How Brain Waves Can Control VR Video Games

Virtual reality is still so new that the best way for us to interact within it is not yet clear. One startup wants you to use your head, literally: it’s tracking brain waves and using the result to control VR video games.

Boston-based startup Neurable is focused on deciphering brain activity to determine a person’s intention, particularly in virtual and augmented reality. The company uses dry electrodes to record brain activity via electroencephalography (EEG); then software analyzes the signal and determines the action that should occur.


You don’t really have to do anything,” says cofounder and CEO Ramses Alcaide, who developed the technology as a graduate student at the University of Michigan. “It’s a subconscious response, which is really cool.”

Neurable, which raised $2 million in venture funding late last year, is still in the early stages: its demo hardware looks like a bunch of electrodes attached to straps that span a user’s head, worn along with an HTC Vive virtual-reality headset. Unlike the headset, Neurable’s contraption is wireless—it sends data to a computer via Bluetooth. The startup expects to offer software tools for game development later this year, and it isn’t planning to build its own hardware; rather, Neurable hopes companies will be making headsets with sensors to support its technology in the next several years.


NanoMachine Lifts 15 times Its Weight

Using advanced 3-D printing, Dartmouth College researchers have unlocked the key to transforming microscopic nanorings into smart materials that perform work at human-scaleNanomachines (nanocomputers) can already deliver medication and serve as computer memories at the tiny nanometer scale. By integrating a 3-D printing technique pioneered at Dartmouth’s Ke Functional Materials Group, researchers may unlock even greater potential for these mini-machines.

3D printing nanomachines

A 3-D printed gel structure lifts and lowers a U.S. dime when alternately exposed to water and DMSO solvent

Up until now, harnessing the mechanical work of nanomachines has been extremely difficult. We are slowly getting closer to the point that the tiny machines can operate on a scale that we can see, touch and feel.” said Chenfeng Ke, Assistant Professor for Chemistry at Dartmouth College and principle investigator for the research.

In an example provided by Ke, the first-generation smart material lifted a dime weighing 2.268g. The coin, 15 times the weight of the that lifted it, was raised 1.6 mm– the equivalent of a human lifting a car. “Creating nanomachine-based smart material is still extraordinarily complex and we are only just beginning, but this new technique could allow the design and fabrication of complex smart devices that are currently beyond our grasp,” said Ke.

The research was published on March 22 in the online edition of Angewandte Chemie, the journal of the German Chemical Society.


Cheap, Non-Toxic, Super Efficient Solar Cell

In the future, solar cells can become twice as efficient by employing a few smart little nano-tricks. Researchers are currently developing the environment-friendly solar cells of the future, which will capture twice as much energy as the cells of today. The trick is to combine two different types of solar cells in order to utilize a much greater portion of the sunlight.


These are going to be the world’s most efficient and environment-friendly solar cells. There are currently solar cells that are certainly just as efficient, but they are both expensive and toxic. Furthermore, the materials in our solar cells are readily available in large quantities on Earth. That is an important point,” says Professor Bengt Svensson of the Department of Physics at the University of Oslo (UiO) and Centre for Materials Science and Nanotechnology (SMN) in Norway.

Using nanotechnology, atoms and molecules can be combined into new materials with very special properties. The goal is to utilize even more of the spectrum of sunlight than is possible at present. Ninety-nine per cent of today’s solar cells are made from silicon, which is one of the most common elements on Earth. Unfortunately, silicon solar cells only utilize 20 per cent of the sunlight. The world record is 25 per cent, but these solar cells are laced with rare materials that are also toxic. The theoretical limit is 30 per cent. The explanation for this limit is that silicon cells primarily capture the light waves from the red spectrum of sunlight. That means that most of the light waves remain unutilized.

The new solar cells will be composed of two energy-capturing layers. The first layer will still be composed of silicon cells. “The red wavelengths of sunlight generate electricity in the silicon cells in a highly efficient manner. We’ve done a great deal of work with silicon, so there is only a little more to gain.” The new trick is to add another layer on top of the silicon cells. This layer is composed of copper oxide and is supposed to capture the light waves from the blue spectrum of sunlight.


A Smartphone App To Loose Weight

Psychologists at the University of Exeter (UK) have found that less than ten minutes a day of ‘brain training’ using a game they have devised can slow impulses to reach for unhealthy snacks, and reduce calorie intake. Using neuroscience and lab trials to devise a proven method of curbing unhealthy food intake, Professor Natalia Lawrence’s Food Trainer app is being launched this week free to the public, in a month when people traditionally make resolutions to lose weight and cut down on junk foodDr Natalia Lawrence is a cognitive neuroscientist at Exeter University. She designed the app after using brain imaging to study how the brain’s reward system responded to pictures of unhealthy food.

food trainer

It’s very exciting to see that our free and simple training can change eating habits and have a positive impact on some people’s lives,” she said. “It’s a tool to help people make healthier choices. In an age where unhealthy food is so abundant and easily available and obesity is a growing health crisis, we need to design innovative ways to support people to live more healthily. We are optimistic that the way this app is devised will actually encourage people to opt for healthy food such as fruit and vegetables rather than junk food.

Among those to have used the training is Fiona Furness, a studios manager for a charity providing studios for artists, who went from around 11 stone to around nine stone after taking part in a trial of the food training game. She said the “pounds just melted way”. “I used to feel really guilt about my bad snacking habits. I’d often be rushing about, and I’d grab something high calorie and unsatisfying – often a pack of crisps. I’d be hungry again really soon afterwards so it became a vicious cycle. The results have been remarkable,” she explained. “These days, if I am feeling peckish I’ll go for a banana or a pack of almonds. That’s the food I’m craving. I’m now closer to nine stone than 11 – the pounds just melted away over eight or nine months without me even noticing. The weight loss wasn’t really my goal though – I feel younger and more energetic. Perhaps I’m particularly susceptible to this kind of brain training, but it has been transformative for me.

A study of 83 adults showed that people who played the game online just 4 times in one week lost weight and ate an average of 220 kcal less per day – roughly equivalent to a chocolate-iced doughnut.The academics found in trials that playing the game without distractions for a few minutes a day can train the brain to control impulses to reach for chocolate, cakes, crisps or alcohol. The release of the free app will allow dieters or those who want to cut consumption of junk food or alcohol to try it and in the process generate more anonymous data to help psychologists measure how effective an app version of the brain-training programme can be.

The basis of the app is published research showing that people are more inclined to choose foods or drink high in sugar and fat because they activate the brain’s reward system, stimulating the release of dopamine and endorphins, which can produce feelings of pleasure and make the person want more. Research has found that the more people activate brain areas associated with reward when they see foods, the more they eat and the more weight they gain. Once triggered, these impulses can be hard to control.


Virtual Images that Blend In And Interact With The Real-World

Avegant, a Silicon Valley startup that sells a pair of headphones equipped with a VR-like portable screen, is breaking into augmented reality. The company today announced that it’s developed a new type of headset technology powered by a so-called light field display.


The research prototype, which Avegant eventually plans on turning into a consumer product, is based on the company’s previous work with its Glyph projector. That device was a visor of sorts that floats a virtual movie screen in front of your eyes, and developing it gave Avegant insight into how to build an AR headset of its own.

Like Microsoft’s HoloLens and the supposed prototype from secretive AR startup Magic Leap, Avegant’s new headset creates virtual images that blend in and interact with the real-world environment. In a demo, the company’s wired prototype proved to be superior in key ways to the developer version of the HoloLens. Avegant attributes this not to the power of its tethered PC, but to the device’s light field display — a technology Magic Leap also claims to have developed, yet has never been shown off to the public.

The demo I experienced featured a tour of a virtual Solar System, an immersion within an ocean environment, and a conversation with a virtual life-sized human being standing in the same room. To be fair, Avegant was using a tethered and bulky headset that wasn’t all that comfortable, while the HoloLens developer version is a refined wireless device. Yet with that said, Avegant’s prototype managed to expand the field of view, so you’re looking through a window more the size of a Moleskine notebook instead of a pack of playing cards. The images it produced also felt sharper, richer, and more realistic.

In the Solar System demo, I was able to observe a satellite orbiting an Earth no larger than a bocce ball and identify the Big Red Spot on Jupiter. Avegant constructed its demo to show off how these objects could exist at different focal lengths in a fixed environment — in this case a converted conference room at the company’s Belmont, California office. So I was able to stand behind the Sun and squint until the star went out of focus in one corner of my vision and a virtual Saturn and its rings became crystal clear in the distance.


How To Create Human Skin With 3D Bio-Printers

Spanish scientists are making human skin using a 3D bio-printer. Engineered skin was the first living human organ available commercially but its production can be expensive and time-consuming. This research at Madrid’s Carlos III University could one day lead to the mass production of skin.



The idea of applying 3D bio-printers for the creation of human tissue and organs is a real breakthrough because it has changed the way people in this field think because until now we have been doing it manually. Being able to use a bio-printer to control the amount of skin over time and space gives us new possibilities that were unimaginable when we worked manually,” says Jose Luis Jorcano, Head of the CIEMAT/UC3M  Bioengineering Department.

To bio-engineer skin on a 3D bio-printer, the key component is “bio-ink,” a substance loaded with biological components such as plasma containing human skin cells. Using a computer, scientists deposit these “bio-inks” on a print bed to form the skin. Although years away, scientists believe the technology could be used to bio-engineer more complex human organs.

The idea for the future would be to be able to fully print complex organs such as hearts or kidneys but as I said, that’s the desire and the dream all of us who work in this field have, but there is no date for it yet,” explains Jose Luis Jorcano, who is the co-creator of the bio-printer.

The scientists say their prototype can produce 100 cm2 of 3D printed skin in less than 35 minutes.


How To Eradicate Undetectable HIV Cells

French researchers have identified a marker that makes it possible to differentiate “dormantHIVinfected cells from healthy cells. This discovery will make it possible to isolate and analyze reservoir cells which, by silently hosting the virus, are responsible for its persistence even among patients receiving antiviral treatment, whose viral load is undetectable. It offers new therapeutic strategies for targeting infected cells. This research is part of the ANRS strategic program “Réservoirs du VIH”.

HIV detection

Since 1996, there has been consensus among the scientific community that a cure for HIV will involve targetingreservoir cells” that host the virus in the organisms of patients undergoing triple therapy. HIV can remain hidden in these reservoirs, in latent form, for several decades, eluding the immune system’s response and antiviral treatments, without any viral protein being expressed. But if treatment ceases, the virus massively proliferates and the disease progresses again. Patients must therefore receive treatment for life. To envisage eliminating this dormant virus, a first stage consists in distinguishing the HIV-infected reservoir cells from their healthy counterpart cells, which resemble them to a very large degree. This is what has been achieved by a team of researchers, who have identified a marker of reservoir cells: a protein present only on the surface of infected cells.

Hypothesizing that HIV might leave a mark on the surface of its host cell, researchers from the Institut de génétique humaine (CNRS/Montpellier University) first worked in vitro on an infection model developed in their laboratory. After comparing infected cells and healthy cells, they noticed one particular protein, coded by a gene among the hundred of those expressed in a specific way by infected cells. Present only on the surface of the infected cells, the CD32a protein thus met, in vitro, the criteria of a reservoir cell marker. This was then confirmed by experiments on clinical samples. By studying blood samples from 12 patients living with HIV and receiving treatment, the researchers isolated the cells expressing the marker and observed that almost all were HIV carriers. In vitro, the activation of these cells induced a production of viruses capable of reinfecting healthy cells whereas their elimination entailed a significant delay in viral production.

The findings are the result of a collaboration between the CNRS, Montpellier University, Inserm, the Institut Pasteur, the Henri-Mondor AP-HP hospital in Créteil, the Gui de Chauliac hospital (CHU de Montpellier) and the VRI (Vaccine Research Institute), and is published in the journal Nature on March 15, 2017. A patent owned by the CNRS has been filed for the diagnostic and therapeutic use of the identified marker.


Nano-Implant Could Restore Sight

A team of engineers at the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego)  and La Jolla-based startup Nanovision Biosciences Inc. have developed the nanotechnology and wireless electronics for a new type of retinal prosthesis that brings research a step closer to restoring the ability of neurons in the retina to respond to light. The researchers demonstrated this response to light in a rat retina interfacing with a prototype of the device in vitro. The technology could help tens of millions of people worldwide suffering from neurodegenerative diseases that affect eyesight, including macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and loss of vision due to diabetes.

Despite tremendous advances in the development of retinal prostheses over the past two decades, the performance of devices currently on the market to help the blind regain functional vision is still severely limited—well under the acuity threshold of 20/200 that defines legal blindness.

cortical neuronsPrimary cortical neurons cultured on the surface of an array of optoelectronic nanowires. Note the extensive neurite outgrowth and network formation

We want to create a new class of devices with drastically improved capabilities to help people with impaired vision,” said Gabriel A. Silva, one of the senior authors of the work and professor in bioengineering and ophthalmology at UC San Diego. Silva also is one of the original founders of Nanovision.

Power is delivered wirelessly, from outside the body to the implant, through an inductive powering telemetry system developed by a team led by Cauwenberghs.

The device is highly energy efficient because it minimizes energy losses in wireless power and data transmission and in the stimulation process, recycling electrostatic energy circulating within the inductive resonant tank, and between capacitance on the electrodes and the resonant tank. Up to 90 percent of the energy transmitted is actually delivered and used for stimulation, which means less RF wireless power emitting radiation in the transmission, and less heating of the surrounding tissue from dissipated power. For proof-of-concept, the researchers inserted the wirelessly powered nanowire array beneath a transgenic rat retina with rhodopsin P23H knock-in retinal degeneration.

The findings are published in a recent issue of the Journal of Neural Engineering.



Solar Powered House: Tiles Instead Of Panels

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


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

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

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

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

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


How To Prevent Alzheimer’s

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

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

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


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

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


Nanocomputer Packed Into a 50 Nanometers Block

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

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


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

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

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


Self-Healable Lithium Ion Battery For Electronic Textile

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

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

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

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

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

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


Algorithm helps patients to choose a new nose

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

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


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

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


Solar-powered Wireless Charging Station For Electric Bikes

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


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

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

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

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


How To Stop The Spread Of Breast Cancer

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

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


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

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

New Perovskite Solar Cell Outperforms Silicon Cells

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


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

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

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

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


How To Produce Music Hits With The Help Of Artificial Intelligence

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Gold Nanoparticles Fight Pancreatic Cancer

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

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

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

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


Electric Car: Graphene Is The Next Revolution

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


NanoRobots With Grippers Travel Through the Bloodstream To Capture Cancer Cells

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

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

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

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


Smart Textile Senses And Moves Like A Muscle

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

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


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

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


The Glove That Gives You Super-Human Strength

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

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

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

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


NonCarbon SuperCapacitor Produces More Power

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


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

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

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

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

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


Light Makes OscillatorTo Oscillate Indefinitely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The research was published in the journal Nature Photonics.


Perovskite Solar Cells One Step Closer To Mass Production

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

perovskite solar panel

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


Nanocomputer Confirms The Moore’s Law

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


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

The findings were published in the journal Science.


Nobel Prize For Building A Molecular Motor


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



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

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

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


Yahoo secretly scanned emails for U.S. intelligence

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


How To Extend Food Life

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

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

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


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

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

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

Tatoo Therapy

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


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

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



How To Safely Use Graphene Implants Into Tissues

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

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

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


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

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


Wave Of Destruction In Cancer Cells

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

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

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


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

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


Osteoarthritis: NanoParticles Stop Destruction Of Cartilage

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

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


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

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

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

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


Triggered Immune Cells Attack Cancer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acidity In Atmosphere Produced By Industries Has Vanished

New r

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

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

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

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


Electric Train: Bye Bye Diesel, Hello Pure Air !

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


SuperRobot Arm Drone

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


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

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

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


Algorithm Replicates Perfectly Your Handwriting

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

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

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

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

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


New Drug Reduces Osteoporosis dramatically

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

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

Mapping The Tooth Enamel At The Atomic Scale

Material and structures engineers worked with dentists and bioengineers to map the exact composition and structure of tooth enamel at the atomic scale. Using a relatively new microscopy technique called atom probe tomography, their work produced the first-ever three-dimensional maps showing the positions of atoms critical in the decay process. The new knowledge on atom composition at the nanolevel has the potential to aid oral health hygiene and caries prevention, and has been published today in the journal Science Advances.


The dental professionals have known that certain trace ions are important in the tough structure of tooth enamel but until now it had been impossible to map the ions in detail. The structure of human tooth enamel is extremely intricate and while we have known that magnesium, carbonate and fluoride ions influence enamel properties scientists have never been able to capture its structure at a high enough resolution or definition“, said Professor Julie Cairney, Material and Structures Engineer in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, University of Sidney, Australia.

The dental professionals have known that certain trace ions are important in the tough structure of tooth enamel but until now it had been impossible to map the ions in detail. “The structure of human tooth enamel is extremely intricate and while we have known that magnesium, carbonate and fluoride ions influence enamel properties scientists have never been able to capture its structure at a high enough resolution or definition.”“What we have found are the magnesium-rich regions between the hydroxyapatite nanorods that make up the enamel”, she comments. “This means we have the first direct evidence of the existence of a proposed amorphous magnesium-rich calcium phosphate phase that plays an essential role in governing the behaviour of teeth “.

