Inkjet Printers Grow Nerve Stem Cells

Inkjet printers and lasers are parts of a new way to produce cells important to research on nerve regeneration. Researchers at Iowa State University have developed a nanotechnology that uses inkjet printers to print multi-layer graphene circuits….It turns out mesenchymal stem cells adhere and grow well on the treated circuit’s raised, rough, and 3D nanostructures. Add small doses of electricity—100 millivolts for 10 minutes per day over 15 days—and the stem cells become Schwann-like cells, [which secrete substances that promote the health of nerve cells].

nerve cells

This technology could lead to a better way to differentiate stem cells,” says Metin Uz, a postdoctoral research associate in chemical and biological engineering. The researchers report the results could lead to changes in how nerve injuries are treated inside the body. “These results help pave the way for in vivo peripheral nerve regeneration where the flexible graphene electrodes could conform to the injury site and provide intimate electrical stimulation for nerve cell regrowth,” the researchers write in a summary of their findings.


Flexible Skin Cloaks Objects, Avoids Radar

Iowa State University engineers have developed a new flexible, stretchable and  tunablemetaskin” that uses rows of small, liquid-metal devices to cloak an object from the sharp eyes of radar. The meta-skin takes its name from metamaterials, which are composites that have properties not found in nature and that can manipulate electromagnetic waves. By stretching and flexing the polymer meta-skin, it can be tuned to reduce the reflection of a wide range of radar frequencies.

The journal Scientific Reports recently reported the discovery online. Lead authors from Iowa State’s department of electrical and computer engineering are Liang Dong, associate professor; and Jiming Song, professor. Co-authors are Iowa State graduate students Siming Yang, Peng Liu and Qiugu Wang; and former Iowa State undergraduate Mingda Yang. The National Science Foundation and the China Scholarship Council have partially supported the project.

flexible skin

It is believed that the present meta-skin technology will find many applications in electromagnetic frequency tuning, shielding and scattering suppression,” the engineers wrote in their paper.


From Dragonflies To Nanostructured Flying Machines

Ever since the Wright brothers, engineers have been working to develop bigger and better flying machines that maximize lift while minimizing drag. There has always been a need to efficiently carry more people and more cargo. And so the science and engineering of getting large aircraft off the ground is very well understood.
But what about flight at a small scale? Say the scale of a dragonfly, a bird or a bat?
Hui Hu, an Iowa State University associate professor of aerospace engineering, said there hasn’t been a need to understand the airflow, the eddies and the spinning vortices created by flapping wings and so there haven’t been many engineering studies of small-scale flight. But that’s changing. The U.S. Air Force, for example, is interested in insect-sized nano-air vehicles or bird-sized micro-air vehicles. The vehicles could fly microphones, cameras, sensors, transmitters and even tiny weapons right through a terrorist’s doorway. See former post on

So how do you design a little flier that’s fast and agile as a house fly? Hu says a good place to start is nature itself. These kinds of physics and aerodynamics lessons – and many more – need to be learned before engineers can design effective nano– and micro-scale vehicles.

New Tool To Study Single Biological Molecules

By blending optical and atomic force microscope technologies, Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have found a way to complete 3-D measurements of single biological molecules with unprecedented accuracy and precision. Existing technologies allow researchers to measure single molecules on the x and y axes of a 2-D plane. The new technology allows researchers to make height measurements (the z axis) down to the nanometer – just a billionth of a meter – without custom optics or special surfaces for the samples. 

 Biological molecules, a.k.a. biomolecules, organic macromolecules, or macromolecules are : large molecules that are abundantly found in living organisms and are essential for life. There are four major types of biological molecules: Carbohydrates, Lipids (fats), Proteins, Nucleic Acids.

This is a completely new type of measurement that can be used to determine the z position of molecules,” said Sanjeevi Sivasankar, an Iowa State assistant professor of physics and astronomy and an associate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory.