Monthly Archives: November 2018

Electricity Speeds Up Skin Healing

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

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

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

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

Source: https://news.wisc.edu/

Want to Sound Like Barack Obama?

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

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

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

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

Source: https://www.americaninno.com/

How To Manipulate And Move Cells With Light

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

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

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

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

Source: https://www.wits.ac.za/

Lulu And Nana, First Gene-Edited Babies

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

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

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

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

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

Source: https://www.technologyreview.com/

How To Neutralize Poisonous Carbon Monoxide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: https://www.eurekalert.org/

The Waterless Toilet Of The Future

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

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

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

Source: https://www.reuters.com/

Plane Propelled Via Ionic Wind

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

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

Source: http://news.mit.edu/

Bioplastics Made From Potatoes

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

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

Source: https://www.jamesdysonaward.org/

Blinds Harness The Sun’s Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: https://solargaps.com/

Metallic NanoParticles 50 Times More Effective As Catalysts

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

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

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

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

Source: https://www.titech.ac.jp/