent but mighty flow of ions that is produced aboard the plane, and that generates enough thrust to propel the plane over a sustained, steady flight.Unlike turbine-powered planes, the aircraft does not depend on fossil fuels to fly. And unlike propeller-driven drones, the new design is completely silent.

A new MIT plane is propelled via ionic wind. Batteries in the fuselage (tan compartment in front of plane) supply voltage to electrodes (blue/white horizontal lines) strung along the length of the plane, generating a wind of ions that propels the plane forward.

This is the first-ever sustained flight of a plane with no moving parts in the propulsion system,” says Steven Barrett, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. “This has potentially opened new and unexplored possibilities for aircraft which are quieter, mechanically simpler, and do not emit combustion emissions.”
He expects that in the near-term, such ion wind propulsion systems could be used to fly less noisy drones. Further out, he envisions ion propulsion paired with more conventional combustion systems to create more fuel-efficient, hybrid passenger planes and other large aircraft.


Bioplastics Made From Potatoes

Potato Plastic is a biodegradable material, made of potato starch. This means that it will decompose to nutrients for the soil in only two months when it ends up in the nature. Potato Plastic can be used for products such as cutleries, straws and saltbags. The fast-food industry has for a long time been characterized by plastic products, since plastic is cheap, hygienic, and light but strong. Though, there is an ambiguity in making these products in plastic since it has the capacity to last for 450 years, whereas the period of use is most commonly around 20 minutes. A large percentage of the plastic that is circulating in our environment comes from the fast-food industry’s products, probably since they are grab and go-friendly. This, in combination with their quality, is devastating for the environment.


Potato Plastic is consisting of only potato starch and water.  Regarding of how much fluid is poured into a mold, the material can either become a thick, tough piece, or a thin film. This material is a kind of thermoplastic, which means that it can be molded under compression when it is exposed to heat and moisture. This opens up for many design possibilities, regarding everything from product selection to detailed patterns on the surface of the material. Since no extreme heat is needed, the molds can be made of plastic. This decreases the cost significantly compared to if the molds would be made of metal.


Blinds Harness The Sun’s Energy

Solargaps, an Ukrainian startup, have created blinds that generate power from windows.

If, like many Kyivans (inhabitants of Kiev), you live in an apartment, and your home doesn’t even have its own roof, there is now a solution. Enter Ukrainian startup SolarGaps, which has created a device that combines solar panels with venetian blinds to allow those who live in apartments to generate their own electricity.


It’s not simple to install solar panels on roofs in big cities,” founder Evgeny Eric, 39, told the Kyiv Post. “Our solution helps people produce green energy more easily, cheaply and more accessibly.
Once installed on a window, the smart blinds with built-in solar panels can generate over 100 kilowatt of energy a month – the average amount of energy consumed monthly by one Ukrainian citizen, Eric said.

Any energy surplus can either be stored in batteries or be sold to the electricity company as green energy – for a higher price – although to do this a two-way electricity meter has to be installed by the local electricity provider.

To absorb as much solar radiation as possible, the panels, which are equipped with a light sensor, follow the light source, automatically changing angle according to the sun’s position. So that a room is bright enough during the day, the blinds automatically open when a person enters the room where they are installed. They also can be controlled via a smartphone application that currently connects to the device via Bluetooth. The latest app version will link to the device via the internet, using Android and iOS smartphones. The first prototype was created six months ago and installed in Eric’s apartment.

You just plug the blinds into a socket and they compensate for a part of your electricity consumption, that’s it,” Eric said. “We worked out this solution for ourselves, and now we’re offering it to others.


Metallic NanoParticles 50 Times More Effective As Catalysts

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology produced subnano-sized metallic particles that are very effective as catalysts for the oxidation of hydrocarbons. These catalysts can be as much as 50 times more effective than well-known Au-Pd bimetallic nanocatalysts.
The oxidation of aromatic hydrocarbons is critically important for producing a great variety of useful organic compounds that are used throughout all types of industries. These oxidation processes require the use of catalysts and solvents, which are usually environmentally hazardous. Thus, finding a solvent-free oxidation process using nanosized catalytic particles has attracted considerable attention. Interestingly, sub-nanoscale catalytic particles (subnanocatalysts, or SNCs) composed of noble metals are even better at their job because their increased surface area and unique electronic state results in favorable effects for oxidizing hydrocarbons and also prevents them from getting oxidized themselves. This makes them cost-effective because the amount of metal required for SNCs is lower than for nano-sized catalysts.

A team including Dr. Miftakhul Huda, Keigo Minamisawa, Dr. Takamasa Tsukamoto, and Dr. Makoto Tanabe at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech), led by Prof. Kimihisa Yamamoto, created multiple types of SNCs by using dendrimers, which are tree-like spherical molecules that can be used as a template to contain the desired catalysts. “Dendrimer is expected to provide internal nanospaces that could be suitable for catalytic conversion in the presence of metal particles,” explains Yamamoto . The scientists created various catalysts of different sizes, depending on the noble metal used and the number of atoms of each catalytic particle.

Each dendrimer molecule hosts a subnano-sized metallic particle that allows for the oxidation of aromatic hydrocarbons, such as toluene (left), to produce useful organic compounds, such as benzoic acid (right). Oxygen molecules are represented in red.

They compared their performance to find the best noble metal for making SNCs and then tried to determine the mechanism behind their high catalytic activity. Smaller SNCs were found to be better, while less oxophilic metals (such as platinum) were superior. The team postulated that the surface of platinum SNCs does not oxidize easily, which makes them reusable and results in the highest catalytic performance of the Pt19 SNC that can be as high as 50 times more effective than the common Au-Pd nanocatalysts. The team will continue working to shed light on these catalytic phenomena. “The development of a more detailed mechanism including theoretical considerations is currently in progress,” says Tanabe. The applications of such catalysts could greatly contribute for reducing pollution and enhancing our effective use of Earth’s metal resources.


How To Replace The Thick Glass Lenses by 2D Metalens

In optics, the era of glass lenses may be waning. In recent years, physicists and engineers have been designing, constructing and testing different types of ultrathin materials that could replace the thick glass lenses used today in cameras and imaging systems. Critically, these engineered lenses — known as metalenses — are not made of glass. Instead, they consist of materials constructed at the nanoscale into arrays of columns or fin-like structures. These formations can interact with incoming light, directing it toward a single focal point for imaging purposes.

But even though metalenses are much thinner than glass lenses, they still rely on “high aspect ratio” structures, in which the column or fin-like structures are much taller than they are wide, making them prone to collapsing and falling over. Furthermore, these structures have always been near the wavelength of light they’re interacting with in thickness — until now. In a paper published in the journal Nano Letters, a team from the University of Washington (UW) and the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan announced that it has constructed functional metalenses that are one-tenth to one-half the thickness of the wavelengths of light that they focus. Their metalenses, which were constructed out of layered 2D materials, were as thin as 190 nanometers — less than 1/100,000ths of an inch thick.

This is the first time that someone has shown that it is possible to create a metalens out of 2D materials,” said senior and co-corresponding author Arka Majumdar, a UW assistant professor of physics and of electrical and computer engineering.

Their design principles can be used for the creation of metalenses with more complex, tunable features, added Majumdar, who is also a faculty researcher with the UW’s Molecular Engineering & Sciences Institute and Institute for Nano-Engineered Systems.


Gene-editing Tools Will Alter Foods Precisely And Cheaply

The next generation of biotech food is headed for the grocery aisles, and first up may be salad dressings or granola bars made with soybean oil genetically tweaked to be good for your heart. By early next year, the first foods from plants or animals that had their DNAedited” are expected to begin selling. It’s a different technology than today’s controversial “genetically modifiedfoods, more like faster breeding that promises to boost nutrition, spur crop growth, and make farm animals hardier and fruits and vegetables last longer.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has declared gene editing one of the breakthroughs needed to improve food production so the world can feed billions more people amid a changing climate. Yet governments are wrestling with how to regulate this powerful new tool. And after years of confusion and rancor, will shoppers accept gene-edited foods or view them as GMOs in disguise?

GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are plants or animals that were mixed with another species’ DNA to introduce a specific trait — meaning they’re “transgenic.” Best known are corn and soybeans mixed with bacterial genes for built-in resistance to pests or weed killers.

If the consumer sees the benefit, I think they’ll embrace the products and worry less about the technology,” said Dan Voytas, a University of Minnesota professor and chief science officer for Calyxt Inc., which edited soybeans to make the oil heart-healthy.

Researchers are pursuing more ambitious changes: Wheat with triple the usual fiber, or that’s low in gluten. Mushrooms that don’t brown, and better-producing tomatoes. Drought-tolerant corn, and rice that no longer absorbs soil pollution as it grows. Dairy cows that don’t need to undergo painful de-horning, and pigs immune to a dangerous virus that can sweep through herds.

Scientists even hope gene editing eventually could save species from being wiped out by devastating diseases like citrus greening, a so far unstoppable infection that’s destroying Florida’s famed oranges. First they must find genes that could make a new generation of trees immune.

If we can go in and edit the gene, change the DNA sequence ever so slightly by one or two letters, potentially we’d have a way to defeat this disease,” said Fred Gmitter, a geneticist at the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center, as he examined diseased trees in a grove near Fort Meade.


Double Layers Of Graphene Conduct Current Without Resistance

Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin (HZB) have found evidence that double layers of graphene have a property that may let them conduct current completely without resistance. They probed the bandstructure at BESSY II with extremely high resolution ARPES and could identify a flat area at a surprising location.

Carbon atoms have diverse possibilities to form bonds. Pure carbon can therefore occur in many forms, as diamond, graphite, as nanotubes, football molecules or as a honeycomb-net with hexagonal meshes, graphene. This exotic, strictly two-dimensional material conducts electricity excellently, but is not a superconductor. But perhaps this can be changed.

In April 2018, a group at MIT, USA, showed that it is possible to generate a form of superconductivity in a system of two layers of graphene under very specific conditions: To do this, the two hexagonal nets must be twisted against each other by exactly the magic angle of 1.1°. Under this condition a flat band forms in the electronic structure. The preparation of samples from two layers of graphene with such an exactly adjusted twist is complex, and not suitable for mass production. Nevertheless, the study has attracted a lot of attention among experts.

But there is one more, much simpler way of flat band formation. This was shown by a group at the HZB around Prof. Oliver Rader and Dr. Andrei Varykhalov with investigations at BESSY II. The samples were provided by Prof. Thomas Seyller, TU Chemnitz. There they are produced using a process that is also suitable for the production of larger areas and in large quantities: A silicon carbide crystal is heated until silicon atoms evaporate from the surface, leaving first a single-layer of graphene on the surface, and then a second layer of graphene. The two graphene layers are not twisted against each other, but lie exactly on top of each other.

This flat area is a prerequisite for superconductivity but only if it is situated exactly at the so-called Fermi energy. In the case of the two-layer graphene, its energy level is only 200 milli-electron volts below the Fermi energy, but it is possible to raise the energy level of the flat area to the Fermi energy either by doping with foreign atoms or by applying an external voltage, the so-called gate voltage.

The findings have been Published in Science Advances.


AI Robot Presents TV News In China

China’s state news agency Xinhua this week introduced the newest members of its newsroom: AI anchors who will reporttirelessly” all day every day, from anywhere in the country. Chinese viewers were greeted with a digital version of a regular Xinhua news anchor named Qiu Hao. The anchor, wearing a red tie and pin-striped suit, nods his head in emphasis, blinking and raising his eyebrows slightly.


Not only can I accompany you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I can be endlessly copied and present at different scenes to bring you the news,” he says. Xinhua also presented an English-speaking AI, based on another presenter, who adds: “The development of the media industry calls for continuous innovation and deep integration with the international advanced technologies … I look forward to bringing you brand new news experiences.”

Developed by Xinhua and the Chinese search engine, Sogou, the anchors were developed through machine learning to simulate the voice, facial movements, and gestures of real-life broadcasters, to present a “a lifelike image instead of a cold robot,” according to Xinhua.


Spy Drone Stays Airborne For One Entire Year

A solar-powered spy drone that can fly for a year without maintenance or fuel could one day carry out missions for the military. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) uses the sun to power its engines during the day as well as recharge its batteries for overnight operation. Known as Phasa-35, the aircraft could one day be used for surveillance and provide vital communications to remote areas at altitudes of up to 70,000ft (21,000m). Work is already underway to prepare the first drone for flight tests in 2019, according to British defence giant BAE Systems, which is developing the aircraft.

Engineers from BAE and Farnborough-based firm Prismatic announced they would collaborate on the development of the UAV.

 ‘Phasa-35 has the ability to revolutionise the way we think about Beyond Line of Sight communications. ‘It’s great to have the support of a world leading technology company like BAE Systems. said Paul Brooks, founder and managing director of Prismatic.

 So-called ‘High Altitude Low Energy‘ (HALE) aircraft offer a cheaper alternative to conventional satellite technology, according to BAEPhasa-35 (Persistent High Altitude Solar Aircraft) uses long-life battery technology and ultra-lightweight solar cells to potentially maintain flight for up to 12 months. According to Prismatic, the UAV has a range of potential applications, including defence, security, surveillance and even environmental science imagery.


How To Heal Acute Kidney Injury

Each year, there are some 13.3 million new cases of acute kidney injury (AKI), a serious affliction. Formerly known as acute renal failure, the ailment produces a rapid buildup of nitrogenous wastes and decreases urine output, usually within hours or days of disease onset.  Severe complications often ensue. Currently, there is no known cure for AKI.

AKI is responsible for 1.7 million deaths annually. Protecting healthy kidneys from harm and treating those already injured remains a significant challenge for modern medicine.

In new research appearing in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, Hao Yan and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and in China describe a new method for treating and preventing AKI. Their technique involves the use of tiny, self-assembling forms measuring just billionths of a meter in diameter.

Yan directs the Biodesign Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics and is Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences at the Arizona State University (ASU).

Their research demonstrated that the introduction of DNA origami nanostructures (DONs) protected normal kidneys and improved functioning of kidneys damaged by AKI. The beneficial effect of the nanostructures was comparable to the current treatment modality, administration of an anti-oxidant drug known as N-acetylcysteine (NAC). New treatments are being saught because NAC is not easily absorbed in the kidneys. Further examination of stained tissue samples from mice confirmed the beneficial effects of the DONs.


Immunotherapy Technique Specifically Targets Tumor Cells

A new immunotherapy screening prototype developed by University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers can quickly create individualized cancer treatments that will allow physicians to effectively target tumors without the side effects of standard cancer drugsUCI’s Weian Zhao and Nobel laureate David Baltimore with Caltech led the research team that developed a tracking and screening system that identifies T cell receptors with 100-percent specificity for individual tumors within just a few days.

In the human immune system, T cells have molecules on their surfaces that bind to antigens on the surface of foreign or cancer cells. To treat a tumor with T cell therapy, researchers must identify exactly which receptor molecules work against a specific tumor’s antigens. UCI researchers have sped up that identification process.

This technology is particularly exciting because it dismantles major challenges in cancer treatments,” said Zhao, an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences. “This use of droplet microfluidics screening significantly reduces the cost of making new cancer immunotherapies that are associated with less systemic side effects than standard chemotherapy drugs, and vastly speeds up the timeframe for treatment.

Zhao added that traditional cancer treatments have offered a one-size-fits-all disease response, such as chemotherapy drugs which can involve systemic and serious side effects.

Research findings appear in Lab on a Chip.


Ultrathin, Ultralight NanoCardboard For Aerospace

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure. Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call “nanocardboard,” an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square centimeter of nanocardboard weighs less than a thousandth of a gram and can spring back into shape after being bent in half.

Nanocardboard is made out of an aluminum oxide film with a thickness of tens of nanometers, forming a hollow plate with a height of tens of microns. Its , similar to that of corrugated cardboard, makes it more than ten thousand times as stiff as a solid plate of the same mass.


Nanocardboard is made out of an aluminum oxide film with a thickness of tens of nanometers, forming a hollow plate with a height of tens of microns. Its sandwich structure, similar to that of corrugated cardboard, makes it more than ten thousand times as stiff as a solid plate of the same mass. A square centimeter of nanocardboard weighs less than a thousandth of a gram and can spring back into shape after being bent in half.

Nanocardboard‘s stiffness-to-weight ratio makes it ideal for aerospace and microrobotic applications, where every gram counts. In addition to unprecedented mechanical properties, nanocardboard is a supreme thermal insulator, as it mostly consists of empty space. Future work will explore an intriguing phenomenon that results from a combination of properties: shining a light on a piece of nanocardboard allows it to levitate. Heat from the light creates a difference in temperatures between the two sides of the plate, which pushes a current of air molecules out through the bottom.

Igor Bargatin, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, along with lab members Chen Lin and Samuel Nicaise, led the study.

They published their results in the journal Nature Communications.


Stem Cell Therapy Could Treat Alzheimer’s And Parkinson’s

Rutgers scientists have created a tiny, biodegradable scaffold to transplant stem cells and deliver drugs, which may help treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, aging brain degeneration, spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuriesStem cell transplantation, which shows promise as a treatment for central nervous system diseases, has been hampered by low cell survival rates, incomplete differentiation of cells and limited growth of neural connections.

So, Rutgers scientists designed bio-scaffolds that mimic natural tissue and got good results in test tubes and mice. These nano-size scaffolds hold promise for advanced stem cell transplantation and neural tissue engineering. Stem cell therapy leads to stem cells becoming neurons and can restore neural circuits.

It’s been a major challenge to develop a reliable therapeutic method for treating central nervous system diseases and injuries,” said study senior author KiBum Lee, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “Our enhanced stem cell transplantation approach is an innovative potential solution.

The researchers, in cooperation with neuroscientists and clinicians, plan to test the nano-scaffolds in larger animals and eventually move to clinical trials for treating spinal cord injury. The scaffold-based technology also shows promise for regenerative medicine.

The study included researchers from Rutgers and Kyung Hee University in South Korea. The results have been published in  Nature Communications.


Mapping Genes Of All Complex Life On Earth

In an effort to protect and preserve the Earth’s biodiversity and kick-start an inclusive bio-economy, the World Economic Forum have announced a landmark partnership between the Earth BioGenome Project, chaired by Harris Lewin, distinguished professor at the University of California, Davis, and the Earth Bank of Codes to map the DNA of all life on Earth. The announcement was made at the 48th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.

The Earth Biogenome Project aims to sequence the DNA of all the planet’s eukaryotessome 1.5 million known species including all known plants, animals and single-celled organisms. The ambitious project will take 10 years to complete and cost an estimated $4.7 billion. Of the estimated 15 million eukaryotic species, only 10 percent have been taxonomically classified. Of that percentage, scientists have sequenced the genomes of around 15,000 species, less than 0.1 percent of all life on Earth.

The partnership will construct a global biology infrastructure project to sequence life on the planet to enable solutions for preserving the Earth’s biodiversity, managing ecosystems, spawning bio-based industries and sustaining human societies,” said Lewin, who chairs the Earth BioGenome Project working group. Lewin holds appointments in the Department of Evolution and Ecology and the UC Davis Genome Center.


AI Lie Detectors Could Reach 85% Accuracy

It’s already nerve-wracking answering questions at the border, and some ports in the European Union are taking it to another, kinda worrying level. They’re installing an artificial intelligence-powered system called iBorderCtrl, which aims to speed up the processing of travellers, but also to determine if they’re lying. A six-month trial will take place at four border crossing points in Hungary, Greece and Latvia.

During pre-screening, users will upload their passport, visa, and proof of funds, then answer questions asked by a computer-generated border guard to a webcam. The system will analyse the user’s microexpressions to determine if they’re lying, and they’ll be flagged as either low or high risk. People will be asked questions like “What’s in your suitcase?” and “If you open the suitcase and show me what is inside, will it confirm that your answers were true?” For those who pass the test, they’ll receive a QR code that will let them pass through. If there’s additional concern, their biometric data will be taken, and be handed off to a human agent who will assess the case.

We’re employing existing and proven — as well as novel ones — to empower border agents to increase the accuracy and efficiency of border checks,” project coordinator George Boultadakis told the European Commission “iBorderCtrl’s system will collect data that will move beyond biometrics and on to biomarkers of deceit.

Of course, there’s the question of how accurate a system like this could be. iBorderCtrl is still in its early stages, and a team member told that early testing provided a 76 percent success rate, but believe this could be raised to 85 percent.


Paraplegics Walk Again With Electrical Stimulation

Three paraplegics who sustained cervical spinal cord injuries many years ago are now able to walk with the aid of crutches or a walker thanks to new rehabilitation protocols that combine targeted electrical stimulation of the lumbar spinal cord and weight-assisted therapy.

This latest study, called STIMO (STImulation Movement Overground), establishes a new therapeutic framework to improve recovery from spinal cord injury. All patients involved in the study recovered voluntary control of leg muscles that had been paralyzed for many years. Unlike the findings of two independent studies published recently in the United States on a similar concept, neurological function was shown to persist beyond training sessions even when the electrical stimulation was turned off.


Our findings are based on a deep understanding of the underlying mechanisms which we gained through years of research on animal models. We were thus able to mimic in real time how the brain naturally activates the spinal cord,” says EPFL neuroscientist Grégoire Courtine.

All the patients could walk using body weight support within one week. I knew immediately that we were on the right path,” adds CHUV neurosurgeon Jocelyne Bloch, who surgically placed the implants in the patients.

The exact timing and location of the electrical stimulation are crucial to a patient’s ability to produce an intended movement. It is also this spatiotemporal coincidence that triggers the growth of new nerve connections,” says Courtine.

The STIMO study, led by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV ) in Switzerland, is published in  Nature and Nature Neuroscience.


How To Use Power Plant Carbon Dioxide To Grow Fish Food

Norway is known as a world leader in exporting oil and gas — but it’s also a leading fish exporter. However with global demand growing, feeding all these fish is getting more expensive and challenging. In the first half of this year Norway’s salmon export value reached the highest ever recorded and the value of exported Norwegian salmon to Asia during that time period was up 30 percent year-over-year.

At the same time that demand for farmed fish is growing, the aquaculture industry is facing a shortage of omega-3: the fatty acids used in fish feed. This process could be made more economical and sustainable with a little help from creative technological innovation.

In a new take on the concept of carbon capture, engineers in Norway are now trying to harness the carbon dioxide emitted from power plants and use it to grow fish food. The pilot project by Norway’s Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM) is using captured CO2 to grow omega-3 fatty acid-rich algae for fish feed. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for fish growth and are added to feed, are running low in global stocks and finding a sustainable, affordable source is crucial to the industry. The demand for omega-3 fatty acids in the nutrition supplement industry is also causing demand to rise.

The project, which received $1 million in funding from the Norwegian government, will grow algae in tanks in a 300-meter test facility using captured CO2 and heat from a gas-fired power plant. CO2Bio, a collaboration of industrial and research stakeholders including Salmon Group and Grieg Seafood, will operate the plant during the five-year pilot phase. The backers of the project told BBC that a metric ton of CO2 will produce a metric ton of algae, which they believe can yield 300–400kg of fish oil — a figure they hope to improve on by the end of the five-year test to determine economic viability.


The need is approximately 100,000 tonnes, and that’s a large scale,” Svein Nordvik, from CO2BIO, told the BBC. “The reason for the test center is to develop the techniques and optimize the production line so we can have a decision on large scale production.”

From a greenhouse gas emission perspective, while pumping the CO2 underground would be better, using it for economically productive industrial practices is better than pumping it out into the atmosphere. The food will feed fish, which will nourish people and the refuse could be composted.


Ultrasonic Comb Kills Lice

The Israeli company ParaSonic is developing a revolutionary home-use ultrasonic device that kills lice and their eggs in a single 5-minute combing treatmentHead lice infestations are a global problem, with 12 million infestations in children and adults every year in the United States alone. It can be very difficult to completely eradicate head lice, and re-infection occurs easily.


