science + technology news

Neuron-recording nanowires could help screen drugs for neurological diseases

Ultimate goal is a neural-lace-like device that can be implanted in the brain to bridge or repair networks
April 18, 2017

This is a colorized SEM image of a neuron (orange) interfaced with the nanowire array. (credit: Integrated Electronics and Biointerfaces Laboratory, UC San Diego)

A research team* led by engineers at the University of California San Diego has developed nanowire technology that can non-destructively record the electrical activity of neurons in fine detail.

The new technology, published April 10, 2017 in Nano Letters, could one day serve as a platform to screen drugs for neurological diseases and help researchers better understand how single cells communicate in large neuronal networks.

A brain implantread more

Could there be life below Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Jupiter’s moon Europa?

April 16, 2017

During Cassini’s deepest dive through the plume of Saturnian moon Enceladus, Southwest Research Institute scientists discovered hydrogen gas in the erupting material in the plume. This discovery provides further evidence for hydrothermal activity (illustrated here) and heightens the possibility that the ocean of Enceladus could have conditions suitable for microbial life. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Two NASA missions — Cassini and Hubble — have provided new evidence for life on icy, ocean-bearing moons of Saturn and Jupiter, NASA announced Friday, April 14, 2017.

Scientists from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) have discovered hydrogen gas in the plume of material erupting from Saturn’s moon Enceladus — suggesting conditions suitable for microbial life in an underground ocean. The finding, published April 14, 2017 in the… read more

How to condense water out of air using only sunlight for energy

MIT-UC Berkeley invention may offer hope for the two-thirds of the world’s population experiencing water shortages, including the one third living in desert climates
April 13, 2017

A water harvester designed and built at MIT condenses water from air. The harvester uses sunlight to heat a metal-organic framework (MOF), driving off the water vapor and condensing it for use. (photo credit: Hyunho Kim/MIT)

MIT scientists have invented a water harvester that uses only sunlight to pull water out of the air under desert conditions, using a “metal-organic framework” (MOF) powdered material developed at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley).

Under conditions of 20–30 percent humidity (a level common in arid areas), the prototype device was able to pull 2.8 liters (3 quarts) of water from the air over a 12-hour period,… read more

Graphene-oxide sieve turns seawater into drinking water

April 13, 2017

Schematic illustrating the direction of ion/water permeation along graphene planes (credit: J. Abraham et al./ Nature Nanotechnology)

British scientists have designed a way to use graphene-oxide (GO) membranes to filter common salts out of salty water and make the water safe to drink.

Graphene-oxide membranes developed at the National Graphene Institute had already demonstrated the potential of filtering out small nanoparticles, organic molecules, and even large salts. And previous research at The University of Manchester also found that if immersed in water,… read more

Nanopores map small changes in DNA for early cancer detection

April 12, 2017

Nanopore cancer detection. To detect DNA methylation changes (for cancer early warning), researchers punched a tiny hole (pore) in a flat sheet of graphene (or other  2D material). They then submerged the material in a salt solution and applied an electrical voltage to force the DNA molecule through the pore. A dip in the ionic current (black A) identified a methyl group is passing through, but a dip in the electrical current (blue A) could detect smaller DNA changes. (credit: Beckman Institute Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials Group)

University of Illinois researchers have designed a high-resolution method to detect, count, and map tiny additions to DNA called methylations*, which can be a early-warning sign of cancer.

The method threads DNA strands through a tiny hole, called a nanopore, in an atomically thin sheet of graphene or other 2D material** with an electrical current running through it.

Many methylations packed close together suggest… read more

Glowing nanoparticles open new window for live optical biological imaging

“Quantum dots” emit infrared light, providing highly detailed images of internal body structures
April 12, 2017

quantum-dot SWIR imaging

A team of researchers has created bright, glowing nanoparticles called quantum dots that can be injected into the body, where they emit light at shortwave infrared (SWIR) wavelengths that pass through the skin — allowing internal body structures such as fine networks of blood vessels to be imaged in vivo (in live animals) on high-speed video cameras for the first time.

The new findings are described in an… read more

Carnegie Mellon University AI beats top Chinese poker players

April 10, 2017

Carnegie Mellon University professor Tuomas Sandholm talks to Kai-Fu Lee, head of Sinovation Ventures, a Chinese venture capital firm, as Lee plays poker against Lengpudashi AI (credit: Sinovation Ventures)

Artificial intelligence (AI) triumphed over human poker players again (see “Carnegie Mellon AI beats top poker pros — a first“), as a computer program developed by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers beat six Chinese players by a total of $792,327 in virtual chips during a five-day, 36,000-hand exhibition that ended today (April 10, 2017) in Hainan, China.

