Articles from May 2016



Nanotechnologies Boost Electric Car Batteries

On a drizzly, gray morning in April, Yi Cui weaves his scarlet red Tesla in and out of Silicon Valley traffic. Cui, a materials scientist at Stanford University here, is headed to visit Amprius, a battery company he founded 6 years ago. It’s no coincidence that he is driving a battery-powered car, and that he has leased rather than bought it. In a few years, he says, he plans to upgrade to a new model, with a crucial improvement: “Hopefully our batteries will be in it.” Cui and Amprius are trying to take lithium–ion batteries—today’s best commercial technology—to the next level. They have plenty of company. Massive corporations such as Panasonic, Samsung, LG Chem, Apple, and Tesla are vying to make batteries smaller, lighter, and more powerful. But among these power players, Cui remains a pioneering force.
Unlike others who focus on tweaking the chemical composition of a battery’s electrodes or its charge-conducting electrolyte, Cui is marrying battery chemistry with nanotechnology. He is building intricately structured battery electrodes that can soak up and release charge-carrying ions in greater quantities, and faster, than standard electrodes can, without producing troublesome side reactions.

Tesla Model 3

“He’s taking the innovation of nanotechnology and using it to control chemistry,” says Wei Luo, a materials scientist and battery expert at the University of Maryland, College Park.
In a series of lab demonstrations, Cui has shown how his architectural approach to electrodes can domesticate a host of battery chemistries that have long tantalized researchers but remained problematic. Among them: lithium-ion batteries with electrodes of silicon instead of the standard graphite, batteries with an electrode made of bare lithium metal, and batteries relying on lithium-sulfur chemistry, which are potentially more powerful than any lithium-ion battery. The nanoscale architectures he is exploring include silicon nanowires that expand and contract as they absorb and shed lithium ions, and tiny egglike structures with carbon shells protecting lithium-rich silicon yolks.

Source: http://www.sciencemag.org/

Bones and Shells, Inspiration For New Materials

Researchers at MIT are seeking to redesign concrete — the most widely used human-made material in the world — by following nature’s blueprints. In a paper published online in the journal Construction and Building Materials, the team contrasts cement pasteconcrete’s binding ingredient — with the structure and properties of natural materials such as bones, shells, and deep-sea sponges. As the researchers observed, these biological materials are exceptionally strong and durable, thanks in part to their precise assembly of structures at multiple length scales, from the molecular to the macro, or visible, level.

From their observations, the team, led by Oral Buyukozturk, a professor in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), proposed a new bioinspired, “bottom-upapproach for designing cement paste.

bones molecular structure

These materials are assembled in a fascinating fashion, with simple constituents arranging in complex geometric configurations that are beautiful to observe,” Buyukozturk says. “We want to see what kinds of micromechanisms exist within them that provide such superior properties, and how we can adopt a similar building-block-based approach for concrete.”

Ultimately, the team hopes to identify materials in nature that may be used as sustainable and longer-lasting alternatives to Portland cement, which requires a huge amount of energy to manufacture. “If we can replace cement, partially or totally, with some other materials that may be readily and amply available in nature, we can meet our objectives for sustainability,” Buyukozturk says.

Source: http://news.mit.edu/2016/

How To Scavenge Simultaneously Solar And Wind Energy

To realize the sustainable energy supply in a smart city, it is essential to maximize energy scavenging from the city environments for achieving the self-powered functions of some intelligent devices and sensors.

solar and wind powered houseAlthough the solar energy can be well harvested by using existing technologies, the large amounts of wasted wind energy in the city cannot be eectively utilized since conventional wind turbine generators can only be installed in remote areas due to their large volumes and safety issues.
Here, the researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences rationally design a hybridized nanogenerator, including a solar cell (SC) and a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), that can individually/simultaneously scavenge solar and wind energies, which can be extensively installed on the roofs of the city buildings. Under the same device area of about 120 mm × 22 mm, the SC can deliver a largest outputpower of about 8 mW, while the output power of the TENG can be up to 26 mW. Impedance matching between the SC and TENG has been achieved by using a transformer to decrease the impedance of the TENG. The hybridized nanogenerator has a larger output current and a better charging performance than that of the individual SC or TENG.
This research presents a feasible approach to maximize solar and wind energies scavenging from the city environments with the aim to realize some self-powered functions in smart city.