We were also able to see nanoscale ‘clumps’ of organic material, which indicates that proteins and peptides are heterogeneously distributed within the enamel rather than present along all the nanorod interfaces, which was what was previously suggested”, adds  co-lead researcher on the study, Dr Alexandre La Fontaine from the University’s Australian Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis . “The mapping has the potential for new treatments designed around protecting against the dissolution of this specific amorphous phase. “The new understanding of how enamel forms will also help in tooth remineralisation research.”


Graphene Audio Speakers

Graphene has been hailed as a wonder material since it was first made more than a decade ago. It’s showing up in an increasing number of products, including coatings, sports equipment and even light bulbs. Now scientists are one step closer to making graphene audio speakers for mobile devices. They report in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces a simple way to fabricate once-elusive thermoacoustic speakers using the ultra-thin material.


Conventional speakers today rely on many mechanical parts that vibrate to create sound and must be encased in an acoustic cavity — essentially, in a box. But this approach complicates manufacturing and limits where listeners can put their speakers. Scientists have been pursuing ways around this by turning to a principle conceived of more than a century ago: thermoacoustics, the production of sound by rapidly heating and cooling a material rather than through vibrations. Science has caught up to this concept largely thanks to the development of graphene, which is highly conductive and durable. Some efforts to make graphene speakers have succeeded, but making them en masse would be challenging. Jung-Woo Choi, Byungjin Cho, Sang Ouk Kim and colleagues at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) wanted to come up with a simpler approach.

The researchers developed a two-step (freeze-drying and reduction/doping) method for making a sound-emitting graphene aerogel. An array of 16 of these aerogels comprised a speaker that could operate on 40 Watts of power with a sound quality comparable to that of other graphene-based sound systems. The researchers say their fabrication method is practical and could lend itself to mass production for use in mobile devices and other applications. Because the speaker is thin and doesn’t vibrate, it could fit snugly against walls and even curved surfaces.


Robots Can Speak Like Real Humans

Generating speech from a piece of text is a common and important task undertaken by computers, but it’s pretty rare that the result could be mistaken for ordinary speech. A new technique from researchers at Alphabet’s DeepMind  (Google) takes a completely different approach, producing speech and even music that sounds eerily like the real thing.


Early systems used a large library of the parts of speech (phonemes and morphemes) and a large ruleset that described all the ways letters combined to produce those sounds. The pieces were joined, or concatenated, creating functional speech synthesis that can handle most words, albeit with unconvincing cadence and tone. Later systems parameterized the generation of sound, making a library of speech fragments unnecessary. More compact — but often less effective.

WaveNet, as the system is called, takes things deeper. It simulates the sound of speech at as low a level as possible: one sample at a time. That means building the waveform from scratch16,000 samples per second.

milliwavenetEach dot is a separately calculated sample; the aggregate is the digital waveform.

You already know from the headline, but if you don’t, you probably would have guessed what makes this possible: neural networks. In this case, the researchers fed a ton of ordinary recorded speech to a convolutional neural network, which created a complex set of rules that determined which tones follow other tones in every common context of speech.

Each sample is determined not just by the sample before it, but the thousands of samples that came before it. They all feed into the neural network’s algorithm; it knows that certain tones or samples will almost always follow each other, and certain others will almost never. People don’t speak in square waves, for instance.


Nanotechnology Fights Malignant Melanoma

Changes in the genetic make-up of tissue samples can be detected quickly and easily using a new method based on nanotechnology. This report researchers from the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel in first clinical tests with genetic mutations in patients with malignant melanoma. According to estimates by the American Skin Cancer Foundation, today more people develop skin cancer than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer together.
Although malignant melanoma accounts for only about 5 percent of skin cancers, these are the most serious cases and can result in death. Around half of all patients who develop malignant melanoma exhibit a particular genetic change (mutation). This involves a change in the BRAF gene (B gene for Rapid Acceleration of Fibrosarcoma) that leads to uncontrolled cell proliferation. There are now drugs that exploit these specific mutations and fight the cancer, significantly extending patients’ life expectancy. However, they work only if the corresponding genetic mutation is actually present. Where it is not, they give rise to severe side effects without producing the desired effect.


It is therefore essential that we are able to identify the mutations reliably in tissue samples. That is the only way of ensuring that patients get the right treatment and successful outcomes,” explains the paper’s co-author, Professor Katharina Glatz of the Institute of Pathology at University Hospital Basel.

The journal Nano Letters has published the study.


Stem Cells May Heal Horse Injuries

Researchers are fine-tuning the use of adult stem cells to treat horse injuries. Bomaneer thrives on competition. But now the 10-year-old Dutch warmblood’s dreams of dressage glory are in limbo. “We think he may have gotten his hoof stuck in a fence and pulling it out may have sustained the injury“, says Eizabeth Thierot, owner of Bonameer DG.
The injury is a meniscus tear – and it could mean Bonameer‘s competition days are over. But both his owner and his doctor think Bonameer‘s chances of a full recovery are pretty good – thanks in part to a stem cell therapy treatment. Two weeks ago mesenchymal stem cells were drawn out of Bonameer‘s bone marrow and then cultured in a lab. These types of adult stem cells have the ability to rapidly divide and generate tissue cells….. and that is what doctors hope will happen when they are injected back into the location of Bonameer‘s injury.


So the hope is that the cells will go into that environment wherever the injury is and whatever that environment dictates, if there are dying cells, it will help rescue those. If there is damaged meniscus, it will help generate that. So based on the environment and the function, what’s going on in that structure, whether it be a joint tendon or ligament those cells will help heal that. Ultimately that’s the goal, to restore function“, says Dr. Larry Galuppo, Professor of Equine Surgery, University of California, Davis.

Guided by an ultrasound scan – the stem cells are injected into Bonameer. The results of the treatment will take time. And even if Bonameer doesn’t heal completely, Hess still playing an important role towards figuring out what the future of stem cell therapy will be for horses.  “We’re still in that clinical trial phase where we are still learning about what is the right dose, how many times we should treat, what injury respond best. So we are just in the beginning in trying to figure out what are the benefits of stem cell therapy.” Elizabeth Thieriot thinks Bonameer will heal and she is willing to give him as much time as he needs.”Our bond is more than just he is my competition horse. Its a life long journey for both of us“, she comments… A journey that will hopefully see Elizabeth and Bonameer back in competition soon.


Nanocomputer: Carbon Nanotube Transistors Outperform Silicon

For decades, scientists have tried to harness the unique properties of carbon nanotubes to create high-performance electronics that are faster or consume less power — resulting in longer battery life, faster wireless communication and faster processing speeds for devices like smartphones and laptops. But a number of challenges have impeded the development of high-performance transistors made of carbon nanotubes, tiny cylinders made of carbon just one atom thick. Consequently, their performance has lagged far behind semiconductors such as silicon and gallium arsenide used in computer chips and personal electronics.

Now, for the first time, University of Wisconsin–Madison materials engineers have created carbon nanotube transistors that outperform state-of-the-art silicon transistors. Led by Michael Arnold and Padma Gopalan, UW–Madison professors of materials science and engineering, the team’s carbon nanotube transistors achieved current that’s 1.9 times higher than silicon transistors. The researchers reported their advance in a paper published in the journal Science Advances.

carbon nanotube integrated circuits

This achievement has been a dream of nanotechnology for the last 20 years,” says Arnold. “Making carbon nanotube transistors that are better than silicon transistors is a big milestone. This breakthrough in carbon nanotube transistor performance is a critical advance toward exploiting carbon nanotubes in logic, high-speed communications, and other semiconductor electronics technologies.”

This advance could pave the way for carbon nanotube transistors to replace silicon transistors and continue delivering the performance gains the computer industry relies on and that consumers demand. The new transistors are particularly promising for wireless communications technologies that require a lot of current flowing across a relatively small area.


Nanoparticles From Car Pollution May Trigger Alzheimer’s

Tiny magnetic particles produced by car engines and brakes can travel into the human brain and may trigger Alzheimer’s disease, scientists have warned. Researchers at Lancaster, Oxford and Manchester Universities discovered microscopic  spheres of the mineral magnetite in the brains of 37 people in Manchester and Mexico who had suffered neurodegenerative disease. The mineral magnetite is known to be toxic and is linked to the production of free radicals which are associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.


Although magnetite has previously been found in the brains of people who had died of Alzheimer’s disease, it was thought it occurred naturally. However the tiny balls spotted by the scientists had a fused surface suggesting they had been formed during extreme heat, such as in a car engineMagnetite – a form of iron oxide – is known to be produced in car engines – particularly diesel engines which can emit up to 22 times more particulates than petrol engines – as well as when brakes are used, both by cars and trains. It can also be produced by open fires and poorly fitted stoves. Researchers said the findings opened up a ‘whole new avenue‘ into the causes of Alzheimer’s disease, while charities said it offered ‘convincing evidence‘ that the toxic particles could get into the brain. “The particles we found are strikingly similar to magnetite nanospheres that are abundant in the airborne pollution found in urban settings, especially next to busy roads and which are firmed by combustion or frictional heating from vehicle engines or brakes.”


Water Repellent Spray Coating

Scientists at The Australian National University (ANU) have developed a new spray-on material with a remarkable ability to repel water. The new protective coating could eventually be used to waterproof mobile phones, prevent ice from forming on aeroplanes or protect boat hulls from corroding.


The surface is a layer of nanoparticles, which water slides off as if it’s on a hot barbecue,” said PhD student William Wong, from the Nanotechnology Research Laboratory at the ANU Research School of Engineering. The team created a much more robust coating than previous materials by combining two plastics, one tough and one flexible.

It’s like two interwoven fishing nets, made of different materials,” Mr Wong said. The water-repellent or superhydrophobic coating is also transparent and extremely resistant to ultraviolet radiation. Lead researcher and head of the Nanotechnology Research Laboratory, Associate Professor Antonio Tricoli, said the new material could change how we interact with liquids“It will keep skyscraper windows clean and prevent the mirror in the bathroom from fogging up,” Associate Professor Tricoli said. “The key innovation is that this transparent coating is able to stabilise very fragile nanomaterials resulting in ultra-durable nanotextures with numerous real-world applications.”

The team developed two ways of creating the material, both of which are cheaper and easier than current manufacturing processes. One method uses a flame to generate the nanoparticle constituents of the material. For lower temperature applications, the team dissolved the two components in a sprayable form. In addition to waterproofing, the new ability to control the properties of materials could be applied to a wide range of other coatings, said Mr Wong. “A lot of the functional coatings today are very weak, but we will be able to apply the same principles to make robust coatings that are, for example, anti-corrosive, self-cleaning or oil-repellent,” he said.

The research is published in ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2016, 8, 13615−13623.


How Anthrax Toxin Kills Tumors

Over the past decades, researchers have become particularly interested in the idea of hijacking the cell-killing capacity of bacterial toxins to target tumor cells. So far, engineered toxins from Pseudomonas, anthrax toxin, and ricin showed promising results in treating tumors in mice. But the mechanism of action of these toxins remains elusive. Now a new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science sheds light on tumor proteins used by Bacillus anthracis to kill tumors.

anthrax-tumorModified anthrax toxin specifically targets the tumor vasculature to exert anti-tumor effects

As we worked more and more on anthrax toxin, we discovered, along with others, features of it that made it attractive as another bacterial protein toxin that could be redirected for curing cancer,” said Stephen Leppla from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, senior author of the study.

Anthrax toxin has three sub-components that assemble within host cells before exerting their toxicity. PA, the cell-binding component of anthrax toxin, interacts with two cell surface proteins: tumor endothelium-marker 8 (TEM8) and capillary morphogenesis protein-2 (CMG2).

Finding that anthrax toxin specifically acts on tumor vasculature is particularly promising, given the stability of tumor endothelial cells compared to mutation-prone stromal cells. Anthrax toxin could thus be used to treat widely different tumors. “We would like to get to phase I human trials,” said Leppla. “We have collaborators who are testing our reagents in both cats and dogs who also get cancer but don’t have good treatment options. We’re hoping that this will provide further evidence that these reagents are effective.


Implanted Neural Nanocomputers To Boost Failing Human Brains

As neural implants become more and more advanced, researchers think humans may be able to overcome diseases and defects like strokes and dementia with the help of nanocomputers in our brains.

With the forecasted inevitable rise of the machines — be they robots or artificial intelligences — humans are beginning to realize that they should work to maintain superiority. There are a few ideas about how we should do it, but perhaps the most promising option is to go full cyborg. (What could possibly go wrong?) On Monday, a company called Kernel, announced that it would be leading the charge.


The idea is something straight out of dorm room pot-smoking sessions. What if, the exhaling sophomore muses, we put computers inside our brains? Unfortunately for prospective stoner-scientists, the actual creation of such a device — a functioning, cognitive-enhancing neural implant — has long evaded bioengineers and neuroscientists alike.

Kernel thinks it’s past time to make real progress. Theodore Berger runs the Univerity of Southern California’s Center for Neural Engineering, and he caught the eye of Bryan Johnson, a self-made multimillionaire who’s obsessed with augmenting human intelligence. With Johnson’s entrepreneurial money and Berger’s scientific brain, the two launched Kernel.
For now, Berger and Johnson are focusing on achievable goals with immediate impacts. They are creating an analogous human neural implant that can mitigate cognitive decline in those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and the aftereffects of strokes, concussions, and other brain injuries or neurological diseases. If Kernel is able to replicate even the 10 percent cognitive improvement that Berger demonstrated in monkeys, those who suffer from these cognitive disorders will be that much more capable of forming memories and living out enjoyable lives.


Solar Tents in Malawi Boost Sources Of Nutrition

Traders in southern Malawi could soon have bigger fish to fry. A low-tech solar tent made from polythene stretched over a wooden frame is being used to dry fish more efficiently. Fish traders say it helps prolong the shelf life of the catch and fetches a higher price at market.


I can tell you that I am a very happy and thankful woman because of this solar dryer project“, says Jennifer Mussa, fish trader.
Agricultural innovation fund Cultivate Africa’s Future is encouraging traders to improve processing methods. Fishing employs over 50,000 and is a crucial source of nutrition in Malawi, but 40 percent of fish is lost during processing.

So it reduces the amount of time that the fish processors would take to dry it. It also prevents loss of the fish due to predation… some birds and what have you and dust. And ideally it does increase the quality of fish“, comments fisheries expert Dr. Mangani Katundu. Fish here is mostly processed through solar drying, frying or smoking. The Australian-Canadian fund is also encouraging the use of energy saving kilns for smoking.

This method is effective and is a simpler way to smoke fish. We are using very little wood and it takes a short time to smoke lots of fish as you can see here“, adds Loveness Mphongo, fish trader.  The new methods are expected to help reduce the losses and boost incomes for fish sellers. It’s hoped the project can be extended to other fishing communities across Africa.


Nanodrugs Help to cure 50 Rare Genetic Disorders

Researchers at Oregon State University and other institutions have discovered a type of drug delivery system that may offer new hope for patients with a rare, ultimately fatal genetic disorder – and make what might become a terrible choice a little easier.No treatment currently exists for this disease, known as Niemann Pick Type C1 disease, or NPC1, that affects about one in every 120,000 children globally, and results in abnormal cholesterol accumulation, progressive neurodegeneration and eventual death. However, a compound that shows promise is now undergoing clinical trials, but it has major drawbacks – the high doses necessary also cause significant hearing loss and lung damage, as well as requiring direct brain injection.

New findings, published today in Scientific Reports (“PEG-lipid micelles enable cholesterol efflux in Niemann-Pick Type C1 disease-based lysosomal storage disorder”), outline the potential for a nanotechnology-based delivery system to carry the new drug into cells far more effectively, improve its efficacy by about five times, and allow use of much lower doses that may still help treat this condition without causing such severe hearing loss.The same system, they say, may ultimately show similar benefits for 50 or more other genetic disorders, especially those that require “brain targeting” of treatments.


Right now there’s nothing that can be done for patients with this disease, and the median survival time is 20 years,” said Gaurav Sahay, an assistant professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy, and corresponding author on the new study. “The new cholesterol-scavenging drug proposed to treat this disorder, called cyclodextrin , may for the first time offer a real treatment. But it can cause significant hearing loss and requires multiple injections directly into the brain, which can be very traumatic. I’m very excited about the potential of our new drug delivery system to address these problems.”


Electric Bus Service Without Driver Open Next Week

A self shuttle service, electric and driverless but with passengers, was launched Friday in Lyon (France)  to be tested for a year in the new district of Confluence, “a world first” according to officials of the operation. Two “Armashuttles of the French company Navya, a prototype was tested in 2013 on the hill of the Croix-Rousse, must serve a 10-minute rotations five stops on route commissioning between the Hotel de Region and the tip of the peninsula of the city, Saône side.

