Articles from September 2014



Towards The Bionic Brain

RMIT University (Australia) researchers have brought ultra-fast, nano-scale data storage within striking reach, using technology that mimics the human brain. The researchers have built a novel nano-structure that offers a new platform for the development of highly stable and reliable nanoscale memory devices, useful for nanocomputers. Project leader Dr Sharath Sriram, co-leader of the RMIT Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group, said the nanometer-thin stacked structure was created using thin film, a functional oxide material more than 10,000 times thinner than a human hair.

Brain Cells
The thin film is specifically designed to have defects in its chemistry to demonstrate a ‘memristive‘ effect – where the memory element’s behaviour is dependent on its past experiences,” Dr Sriram said. “With flash memory rapidly approaching fundamental scaling limits, we need novel materials and architectures for creating the next generation of non-volatile memory. “The structure we developed could be used for a range of electronic applications – from ultrafast memory devices that can be shrunk down to a few nanometers, to computer logic architectures that replicate the versatility and response time of a biological neural network. “While more investigation needs to be done, our work advances the search for next generation memory technology can replicate the complex functions of human neural system – bringing us one step closer to the bionic brain.

The pioneering work will be published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials (11 November).

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

How To Produce Massively Nanoparticles In One-Step

Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Materials Science and Technology Division have developed a novel one-step process using, for the first time in these types of syntheses, potassium superoxide (KO2) to rapidly form oxide nanoparticles from simple salt solutions in water. An important advantage of this method is the capability of creating bulk quantities of materials. NRL has demonstrated that large quantities (over 10 grams) of oxide nanoparticles can be prepared in a single step, which is approximately four orders of magnitude higher yield than many other methods.
oxidenanoparticleOxide nanoparticles are crucial components in numerous applications to include electronic and magnetic devices, energy storage and generation, and medical applications such as magnetic nanoparticles for use in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In all of these applications, particle size is critical to the utility and function of oxide nanoparticle
Typically, the synthesis of oxide nanoparticles involves the slow reaction of a weak oxidizing agent, such as hydrogen peroxide, with dilute solutions of metal salts or complexes in both aqueous and non-aqueous solvent systems,” said Dr. Thomas Sutto, NRL research chemist. One exciting aspect of this technique is that it can also be used to produce blends of nanoparticles. This has been demonstrated by preparing more complex materials, such as lithium cobalt oxide — a cathode material for lithium batteries.

Source: http://www.nrl.navy.mil/

Cheap Hydrogen Fuel

The race is on to optimize solar energy’s performance. More efficient silicon photovoltaic panels, dye-sensitized solar cells, concentrated cells and thermodynamic solar plants all pursue the same goal: to produce a maximum amount of electrons from sunlight. Those electrons can then be converted into electricity to turn on lights and power your refrigerator.
hydrogen-electric car At the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) – Switzerland -, led by Michael Grätzel, where scientists invented dye solar cells that mimic photosynthesis in plants, they have also developed methods for generating fuels such as hydrogen through solar water splitting. To do this, they either use photoelectrochemical cells that directly split water into hydrogen and oxygen when exposed to sunlight, or they combine electricity-generating cells with an electrolyzer that separates the water molecules.

By using the latter technique, Grätzel’s post-doctoral student Jingshan Luo and his colleagues were able to obtain a performance spectacular: their device converts into hydrogen 12.3 percent of the energy diffused by the sun on perovskite absorbers – a compound that can be obtained in the laboratory from common materials, such as those used in conventional car batteries, eliminating the need for rare-earth metals in the production of usable hydrogen fuel. This high efficiency provides stiff competition for other techniques used to convert solar energy. But this method has several advantages over others:
Both the perovskite used in the cells and the nickel and iron catalysts making up the electrodes require resources that are abundant on Earth and that are also cheap,” explained Jingshan Luo. “However, our electrodes work just as well as the expensive platinum-based models customarily used.”
The research is being published today in the journal Science.
Source: http://actu.epfl.ch/

Extremely Bendable Electronics

As tech company LG demonstrated this summer with the unveiling of its 18-inch flexible screen, the next generation of roll-up displays is tantalizingly close. Researchers are now reporting in the journal ACS Nano a new, inexpensive and simple way to make transparent, flexible transistors — the building blocks of electronics — that could help bring roll-up smartphones with see-through displays and other bendable gadgets to consumers in just a few years.
Yang Yang and colleagues note that transistors are traditionally made in a multi-step photolithography process, which uses light to print a pattern onto a glass or wafer. Not only is this approach costly, it also involves a number of toxic substances. Finding a greener, less-expensive alternative has been a challenge. Recently, new processing techniques using metal oxide semiconductors have attracted attention, but the resulting devices are lacking in flexibility or other essential traits. Now Yang’s team developed inks that create patterns on ultrathin, transparent devices when exposed to light.
transparent transistorsThis transparent transistor, which functions even when wrapped around a thin pen, could help make flexible electronics widely accessible.
The main application of our transistors is for next-generation displays, like OLED or LCD displays,” said Yang. “Our transistors are designed for simple manufacturing. We believe this is an important step toward making flexible electronics widely accessible.
Source: http://www.acs.org/