ParaSonic’s revolutionary home-use comb, XlicerTM kills lice and their eggs in a single combing treatment that takes about 5 minutes. Ultrasound waves generated by the teeth of the wide-toothed comb destroy lice and lice eggs after exposure of about one second. XlicerTM simultaneously sprays a natural solution onto the hair, to augment the efficacy of the the ultrasound and significantly increase the lice and eggs’ mortality. Because there is no use of pesticides, there is no possibility of the lice developing resistance. The comb’s wide-tooth design means no discomfort to the person being treated.


Nanotubes Boost Batteries Efficiency

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour showed thin nanotube films effectively stop dendrites that grow naturally from unprotected lithium metal anodes in batteries. Over time, these tentacle-like dendrites can pierce the battery’s electrolyte core and reach the cathode, causing the battery to fail. That problem has both dampened the use of lithium metal in commercial applications and encouraged researchers worldwide to solve it.

Lithium metal charges much faster and holds about 10 times more energy by volume than the lithium-ion electrodes found in just about every electronic device, including cellphones and electric cars.

Microscope images of lithium metal anodes after 500 charge/discharge cycles in tests at Rice University show the growth of dendrites is quenched in the anode at left, protected by a film of carbon nanotubes. The unprotected lithium metal anode at right shows evidence of dendrite growth

One of the ways to slow dendrites in lithium-ion batteries is to limit how fast they charge,” Tour said. “People don’t like that. They want to be able to charge their batteries quickly.”

The Rice team’s answer, detailed in Advanced Materials, is simple, inexpensive and highly effective at stopping dendrite growth, Tour said. “What we’ve done turns out to be really easy,” he said. “You just coat a lithium metal foil with a multiwalled carbon nanotube film. The lithium dopes the nanotube film, which turns from black to red, and the film in turn diffuses the lithium ions.


Man With Multiple Sclerosis Walks Again After Stem Cell Transplant

For a decade, Roy Palmer had no control of his legs. The man from Gloucester, England, had multiple sclerosis, or MS, which results in the body’s immune system eating away at the protective covering of nerves, disrupting communication between the brain and the body.  Palmer had no feeling in his legs and used a wheelchair. But last year, he received a life-changing treatment that restored his ability to walk — and dance — again,the BBC reports. The dad first heard of the treatment, called HSCT (hematopoietic stem cell transplantation), on the BBC program, “Panorama.”

Two people on that program went into Sheffield Hospital in wheelchairs and they both came out walking,” Palmer said. “As soon as we saw that, we both cried,” Palmer’s wife told the BBC. According to the National MS Society, HSCT still considered experimental, but Palmer decided it was worth a try.


If they can have that done, on a trial, why can’t I have it done?” Palmer said. So last year, the 49-year-old started the grueling treatment, which is potentially risky, the BBC reports. HSCT doesn’t always work and there is a long-term risk of infection and infertility. “They take the stem cells out of your body. They give you chemotherapy to kill the rest of your immune system,” Palmer told the BBC. The stem cells are then used to reboot the immune system. “Let’s hope it works,” Palmer adds in a home video taken just before the treatment. It did. After HSCT, he regained feeling in his left leg within two days. “I haven’t felt that in 10 years,” comments Palmer. “It’s a miracle.” Eventually, he regained feeling in both of his legs and began to walk.


Cheap High-Performance Catalysts For Hydrogen Electric Car

The industry has been traditionally deploying platinum alloys as catalysts for oxygen reduction, which is for example essential in fuel cells or metal-air batteries. Expensive and rare, that metal imposes strict restrictions on manufacture. Researchers at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) and Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung in Germany have discovered an alloy made up of five elements that is noble metal-free and as active as platinum.  The catalytic properties of non-noble elements and their alloys are usually rather poor. To the researchers’ surprise, one alloy made up of five almost equally balanced components offer much better properties. This is because of the so-called high entropy effect. It causes multinary alloys to maintain a simple crystal structure.

Through the interaction of different neighbouring elements, new active centres are formed that present entirely new properties and are therefore no longer bound to the limited properties of the individual elements,” explains Tobias Löffler, PhD student at the RUB Chair of Analytical ChemistryCenter for Electrochemical Sciences headed by Professor Wolfgang Schuhmann. “Our research has demonstrated that this alloy might be relevant for catalysis.”

Headed by Professor Christina Scheu, the research team at the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung analysed the generated nanoparticles using transmission electron microscopy. RUB chemists determined their catalytic activity and compared it with that of platinum nanoparticles. In the process, they identified a system made of up five elements where the high entropy effect results in catalytic activity for an oxygen reduction that is similar to that of platinum. By optimising the composition further, they successfully improved the overall activity.

These findings may have far-reaching consequences for electrocatalysis in general,” surmises Wolfgang Schuhmann. The researchers are hoping to adapt the properties for any required reactions by taking advantage of the almost infinite number of possible combinations of the elements and modifications of their composition. “Accordingly, the application will not necessarily be limited to oxygen reduction,” says Ludwig. The research team has already applied for a patent.

The results are published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.


How to mass produce cell-sized robots

NanoRobots no bigger than a cell could be mass-produced using a new method developed by researchers at MIT. The microscopic devices, which the team calls “syncells” (short for synthetic cells), might eventually be used to monitor conditions inside an oil or gas pipeline, or to search out disease while floating through the bloodstream.

The key to making such tiny devices in large quantities lies in a method the team developed for controlling the natural fracturing process of atomically-thin, brittle materials, directing the fracture lines so that they produce miniscule pockets of a predictable size and shape. Embedded inside these pockets are electronic circuits and materials that can collect, record, and output data.  The system uses a two-dimensional form of carbon called graphene, which forms the outer structure of the tiny syncells. One layer of the material is laid down on a surface, then tiny dots of a polymer material, containing the electronics for the devices, are deposited by a sophisticated laboratory version of an inkjet printer. Then, a second layer of graphene is laid on top.

This photo shows circles on a graphene sheet where the sheet is draped over an array of round posts, creating stresses that will cause these discs to separate from the sheet. The gray bar across the sheet is liquid being used to lift the discs from the surface

People think of graphene, an ultrathin but extremely strong material, as being “floppy,” but it is actually brittle, Strano explains. But rather than considering that brittleness a problem, the team figured out that it could be used to their advantage. “We discovered that you can use the brittleness,” says Strano, who is the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT. “It’s counterintuitive. Before this work, if you told me you could fracture a material to control its shape at the nanoscale, I would have been incredulous.”

The novel process, called “autoperforation,” is described in a paper published today in the journal Nature Materials, by MIT Professor Michael Strano, postdoc Pingwei Liu, graduate student Albert Liu, and eight others at MIT.


The Rise Of The Hydrogen Electric Truck

Nikola Motor Company is welcoming everyone to Phoenix April 16-18, 2019 for a new blockbuster event, Nikola World. The first two days, April 16 and 17, are devoted to invite-only Nikola reservation holders, suppliers, media and investors while April 18 will be reserved for the public. On April 16, Nikola will unveil the pre-production hydrogen electric semi-truck, 2.3 megawatt hydrogen station and the Nikola NZT 4X4. April 17 will be dedicated to demonstration drives and hydrogen filling. On April 18, the public is invited to see the latest trucks and NZT in action.

Not only will our team be unveiling the most advanced production semi-truck the world has ever seen, but we will also be revealing the Nikola NZT all-electric 4×4 vehicle and a massive 2.3 megawatt hydrogen station. This is why we named it Nikola World – we want to create a better place to live where emissions are eliminated,” said Trevor Milton, CEO, Nikola Motor Company.

Nikola World registration will open on December 3, 2018 at All the activities will be free. Milton added: “The largest fleets and customers in the world will attend this event and they will see what no other OEM could deliver – a production-ready, zero emission semi-truck, with over 1,000-mile range, 20 percent less operating costs per mile, more horsepower, torque and safety features than any other diesel ever built, and a startup did it. Remember that!

While diesel engines require high RPM’s to reach peak torque, the Nikola Two™ electric motors hit peak torque almost instantly. Instant torque combined with all wheel drive give Nikola Two™ the ability to accelerate nearly 2x faster than a stock diesel tractor. There are several factors that give Nikola Two™ the advantage when it comes to fuel economy:

  • Better aerodynamics
  • Using energy only when needed (no idling)
  • Charging batteries via regenerative braking
  • 6X4 four-wheel drive – pulling and pushing at the same time
  • Up to 95% efficient electric motors
  • Up to 70% efficient fuel cell
  • When pulling at max capacity, every pound counts. With nearly 2,000 lbs of weight savings on the chassis, owners can throw more goods on each load.
    Every pound after max load may be worth as much as $.50. By saving up to 2,000 lbs, owners could earn approximately $1,000 in extra revenue from every load, every day. Owners that run at full load could see up to $30,000 or more each month in revenue straight to the bottom line.
  • Nikola‘s Complete Lease Program includes hydrogen fuel, warranty and scheduled maintenance. We get asked about the cost of ownership more than anything else. For this reason the Nikola™ Complete Leasing Program  has been created.
  • Nikola Motor Company wants to create the largest hydrogen network in the world that will cover over 2,000 miles and include 16 stations. Nikola has already kicked off two of the 16 stations and 14 more will follow immediately after installation.


Creating Nanocages With Tunable Properties From DNA

How to create nanocages, i.e., robust and stable objects with regular voids and tunable properties? Short segments of DNA molecules are perfect candidates for the controllable design of novel complex structures. Physicists from the University of Vienna, the Technical University of Vienna, the Foschungszentrum Jülich in Germany and Cornell University in the U.S.A., investigated methodologies to synthesize DNA-based dendrimers in the lab and to predict their behavior using detailed computer simulations.

Nanocages are highly interesting molecular constructs, from the point of view of both fundamental science and possible applications. The cavities of these nanometer-sized objects can be employed as carriers of smaller molecules, which is of critical importance in medicine for drug or gene delivery in living organisms. This idea brought together researchers from various interdisciplinary fields who have been investigating dendrimers as promising candidates for creating such nano-carriers. Their tree-like architecture and step-wise growth with repeating self-similar units results in dendrimers containing cavities, hollow objects with controllable design.

The researchers found a way to create dendrimers rigid enough to prevent back-folding of outer arms even in the case of high branching generations, preserving regular voids in their interior. The nanocages they created, in the lab and studied computationally are DNA-based dendrimers, or so-called, dendrimer-like DNAs (DL-DNA).

Their results are published in the journal Nanoscale.


Antibodies Are The New Cancer Weapon

Antibody-based imaging* of a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer is undergoing clinical trials worldwide, but the path from trial to application is being hampered by a major obstacle: safety. Concerns stem from inefficient tumor targeting, which can result in accumulation in the bone marrow, liver and kidneys of the radioactive material necessary for the imaging. Recent efforts have focused on nanoscale delivery vehicles with immune components, but these vehicles are often still too large (20 nanometers or larger) for renal clearance after imaging.

Ulrich Wiesner, the Spencer T. Olin Professor of Engineering in materials science and engineering, in collaboration with Dr. Michelle Bradbury of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and Weill Cornell Medicine, has proposed a novel approach using ultrasmall silica nanoparticles – better known as “Cornell dots” (or C dots) – invented in his lab more than a dozen years ago. Their team – including researchers at pharmaceutical company MedImmune – have equipped the C dots with antibody fragments. Because the resulting conjugates are smaller than 8 nanometers, these C dots allow for renal clearance while achieving the specificity needed for efficient tumor targeting.

They report their discovery in in Nature Communications. Feng Chen, senior research scientist at MSKCC, and Kai Ma, postdoctoral researcher in the Wiesner lab, are co-lead authors. Wiesner said this research creates “a whole new runway” to employ antibody fragments for a number of diseases, cancer in particular, and for diagnostics as well as drug delivery – when combined in a single entity also known as “theranostics.”

A rendering of the Cornell prime dot (left) with an attached antibody fragment (center) binding to a HER2 cancer cell receptor (right). The dot and antibody attachment combined are less than 8 nanometers in diameter, the limit for renal clearance.

This is the first time we’ve worked with these antibody fragments,” Wiesner said, “thereby harnessing the power of antibodies in the fight against cancer.”

Cornell dots and their newer generation – termed “Cornell prime dots,” or simply C’ dots – have evolved since Wiesner and his group introduced them in 2005 and since, in collaboration with Bradbury, a first clinical trial deemed them safe for humans in 2014. Two years ago, the dots were shown to have the ability not only to detect cancer cells but to be self-therapeutic thereby actually killing them.

Cancer imaging is an umbrella term that covers the many approaches used to research and diagnose cancer. Originally used to diagnose and stage the disease, cancer imaging is now also used to assist with surgery and radiotherapy, to look for early responses to cancer therapies and to identify patients who are not responding to treatment.


New Materials For New Processors

Computers used to take up entire rooms. Today, a two-pound laptop can slide effortlessly into a backpack. But that wouldn’t have been possible without the creation of new, smaller processors — which are only possible with the innovation of new materials. But how do materials scientists actually invent new materials? Through experimentation, explains Sanket Deshmukh, an assistant professor in the chemical engineering department of Virginia Tech whose team’s recently published computational research might vastly improve the efficiency and costs savings of the material design process.

Deshmukh’s lab, the Computational Design of Hybrid Materials lab, is devoted to understanding and simulating the ways molecules move and interact — crucial to creating a new material. In recent years, materials scientists have employed machine learning, a powerful subset of artificial intelligence, to accelerate the discovery of new materials through computer simulations. Deshmukh and his team have recently published research in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters demonstrating a novel machine learning framework that trainson the fly,” meaning it instantaneously processes data and learns from it to accelerate the development of computational models. Traditionally the development of computational models are “carried out manually via trial-and-error approach, which is very expensive and inefficient, and is a labor-intensive task,” Deshmukh explained.

This novel framework not only uses the machine learning in a unique fashion for the first time,” Deshmukh said, “but it also dramatically accelerates the development of accurate computational models of materials.” “We train the machine learning model in a ‘reverse’ fashion by using the properties of a model obtained from molecular dynamics simulations as an input for the machine learning model, and using the input parameters used in molecular dynamics simulations as an output for the machine learning model,” said Karteek Bejagam, a post-doctoral researcher in Deshmukh’s lab and one of the lead authors of the study.

This new framework allows researchers to perform optimization of computational models, at unusually faster speed, until they reach the desired properties of a new material.


Perovskite Could Convert Up To 44% Of Light Into Electricity

Perovskites are a family of crystals that show promising properties for applications in nano-technology. However, one useful property that until now was unobserved in perovskites is so-called carrier multiplication – an effect that makes materials much more efficient in converting light into electricity. New research, led by   (UvA-IoP) physicists Dr Chris de Weerd and Dr Leyre Gomez from the group of Prof. Tom Gregorkiewicz, has now shown that certain perovskites in fact do have this desirable propertyCrystals are configurations of atoms, molecules or ions, that are ordered in a structure that repeats itself in all directions. We have all encountered some crystals in everyday life: ordinary salt, diamond and even snowflakes are examples. What is perhaps less well-known is that certain crystals show very interesting properties when their size is not that of our everyday life but that of nanometers – a few billionths of a meter.

Perovskites – named after 19th century Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski – form a particular family of materials that all share the same crystal structure. These perovskites have many desirable electronic properties, making them useful for constructing for example LEDs, TV-screens, solar cells and lasers. A property which so far had not been shown to exist in perovskites is carrier multiplication. When semiconductors – in solar cells, for example – convert the energy of light into electricity, this is usually done one particle at a time: a single infalling photon results in a single excited electron (and the corresponding ‘hole’ where the electron used to be) that can carry an electrical current. However, in certain materials, if the infalling light is energetic enough, further electron-hole pairs can be excited as a result; it is this process that is known as carrier multiplication.

Until now, carrier multiplication had not been reported for perovskites. That we have now found it is of great fundamental impact on this upcoming material. For example, this shows that perovskite nanocrystals can be used to construct very efficient photodetectors, and in the future perhaps solar cells”, says De Weerd, who successfully defended her PhD thesis based on this and other research last week.

When carrier multiplication occurs, the conversion from light into electricity can become much more efficient. For example, in ordinary solar cells there is a theoretical limit (the so-called Shockley-Queisser limit) on the amount of energy that can be converted in this way: at most a little over 33% of the solar power gets turned into electrical power. In semiconductor nanocrystals that feature the carrier multiplication effect, however, a maximum efficiency of up to 44% is predicted.

The paper in which the researchers report on their findings was published in Nature Communications this week.


How To Pilot A Drone Using Virtual Reality

Imagine piloting a drone using the movements of your torso only and leaving your head free to look around, much like a bird. The Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne  (EPFL) research, in Switzerland,  has just shown that using your torso to pilot flying machines is indeed more immersive – and more effective – than using the long-established joystick.


Our aim was to design a control method which would be easy to learn and therefore require less mental focus from the users so that they can focus on more important issues, like search and rescue,” says lead author Jenifer Miehlbradt of EPFL’s Translational Neuroengineering Laboratory led by Bertarelli Foundation Chair Silvestro Micera. “Using your torso really gives you the feeling that you are actually flying. Joysticks, on the other hand, are of simple design but mastering their use to precisely control distant objects can be challenging.

The scientists wanted to observe how people use their bodies to pilot a flying object, in this case a drone, and determine which movements are most intuitive and natural – approaching the pilot problem from a completely new perspective.

They started by monitoring the body movements of 17 individuals thanks to 19 infrared markers placed all over the upper body as well as their muscular activity. Each participant followed the actions of a virtual drone through simulated landscapes that passed-by as viewed through virtual reality goggles.

The results are published in the journal PNAS.


Fasting Is A powerful Anti-Aging Weapon

A molecule produced during fasting or calorie restriction has anti-aging effects on the vascular system, which could reduce the occurrence and severity of human diseases related to blood vessels, such as cardiovascular disease, according to a study led by Georgia State University.

As people become older, they are more susceptible to disease, like cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Ming-Hui Zou, senior author of the study, director of the Center for Molecular and Translational Medicine at Georgia State. “Age is the most important so-called risk factor for human disease. How to actually delay aging is a major pathway to reducing the incident and severity of human diseaseThe most important part of aging is vascular aging. When people become older, the vessels that supply different organs are the most sensitive and more subject to aging damage, so studying vascular aging is very important. This study is focused on vascular aging, and in old age, what kind of changes happen and how to prevent vascular aging.”

In this study, the research team explores the link between calorie restriction (eating less or fasting) and delaying aging, which is unknown and has been poorly studied. The findings are published in the journal Molecular Cell.

The researchers identified an important, small molecule that is produced during fasting or calorie restriction conditions. The molecule, β-Hydroxybutyrate, is one type of a ketone body, or a water-soluble molecule that contains a ketone group and is produced by the liver from fatty acids during periods of low food intake, carbohydrate restrictive diets, starvation and prolonged intense exercise.


Human Retinas Grown In A Dish

Biologists at Johns Hopkins University grew human retinas from scratch to determine how cells that allow people to see in color are made. The work, set for publication in the journal Science, lays the foundation to develop therapies for eye diseases such as color blindness and macular degeneration. It also establishes lab-created “organoids” as a model to study human development on a cellular level.


Everything we examine looks like a normal developing eye, just growing in a dish,” said Robert Johnston, a developmental biologist at Johns Hopkins. “You have a model system that you can manipulate without studying humans directly.” Johnston’s lab explores how a cell’s fate is determined—or what happens in the womb to turn a developing cell into a specific type of cell, an aspect of human biology that is largely unknown. Here, he and his team focused on the cells that allow people to see blue, red and green—the three cone photoreceptors in the human eye.

While most vision research is done on mice and fish, neither of those species has the dynamic daytime and color vision of humans. So Johnston’s team created the human eye tissue they needed—with stem cells. “Trichromatic color vision differentiates us from most other mammals,” said lead author Kiara Eldred, a Johns Hopkins graduate student. “Our research is really trying to figure out what pathways these cells take to give us that special color vision.”


Molecular Baskets Swallow, Trap And Remove Toxic Compounds

Researchers have developed designer molecules that may one day be able to seek out and trap deadly nerve agents and other toxic compounds in the environment – and possibly in humans.

The scientists, led by organic chemists from The Ohio State University, call these new particlesmolecular baskets.” As the name implies, these molecules are shaped like baskets and research in the lab has shown they can find simulated nerve agents, swallow them in their cavities and trap them for safe removal.

In a new study published in Chemistry – A European Journal, the researchers took the first step in creating versions that could have potential for use in medicine.

Our goal is to develop nanoparticles that can trap toxic compounds not only in the environment, but also from the human body,” said Jovica Badjić, leader of the project and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State.

The research focuses on nerve agents, sometimes called nerve gas, which are deadly chemical poisons that have been used in warfare.

In a study published last year in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Badjić and his colleagues created molecular baskets with amino acids around the rims. These amino acids helped find simulated nerve agents in a liquid environment and direct them into the basket.


Antipsychotic Drug Reduces Aggressive Type Of Breast Cancer Cells

A commonly-used anti-psychotic drug could also be effective against triple negative breast cancer, the form of the disease that is most difficult to treat, new research has found. The study, led by the University of Bradford, also showed that the drug, Pimozide, has the potential to treat the most common type of lung cancer.

Anti-psychotic drugs are known to have anti-cancer properties, with some, albeit inconclusive, studies showing a reduced incidence of cancer amongst people with schizophrenia. The new research, published inOncotarget, is the first to identify how one of these drugs acts against triple negative breast cancer, with the potential to be the first targeted treatment for the disease.

Triple negative breast cancer has lower survival rates and increased risk of recurrence. It is the only type of breast cancer for which only limited targeted treatments are available. Our research has shown that Pimozide could potentially fill this gap. And because this drug is already in clinical use, it could move quickly into clinical trials,” said lead researcher, Professor Mohamed El-Tanani from the University of Bradford

The researchers, from the University of Bradford, Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Salamanca, tested Pimozide in the laboratory on triple negative breast cancer cells, non-small cell lung cancer cells and normal breast cells. They found that at the highest dosage used, up to 90 per cent of the cancer cells died following treatment with the drug, compared with only five per cent of the normal cells.


How To Treat Congenital Disease Before Birth

For the first time, scientists have performed prenatal gene editing to prevent a lethal metabolic disorder in laboratory animals, offering the potential to treat human congenital diseases before birth. Published today in Nature Medicine, research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and offers proof-of-concept for prenatal use of a sophisticated, low-toxicity tool that efficiently edits DNA building blocks in disease-causing genes.

Using both CRISPR-Cas9 and base editor 3 (BE3) gene-editing tools, the team reduced cholesterol levels in healthy mice treated in utero by targeting a gene that regulates those levels. They also used prenatal gene editing to improve liver function and prevent neonatal death in a subgroup of mice that had been engineered with a mutation causing the lethal liver disease hereditary HT1 (HT1). HT1 in humans usually appears during infancy, and it is often treatable with a medicine called nitisinone and a strict diet. However, when treatments fail, patients are at risk of liver failure or liver cancer. Prenatal treatment could open a door to disease prevention, for HT1 and potentially for other congenital disorders.

Our ultimate goal is to translate the approach used in these proof-of-concept studies to treat severe diseases diagnosed early in pregnancy,” said study co-leader William H. Peranteau, MD, a pediatric and fetal surgeon in CHOP’s Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment. “We hope to broaden this strategy to intervene prenatally in congenital diseases that currently have no effective treatment for most patients, and result in death or severe complications in infants.

We used base editing to turn off the effects of a disease-causing genetic mutation,” said study co-leader Kiran Musunuru, MD, PhD, MPH, an associate professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Penn. “We also plan to use the same base-editing technique not just to disrupt a mutation’s effects, but to directly correct the mutation.” Musunuru is an expert in gene-editing technology and previously showed that it can be used to reduce cholesterol and fat levels in the blood, which could lead to the development of a “vaccination” to prevent cardiovascular disease.