Long of 1.3 kilometers and baptized Navly, the service will be open this weekend from 10:00 then at 17:00 from Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., from September 5. Fifteen people in total can be carried in each vehicle. Developed by Keolis, the network operator of the Lyon public transport (TCL) and Navya, a specialist in innovative mobility solutions, the project “meets the challenges of serving the last kilometer,” said Pascal Jacquesson, CEO of Keolis Lyon. Supported by the Metropolis of Lyon and approved in July by the Ministry of Ecology, the “fine service” must supplement the local tram and bus provides TCL, attention including “employees of large companies and administrative and cultural institutions of the district,” he said.

Driverless yellow bus

This period of one year is intended to test everything from technology to economic model” to be determined, for its part, Christophe Sapet, Chairman of Navya headquartered in Villeurbanne. Limited at a speed of 20 km / h for the service, the Arma shuttle is a jewel of technology to 200,000 euros each, equipped with guiding cameras in stereovision, laser sensors, GPS and a battery life of six to eight hours.

Already tested in many other cities of the Hexagon, but without passengers, Navya shuttles also run abroad as in Sion, Switzerland. other electric minibus without drivers have already been tested for several months in La Rochelle (Charente-Maritime), as part of European experience.


Smart Windows Control Light and Heat, Save Energy

View, previously Soladigm, is a Californian company working on the development of energy-saving smart windows based on electrochromism that can control light and heat while maintaining view and reducing glareView smart nanotechnology glass is now installed  in 250 commercial buildings.


Solar radiation and glare are reduced when the View glass is tinted, creating a comfortable indoor climate for occupants. By admitting natural daylight and rejecting unwanted solar glare, View Dynamic Glass significantly reduces annual energy costs. Control View Dynamic Glass from anywhere, create schedules, track energy efficiency and manage entire buildings with our mobile app.
View Dynamic Glass uses a proprietary electrochromic process to create smart glass in a world-class manufacturing facility. The best talent, equipment, and processes from the semiconductor, flat panel and solar industries produce dynamic glass in sizes up to 6 feet by 10 feet in many custom configurations. The factory combines leading-edge glass manufacturing with high technology processes and controls to deliver products that save energy, minimize heat and glare and allow occupants to enjoy the view to the outdoors. View Dynamic Glass is specified by architects for product performance, durability and energy savings.


Microscope’s Electron Beam Writes Data Onto A Hard Disk

Every day we upload over a billion photos to the Internet. Even when photos are online they are generally stored on computer hard disk drives, but these drives have limited lifetimes.


How are we going to be able to store all that information and know that we can leave it there effectively in perpetuity and recall it in 50 years time, in 500 years time? Those are big challenges“, says Porfessor Simon Ringer,  from the Faculty of engineering and information technologies, University of Sydney (Australia). A young PhD student at the University is rising to that challenge. Zibin Chen was examining ferroelectric materials under an electron microscope. He wanted to know if any could be used for data storage, when he made a chance discovery. He noticed the electron beam of the microscope could actually write data onto a disk.

When we discovered this phenomenon we were so excited about it, because we think this is the first time ever in the world to find that the electron beam can actually write very small information on this material“, adds Zibin chen Ph.D candidate at the Faculty of engineering and information technologies, University of Sydney.

The conventional hard disk drive found in most personal computers stores our photos, videos and music as a stream of zeros and ones on a magnetic surface. But hard disk drives are prone to failure, and if they get bumped, the head will scratch the platter, and the data is lost. The University of Sydney‘s system uses an electron beam to write on ceramic material. There are no moving parts, so little risk of scratching. Still in the laboratory stage, the team expects the first use of this technology will be to help store photos and documents in the Cloud. It currently stores 10 times the amount of data as a conventional hard drive, but Chen’s supervisor is confident they can take it much further.

What we’ve done here at the University of Sydney is a breakthrough that has a roadmap of a 100 times change in the computer memory capacity“, comments Professor Ringer.  As the number of photos taken each day keeps growing, Chen’s chance discovery could offer a new way to store our precious memories for generations to come.


Smart Nanoparticles Fight Multidrug-resistant Cancer

Multidrug resistance (MDR) is the mechanism by which many cancers develop resistance to chemotherapy drugs, resulting in minimal cell death and the expansion of drug-resistant tumors. To address the problem of resistance, researchers have developed nanoparticles that simultaneously deliver chemotherapy drugs to tumors and inhibit the MDR proteins that pump the therapeutic drugs out of the cell. The process is known as chemosensitization, as blocking this resistance renders the tumor highly sensitive to the cancer-killing chemotherapy.

smart nanoparticlesMDR is a major factor in the failure of many chemotherapy drugs. The problem affects the treatment of a wide range of blood cancers and solid tumors, including breast, ovarian, lung, and colon cancers. Researchers at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are engineering multi-component nanoparticles that significantly enhance the killing of cancer cells.
Success in this medically important endeavor has required a team with a wide range of expertise to engineer nanoparticles that survive the journey to the tumor site, enter the tumor, and successfully perform the multiple functions for chemosensitization”, says Xiaoyuan Chen, Ph.D., who is the Senior Investigator, and has lead the work. His collaborators include scientists and engineers in China at Southeast University, Shenzhen University, Guangxi Medical University, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, in addition to chemical engineers at the University of Leeds, United Kingdom.

The results of their experiments are reported in recent articles in Scientific Reports and Applied Materials & Interfaces.


Very Cheap Long-Lasting Batteries

Chemists at the University of Waterloo (Canada) have developed a long-lasting zinc-ion battery that costs half the price of current lithium-ion batteries and could help enable communities to shift away from traditional power plants and into renewable solar and wind energy production. Professor Linda Nazar and her colleagues from the Faculty of Science at Waterloo made the important discovery, which appears in the journal, Nature Energy.

The battery uses safe, non-flammable, non-toxic materials and a pH-neutral, water-based salt. It consists of a water-based electrolyte, a pillared vanadium oxide positive electrode and an inexpensive metallic zinc negative electrode. The battery generates electricity through a reversible process called intercalation, where positively-charged zinc ions are oxidized from the zinc metal negative electrode, travel through the electrolyte and insert between the layers of vanadium oxide nanosheets in the positive electrode. This drives the flow of electrons in the external circuit, creating an electrical current. The reverse process occurs on charge.

The cell represents the first demonstration of zinc ion intercalation in a solid state material that satisfies four vital criteria: high reversibility, rate and capacity and no zinc dendrite formation. It provides more than 1,000 cycles with 80 per cent capacity retention and an estimated energy density of 450 watt-hours per litre. Lithium-ion batteries also operate by intercalation—of lithium ions—but they typically use expensive, flammable, organic electrolytes.

zinc-ion batteries

The worldwide demand for sustainable energy has triggered a search for a reliable, low-cost way to store it,” said Nazar, a University Research Professor in the Department of Chemistry. “The aqueous zinc-ion battery we’ve developed is ideal for this type of application because it’s relatively inexpensive and it’s inherently safe.”



Electric Car: Nanofiber Electrodes Boost Fuel Cells By 30 Percent

At the same time Honda and Toyota are introducing fuel cell cars to the U.S. market, a team of researchers from Vanderbilt University, Nissan North America and Georgia Institute of Technology have teamed up to create a new technology designed to give fuel cells more oomph. The project is part of a $13 million Department of Energy program to advance fuel cell performance and durability and hydrogen storage technologies announced last month.

hydrogen fuel cells

Fuel cells were invented back in 1839 but their first real world application wasn’t until the 1960’s when NASA used them to power the Apollo spacecraft. Fuel cells need fuel and air to run, like a gasoline engine, but they produce electricity, like a battery. In hydrogen/air fuel cells, hydrogen flows into one side of the device. Air is pumped into the other side. At the anode, the hydrogen is oxidized into protons. The protons flow to the cathode where the air is channeled, reducing the oxygen to form water. Special catalysts in the anode and cathode allow these reactions to occur spontaneously, producing electricity in the process. Fuel cells convert fuel to electricity with efficiencies ranging from 40 percent to 60 percent. They have no moving parts so they are very quiet. With the only waste product being water, they are environmentally friendly.The $2.5 million collaboration is based on a new nanofiber mat technology developed by Peter Pintauro, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Vanderbilt, that replaces the conventional electrodes used in fuel cells. The nanofiber electrodes boost the power output of fuel cells by 30 percent while being less expensive and more durable than conventional catalyst layers. The technology has been patented by Vanderbilt and licensed to Merck KGaA in Germany, which is working with major auto manufacturers in applying it to the next generation of automotive fuel cells.

Conventional fuel cells use thin sheets of catalyst particles mixed with a polymer binder for the electrodes. The catalyst is typically platinum on carbon powder. The Vanderbilt approach replaces these solid sheets with mats made from a tangle of polymer fibers that are each a fraction of the thickness of a human hair made by a process called electrospinning. Particles of catalyst are bonded to the fibers. The very small diameter of the fibers means that there is a larger surface area of catalyst available for hydrogen and oxygen gas reactions during fuel cell operation. The pores between fibers in the mat electrode also facilitate the removal of the waste water. The unique fiber electrode structure results in higher fuel cell power, with less expensive platinum.

Eye Test detects Parkinson’s Before Symptoms develop

A newly developed eye test offers the hope of far earlier diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, a devastating condition usually discovered too late in patients for effective treatment.
This new eye test could detect Parkinson’s disease before symptoms develop. Developed at the University College London (UCL), Institute of Ophthalmology it looks for changes in patients’ retinas before brain alteration occurs. Researchers induced Parkinson’s in rats by injecting them with a chemical called rotenone. Having observed retinal changes, they treated the rodents with a new version ofRosiglitaz anti-diabetic drug Rosiglitazone.


The preliminary results were that we were able to see evidence of Parkinson’s in the retina well in advance compared to the Parkinsonian events in the brain. Furthermore, by injecting the Rosiglitazone in these rats we were able to see a rescue effect of Rosiglitazone in this model, first in the eye and then in the brain“, says Dr. Eduardo Normando, UCL constant opthalmologist. Human clinical trials will begin soon. Earlier diagnosis could have a major impact on future patient outcomes

If you’ve seen the effects in the retina well before you see those effects in the brain then actually you could shorten the length of clinical trials and you could use this as a very good marker of treatment success. But in the long run what we think is that it could be a way of trying to see if patients are ever going to get Parkinson’s disease“, adds UCL Professor of glaucoma and retinal neurodegeneration, Francesca Cordeiro.

The degenerative condition affects 1 in 500 people, causing muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, tremors and a reduced quality of life. Symptoms typically become apparent once more than 70 percent of the brain’s dopamine-producing cells have been destroyed.


Nano Device Cleans Germs from Water In 20 Minutes

In many parts of the world, the only way to make germy water safe is by boiling, which consumes precious fuel, or by putting it out in the sun in a plastic bottle so ultraviolet rays will kill the microbes. But because UV rays carry only 4 percent of the sun’s total energy, the UV method takes six to 48 hours, limiting the amount of water people can disinfect this way.

Now researchers at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have created a nanostructured device, about half the size of a postage stamp, that disinfects water much faster than the UV method by also making use of the visible part of the solar spectrum, which contains 50 percent of the sun’s energy.

clean waterA researcher holds a small, nanostructured device that uses sunlight to disinfect water. By harnessing a broad spectrum of sunlight, it works faster than devices that use only ultraviolet rays

In experiments reported today in Nature Nanotechnology, sunlight falling on the little device triggered the formation of hydrogen peroxide and other disinfecting chemicals that killed more than 99.999 percent of bacteria in just 20 minutes. When their work was done the killer chemicals quickly dissipated, leaving pure water behind.

Our device looks like a little rectangle of black glass. We just dropped it into the water and put everything under the sun, and the sun did all the work,” said Chong Liu, lead author of the report. She is a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Yi Cui, a SLAC/Stanford associate professor and investigator with SIMES, the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences at SLAC.

Under an electron microscope the surface of the device looks like a fingerprint, with many closely spaced lines. Those lines are very thin films – the researchers call them “nanoflakes” – of molybdenum disulfide that are stacked on edge, like the walls of a labyrinth, atop a rectangle of glass. In ordinary life, molybdenum disulfide is an industrial lubricant. But like many materials, it takes on entirely different properties when made in layers just a few atoms thick. In this case it becomes a photocatalyst.

By making their molybdenum disulfide walls in just the right thickness, the scientists got them to absorb the full range of visible sunlight. And by topping each tiny wall with a thin layer of copper, which also acts as a catalyst, they were able to use that sunlight to trigger exactly the reactions they wanted – reactions that produce “reactive oxygen species” like hydrogen peroxide, a commonly used disinfectant, which kill bacteria in the surrounding water.


How To Stop The Bleeding

Whether  occurs on the battlefield or the highway, saving lives often comes down to stopping the bleeding as quickly as possible. Many methods for controlling external bleeding exist, but at this point, only surgery can halt blood loss inside the body from injury to internal organs. Now, researchers have developed nanoparticles that congregate wherever injury occurs in the body to help it form blood clots, and they’ve validated these particles in test tubes and in vivo.

stopping the bleeding

Nanoparticles (green) help form clots in an injured liver. The researchers added color to the scanning electron microscopy image after it was taken

When you have uncontrolled internal bleeding, that’s when these particles could really make a difference,” says Erin B. Lavik, Sc.D. “Compared to injuries that aren’t treated with the nanoparticles, we can cut bleeding time in half and reduce total blood loss.

Trauma remains a top killer of children and younger adults, and doctors have few options for treating internal bleeding. To address this great need, Lavik’s team developed a nanoparticle that acts as a bridge, binding to activated platelets and helping them join together to form clots. To do this, the nanoparticle is decorated with a molecule that sticks to a glycoprotein found only on the activated platelets.

The researchers have presented their work at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).


Nanoparticles Detect Dirty Nuclear Bomb

One of the most critical issues the United States faces today is preventing terrorists from smuggling nuclear weapons into its ports. To this end, the U.S. Security and Accountability for Every Port Act mandates that all overseas cargo containers be scanned for possible nuclear materials or weapons.

Detecting neutron signals is an effective method to identify nuclear weapons and special nuclear materials. Helium-3 gas is used within detectors deployed in ports for this purpose. The catch? While helium-3 gas works well for neutron detection, it’s extremely rare on Earth. Intense demand for helium-3 gas detectors has nearly depleted the supply, most of which was generated during the period of nuclear weapons production during the past 50 years. It isn’t easy to reproduce, and the scarcity of helium-3 gas has caused its cost to skyrocket recently — making it impossible to deploy enough neutron detectors to fulfill the requirement to scan all incoming overseas cargo containersHelium-4 is a more abundant form of helium gas, which is much less expensive, but can’t be used for neutron detection because it doesn’t interact with neutrons.

A group of Texas Tech University researchers led by Professors Hongxing Jiang and Jingyu Lin report this week in Applied Physics Letters, from AIP Publishing, that they have developed an alternative materialhexagonal boron nitride semiconductors — for neutron detection. This material fulfills many key requirements for helium gas detector replacements and can serve as a low-cost alternative in the future. The group’s concept was first proposed to the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and received funding from its Academic Research Initiative program six years ago. By using a 43-micron-thick hexagonal boron-10 enriched nitride layer, the group created a thermal neutron detector with 51.4 percent detection efficiency, which is a record high for semiconductor thermal neutron detectors.

nuclear radiation

“Higher detection efficiency is anticipated by further increasing the material thickness and improving materials quality,” explained Professor Jiang, Nanophotonics Center and Electrical & Computer Engineering, Whitacre College of Engineering, Texas Tech University. “Our approach of using hexagonal boron nitride semiconductors for neutron detection centers on the fact that its boron-10 isotope has a very large interaction probability with thermal neutrons,” Jiang continued. “This makes it possible to create high-efficiency neutron detectors with relatively thin hexagonal boron nitride layers. And the very large energy bandgap of this semiconductor — 6.5 eV — gives these detectors inherently low leakage current densities.

The key significance of the group’s work? This is a completely new material and technology that offers many advantages. “Compared to helium gas detectors, boron nitride technology improves the performance of neutron detectors in terms of efficiency, sensitivity, ruggedness, versatile form factor, compactness, lightweight, no pressurization … and it’s inexpensive,” Jiang said.

This means that the material has the potential to revolutionize neutron detector technologies.

Beyond special nuclear materials and weapons detection, solid-state neutron detectors also have medical, health, military, environment, and industrial applications,” he added. “The material also has applications in deep ultraviolet photonics and two-dimensional heterostructures. With the successful demonstration of high-efficiency neutron detectors, we expect it to perform well for other future applications.”

The main innovation behind this new type of neutron detector was developing hexagonal boron nitride with epitaxial layers of sufficient thickness — which previously didn’t exist. “It took our group six years to find ways to produce this new material with a sufficient thickness and crystalline quality for neutron detection,” Jiang noted. “It’s surprising to us that the detector performs so well, despite the fact that there’s still a little room for improvement in terms of material quality,” he said. “These devices must be capable of detecting nuclear weapons from distances tens of meters away, which requires large-size detectors,” Jiang added. “There are technical challenges to overcome, but we’re working toward this goal.”


