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DNA motor ‘walks’ along nanotube, transports nanoparticle cargo

December 24, 2013

Molecular model of a nanoparticle-functionalized, DNAzyme-based motor on an RNA-decorated nanotube track. The DNAzyme motor consists of a catalytic core (green) and recognition arms (red). Cadmium sulfide nanocrystals (yellow) and carbon nanotubes (black) are used as a model system for the cargo and a one-dimensional track.

Researchers have created a new type of molecular motor made of DNA and demonstrated its potential by using it to transport a nanoparticle along the length of a carbon nanotube.

The design was inspired by natural biological motors that have evolved to perform specific tasks critical to the function of cells, said Jong Hyun Choi, a Purdue University assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

Controllableread more

The brain’s visual data-compression algorithm

December 24, 2013


Researchers have assumed that visual information in the brain was transmitted almost in its entirety from its entry point, the primary visual cortex (V1).

“We intuitively assume that our visual system generates a continuous stream of images, just like a video camera,” said Dr. Dirk Jancke from the Institute for Neural Computation at Ruhr University.

“However, we have now demonstrated that the visual cortex suppresses… read more

How we process numbers is revealed in our brain structure

December 24, 2013


How to you visualize numbers? Spatially, or in some other way?

For a long time, scientists thought that everyone processed numbers predominantly in a spatial way (low to high numbers visualized as left to right).

More recently, several studies have shown associations between numbers and non-spatial representations of magnitude, such as physical size,  grip opening, object graspability, tactile sensation, force (against a button, for example), and luminosity.… read more

Morphing micro-muscular motor is 1,000 times more powerful than a same-size human muscle

December 23, 2013


Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researchers have made a micro-sized robotic torsional muscle/motor that is 1,000 times more powerful than a human muscle of the same size and can catapult objects 50 times heavier than itself over a distance five times its length within 60 milliseconds.

The muscle is made from vanadium dioxide, which has an extraordinary ability to change size, shape and physical identity.… read more

Cubli — a cube that can walk

December 23, 2013


The Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control, a research institute at ETH Zurich university, has developed Cubli*: a 15 × 15 × 15 cm cube that can jump up and balance on its corner.

Reaction wheels mounted on three faces of the cube rotate at high angular velocities and then brake suddenly, causing the Cubli to jump up.
Once the Cubli is balancing on its… read more

The future of cryonics debate between physicist Michio Kaku and Alcor CEO Max More

December 22, 2013


In response to a question, “What are the practical applications of cryogenics today, and what potential improvements can we expect 20 to 30 years down the line?” Michio Kaku, PhD, replied with a critique.

Max More, PhD, CEO of Alcor Life Extension Foundation, offered this response, noting that cryonics is “affordable by regular people. Ice does not form inside cells… read more

DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials winner: Schaft from Japan

December 21, 2013

Future Google delivery guy? (credit: SHAFT, Inc.)

It was a “Woodstock for robots,” said Boston Dynamics’ Marc Raibert, as sixteen teams from around the world came together at Florida’s Homestead Miami Speedway, December 20–21, 2013 to participate in eight demanding tasks in DARPA’s Robotics Challenge Trials.

And the winner was Schaft from Japan, owned by Google. Atlas-Ian from Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition placed second;… read more

Method for mass production of graphene-based field-effect transistors (FETs) developed

December 20, 2013


Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) researchers in Korea have announced a method for mass production of graphene-based field-effect transistors (FETs).

The design creates boron/nitrogen co-doped graphene nanoplatelets (BCN-graphene) via a simple solvothermal reaction of BBr3/CCl4/N2 in the presence of potassium.

Various methods of making graphene-based FETs have been exploited, including doping graphene, tailoring graphene like a nanoribbon, and using boron nitride… read more

World’s first text message via molecular communication sent

May be useful for communication underground, underwater, or inside the body
December 20, 2013

Molecular transmitter

Scientists have created a molecular communications system for the transmission of messages and data in challenging environments where electromagnetic waves cannot be used — such as tunnels, pipelines, underwater, within the body, and in biomedical nanorobots.

Molecular signaling is a common feature of the plant and animal kingdom — insects for example use pheromones for long-range signalling — but to date, continuous data have not been transmitted usingread more

A new — and reversible — cause of aging

NAD, a naturally produced compound in cells, rewinds aspects of age-related demise in mice
December 20, 2013


Researchers have discovered a cause of aging in mammals that may be reversible: a series of molecular events that enable communication inside cells between the nucleus and mitochondria.

As communication breaks down, aging accelerates. By administering a molecule naturally produced by the human body, scientists restored the communication network in older mice. Subsequent tissue samples showed key biological hallmarks that were comparable to those of much younger animals.… read more

Converting algae to crude oil — a million-year natural process — in minutes

December 20, 2013

Algae slurry

Engineers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have created a continuous chemical process that produces useful crude oil from harvested algae in minutes, described in the journal Algae Research.

Utah-based Genifuel Corp. has licensed the technology and is working with an industrial partner to build a pilot plant using the technology.

How to create ‘instant oil’

A slurry of… read more

Microprinting low-cost artificial cells

Could serve as drug and gene delivery devices
December 19, 2013

Schematic representation of production of arrays of controlled-size giant proteoliposomes by combining hydrogel stamping and electroformation techniques

Easily manufactured, low-cost artificial cells manufactured using microprinting may one day serve as drug and gene delivery devices and in biomaterials, biotechnology and biosensing applications, according to a team of Penn State biomedical engineers.

These artificial cells will also allow researchers to explore actions that take place at the cell membrane.

“In a natural cell, so much is going on inside that it is… read more

Programming smart molecules for chemical-based AI

Machine-learning algorithms could make chemical reactions intelligent, tuned to your personal chemistry to diagnose or treat a range of pathologies using "smart drugs"
December 19, 2013

Molecular program

Computer scientists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have joined forces to put powerful probabilistic reasoning algorithms in the hands of bioengineers.

In a new paper (open access) presented at the recent Neural Information Processing Systems conference, Ryan P. Adams and Nilsread more

Graphene nanoribbons with semiconducting properties synthesized

Could be used in transistors and solar cells; "far more effective than silicon"
December 19, 2013

STM image of graphene nanoribbons demonstrates a well-organized self-assembled monolayer of straight and uniform nanoribbons of up to about 60 nm in length (credit: Nature Chemistry)

Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) researchers have succeeded in producing long, structurally well-defined graphene nanoribbons (GNRs) with semiconducting properties.

The “bottom-up” graphene synthesis method used consists in putting together molecular graphene building blocks to produce graphene nanoribbons in the desired shape and size.

Unlike native graphene, graphene nanoribbons have electronic bandgaps, which allow for control of the movement of  electrons and optical properties. They… read more

Music brings memories back to the injured brain

December 19, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

New hope for severely brain-injured patients: researchers have found that playing popular music can help them recall personal memories.

The study by Amee Baird and Séverine Samson, published in Neuropsychological Rehabilitation (open access), is the first to examine what they call “music-evoked autobiographical memories” (MEAMs) in patients with acquired brain injuries.

The researchers played excerpts from 50 “Number 1 Songs of the Year” (from 1960 to 2010) and… read more

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