Spheres Trick, Trap and Terminate Water Contaminant

Rice University scientists have developed something akin to the Venus’ flytrap of particles for water remediationMicron-sized spheres created in the lab of Rice environmental engineer Pedro Alvarez are built to catch and destroy bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic chemical used to make plasticsBPA is commonly used to coat the insides of food cans, bottle tops and water supply lines, and was once a component of baby bottles. While BPA that seeps into food and drink is considered safe in low doses, prolonged exposure is suspected of affecting the health of children and contributing to high blood pressure. The good news is that reactive oxygen species (ROS) – in this case, hydroxyl radicals – are bad news for BPA. Inexpensive titanium dioxide releases ROS when triggered by ultraviolet light. But because oxidating molecules fade quickly, BPA has to be close enough to attack. That’s where the trap comes in.

Close up, the spheres reveal themselves as flower-like collections of titanium dioxide petals. The supple petals provide plenty of surface area for the Rice researchers to anchor cyclodextrin molecules. Cyclodextrin is a benign sugar-based molecule often used in food and drugs. It has a two-faced structure, with a hydrophobic (water-avoiding) cavity and a hydrophilic (water-attracting) outer surface. BPA is also hydrophobic and naturally attracted to the cavity. Once trapped, ROS produced by the spheres degrades BPA into harmless chemicals.

In the lab, the researchers determined that 200 milligrams of the spheres per liter of contaminated water degraded 90 percent of BPA in an hour, a process that would take more than twice as long with unenhanced titanium dioxide. The work fits into technologies developed by the Rice-based and National Science Foundation-supported Center for Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment because the spheres self-assemble from titanium dioxide nanosheets.

Petals” of a titanium dioxide sphere enhanced with cyclodextrin as seen under a scanning electron microscope. When triggered by ultraviolet light, the spheres created at Rice University are effective at removing bisphenol A contaminants from water.

Most of the processes reported in the literature involve nanoparticles,” said Rice graduate student and lead author Danning Zhang. “The size of the particles is less than 100 nanometers. Because of their very small size, they’re very difficult to recover from suspension in water.

The research is detailed in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology.


CRISPR-SKIP, New Gene Editing Technique

What if doctors could treat previously incurable genetic diseases caused by errors or mutations in genes? Thanks to new research by American scientists at the University of Illinois, we are one step closer to making that a reality. Published in Genome Biology, their work is based on CRISPR-Cas9, a groundbreaking genome editing system.

Typically, cells in the body “readDNA to produce the proteins needed for different biological functions. . Scientists can change how the DNA is read using CRISPR gene-editing technology. CRISPR-Cas9 is often used to cut out specific areas of DNA and repair faulty genes. In the current study, the researchers modified existing technology to create CRISPR-SKIP. Instead of breaking DNA to cut faulty genes out, CRISPR-SKIP changes a single base of the targeted DNA sequence, causing the cell to skip reading that section of DNA.

According to the study authors, CRISPR-SKIP can eliminate faulty sections of DNA permanently, allowing for long-lasting treatment of some genetic diseases with one treatment. They successfully tested their technique in cell lines from both mice and humans. The scientists aim to test the method in live organisms in the future.

CRISPR-SKIP has the potential to help treat many diseases such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Huntington’s disease, and Duchenne muscular dystrophy to name a few. Because the method only requires editing of a single base, it is simple, precise, and adaptable to a variety of cell types and applications.


Highly Stable Catalyst Helps Turn Water Into Fuel

Breaking the bonds between oxygen and hydrogen in water could be a key to the creation of hydrogen in a sustainable manner, but finding an economically viable technique for this has proved difficult. Researchers report a new hydrogen-generating catalyst that clears many of the obstacles – abundance, stability in acid conditions and efficiency.

In the journal Angewandte Chemie, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign report on an electrocatalytic material made from mixing metal compounds with substance called perchloric acidElectrolyzers use electricity to break water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen. The most efficient of these devices use corrosive acids and electrode materials made of the metal compounds iridium oxide or ruthenium oxide. Iridium oxide is the more stable of the two, but iridium is one of the least abundant elements on Earth, so researchers are in search of an alternative material.

Much of the previous work was performed with electrolyzers made from just two elements – one metal and oxygen,” said Hong Yang, a co-author and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Illinois. “In a recent study, we found if a compound has two metal elements – yttrium and ruthenium – and oxygen, the rate of water-splitting reaction increased.”

The researchers found that when they used perchloric acid as a catalyst and let the mixture react under heat, the physical nature of the yttrium ruthenate product changed. “The material became more porous and also had a new crystalline structure, different from all the solid catalysts we made before,” said Jaemin Kim, the lead author and a postdoctoral researcher. The new porous material the team developed – a pyrochlore oxide of yttrium ruthenate – can split water molecules at a higher rate than the current industry standard. “Because of the increased activity it promotes, a porous structure is highly desirable when it comes electrocatalysts,” Yang said. “These pores can be produced synthetically with nanometer-sized templates and substances for making ceramics; however, those can’t hold up under the high-temperature conditions needed for making high-quality solid catalysts.”


NanoComputers Could Run a Million Times Faster

Transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs) possess optical properties that could be used to make computers run a million times faster and store information a million times more energy-efficiently, according to a study led by Georgia State University.

Computers operate on the time scale of a fraction of a nanosecond, but the researchers suggest constructing computers on the basis of TMDCs, atomically thin semiconductors, could make them run on the femtosecond time scale, a million times faster. This would also increase computer memory speed by a millionfold.

There is nothing faster, except light,” said Dr. Mark Stockman, lead author of the study and director of the Center for Nano-Optics and a Regents’ Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Georgia State. “The only way to build much faster computers is to use optics, not electronics. Electronics, which is used by current computers, can’t go any faster, which is why engineers have been increasing the number of processors. We propose the TMDCs to make computers a million times more efficient. This is a fundamentally different approach to information technology.”

The researchers propose a theory that TMDCs have the potential to process information within a couple of femtoseconds. A femtosecond is one millionth of one billionth of a second. A TMDC has a hexagonal lattice structure that consists of a layer of transition metal atoms sandwiched between two layers of chalcogen atoms. This hexagonal structure aids in the computer processor speed and also enables more efficient information storage. The TMDCs have a number of positive qualities, including being stable, non-toxic, thin, light and mechanically strong. Examples include molybdenum disulfide (MOS2) and tungsten diselenide (WSe2). TMDCs are part of a large family called 2D materials, which is named after their extraordinary thinness of one or a few atoms. In this study, the researchers also established the optical properties of the TMDCs, which allow them to be ultrafast.

The findings are published in the journal Physical Review B.


Flying Robot

If your robot doesn’t weigh anything, you don’t have to worry about falling over, Researchers from the University of Tokyo have developed a quadrotor with legs called Aerial-Biped. Designed primarily for entertainment, Aerial-Biped enables “a richer physical expression” by automatically generating walking gaits in sync with its quadrotor body.

Until someone invents a robot that can moonwalk, you can model a gait that appears normal by simply making sure that the velocity of a foot is zero as long as it’s in contact with the ground. The Aerial-Biped robot learns how to do this through reinforcement learning in a physics simulator, and the policy transfers to the robot well enough that the legs can appear to walk as the quadrotor moves.


The lead author Azumi Maekawa from the University of Tokyo explained: . “We were inspired by bipedal robots that use invisible force to get stability, such as Magdan, created by Tomotaka Takahashi (an electromagnet on the bottom of its feet lets it walk on a metal plate), and BALLU (which uses buoyancy of a helium-filled balloon). The foot trajectory generation method is based on the assumption that one of the key features of walking (or at least the appearance of walking) is that the velocity of the foot in contact with the ground is zero. The goal is to develop a robot that has the ability to display the appearance of bipedal walking with dynamic mobility, and to provide a new visual experience. 


A self-powered heart monitor taped to the skin

Scientists in Japan have developed a human-friendly, ultra-flexible organic sensor powered by sunlight, which acts as a self-powered heart monitor. Previously, they developed a flexible photovoltaic cell that could be incorporated into textiles. In this study, they directly integrated a sensory device, called an organic electrochemical transistor—a type of electronic device that can be used to measure a variety of biological functions—into a flexible organic solar cell. Using it, they were then able to measure the heartbeats of rats and humans under bright light conditions.

Self-powered devices that can be fit directly on human skin or tissue have great potential for medical applications. They could be used as physiological sensors for the real-time  or the real-time monitoring of heart or brain function in the human body. However, practical realization has been impractical due to the bulkiness of batteries and insufficient power supply, or due to noise interference from the electrical supply, impeding conformability and long-term operation.

The key requirement for such devices is a stable and adequate energy supply. A key advance in this study, published in Nature, is the use of a nano-grating surface on the light absorbers of the solar cell, allowing for high photo-conversion efficiency (PCE) and light angle independency. Thanks to this, the researchers were able to achieve a PCE of 10.5 percent and a high power-per-weight ratio of 11.46 watts per gram, approaching the “magic number” of 15 percent that will make organic photovoltaics competitive with their silicon-based counterparts.

To demonstrate a practical application, sensory devices called organic electrochemical transistors were integrated with organic solar cells on an ultra-thin (1 μm) substrate, to allow the self-powered detection of heartbeats either on the skin or to record electrocardiographic (ECG) signals directly on the heart of a rat. They found that the device worked well at a lighting level of 10,000 lux, which is equivalent to the light seen when one is in the shade on a clear sunny day, and experienced less noise than similar devices connected to a battery, presumably because of the lack of electric wires.

According to Kenjiro Fukuda of the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science, “This is a nice step forward in the quest to make self-powered medical monitoring devices that can be placed on human tissue. There are some important remaining tasks, such as the development of flexible power storage devices, and we will continue to collaborate with other groups to produce practical devices. Importantly, for the current experiments we worked on the analog part of our device, which powers the device and conducts the measurement. There is also a digital silicon-based portion, for the transmission of data, and further work in that area will also help to make such devices practical.

The research was carried out by RIKEN in collaboration with researchers from the University of Tokyo.


Swarm Of NanoRobots Can Improve The Efficiency Of Any Machine

The research team of Prof. Massimiliano Esposito of the University of Luxembourg studied the thermodynamics of  nanomachines. All machines convert one form of energy into another form – for example a car engine turns the energy stored in fuel into motion energy. Those processes of energy conversion, described by the theory called thermodynamics, don’t only take place on the macro-level of big machines, but also at the micro-level of molecular machines that drive muscles or metabolic processes and even on the atomic level. The research team of Prof. Massimiliano Esposito of the University of Luxembourg studies the thermodynamics of nanomachines only consisting of a few atoms.

In a paper published in the prestigious scientific journal Physical Review X, they outline how these small machines behave in concert. Their insights could be used to improve the energy efficiency of all kinds of machines, big or small.

Recent progress in nanotechnology has enabled researchers to understand the world in ever-smaller scales and even allows for the design and manufacture of extremely small artificial machines.

There is evidence that these machines are far more efficient than large machines, such as cars. Yet in absolute terms, the output is low compared to the needs we have in daily life applications,” explains Tim Herpich, PhD student at Esposito’s research group and main author of the paper. “That is why we studied how the nanomachines interact with each other and looked at how ensembles of those small machines behave. We wanted to see if there are synergies when they act in concert.”

The researchers found that the nanomachines under certain conditions start to arrange in “swarms” and synchronise their movements. “We could show that the synchronisation of the machines triggers significant synergy effects, so that the overall energy output of the ensemble is far greater than the sum of the individual outputs,” said Prof. Esposito. While this is basic research, the principles outlined in the paper could potentially be used to improve the efficiency of any machine in the future, the researcher explains.

In order to simulate and study the energetic behaviour of swarms of nanomachines, the scientists created mathematical models that are based on existing literature and outcomes of experimental research.


How To Make Concrete Leaner, Greener, Stronger And More Elastic

Rice University scientists have developed micron-sized calcium silicate spheres that could lead to stronger and greener concrete, the world’s most-used synthetic material. To Rice materials scientist Rouzbeh Shahsavari and graduate student Sung Hoon Hwang, the spheres represent building blocks that can be made at low cost and promise to mitigate the energy-intensive techniques now used to make cement, the most common binder in concrete.

The researchers formed the spheres in a solution around nanoscale seeds of a common detergent-like surfactant. The spheres can be prompted to self-assemble into solids that are stronger, harder, more elastic and more durable than ubiquitous Portland cement.

Packed, micron-scale calcium silicate spheres developed at Rice University are a promising material that could lead to stronger and more environmentally friendly concrete

Cement doesn’t have the nicest structure,” said Shahsavari, an assistant professor of materials science and nanoengineering. “Cement particles are amorphous and disorganized, which makes it a bit vulnerable to cracks. But with this material, we know what our limits are and we can channel polymers or other materials in between the spheres to control the structure from bottom to top and predict more accurately how it could fracture.”

He said the spheres are suitable for bone-tissue engineering, insulation, ceramic and composite applications as well as cement.


How To Make Toxic Water Safe And Drinkable

In Australia, UNSW and RMIT researchers have discovered a revolutionary and cheap way to make filters that can turn water contaminated with heavy metals into safe drinking water in a matter of minutes. Recent UNSW SHARP hire Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh and his former colleagues at RMIT showed that nano-filters made of aluminium oxide could be cheaply produced using virtually no energy from a fixed amount of liquid metal gallium.

In a paper published in Advanced Functional Materials, lead author Dr Ali Zavabeti (RMIT) and Professor Kalantar-zadeh explained that when a chunk of aluminium is added to the core of liquid gallium at room temperature, layers of aluminium oxide are quickly produced at the surface of the gallium. The authors discovered that these aluminium oxide nano-sheets were highly porous and went on to prove they were suitable for filtering both heavy metal ions and oil contamination at unprecedented, ultra-fast rates. Professor Kalantar-zadeh, who was recently awarded an ARC Australian Laureate Fellowship soon after joining UNSW‘s School of Chemical Engineering, said that low cost and portable filters produced by this new liquid metal based manufacturing process could be used by people without access to clean drinking water to remove substances like lead and other toxic metals in a matter of minutes.

Because it’s super porous, water passes through very rapidly,” Professor Kalantar-zadeh said. “Lead and other heavy metals have a very high affinity to aluminium oxide. As the water passes through billions of layers, each one of these lead ions get attracted to one of these aluminium oxide sheets. “But at the same time, it’s very safe because with repeated use, the water flow cannot detach the heavy metal ions from the aluminium oxide.”

Professor Kalantar-zadeh believes the technology could be put to good use in Africa and Asia in places where heavy metal ions in the water are at levels well beyond safe human consumption. It is estimated that 790 million people, or one in 10 of the Earth’s population, do not have access to clean water. “If you’ve got bad quality water, you just take a gadget with one of these filters with you,” he said. “You pour the contaminated water in the top of a flask with the aluminium oxide filter. Wait two minutes and the water that passes through the filter is now very clean water, completely drinkable. “And the good thing is, this filter is cheap.”

There are portable filtration products available that do remove heavy metals from water, but they are comparatively expensive, often costing more than $100. By contrast, aluminium oxide filters produced from liquid gallium could be produced for as little as 10 cents, making them attractive to prospective manufacturers.


The Sea Floor Is Full Of Minerals Vital in The Manufacture Of Smartphones

From the safety of their research vessel, scientists are exploring one of Earth’s last frontiers – the sea floor – to discover more about valuable minerals vital in the manufacture of smartphones. The researchers, from the University of Bergen in Norway, are sending robots 2,500m down into the waters between Norway and Greenland, to try to understand the environments potentially rich with rare earth minerals.


The ocean sea floor on Earth is, for the most part, unknown,” scientist Thibaut Barreyre said. “It’s totally fair to say that we know much more about the surface of the moon and Mars – mapped by satellites and different devices – than we know about our own planet.”

The international team is using technology including autonomous robots and human-piloted submarines to explore the sea’s dark depths where zinc, gold and copper are also found. The scientists hope the explorations will reveal why some areas have minerals and others do not, how much is down there and what damage mining them would have on the environment. A viable new source of rare earths, a group of 17 elements used in the production of smartphone screens, magnets, camera lenses and X-ray machines could be highly lucrative. But it is not that simple, Barreyre explained. “Some of them (waters) are rich in gold, copper, zinc and rare earths. And others have almost none of those. And that’s why it’s very important to us as scientists to understand it,”he commented. The team, which began exploring the area last year, will spend the next five years searching.


Spray-On Electronic Nano-Antennas For Wearables

The promise of wearables, functional fabrics, the Internet of Things, and their “next-generation” technological cohort seems tantalizingly within reach. But researchers in the field will tell you a prime reason for their delayed “arrival” is the problem of seamlessly integrating connection technology — namely, antennas — with shape-shifting and flexible “things.”

But a breakthrough by researchers in Drexel’s College of Engineering, could now make installing an antenna as easy as applying some bug spray. In research recently published in Science Advances, the group reports on a method for spraying invisibly thin antennas, made from a type of two-dimensional, metallic material called MXene, that perform as well as those being used in mobile devices, wireless routers and portable transducers.


Spray-applied MXene antennas could open the door for new applications in smart technology, wearables and IoT devices

This is a very exciting finding because there is a lot of potential for this type of technology,” said Kapil Dandekar, PhD, a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering, who directs the Drexel Wireless Systems Lab, and was a co-author of the research. “The ability to spray an antenna on a flexible substrate or make it optically transparent means that we could have a lot of new places to set up networks — there are new applications and new ways of collecting data that we can’t even imagine at the moment.”


Artificial Hearts Are Now Produced Industrially

Carmat (Paris:ALCAR), the designer and developer of the world’s most advanced total artificial heart project, aiming to provide a therapeutic alternative for people suffering from end-stage biventricular heart failure, has announced the certification of its new manufacturing site situated in Bois-d’Arcy, near Paris. In line with the schedule, the recently opened automated site is perfectly aligned with Carmat’s strategic transformation into an industrial company.

The newly available space will allow the production of up to 800 units per year at full capacity to meet the demands of industrial-pace manufacturing as well as the enrollment ramp up in the ongoing PIVOTAL study. Furthermore, this facility will enable the use of new tools, such as robots, to assemble hybrid membranes on the device and a fully-automated software station to set up the prosthesis parameters. This project has been conducted by a dedicated team with the aim to implement best industrial practices in regards to the organization, processes, and IT systems for maximum efficiency and quality.

Stéphane Piat, Chief Executive Officer of Carmat, commented: “We are delighted to announce the certification of our new manufacturing site based in Bois-d’Arcy, near Paris, which is a true accomplishment as we have achieved it in less than a year from the start of the building construction. Carmat will now be able to manufacture products in both Vélizy and Bois-d’Arcy. In line with our strategy, the new automated site will enable Carmat to become an industrial company with the ability to manufacture up to 800 units a year at full capacity in order to support the demand. Thanks to new processes, we will increase production throughput and more importantly, reinforce the quality of our prostheses to better serve patients across the world.”


One Dollar Hand Kit Detects and Diagnoses Diseases

A test kit that can fit into the palm of a hand could be changing the face of disease screening and diagnosis. Developed by a multidisciplinary team of the National University of Singapore (NUS) researchers, the device named enVision (enzyme-assisted nanocomplexes for visual identification of nucleic acids) is a versatile platform that can conduct specific and sensitive screening and detection for a range of diseases, from infectious diseases and high-prevalence infections, to various types of cancers and genetic diseases.

More effective and less costly than existing infection diagnostic methods, enVision, which took about one-and-a-half years to develop, takes between 30 minutes to one hour to detect diseases — two to four times faster — and each test kit costs under $1 — about 100 times cheaper.

The enVision platform is extremely sensitive, accurate, fast, and low-cost. It works at room temperature and does not require heaters or special pumps, making it very portable. With this invention, tests can be done at the point-of-care, for instance in community clinics or hospital wards, so that disease monitoring or treatment can be administered in a timely manner to achieve better health outcomes,” said team leader Assistant Professor Shao Huilin from the Biomedical Institute for Global Health Research and Technology (BIGHEART) at NUS and NUS Biomedical Engineering.


Let Your Skin Play Music

A variety of nanomaterials have been used over the years in loudspeakers and microphones. Nanoparticles have replaced permanent magnets in loudspeakers and a thin film of carbon nanotubes has done pretty much the same. And, of course, someone tried to use graphene to reproduce sound for microphones.

Now researchers at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in South Korea have made a nanomembrane out of silver nanowires to serve as flexible loudspeakers or microphones. The researchers even went so far as to demonstrate their nanomembrane by making it into a loudspeaker that could be attached to skin and used it to play the final movement of a violin concerto—namely, La Campanella by Niccolo Paganini.

In research described in the journal Science Advances, the Korean researchers embedded a silver nanowire network within a polymer-based nanomembrane. The decision to use silver nanowires rather than the other types of nanomaterials that have been used in the past was based on the comparative ease of hybridizing the nanowires into the polymer. In addition, the researchers opted for nanowires because the other materials like graphene and carbon nanotubes are not as mechanically strong at nanometer-scale thickness when in freestanding form, according to Hyunhyub Ko, an associate professor at UNIST and coauthor of the research. It is this thickness that is the critical element of the material.

The biggest breakthrough of our research is the development of ultrathin, transparent, and conductive hybrid nanomembranes with nanoscale thickness, less than 100 nanometers,” said Ko. “These outstanding optical, electrical, and mechanical properties of nanomembranes enable the demonstration of skin-attachable and imperceptible loudspeaker and microphone.”

The nanomembrane loudspeaker operates by emitting thermoacoustic sound through the oscillation of the surrounding air brought on by temperature differences. The periodic Joule heating that occurs when an electric current passes through a conductor and produces heat leads to these temperature oscillations.


How To Recreate Memories Of Faces From Brain Data

A new technique developed by neuroscientists at the University of Toronto can reconstruct images of what people perceive based on their brain activity. The technique developed by Dan Nemrodov, a postdoctoral fellow in Assistant Professor Adrian Nestor’s lab at U of T Scarborough, is able to digitally reconstruct images seen by test subjects based on electroencephalography (EEG) data.


When we see something, our brain creates a mental percept, which is essentially a mental impression of that thing. We were able to capture this percept using EEG to get a direct illustration of what’s happening in the brain during this process,” says Nemrodov.

For the study, test subjects hooked up to EEG equipment were shown images of faces. Their brain activity was recorded and then used to digitally recreate the image in the subject’s mind using a technique based on machine learning algorithms. It’s not the first time researchers have been able to reconstruct images based on visual stimuli using neuroimaging techniques. The current method was pioneered by Nestor, who successfully reconstructed facial images from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data in the past, but this is the first time EEG has been used.


Robots Help Surgeons To Do The Impossible

Robotic surgery and robotically-assisted surgery have become increasingly widespread in recent years. At the cutting edge of this technology is Eindhoven Medical Robotics, a Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) related start-up.


Robotics pioneer Maarten Steinbuch, a mechanical engineer by training, is building Eindhoven Medical Robotics with a Jeff Bezos-like 20-year vision … as an enduring business that could redefine this global semiconductor center while revolutionizing the medical world. And he’s hiring with a goal of building EMR into a 1,000-employee company over the next 10 years … but more about that in a minute. At HighTechXL Beyond tech conference and demo day, Steinbuch was one of 10 presenters. His talk was titled “The Future of Medical Robotics,” but he touched on multiple topics including Moore’s Law, emerging technology that will make it illegal for humans to drive cars and the reality of the Robot Revolution. (A hint: The tech behind personal robots is way too expensive right now to be practical, and it’ll be 10 years before you have a robot in your home.) Which was all interesting until he started laying out his vision for building his business.