Source: https://www.researchgate.net/

Trojan Horse Nanoparticles Attack Inflammation

Nanosized Trojan horses created from a patient’s own immune cells have successfully treated inflammation by overcoming the body’s complex defense mechanisms, perhaps leading to broader applications for treating diseases characterized by inflammation, such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. An international team, led by researchers at Houston Methodist Research Institute, described the creation of nanoparticles called leukosomes and evaluated their ability to treat localized inflammation in the May 23 issue of Nature Materials (early online). Recent approaches to treating inflammatory diseases have been unsuccessful because an already overactive immune system treats simple nanoparticles as foreign invaders and clears them from the body, preventing them from reaching their target.
tissue inflammation2A better approach for building effective drug delivery platforms is to find inspiration for their design in the composition of the immune cells of our body,” said Ennio Tasciotti, Ph.D., director of the Center for Biomimetic Medicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute and the paper’s senior author.
Immune cells such as leukocytes freely circulate in blood vessels, recognize inflammation, and accumulate in inflamed tissues. They do so by using special receptors and ligands on their surface. We purified leukocytes from a patient, then integrated their special ligands and receptors into the leukosome surface. Using the body’s own materials, we built a drug delivery system camouflaged as our own body’s defense system—thus the Trojan horse.

Source: http://www.houstonmethodist.org/

3D Printed Office

In Dubai the first fully 3D-printed and completely functional building has not only been built but has celebrated its grand opening, marking an architectural and engineering breakthrough. The prototype 3D-printed office building, with floorspace is about 2,700 square feet (250 m2).

UAE-Dubai-Office-of-the-Future-

The office has all the amenities of traditionally constructed structures, such as electricity, water, telecommunications, and air conditioning. The office is also outfitted with a number of energy saving features, including window shades to protect from Dubai’s blazing sun. In order to create all the pieces needed for the office, builders used a 3D printer measuring 20 feet high, 120 feet long, and 40 feet wide. Aside from the equipment, it took a very small team of workers to put the office together. Seven installers and 10 electricians and specialists worked together to assemble the fully functional office in just 17 days. Dubai’s media office estimates this represents a 50 percent cost savings in labor alone compared to buildings of similar size built with conventional methods. In Dubai 25% of the buildings should be 3D printed by 2030, says ruler.

Source: http://inhabitat.com/

Breath Test To Detect Early Signs Of Lung Cancer

A simple breath test could soon help doctors detect the early signs of lung cancer. The sensor inside this breathalyser measures minute chemical traces in a patients’ exhaled breath which could be a biomarker for cancer.

breathalyzer2CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

The challenge is most people present when it’s very late stage, and it’s about managing symptoms as opposed to curing them. So the key thing that you can do is detect the disease early; and that’s what we think the breathalyser technology allows for, picking it up at that earliest stage when it’s treatable“, says Billy Boyle, CEO of the Brtish company Owlstone Medical.

Breath testing is already a recognised method for linking specfiic chemicals present in exhaled breath to existing medical conditions, but current technology is often expensive, slow and complex to use. Owlstone Medical believe they have the answer.

Historically chemical analysers take up half the size of a room and cost half a million dollars. So what we’ve been able to do is use microchip technology to shrink it down from these massive devices to something about the size of a button. And once it’s in that form factor, you can build it directly into these disease breathalyser technologies“, adds Billy Boyle.

Known as volatile organic compounds, the chemical markers of lung cancer are present even in the earliest stage of the disease.

And this device can collect those samples, those tiny amounts of volatile organic compounds, which we can then analyse in the laboratory. And in effect, it’s a bit like a fingerprint. If you have a lung cancer we believe that we can detect these samples and that fingerprint will tell us whether the person has lung cancer or not“, comments Dr. Robert Rintoul, consultant ‘Respratory Physician’ at Papworth Hospital.

Clinical trials involving up to 3,000 volunteer patients are underway at 17 British hospitals, with the aim of having the non-invasive technology in GP’s surgeries in 2017. In Britain alone there are about 45,000 new cases of lung cancer each year. Owlstone believes it’s technology could potentially save 10,000 lives a year by helping to spot the disease before it takes hold.

Source: http://www.owlstonenanotech.com/

Paper Filter Removes Harmful Viruses From Water

A simple paper sheet made by scientists at Uppsala University can improve the quality of life for millions of people by removing resistant viruses from water. The sheet, made of cellulose nanofibers, is called the mille-feuille filter as it has a unique layered internal architecture resembling that of the French puff pastry mille-feuille (Eng. thousand leaves).

cellulosa-nanofiber6230

 ‘With a filter material directly from nature, and by using simple production methods, we believe that our filter paper can become the affordable global water filtration solution and help save lives. Our goal is to develop a filter paper that can remove even the toughest viruses from water as easily as brewing coffee‘, says Albert Mihranyan, Professor of Nanotechnology at Uppsala University (Sweden), who heads the study. Access to safe drinking water is among the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. More than 748 million people lack access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Water-borne infections are among the global causes for mortality, especially in children under age of five, and viruses are among the most notorious water-borne infectious microorganisms. They can be both extremely resistant to disinfection and difficult to remove by filtration due to their small size.