Nanotechnology Is Moving Too Fast

The Pentagon’s advanced research agency tries to fill up the gap between the permanent advances in technologies and the mass production needed for military purposes. Solving that problem is the task of those behind the Atoms To Product (A2P) project at the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Defense Sciences Office). DARPA is open to proposals for how researchers can further advance and leverage nanotechnology.

Stephanie Tompkins, director of the Defense Sciences Office, said the project fits into two of the office’s main focal points: finding ways to adapt to a growing market of globally available technology and incorporating it into military systems. Currently, technology is moving too fast and the adoption costs are unsustainable for military systems. DARPA hopes the A2P project will provide a cheaper way to integrate new technology on a variety of scales.
Darpa assembly strategy
Ultimately, what better way to better deal with complexity if we can actually both predict and control what we are making,” Tompkins said in a webinar released Thursday. “Then we don’t have to worry about non-linear actions and unpredictable effects and uncertainty when we are building the final systems.

Source: https://www.fbo.gov

How To Target Healing Stem Cells

Researchers at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute infused antibody-studded iron nanoparticles into the bloodstream to treat heart attack damage. The combined nanoparticle enabled precise localization of the body’s own stem cells to the injured heart muscle. Although stem cells can be a potent weapon in the fight against certain diseases, simply infusing a patient with stem cells is no guarantee the stem cells will be able to travel to the injured area and work collaboratively with the cells already there.
Infusing stem cells into arteries in order to regenerate injured heart muscle can be inefficient,” said Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, who led the research team. “Because the heart is continuously pumping, the stem cells can be pushed out of the heart chamber before they even get a chance to begin to heal the injury.”

stem cellsTo target healing stem cells to the injury, researchers coated iron nanoparticles with 2 kinds of antibodies, proteins that recognize and bind to stem cells and to injured cells in the body. After the nanoparticles were infused into the bloodstream, they tracked to the injured area and initiated healing.

The result is a kind of molecular matchmaking,” Marbán said. “Through magnetic resonance imaging, we were able to see the iron-tagged cells traveling to the site of injury where the healing could begin. Furthermore, targeting was enhanced even further by placing a magnet above the injured heart.”
The study, which focused on laboratory rats, was has been published in the journal Nature Communications.
Source; http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/

Distrophy: How To Repair Muscles

A potential way to treat muscular dystrophy directly targets muscle repair instead of the underlying genetic defect that usually leads to the disease. Muscular dystrophies are a group of muscle diseases characterized by skeletal muscle wasting and weakness. Mutations in certain proteins, most commonly the protein dystrophin, cause muscular dystrophy in humans and also in mice. A University of Michigan (U-M) team led by cell biologist Haoxing Xu, discovered that mice missing a critical calcium channel inside the cell, called TRPML1, showed similar muscle defects as those present in muscular dystrophy patients. Though these mice did not have the defect in dystrophin, they still developed muscular dystrophy-like muscle characteristics. When researchers increased the activity of the calcium channel in the muscular dystrophic mice, it improved muscle membrane repair and restored muscle function.

muscles-distrophyMice missing a calcium channel TRPML1 develop muscular dystrophy and muscle damage (damaged muscle cells accumulate red-colored Evan Blue dye).
The hope is that the same calcium channel will work in people with muscular dystrophy,” Xu said. The long-term plan is to develop clinical trials of a drug that would provide the extra activity of TRPML1.

The findings has been published in Nature Medicine. Xiping Cheng, U-M Department of Molecular, is first author on the paper.

Source: http://ns.umich.edu/

Electric Car: New Battery Eight Times More Powerful

Researchers from the General Motors Global Research & Development Center in Warren (Michigan), have replaced the metal oxide with cheaper and lighter sulfur, to make Li-S batteries. Theorically, this new batteries pack five to eight times the energy of existing technology.
2014 Renault
One of the main problems with the sulfur approach, however, is that Li-S compounds escape from where they’re supposed to be, which causes the battery to lose charge quickly. The team set out to find a way to contain the problem.
The study appears in the ACS journal Nano Letters.
Source: http://pubs.acs.org/

Exquisite Wines Thanks To NanoScience

One sip of a perfectly poured glass of wine leads to an explosion of flavours in your mouth. Researchers at Aarhus University – Denmark – have now developed a nanosensor that can mimic what happens in your mouth when you drink wine. The sensor measures how you experience the sensation of dryness in the wine.
The sensor makes it possible for wine producers to control the development of astringency during wine production because they can measure the level of astringency in the wine right from the beginning of the process. This can currently only be achieved when the wine is ready and only by using a professional tasting panel – with the associated risk of human inaccuracy. Using the sensor, producers can work towards the desired sensation of dryness before the wine is ready.