The Rise Of The Electric Trucks

Nikola Motor, a company based in Salt Lake City, has announced that its  advanced R&D team has achieved 100% zero emissions on the Nikola One commercial class 8 truck. Working electric truck prototype will be unveiled on December 2 in Salt Lake City.


While other companies have recently announced battery-powered semi-trucks, those trucks are restricted to a range of only a couple hundred miles and four to eight hours of charging between stops,” said Founder and CEO Trevor Milton. “Nikola has engineered the holy grail of the trucking industry. We are not aware of any zero emission truck in the world that can haul 80,000 pounds more than 1,000 miles and do it without stopping. The Nikola One requires only 15 minutes of downtime before heading out for the next 1,000 miles.” “Imagine what this could do for the air in every city in America. We knew our emissions would be low, but to have the ability to achieve true zero emissions is revolutionary for the worldwide trucking industry,” Milton added.

When asked why no one had accomplished this before, Milton said, “It requires a specific zero emission refinement process of fuel and gutsy engineering and product execution. A traditional manufacturer would have to partner with an oil company, environmental group, electric vehicle engineering firm, a broad spectrum of suppliers and a world-class consulting firm to have figured it out. At Nikola, all of our development and talent is under one roof”.

In addition to the zero emission semi-truck, Nikola has initiated the first steps to manufacture emission-free power plants that range from 50 kilowatts to 50 megawatts, cutting power generation costs in half. Nikola believes this technology not only has the ability to transform America’s roadways, but how the world will migrate towards zero-emission energy going forward.

Two months ago, Nikola announced more than $2.3 billion in reservations, totaling more than 7,000 truck reservations with deposits. The Nikola One truck leasing program costs $4000 to $5000 per month, depending on which truck configuration and options the customer chooses. The first million miles of fuel under the lease is included with each truck sale, potentially offsetting 100% of the monthly cost. An average diesel burns approximately $400,000 in fuel and can rack up over $100,000 in maintenance costs over 1,000,000 miles. These costs are eliminated with the Nikola One lease. Now companies can have a zero emission truck with a return on their investment in the first month.



The First Satellite Using Quantum Cryptography Is Chinese

Congratulations are in order for China: by launching the world’s first quantum communications satellite, the country has achieved an interesting — if somewhat difficult to explain — milestone in space and cryptography.

quantum dots

Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS), nicknamed Micius after the philosopher, lifted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 1:40 AM local time (late yesterday in the U.S.) and is currently maneuvering itself into a sun-synchronous orbit at 500 km.

So what’s in the package that’s so exciting?

QUESS is an experiment in the deployment of quantum cryptography — specifically, a prototype that will test whether it’s possible to perform this delicate science from space. Inside QUESS is a crystal that can be stimulated into producing two photons that are “entangled” at a subatomic, quantum level. Entangled photons have certain aspects — polarization, for example — that are the same for both regardless of distance; if one changes, the other changes. The trouble is that photons are rather finicky things, and tend to be bounced, absorbed, and otherwise interfered with when traveling through fibers, air, and so on. QUESS will test whether sending them through space is easier, and whether one of a pair of entangled photons can be successfully sent to the surface while the other remains aboard the satellite.

If this is possible, the entangled photons can be manipulated in order to send information; the satellite could, for example, send binary code by inverting its photon’s polarization, one way for 1, the other way for 0. The ground station would see its photon switching back and forth and record the resulting data. This process would be excruciatingly slow, but fast enough for, say, key creation and exchange — after which data can be exchanged securely by more ordinary means. The critical thing about this is that there is no transmission involved, or at least not one we understand and can intercept.


Nanotechnology To Save Polluted Lakes

Peruvian scientist Marino Morikawa, known for his work revitalizing polluted wetlands in the North of Lima using nanotechnology, now plans to try to clean up Lake Titicaca and the Huacachina lagoon, an oasis south of Lima. El Cascajo, an ecosystem of 123 acres in Chancay district, located north of Lima, began its recovery process in 2010 with two inventions that Morikawa came up with using his own resources and money..The project started after he got a call from Morikawa’s father, who informed him that El Cascajo, where he had gone fishing in so many occasion as a child, was “in very bad shape,” Morikawa explains.

The scientist set out to find a way to decontaminate the wetlands without using chemicals. His first invention was a micro nanobubbling system, consisting of bubbles10,000 times smaller than those in soda – which help trap and paralyze viruses and bacteria, causing them to evaporate. He also designed biological filters to retain inorganic pollutants, such as heavy metals and minerals that adhere to surfaces and are decomposed by bacteriaIn just 15 days, the effort led to a revival of the wetlands, a process that in the laboratory had taken six months.


Nature does its job. All I do is give it a boost to speed up the process,” Morikawa adds.

By 2013, about 60 percent of the wetlands was repopulated by migratory birds, that use El Cascajo as a layover on their route from Canada to Patagonia. Now, Morikawa has helped recover 30 habitats around the world, but has his sights on two ecosystems that are emblematic in Peru.

The first, scheduled for 2018, is the recovery of Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America, located 4,000 meters (13,115 feet) above sea level between Peru and Bolivia. The second project aims to restore the Huacachina lagoon near the southern city of Ica, where water stopped seeping in naturally in the 1980s.


Legions Of Nanorobots Attack Cancerous Cells

Researchers from Polytechnique Montréal, Université de Montréal and McGill University have just achieved a spectacular breakthrough in cancer research. They have developed new nanorobotic agents capable of navigating through the bloodstream to administer a drug with precision by specifically targeting the active cancerous cells of tumours. This way of injecting medication ensures the optimal targeting of a tumour and avoids jeopardizing the integrity of organs and surrounding healthy tissues. As a result, the drug dosage that is highly toxic for the human organism could be significantly reduced.

legions of nanorobots attack cancerous cells

These legions of nanorobotic agents were actually composed of more than 100 million flagellated bacteria – and therefore self-propelled – and loaded with drugs that moved by taking the most direct path between the drug’s injection point and the area of the body to cure,” explains Professor Sylvain Martel,  Director of the Polytechnique Montréal Nanorobotics Laboratory, who heads the research team’s work. “The drug’s propelling force was enough to travel efficiently and enter deep inside the tumours.”

When they enter a tumour, the nanorobotic agents can detect in a wholly autonomous fashion the oxygen-depleted tumour areas, known as hypoxic zones, and deliver the drug to them. This hypoxic zone is created by the substantial consumption of oxygen by rapidly proliferative tumour cells. Hypoxic zones are known to be resistant to most therapies, including radiotherapy.

But gaining access to tumours by taking paths as minute as a red blood cell and crossing complex physiological micro-environments does not come without challenges. So Professor Martel and his team used nanotechnology to do it.


This scientific breakthrough has just been published in the prestigious journal Nature Nanotechnology in an article titled “Magneto-aerotactic bacteria deliver drug-containing nanoliposomes to tumour hypoxic regions.” The article notes the results of the research done on mice, which were successfully administered nanorobotic agents into colorectal tumours.


Molecular Electronics

Technion researchers in Israel  have developed a method for growing carbon nanotubes that could lead to the day when molecular electronics replace the ubiquitous silicon chip as the building block of electronicsCarbon nanotubes (CNTs) have long fascinated scientists because of their unprecedented electrical, optical, thermal and mechanical properties, and chemical sensitivity. But significant challenges remain before CNTs can be implemented on a wide scale, including the need to produce them in specific locations on a smooth substrate, in conditions that will lead to the formation of a circuit around them.

Led by Prof. Yuval Yaish of the Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering and the Zisapel Nanoelectronics Center at the Technion, the researchers have developed a technology that addresses these challenges. Their breakthrough also makes it possible to study the dynamic properties of CNTs, including acceleration, resonance (vibration), and the transition from softness to hardness. The method could serve as an applicable platform for the integration of nano-electronics with silicon technologies, and possibly even the replacement of these technologies in molecular electronics.

Carbon naotube

Due to the nanometer size of the CNTs (100,000 times smaller in diameter than the thickness of a human hair) it is extremely difficult to find or locate them at specific locations. Prof. Yaish, and graduate students Gilad Zeevi and Michael Shlafman, developed a simple, rapid, non-invasive and scalable technique that enables optical imaging of CNTs.


The CNT is an amazing and very strong building block with remarkable electrical, mechanical and optical properties,” said Prof. Yaish. “Some are conductors, and some are semiconductors, which is why they are considered a future replacement for silicon. But current methods for the production of CNTs are slow, costly, and imprecise. As such, they generally cannot be implemented in industry.”

Our approach is the opposite of the norm,” he continued. “We grow the CNTs directly, and with the aid of the organic crystals that coat them, we can see them under a microscope very quickly. Then image identification software finds and produces the device (transistor). This is the strategy. The goal is to integrate CNTs in an integrated circuit of miniaturized electronic components (mainly transistors) on a single chip (VLSI). These could one day serve as a replacement for silicon electronics.”

The findings have been published in Nature Communications.


Cancer: How To Shrink Tumors

Math, biology and nanotechnology are becoming strange, yet effective bed-fellows in the fight against cancer treatment resistance. Researchers at the University of Waterloo and Harvard Medical School have engineered a revolutionary new approach to cancer treatment that pits a lethal combination of drugs together into a single nanoparticle. Their work, published online on June 3, 2016 in the  journal ACS Nano, finds a new method of shrinking tumors and prevents resistance in aggressive cancers by activating two drugs within the same cell at the same time. Every year thousands of patients die from recurrent cancers that have become resistant to therapy, resulting in one of the greatest unsolved challenges in cancer treatment. By tracking the fate of individual cancer cells under pressure of chemotherapy, biologists and bioengineers at Harvard Medical School studied a network of signals and molecular pathways that allow the cells to generate resistance over the course of treatment.

anti cancer nanoparticle

Using this information, a team of applied mathematicians led by Professor Mohammad Kohandel at the University of Waterloo (Canada), developed a mathematical model that incorporated algorithms that define the phenotypic cell state transitions of cancer cells in real-time while under attack by an anticancer agent. The mathematical simulations enabled them to define the exact molecular behavior and pathway of signals, which allow cancer cells to survive treatment over time.

They discovered that the PI3K/AKT kinase, which is often over-activated in cancers, enables cells to undergo a resistance program when pressured with the cytotoxic chemotherapy known as Taxanes, which are conventionally used to treat aggressive breast cancers. This revolutionary window into the life of a cell reveals that vulnerabilities to small molecule PI3K/AKT kinase inhibitors exist, and can be targeted if they are applied in the right sequence with combinations of other drugs.

Previously theories of drug resistance have relied on the hypothesis that only certain, “privileged” cells can overcome therapy. The mathematical simulations demonstrate that, under the right conditions and signaling events, any cell can develop a resistance program.

Only recently have we begun to appreciate how important mathematics and physics are to understanding the biology and evolution of cancer,” said Professor Kohandel. “In fact, there is now increasing synergy between these disciplines, and we are beginning to appreciate how critical this information can be to create the right recipes to treat cancer.”


Tiny High-Performance Solar Cells

University of Wisconsin—Madison engineers have created high-performance, micro-scale solar cells that outshine comparable devices in key performance measures. The miniature solar panels could power myriad personal deviceswearable medical sensors, smartwatches, even autofocusing contact lenses. Large, rooftop photovoltaic arrays generate electricity from charges moving vertically. The new, small cells, described today (Aug. 3, 2016) in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies, capture current from charges moving side-to-side, or laterally. And they generate significantly more energy than other sideways solar systems.

New-generation lateral solar cells promise to be the next big thing for compact devices because arranging electrodes horizontally allows engineers to sidestep a traditional solar cell fabrication process: the arduous task of perfectly aligning multiple layers of the cell’s material atop one another.

solar cells

From a fabrication point of view, it is always going to be easier to make side-by-side structures,” says Hongrui Jiang, a UW–Madison professor of electrical and computer engineering and corresponding author on the paper. “Top-down structures need to be made in multiple steps and then aligned, which is very challenging at small scales.

Lateral solar cells also offer engineers greater flexibility in materials selection.

Top-down photovoltaic cells are made up of two electrodes surrounding a semiconducting material like slices of bread around the meat in a sandwich. When light hits the top slice, charge travels through the filling to the bottom layer and creates electric current.

In the top-down arrangement, one layer needs to do two jobs: It must let in light and transmit charge. Therefore, the material for one electrode in a typical solar cell must be not only highly transparent, but also electrically conductive. And very few substances perform both tasks well.


How To Increase By Six Times The Capacity Of Lithium-Ion Batteries

The capacity of lithium-ion batteries might be increased by six times by using anodes made of silicon instead of graphite. A team from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) Institute of Soft Matter and Functional Materials has observed for the first time in detail how lithium ions migrate into thin films of silicon. It was shown that extremely thin layers of silicon would be sufficient to achieve the maximal load of lithium.

The team was able to show through neutron measurements made at the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, France, that lithium ions do not penetrate deeply into the silicon. During the charge cycle, a 20-nm anode layer develops containing an extremely high proportion of lithium. This means extremely thin layers of silicon would be sufficient to achieve the maximal load of lithium.
lithium-ion battery

Lithium-ion batteries provide laptops, smart phones, and tablet computers with reliable energy. However, electric vehicles have not gotten as far along with conventional lithium-ion batteries. This is due to currently utilised electrode materials such as graphite only being able to stably adsorb a limited number of lithium ions, restricting the capacity of these batteries. Semiconductor materials like silicon are therefore receiving attention as alternative electrodes for lithium batteries. Bulk silicon is able to absorb enormous quantities of lithium. However, the migration of the lithium ions destroys the crystal structure of silicon. This can swell the volume by a factor of three, which leads to major mechanical stresses. Now a team from the HZB Institute for Soft Matter and Functional Materials headed by Prof. Matthias Ballauff has directly observed for the first time a lithium-silicon half-cell during its charging and discharge cycles. “We were able to precisely track where the lithium ions adsorb in the silicon electrode using neutron reflectometry methods, and also how fast they were moving”, comments Dr. Beatrix-Kamelia Seidlhofer, who carried out the experiments using the neutron source located at the Institute Laue-Langevin.

She discovered two different zones during her investigations. Near the boundary to the electrolytes, a roughly 20-nm layer formed having extremely high lithium content: 25 lithium atoms were lodged among 10 silicon atoms. A second adjacent layer contained only one lithium atom for ten silicon atoms. Both layers together are less than 100 nm thick after the second charging cycle.

After discharge, about one lithium ion per silicon node in the electrode remained in the silicon boundary layer exposed to the electrolytes. Seidlhofer calculates from this that the theoretical maximum capacity of these types of silicon-lithium batteries lies at about 2300 mAh/g. This is more than six times the theoretical maximum attainable capacity for a lithium-ion battery constructed with graphite (372 mAh/g).

The results ar published in the journal ACSnano (DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.6b02032).


Green Electronics

A team of University of Toronto chemists has created a battery that stores energy in a biologically-derived unit, paving the way for cheaper consumer electronics that are easier on the environment.

The battery is similar to many commercially-available high-energy lithium-ion batteries with one important difference. It uses flavin from vitamin B2 as the cathode: the part that stores the electricity that is released when connected to a device.


We’ve been looking to nature for a while to find complex molecules for use in a number of consumer electronics applications,” says Dwight Seferos, a professor in U of T’s department of chemistry and Canada Research Chair in Polymer Nanotechnology. “When you take something made by nature that is already complex, you end up spending less time making new material,” says Seferos.

The team created the material from vitamin B2 that originates in genetically-modified fungi using a semi-synthetic process to prepare the polymer by linking two flavin units to a long-chain molecule backbone. This allows for a green battery with high capacity and high voltage – something increasingly important as the ‘Internet of Things’ continues to link us together more and more through our battery-powered portable devices.

It’s a pretty safe, natural compound,” Seferos adds. “If you wanted to, you could actually eat the source material it comes from.” B2’s ability to be reduced and oxidized makes its well-suited for a lithium ion battery.


How To Grow Mini Human Brains

A*STAR’s Scientists in Singapore have made a big leap on research on the ‘mini-brain’. These advanced mini versions of the human midbrain will help researchers develop treatments and conduct other studies into Parkinson’s Disease  (PD) and ageing-related brain diseases. These mini midbrain versions are three-dimensional miniature tissues that are grown in the laboratory and they have certain properties of specific parts of the human brains. This is the first time that the black pigment neuromelanin has been detected in an organoid model. The study also revealed functionally active dopaminergic neurons.

The human midbrain, which is the information superhighway, controls auditory, eye movements, vision and body movements. It contains special dopaminergic neurons that produce dopamine – which carries out significant roles in executive functions, motor control, motivation, reinforcement, and reward. High levels of dopamine elevate motor activity and impulsive behaviour, whereas low levels of dopamine lead to slowed reactions and disorders like PD, which is characterised by stiffness and difficulties in initiating movements.


Also causing PD is the dramatic reduction in neuromelanin production, leading to the degenerative condition of patients, which includes tremors and impaired motor skills. This creation is a key breakthrough for studies in PD, which affects an estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide. Furthermore, there are people who are affected by other causes of parkinsonism. Researchers now have access to the material that is affected in the disease itself, and different types of studies can be conducted in the laboratory instead of through simulations or on animals. Using stem cells, scientists have grown pieces of tissue, known as brain organoids, measuring about 2 to 3 mm long. These organoids contain the necessary hallmarks of the human midbrain, which are dopaminergic neurons and neuromelanin.