Today we heavily rely on chemical disinfectants, such as chlorine, which may produce toxic by-products depending on water quality. Filtration is a very effective, robust, energy-efficient, and inert method of producing drinking water as it physically removes the microorganisms from water rather than inactivates them. But the high price of efficient filters is limiting their use today.

Safe drinking water is a problem not only in the low-income countries. Massive viral outbreaks have also occurred in Europe in the past, including Sweden’, continues Mihranyan referring to the massive viral outbreak in Lilla Edet municipality in Sweden in 2008, when more than 2400 people or almost 20% of the local population got infected with Norovirus due to poor water.  Small size viruses have been much harder to get rid of, as they are extremely resistant to physical and chemical inactivation.

Source: http://www.uu.se/

Cheap Biosensor Detects Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Parkinson’s

A biosensor developed by researchers at the National Nanotechnology Laboratory (LNNano) in Campinas, São Paulo State, Brazil, has been proven capable of detecting molecules associated with neurodegenerative diseases and some types of cancer.

biosensor LNNano

The device is basically a single-layer organic nanometer-scale transistor on a glass slide. It contains the reduced form of the peptide glutathione (GSH), which reacts in a specific way when it comes into contact with the enzyme glutathione S-transferase (GST), linked to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and breast cancer, among other diseases. The GSH-GST reaction is detected by the transistor, which can be used for diagnostic purposes.

The project focuses on the development of point-of-care devices by researchers in a range of knowledge areas, using functional materials to produce simple sensors and microfluidic systems for rapid diagnosis.

Platforms like this one can be deployed to diagnose complex diseases quickly, safely and relatively cheaply, using nanometer-scale systems to identify molecules of interest in the material analyzed,” explained Carlos Cesar Bof Bufon, Head of LNNano’s Functional Devices & Systems Lab (DSF) and a member of the research team for the project, whose principal investigator is Lauro Kubota, a professor at the University of Campinas’s Chemistry Institute (IQ-UNICAMP).

In addition to portability and low cost, the advantages of the nanometric biosensor include its sensitivity in detecting molecules, according to Bufon.

This is the first time organic transistor technology has been used in detecting the pair GSH-GST, which is important in diagnosing degenerative diseases, for example,” he explained. “The device can detect such molecules even when they’re present at very low levels in the examined material, thanks to its nanometric sensitivity.” A nanometer (nm) is one billionth of a meter (10-9 meter), or one millionth of a millimeter.

The system can be adapted to detect other substances, such as molecules linked to different diseases and elements present in contaminated material, among other applications. This requires replacing the molecules in the sensor with others that react with the chemicals targeted by the test, which are known as analytes.

Source: http://www.eurekalert.org/

Solar Cell Converts 34,5% Of The Sunlight To Electricity

A new solar cell configuration developed by engineers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, has pushed sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiency to 34.5% – establishing a new world record for unfocused sunlight and nudging closer to the theoretical limits for such a device. The record was set by Dr Mark Keevers and Professor Martin Green, Senior Research Fellow and Director, respectively, of UNSW’s Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics, using a 28-cm2 four-junction mini-module – embedded in a prism – that extracts the maximum energy from sunlight. It does this by splitting the incoming rays into four bands, using a hybrid four-junction receiver to squeeze even more electricity from each beam of sunlight. The new UNSW result, confirmed by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is almost 44% better than the previous record – made by Alta Devices of the USA, which reached 24% efficiency, but over a larger surface area of 800-cm2.

solar_panels_panelled_house_roof_array

This encouraging result shows that there are still advances to come in photovoltaics research to make solar cells even more efficient,” said Keevers. “Extracting more energy from every beam of sunlight is critical to reducing the cost of electricity generated by solar cells as it lowers the investment needed, and delivering payback faster.”

The result was obtained by the same UNSW team that set a world record in 2014, achieving an electricity conversion rate of over 40% by using mirrors to concentrate the light – a technique known as CPV (concentrator photovoltaics) – and then similarly splitting out various wavelengths. The new result, however, was achieved using normal sunlight with no concentrators.

Source: http://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/

Nanotechnology Boosts Solar Panel Efficiency

Solar power, which is power drawn from the sun, is a familiar concept for most Americans. You set out some thick, flat arrays the color of blueberries in your lawn or on your roof, and they use the photovoltaic effect to generate a current. For many people, this means they can expect to spend less on energy from nonrenewable sources like oil and gas, with the added benefit of reducing carbon emissions in the long run. The benefits for developing nations are even greater. Take Africa, for example. As a continent, it is extremely sunny and flat so it seems like a natural place to deploy solar panels. The main barriers preventing this rollout are the cost of cell production and limitations on cell efficiency.

solar farm

Fortunately, research costs for solar energy are comparatively lower than other fields. This has led to scientists coming up with a number of inventive ways to improve solar cells through the use of nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology refers to manmade matter measuring between 1 and 100 nanometers (nm). For reference, a sheet of paper is 100,000 nm, while a strand of hair is 80,000 nm. Due to their size and extreme variety, nanotechnology allows scientists to create microscopic components and enhance the performance of existing technologies. For example, electroplating solar panels with nanometers-thin layers of silver helps the system absorb heat and makes it resistant to corrosion. Hinging on the size and versatility of nanotechnology, scientists have discovered several different ways to leverage it to improve solar cells.