Steinbuch is a bit like Silicon Valley legend Jim Clark, who founded multiple landmark tech businesses including Netscape and Silicon Graphics. Developing the technology as a professor at Technical University of Eindhoven (TU/e), Steinbuch and his teams of researchers and engineers created Eindhoven’s first startup robotic surgery company back in 2010. TU/e’s Sofie robotic surgery technology competed with da Vinci Surgical Systems, a global phenomenon owned by a Silicon Valley firm, Intuitive Surgical.

He found out quickly that da Vinci “has all the patents” as well as a huge staff dedicated to specifically trying to thwart competitors, Steinbuch told the crowd.

His painful takeaway from that venture: “To do a medical robotics startup, the amount of money you need is beyond imagination if you’re a professor at a university,” at least 10 million to 20 million euros, Steinbuch said. To get back in the game, he had to first figure out which technology could become a viable business. Rather than taking on da Vinci directly, he came up with was a master-slave system that could assist surgeons in operating on the retina, filtering out surgeon’s hand tremors. There are only a few doctors who can suture lymph nodes, for example, at 3 millimetres, “and only in the morning,” Steinbuch said. “We make super surgeons – that’s what we do.”


First Private Passenger To Fly Around The Moon

SpaceX has signed its first customer to fly on the company’s huge new rocket, the BFR, the company says. The passenger will fly on the monster ship around the Moon, though there are no details yet regarding when the trip will happen.

The BFR, or the Big Falcon Rocket, is the giant rocket that SpaceX is currently developing to send humans to the Moon and Mars. The BFR design, presented by CEO Elon Musk last year, consists of a combined rocket and spaceship, called the BFS for Big Falcon Spaceship. The main rocket will have 31 main Raptor engines and be capable of sending up 150 tons to low Earth orbit, according to that presentation.

In February 2017, SpaceX announced plans to send two passengers around the Moon on the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket, claiming that the flight would happen at the end of 2018. SpaceX never named the passengers, and, ultimately, Musk admitted during the inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy that the trip probably wasn’t going to happen. “We’re sort of debating whether to do that on Falcon Heavy or BFR,” Musk said that  before the launch in February of this year. “It will sort of depend on how well BFR development is going as to whether we focus on BFR for deep-space human flight or whether we do that on Falcon Heavy.”


A Wearable Device For Regrowing Hair

Although some people embrace the saying “bald is beautiful,” for others, alopecia, or excessive hair loss, can cause stress and anxiety. Some studies have shown that stimulating the skin with lasers can help regrow hair, but the equipment is often large, consumes lots of energy and is difficult to use in daily life. Now, researchers have developed a flexible, wearable photostimulator that speeds up hair growth in mice. 

Affecting millions of men and women worldwide, alopecia has several known causes, including heredity, stress, aging and elevated male hormones. Common treatments include medications, such as minoxidil, corticosteroid injections and hair transplant surgery. In addition, irradiating the bald area with a red laser can stimulate hair follicles, causing cells to proliferate. However, this treatment is often impractical for home use. So, Keon Jae Lee and colleagues wanted to develop a flexible, durable photostimulator that could be worn on human skin.

Shaved mice with flexible vertical LEDs (f-VLEDs) regrows hair faster than no treatment (Con) or minoxidil injections (MNX)

The team fabricated an ultrathin array of flexible vertical micro-light-emitting diodes (mLEDs). The array consisted of 900 red mLEDs on a chip slightly smaller than a postage stamp and only 20 mm thick. The device used almost 1,000 times less power per unit area than a conventional phototherapeutic laser, and it did not heat up enough to cause thermal damage to human skin. The array was sturdy and flexible, enduring up to 10,000 cycles of bending and unbending. The researchers tested the device’s ability to regrow hair on mice with shaved backs. Compared with untreated mice or those receiving minoxidil injections, the mice treated with the mLED patch for 15 minutes a day for 20 days showed significantly faster hair growth, a wider regrowth area and longer hairs.

The findings are reported in ACS Nano.


Blood Vessels Can Contribute To Tumor Suppression

A study from the Institute of Pharmacology and Structural Biology in Toulouse (France) has introduced a novel concept in cancer biology : Blood vessels in human tumors are not all the same and some types of blood vessels found in the tumor microenvironment (i. e. HEVs) can contribute to tumor suppression rather than tumor growth(Cancer Res 2011).

 A better understanding of HEVs at the molecular level, which is one of the major objectives of the research team, may have an important impact for cancer therapy.

Dendritic cells, which are well known for their role as antigen-presenting cells, play an unexpected and important role in the maintenance of HEV blood vessels in lymph nodes (Nature 2011). In addition, the scientists discovered the frequent presence of HEVs in human solid tumors, and their association with cytotoxic lymphocyte infiltration and favourable clinical outcome in breast cancer. They also showed that IL-33 is a chromatin-associated cytokine (PNAS 2007, 453 citations) that function as an alarm signal (alarmin) released upon cellular damage (PNAS 2009, 312 citations). Inflammatory proteases can generate truncated forms of IL-33 that are 30-fold more potent than the full length protein for activation of group 2 innate lymphoid cells (PNAS 2012, 133 citations, PNAS 2014).

An important objective  is now to further characterize IL-33 regulation and mechanisms of action in vivo, through the use of multidisciplinary approaches.


New Solar Cells Could Harvest 85% of Visible Light

Scientists have developed a photoelectrode that can harvest 85 percent of visible light in a 30 nanometers-thin semiconductor layer between gold layers, converting light energy 11 times more efficiently than previous methods. In the pursuit of realizing a sustainable society, there is an ever-increasing demand to develop revolutionary solar cells or artificial photosynthesis systems that utilize visible light energy from the sun while using as few materials as possible. The research team, led by Professor Hiroaki Misawa of the Research Institute for Electronic Science at Hokkaido University (Japan), has been aiming to develop a photoelectrode that can harvest visible light across a wide spectral range by using gold nanoparticles loaded on a semiconductor. But merely applying a layer of gold nanoparticles did not lead to a sufficient amount of light absorption, because they took in light with only a narrow spectral range.

In the study published in Nature Nanotechnology, the research team sandwiched a semiconductor, a 30-nanometer titanium dioxide thin-film, between a 100-nanometer gold film and gold nanoparticles to enhance light absorption. When the system is irradiated by light from the gold nanoparticle side, the gold film worked as a mirror, trapping the light in a cavity between two gold layers and helping the nanoparticles absorb more light. To their surprise, more than 85 percent of all visible light was harvested by the photoelectrode, which was far more efficient than previous methods. Gold nanoparticles are known to exhibit a phenomenon called localized plasmon resonance which absorbs a certain wavelength of light.

“Our photoelectrode successfully created a new condition in which plasmon and visible light trapped in the titanium oxide layer strongly interact, allowing light with a broad range of wavelengths to be absorbed by gold nanoparticles,” says Hiroaki Misawa.


Amazon to datamine the stars is in talks with Chile to house and mine massive amounts of data generated by the country’s giant telescopes, which could prove fertile ground for the company to develop new artificial intelligence tools. The talks are aimed at fuelling growth in Inc’s cloud computing business in Latin America and boosting its data processing capabilities.

President Sebastian Pinera’s center-right government, which is seeking to wean Chile’s $325 billion economy from reliance on copper mining, announced last week it plans to pool data from all its telescopes onto a virtual observatory stored in the cloud, without giving a timeframe. The government talked of the potential for astrodata innovation, but did not give details.

Amazon executives have been holding discussions with the Chilean government for two years about a possible data center to provide infrastructure for local firms and the government to store information on the cloud. The talks have included discussion about the possibility of Amazon Web Services (AWS), hosting astrodata.

Jeffrey Kratz, AWS’s General Manager for Public Sector for Latin American, has confirmed the company’s interest in astrodata but said Amazon had no announcements to make at present. “Chile is a very important country for AWS,” he said in an email to Reuters. “We kept being amazed about the incredible work on astronomy and the telescopes, as real proof points on innovation and technology working together.” “The Chilean telescopes can benefit from the cloud by eliminating the heavy lifting of managing IT,” Kratz added.


Machine Learning Techniques Cut Surgical Infections By 74%

By applying predictive analytics and machine learning techniques to patient data and real-time data from operating theatres the University of Iowa Hospital in the US managed to reduce the incidence of wound infections acquired during surgery by 74 percent. The hospital has now spun-off a company, Dash Analytics, to commercialise its technology.

Dr John Cromwell, associate chief medical officer at University of Iowa Hospital, and now also CTO at Dash Analytics, initiated the project in 2012. Speaking at Tibco Live in Las Vegas, he said: “We started work with the hypothesis that if we could predict which patients would get surgical infections we could change the wound management strategies at the time of surgery to reduce the risk of infection.

Surgical infection in the US is the number one hospital infection and carries the most morbidity,” he said. “It is also the most expensive type of hospital infection to treat.

(The most recent, 2011, statistics available from the US Center for Disease Control put the annual number of surgical site infections at 157,000 out of a total of 722,000 hospital-acquired infections).

Cromwell explained that a number of factors contributed to the risk of surgical infection: “The patient might be malnourished, or morbidly obese, or they might be on medications that supress the immune system. The duration of the operation influences the risk, and whether you keep the patient warm throughout the entire operation makes a difference.

We designed a real time tool that uses the medical record data plus the real time data from the operating room to provide some decision support to the surgeon at the time of the operations to change the wound management strategy.” He said surgeons had basically two options at the time of surgery that could be applied to mitigate the risk of infection: Leave the wound open or use a technique known as negative pressure wound therapy where the wound is sealed and a vacuum applied to it.”Negative pressure wound therapy can reduce infections significantly if it is applied to the right patients, but it is not inexpensive so we wanted to be selective. There are different hypotheses as to why it works. “We used the analytic tools to determine which patients should get negative pressure therapy and within two years we had reduced the surgical infections by 58 per cent and in three years by 74 per cent. “We were very surprised. The result was far better than antibiotics. … And we probably saved the hospital between [US]$1.2 million and $2 million per year.”


Electric Robo-Taxi

Volvo Cars presented a fully electric robo-taxi on Wednesday, as the Geely-owned Swedish company races to meet an ambitious target for driverless vehicle sales with its Uber supply deal on hold.









Besides city driving, Volvo said the 360c would extend its customer base by tapping into demand from inter-city taxi passengers traveling as far as 300 km (186 miles), allowing it to challenge short-haul airlines and train operatorsVolvo, which is weighing a stock market listing, is trying to make headway in self-driving cars as a mid-size luxury player with more limited resources than a BMW or Audi. It expects autonomous cars to account for a third of sales by 2025, with fully electric cars claiming 50 percent.

The world’s largest automakers are developing new types of vehicle such as self-driving passenger shuttles as they look to capture new markets in which direct car sales dwindle as fewer people own them. Tech companies such as Uber and Alphabet’s Waymo are pouring billions of dollars into autonomous car development, while auto manufacturers such as Daimler are testing prototypes.

Few details have yet been announced, however, a year before Daimler and partner Bosch are due to deploy robo-taxis in California’s Silicon Valley. So far, Volvo’s self-driving ambitions have been closely linked with Uber, which was operating a fleet of autonomous Volvo XC90s until a recent fatal collision with a pedestrian brought the program to a halt. Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson said the Uber partnership remained intact, with Volvo set to supply up to 24,000 cars to the startup over two years.

Samuelsson, speaking to journalists at the launch, said the company was in talks to deliver an autonomous car specially designed for Uber’s driverless program as it sees ride-hailing as the right way for Volvo to make good on its promise to deliver its first autonomous car by the 2020s. “This is a product where we see interest from ride-hailing businesses,” Samuelsson said. R&D head Henrik Green said that Uber was “up and running” with its program again, albeit with humans in the driving seat, and was testing to collect data.


How To Measure The NanoWorld

A worldwide study involving 20 laboratories has established and standardized a method to measure exact distances within individual biomolecules, down to the scale of one millionth of the width of a human hair. The new method represents a major improvement of a technology called single-molecule FRET (Förster Resonance Energy Transfer), in which the movement and interaction of fluorescently labelled molecules can be monitored in real time even in living cells. So far, the technology has mainly been used to report changes in relative distances – for instance, whether the molecules moved closer together or farther apart. Prof. Dr. Thorsten Hugel of the Institute of Physical Chemistry (University of Freiburg) in Germany is one of the lead scientists of the study, which was recently published in Nature MethodsFRET works similarly to proximity sensors in cars: the closer the object is, the louder or more frequent the beeps become. Instead of relying on acoustics, FRET is based on proximity-dependent changes in the fluorescent light emitted from two dyes and is detected by sensitive microscopes. The technology has revolutionised the analysis of the movement and interactions of biomolecules in living cells.

Hugel and colleagues envisioned that once a FRET standard had been established, unknown distances could be determined with high confidence. By working together, the 20 laboratories involved in the study refined the method in such a way that scientists using different microscopes and analysis software obtained the same distances, even in the sub-nanometer range.

The absolute distance information that can be acquired with this method now enables us to accurately assign conformations in dynamic biomolecules, or even to determine their structures”, says Thorsten Hugel, who headed the study together with Dr. Tim Craggs (University of Sheffield/Great-Britain), Prof. Dr. Claus Seidel (University of Düsseldorf) and Prof. Dr. Jens Michaelis (University of Ulm). Such dynamic structural information will yield a better understanding of the molecular machines and processes that are the basis of life.


CRISPR Reverses Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Mutation

CRISPR-Cas9 has, for the first time, been tested by systemic delivery in a large animal—and the results are striking. Working in a dog model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), the gene editing not only restored the expression of the protein dystrophin, it also improved muscle histology in the dogs.

Our technology was developed using human cells and mice to correct the same type of mutation as in these dogs. It was critical for us to test gene editing in a large animal because it harbors a mutation analogous to the most common mutation in DMD patients,” said Eric Olson, Ph.D., professor and chair of molecular biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and lead author. The researchers wrote that this is “an essential step toward clinical translation of gene editing as a therapeutic strategy for DMD.”

Indeed, Dame Kay E. Davies, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and director of the MRC Functional Genomics Unit at the University of Oxford and a pioneer in the field of DMD research, echoes this sentiment explains, “This is a very exciting paper as it shows that gene editing can be reasonably affective in a large animal model of DMD.”

The paper, “Gene editing restores dystrophin expression in a canine model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy,” appears in the last issue of Science.


AI creates 3D ‘digital heart’ to aid patient diagnoses

Armed with a mouse and computer screen instead of a scalpel and operating theater, cardiologist Benjamin Meder carefully places the electrodes of a pacemaker in a beating, digital heart.  Using this “digital twin” that mimics the electrical and physical properties of the cells in patient 7497’s heart, Meder runs simulations to see if the pacemaker can keep the congestive heart failure sufferer alivebefore he has inserted a knife.

A three-dimensional printout of a human heart is seen at the Heidelberg University Hospital (Universitaetsklinikum Heidelberg)

The digital heart twin developed by Siemens Healthineers, a German company is one example of how medical device makers are using artificial intelligence (AI) to help doctors make more precise diagnoses as medicine enters an increasingly personalized age.

The challenge for Siemens Healthineers and rivals such as Philips and GE Healthcare is to keep an edge over tech giants from Alphabet’s Google to Alibaba that hope to use big data to grab a slice of healthcare spending.

With healthcare budgets under increasing pressure, AI tools such as the digital heart twin could save tens of thousands of dollars by predicting outcomes and avoiding unnecessary surgery.


How Cannabis Component Fights Psychosis

British scientists have unraveled how a non-intoxicating component of cannabis acts in key brain areas to reduce abnormal activity in patients at risk of psychosis, suggesting the ingredient could become a novel anti-psychotic medicine. While regular use of potent forms CBD is the same cannabis compound that has also shown benefits in epilepsy, leading in June to the first U.S. approval of a cannabis-based drug, a purified form of CBD from GW Pharmaceuticals.

Previous research at King’s College London had shown that CBD seemed to counter the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the substance in cannabis that makes people high. But how this happened was a mystery.

Now, by scanning the brains of 33 young people who were experiencing distressing psychotic symptoms but had not been diagnosed with full-blown psychosis, Sagnik Bhattacharyya and colleagues showed that giving CBD capsules reduced abnormal activity in the striatum, medial temporal cortex and midbrain.

Abnormalities in all three of these brain regions have been linked to the onset of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Most current anti-psychotic drugs target the dopamine chemical signaling system in the brain, while CBD works in a different way. Significantly, the compound is very well tolerated, avoiding the adverse side effects such as weight gain and other metabolic problems associated with existing medicines.


How To Wirelessly Charge Electric Cars

The Israelian company ElectReon Wireless Ltd., which develops smart road technology that wirelessly charges electric cars, has signed a cooperation agreement with French-Japanese auto manufacturer Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi (The Alliance). The Alliance is the largest auto maker in the world, and in the same time has sold the greatest number of electric cars. ElectReon will receive an electric car from Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, install its system in the car, and adapt it to smart road technology, thereby facilitating travel through wireless energy transferElectReon was founded in late 2013 by chairperson and CEO Oren Ezer and CTO Hanan Rumbak.

Smart road technology is the next stage in the evolution of global public transportation. It is designed to cut operating costs, completely halt dependence on oil and gasoline, and make the public space cleaner and cheaper. I am confident that this cooperation and other such agreements will make Israel a pioneer in technology-based transportation solutions,” stated Ezer.

ElectReon plans to first use its technology on buses traveling in designated lanes and later in private vehicles. Implementation of the technology also depends on cooperation from regulators (e.g. infrastructure and transportation ministries in Israel and European countries). Last month, ElectReon signed a cooperation agreement with Dan in which an initial public transportation route will be established powered by wireless energy charging. The company has also signed a memorandum of understanding with French company Hutchinson, which is to design and develop a mass production line for the coils infrastructure developed by ElectReon for installation beneath the road surface.


Water On the Moon

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has a vision for renewed and “sustainable human exploration of the moon, and he cites the existence of water on the lunar surface as a key to chances for success.

We know that there’s hundreds of billions of tons of water ice on the surface of the moon,” Bridenstine said in a Reuters TV interview in Washington on Tuesday, a day after NASA unveiled its analysis of data collected from lunar orbit by a spacecraft from India.

The findings, mark the first time scientists have confirmed by direct observation the presence of water on the moon’s surface – in hundreds of patches of ice deposited in the darkest and coldest reaches of its polar regions. The discovery holds tantalizing implications for efforts to return humans to the moon for the first time in half a century. The presence of water offers a potentially valuable resource not only for drinking but for producing more rocket fuel and oxygen to breathe.

Bridenstine, a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot and Oklahoma congressman tapped by President Donald Trump in April as NASA chief, spoke about “hundreds of billions of tons” of water ice that he said were now known to be available on the lunar surface. NASA lunar scientist Sarah Noble told  separately by phone that it is still unknown how much ice is actually present on the moon and how easy it would be to extract in sufficient quantities to be of practical use. “We have lots of models that give us different answers. We can’t know how much water there is,” she said, adding that it will ultimately take surface exploration by robotic landers or rovers, in more than one place, to find out.

Most of the newly confirmed frozen water is concentrated in the shadows of craters at both poles, where the temperature never rises higher than minus-250 degrees Fahrenheit.


Air Pollution Harms Your Brain And Your Intelligence

Chronic exposure to air pollution can cause harm to cognitive performance, a new study reveals. Researchers believe that the negative impact increases with age, and affects men with less education the worst. Over four years, the maths and verbal skills of some 20,000 people in China were monitored by the US-Chinese study.  Scientists believe the results have global relevance, with more than 80% of the world’s urban population breathing unsafe levels of air pollution.

The study was based on measurements of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulates smaller than 10 micrometres in diameter where participants lived. It is not clear how much each of these three pollutants is to blame. Carbon monoxide, ozone and larger particulates were not included in the study. Described as an invisible killer, air pollution causes an estimated seven million premature deaths a year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

We provide evidence that the effect of air pollution on verbal tests becomes more pronounced as people age, especially for men and the less educated,” the study published  in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) said.

Pollution also increases the risk of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the study suggests. Exposure to high levels of polluted aircan cause everyone to reduce their level of education by one year…, which is huge,” one of the co-authors, Xi Chen of the Yale School of Public Health, told.

Previous studies found air pollution had a negative impact on students’ cognitive abilities. In this study, researchers tested people of both sexes aged 10 and above between 2010 and 2014, with 24 standardised maths questions and 34 word-recognition questions.


Climate Change: How To Forecast Changes In Weather More Accurately

Europe is launching  a satellite this week that will use new laser technology to measure the winds sweeping across Earth and help scientists forecast changes in weather more accurately.

The Aeolus mission will provide scientists with data on winds in remote areas, such as over oceans, that they have not been able to get from weather balloons, ground stations and airplanes but which are crucial to predicting changes in weather.

Forecasting is of course still limited, but then we will certainly be able to understand the processes better that lead to extreme weather phenomena,” Paolo Ferri, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) head of mission operations, told  ahead of the launch.

Many scientists warn that global warming will result in more frequent and intense heatwaves, precipitation and storms, causing billions of euros in damage and costing thousands of human lives every year.

Better weather forecasts will allow scientists to warn the population when hurricanes are heading their way and predict weather patterns such as El Niño, which can cause crop damage, fires and flash floods.

The Aeolus mission – named after a character of Greek mythology who was appointed keeper of the winds – is scheduled to blast off from Europe’s space port in Kourou, French Guiana


‘WasteShark’, The Aquadrone That Cleans The Ocean Waste

A swarm of autonomous robots that can swim across bodies of water to collect garbage might be the key to saving the oceans. A few years ago, RanMarine Technology, a company from the Netherlands, has introduced WasteShark, an aquadrone that works like a smart vacuum cleaner (essentially, a Roomba for the seas) to gather wastes that end up in waterways before they accumulate into a great big patch in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.


The operational cost of the vehicle… will be almost nothing. You are basically using compressed air. You are not paying for fuel and also you do not need cooling,” said Mahmoud Yasser, a student who helped design it. The team is now looking to raise funding to expand the project and mass produce the vehicles. They believe they can eventually get the vehicles to top 100 kilometers an hour and run for 100 kilometers before needing to come up for air.

Every year, about 1.4 billion pounds of trash end up in the ocean. Plastics, styrofoam, and other nonbiodegradable materials get dumped into the waters, eaten by fishes and birds or collect into what has become the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a gyre of debris between California and Hawaii bigger than AlaskaTrash in seas and oceans have become a huge problem, but the WasteShark might be able to help.

RanMarine said that its aquadrones are inspired by whale sharks, “nature’s most efficient harvesters of marine biomass.” The company claims that the vessels can collect up to 200 liters of waste before it needs to be emptied and swim across the water for 16 hours. The WasteShark are autonomous as it can intelligently wade through water and collect trash using sensors. It is equipped with a GPS to track its movements.


How To Stop Influenza Virus

The critical, structural changes that enveloped viruses, such as HIV, Ebola and influenza, undergo before invading host cells have been revealed by scientists using nano-infrared spectroscopic imaging, according to a study led by Georgia State University and the University of Georgia. The researchers found that an antiviral compound was effective in stopping the influenza virus from entering host cells during lower pH exposure, the optimal condition for the virus to cause infection.

Enveloped viruses are among the most deadly known viruses. These viruses have an outer membrane covering their genetic material, and to invade host cells enveloped viruses must first attach to a cell and then open their membrane to release genetic material. Originally, scientists believed this mechanism was controlled by the host cell. In this study, which focused on influenza virus, the researchers examined the structural changes that occur for the virus to open and release its genetic material. They conducted the experiment in the absence of cells and instead simulated the cell environment. When influenza virus infects a person’s body, it goes from a neutral environment outside the cell to a more acidic environment (a lower pH) inside the cell. To simulate the cell environment for this study, the researchers made the environment more acidic. The researchers exposed influenza virus particles to the lower pH and monitored structural changes in the virus.