Assistant Prof Shawn Je from Duke-NUS Medical School’s Neuroscience & Behavioural Disorders Programme said, “It is remarkable that our midbrain organoids mimic human midbrain development. The cells divide, cluster together in layers, and become electrically and chemically active in three-dimensional environment like our brain. Now we can really test how these mini brains react to existing or newly developed drugs before treating patients, which will be a game changer for drug development.”

Jointly led by Prof Ng Huck Hui from A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and Assistant Prof Shawn Je from Duke-NUS Medical School, this collaborative research between GIS, Duke-NUS, and the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) is funded by the National Medical Research Council’s Translational Clinical Research (TCR) Programme In Parkinson’s disease (PD) and A*STAR. Other collaborators are from the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and the Nanyang Technological University.


Could Nanotechnology End Hunger?

Each year, farmers around the globe apply more than 100 million tons of fertilizer to crops, along with more than 800,000 tons of glyphosate, the most commonly used agricultural chemical and the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. It’s a quick-and-dirty approach: Plants take up less than half the phosphorus in fertilizer, leaving the rest to flow into waterways, seeding algae blooms that can release toxins and suffocate fish. An estimated 90 percent of the pesticides used on crops dissipates into the air or leaches into groundwater.

child starving

With the global population on pace to swell to more than nine billion by 2050 amid the disruptions of climate change, scientists are racing to boost food production while minimizing collateral damage to the environment. To tackle this huge problem, they’re thinking small — very small, as in nanoparticles a fraction of the diameter of a human hair. Three of the most promising developments deploy nanoparticles that boost the ability of plants to absorb nutrients in the soil, nanocapsules that release a steady supply of pesticides and nanosensors that measure and adjust moisture levels in the soil via automated irrigation systems.

It’s all part of a rise in precision agriculture, which seeks a targeted approach to the use of fertilizer, water and other resources. Recognizing the potential impact of nanotechnology, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) beefed up funding between 2011 and 2015, from $10 million to $13.5 million. India, China and Brazil are also joining the latest green revolution. Scientists led by Pratim Biswas and Ramesh Raliya at Washington University in St. Louis have harnessed fungi to synthesize nanofertilizer. When sprayed on mung bean leaves, the zinc oxide nanoparticles increase the activity of three enzymes in the plant that convert phosphorus into a more readily absorbable form. Compared to untreated plants, nanofertilized mung beans absorbed nearly 11 percent more phosphorus and showed 27 percent more growth with a 6 percent increase in yield.

Raliya and his colleagues are also developing nanoparticles that enhance plants’ absorption of sunlight and investigating how nanofertilizers fortify crops with nutrients. In a study earlier this year, they found that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles increased levels of the antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes by up to 113 percent. Next, they want to design nanoparticles that enhance the protein content in peanuts. Along with mung beans, peanuts are a major source of protein in many developing countries.

Others are exploring nanoparticles that protect plants against insects, fungi and weeds. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and other institutions recently began field trials that use several types of metal oxide nanoparticles on tomato, eggplant, corn, squash and sorghum plants in areas infected with fungi known to threaten crops. Researchers led by Leonardo Fernandes Fraceto, of the Institute of Science and Technology, São Paulo State University, Campus Sorocaba, are designing slow-release nanocapsules that contain two types of fungicides or herbicides to reduce the likelihood of targeted fungi and weeds developing resistance. Scientists at the University of Tehran are conducting similar research. Still others are working on nanocapsules that release plant growth hormones. Existing technology could increase average yields up to threefold in many parts of Africa.

Gentle Cancer Treatment Using Nanoparticles

Cancer treatments based on laser irradiation of tiny nanoparticles that are injected directly into the cancer tumor are working and can destroy the cancer from within. Researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute and the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Copenhagen  (Denmark) have developed a method that kills cancer cells using nanoparticles and lasers. The treatment has been tested on mice and it has been demonstrated that the cancer tumors are considerably damaged.

mouse with cancer treatment

The drawing shows a mouse with a cancerous tumor on its hind leg. The nanoparticles are injected directly into the tumor, which is then flashed with near infrared laser light. Near infrared laser light penetrates through the tissue well and causes no burn damage


Traditional cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy have major side affects, because they not only affect the cancer tumors, but also the healthy parts of the body. A large interdisciplinary research project between physicists at the Niels Bohr Institute and doctors and human biologists at the Panum Institute and Rigshospitalet has developed a new treatment that only affects cancer tumors locally and therefore is much more gentle on the body. The project is called Laser Activated Nanoparticles for Tumor Elimination (LANTERN). The head of the project is Professor Lene Oddershede, a biophysicist and head of the research group Optical Tweezers at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen in collaboration with Professor Andreas Kjær, head of the Cluster for Molecular Imaging, Panum Institute.

After experimenting with biological membranes, the researchers have now tested the method on living mice. In the experiments, the mice are given cancer tumors of laboratory cultured human cancer cells“The treatment involves injecting tiny nanoparticles directly into the cancer. Then you heat up the nanoparticles from outside using lasers. There is a strong interaction between the nanoparticles and the laser light, which causes the particles to heat up. What then happens is that the heated particles damage or kill the cancer cells,” explains Lene Oddershede.

The results are published in the scientific journal, Scientific Reports.

Aerobic; How To Burn 30% More Calories

A high-intensity workout with electro-stimulation can help burn up to 30% more calories. Researchers advise that this type of training, in spite of offering various neurological, metabolic and functional advantages, should be done in addition to a normal work out and not as a substitute. Practicing High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, together with integral electro-stimulation generates an up to 30% higher consumption of calories than conventional aerobic exercise. In addition, this type of combined exercise increases the metabolism rate for several days after the workout (the body continues to burn calories). Conventional aerobic activity, however, generates lower calorie usage and only does so during the activity itself.

These are among the conclusions of a study carried out researchers of the EFFECTS-262 group of the Physiology Department at the University of Granada (UGR -Faculty of Medicine). The study is published in the Andalusian Journal of Sports Medicine. Twelve  sedentary subjects with a body mass index of over 35 participated in the study. They were submitted to three kinds of training on three consecutive Mondays, organized randomly. Scientists had previously determined the basal metabolism of each subject using a 30-minute, early morning analysis after a 10 minute stabilization period and on an empty stomach. Additionally, after 60 minutes of training and again 24, 48 and 72 hours later, they performed the basal metabolism and DXA (body composition) measurement again. All sessions were monitored using a heart rate monitor, pulse oximeter, arterial tension measurement and a subjective perception of wellbeing.

electro stimulation

The high-intensity workout with electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) showed higher levels of lactate concentration in the blood (15.6 mmol.L-1) than after aerobic exercise (2 mmol.L-1). Additionally, the researchers also found significant differences in basal oxygen consumption at 60 minutes and 24, 48 and 72 hours after the different kinds of workout. The basal oxygen deficit levels reached during the electro-stimulation and HIIT workout were notably higher than those reached in the pre-test up to 72 hours after performing the physical activity. This represented a significant difference from the results of the aerobic workout, after which VO2 levels (the amount of oxygen that an organism can consume in a given time) reached similar values as those in the 60-minute pre-test.

UGR Physiology professor Ángel Gutiérrez Sáinz notes that combining a 20-minute weekly session of HIIT with electro-stimulationoffers extraordinary neurological, metabolic and functional advantages for sedentary people as well as elite athletes suffering from an injury and athletes in training.” Gutiérrez warns that this kind of training with an electro-stimulation vest “should never be seen as a substitute for sport but, nevertheless, is an excellent complement to it.” He adds, “it should always be administered by an expert professional.”

The UGR researcher states that the market strategy of electro-stimulation “has reported more harm than benefits. Nevertheless, it is an effective system that, when controlled by professionals, increases the benefits of exercise as it helps to simultaneously engage more than 300 muscles around the entire body.”


Vaccine That Is Programmable In One Week

MIT engineers have developed a new type of easily customizable vaccine that can be manufactured in one week, allowing it to be rapidly deployed in response to disease outbreaks. So far, they have designed vaccines against Ebola, H1N1 influenza, and Toxoplasma gondii (a relative of the parasite that causes malaria), which were 100 percent effective in tests in mice. The vaccine consists of strands of genetic material known as messenger RNA, which can be designed to code for any viral, bacterial, or parasitic protein. These molecules are then packaged into a molecule that delivers the RNA into cells, where it is translated into proteins that provoke an immune response from the host.

In addition to targeting infectious diseases, the researchers are using this approach to create cancer vaccines that would teach the immune system to recognize and destroy tumors.

MIT-Program-Vaccines_0 (1)

This nanoformulation approach allows us to make vaccines against new diseases in only seven days, allowing the potential to deal with sudden outbreaks or make rapid modifications and improvements,” says Daniel Anderson, an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES).

Anderson is the senior author of a paper describing the new vaccines in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The project was led by Jasdave Chahal, a postdoc at MIT’s Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and Omar Khan, a postdoc at the Koch Institute; both are the first authors of the paper.


Solar Cells : How To Boost Efficiency Up To 30%

Researchers from the University of Houston have reported the first explanation for how a class of materials changes during production to more efficiently absorb light, a critical step toward the large-scale manufacture of better and less-expensive solar panels. The work, published this month as the cover story for Nanoscale, offers a mechanism study of how a perovskite thin film changes its microscopic structure upon gentle heating, said Yan Yao, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and lead author on the paper. This information is crucial for designing a manufacturing process that can consistently produce high-efficiency solar panels.

Perovskite cheap

Last year Yao and other researchers identified the crystal structure of the non-stoichiometric intermediate phase as the key element for high-efficiency perovskite solar cells. But what happened during the later thermal annealing step remained unclear. The work is fundamental science, Yao said, but critical for processing more efficient solar cells.

Otherwise, it’s like a black box,” he said. “We know certain processing conditions are important, but we don’t know why.”

The work also yielded a surprise: the materials showed a peak efficiency – the rate at which the material converted light to electricity – before the intermediate phase transformation was complete, suggesting a new way to produce the films to ensure maximum efficiency. Yao said researchers would have expected the highest efficiency to come after the material had been converted to 100 percent perovskite film. Instead, they discovered the best-performing solar devices were those for which conversion was stopped at 18 percent of the intermediate phase, before full conversion.

We found that the phase composition and morphology of solvent engineered perovskite films are strongly dependent on the processing conditions and can significantly influence photovoltaic performance,” the researchers wrote. “The strong dependence on processing conditions is attributed to the molecular exchange kinetics between organic halide molecules and DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide) coordinated in the intermediate phase.

Perovskite compounds commonly are comprised of a hybrid organic-inorganic lead or tin halide-based material and have been pursued as potential materials for solar cells for several years. Yao said their advantages include the fact that the materials can work as very thin films – about 300 nanometers, compared with between 200 and 300 micrometers for silicon wafers, the most commonly used material for solar cells. Perovskite solar cells also can be produced by solution processing at temperatures below 150 degrees Centigrade (about 300 degrees Fahrenheit) making them relatively inexpensive to produce.

At their best, perovskite solar cells have an efficiency rate of about 22 percent, slightly lower than that of silicon (25 percent). But the cost of silicon solar cells is also dropping dramatically, and perovskite cells are unstable in air, quickly losing efficiency. They also usually contain lead, a toxin.

Still, Yao said, the materials hold great promise for the solar industry, even if they are unlikely to replace silicon entirely. Instead, he said, they could be used in conjunction with silicon, boosting efficiency to 30 percent or so.


NanoTechnology Intellectual Property Worth $81 Million Stolen

Judicial authorities from Taiwan said that they have charged five men who allegedly stole intellectual property from a Tainan nanotechnology company and set up competing nanotechnology plants in China with breaching the Trade Secrets Act (營業秘密法). The Second Special Police Corp, under the National Police Agency, announced details of the investigation yesterday, saying it is the first investigation and prosecution under the act since it was implemented in 2013.

Police said that they detained three former Hsin Fang Nano Technology Co (新芳奈米科技) employees, including a former plant manager surnamed Chen (陳) and a production section chief surnamed Yu (尤), along with two other business associates.


The estimated financial loss to our company is about NT$2.6 billion [US$81.08 million]. We urge the government to crack down on intellectual property theft against Taiwanese businesses,” chairman Chang Jen-hung (張仁鴻) said.

Hsin Fang is a grinding mill machine manufacturer, which are used to produce ultra-fine nanopowders for use in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, consumer electronics, health food, anti-radiation coating, military weapons and in other industrial applications.

Company officials said their nanopowder grinding mill, which incorporates an innovative “dry cryo-nanonization grinding system,” received a top award at a nanotechnology exhibition in Tokyo in 2012, and honors at other industry fairs in Taiwan and other countries. The investigation in 2014 followed reports that Chen, Yu and other former employees, backed by business associates, started a new company in Yunlin CountyUnicat Nano Advanced Materials & Devices Technology Co (環美凱特). Unicat Nano later moved to Chongqing, China, setting up nanotechnology businesses that, according to investigators, were based on intellectual property stolen from Hsin Fang by Chen, Yu and other former employees.


How To Replace Air Conditionning And Save Electricity Bill

A team of researchers from Institut Teknologi Maju (ITMA), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) has succeeded in inventing a new system, known as Nanotechnology for Encapsulation of Phase Change Material (NPCM) that can bring down room temperature in buildings, thus minimising the use of air-conditioning or heating systems, and saving electricity bill.

skyscraper in the desertHead of research team, Prof. Dr. Mohd Zobir Hussein said the encapsulation technology could change material at nano-sized regime which is good for use as thermal energy storage media. “This NPCM method is the first of its kind in Malaysia that can absorb, store and release thermal heat when the surrounding temperature where the material is located is above or below melting temperature. These properties allow the phase change material to store the thermal energy when it melts and releases the energy when it solidifies,” he said.

If it is used as passive or active building component, it can help in controlling the internal building temperature fluctuations which will result in thermal-comfort buildings. This will reduce dependency of building occupants to air conditioning or heating systems and electricity consumption, indirectly reducing carbon dioxide emissionNPCM can be incorporated into cement or paint as active insulation materials and apply to the ceilings or walls of the buildings,” told Dr. Mohd Zobir Hussein  at a Press Conference during 2016 ITMA Innovation Day. He also said if it is incorporated into building components, it will not give any adverse effect to the structure integrity of the buildings.


Teeth: nanoparticles increase the efficiency of bacterial killing more than 5,000-fold

The bacteria that live in dental plaque and contribute to tooth decay often resist traditional antimicrobial treatment, as they can “hide within a sticky biofilm matrix, a glue-like polymer scaffold.

A new strategy conceived by University of Pennsylvania researchers took a more sophisticated approach. Instead of simply applying an antimicrobial to the teeth, they took advantage of the pH-sensitive and enzyme-like properties of iron-containing nanoparticles to catalyze the activity of hydrogen peroxide, a commonly used natural antiseptic. The activated hydrogen peroxide produced free radicals that were able to simultaneously degrade the biofilm matrix and kill the bacteria within, significantly reducing plaque and preventing the tooth decay, or cavities, in an animal model.

Beautiful woman smile. Dental health care clinic.Even using a very low concentration of hydrogen peroxide, the process was incredibly effective at disrupting the biofilm,” said Hyun (Michel) Koo, a professor in the Penn School of Dental Medicine’s Department of Orthodontics  and the senior author of the study, which was published in the journal Biomaterials. “Adding nanoparticles increased the efficiency of bacterial killing more than 5,000-fold.”



Remote-Controlled NanoRobots Move Like A Bacterium In The Body

For the past few years, scientists around the world have been studying ways to use miniature robots to better treat a variety of diseases. The robots are designed to enter the human body, where they can deliver drugs at specific locations or perform precise operations like clearing clogged-up arteries. By replacing invasive, often complicated surgery, they could optimize medicine.

medical robots

Scientist Selman Sakar from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland  teamed up with Hen-Wei Huang and Bradley Nelson at ETHZ to develop a simple and versatile method for building such bio-inspired robots and equipping them with advanced features. They also created a platform for testing several robot designs and studying different modes of locomotion. Their work, published in Nature Communications, produced complex reconfigurable microrobots that can be manufactured with high throughput. They built an integrated manipulation platform that can remotely control the robots’ mobility with electromagnetic fields, and cause them to shape-shift using heat.

Unlike conventional robots, these microrobots are soft, flexible, and motor-less. They are made of a biocompatible hydrogel and magnetic nanoparticles. These nanoparticles have two functions. They give the microrobots their shape during the manufacturing process, and make them move and swim when an electromagnetic field is applied.

Building one of these nanorobots involves several steps. First, the nanoparticles are placed inside layers of a biocompatible hydrogel. Then an electromagnetic field is applied to orientate the nanoparticles at different parts of the robot, followed by a polymerization step to “solidify” the hydrogel. After this, the robot is placed in water where it folds in specific ways depending on the orientation of the nanoparticles inside the gel, to form the final overall 3D architecture of the nanorobot.