The amount of energy solar cell panels can produce is limited in part by the sunlight it collects. If the array can collect more sunlight while still taking up the same amount of space, the energy produced per panel will increase. This would have a profound effect on arrays in places like Africa, where it is extremely sunny. The increase in surface area would mean a greater amount of energy collected and output over the lifetime of the cell. Using nanotechnology, scientists have developed a way to do just this.

The actual product is called a dye-sensitive solar cell. It uses a layer of porous nanoparticles coated in dye to increase the surface area on the solar cell on a microscopic level. This has the added benefit of making the cell more flexible, and increasing its ability to work in extreme conditions. If that seems difficult to imagine, think about it this way: Picture a long strip of candy dots. The paper is the solar array while the candy is the layer of nanoparticles. The candy increases the surface area of the paper without adding much bulk. Thus, the paper remains supple. Some of the greatest advances in flexible solar cells have been made by Alberta scientist Jillian Buriak. Using a spray gun and laminators, Buriak and her team developed a way to spray nanoparticles onto the plastic. This sheet is then run through the laminator, which spreads out the layer even further. The result is an extremely thin solar cell with innumerable practical applications.

Using nanotechnology, scientists have discovered that they can create cells that absorb 90 percent of the sunlight that hits it. This allows for more efficient concentrating solar power (CSP) plants. Unlike traditional solar arrays, CSP plants generate power by focusing the sun, generally through mirrors, on molten salt. The heated salt is used to create steam to turn a turbine and generate electricity. One limitation of these plants is that the materials used to collect the sunlight degrade after about a year, causing a dip in production while they are repaired.

This new technology can withstand extreme heat and last for many years outdoors, despite exposure to the elements.

Source: http://africanbrains.net/

Electric Car: New Hydrogen Filling Station

A new hydrogen filling station is open to the public in London It creates the gas on site from tap water and renewable energy — a first for the British capital. The station uses electricity generated from renewable sources such as wind power to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The whole facility can also be switched on and off by the power company to help them balance demand on the grid. Green power company ITM says it helps the problem of what to do with the UK’s excess renewable energy.

Tucson fuel cellCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

You can re-fuel it in 3 minutes and it will go over three hundred miles (483 km). They are the limitations of a plug-in electric vehicle. You also export the energy from the power grid in a much more effective way,” says Dr Graham Cooley,  ITM Chief Executive.

Refuelling at the site fills the tank with 5kg of pressurised hydrogen which costs around of £10 per kilogram (12,7 euros or 14,5 Dollars), giving a range of around 300 miles. Three different models of hydrogen-powered cars are available in the UK at present, including the Hyundai ix35, though only a handful of people actually drive them.

The issue is dispensing it and delivering it to vehicles which is what we see here today in terms of the new infrastructure being developed. It’s the delivery of the fuel and it’s a relatively straightforward process to do it,”  comments Jon Hunt from the company Toyota.

The technology is still nascent — and, like the cars, hydrogen filling stations remain relatively scarce across Europe. But there are set to be 12 open across the UK by the end of next year.

Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/

Free Smart Glasses Help The Blind

Fund-raising has begun for what developers say will be the world’s first free smart glasses to help the blind and visually impaired. A vision of the future — these could become the world’s first free smart glasses, says the Polish non-profit organisation behind them. Parsee has developed this prototype of battery-powered glasses with a 3D printed frame, camera and earphone.

Parsee smart glasses

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

Parsee is an innovative 3D printed glasses for blind and visually impaired people. It helps them in their everyday living like reading newspapers, drinking juice,” says Bartosz Trzcinski, Parsee Project Manager.
Pushing a button on the frame, users take pictures of an object in front of them, which the camera sends to a phone app. The app identifies shapes, colours, text and even faces — and sends the detail via audio to the earphone“When I take something from the fridge what I see is blurred – this helps me to recognize the product and read what is written on it. It also helps me to recognize my friends’ faces, because I have a problem with that“, comments Teresa Lapa, prototype user of Parsee smart glasses.
Parsee has begun fund-raising with a $25,000 goal to research and develop a sleeker model of the glasses. It’s still in the early stages of its longer-term goal to mass produce and distribute the spectacles for free. The current cost of producing one pair is $300 — a figure they aim to reduce over time.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/