The AI software program, called Lengpudashi (“cold poker master”) is… read more

Alpha Go to take on world’s number one Go player in China

Artificial intelligence software vs. humans to highlight five-day festival
April 10, 2017

The world’s number one Go player, Ke Jie (far right] and associates have recreated the opening moves of one of AlphaGo’s games with Lee Sedol from memory to explain the beauty of its moves to Google CEO Sundar Pichai during a visit he made to Nie Weiping’s Go school in Beijing last year (credit: DeepMind)

DeepMind’s Alpha Go AI software will take on China’s top Go players in “The Future of Go Summit” — a five-day festival of Go and artificial intelligence in the game’s birthplace, China, on May 23–27, DeepMind Co-Founder & CEO Demis Hassabis announced today (April 10, 2017).

The summit will feature a variety of game formats involving AlphaGo and top Chinese players, specifically designed to explore the mysteries of… read more

‘Strange Beasts’: Is this the future of augmented reality?

April 10, 2017

(credit: Magali Barbe)

“Strange Beasts” — a five-minute short science fiction movie produced by Magali Barbe, is in the form of an augmented-reality-game promo. Victor Weber, founder of Strange Beasts, says the game “allows players to create, customize, and grow your very own creature.”

Weber explains that this is made possible by “nanoretinal technology” that “superimposes computer-graphics-composed imagery over real world objects by projecting a digital light field… read more

Patient moves paralyzed legs with help from electrical stimulation of spinal cord

April 10, 2017

Electrical stimulation of the spinal cord (credit: Mayo Clinic)

Electrical stimulation of the spinal cord and intense physical therapy have been used by Mayo Clinic researchers to help Jared Chinnock intentionally move his paralyzed legs, stand, and make steplike motions for the first time in three years. The chronic traumatic paraplegia case marks the first time a patient has intentionally controlled previously paralyzed functions within the first two weeks of stimulation.

The case was documented April 3,… read more

Neural probes for the spinal cord

Rubber-like fiber can flex and stretch and can be used for optoelectronic and electrical stimulation/monitoring
April 6, 2017

Researchers have developed a rubber-like fiber, shown here, that can flex and stretch while simultaneously delivering both optical impulses, for optoelectronic stimulation, and electrical connections, for stimulation and monitoring. (credit: Chi (Alice) Lu and Seongjun Park)

A research team led by MIT scientists has developed rubbery fibers for neural probes that can flex and stretch and be implanted into the mouse spinal cord.

The goal is to study spinal cord neurons and ultimately develop treatments to alleviate spinal cord injuries in humans. That requires matching the stretchiness, softness, and flexibility of the spinal cord. In addition, the fibers have to deliver optical impulses (for optoelectronic… read more

Astronomers detect atmosphere around Earth-like planet

April 6, 2017

Artist’s impression  of atmosphere around super-Earth planet GJ 1132b (credit: MPIA)

Astronomers have detected an atmosphere around an Earth-like planet beyond our solar system for the first time: the super-Earth planet GJ 1132b in the Southern constellation Vela, at a distance of 39 light-years from Earth.

The team, led by Keele University’s John Southworth, PhD, used the 2.2 m ESO/MPG telescope in Chile to take images of the planet’s host star GJ 1132. The astronomers made the detection by measuring… read more

This contact lens could someday measure blood glucose and other signs of disease

April 5, 2017

Transparent biosensors in contact lenses -- made visible in this artist's rendition -- could soon help track our health. (credit: Jack Forkey/Oregon State University)

Transparent biosensors embedded into contact lenses could soon allow doctors and patients to monitor blood glucose levels and many other telltale signs of disease from teardops without invasive tests, according to Oregon State University chemical engineering professor Gregory S. Herman, Ph.D. who presented his work Tuesday April 4, 2017 at the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting & Exposition.

Herman and two colleagues previously invented a compound… read more

Mass production of low-cost, flexible inkjet-printed electronics

Researchers demonstrate by producing an inkjet-printed flexible resistive memory
April 5, 2017

Experimental flexible resistive memory printed on a polyimide foil (credit: Bernard Huber)

A group of researchers at Munich University of Applied Sciences in Germany and INRS-EMT in Canada is paving the way for mass-producing low-cost printable electronics by demonstrating a fully inkjet-printable, flexible resistive memory.*

Additive manufacturing (commonly used in 3-D printing), allows for a streamlined process flow, replacing complex lithography (used in making chips), at the detriment of feature size, which however is usually not critical for memory… read more

Magnetically storing a bit on a single atom — the ultimate future data storage

Researchers have finally done it --- but just for 1.5 minutes near absolute zero
April 3, 2017

Dysprosium atoms (green) on the surface of nanoparticles can be magnetized in only one of two possible directions: "spin up" or "spin down." (credit: ETH Zurich / Université de Rennes)

Imagine you could store a bit on a single atom or small molecule — the ultimate magnetic data-storage system. An international team of researchers led by chemists from ETH Zurich has taken a step toward that idea by depositing single magnetizable atoms onto a silica surface, with the atoms retaining their magnetism.

In theory, certain atoms can be magnetized in one of two possible directions: “spin up”… read more

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