Once the final shape is achieved, an electromagnetic field is used to make the robot swim. Then, when heated, the robot changes shape and “unfolds”. This fabrication approach allowed the researchers to build microrobots that mimic the bacterium that causes African trypanosomiasis, otherwise known as sleeping sickness. This particular bacterium uses a flagellum for propulsion, but hides it away once inside a person’s bloodstream as a survival mechanism.

The researchers tested different microrobot designs to come up with one that imitates this behavior. The prototype robot presented in this work has a bacterium-like flagellum that enables it to swim. When heated with a laser, the flagellum wraps around the robot’s body and is “hidden”.


How To Hide An Object

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL)’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, worked with UK industry to demonstrate for the first time a practical cloaking device that allows curved surfaces to appear flat to electromagnetic waves.

While the research might not lead to the invisibility cloak made famous in J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter novels quite yet, this practical demonstration could result in a step-change in how antennas are tethered to their platform. It could allow for antennas in different shapes and sizes to be attached in awkward places and a wide variety of materials.
cloak in actionCo-author, Professor Yang Hao from  QMUL’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, said: “The design is based upon transformation optics, a concept behind the idea of the invisibility cloak. Previous research has shown this technique working at one frequency. However, we can demonstrate that it works at a greater range of frequencies making it more useful for other engineering applications, such as nano-antennas and the aerospace industry.”

The researchers coated a curved surface, similar to the size of a tennis ball with a nanocomposite medium, which has seven distinct layers (called graded index nanocomposite) where the electric property of each layer varies depending on the position. The effect is to ‘cloak’ the object: such a structure can hide an object that would ordinarily have caused the wave to be scattered.

First author Dr Luigi La Spada also from QMUL’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, said: “The study and manipulation of surface waves is the key to develop technological and industrial solutions in the design of real-life platforms, for different application fieldsWe demonstrated a practical possibility to use nanocomposites to control surface wave propagation through advanced additive manufacturing. Perhaps most importantly, the approach used can be applied to other physical phenomena that are described by wave equations, such as acoustics. For this reason, we believe that this work has a great industrial impact.”


Stamp Hard Disk For NanoComputer Contains All Books Ever Written

Every day, modern society creates more than a billion gigabytes of new data. To store all this data, it is increasingly important that each single bit occupies as little space as possible. A team of scientists at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at Delft University (Netherlands) managed to bring this reduction to the ultimate limit: they built a memory of 1 kilobyte (8,000 bits), where each bit is represented by the position of one single chlorine atom.
In 1959, physicist Richard Feynman challenged his colleagues to engineer the world at the smallest possible scale. In his famous lecture There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, he speculated that if we had a platform allowing us to arrange individual atoms in an exact orderly pattern, it would be possible to store one piece of information per atom. To honor the visionary Feynman, Otte and his team now coded a section of Feynman’s lecture on an area 100 nanometers wide
Hard disk for nanocomputer

In theory, this storage density would allow all books ever created by humans to be written on a single post stamp”, says lead-scientist Sander Otte. They reached a storage density of 500 Terabits per square inch (Tbpsi), 500 times better than the best commercial hard disk currently available. His team reports on this memory in Nature Nanotechnology on Monday July 18.


Fighting Cancer: Targeting A Molecule In The Blood Vessels

Even as researchers design more-potent new cancer therapies, they face a major challenge in making sure the drugs affect tumors specifically without also harming normal cells. This obstacle has thwarted many promising treatments.

Now, researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medicine have devised an innovative strategy for addressing this problem. Rather than aiming directly at cancer cells, they are focusing on targeting a molecule in the blood vessels that feed tumors and using nanotechnology to deliver tiny particles that will stick to the target and unleash their payload of cancer drugs.

coverThis image depicts the protein P-selectin (red) in the blood vessels (green) in a metastatic lung tumor

We know that cancer cells in the blood can come into contact with P-selectin on blood vessel walls to stop them from circulating and to begin the formation of metastatic tumors,” said Dr. Daniel Heller, a molecular pharmacologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering and an assistant professor of pharmacology a at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences. “So in effect, we’re hacking into the metastatic process in order to intercept the cells and destroy the cancer.”

The target, a protein called P-selectin, serves as a kind of molecular Velcro for cancer treatments. It is especially prevalent in blood vessels that nourish cancer itself — including metastatic tumors, which cause roughly 90 percent of cancer deaths and are especially hard to treat.

The ability to target drugs to metastatic tumors would greatly improve their effectiveness and be a major advance for cancer treatments,” said lead author Dr. Yosi Shamay, a research fellow in Dr. Heller’s laboratory at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Dr. Heller’s laboratory investigates the use of nanoparticles — tiny objects with diameters one thousandth that of a human hair — to carry drugs to tumors. The drugs are encapsulated within the nanoparticles, which must home in on a target within or near tumors to deliver the therapies effectively.
Dr. Shamay made the nanoparticles out of a very abundant and cheap substance called fucoidan, which is extracted from brown algae that grows in the ocean. Fucoidan has a natural affinity for P-selectin, so the nanoparticle is simple to make and adapt.

It’s difficult to develop a nanoparticle-based treatment that is effective and safe in lots of people,” Dr. Heller said. “You usually have to load both the drug and another component to the nanoparticle to enable the nanoparticle to bind to the correct spot — and any new element carries the potential to be toxic. But in this case, the nanoparticle itself is made of material that naturally attaches to the target”.

The researchers described this method in a study published June 29 and featured on the cover of Science Translational Medicine.


How To Save The Bees

It’s a global phenomenon that worries beekeepers and environmentalistshoney bee colonies dying at an alarming rate. Here in Poland, bee population has halved in the past 15 years. A disease called nosemosis is one cause.


Nosemosis is a very serious disease which shortens the bees’ lifespan. Infected worker bees live for a very short time in the summer, about 8 to 12 days, while they normally live 36 days. So the productivity of the whole bee family decreases and bees also have problems with passing the winter“, says Aneta Ptaszinska from the Maria-Curie Sklodowska University in Lublin (UMCS – Poland).

Nosema disease, or nosemosis is a honey bee gut disease caused by microscopic fungi that spread through food or water. When consumed it attacks the insects’ intestines, causing them to constantly search for food and eventually die in the process. Some studies blame pesticides for having a negative influence on the bees’ immune system, which then cannot fight off the fungi. But Ptaszynska says a new drug developed by her team strengthens the immune system to help beat the disease.

On one hand they decrease the level of Nosemosis, we can clearly observe a decrease in the number of spores in the intestines of bees given the extracts. On the other hand, they increase the level of enzymes responsible for the immunological reaction of the insects, enzymes which recognize pathogens, foreign bodies. We assume that in this way the extracts help the bees overcome this disease“, comments Dr. Ptaszinska.  She adds that the floral extract is safe for human consumption, and is effective in more than 90 percent of cases. Bees are vital for the world’s food supply, pollinating the vegetables and fruits we eat and those eaten by the animals we then consume. The drug is undergoing patenting procedures, and the team hopes that it creates enough buzz to find the right partners for production and distribution soon.


How To Turn CO2 Into Rock

An international team of scientists have found a potentially viable way to remove anthropogenic (caused or influenced by humans) carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphereturn it into rock.

The study, published today in Science, has shown for the first time that the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) can be permanently and rapidly locked away from the atmosphere, by injecting it into volcanic bedrock. The CO2 reacts with the surrounding rock, forming environmentally benign minerals.


Measures to tackle the problem of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and resultant climate change are numerous. One approach is Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), where CO2 is physically removed from the atmosphere and trapped underground. Geoengineers have long explored the possibility of sealing CO2 gas in voids underground, such as in abandoned oil and gas reservoirs, but these are susceptible to leakage. So attention has now turned to the mineralisation of carbon to permanently dispose of CO2.

Until now it was thought that this process would take several hundreds to thousands of years and is therefore not a practical option. But the current study – led by Columbia University, University of Iceland, University of Toulouse and Reykjavik Energy – has demonstrated that it can take as little as two years.

Lead author Dr Juerg Matter, Associate Professor in Geoengineering at the University of Southampton, says: “Our results show that between 95 and 98 per cent of the injected CO2 was mineralised over the period of less than two years, which is amazingly fast.”

Carbonate minerals do not leak out of the ground, thus our newly developed method results in permanent and environmentally friendly storage of CO2 emissions,” adds Dr Matter, who is also a member of the University’s Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute and Adjunct Senior Scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Columbia University. “On the other hand, basalt is one of the most common rock type on Earth, potentially providing one of the largest CO2 storage capacity.

Storing CO2 as carbonate minerals significantly enhances storage security which should improve public acceptance of Carbon Capture and Storage as a climate change mitigation technology,” says Dr Matter. “The overall scale of our study was relatively small. So, the obvious next step for CarbFix is to upscale CO2 storage in basalt. This is currently happening at Reykjavik Energy’s Hellisheidi geothermal power plant, where up to 5,000 tonnes of CO2 per year are captured and stored in a basaltic reservoir.”


3D Nano-structured Porous Electrodes Boost Batteries

Battery-life is increasingly the sticking point of technological progress.The latest electric vehicles can practically drive themselve, but only for so long. Outback energy woes look like they could be solved by solar and home energy storage, if the available batteries can be improved. And what about the Pokemon GO players, cutting hunting trips short due to the battery-sapping requirements of the app?

The solution could come from Sunshine Coast nanotechnology company Nano Nouvelle, which is developing a three-dimensional, nano-structured, porous electrode that it says will help overcome the limitations of today’s batteries.The company announced today that its ‘Nanodenanomaterials were being tested and trialled by two unnamed US specialist battery manufacturers.


CEO Stephanie Moroz said she hoped the profile of the trials would lead to wider adoption.“As Tesla proved with its Roadster EV sportscar, this sort of low-volume, high-margin starting point can provide a high visibility platform to demonstrate the benefits of innovative technology, which can accelerate its adoption by mass market manufacturers.”

Nano Nouvelle’s core technology, the Nanode uses tin as the electrode material, which has a much higher energy density than the current graphite technology. However, until now tin’s commercial use had been limited due to its tendency to swell during charging and subsequently lose energy.

This issue is overcome by the Nanode’s structure, made up of thin films of active material spread over a 3D and porous network of fibres, rather than stacked on a flat copper foil.

This enables the electrode structure to deal with the volume expansion of the tin while retaining dimensional stability at the electrode level. The result is batteries that can store the same amount of energy in a smaller volume, compared to commercial lithium ion batteries.

Moroz said she believed the nanotechnology could be easily incorporated into the existing battery manufacturing process. Moroz said she believed the nanotechnology could be easily incorporated into the existing battery manufacturing process.

We’re looking to make it plug and play for battery manufacturers,” she said.


One Molecule Plays David Against The Goliath Of Aging

Are pomegranates really the superfood we’ve been led to believe will counteract the aging process? Up to now, scientific proof has been fairly weak. And some controversial marketing tactics have led to skepticism as well. A team of scientists from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland and the company Amazentis wanted to explore the issue by taking a closer look at the secrets of this plump pink fruit. They discovered that a molecule in pomegranates, transformed by microbes in the gut, enables muscle cells to protect themselves against one of the major causes of aging. In nematodes and rodents, the effect is nothing short of amazing. Human clinical trials are currently underway, but these initial findings have already been published in the journal Nature Medicine. 


As we age, our cells increasingly struggle to recycle their powerhouses. Called mitochondria, these inner compartments are no longer able to carry out their vital function, thus accumulate in the cell. This degradation affects the health of many tissues, including muscles, which gradually weaken over the years. A buildup of dysfunctional mitochondria is also suspected of playing a role in other diseases of aging, such as Parkinson’s disease.
The scientists identified a molecule that, all by itself, managed to re-establish the cell’s ability to recycle the components of the defective mitochondria: urolithin A. “It’s the only known molecule that can relaunch the mitochondrial clean-up process, otherwise known as mitophagy,” says Patrick Aebischer, co-author on the study. “It’s a completely natural substance, and its effect is powerful and measurable.”

The team started out by testing their hypothesis on the usual suspect: the nematode C. elegans. It’s a favorite test subject among aging experts, because after just 8-10 days it’s already considered elderly. The lifespan of worms exposed to urolithin A increased by more than 45% compared with the control group.

These initial encouraging results led the team to test the molecule on animals that have more in common with humans. In the rodent studies, like with C. elegans, a significant reduction in the number of mitochondria was observed, indicating that a robust cellular recycling process was taking place. Older mice, around two years of age, showed 42% better endurance while running than equally old mice in the control group.

According to study co-author Johan Auwerx, it would be surprising if urolithin A weren’t effective in humans. “Species that are evolutionarily quite distant, such as C elegans and the rat, react to the same substance in the same way. That’s a good indication that we’re touching here on an essential mechanism in living organisms.”

Urolithin A’s function is the product of tens of millions of years of parallel evolution between plants, bacteria and animals. According to Chris Rinsch, co-author and CEO of Amazentis, this evolutionary process explains the molecule’s effectiveness: “Precursors to urolithin A are found not only in pomegranates, but also in smaller amounts in many nuts and berries. Yet for it to be produced in our intestines, the bacteria must be able to break down what we’re eating. When, via digestion, a substance is produced that is of benefit to us, natural selection favors both the bacteria involved and their host. Our objective is to follow strict clinical validations, so that everyone can benefit from the result of these millions of years of evolution.”



Nanocomputer: How To Grow Atomically Thin Transistors

In an advance that helps pave the way for next-generation electronics and computing technologies—and possibly paper-thin gadgets —scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) developed a way to chemically assemble transistors and circuits that are only a few atoms thick. What’s more, their method yields functional structures at a scale large enough to begin thinking about real-world applications and commercial scalability“This is a big step toward a scalable and repeatable way to build atomically thin electronics or pack more computing power in a smaller area,” says Xiang Zhang*, a senior scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division who led the study.

Their work is part of a new wave of research aimed at keeping pace with Moore’s Law, which holds that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. In order to keep this pace, scientists predict that integrated electronics will soon require transistors that measure less than ten nanometers in length (nanocomputer). Transistors are electronic switches, so they need to be able to turn on and off, which is a characteristic of semiconductors. However, at the nanometer scale, silicon transistors likely won’t be a good option. That’s because silicon is a bulk material, and as electronics made from silicon become smaller and smaller, their performance as switches dramatically decreases, which is a major roadblock for future electronics.

Researchers have looked to two-dimensional crystals that are only one molecule thick as alternative materials to keep up with Moore’s Law. These crystals aren’t subject to the constraints of silicon. In this vein, the Berkeley Lab scientists developed a way to seed a single-layered semiconductor, in this case the TMDC molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), into channels lithographically etched within a sheet of conducting graphene. The two atomic sheets meet to form nanometer-scale junctions that enable graphene to efficiently inject current into the MoS2. These junctions make atomically thin transistors.

assembly of 2D crystals
This schematic shows the chemical assembly of two-dimensional crystals. Graphene is first etched into channels and the TMDC molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) begins to nucleate around the edges and within the channel. On the edges, MoS2 slightly overlaps on top of the graphene. Finally, further growth results in MoS2 completely filling the channels.

This approach allows for the chemical assembly of electronic circuits, using two-dimensional materials, which show improved performance compared to using traditional metals to inject current into TMDCs,” says Mervin Zhao, a lead author and Ph.D. student in Zhang’s group at Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley.

Optical and electron microscopy images, and spectroscopic mapping, confirmed various aspects related to the successful formation and functionality of the two-dimensional transistors. In addition, the scientists demonstrated the applicability of the structure by assembling it into the logic circuitry of an inverter. This further underscores the technology’s ability to lay the foundation for a chemically assembled atomic computer or nanocomputer, the scientists say. “Both of these two-dimensional crystals have been synthesized in the wafer scale in a way that is compatible with current semiconductor manufacturing. By integrating our technique with other growth systems, it’s possible that future computing can be done completely with atomically thin crystals,” says Zhao.

*Zhang also holds the Ernest S. Kuh Endowed Chair at the University of California (UC) Berkeley and is a member of the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute at Berkeley. Other scientists who contributed to the research include Mervin Zhao, Yu Ye, Yang Xia, Hanyu Zhu, Siqi Wang, and Yuan Wang from UC Berkeley as well as Yimo Han and David Muller from Cornell University.


Nano Solar Cells

A humming laboratory is birthing tiny solar cells – the first such devices created on campus – as Kennesaw State (KSU) in Georgia researchers strive to develop better photovoltaic technologies. Sandip Das, assistant professor of electrical engineering in the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, along with a team of three undergraduate research assistants, has recently fabricated the delicate solar cells, which are about 100 times thinner than a human hair. The future of solar power generation is in these flexible solar cells, Das said.  He and his research team are investigating various nano-materials to fabricate the third-generation solar cells. The researchers hope to develop a superior photovoltaic technology that produces cheaper and more efficient solar cells.