What we saw is that even without the cell, if we change the environment, the virus particle will break and release the genetic material,” said Dr. Ming Luo, a senior author of the study and professor in the Department of Chemistry at Georgia State. “So it has a proactive mechanism built into the virus particle. Once the virus particle finds that the environment has changed, it will itself release the material. It doesn’t need the help of the cell membrane. It has to find a sweet spot to release the genetic material, and that sweet spot happens to have a low pH.”

The researchers used nano-infrared spectroscopy, a microscopic imaging system, to observe how influenza virus particles change when their environment changes. During his work at Georgia State, Dr. Yohannes Abate, now at the University of Georgia, adapted the imaging technology to have a new, unique function that allowed them to study virus particles in more detail.

The findings are published in the journal PLoS One.


Portable Machine Harvests Water From Air

Driven by the scarcity of supply, climate change and ground watershed depletion, scientists present a design for a first of its kind portable harvester that mines freshwater from the atmosphere. For thousands of years, people in the Middle East and South America have extracted water from the air to help sustain their populations. Researchers and students from the University of Akron drew inspiration from those examples to develop a lightweight, battery-powered freshwater harvester that could someday take as much as 10 gallons (37,8 liters) per hour from the air, even in arid locations.

I was visiting China, which has a freshwater scarcity problem. There’s investment in wastewater treatment, but I thought that effort alone was inadequate,University of Akron professor Shing-Chung (Josh) Wong said.

Instead of relying on treated wastewater, Wong explained, it might be more prudent to develop a new type of water harvester that takes advantage of abundant water particles in the atmosphere. Freshwater makes up less than 3 percent of the earth’s water sources, and three quarters of that is locked up as ice in the north and south poles. Most water sustainability research is directed toward water supply, purification, wastewater treatment and desalination. Little attention has been paid to water harvesting from atmospheric particles.

Harvesting water from the air has a long history. Thousands of years ago, the Incas of the Andean region collected dew and channeled it into cisterns. More recently, some research groups have been developing massive mist and fog catchers in the Andean mountains and in Africa. Wong’s harvester is directed towards the most abundant atmospheric water sources and uses ground-breaking nanotechnology. If successful, it will produce an agile, lightweight, portable, freshwater harvester powered by a lithium-ion battery.

By experimenting with different combinations of polymers that were hydrophilic — which attracts water — and hydrophobic — which discharges water, the team concluded that a water harvesting system could indeed be fabricated using nanofiber technology. Unlike existing methods, Wong’s harvester could work in arid desert environments because of the membrane’s high surface-area-to-volume ratio. It also would have a minimal energy requirement. “We could confidently say that, with recent advances in lithium-ion batteries, we could eventually develop a smaller, backpack-sized device,” Wong said.


Toxic Cocktails Of Harmful Nanoparticles

Nanoparticles, which are found in thousands of everyday products due to their unique properties, can form toxic cocktails harmful to our cells, a study has found. In a study published in the journal Nanotoxicology, scientists showed that 72 per cent of cells died after exposure to a cocktail of nano-silver and cadmium ionsNanoparticles are becoming increasingly widespread in our environment. For example, silver nanoparticles have an effective antibacterial effect and can be found in refrigerators, sports clothes, cosmetics, tooth brushes, and water filters.

There is a significant difference between how the cells react when exposed to nanosilver alone and when they are exposed to a cocktail of nanosilver and cadmium ions, which are naturally found everywhere around us on Earth, according to the researchers from University of Southern Denmark (SDU). In the study, 72 per cent of the cells died, when exposed to both nanosilver and cadmiun ions. When exposed to nanosilver only, 25 per cent died. When exposed to cadmium ions only, 12 per cent died researchers said.


The study was conducted on human liver cancer cells. The study indicates, that we need to take cocktail effects into account when trying to ascertain their effect on our health, said Frank Kjeldsen, a professor at SDU.

Products with nano particles are being developed and manufactured every day, but in most countries there are no regulations, so there is no way of knowing what and how many nanoparticles are being released into the environment,” said Kjeldsen.


World’s First 3D-Printed Housing Complex

The southern Dutch city of Eindhoven plans to unveil the world’s first 3-D-printed housing complex next year, which its inventors believe could revolutionise the building industry by speeding up and customising construction. Printed in concrete by a , the project backed by the city council, Eindhoven Technical University and several construction companies aims to see its first three-bedroomed home go up by June 2019. Known as Project Milestone, a complex of five homes of various shapes and sizes will be built over the next three to five years, financed by , said Rudy van Gurp, one of the project’s managers.


This is just the beginning. It’s revolutionary technology and a new way of building that will develop over time,” he told AFP.

One of the great advantages of 3-D-printing is that the pod-like homes can be completely customised—and even built around natural objects, said Van Gurp. “Everything is possible, we can exactly fit the design to the area. We are guests in nature.”

Apart from speeding up the building process—from months to weeks3-D-printing also solves another pressing issue: the scarcity of skilled artisans in the Netherlands, which drives up prices. “In a few years we will not have enough craftsmen like masons for example. By introducing robotisation into the construction industry we can make homes more affordable in the future,” commented Van Gurp. Currently the technique is still more expensive than traditional methods, prices are set to come down as 3-D technology improved, he added. Hundreds of potential tenants have already expressed interest in the housing project, with monthly rental set to be between 900 to 1,200 euros ($1,053 to $1,400).


How To Produce Uranium From SeaWater

For the first time, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and LCW Supercritical Technologies have created five grams of yellowcake — a powdered form of uranium used to produce fuel for nuclear power production — using acrylic fibers to extract it from seawater.


This is a significant milestone,” said Gary Gill, a researcher at PNNL, a Department of Energy national laboratory, and the only one with a marine research facility, located in Sequim, Wash. “It indicates that this approach can eventually provide commercially attractive nuclear fuel derived from the oceans — the largest source of uranium on earth.”

That’s where LCW, a Moscow, Idaho clean energy company comes in. LCW with early support from PNNL through DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, developed an acrylic fiber which attracts and holds on to dissolved uranium naturally present in ocean water.

We have chemically modified regular, inexpensive yarn, to convert it into an adsorbent which is selective for uranium, efficient and reusable,” said Chien Wai, president of LCW Supercritical Technologies. “PNNL‘s capabilities in evaluating and testing the material, have been invaluable in moving this technology forward.”

The adsorbent material is inexpensive, according to Wai. In fact, he said, even waste yarn can be used to create the polymer fiber. The adsorbent properties of the material are reversible, and the captured uranium is easily released to be processed into yellowcake. An analysis of the technology suggests that it could be competitive with the cost of uranium produced through land-based mining.


How To Reverse Congenital Blindness

Researchers funded by the  American National Eye Institute (NEI) have reversed congenital blindness in mice by changing supportive cells in the retina called Müller glia into rod photoreceptors. The findings advance efforts toward regenerative therapies for blinding diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. A report of the findings appears online today in Nature. NEI is part of the National Institutes of Health.

This is the first report of scientists reprogramming Müller glia to become functional in the mammalian ,” said Thomas N. Greenwell, Ph.D., NEI program director for retinal neuroscience. “Rods allow us to see in low light, but they may also help preserve cone photoreceptors, which are important for color vision and high visual acuity. Cones tend to die in later-stage eye diseases. If rods can be regenerated from inside the eye, this might be a strategy for treating diseases of the eye that affect photoreceptors.”

Photoreceptors are light-sensitive cells in the retina in the back of the eye that signal the brain when activated. In mammals, including and humans, photoreceptors fail to regenerate on their own. Like most neurons, once mature they don’t divide.

Scientists have long studied the regenerative potential of Müller glia because in other species, such as zebrafish, they divide in response to injury and can turn into photoreceptors and other retinal neurons. The zebrafish can thus regain vision after severe retinal injury. In the lab, however, scientists can coax mammalian Müller glia to behave more like they do in the fish. But it requires injuring the tissue.

From a practical standpoint, if you’re trying to regenerate the retina to restore a person’s vision, it is counterproductive to injure it first to activate the Müller glia,” said Bo Chen, Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology and director of the Ocular Stem Cell Program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

We wanted to see if we could program Müller glia to become rod photoreceptors in a living mouse without having to injure its retina,” added Chen, the study’s lead investigator.


Nanospheres Dissolve Clots In A Few Minutes

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have developed a drug-delivery system that allows rapid response to heart attacks without surgical intervention. In laboratory and animal testing, the system proved to be effective at dissolving clots, limiting long-term scarring to heart tissue and preserving more of the heart’s normal function.

Our approach would allow health-care providers to begin treating heart attacks before a patient reaches a surgical suite, hopefully improving patient outcomes,” says Ashley Brown, corresponding author of a paper on the work and an assistant professor in the Joint Biomedical Engineering Program (BME) at NC State and UNC. “And because we are able to target the blockage, we are able to use powerful drugs that may pose threats to other parts of the body; the targeting reduces the risk of unintended harms.”

Heart attacks, or myocardial infarctions, occur when a thrombus – or clotblocks a blood vessel in the heart. In order to treat heart attacks, doctors often perform surgery to introduce a catheter to the blood vessel, allowing them to physically break up or remove the thrombus. But not all patients have quick access to surgical care. And more damage can occur even after the blockage has been removed. That’s because the return of fresh blood to tissues that had been blocked off can cause damage of its own, called reperfusion injury. Reperfusion injury can cause scarring, stiffening cardiac tissue and limiting the heart’s normal functionality.

To address these problems, researchers have developed a solution that relies on porous nanogel spheres, about 250 nanometers in diameter, which target a thrombus and deliver a cocktail of two drugs: tPA and Y-27632.

In in vitro testing, the researchers found that the targeted tPA/Y-27632 cocktail dissolved clots in a matter of minutes. While this has yet to be tested in trials, it may work more quickly than surgical interventions, which require time to prep the patient and get the catheter in place. In tests using laboratory rats, the researchers also found that their technique limited scarring and preserved heart function after heart attack better than targeted tPA or Y-27632 by themselves – and far better than a control group in which animals received neither drug.

The paper was recently published in the journal ACS Nano. Trials on larger animals are now being planned.


Nanoparticles Destroy Dental Plaque, Prevent Tooth Decay

Combine a diet high in sugar with poor oral hygiene habits and dental cavities, or caries, will likely result. The sugar triggers the formation of an acidic biofilm, known as plaque, on the teeth, eroding the surface. Early childhood caries is a severe form of tooth decay that affects one in every four children in the United States and hundreds of millions more globally. It’s a particularly severe problem in underprivileged populations.

Treatment with a nanoparticle and hydrogen peroxide (right panel) left little in the way of bacteria (in blue) or the sticky biofilm matrix (in red), making the combination a potent force against dental plaque

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers led by Hyun (Michel) Koo of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in collaboration with David Cormode of Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine and School of Engineering and Applied Science used FDA-approved nanoparticles to effectively disrupt biofilms and prevent tooth decay in both an experimental human-plaque-like biofilm and in an animal model that mimics early-childhood caries. The nanoparticles break apart dental plaque through a unique pH-activated antibiofilm mechanism.

It displays an intriguing enzyme-like property whereby the catalytic activity is dramatically enhanced at acidic pH but is ‘switched off’ at neutral pH conditions,” says Koo, professor in Penn Dental Medicine’s Department of Orthodontics. “The nanoparticles act as a peroxidase, activating hydrogen peroxide, a commonly used antiseptic, to generate free radicals that potently dismantle and kill biofilms in pathological acidic conditions but not at physiological pH, thus providing a targeted effect.”

Because the caries-causing plaque is highly acidic, the new therapy is able to precisely target areas of the teeth harboring pathogenic biofilms without harming the surrounding oral tissues or microbiota. The particular iron-containing nanoparticle used in the experiments, ferumoxytol, is already FDA-approved to treat iron-deficiency, a promising indication that a topical application of the same nanoparticle, used at several-hundred-fold lower concentration, would also be safe for human use.


Electronic Skin To Restore Sense Of Pain

Amputees often experience the sensation of a “phantom limb”—a feeling that a missing body part is still there. That sensory illusion is closer to becoming a reality thanks to a team of engineers at the Johns Hopkins University that has created an electronic skin. When layered on top of prosthetic hands, this e-dermis brings back a real sense of touch through the fingertips.


After many years, I felt my hand, as if a hollow shell got filled with life again,” says the anonymous amputee who served as the team’s principal volunteer tester.

Made of fabric and rubber laced with sensors to mimic nerve endings, e-dermis recreates a sense of touch as well as pain by sensing stimuli and relaying the impulses back to the peripheral nerves.

We’ve made a sensor that goes over the fingertips of a prosthetic hand and acts like your own skin would,” explains Luke Osborn, a graduate student in biomedical engineering. “It’s inspired by what is happening in human biology, with receptors for both touch and pain“This is interesting and new,” Osborn adds, “because now we can have a prosthetic hand that is already on the market and fit it with an e-dermis that can tell the wearer whether he or she is picking up something that is round or whether it has sharp points.”

The work in the journal Science Robotics – shows it is possible to restore a range of natural, touch-based feelings to amputees who use prosthetic limbs. The ability to detect pain could be useful, for instance, not only in prosthetic hands but also in lower limb prostheses, alerting the user to potential damage to the device.

Human skin contains a complex network of receptors that relay a variety of sensations to the brain. This network provided a biological template for the research team, which includes members from the Johns Hopkins departments of Biomedical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Neurology, and from the Singapore Institute of Neurotechnology.

Bringing a more human touch to modern prosthetic designs is critical, especially when it comes to incorporating the ability to feel pain, Osborn states. “Pain is, of course, unpleasant, but it’s also an essential, protective sense of touch that is lacking in the prostheses that are currently available to amputees,” he says. “Advances in prosthesis designs and control mechanisms can aid an amputee’s ability to regain lost function, but they often lack meaningful, tactile feedback or perception.


Solar Powered Car

The Sion is the first electric car capable of recharging its batteries from the sun. From now on, you’ll have to worry about range a little less. For only 16.000 € excluding the battery (4000 euros or to rent). With the dynamic integration of solar cells in the body work, we set new measures on the road while convincing with an exceptional design concept. The full efficiency of the Sion is guaranteed by the lightweight design. The exterior is mainly made up of rust-proof polycarbonate. It further is scratch-resistant. The most unique feature in the body work are the solar cells, which are located on the roof, on both sides as on the hood and the rear.

The cockpit  uses a very simple design, showing you how fast you are going and the charging level of your battery. On the left side you can see the number of kilometers generated through the viSono System. After 24 hours, these kilometers will be transferred to the right side, where they are added to the total range left. The Sion copes with the requirements of your daily life: A range of 250km, high power rapid charging, and a sophisticated interior concept with an optional trailer hitch.
The Sion is equipped with 330 integrated solar cells, which recharge the battery through the power of the sun. To protect them from harmful environmental influences the solar cells are covered with polycarbonate. It is shatterproof, light and particularly weather resistant. Under proper conditions the solar cells generate enough energy, to cover 30 kilometers per day with the Sion. This system is called  viSono. Thanks to the technology of bidirectional charging the Sion can not only generate but also provide energy. This feature turns the car into a mobile power station. Using a household plug, all common electronic devices with up to 2,7kW can be powered by the Sion. You can plug in your electronic devices and power them with the Sions battery. Over a type 2 plug the Sion can provide even more power with up to 7,6 kW.
For air filtering  a  special moss is integrated into the dashboard. It filters up to twenty percent of the fine dust particles and has a regulating effect on the humidity inside the Sion. No worries, you do not have to water it. It requires no special care at all.

3D-Printed Mars Habitat Competition

The lander seals to the ground to provide a protected, pressurised environment for the structure to be printed. Once complete, the lander would lift its legs to reveal the structure and move on to the next location to build another, creating a small series of rooms.


AI spacefactory came in second place, presenting an egg-shaped structure, designed with a double shell to combat the aggressive thermal effects of mars. Like the zopherus habitat, the team envisions the marsha design to use materials sourced from mars including basalt fibre, extracted from martian rock, and renewable bioplastic (polylactic acid) derived from plants that could be grown on the planet.


Colorful 3D Printing

People are exploring the use of 3D printing for wide-ranging applications, including manufacturing, medical devices, fashion and even food. But one of the most efficient forms of 3D printing suffers from a major drawback: It can only print objects that are gray or black in color. Now, researchers have tweaked the method so it can print in all of the colors of the rainbow.


Selective laser sintering (SLS) printers use a laser to heat specific regions of a powdered material, typically nylon or polyamide, so that the powder melts or sinters to form a solid mass. The printer adds then selectively sinters new powdered material layer by layer until the desired 3D structure is obtained. To reduce the energy requirements of the process, researchers have added compounds called photosensitizers to the polymer powders. These materials, such as carbon nanotubes, carbon black and graphene, absorb light much more strongly than the polymers and transfer heat to them, enabling the use of cheaper, lower-power lasers. However, the carbon-based photosensitizers can only produce printed objects that are gray or black. Gerasimos Konstantatos, Romain Quidant and their coworkers at The Institute of Photonic Sciences (IFCO) wanted to find a photosensitizer that would enable color printing by the SLS method.

The researchers designed gold nanorods to strongly absorb in the near-infrared region of the spectrum while being almost transparent to visible light. They coated them with silica and then mixed them with polyamide powders to print 3D objects. They found that the gold nanorods were much better at converting light from the laser to heat than carbon black, the industry standard. Also, the new photosensitizers could produce much whiter and — when mixed with dyes — brightly colored 3D objects. Importantly, the materials are cost-effective for large-scale production. The researchers have filed several patent applications related to the new technology.

The findings are reported in the ACS journal Nano Letters.


Electric Car Made Of Flax And Sugar

Noah is an electric city car with two comfortable seats and a spacious trunk, a top speed of 110 kilometers per hour and a range of 240 kilometers. The expected consumption in urban traffic is approximately equal to 300 kilometers to 1 liter of petrol. This is partly due to the low weight. Without batteries Noah weighs 360 kg, which is less than half that of comparable production cars. The car only needs 60 kilos of batteries, whereas regular electric cars need several hundreds kilos. The low total weight of 420 kg enables particularly good road holding. The prototype will soon be certified for use on public roads.


TU/ecomotive is a student team of TU Eindhoven (Netherlands) that devises and builds a new sustainable car every year. The aim of this year was to show that it is possible to make a car that has a low environmental impact over its entire life cycle, without being Spartan.

A special aspect of Noah is the use of a bioplastic which can be made from sugar. The chassis and the interior are made of particularly strong sandwich panels, made of this bioplastic and flax fiber. The body is made of flax mats that are injected with a bio-based resin. These biological and particularly light materials require up to six times less energy to produce than the usual lightweight car materials such as aluminum or carbon. Still, the students claim that they have the necessary strength, and it is also possible to create a crumple-zone-like structure. Flax is a widely used intermediate crop that is essential to soil enrichment, so its cultivation does not compete with food production.

During the summer months, the team is visiting European car manufacturers, suppliers and universities, among others. The students have no plans to bring the car to market. “It’s about awareness,” says team member Cas Verstappen, a student of Automotive Technology at TU/e. “We want to show that a circular economy is already possible in complex products such as cars.” He does not expect similar cars to come onto the market immediately, but he sees the use of bioplastic panels in the structural parts and the interior as a real option. Not only because of their durability, but also because they are strong and light.


Red-Blood-Cell “Hitchhikers” Transport Drugs to Specific Targets

A new drug-delivery technology which uses red blood cells (RBCs) to shuttle nano-scale drug carriers, called RBC-hitchhiking (RH), has been found in animal models to dramatically increase the concentration of drugs ferried precisely to selected organs, according to a study published in Nature Communications this month by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. This proof-of-principle study points to ways to improve drug delivery for some of the nation’s biggest killers, such as acute lung disease, stroke, and heart attack.

The vast majority of drugs fail because they spread throughout the body, landing in nearby organs where they can cause intolerable side effects, as opposed to directly targeting the areas that are really in need,” said first author Jake Brenner, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care and of Pharmacology. “By massively increasing the drug concentrations that are hitting specific tissues, the RBC hitchhikers should decrease potential side effects and improve the efficacy of drugs delivered to target organs.”

The team showed that RH can safely transport nano-scale carriers of drugs to chosen organs by targeted placement of intravascular catheters, in mice, pigs, and in ex vivo human lungs, without causing RBC or organ toxicities.

Red blood cells are a particularly attractive carrier due to their biocompatibility and known safety in transfusions,” said senior author Vladimir Muzykantov, MD, PhD, a professor of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics. “In just a few short years since we began this work, we are now on the brink of mapping out ways to test it in clinical trials.”

The researchers found that RH drug carriers injected intravenously increased drug uptake by about 40-fold in the lungs compared to absorption of freely circulating drug carriers in blood. In addition, injecting the RH drug carriers into the carotid artery (a major blood vessel in the neck that delivers blood to the brain, neck, and face) delivers 10 percent of the injected dose to the brain, which is about 10 times higher than what is achieved through older methods such using antibodies to guide drugs to their intended targets. Such impressive drug delivery to the brain could be used to treat acute strokes, the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Development of RH technology has also revealed a potentially fundamental process that hold enormous clinical promise. “The body’s largest surface area of cell-to-cell interaction is observed between red blood cells and blood vessel linings, so it is intriguing to think that our RH technology has uncovered a phenomenon in which RBCs naturally transport cargo on their surfaces,” said Muzykantov.


Breakthrough In The Fight Against Alzheimer’s

Eisai Co.,  a company located in Tokyo, and Biogen Inc. in Cambridge, United States, announced positive topline results from the Phase II study with BAN2401, an anti-amyloid beta protofibril antibody, in 856 patients with early Alzheimer’s disease. The study achieved statistical significance on key predefined endpoints evaluating efficacy at 18 months on slowing progression in Alzheimer’s Disease Composite Score (ADCOMS) and on reduction of amyloid accumulated in the brain as measured using amyloid-PET (positron emission tomography).

Study 201  is a placebo-controlled, double-blind, parallel-group, randomized study in 856 patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or mild Alzheimer’s dementia (collectively known as early Alzheimer’s disease) with confirmed amyloid pathology in the brain. Efficacy was evaluated at 18 months by predefined conventional statistics on ADCOMS, which combines items from the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scalecognitive subscale (ADAS-Cog), the Clinical Dementia Rating Sum of Boxes (CDR-SB) scale and the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) to enable sensitive detection of changes in early AD symptoms. Patients were randomized to five dose regimens, 2.5 mg/kg biweekly, 5 mg/kg monthly, 5 mg/kg biweekly, 10 mg/kg monthly and 10 mg/kg biweekly, or placebo.

Topline results of the final analysis of the study demonstrated a statistically significant slowing of disease progression on the key clinical endpoint (ADCOMS) after 18 months of treatment in patients receiving the highest treatment dose (10 mg/kg biweekly) as compared to placebo. Results of amyloid PET analyses at 18 months, including reduction in amyloid PET standardized uptake value ratio (SUVR) and amyloid PET image visual read of subjects converting from positive to negative for amyloid in the brain, were also statistically significant at this dose. Dose-dependent changes from baseline were observed across the PET results and the clinical endpoints. Further, the highest treatment dose of BAN2401 began to show statistically significant clinical benefit as measured by ADCOMS as early as 6 months including at 12 months.


Electric Car: How To Make Super-Fast Charging Batteries

Researchers have identified a group of materials that could be used to make even higher power batteries. The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, used materials with a complex crystalline structure and found that lithium ions move through them at rates that far exceed those of typical electrode materials, which equates to a much faster-charging battery. Although these materials, known as niobium tungsten oxides, do not result in higher energy densities when used under typical cycling rates, they come into their own for fast charging applications. Additionally, their physical structure and chemical behaviour give researchers a valuable insight into how a safe, super-fast charging battery could be constructed, and suggest that the solution to next-generation batteries may come from unconventional materials.