Romanée-Conti

We don’t want to replace the wine taster. We just want a tool that is useful in wine production. When you produce wine, you know that the finished product should have a distinct taste with a certain level of astringency. If it doesn’t work, people won’t drink the wine,” says PhD student Joana Guerreiro, first author of the scientific article in ACS NANO, which presents the sensor and its prospects.

Source: http://scitech.au.dk/

How To See Below The Surface Of Walls

Researchers have developed a light detector that could revolutionise chemical sensing and night vision technology. The team of researchers at Monash University, the University of Maryland in the US, and the US Naval Research Laboratory, have created the light detector based on graphene – a single sheet of interconnected carbon atoms.The detector is capable of detecting light over an unusually broad range of wavelengths, included in this are terahertz waves – between infrared and microwave radiation, where sensitive light detection is most difficult.

Professor Michael Fuhrer, School of Physics at Monash, said the research could lead to a generation of light detectors that could see below the surface of walls and other objects.
gun-sight-illuminated-at-night-aiming-at-victim
We have demonstrated light detection from terahertz to near-infrared frequencies, a range about 100 times larger than the visible spectrum,” Professor Fuhrer said.

Detection of infrared and terahertz light has numerous uses, from chemical analysis to night vision goggles, and body scanners used in airport security.”.
The findings have been published in In the latest issue of Nature Nanotechnology,
Source: http://monash.edu/

Stronger Microbes To Clean Up Nuclear Waste

A microbe developed to clean up nuclear waste and patented by a Michigan State University (MSU)researcher has just been improved. In earlier research, Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist, identified that Geobacter bacteria’s tiny conductive hair-like appendages, or pili, did the yeoman’s share of remediation. By increasing the strength of the pili nanowires, she improved their ability to clean up uranium and other toxic wastes. In new research, published in the current issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Reguera has added an additional layer of armor to her enhanced microbes. The microbes also use the pili to stick to each other and grow a film on just about any surface, similar to the bacterial film that forms on teeth. The Geobacter biofilm, encased by a network of nanowires and slime, gives the bacteria a shield and increases their ability to neutralize even more uranium. The improvement also allows the bacteria to survive longer even when exposed to higher concentrations of the radioactive material. Geobacter immobilizing uranium can be described as nature’s version of electroplating. The beefed-up microbes engulf the uranium and turn it into a mineral, preventing the toxic material from leaching into groundwater.
nucelar waste
The results surpassed our most optimistic predictions,” Reguera said. “Even thin biofilms immobilized uranium like sponges. They reduced it to a mineral, all while not suffering any damage to themselves, for prolonged periods of time.
Source: http://msutoday.msu.edu/

3D Printed Electric Car In Two Days

The world’s first 3D printed electric car — named Strati, Italian for “layers”– took its first test drive at Chicago’s McCormick Place.
Less than 50 parts are in this car,” said Jay Rogers from the american company Local Motors.
Roger’s company is part of the team that developed the engineering process to manufacture an entire car with carbon fiber plastic and print it with a large 3D printer set up at McCormick Place by Cincinnati Incorporated.

Strati

You could think of it like Ikea, mashed up with Build-A-Bear, mashed up with Formula One,” Rogers told us.
The concept of Strati began just six months ago, before being brought to the showroom floor of the International Manufacturing Technology Show.

The car has been printed layer by layer over a 44-hour period. Then, the non-printable parts, like the engine, lights and glass windshield were added.

The top speed of the Strati is 40mph and a range of 120 miles on one charge.

Rogers says the initial retail cost will start at $18,000 and go upwards of $30,000. However, when it comes time for a change, many of the parts can be reused.

Because you can literally print the car any way you want, if your family goes from two people to three–with a child, you trade in and recycle the center part of your car and all the components that outfit the family. Whatever you can imagine is what this process can entail,” said Rogers.

Rogers believes Local Motors could start manufacturing vehicles by 2015, with initial use on city streets, before getting approval for highway use down the road.
Oakridge National Laboratory also collaborated on the concept that could bring custom printed cars to the marketplace next year.

Source: https://localmotors.com/