3rd generation Solar Cells

The most fascinating part of doing this research is the enormous potential that this new technology offers, such as integrating flexible solar cells on wearable electronics, backpacks and self-charging cell phones and electricity-generating layers on windows, especially on skyscrapers, and solar power’s ability to supply a large amount of clean, renewable and cheap energy for the future,” said David Danilchuk, an electrical engineering major who is an undergraduate research assistant on the project.

In the laboratory, the research team fabricated the solar cells’ multiple nano-structured layers using a unique manufacturing process. Specialty instruments, like electron microscopes, as well as X-ray spectroscopy techniques and precision electronic measurement systems, enable the research team to investigate and better understand the cells’ behavior.

Baker Nour, an electrical engineering student and member of the research team, explained that the fabrication process developed by the team can produce these solar cells on plastic substrates to create flexible solar cells — one of the most advanced ideas in solar technology today.

In practice, these flexible solar panels can be beneficial after catastrophic storms. Disaster relief personnel could transport rolled-up solar panels to produce portable power on site, Das explained. Commercial building developers also are eyeing smart building applications, like transparent solar panels for windows, so skyscrapers can generate solar power and be more energy efficient.  The most promising materials systems for future generation solar cells, according to Das, are the materials that his research team applies in their fabrication – an ultra-thin hybrid Perovskite noncrystalline film. Rather than using expensive silicon, they fabricate their solar cells on cheap glass substrates like those in windows and beverage bottles. The team plans to explore the fabrication process so they can develop solar cells on flexible plastics or metal foils, without requiring expensive materials, million-dollar equipment or scientific-grade clean rooms.

For the past 20 years, efficiency of silicon solar cells could not be improved much after substantial research efforts globally,” Das said.  He explained that silicon is not a good light absorber, and new technologies are needed to create high-efficiency cells at a lower cost. The new bandgap-engineered Perovskite crystals, which his team is investigating, can absorb a wider spectrum of sunlight compared to silicon, on a film that is 200 times thinner than silicon cells.



Nanotech Tatoo Maps Emotions

A new temporary “electronic tattoo” developed by Tel Aviv University that can measure the activity of muscle and nerve cells researchers is poised to revolutionize medicine, rehabilitation, and even business and marketing research. The tattoo consists of a carbon electrode, an adhesive surface that attaches to the skin, and a nanotechnology-based conductive polymer coating that enhances the electrode‘s performance. It records a strong, steady signal for hours on end without irritating the skin.

The electrode, developed by Prof. Yael Hanein, head of TAU‘s Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, may improve the therapeutic restoration of damaged nerves and tissue — and may even lead to new insights into our emotional life. Prof. Hanein’s research was published last month in Scientific Reports and presented at an international nanomedicine program held at TAU. One major application of the new electrode is the mapping of emotion by monitoring facial expressions through electric signals received from facial muscles.


The ability to identify and map people’s emotions has many potential uses,” said Prof. Hanein. “Advertisers, pollsters, media professionals, and others — all want to test people’s reactions to various products and situations. Today, with no accurate scientific tools available, they rely mostly on inevitably subjective questionnaires.

Researchers worldwide are trying to develop methods for mapping emotions by analyzing facial expressions, mostly via photos and smart software,” Prof. Hanein continued. “But our skin electrode provides a more direct and convenient solution.”


How To Triple Perovskite Solar Cells Efficiency

A new type of two-dimensional-layered perovskite developed by Northwestern University, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Rice University researchers will open up new horizons for next-generation stable solar-cell devices and new opto-electronic devices such as light-emitting diodes, lasers and sensors.

The research team has tweaked its crystal production method and developed a 2-D perovskite with outstanding stability and more than triple the material’s previous power conversion efficiency. This could bring perovskite crystals closer to use in the burgeoning solar power industry.

flipping crystals

  • Crystal orientation has been a puzzle for more than two decades, and this is the first time we’ve been able to flip the crystal in the actual casting process,” said Hsinhan Tsai, a Rice graduate student at Los Alamos working with senior researcher and study lead co-author Aditya Mohite.

This is our breakthrough, using our spin-casting technique to create layered crystals whose electrons flow vertically down the material without being blocked, mid layer, by organic cations,” Tsai said.

Northwestern scientists created the two-dimensional material used by the researchers at Los Alamos in the new solar cells. Mercouri G. Kanatzidis, the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and Costas Stoumpos, a postdoctoral fellow in Kanatzidis’ group, had been exploring an interesting 2-D material that orients its layers perpendicular to the substrate.

This breakthrough resulted from a very strong synergy between our institutions — the materials design team at Northwestern that designed and prepared high-quality samples of the materials and showed they are promising and the Los Alamos team’s excellent skills in making solar cells and optimizing them to high performance,” Kanatzidis said.

Wanyi Nie, a Los Alamos co-author on the paper, noted, “The new 2-D perovskite is both more efficient and more stable, both under constant lighting and in exposure to the air, than the existing 3-D organic-inorganic crystals.

The study was published July 6 by the journal Nature.


Nanotechnologies Crush the Road Construction Costs

The solution for affordable road infrastructure development could lie in the use of nanotechnology, according to a paper presented at the 35th annual Southern African Transport Conference in Pretoria. The cost of upgrading, maintaining and rehabilitating road infrastructure with limited funds makes it impossible for sub-Saharan Africa to become competitive in the world market, according to Professor Gerrit Jordaan of the University of Pretoria, a speaker at the conference. The affordability of road infrastructure depends on the materials used, the environment in which the road will be built and the traffic that will be using the road, explained Professor James Maina of the department of civil engineering at the University of Pretoria. Hauling materials to a construction site contributes hugely to costs, which planners try to minimise by getting materials closer to the site. But if there aren’t good quality materials near the site, another option is to modify poor quality materials for construction purposes. This is where nanotechnology comes in.


Nanomaterial is really small; five nanometers are equivalent to 0.05mm,” explained Maina. The materials bind with the poor quality material which needs to be modified, and can then change the behaviour of the material.

For example, if the material is clay soil, it has a high affinity to water so when it absorbs water it expands, and when it dries out it contracts. Nanotechnology can make the soil water repellent. “Essentially, nanotechnology changes the properties to work for the construction process,” he said.

These nanotechnology-based products have been used successfully in many parts of the world, including India, the USA and in the West African region.
“We need to have roads to enable mass movement of people and goods,” said Maina. Well-maintained road infrastructure ensures optimal speed of movement, opening up economic opportunities for people. Moving goods safely is also important as damaged goods translate into economic cost, he explained. “For a country to be competitive globally, we need to reduce costs as much as possible. We need well maintained and well planned road infrastructure,” comments Maina.


How To Map RNA Molecules In The Brain

Cells contain thousands of messenger RNA molecules, which carry copies of DNA’s genetic instructions to the rest of the cell. MIT engineers have now developed a way to visualize these molecules in higher resolution than previously possible in intact tissues, allowing researchers to precisely map the location of RNA throughout cells. Key to the new technique is expanding the tissue before imaging it. By making the sample physically larger, it can be imaged with very high resolution using ordinary microscopes commonly found in research labs.

MIT RNA-Imaging

Now we can image RNA with great spatial precision, thanks to the expansion process, and we also can do it more easily in large intact tissues,” says Ed Boyden, an associate professor of biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, a member of MIT’s Media Lab and McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and the senior author of a paper describing the technique in the July 4 issue of Nature Methods.

Studying the distribution of RNA inside cells could help scientists learn more about how cells control their gene expression and could also allow them to investigate diseases thought to be caused by failure of RNA to move to the correct location.


Solar Cells: How To Boost Perovkite Efficiency Up To 31%

Scientists from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have discovered a possible secret to dramatically boosting the efficiency of perovskite solar cells hidden in the nanoscale peaks and valleys of the crystalline material.

Solar cells made from compounds that have the crystal structure of the mineral perovskite have captured scientists’ imaginations. They’re inexpensive and easy to fabricate, like organic solar cells. Even more intriguing, the efficiency at which perovskite solar cells convert photons to electricity has increased more rapidly than any other material to date, starting at three percent in 2009—when researchers first began exploring the material’s photovoltaic capabilities—to 22 percent today. This is in the ballpark of the efficiency of silicon solar cells.

Now, as reported online July 4 in the journal Nature Energy, a team of scientists from the Molecular Foundry and the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, both at Berkeley Lab, found a surprising characteristic of a perovskite solar cell that could be exploited for even higher efficiencies, possibly up to 31 percent.

Using photoconductive atomic force microscopy, the scientists mapped two properties on the active layer of the solar cell that relate to its photovoltaic efficiency. The maps revealed a bumpy surface composed of grains about 200 nanometers in length, and each grain has multi-angled facets like the faces of a gemstone. Unexpectedly, the scientists discovered a huge difference in energy conversion efficiency between facets on individual grains. They found poorly performing facets adjacent to highly efficient facets, with some facets approaching the material’s theoretical energy conversion limit of 31 percent. The scientists say these top-performing facets could hold the secret to highly efficient solar cells, although more research is needed.

perovskite solar panel

“If the material can be synthesized so that only very efficient facets develop, then we could see a big jump in the efficiency of perovskite solar cells, possibly approaching 31 percent,” says Sibel Leblebici, a postdoctoral researcher at the Molecular Foundry.

Leblebici works in the lab of Alexander Weber-Bargioni, who is a corresponding author of the paper that describes this research. Ian Sharp, also a corresponding author, is a Berkeley Lab scientist at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis. Other Berkeley Lab scientists who contributed include Linn Leppert, Francesca Toma, and Jeff Neaton, the director of the Molecular Foundry.


Diabetes drug eliminates insulin injections

More than 400 million people around the world suffer from diabetes. Until recently it was thought that Type 2 diabetes was an adult onset condition. However, the WHO says it’s now occurring increasingly in children too. So news that Israeli drugmaker Oramed Pharmaceuticals Inc has developed an experimental oral insulin that safely reduces night-time blood glucose levels in type 2 patients is promising. Oramed‘s chief executive Nadav Kidron says the drug’s mid-stage trial shows there could be a healthier alternative to insulin injections.

When you give it as an injection, it goes straight into the blood stream but when we give it orally, it goes first, it’s passed to the liver . . . and the liver is the organ that regulates the secretion of the insulin into the blood stream so that’s why it’s the healthier, more physiological way to treat diabetes through oral insulin“, Kidron says.

The study is surprising because until now many researchers thought insulin couldn’t survive the onslaught of digestive juices. Oramed says the new drug uses a protective coating and a high-enough dose of insulin so that most of it can be destroyed and still deliver a clinically beneficial amount of the hormone. The results must be replicated in a larger Phase III trial before the drug, known as ORMD-0801, can be submitted for approval.


Nanotechnology Against Watch Counterfeiters

Thanks to research currently being carried out at Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) research institute, an ultraviolet lamp may soon be all that you need to tell the difference between luxury watches and knock-offs. The “DNAwatch” technology is actually being developed by EPFL spinoff company Nanoga, and involves what is being referred to as a nanoscopic watermark.


Using a machine ordinarily used for manufacturing LEDs, a proprietary blend of chemicals is applied to a glass surface as a vapor, forming into photonic crystals. These crystals are in turn made up of ultrathin layers of atoms, and they convert UV light into colorsdifferent colors can be produced by tweaking the geometry and alignment of the crystals on the glass.

Lithographic printing techniques are used to mask some areas of the surface, so that the watermark takes on a watch-specific pattern. When viewed under visible light, that pattern is invisible to the human eye, in no way altering the watch’s appearance. Under UV light, however, the watermark shows up.

According to EPFL, counterfeiting such a watermark would be as difficult as forging the Swiss 50-franc note. Not only would counterfeiters need to know which chemicals to use and in what proportions, but they would also need expensive equipment to apply them.

A variation on the process should reportedly also work on ceramic and metal surfaces. Nanoga is currently shopping the DNAwatch technology around to various luxury watchmakers.


Bionic Cardiac Patch

Scientists have built a “bioniccardiac patch that could act similarly to a pacemaker and monitor as well as respond to cardiac problems, a kind of nanocomputer. The researchers from Harvard University constructed nanoscale electronic scaffolds that can be seeded with cardiac cells to produce a bionic cardiac patch — the engineered heart tissue with ability to replace heart muscle damaged during a heart attack.

bionic cardiac patch

I think one of the biggest impacts would ultimately be in the area that involves replaced of damaged cardiac tissue with pre-formed tissue patches,” said Charles Lieber, who along with colleagues described the work in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. “Rather than simply implanting an engineered patch built on a passive scaffold, our works suggests it will be possible to surgically implant an innervated patch that would now be able to monitor and subtly adjust its performance,” he added.

Once implanted, the “bionic” patch could act similarly to a pacemakerdelivering electrical shocks to correct arrhythmia. Unlike traditional pacemakers, the “bionic” patch — because its electronic components are integrated throughout the tissue — can detect arrhythmia far sooner, and operate at far lower voltages. “Even before a person started to go into large-scale arrhythmia that frequently causes irreversible damage or other heart problems, this could detect the early-stage instabilities and intervene sooner,” Lieber said. “It can also continuously monitor the feedback from the tissue and actively respond,” he added.

The patch might also find use as a tool to monitor the responses under cardiac drugs, or to help pharmaceutical companies to screen the effectiveness of drugs under development.


Vertical Farming

Odds are this isn’t like other farms you’re used to. Located in a warehouse in an urban New Jersey neighborhood,  Aerofarms grows crops year-round without using soil or sunlight. The company has an ambitious goal: to grow high-yielding crops using economical methods that will provide locally sourced food to the community.

“We need a new way to feed our planet. Aerofarms presents one of the solutions to do so. Here we can grow in cities, in warehouses in cities, so we’re close to where the mouths are, reducing those transport miles and basically do more with less. That’s what we need to do. We use to grow our plants, about 95 percent less water to grow the plants, about 50 percent less fertilizer as nutrients and … zero pesticides, herbicides, fungicides“, says David rosenberg, CEO of Aerofarms.

Inside, the 30,000 square foot building (2,800 square meter) are crops of kale, arugula and watercress illuminated by rows of light emitting diodes, or LED lamps, and planted in white fabric made from recycled water bottles. The levels of light, temperature and nutrients reaching each plant in the tall columns are controlled using what AeroFarms describes as a patented growing algorithm.

We can take that exact same seed for leafy greens that out in the field can take 30-45 days to grow and grow it in 12-16 days. It’s always about optimizing. We’re giving it the right nutrients. So we’re looking at the macro nutrients, the micro nutrients, we are adjusting based on the plant variety, the stage of maturation, and we’re able to again, deliver a higher quality product more consistently all year round“, says co-founder and Chief marketing officer Marc Oshima.

The result according to Oshima – a farm that can be 75 times more productive. The company’s model also eliminates transportation of crops from grow states like California and Arizona to consumers in the Northeast. While they aren’t saying just how much food they produce, plans are in development for a larger Newark facility, and 25 more farms in the United States and abroad over the next five years. If growth continues at that rate we could one day see our cities rival the countryside as the home of agriculture.


Nanotechnology Boosts Oil Recovery

As oil producers struggle to adapt to , getting as much oil as possible out of every well has become even more important, despite concerns from nearby residents that some chemicals used to boost production may pollute underground water resources.

Researchers from the University of Houston have reported the discovery of a nanotechnology-based solution that could address both issues – achieving 15 percent tertiary oil recovery at low cost, without the large volume of chemicals used in most commercial fluids. The solution – graphene-based Janus amphiphilic nanosheets – is effective at a concentration of just 0.01 percent, meeting or exceeding the performance of both conventional and other nanotechnology-based fluids, said Zhifeng Ren, MD Anderson Chair professor of physics. Janus nanoparticles have at least two physical properties, allowing different chemical reactions on the same particle.

The low concentration and the high efficiency in boosting tertiary oil recovery make the nanofluid both more environmentally friendly and less expensive than options now on the market, said Ren, who also is a principal investigator at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH. He is lead author on a paper describing the work, published June 27 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

oil well

Our results provide a novel nanofluid flooding method for tertiary oil recovery that is comparable to the sophisticated chemical methods,” they wrote. “We anticipate that this work will bring simple nanofluid flooding at low concentration to the stage of oilfield practice, which could result in oil being recovered in a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective manner.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates as much as 75 percent of recoverable reserves may be left after producers capture hydrocarbons that naturally rise to the surface or are pumped out mechanically, followed by a secondary recovery process using water or gas injection.

Traditional “tertiaryrecovery involves injecting a chemical mix into the well and can recover between 10 percent and 20 percent, according to the authors. But the large volume of chemicals used in tertiary oil recovery has raised concerns about potential environmental damage.

Obviously simple nanofluid flooding (containing only nanoparticles) at low concentration (0.01 wt% or less) shows the greatest potential from the environmental and economic perspective,” the researchers wrote.

Previously developed simple nanofluids recover less than 5 percent of the oil when used at a 0.01 percent concentration, they reported. That forces oil producers to choose between a higher nanoparticle concentration – adding to the cost – or mixing with polymers or surfactants. In contrast, they describe recovering 15.2 percent of the oil using their new and simple nanofluid at that concentration – comparable to chemical methods and about three times more efficient than other nanofluids.