Many of the technologies we use every day have been getting smaller, faster and cheaper each year – with the notable exception of batteries. Apart from the possibility of a smartphone which could be fully charged in minutes, the challenges associated with making a better battery are holding back the widespread adoption of two major clean technologies: electric cars and grid-scale storage for solar power.

We’re always looking for materials with high-rate battery performance, which would result in a much faster charge and could also deliver high power output,” said Dr Kent Griffith, a postdoctoral researcher in Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry and the paper’s first author.

In their simplest form, batteries are made of three components: a positive electrode, a negative electrode and an electrolyte. When a battery is charging, lithium ions are extracted from the positive electrode and move through the crystal structure and electrolyte to the negative electrode, where they are stored. The faster this process occurs, the faster the battery can be charged. In the search for new electrode materials, researchers normally try to make the particles smaller. “The idea is that if you make the distance the lithium ions have to travel shorter, it should give you higher rate performance,” said Griffith. “But it’s difficult to make a practical battery with nanoparticles: you get a lot more unwanted chemical reactions with the electrolyte, so the battery doesn’t last as long, plus it’s expensive to make.

Nanoparticles can be tricky to make, which is why we’re searching for materials that inherently have the properties we’re looking for even when they are used as comparatively large micron-sized particles. This means that you don’t have to go through a complicated process to make them, which keeps costs low,” explained Professor Clare Grey, also from the Department of Chemistry and the paper’s senior author. “Nanoparticles are also challenging to work with on a practical level, as they tend to be quite ‘fluffy’, so it’s difficult to pack them tightly together, which is key for a battery’s volumetric energy density.”

The results are reported in the journal Nature.


Teaching a car how to drive itself in 20 minutes

Researchers from Wayve, a company founded by a team from the Cambridge University engineering department, have developed a neural network sophisticated enough to learn how to drive a car in 15 to 20 minutes using nothing but a computer and a single camera. The company showed off its robust deep learning methods last week in a company blog post showcasing the no-frills approach to driverless car development. Where companies like Waymo and Uber are relying on a variety of sensors and custom-built hardware, Wayve is creating the world’s first autonomous vehicles based entirely on reinforcement learning.


The AI powering Wayve’s self-driving system is remarkable for its simplicity. It’s a four layer convolutional neural network (learn about neural networks here) that performs all of its processing on a GPU inside the car. It doesn’t require any cloud connectivity or use pre-loaded mapsWayve’s vehicles are early-stage level five autonomous. There’s a lot of work to be done before Wayve’s AI can drive any car under any circumstances. But the idea that driverless cars will require tens of thousands of dollars worth of extraneous hardware is taking a serious blow in the wake of the company’s amazing deep learning techniques. According to Wayve, these algorithms are only going to get smarter.


Drug Encapsulation System Selectively Targets Senescent Cells

A team headed by Manuel Serrano at IRB Barcelona has designed a drug encapsulation system that selectively targets senescent cellsThe study paves the way for therapeutic approaches to eliminate senescent cells in many diseases, such as pulmonary fibrosis and cancer.

Senescent cells are damaged cells that do not perform their normal roles anymore but that are not dead –hence they are commonly known as zombi cells. These cells interfere with the functioning of the tissue in which they accumulate. Senescence is a cell program that is triggered by many types of damage and senescent cells are present in many diseases. They accumulate in diverse types of tissues during aging, thus contributing to the progressive deterioration associated to aging. Eliminating these zombi cells is one of the challenges facing science today.

In the Cellular Plasticity and Disease lab headed by the ICREA researcher Manuel Serrano at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and supported by “la Caixa” Banking Foundation, the researchers devise strategies to eliminate senescent cells.  In a study published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, they present a proof of principle of a drug delivery system with selectivity for tissues that harbour senescent cells.

In collaboration with a team headed by Ramón Martínez-Máñez at the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, the IRB Barcelona scientists have exploited a particular hallmark of senescent cells in order to design a delivery system that specifically targets them. They have demonstrated its efficacy in cells in vitro and in two experimental mouse models, namely pulmonary fibrosis and cancer. These diseases are characterized by the presence of damaged cells, and in the case of cancer this is particularly true after treatment with chemotherapy.

The figure shows two views, frontal and lateral, of the image obtained by CT of the lungs of a mouse with fibrosis (grey areas) before and after receiving nano-therapy directed at senescent cells

In these models, the senescent cells take up the carrier more efficiently than other cells and once inside the cell the casing of the carrier degrades to release the drug cargo. When the nano-vehicles contained cytotoxic compounds, the senescent cells were killed and this resulted in therapeutic improvements in mice with pulmonary fibrosis or with cancer.

This nano-carrier may pave the way for new therapeutic approaches for serious conditions, such as pulmonary fibrosis or to eliminate chemotherapy-induced senescent cells, explains Manuel Serrano. Another outcome of this study is that these nano-carriers could be used for diagnostic tests of senescence as they can transport a fluorescent compound or marker.


2D Material Revolutionizes Solar Fuel Generation

Following the isolation of graphene in 2004, a race began to synthesize new two-dimensional materials. 2D materials are single-layer substances with a thickness of between one atom and a few nanometers (billionths of a meter). They have unique properties linked to their reduced dimensionality and play a key role in the development of nanotechnology and nanoengineering.

An international group of researchers including Brazilian scientists affiliated with the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) have succeeded in producing a new material with these characteristics.

The researchers extracted a 2D material they call hematene from ordinary iron ore like that mined in many parts of the world, including Brazil. The material is only three atoms thick and is thought to have enhanced photocatalytic properties.

International group of researchers including Brazilian scientists obtain new material from iron ore with application as a photocatalyst

The research was conducted at the Center for Computational Engineering and Sciences (CCES), one of the Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers (RIDCs) funded by FAPESP, and during a research internship abroad that was also supported by FAPESP via a specific scholarship.

Douglas Soares Galvão, a researcher at CCES and one of the authors of the study, told Agência FAPESP about the discovery. “The material we synthesized can act as a photocatalyst to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, so that electricity can be generated from hydrogen, for example, as well as having several other potential applications,” he said.

The new material was exfoliated from hematite, one of the most common minerals on earth and the main source of iron, which is the cheapest metal, used in many products and above all to make steel.

Unlike carbon and its 2D form graphene, hematite is a non-van der Waals material, meaning it is held together by 3D bonding networks rather than by nonchemical and comparatively weaker atomic van der Waals interactions, which are noncovalent (they do not involve the sharing of one or more pairs of electrons by the atoms that participate in the bond).

Because it is a naturally occurring mineral, has highly oriented, large crystals and is a non-van der Waals material, the researchers believe that hematite is an excellent precursor for the exfoliation of novel 2D materials.

Most of the 2D materials synthesized to date were derived from samples of van der Waals solids. Non-van der Waals 2D materials with highly ordered atomic layers and large grains are still rare,” Galvão said.

Hematene was synthesized by the liquid-phase exfoliation of hematite ore in an organic solvent, N,N-dimethylformamide (DMF). Transmission electron microscopy confirmed the exfoliation and formation of hematene in single sheets with a thickness of only three iron and oxygen atoms (monolayer) and in randomly stacked sheets (bilayer).

The innovation is described in an article published in Nature Nanotechnology.



Crab Shells and Trees Combine To Create New Food Packaging

From liquid laundry detergent packaged in cardboard to compostable plastic cups, consumer products these days are increasingly touting their sustainable and renewable origins. Now researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have created a material derived from crab shells and tree fibers that has the potential to replace the flexible plastic packaging used to keep food fresh. The new material, which is described in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, is made by spraying multiple layers of chitin from crab shells and cellulose from trees to form a flexible film similar to plastic packaging film.


The main benchmark that we compare it to is PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, one of the most common petroleum-based materials in the transparent packaging you see in vending machines and soft drink bottles,” said J. Carson Meredith, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “Our material showed up to a 67 percent reduction in oxygen permeability over some forms of PET, which means it could in theory keep foods fresher longer.”

Cellulose, which comes from plants, is the planet’s most common natural biopolymer, followed next by chitin, which is found in shellfish, insects and fungi.


Brain function partly replicated by nanomaterials

The brain requires surprisingly little energy to adapt to the environment to learn, make ambiguous recognitions, have high recognition ability and intelligence, and perform complex information processing.

The two key features of neural circuits are “learning ability of synapses” and “nerve impulses or spikes.” As brain science progresses, brain structure has been gradually clarified, but it is too complicated to completely emulate. Scientists have tried to replicate brain function by using simplified neuromorphic circuits and devices that emulate a part of the brain’s mechanisms.

Spontaneous spikes being similar to nerve impulses of neurons was generated from a POM/CNT complexed network

In developing neuromorphic chips to artificially replicate the circuits that mimic brain structure and function, the functions of generation and transmission of spontaneous spikes that mimic nerve impulses (spikes) have not yet been fully utilized.

A joint group of researchers from Kyushu Institute of Technology and Osaka University studied current rectification control in junctions of various molecules and particles absorbed on single-walled carbon nanotube (SWNT), using conductive atomic force microscopy (C -AFM), and discovered that a negative differential resistance was produced in polyoxometalate (POM) molecules absorbed on SWNT. This suggests that an unstable dynamic non-equilibrium state occurs in molecular junctions.

In addition, the researchers created extremely dense, random SWNT/POM network molecular neuromorphic devices, generating spontaneous spikes similar to nerve impulses of neurons.

POM consists of metal atoms and oxygen atoms to form a 3-dimensional framework. Unlike ordinary organic molecules, POM can store charges in a single molecule. In this study, it was thought that negative differential resistance and spike generation from the network were caused by nonequilibrium charge dynamics in molecular junctions in the network.

Thus, the joint research group led by Megumi Akai-Kasaya conducted simulation calculations of the random molecular network model complexed with POM molecules, which are able to store electric charges, replicating spikes generated from the random molecular network.  They also demonstrated that this molecular model would very likely become a component of reservoir computing devices. Reservoir computing is anticipated as next-generation artificial intelligence (AI). Their research results were published in Nature Communications.

The significance of our study is that a portion of brain function was replicated by nano-molecular materials. We demonstrated the possibility that the random molecular network itself can become neuromorphic AI,” says lead author Hirofumi Tanaka.


Nano Packets Of Genetic Code Seed Cells Against Brain Cancer

In a “proof of concept” study, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine say they have successfully delivered nano-size packets of genetic code called microRNAs to treat human brain tumors implanted in mice. The contents of the super-small containers were designed to target cancer stem cells, a kind of cellularseed” that produces countless progeny and is a relentless barrier to ridding the brain of malignant cells.

Nanoparticles releasing microRNAs (light blue) inside a human brain cancer cell

Brain cancer is one of the most widely understood cancers in terms of its genetic makeup, but we have yet to develop a good treatment for it,” says John Laterra, MD, PhD, professor of neurology, oncology and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a research scientist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. “The resilience of cancer stem cells and the blood-brain barrier are major hurdles.

Blood that enters the brain is filtered through a series of vessels that act as a protective barrier. But this blood-brain barrier blocks molecular medicines that have the potential to revolutionize brain cancer therapy by targeting cancer stem cells, says Laterra.

To modernize brain tumor treatments, we need tools and methods that bypass the blood-brain barrier,” says Jordan Green, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering, ophthalmology, oncology, neurosurgery, materials science and engineering and chemical and biomolecular engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “We need technology to safely and effectively deliver sensitive genetic medicines directly to tumors without damaging normal tissue.

A case in point, Green says, is glioblastoma, the form of brain cancer that Arizona Sen. John McCain is battling, which often requires repeated surgeries. Doctors remove the brain tumor tissue that they can see, but the malignancy often returns quickly, says Laterra. Most patients with glioblastoma live less than two years after diagnosis.

Results of the experiments were published online in Nano Letters.


Digital Files Let Anyone 3-D Print Untraceable Guns

Five years ago, 25-year-old radical libertarian Cody Wilson stood on a remote central Texas gun range and pulled the trigger on the world’s first fully 3-D-printed gun. When, to his relief, his plastic invention fired a .380-caliber bullet into a berm of dirt without jamming or exploding in his hands, he drove back to Austin and uploaded the blueprints for the pistol to his website,

He’d launched the site months earlier along with an anarchist video manifesto, declaring that gun control would never be the same in an era when anyone can download and print their own firearm with a few clicks. In the days after that first test-firing, his gun was downloaded more than 100,000 times. Wilson made the decision to go all in on the project, dropping out of law school at the University of Texas, as if to confirm his belief that technology supersedes law.


Instead, Wilson has spent the last years on an unlikely project for an anarchist: Not simply defying or skirting the law but taking it to court and changing it. In doing so, he has now not only defeated a legal threat to his own highly controversial gunsmithing project. He may have also unlocked a new era of digital DIY gunmaking that further undermines gun control across the United States and the world—another step toward Wilson’s imagined future where anyone can make a deadly weapon at home with no government oversight.

Two months ago, the Department of Justice quietly offered Wilson a settlement to end a lawsuit he and a group of co-plaintiffs have pursued since 2015 against the United States government. Wilson and his team of lawyers focused their legal argument on a free speech claim: They pointed out that by forbidding Wilson from posting his 3-D-printable data, the State Department was not only violating his right to bear arms but his right to freely share information. By blurring the line between a gun and a digital file, Wilson had also successfully blurred the lines between the Second Amendment and the First.

The law caught up. Less than a week later, Wilson received a letter from the US State Department demanding that he take down his printable-gun blueprints or face prosecution for violating federal export controls. Under an obscure set of US regulations known as the International Trade in Arms Regulations (ITAR), Wilson was accused of exporting weapons without a license, just as if he’d shipped his plastic gun to Mexico rather than put a digital version of it on the internet. He took offline, but his lawyer warned him that he still potentially faced millions of dollars in fines and years in prison simply for having made the file available to overseas downloaders for a few days. “I thought my life was over,” Wilson says.

If code is speech, the constitutional contradictions are evident,” Wilson explained when he first launched the lawsuit in 2015. “So what if this code is a gun?” The Department of Justice‘s surprising settlement, confirmed in court documents earlier this month, essentially surrenders to that argument.


Record For The Fastest Trip To The Space Station

The ISS Progress 56 resupply spacecraft, packed with almost three tons of cargo, automatically docked to the International Space Station’s Pirs docking compartment at 11:31 p.m. EDT Wednesday, less than six hours after its launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. At the time of docking, the station was soaring 259 miles over the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of South America. The Soyuz rocket carrying Progress 56 launched from Baikonur at 5:44 p.m. (3:44 a.m., Baikonur time) to send the cargo ship on its expedited, 4-orbit trek to the station.

Usually it takes 4 days to complete the same task.


The new Progress is loaded with 1,764 pounds of propellant, 48 pounds of oxygen, 57 pounds of air, 926 pounds of water and 2,910 pounds of spare parts, experiment hardware and other supplies for the Expedition 38 crew. Expedition 40 Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Max Suraev will open the hatch to Progress Thursday morning to begin unloading the cargo.

The ISS Progress 55 cargo craft, which undocked from Pirs on Monday, is now a safe distance from the complex for a series of engineering tests prior to being sent to a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean on July 31.

The station’s crew began the workday at 6 a.m. Wednesday, four hours later than the usual 2 a.m. reveille to accommodate the late-night arrival of Progress.


New Hope To Fight Alzheimer’s

It is known that the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is associated with the accumulation of Amyloid beta () peptides in small molecular clusters known as oligomers. These trigger the formation of so-called ‘neurofibrillary tangles’ within neurons hamper their workings, ultimately causing cell death and so significant cognitive decline. Very large Aβ oligomers which form plaques outside neurons, alongside neuroinflammation have also been found to play a key part in the progression of the disease.

The EU-funded iRhom2 in AD project took as its starting point the protein iRhom2, which has been identified as a genetic risk factor for AD due to its pro-inflammatory properties. The team were able to explore further the influence of iRhom2 on neuroinflammation in mice. iRhom2 recently emerged as a protein of note in AD as it aids the maturation of an enzyme called TACE (tumor necrosis factor-α converting enzyme) guiding it towards a cell’s plasma membrane where the enzyme releases a cell-signalling cytokine (TNFα), implicated in the regulation of inflammatory processes. While mice studies have shown that TNFα-dependent inflammation can lead to sepsis and rheumatoid arthritis, it is also thought that the process contributes to neuroinflammatory signalling events, which can cause harm in the brain.

The EU-funded iRhom2 in AD project worked with mice that are prone to develop the hallmarks of AD, amyloid plaques and memory deficits. The team genetically altered iRhom2 in the mice then analysed the progression of the pathology using an array of biochemical and histological methods, together with a number of behavioural tests to assess cognitive decline. The results were somewhat surprising.

We initially hypothesised that iRhom2 would affect one specific aspect of neuroinflammation in AD. What we discovered was even more exciting as it actually affects several different aspects of neuroinflammation simultaneously. So modulating iRhom2 appears particularly well suited to interfere with AD,” explains project coordinator Prof. Dr. Stefan Lichtenthaler.


Super Conductive Graphene Will Boost Solar Technology

In 2010, the Nobel Prize in Physics went to the discoverers of graphene. A single layer of carbon atoms, graphene possesses properties that are ideal for a host of applications. Among researchers, graphene has been the hottest material for a decade. In 2017 alone, more than 30,000 research papers on graphene were published worldwide.

Now, two researchers from the University of Kansas (KU), Professor Hui Zhao and graduate student Samuel Lane, both of the Department of Physics & Astronomy, have connected a graphene layer with two other atomic layers (molybdenum diselenide and tungsten disulfide) thereby extending the lifetime of excited electrons in graphene by several hundred times. The finding will be published on Nano Futures, a newly launched and highly selective journal.

The work at KU may speed development of ultrathin and flexible solar cells with high efficiency.

For electronic and optoelectronic applications, graphene has excellent charge transport property. According to the researchers, electrons move in graphene at a speed of 1/30 of the speed of light — much faster than other materials. This might suggest that graphene can be used for solar cells, which convert energy from sunlight to electricity. But graphene has a major drawback that hinders such applications – its ultrashort lifetime of excited electrons (that is, the time an electron stays mobile) of only about one picosecond (one-millionth of one-millionth of a second, or 10-12 second).

These excited electrons are like students who stand up from their seats — after an energy drink, for example, which activates students like sunlight activates electrons,” Zhao said. “The energized students move freely in the classroom — like human electric current.

The KU researcher said one of the biggest challenges to achieving high efficiency in solar cells with graphene as the working material is that liberated electrons — or, the standing students — have a strong tendency to losing their energy and become immobile, like students sitting back down.

The number of electrons, or students from our example, who can contribute to the current is determined by the average time they can stay mobile after they are liberated by light,” explains Zhao. “In graphene, an electron stays free for only one picosecond. This is too short for accumulating a large number of mobile electrons. This is an intrinsic property of graphene and has been a big limiting factor for applying this material in photovoltaic or photo-sensing devices. In other words, although electrons in graphene can become mobile by light excitation and can move quickly, they only stay mobile too short a time to contribute to electricity.”

In their new paper, Zhao and Lane report this issue could be solved by using the so-called van der Waals materials. The principle of their approach is rather simple to understand. “We basically took the chairs away from the standing students so that they have nowhere to sit,” Zhao said. “This forces the electrons to stay mobile for a time that is several hundred times longer than before.”

To achieve this goal, working in KU’s Ultrafast Laser Lab, they designed a tri-layer material by putting single layers of MoSe2, WS2 and graphene on top of each other.


High Power Generator Utilizes Thermal Difference Of Only 5ºC

Objects in our daily lives, such as speakers, refrigerators, and even cars, are becoming “smarter” day by day as they connect to the internet and exchange data, creating the Internet of Things (IoT), a network among the objects themselves. Toward an IoT-based society, a miniaturized thermoelectric generator is anticipated to charge these objects, especially for those that are portable and wearable.

Due to advantages such as its relatively low thermal conductance but high electric conductance, silicon nanowires have emerged as a promising thermoelectric material. Silicon-based thermoelectric generators conventionally employed long, silicon nanowires of about 10-100 nanometers, which were suspended on a cavity to cutoff the bypass of the heat current and secure the temperature difference across the silicon nanowires. However, the cavity structure weakened the mechanical strength of the devices and increased the fabrication cost. To address these problems, a team of Japanese researchers from Waseda University, Osaka University, and Shizuoka University designed and successfully developed a novel silicon-nanowire thermoelectric generator, which experimentally demonstrated a high power density of 12 microwatts per 1cm2, enough to drive sensors or realize intermittent wireless communication, at a small thermal difference of only 5ºC.

Because our generator uses the same technology to manufacture semiconductor integrated circuits, its processing cost could be largely cut through mass production,” says Professor Takanobu Watanabe of Waseda University, the leading researcher of this study. “Also, it could open up a pathway to various, autonomously-driven IoT devices utilizing environmental and body heats. For instance, it may be possible to charge your smartwatch during your morning jog someday.”

The newly developed thermoelectric generator lost the cavity structure but instead shortened the silicon nanowires to 0.25 nanometers, since simulations showed that the thermoelectric performance improved by minimizing the device. Professor Watanabe explains that despite its new structure, the new thermoelectric generator demonstrated the same power density as the conventional devices. More surprisingly, thermal resistance was suppressed, and the power density multiplied by ten times by thinning the generator’s silicon substrate from the conventional 750 nanometers to 50 nanometers with backside grinding.


Growing New Cartilage To Eradicate Osteoarthritis Pain

What is graphene foam? It’s a synthetic “wonder material” made from the same carbon atoms that make up the lead in a pencilGraphene foam can be used as a “bioscaffold” to mesh with human stem cells and grow new cartilage. In addition to being incredibly strong, graphene foam conducts heat and electricity which helps neurons, or nerve cells, transmit information. Boise State researchers believe graphene foam-enhanced cartilage could one day be used to treat the joint pain caused by osteoarthritis as well as prevent the need for joint replacement. Osteoarthritis is incurable and affects half the U.S. population over the age of 65.

If we could take graphene foam, adhere a patient’s own stem cells on it then and inject that into someone’s knee to regrow their own cartilage, that would be the ‘pie in the sky,‘” said Dave Estrada, co-director of the Boise State University’s Advanced Nanomaterials and Manufacturing Laboratory.

A Boise State team led by Katie Yocham, a doctoral student in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering, and Estrada have published a study, “Mechanical Properties of Graphene Foam and Graphene Foam-Tissue Composites,” in the Advanced Engineering Materials journal.

While earlier studies at Boise State have shown that graphene foam is compatible with cells for growing new cartilage tissue, this is the first study to investigate how that tissue would actually function in a human joint under normal stresses, including high impact activities.

Trevor Lujan, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, and one of the authors of the study, praised Yocham’s work. “Katie’s strong efforts on this project have provided the biomedical community with a rigorous characterization of the bulk mechanical behavior of cellularized graphene foam. This baseline knowledge is an important step in the rising use of graphene foam for biomedical applications,” he said.

Estrada believes the biomedical use of graphene foam may have other applications, including in the military where a majority combat injuries involve the musculoskeletal system. “Our vision is to develop novel bioscaffolds that can expedite healing, reduce the need for amputation, and help save lives,” he added.


How To Generate Hot Water For Free

The HERU is a world-first global solution that literally gives you the power of generating hot water for your home from everyday items you previously had little option but to discard as waste.


The patented, micro-scale Home Energy Resources Unit (HERU) is designed to fit seamlessly into the curtilage of your domestic property, changing the life course of most items and materials in your home. It provides a method to keep most household items as a resource by using them to power your boiler, moving you away from a linear approach to consumerism (buy, use, dispose), into a circular one, whereby ‘wastes’ never become. Imagine buying an item, bringing it home, putting the item into use and using the packaging it was wrapped up in to energise your home. The HERU enables you to utilise 100% of most products you buy, without the need to discard anything.

The ground-breaking process is simple to operate, akin to other white goods in the home such as your washing machine or dishwasher. Similarly to other white goods, the HERU requires a water supply, a standard 13-amp electrical power supply and a sewer pipe connection. We synchronise it with your gas or oil boiler so your boiler becomes a hybrid water heating system – meaning it can run via HERU, or revert back to oil or gas as and when needed. The process then uses heat treatment to break materials down and produce an average of 2.5 times the amount of energy used to run the HERU – and all at a standard oven temperature of up to 300°C.


A Weapon To Fight Lung Cancer

Researchers at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) have discovered a new metabolic vulnerability in small cell lung cancer (SCLC) that can be targeted by existing drug therapies.

SCLC is a deadly and aggressive form of lung cancer with few therapeutic options and an incredibly low five-year survival rate of 5 percent. Researchers at CRI believe the key to finding new therapies for this disease lies in better understanding the metabolism of SCLC.

Cancerous cells reprogram their metabolic pathways to grow and spread rapidly through the body. In some forms of cancer, cancer cells become highly dependent or “addicted” to specific metabolic pathways as a result of genetic mutations. Identifying these pathways can lead to new treatment options.

SCLC metabolism has not previously been studied in-depth,” said Dr. Ralph DeBerardinis, Professor at CRI and Director of CRI’s Genetic and Metabolic Disease Program.If we identify the metabolic pathways SCLC uses to grow and spread, then maybe we can find drugs to inhibit them. This could effectively cut off the fuel supply to these tumors.”

To discover new vulnerabilities in SCLC, researchers at CRI analyzed metabolism and gene expression in cells obtained from more than 25 human SCLC tumors. From the data, they identified two distinct categories of SCLC defined by the level of two oncogenes: MYC and ASCL1. Oncogenes are genes known to promote cancer formation and growth.

The study, published in Cell Metabolism, found that MYC stimulated synthesis of purine molecules. Purines are essential for cells to produce RNA and DNA, both of which are required for growth and division. MYC-expressing cells had a particular need for a specific type of purine called guanosine.

We were excited to discover that purine synthesis was so important for this subset of SCLC cells. There are already safe and effective inhibitors of guanosine synthesis used in patients for other diseases besides cancer. Our findings suggested that mice with MYC-expressing SCLC might benefit from treatment with drugs that inhibit purine synthesis,” said Dr. Fang Huang, a visiting scholar at CRI and first author on the paper.

To test the hypothesis, researchers treated mice from multiple different mouse models of SCLC with the drug mizoribine, a purine synthesis inhibitor. Treatment with this drug suppressed tumor growth and significantly extended the lifespan in mice with MYC-expressing SCLC.

Our findings suggest purine synthesis inhibitors could be effective in SCLC patients whose tumors have high levels of MYC. If we are right, this could quickly provide a new treatment for this disease, which has few options at present,” said Dr. DeBerardinis.


Quantum Computer Controls One Billion Electrons Per Second One-by-One.

University of Adelaide-led research in Australia has moved the world one step closer to reliable, high-performance quantum computing. An international team has developed a ground-breaking single-electronpump”. The electron pump device developed by the researchers can produce one billion electrons per second and uses quantum mechanics to control them one-by-one. And it’s so precise they have been able to use this device to measure the limitations of current electronics equipment. This paves the way for future quantum information processing applications, including in defence, cybersecurity and encryption, and big data analysis.

This research puts us one step closer to the holy grail – reliable, high-performance quantum computing,” says project leader Dr Giuseppe C. Tettamanzi, Senior Research Fellow, at the University of Adelaide’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing.

Published in the journal Nano Letters, the researchers also report observations of electron behaviour that’s never been seen before – a key finding for those around the world working on quantum computing.

Quantum computing, or more broadly quantum information processing, will allow us to solve problems that just won’t be possible under classical computing systems,” says Dr Tettamanzi. “It operates at a scale that’s close to an atom and, at this scale, normal physics goes out the window and quantum mechanics comes into play.  To indicate its potential computational power, conventional computing works on instructions and data written in a series of 1s and 0s – think about it as a series of on and off switches; in quantum computing every possible value between 0 and 1 is available. We can then increase exponentially the number of calculations that can be done simultaneously.”


Modified Polio Vaccine Helps Fight Deadly Brain Tumors

A modified version of the polio vaccine, infused straight into aggressive brain tumors, helped some patients live for years longer than they normally would have, doctors reported. It’s no miracle cure — only about 20 percent of patients with gliomas were helped — but some are alive six years later, the team reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. 


“It’s a hopeful enough finding to move forward and test the vaccine in more people”, the team at the Duke University School of Medicine said.  “It’s very unusual, almost unprecedented to get this kind of long-term survival,” adds neurologist Dr. Darell Bigner, who led the study team.

The Duke team tested 61 glioma patients over five years. They all had grade IV gliomas, a group of brain tumors that includes glioblastoma. These patients have a “dismal” prognosis, the Duke team wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine. “There is currently no effective therapy.” Standard treatment of brain tumors includes surgery if the tumor is somewhere reachable; chemotherapy; and radiation. But if the tumor is aggressive, it’s usually fatal.

These are people who failed everything,” Bigner said. “Virtually all patients, no matter what you treat them with, are dead within in two years.” About a third of all brain tumors are gliomas, according to the National Brain Tumor Society. About 80,000 people a year are diagnosed with a brain tumor, and about 24,000 of those are malignant. “The average survival rate for all malignant brain tumor patients is only 34.7 percent,” the group says. But there’s evidence that some viruses can home in on tumors and kill them. It’s not clear why, but viruses can also make tumors more visible to the immune system. 

The team at Duke worked with the National Cancer Institute to design and manufacture a modified version of polio vaccine virusPolio viruses are attracted to nerve cells — that’s why they cause paralysis. The medical team used polio viruses already weakened and altered for use in polio vaccines, and genetically engineered them to carry parts of a common cold virus, called a rhinovirus, known to be attracted to glioma cells.


VR Model Of The Milky Way Opens New Doors In Surgery

Using data from over a billion stars, a research team at Lund University in Sweden are developing an interactive 3D model of the Milky Way galaxy. This could enable new types of discoveries that aren’t possible with current tools – perhaps even unraveling how the Milky Way was formed. The data being used is from the Gaia satellite that was launched in 2013. It orbits the Earth and collects data from over a billion stars.


This will be the best map of the Milky Way we have so far. A Virtual Reality immersion is something we are very keen on exploring, as it can help us identify patterns and structures in very complex data”, explains Oscar Agertz, astronomy researcher at Lund University.

The research could also potentially allow surgeons to work together in medical examinations despite being on separate continents.


Robot Can Turn Around 120 Freshly-Cooked Pizzas Every Hour

The traditional hand-crafted pizza has a shiny new rival — pizza made by robotFrench startup Ekim wants to speed up the way pizza is made using a three-armed autonomous pizzaiolo robot. Ekim hopes to install its cutting-edge pizza-maker, which is capable of churning out a freshly-made pizza every 30 seconds, in an autonomous 24/7 restaurant soon. The robot’s gestures have been programmed to match those of real-life pizzaiolos, or pizza-makers, and all three arms working independently to enable the robot to make several pizzas at the same time.


We are not faster than a pizzaiolo as we make a pizza in four minutes and 30 seconds because the pizzas are made on demand in front of the customer, we take time to cook them well, to put the ingredients,’ Ekim CEO Philippe Goldman said. ‘But the robot has three arms, can co-ordinate tasks and make several pizzas at once. ‘So yes, making a pizza takes four minutes 30 seconds but we deliver one pizza every 30 seconds, which allows us to deliver 120 pizzas an hour when a pizzaiolo can only make 40 pizzas an hour.’

The idea originated when two Ekim engineers from when they were students after they grew tired of eating low-quality fast food, the only meals they could afford at the time. The robot is currently in a showroom outside Paris while Ekim searches for a location to start a pizza-making service, using produce from France and Italy. Like with a vending machine, the concept would allow customers to order a freshly-made pizza at any time. Using an automated screen, they can chose from an array of pizzas, including the traditional Margherita and richer four cheese.


5G Technology, 22 Times More Powerful Than 4G

Researchers at the universities of Lund (Sweden) and Bristol (UK) have conducted a number of experiments using a form of 5G technology called Massive MIMO (multiple input, multiple output), and set not one but two world records in so-called spectrum efficiency for wireless communication. Spectrum efficiency measures how much data can successfully be packed into a radio signal transmitted from an antenna.

This 5G technology developed by the researchers is extremely efficient – in fact, the most efficient technology ever when it comes to managing many simultaneous users. The latest world record was set when researchers from Lund and Bristol attained more than 20 times the total data speed of today’s 4G technology, thereby almost doubling the previous record where they, using the same technology, achieved a twelve-fold improvement.

Setting a new world record was a significant event as it demonstrated that it is possible to transmit 22 times more data compared to current wireless systems. Although the goal is for 5G to increase the total transmission capacity by a factor 1 000, this is still a big step”, says Steffen Malkowsky, researcher in Electrical and Information Technology at the Lund University Faculty of Engineering.


Graphene Strengthens Neuronal Activity

A work led by SISSA in Italy and published on Nature Nanotechnology reports for the first time experimentally the phenomenon of iontrapping’ by graphene carpets and its effect on the communication between neurons.The researchers have observed an increase in the activity of nerve cells grown on a single layer of graphene. Combining theoretical and experimental approaches they have shown that the phenomenon is due to the ability of the material to ‘trap’ several ions present in the surrounding environment on its surface, modulating its composition.

Graphene is the thinnest bi-dimensional material available today, characterisedby incredible properties of conductivity, flexibility and transparency. Although there are great expectations for its applications in the biomedical field, only very few works have analysed its interactions with neuronal tissue.
A study conducted by SISSAScuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi
Avanzati, and the University of Trieste in association with the University of Antwerp (Belgium), the Institute of Science and Technology of Barcelona (Spain), has analysed the behaviour of neurons grown on a single layer of graphene, observing a strengthening in their activity. Through theoretical and experimental approaches the researchers have shown that such behaviour is due to reduced ion mobility, in particular of potassium, to the neuron-graphene interface. This phenomenon is commonly called ‘ion trapping’, already known at theoretical level, but observed experimentally for the first time only now.

“It is as if graphene behaves as an ultra-thin magnet on whose surface some of the potassium ions present in the extra cellular solution between the cells and the graphene remain trapped.
It is this small variation that determines the increase in neuronal
excitability” comments Denis Scaini, researcher at SISSA who has led the research alongside Laura Ballerini.
The study has also shown that this strengthening occurs when the graphene itself is supported by an insulator, like glass, or suspended in solution, while it disappears when lying on a conductor. “Graphene is a highly conductive material which could potentially be used to coat any surface. Understanding how its behaviour varies according to the substratum on which it is laid is essential for its future applications, above all in the neurological field” continues Scaini, “considering the unique properties of graphene it is natural to think for example about the development of innovative electrodes of cerebral stimulation or visual devices“.


Brain Metals Drive Alzheimer’s Progression

Alzheimer’s disease could be better treated, thanks to a breakthrough discovery of the properties of the metals in the brain involved in the progression of the neurodegenerative condition, by an international research collaboration including the University of Warwick.

Iron is an essential element in the brain, so it is critical to understand how its management is affected in Alzheimer’s disease. The advanced X-ray techniques that we used in this study have delivered a step-change in the level of information that we can obtain about iron chemistry in the amyloid plaques. We are excited to have these new insights into how amyloid plaque formation influences iron chemistry in the human brain, as our findings coincide with efforts by others to treat Alzheimer’s disease with iron-modifying drugs,” commented Dr Joanna Collingwood, from Warwick’s School of Engineering, who was part of a research team which characterised iron species associated with the formation of amyloid protein plaques in the human brainabnormal clusters of proteins in the brain. The formation of these plaques is associated with toxicity which causes cell and tissue death, leading to mental deterioration in Alzheimer’s patients.

They found that in brains affected by Alzheimer’s, several chemically-reduced iron species including a proliferation of a magnetic iron oxide called magnetite – which is not commonly found in the human brainoccur in the amyloid protein plaques. The team had previously shown that these minerals can form when iron and the amyloid protein interact with each other. Thanks to advanced measurement capabilities at synchrotron X-ray facilities in the UK and USA, including the Diamond Light Source I08 beamline in Oxfordshire, the team has now shown detailed evidence that these processes took place in the brains of individuals who had Alzheimer’s disease. They also made unique observations about the forms of calcium minerals present in the amyloid plaques.

The team, led by an EPSRC-funded collaboration between University of Warwick and Keele University – and which includes researchers from University of Florida and The University of Texas at San Antonio – made their discovery by extracting amyloid plaque cores from two deceased patients who had a formal diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. The researchers scanned the plaque cores using state-of-the-art X-ray microscopy at the Advanced Light Source in Berkeley, USA and at beamline I08 at the Diamond Light Source synchrotron in Oxfordshire, to determine the chemical properties of the minerals within them.


New Cathode Triples the Energy Storage of Lithium-Ion Batteries

As the demand for smartphones, electric vehicles, and renewable energy continues to rise, scientists are searching for ways to improve lithium-ion batteries—the most common type of battery found in home electronics and a promising solution for grid-scale energy storage. Increasing the energy density of lithium-ion batteries could facilitate the development of advanced technologies with long-lasting batteries, as well as the widespread use of wind and solar energy. Now, researchers have made significant progress toward achieving that goal. A collaboration led by scientists at the University of Maryland (UMD), the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, and the U.S. Army Research Lab have developed and studied a new cathode material that could triple the energy density of lithium-ion battery electrodes

Lithium-ion batteries consist of an anode and a cathode,” said Xiulin Fan, a scientist at UMD and one of the lead authors of the paper. “Compared to the large capacity of the commercial graphite anodes used in lithium-ion batteries, the capacity of the cathodes is far more limited. Cathode materials are always the bottleneck for further improving the energy density of lithium-ion batteries.

Scientists at UMD synthesized a new cathode material, a modified and engineered form of iron trifluoride (FeF3), which is composed of cost-effective and environmentally benign elements—iron and fluorine. Researchers have been interested in using chemical compounds like FeF3 in lithium-ion batteries because they offer inherently higher capacities than traditional cathode materials.

The materials normally used in lithium-ion batteries are based on intercalation chemistry,” said Enyuan Hu, a chemist at Brookhaven and one of the lead authors of the paper. “This type of chemical reaction is very efficient; however, it only transfers a single electron, so the cathode capacity is limited. Some compounds like FeF3 are capable of transferring multiple electrons through a more complex reaction mechanism, called a conversion reaction.

The findings are published in Nature Communications.


Mass Production of Low-Cost Solar Cells

An international team of university researchers today reports solving a major fabrication challenge for perovskite cells — the intriguing potential challengers to silicon-based solar cells.

These crystalline structures show great promise because they can absorb almost all wavelengths of light. Perovskite solar cells are already commercialized on a small scale, but recent vast improvements in their power conversion efficiency (PCE) are driving interest in using them as low-cost alternatives for solar panels.

In the cover article published online in Nanoscale, a publication of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the research team reveals a new scalable means of applying a critical component to perovskite cells to solve some major fabrication challenges. The researchers were able to apply the critical electron transport layer (ETL) in perovskite photovoltaic cells in a new way — spray coating — to imbue the ETL with superior conductivity and a strong interface with its neighbor, the perovskite layer.

The researchers turned to spray coating, which applies the ETL uniformly across a large area and is suitable for manufacturing large solar panels. They reported a 30 percent efficiency gain over other ETLs – from a PCE of 13 percent to over 17 percent – and fewer defects.

Added Taylor, “Our approach is concise, highly reproducible, and scalable. It suggests that spray coating the PCBM ETL could have broad appeal toward improving the efficiency baseline of perovskite solar cells and providing an ideal platform for record-breaking p-i-n perovskite solar cells in the near future.”

The research is led by André D. Taylor, an associate professor in the NYU Tandon School of Engineering’s Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department, with Yifan Zheng, the first author on the paper and a Peking University researcher. Co-authors are from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Yale University, and Johns Hopkins University.


Compound to treat Alzheimer’s shows promise in mice

Researchers at The Rockefeller University in New York have made a component, RU-505, which can be used to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in mice.


The investigations build on Alzheimer’s studies conducted in Rockefeller University labs, particularly research focused on how the cells of the brain process the amyloid precursor protein (APP). Faulty regulation of APP processing — in which APP is chopped into smaller pieces during normal brain cell metabolism — is believed to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. Scientists in the Fisher Center work on understanding why APP can sometimes produce protein fragments that are safely secreted from the cell and at other times produce a protein called amyloid-ß, a major component of the brain plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.


Universal Antibody Drug for HIV

A research team led by scientists at AIDS Institute and Department of Microbiology, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine of The University of Hong Kong (HKU) invents a universal antibody drug against HIV/AIDS. By engineering a tandem bi-specific broadly neutralizing antibody, the team found that this novel antibody drug is universally effective not only against all genetically divergent global HIV-1 strains tested but also promoting the elimination of latently infected cells in a humanized mouse model. The new findings are now published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, one of the world’s leading biomedical journals.


AIDS remains an incurable disease. In the world, HIV/AIDS has resulted in estimated 40 million deaths while 36.9 million people are still living with the virus.  To end the HIV/AIDS pandemic, it is important to discover either an effective vaccine or a therapeutic cure. There are, however, two major scientific challenges: the tremendous HIV-1 diversity and the antiviral drug-unreachable latency. Since it is extremely difficult to develop an appropriate immunogen to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) against genetically divergent HIV-1 subtypes, developing existing bnAbs as passive immunization becomes a useful approach for HIV-1 prophylaxis and immunotherapy.

Previous studies have investigated the potency, breadth and crystal structure of many bnAbs including their combination both in vitro and in vivo. Naturally occurring HIV-1 resistant strains, however, are readily found against these so-called bnAbs and result in the failure of durable viral suppression in bnAb-based monotherapy. To improve HIV-1 neutralization breadth and potency, bispecific bnAb, which blocks two essential steps of HIV-1 entry into target cells, have been engineered and show promising efficacy in animal models. Before the publication, tandem bi-specific bnAb has not been previously investigated in vivo against HIV-1 infection.


Plastic Waste In Antarctica

Plastic waste and toxic chemicals found in remote parts of the Antarctic this year add to evidence that pollution is spreading to the ends of the Earth, environmental group Greenpeace said.

Microplasticstiny bits of plastic from the breakdown of everything from shopping bags to car tires – were detected in nine of 17 water samples collected off the Antarctic peninsula by a Greenpeace vessel in early 2018, it said. And seven of nine snow samples taken on land in Antarctica found chemicals known as PFAs (polyfluorinated alkylated substances), which are used in industrial products and can harm wildlife.

 We may think of the Antarctic as a remote and pristine wilderness,” Frida Bengtsson of Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic campaign said in a statement about the findings. But from pollution and climate change to industrial krill fishing, humanity’s footprint is clear,” she said. “These results show that even the most remote habitats of the Antarctic are contaminated with microplastic waste and persistent hazardous chemicals.”

The United Nations’ environment agency says plastic pollution has been detected from the Arctic to Antarctica and in remote places including the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans in the Pacific.

UN agency said that less than a 10th of all the plastic ever made has been recycled, and governments should consider banning or taxing single-use bags or food containers to stem a tide of pollution.


Carlos Ghosn: “Driverless Cars Similar To Antibiotics”

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance car maker (ranked 1 in the world),  has detailed the impact of the driverless car on human daily lives (Interview at the French TV BFM). There are between 1,3 million and 1,4 million death on roads every year in the world. The driverless car will eliminate 90% of the fatal accidents.

 “We are five years from safe, driverless cars for all“, adds Ghosn. “Driverless cars impact will be similar to the discovery of antibiotics“.

Famously given the moniker “Le Cost Killer” for his work transforming two ailing brands into one profit-making success story, Carlos Ghosn has achieved celebrity status in the car industry — and was once even portrayed as a superhero in a Japanese comic book.

Today the auto industry is experiencing a paradigm shift with the growth of the global electric vehicle (EV) market, as well as the vast potential offered by disruptive new areas like the autonomously-driven vehicle, using massively Artificial Intelligence. Despite the challenge of staying competitive and profitable in this changing environment, the Brazilian-born 64-year old believes the brands under his watch are already in pole position — and plan to stay there. But he has to stay vigilant and is aware of the dangers, acknowledging that businesses are pushing hard for driverless vehicles. “Amazon, Alibaba, Uberwhy are they interested in this? It’s very simple. The driver is the biggest cost they have — you make a quick calculation about a car running 24-7 for a month: the electricity bill is about $250 a month; the lease of the car is $300; plus three drivers, since you’re running for 24 hours a day, are going to cost you $15,000 per month.  So getting rid of the driver is a 90% reduction in costs.

That’s why Uber, DiDi all want to be the first to have this … because if my competitor gets this before me, I’m dead.”

Electric Road For Electric Cars

In recent years, electric roads have emerged as potential alternatives to the heavy and expensive batteries currently needed in electric road vehicles. Now researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed an even smarter technology – that doesn’t require digging up stretches of road to install the system. Instead, a small conductive rail is laid on top of segments of the road.


The vehicle has three contact points with the road through which it connects to the power supply. It works much in the same way as a charging pole; except the vehicle charges both while moving and standing still”, explains Mats Alaküla, professor of industrial electrical engineering and automation at Lund University.

The rail is only active when covered by the vehicle, making it a safe option for cities. The system notices when you leave a driving lane and automatically disconnects the “pick up”– reconnecting when you are back. As a driver you wouldn’t notice anything beyond a symbol on your dashboard.

The current challenges for electric vehicles include the large and expensive batteries needed and the limitations in driving range. An electric road solution reduces the need for batteries by up to 80%.

Modern conventional electric vehicles have a driving range of 300-500 kilometers. With an electric road system covering the national and European road network,  you only need a battery range of 50-100 kilometers, to keep you covered if you come to the end of an electric road”, says Mats Alaküla. For longer distances, around 50% of the national and European road network  (e.g 10 out of 20 km on average) needs the rail installed for vehicles to keep running non-stop. The implementation would be different in cities than in other areas, stresses Mats Alaküla. In cities, the rail would be installed strategically on select road segments, bus stops, loading docks for trucks or waiting lanes for taxis, for example. This way, more complicated areas like intersections or roundabouts can be avoided.


E- textiles Control Home Appliances With The Swipe Of A Finger

Electronic textiles could allow a person to control household appliances or computers from a distance simply by touching a wristband or other item of clothing — something that could be particularly helpful for those with limited mobility. Now researchers, reporting in ACS Nano, have developed a new type of e-textile that is self-powered, highly sensitive and washable.


E-textiles are not new, but most existing versions have poor air permeability, can’t be laundered or are too costly or complex to mass-produce. Chinese researchers Jiaona Wang, Hengyu Guo, Congju Li and coworkers wanted to develop an E-textile that overcomes all of these limitations and is highly sensitive to human touch.

The researchers made a self-powered triboelectric nanogenerator by depositing an electrode array of conductive carbon nanotubes on nylon fabric. To make the E-textile washable, they incorporated polyurethane into the carbon nanotube ink, which made the nanotubes firmly adhere to the fabric. They covered the array with a piece of silk and fashioned the textile into a wristband. When swiped with a finger in different patterns, the E-textile generated electrical signals that were coupled to computers to control programs, or to household objects to turn on lights, a fan or a microwave from across the room. The E-textile is breathable for human skin, washable and inexpensive to produce on a large scale, the researchers say.