Nanoparticle Attacks Agressive Thyroid Cancer

Anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC), the most aggressive form of thyroid cancer, has a mortality rate of nearly 100 percent and a median survival time of three to five months. One promising strategy for the treatment of these solid tumors and others is RNA interference (RNAi) nanotechnology, but delivering RNAi agents to the sites of tumors has proved challenging. Investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, together with collaborators from Massachusetts General Hospital, have developed an innovative nanoplatform that allows them to effectively deliver RNAi agents to the sites of cancer and suppress tumor growth and reduce metastasis in preclinical models of ATC.

thyroid cancer

We call this a ‘theranostic’ platform because it brings a therapy and a diagnostic together in one functional nanoparticle,” said co-senior author Jinjun Shi, PhD, assistant professor of Anesthesia in the Anesthesia Department. “We expect this study to pave the way for the development of theranostic platforms for image-guided RNAi delivery to advanced cancers.”

RNAi, the discovery of which won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 10 years ago, allows researchers to silence mutated genes, including those upon which cancers depend to grow and survive and metastasize. Many ATCs depend upon mutations in the commonly mutated cancer gene BRAF. By delivering RNAi agents that specifically target and silence this mutated gene, the investigators hoped to stop both the growth and the spread of ATC, which often metastasizes to the lungs and other organs.

When RNAi is delivered on its own, it is usually broken down by enzymes or filtered out by the kidneys before it reaches tumor cells. Even when RNAi agents make it as far as the tumor, they are often unable to penetrate or are rejected by the cancer cells. To overcome these barriers, the investigators used nanoparticles to deliver the RNAi molecules to ATC tumors. In addition, they coupled the nanoparticles with a near-infrared fluorescent polymer, which allowed them to see where the nanoparticles accumulated in a mouse model of ATC.

The results have appeared in the journal  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Hydrogen Fuel Stations

A Stanford University research lab has developed new technologies to tackle two of the world’s biggest energy challenges – clean fuel for transportation and grid-scale energy storageHydrogen fuel has long been touted as a clean alternative to gasoline. Automakers began offering hydrogen-powered cars to American consumers last year, but only a handful have sold, mainly because hydrogen refueling stations are few and far between.

silicone nanoconesStanford engineers created arrays of silicon nanocones to trap sunlight and improve the performance of solar cells made of bismuth vanadate

Millions of cars could be powered by clean hydrogen fuel if it were cheap and widely available,” said Yi Cui, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford.

Unlike gasoline-powered vehicles, which emit carbon dioxide, hydrogen cars themselves are emissions free. Making hydrogen fuel, however, is not emission free: Today, making most hydrogen fuel involves natural gas in a process that releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

To address the problem, Cui and his colleagues have focused on photovoltaic water splitting. This emerging technology consists of a solar-powered electrode immersed in water. When sunlight hits the electrode, it generates an electric current that splits the water into its constituent parts, hydrogen and oxygen. Finding an affordable way to produce clean hydrogen from water has been a challenge. Conventional solar electrodes made of silicon quickly corrode when exposed to oxygen, a key byproduct of water splitting. Several research teams have reduced corrosion by coating the silicon with iridium and other precious metals.
The researchers described their findings in two studies published this month in the journals Science Advances and Nature Communications. 

Writing in the June 17 edition of Sciences Advances, Cui and his colleagues presented a new approach using bismuth vanadate, an inexpensive compound that absorbs sunlight and generates modest amounts of electricity.

Bismuth vanadate has been widely regarded as a promising material for photoelectrochemical water splitting, in part because of its low cost and high stability against corrosion,” said Cui, who is also an associate professor of photon science at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. “However, the performance of this material remains well below its theoretical solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency.”

Bismuth vanadate absorbs light but is a poor conductor of electricity. To carry a current, a solar cell made of bismuth vanadate must be sliced very thin, 200 nanometers or less, making it virtually transparent. As a result, visible light that could be used to generate electricity simply passes through the cell.

To capture sunlight before it escapes, Cui’s team turned to nanotechnology. The researchers created microscopic arrays containing thousands of silicon nanocones, each about 600 nanometers tall.

Nanocone structures have shown a promising light-trapping capability over a broad range of wavelengths,” Cui explained. “Each cone is optimally shaped to capture sunlight that would otherwise pass through the thin solar cell.”

In the experiment, Cui and his colleagues deposited the nanocone arrays on a thin film of bismuth vanadate. Both layers were then placed on a solar cell made of perovskite, another promising photovoltaic material.

When submerged, the three-layer tandem device immediately began splitting water at a solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency of 6.2 percent, already matching the theoretical maximum rate for a bismuth vanadate cell.


Smart Threads For Clothing And Robots

Fabrics containing flexible electronics are appearing in many novel products, such as clothes with in-built screens and solar panels. More impressively, these fabrics can act as electronic skins that can sense their surroundings and could have applications in robotics and prosthetic medicine. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST – Saudi Arabia) researchers have now developed smart threads that detect the strength and location of pressures exerted on them1. Most flexible sensors function by detecting changes in the electrical properties of materials in response to pressure, temperature, humidity or the presence of gases. Electronic skins are built up as arrays of several individual sensors. These arrays currently need complex wiring and data analysis, which makes them too heavy, large or expensive for large-scale production.

Yanlong Tai and Gilles Lubineau from the University’s Division of Physical Science and Engineering have found a different approach. They built their smart threads from cotton threads coated with layers of one of the miracle materials of nanotechnology: single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs).

smart threadsThe twisted smart threads developed by KAUST researchers can be woven into pressure-sensitive electronic skin fabrics for use in novel clothing, robots or medical prosthetics

Cotton threads are a classic material for fabrics, so they seemed a logical choice,” said Lubineau. “Networks of nanotubes are also known to have piezoresistive properties, meaning their electrical resistance depends on the applied pressure.”

The researchers showed their threads had decreased resistance when subjected to stronger mechanical strains, and crucially the amplitude of the resistance change also depended on the thickness of the SWCNT coating.

These findings led the researchers to their biggest breakthrough: they developed threads of graded thickness with a thick SWCNT layer at one end tapering to a thin layer at the other end. Then, by combining threads in pairs—one with graded thickness and one of uniform thickness—the researchers could not only detect the strength of an applied pressure load, but also the position of the load along the threads.

Our system is not the first technology to sense both the strength and position of applied pressures, but our graded structure avoids the need for complicated electrode wirings, heavy data recording and analysis,” said Tai.

The researchers have used their smart threads to build two- and three-dimensional arrays that accurately detect pressures similar to those that real people and robots might be exposed to.
We hope that electronic skins made from our smart threads could benefit any robot or medical prosthetic in which pressure sensing is important, such as artificial hands,” said Lubineau.

Walking on The Street With Your Massaging Jacket

While it’s not visible to the naked eye, both of these people are getting a back massage, thanks to this jacket called the Airawear. Designed by TWare in Singapore, it uses air to create pressure on targeted parts of the upper and lower back with a massaging sensation. There are six inflatable pressure point relaxers that target muscles and pain points. They’re all controlled with a smart phone app, which means you’re free to continue working or going about your regular activities. CEO Lin Wei Liang says it’s the perfect solution, for people who spend their days hunched over computers.


We’re always in a tense, hunched-back position, in a bad posture, and that causes a lot of back pain and shoulder pain … So, in this context, it’s very hard for employees to maybe take out any kind of conventional massage device, or any hand-held massage device to start to provide some massage to themselves to get some form of relief. So what we have here is much more invisible, discreet, something that you can wear just like a normal hoodie or jacket, and yet you can get that massage without people noticing ,” says Lin Wei Liang, Tware CEO.

The device also has a posture correction feature that sends a signal when sensors detect the user needs an adjustment. Airawear does require a charge and has a built-in USB port so users can get three hours of continuous massage. At a recent trial potential buyers gave the $119 jacket a spin.

I thought it was great, I loved the pressure coming out of the jacket. You can basically feel your whole body just relaxing. The mode I was actually on was the “Relax” mode, so it’s not too much pressure, but it’s just enough that it makes you feel comfortable enough and at ease“, comments Cianta Seneviratne. As for the actual health benefits, not everyone agrees that the jacket should be used to treat back pain.

Physiotherapist Michelle Tong explains: “I would think that they’d wear it and forget about the time. You might be using it and working, and you might be massaged for five hours, for example. So you question whether the person would develop a tolerance to it, so each time they’re using it, they end up having to apply a high pressure each time, just to get the same effect, as you would if you were taking painkillers.

That doesn’t seem to be affecting Tware‘s plans. The company’s crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter, has already surpassed its goal by more than $50 thousand (USD). Deliveries of jackets are expected to begin in November of 2016.


Nanotechnology Key Driver for the Global Internet of Things Market

Analysts from Technavio,  a leading market research companyforecast the global internet of nano things (IoNT) market to grow at a annual growth rate of more than 24% during the 2016/2020  period, according to their latest report. The rise in the number of connected nanoscale devices in industries has led to generation of large data sets. These data can be used to optimize costs, deliver better services, and boost revenues. Also, the interconnection of nanoscale devices has enabled efficient data communication between disparate devices over the network. Thus, IoNT helps organizations to reduce the complexity in communication and increase the process efficiency using data collected from nanoscale devices.


Even governments have realized the importance of IoNT technology in the healthcare sector that can be used to treat cancer and other genetic diseases at the molecular level. This has further increased the demand and awareness of IoNT among multiple industries,” says Amit Sharma, a lead analyst at Technavio for research on IT professional services.

The report also highlights the US government’s National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) that supports the adoption of nanotechnology in industries, such as healthcare, defense, and textiles, due to its vast applications. This initiative has been awarded over USD 22 billion since 2001 to promote the adoption of nanoscience and nanotechnology by states, universities, and companies.

The rise in demand for miniaturization of electronics products coupled with increased consumer demand for smaller and more powerful devices at affordable prices has made nanotechnology more popular among industries. Both private and public sectors are investing heavily in R&D to tap the potential benefits of nanotechnology.

Also, the rise in commercialization of nanomaterials, such as nanocatalyst thin films for catalytic converters, nanotechnology-enhanced thin-film solar cells, and nanoscale electronic memory, is shaping the growth of the global nanotechnology market. Thus, there is an increase in the number of interconnected nanodevices. IoNT provides a communication infrastructure for interconnected nanodevices to share information and coordinate multiple activities over the Internet.

“The Internet revolution is fueling global connectivity by bringing unconnected devices, such as nanoscale devices, on the network. The nanonetwork technology is evolving to meet the needs of various applications. Such technologies provide an effective communication infrastructure for the rapid pace of communication among nanoscale devices,” comments Amit.

The scope of Internet has been extended due to increased interconnection of nanosensors with consumer devices and other physical assets. IoNT enables data collection, processing, and sharing with end-users. It finds application in industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, energy and utilities, and other services.


Artificial Intelligence Mimicks Biological Hierarchy

New research from University of Wyoming and INRIA (France) explains why so many biological networks, including the human brain (a network of neurons), exhibit a hierarchical structure, and will improve attempts to create artificial intelligence.

biological hierarchyThe evolution of hierarchy – a simple system of ranking – in biological networks may arise because of the costs associated with network connections

Like large businesses, many biological networks are hierarchically organised, such as gene, protein, neural, and metabolic networks. This means they have separate units that can each be repeatedly divided into smaller and smaller subunits. For example, the human brain has separate areas for motor control and tactile processing, and each of these areas consist of sub-regions that govern different parts of the body.

But why do so many biological networks evolve to be hierarchical? The results of the study suggest that hierarchy evolves not because it produces more efficient networks, but instead because hierarchically wired networks have fewer connections. This is because connections in biological networks are expensive – they have to be built, housed, maintained, etc. – and there is therefore an evolutionary pressure to reduce the number of connections.
The findings not only explain why biological networks are hierarchical, they might also give an explanation for why many man-made systems such as the Internet and road systems are also hierarchical“, comments Jeff Clune, author of the paper.

The study has been published in PLOS Computational Biology.


Perovskite Solar Cells Surpass 20% Efficiency

Researchers from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland are pushing the limits of perovskite solar cell performance by exploring the best way to grow these crystals.
Michael Graetzel and his team found that, by briefly reducing the pressure while fabricating perovskite crystals, they were able to achieve the highest performance ever measured for larger-size perovskite solar cells, reaching over 20% efficiency and matching the performance of conventional thin-film solar cells of similar sizes. This is promising news for perovskite technology that is already low cost and under industrial development. However, high performance in pervoskites does not necessarily herald the doom of silicon-based solar technology. Safety issues still need to be addressed regarding the lead content of current perovskite solar-cell prototypes in addition to determining the stability of actual devices.

peroskite solar cell

Layering perovskites on top of silicon to make hybrid solar panels may actually boost the silicon solar-cell industry. Efficiency could exceed 30%, with the theoretical limit being around 44%. The improved performance would come from harnessing more solar energy: the higher energy light would be absorbed by the perovskite top layer, while lower energy sunlight passing through the perovskite would be absorbed by the silicon layer. Graetzel is known for his transparent dye-sensitized solar cells. It turns out that the first perovskite solar cells were dye-sensitized cells where the dye was replaced by small perovskite particles. His lab’s latest perovskite prototype, roughly the size of an SD card, looks like a piece of glass that is darkened on one side by a thin film of perovskite. Unlike the transparent dye-sensitized cells, the perovskite solar cell is opaque.

The results are published in Science.


90 Minutes To Annihilate Early Stage Prostate Cancer

A prostate cancer patient undergoing a new photodynamic therapy that’s exciting specialists. Developed in Israel, treatment takes 90 minutes and involves no radiation or chemotherapy. It’s pain free and tests in Latin America showed an impressive clear-up rate and minimal side effects for early stage patients.

Prostate cancer

The patient may be cured, he may not be even cured of his disease but he may have a remedy for 20-30 years which is exactly what we need. Most of these patients are men the age of 60-70, not all of them healthy, and if you give them 10-20 years with good health and without side effects, which is the main thing, then we’ve done a great thing and we’ve done a revolution“, says Professor Jack Baniel, Chief Urologist at the Ramat Aviv Medical Center.

Israeli start-up Steba Research developed the therapy, in conjunction with Weizmann Insititute professors. It’s a focal therapy, which destroys tumours in the prostate while leaving the gland and most tissue intact. Using ultrasound, doctors insert conductors into the body, close to blood vessels feeding the tumour. Illuminating optic fibres are placed inside the conductors. A drug called Tookad that makes light toxic to living tissue is injected into the patient’s blood.

When doctors light up the optic fibres inside the patient, the cells touched by light die instantly. This patient is delighted with his treatment.  “So one day after the treatment I was back at home and three days later I was back at the office with regular life like before, and today after I got the new MRI I found out that my life is back again and everything is like before, no side affects, sexual life like before and I feel great“, comments Yaron Sfadia, patient.
The treatment has already been approved in Mexico. Phase III trials are currently taking place in New York and the developers are confident it won’t be long before the treatment becomes widespread. Future work to extend the same photodynamic principles to other types of cancers is possible.


Algae To Power Jets

Aviation giant Airbus hope algae could one day help power jets – and help airlines cut their C02 emissions. They’re working with the Munich Technical University (Germany) to cultivate the photosynthetic organisms in this lab. Algae here is cultivated in water with a salt content of 6-9 percent. A combination of light and carbon dioxide does the rest.


Primarily you need obviously algae cells that are able to generate fats and oils. In combination with CO2 and light these algae cells propagate and form algae biomass and under certain cultivation conditions, for example the lack of nitrogen in the cultivation media, these algae cells accumulate fats and oils in their cell mass and this can reach up to 50 to 70 percent of the total cell weight. That is quite a lot and once you formed that fat and oil you can actually extract it from the cell and convert it over a chemical process“, says  Thomas Brueck, Professor at Munich Technical University (TUM). In these open tanks algae grows 12 times faster than plants cultivated on soil, producing an oil yield 30 times that of rapeseed.

Algae fuel today is still in the state of research so today, we could probably not offer it at costs which are realistic to run an airline. But we are sure that over time, we will make it possible to offer kerosine made of algae for a competitive price“, comments Gregor von Kursell, Airbus Group Spokesman. The company says the project remains in its infancy. Researchers believe biofuel from algaculture could provide up to 5 percent of jetfuel needs by around 2050.


Biosensor Chip Detects DNA Mutations

Bioengineers at the University of California, San Diego have developed an electrical graphene chip capable of detecting mutations in DNA. Researchers say the technology could one day be used in various medical applications such as blood-based tests for early cancer screening, monitoring disease biomarkers and real-time detection of viral and microbial sequences.

biosensor chip SNP detection

We are at the forefront of developing a fast and inexpensive digital method to detect gene mutations at high resolution—on the scale of a single nucleotide change in a nucleic acid sequence,” said Ratnesh Lal, professor of bioengineering, mechanical engineering and materials science in the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.

The technology, which is at a proof-of-concept stage, is a first step toward a biosensor chip that can be implanted in the body to detect a specific DNA mutation—in real time—and transmit the information wirelessly to a mobile device such as a smartphone or laptop.

The advance was published June 13 in the online early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.