MIT Artificial Intelligence System Detects 85 Percent Of Cyber Attacks

While the number of cyber attacks continues to increase it is becoming even more difficult to detect and mitigate them in order to avoid serious consequences. A group of researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) is working on an ambitious project, the development of a technology that is able to early detect cyber attacks. The experts in collaboration with peers from the startup PatternEx have designed an Artificial Intelligence system that is able to detect 85 percent of attacks by using data from more than 3.6 Billion lines of log files each day.

The researchers have developed a system that combines an Artificial Intelligence engine with human inputs. , which researchers call Analyst Intuition (AI), which is why it has been given the name of AI2. The AI2 system first performs an automatic scan of the content with machine-learning techniques and then reports the results to human analysts which have to discriminate events linked to cyber attacks. According to the experts at the MIT the approach implemented by the AI2 system is 3 times better than modern automated cyber attack detection systems.

“The team showed that AI2 can detect 85 percent of attacks, which is roughly three times better than previous benchmarks, while also reducing the number of false positives by a factor of 5. The system was tested on 3.6 billion pieces of data known as “log lines,” which were generated by millions of users over a period of three months.” states a description of the AI2 published by the MIT.

The greater the number of analyzes carried out by the system, the more accurate the subsequent estimates thanks to the feedback mechanism.

“You can think about the system as a virtual analyst,” says CSAIL research scientist Kalyan Veeramachaneni, who developed AI2 with Ignacio Arnaldo, a chief data scientist at PatternEx and a former CSAIL postdoc. “It continuously generates new models that it can refine in as little as a few hours, meaning it can improve its detection rates significantly and rapidly.”


Tesla’s Autopilot to get ‘full self-driving feature’ in August

Shares of Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) rose as much as 5 percent on Monday after Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk tweeted that its Autopilot driver assistance system will get full self-driving features following a software upgrade in August. Autopilot, a form of advanced cruise control, handles some driving tasks and warns those behind the wheel they are always responsible for the vehicle’s safe operation. But a spate of recent crashes has brought the system under regulatory scrutiny.


To date, Autopilot resources have rightly focused entirely on safety. With V9, we will begin to enable full self-driving features,” Musk tweeted, replying to a Twitter user. Musk said the autopilot issue during lane-merging is better in the current software and will be fully fixed in the August update.

However, it was not clear what self-driving features would be included in the August updateTesla has been gradually upgrading its Autopilot features with regular software updates.

Tesla’s documentation on its website about the “full self-driving capabilities” package says that it is not possible to know exactly when each element of the functionality will be available, as this is highly dependent on local regulatory approval.

A consumer advocacy group on Friday urged Tesla to fix what it termed as “flaws” in Autopilot after a preliminary government report said a Model X driver did not have his hands on the vehicle’s steering wheel in the final six seconds before a fatal crash on March 23.

The software update is good news,” said analyst Chaim Siegel from Elazar Advisors, adding the stock was still benefiting from last week’s prediction by Musk that it would finally hit its production target for its Model 3 sedan.


Genetic Codes Mapping Of 3,000 Dangerous Bacteria

Scientists seeking new ways to fight drug-resistant superbugs have mapped the genomes of more than 3,000 bacteria, including samples of a bug taken from Alexander Fleming’s nose and a dysentery-causing strain from a World War One soldier. The DNA of deadly strains of plague, dysentery and cholera were also decoded in what the researchers said was an effort to better understand some of the world’s most dangerous diseases and develop new ways to fight them. The samples from Fleming – the British scientist credited with discovering the first antibiotic, penicillin, in 1928 – were among more than 5,500 bugs at Britain’s National Collection of Type Cultures (NCTC) one of the world’s largest collections of clinically relevant bacteria. The first bacteria to be deposited in the NCTC was a strain of dysentery-causing Shigella flexneri that was isolated in 1915 from a soldier in the trenches of World War One.

“Knowing very accurately what bacteria looked like before and during the introduction of antibiotics and vaccines, and comparing them to current strains, … shows us how they have responded to these treatments,” said Julian Parkhill of Britain’s Wellcome Sanger Institute who co-led the research. “This in turn helps us develop new antibiotics and vaccines.”

Specialists estimate that around 70 percent of bacteria are already resistant to at least one antibiotic that is commonly used to treat them. This has made the evolution of “superbugs” that can evade one or multiple drugs one of the biggest threats facing medicine today. Among the most serious risks are tuberculosis – which infects more than 10.4 million people a year and killed 1.7 million in 2016 alone – and gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease that infects 78 million people a year and which the World Health Organization says is becoming almost untreatable.


Driverless Taxi Service in US and France By The End Of The Year

The City of Lyon in France, will operate a regular cab service by the end of this year, using driverless electric vehicles from the french company Navya. As a pioneer and specialist in the autonomous vehicle market, Navya has conceived, developed and produced the Autonom Cab, the very first autonomous, personalized and shared mobility solution. The cab was designed from the outset to be autonomous, just like all the vehicles in the Autonom range, meaning that there is no cockpit, steering wheel nor pedals.


At the heart of the smart city, Autonom Cab provides an intelligent transport service for individual trips in urban centers. Able to carry 1 to 6 passengers, The driverless taxi is a fluid, continuous and effective solution that answers user expectations in terms of service before, during and after their trip. Available as either a private or shared service, Autonom Cab places an emphasis on conviviality and comfort. On board, passengers can for example choose to work, benefiting from fully connected technology, or partake in an interactive cultural visit of the city. They can also choose a playlist, or buy their cinema or museum tickets.

As well,  the american company Waymo says that their self-driving car service will begin operations by the end of the year in Phoenix, Arizona. Waymo is a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, and the CEO John Krafcik said engineers at both companies were hard at work on the AI backing their self-driving cars.

People will be able to download a Waymo app and secure rides on autonomous vehicles through it, with no driver present, Krafcik said. Waymo has been operating autonomous vehicles on the roads of Phoenix since October, and is one of the first companies to do so in the US. Originally, Waymo was a part of Google before it was spun off into its own company under the Alphabet umbrella. Despite the separation, members of Google‘s Brain team have helped Waymo engineers by beefing up the neural networks underpinning the AI operating the vehicles.


Electric Car For MegaCities

Uniti Swedish startup is building Uniti One, an electric car for crammed cities. There have been 3,000 pre-orders for its first model. Uniti One will have “75% lessenvironmental impact than standard electric vehicles. Uniti aims for its first cars hit European roads in 2019.

Uniti is betting on a small and affordable electric car to meet an explosion of interest in the coming decade. And if Swedish car fans are anything to go by, it may work. Just a couple of months after making its first model available for pre-order through Swedish electronics retailer Mediamarkt, more than 3,000 people have queued up for the company’s sleek two-seater. The total value of the pre-orders, which are fully refundable, now correspond to some 500 million krona (€50 million). “This is an important milestone for our new company,” says Robin Eriksson, Chief Marketing Officer at Uniti in a press release, adding: “We are now working intensively with our development and production partners to finalise supply potential so we can scale accordingly.

Uniti One was unveiled in December and will retail for around 150k SEK ($17,000) a piece. After releasing the vehicle for pre orders this winter, interest has exploded in Sweden. Uniti’s two-seater has been designed with megacities in mind. Initially developed out of Lund University in Southern Sweden, Uniti’s dream of a small-scale electric urban vehicle became a freestanding project in 2016, when the new startup took in just over SEK 12 million ($1,35M) to create a production-ready prototype.

Uniti‘s vehicle is expected to have a range of 150 to 300 kilometers, and will be tailored for urban environments on account of its small size. Uniti claims its car emits 75 percent less carbon-dioxide over a lifecycle than many of today’s electric vehicles.

We see our vehicle as a complement to the bigger cars and will be a second car for many customers. A small two-seater is easier sell,” Eriksson said.


Electrified Roads Slash Cost Of Electric Vehicles

An electrified road in Sweden that is the first in the world to charge vehicles as they drive along is showing promise and could potentially help cut the high cost of electric cars, project backers Vattenfall [VATN.UL] and Elways saidThe state-funded project, named eRoadArlanda and costing about 50 million crowns ($5.82 million), uses a modified electric truck that moves cargo from Stockholm’s Arlanda airport to Postnord’s nearby logistics hub to test the technology.

A electrified rail embedded in the tarmac of the 2-km-long (1.24 miles) road charges the truck automatically as it travels above it. A movable arm attached to the truck detects the rail’s location in the road, and charging stops when the vehicle is overtaking or coming to a halt. The system also calculates the vehicle’s energy consumption, which enables electricity costs to be debited per vehicle and user. 

Elways’ chief executive Gunnar Asplund said the charging while driving would mean electric cars no longer need big batteries — which can be half the cost of an electric car — to ensure they have enough power to travel a useful distance.

The technology offers infinite range — range anxiety disappears” he said. “Electrified roads will allow smaller batteries and can make electric cars even cheaper than fossil fuel ones.”

Asplund reports the Swedish state, which is funding the project, was happy with the results so far, with the only issue — now resolved — having been dirt accumulating on the rail. Elways has patented the electric rail technology and is part of a Swedish consortium backing the eRoadArlanda project that also includes infrastructure company NCC and utility Vattenfall, which provides power from the national grid to the rail.

Such roads will allow (electric vehicles) to move long distances without big, costly and heavy batteries,” said Markus Fischer, a Vattenfall spokesman, adding that installing the arm in new cars would be cheaper than retrofitting current models.


New Combination To Eradicate Staph Aureus

CF-301 is a bacteriophage-derived lysin with potent activity against Staphylococcus aureus (“Staph aureus”) bloodstream infections. CF-301 is the first and only lysin to enter human clinical trials in the US and has recently completed a Phase 1 trial in healthy volunteers. This compound is being developed for the treatment of Staph aureus bloodstream infections (BSI; bacteremia), including endocarditis, caused by methicillin-resistant and susceptible Staphaureus (MRSA and MSSA) strains.


New drug-resistant strains of Staph aureus have been identified which demonstrate resistance against vancomycin and daptomycin, the only two standard-of-care (SOC) antibiotics indicated for the treatment of MRSA BSI in the US. CF-301 has the potential to be a first-in-class, new treatment for Staph aureus bacteremia. CF-301 has specific and rapid bactericidal activity against Staph aureus. Combinations of CF-301 with vancomycin or daptomycin increased survival significantly in animal models of disease when compared to treatment with SOC antibiotics or CF-301 alone. CF-301 targets a highly conserved region of the cell wall that is vital to bacteria, thus making resistance less likely to develop. When used in combination with SOC antibiotics, the result is a novel combination therapy that has the potential to combat the high unmet clinical need of Staph aureus infections.

Advantages are important:

  • Combination with antibiotics offers a superior treatment approach based on animal models
  • Act at least 12x faster than current antibiotics
  • Specifically kills Staph aureus and spares good bacteria
  • Clears biofilm


Genes Behind Humankind’s Big Brain

Scientists have pinpointed three genes that may have played a pivotal role in an important milestone in human evolution: the striking increase in brain size that facilitated cognitive advances that helped define what it means to be human. These genes, found only in people, appeared between 3 and 4 million years ago, just prior to a period when the fossil record demonstrates a dramatic brain enlargement in ancestral species in the human lineage, researchers said. The three nearly identical genes, as well as a fourth nonfunctional one, are called NOTCH2NL genes, arising from a gene family dating back hundreds of millions of years and heavily involved in embryonic development. 

The NOTCH2NL genes are particularly active in the reservoir of neural stem cells of the cerebral cortex, the brain’s outer layer responsible for the highest mental functions such as cognition, language, memory, reasoning and consciousness. The genes were found to delay development of cortical stem cells into neurons in the embryo, leading to the production of a higher number of mature nerve cells in this brain region.

The cerebral cortex defines to a large extent what we are as a species and who we are as individuals. Understanding how it emerged in evolution is a fascinating question, touching at the basic origins of mankind,” said developmental neurobiologist Pierre Vanderhaeghen of Université Libre de Bruxelles and VIB/KULeuven in Belgium.

It is the ultimate evolutionary question and it is thrilling to work in this area of research,” added biomolecular engineer David Haussler, scientific director of the University of California, Santa Cruz Genomics Institute and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.



Nanorobots Clear Bacteria From Blood

Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed tiny ultrasound-powered robots that can swim through blood, removing harmful bacteria along with the toxins they produce. These proof-of-concept nanorobots could one day offer a safe and efficient way to detoxify and decontaminate biological fluids.

Researchers built the nanorobots by coating gold nanowires with a hybrid of platelet and red blood cell membranes. This hybrid cell membrane coating allows the nanorobots to perform the tasks of two different cells at once—platelets, which bind pathogens like MRSA bacteria (an antibiotic-resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus), and red blood cells, which absorb and neutralize the toxins produced by these bacteria. The gold body of the nanorobots responds to ultrasound, which gives them the ability to swim around rapidly without chemical fuel. This mobility helps the nanorobots efficiently mix with their targets (bacteria and toxins) in blood and speed up detoxification.

The work, published May 30 in Science Robotics, combines technologies pioneered by Joseph Wang and Liangfang Zhang, professors in the Department of NanoEngineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Wang’s team developed the ultrasound-powered nanorobots, and Zhang’s team invented the technology to coat nanoparticles in natural cell membranes.

SEM image of a MRSA bacterium attached to a hybrid cell membrane coated nanorobot

By integrating natural cell coatings onto synthetic nanomachines, we can impart new capabilities on tiny robots such as removal of pathogens and toxins from the body and from other matrices,” said Wang. “This is a proof-of-concept platform for diverse therapeutic and biodetoxification applications.”

The idea is to create multifunctional nanorobots that can perform as many different tasks at once,” adds co-first author Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila, a postdoctoral scholar in Wang’s research group at UC San Diego. “Combining platelet and red blood cell membranes into each nanorobot coating is synergistic—platelets target bacteria, while red blood cells target and neutralize the toxins those bacteria produce.


Orthodontic Surgery Without Incision

Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed a nanotechnology that replaces the surgical scalpel with an “enzymatic blade.” In an article published recently in ACS Nano, the researchers describe the application of this technology in a surgical procedure in the oral cavity. The application spares the pain associated with orthodontic surgeries and significantly reduces tissue recovery time.

The study was led by Dr. Assaf Zinger, within the framework of his doctoral research, mentored by Assistant Professor Avi Schroeder, the director of the Laboratory of Targeted Drug Delivery and Personalized Medicine at the Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering. The novel technology is based on rational use of enzymesbiological molecules the body uses to repair itself, as well as on use of nanoparticles for achieving a targeted therapeutic profile.

In the United States alone, approximately five million people undergo orthodontic treatment each year. To speed up treatment, which typically lasts about two years, many undergo invasive surgery, in which collagen fibers that connect the tooth to the underlying bone tissue are cut.

The technology developed at the Technion softens the collagen fibers via the targeted release of collagenase – an enzyme that specifically breaks down collagen. Using techniques developed in Schroeder’s lab, the collagenase is packaged into liposomesnanometric vesicles. As long as the collagenase particles are packaged in the liposome, they are inactive. But with this special nanotechnology, an ointment is applied on the target site, so that the enzyme begins to gradually leak from the liposome and soften the collagen fibers. The researchers performed a series of tests to determine the collagenase concentration optimal for the procedure and to accelerate tissue repair thereafter.


Electric Vehicle: BMW Launches A Wireless Charging Car

Wireless charging is finally making its way to market as an energy source for electric vehicles, with BMW readying to start production in July for release by the end of summer. BMW’s existing 530e plug-in hybrid sedan will be the first EV coming from a major automaker with an inductive pad capable of charging the electric car. The German automaker first announced the launch in September of last year, explaining how the 530e can be charged on the floor of the garage or parking space once the electric car is parked close enough to the inductive charging pad to work correctly.

The company will roll out wireless charging to other BMW models, but the 530e will introduce the technology to interested consumers. It uses a 3.2 kW current that allows the wireless unit to fully charge the EV within three-and-a-half hours. The charging pad uses an alternating magnetic field that carries power between a coil inside the pad itself and a coil built into the electric car to wirelessly charge the battery.

Wireless charging has been years in the making with major companies getting behind the technology but support from automakers taking a long time. Years from now, wireless charging is expected to play a vital role in mass adoption of EVs and alleviating resistance to charging the cars. Tests are being conducted by university researchers that could one day set up wireless charging points on highways. EV owners will be able to drive from cities such as San Francisco to Los Angeles without stopping for a charge.

Transferring power wirelessly goes back more than a century ago when electricity pioneer Nikola Tesla worked tirelessly but failed to bring wireless transmission beyond the Wardenclyffe Tower in Shoreham, New York. It was said to have eventually ruined his reputation and career as Tesla became obsessed over making the technology work the way radio waves had been sending communications over the airwaves.


Gravity, An Alternative Energy

A Dutch architect has developed a new technique to generate free energy in a sustainable way at home, whereby energy is released by perpetually unbalancing a weight — offering an alternative to solar and wind technology.


Gravity, an inexhaustible and always present source of power for harvesting energy from falling or tilting objects. 


Intuitively, I thought that gravity must have something to offer, given that everything is drawn to earth,” co-creator Janjaap Ruijssenaars of Universe Architecture said. “By unbalancing a weight at the top that is only just stable, using little force, a large force is created at the bottom at a single point. The idea was that this should yield something.”

Scientists are calling the patent-pending technique a breakthrough.

Thanks to clever use of gravity, the energy yield from the so-called Piezomethod, which converts mechanical pressure into electrical energy, is increased from 20 to 80 percent,” said Theo de Vries, system architect and senior lecturer of the group Robotics and Mechatronics, associated with the University of Twente. “Ruijssenaars literally turned the method on its head, as a result of which we, as scientists, have started to look at this method in a new light. Everything that is currently offered as mechanical energy will actually be useful, thanks to the invention.

In situations where we cannot work sustainably with solar modules, we may well be able to use this new technique,” said Professor Beatriz Noheda, faculty of Mathematics and Natural Science at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen who believes piezoelectric energy harvesting is a real part of the future.

Practical applications are being sought for the technique, such as the manufacture of a sustainable and, therefore, “cleanphone charger, or a generator for lighting in homes, among endless other possibilities.


Nanoparticles Cross The Blood-Brain Barrier, Shrink Glioblastoma Tumors

Glioblastoma multiforme, a type of brain tumor, is one of the most difficult-to-treat cancers. Only a handful of drugs are approved to treat glioblastoma, and the median life expectancy for patients diagnosed with the disease is less than 15 months.

MIT researchers have now devised a new drug-delivering nanoparticle that could offer a better way to treat glioblastoma. The particles, which carry two different drugs, are designed so that they can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and bind directly to tumor cells. One drug damages tumor cells’ DNA, while the other interferes with the systems cells normally use to repair such damage.

In a study of mice, the researchers showed that the particles could shrink tumors and prevent them from growing back.

What is unique here is we are not only able to use this mechanism to get across the blood-brain barrier and target tumors very effectively, we are using it to deliver this unique drug combination,” says Paula Hammond, a David H. Koch Professor in Engineering, the head of MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering, and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.


3D Printed House Built In 24 Hours For $4000

US construction technologies firm Icon has demonstrated a method for 3D printing a single storey house in less than 24 hours.

The small company – which is hoping to pioneer the use of 3D printing for homebuilding – has unveiled a 650 square foot (61 m2)  home in Austin, Texas that was built using its Vulcan 3D printer, which builds structures by depositing layers of specially formulated cement.

The firm claims that it can print an entire home for $10,000 but that costs could ultimately be brought as low $4000.

It has now joined forces with housing charity New Story to further develop the technology and use it to build affordable homes in parts of the developing world. The two companies reportedly plan to work together to build around 100 3D printed homes in El Salvador.


Learning How To Create And Keep Memories

Drug manufacturers are looking at ways to alleviate memory loss, one of the most distressing symptoms of diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Professor George Kemenes from the Sussex University (UK) intends to show how such drugs could work.


The goal is to identify brain molecules that are crucial for the building up and maintenance of long-term memory,’ he says. ‘We aim to find ways to manipulate these molecules to enable us to control functions and improve the speed at which animals learn, or help them remember for longer periods of time. This would then link into drug development for humans.’

Pond snails are ideal for this kind of study because they share important characteristics with humans. These include the basic molecular mechanisms that control long-term memory and learning. These mechanisms involve the activation or suppression of a protein, CREB, which is key to the formation of long-term memory. CREB is present in species ranging from molluscs and flies to rats and humans.

Memory responses can be tested with classic Pavlovian experiments. Snails exposed to the smell of pear drops followed by food still respond weeks later to the smell by moving their mouth parts in anticipation of food. This ‘flashbulbmemory is created by just one exposure to the two stimuli. The snails have a memory associating the smell of pear drops with the arrival of food – a learned and remembered response.

In a similar test, a snail is exposed to a mildly unpleasant stimulus by touching its head with a paintbrush (snails don’t like being tickled) before food is introduced. It takes much longer for the snail to associate an unpleasant stimulus with the arrival of food. Recently, George has succeeded in inhibiting the quickly learned memory and improving the weaker, more slowly-acquired memory at molecular level.

Working in collaboration with colleagues at the University, key findings include the discovery that amyloid peptides, substances that are thought to underlie Alzheimer’s disease in humans, also cause memory loss in snails. Another finding is that age-related memory loss in snails can be prevented by treatment with a small peptide known as PACAP.


Project To Map Ocean Floor By 2030

Set to map the entirety of the global ocean floor by 2030, the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project has started operations, based on a seed money pledge of US$2 million-per-year from the Japan-based Nippon Foundation.


Officially launched during the United Nations Ocean Conference (5-9 June 2017) in New York, the project draws on the experience of international organizations and mapping experts under the coordination of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO).

Having a comprehensive map of the ocean floor could assist global efforts to combat pollution, aid marine conservation, forecast tsunami wave propagation, and help inform the study of tides and wave action. It could also help in search and rescue operations, as in the disappearance of the MH370 Malaysian Airlines flight in March 2014.

Despite its obvious useful applications, detailed bathymetric data – the topography of the ocean floor – is still missing for much of the global ocean. More than 85% of the world ocean floor remains unmapped with modern mapping methods, and by any technological standards we know more about Mars than we do about the depths of the ocean.


Nanoparticles Fom Tea Leaves Destroy 80% Of Lung Cancer Cells

Nanoparticles derived from tea leaves inhibit the growth of lung cancer cells, destroying up to 80% of them, new research by a joint Swansea University (UK) and Indian team has shown. The team made the discovery while they were testing out a new method of producing a type of nanoparticle called quantum dots.  These are tiny particles which measure less than 10 nanometres.  A human hair is 40,000 nanometres thick.

Although nanoparticles are already used in healthcare, quantum dots have only recently attracted researchers’ attention.  Already they are showing promise for use in different applications, from computers and solar cells to tumour imaging and treating cancerQuantum dots can be made chemically, but this is complicated and expensive and has toxic side effects.  The Swansea-led research team were therefore exploring a non-toxic plant-based alternative method of producing the dots, using tea leaf extract.

Tea leaves contain a wide variety of compounds, including polyphenols, amino acids, vitamins and antioxidants.   The researchers mixed tea leaf extract with cadmium sulphate (CdSO4) and sodium sulphide (Na2S) and allowed the solution to incubate, a process which causes quantum dots to form.   They then applied the dots to lung cancer cells. Tea leaves are a simpler, cheaper and less toxic method of producing quantum dots, compared with using chemicals, confirming the results of other research in the field. Quantum dots produced from tea leaves inhibit the growth of lung cancer cells.  They penetrated into the nanopores of the cancer cells and destroyed up to 80% of them.  This was a brand new finding, and came as a surprise to the team.

The research, published in “Applied Nano Materials”, is a collaborative venture between Swansea University experts and colleagues from two Indian universities.