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Smaller silver nanoparticles more likely to be absorbed by aquatic life, UCLA study finds

Effects on marine life of the more than 2,000 consumer products that contain nanoparticles are largely unknown
October 7, 2015

Deposits of 20-nanometer silver nanoparticles in zebrafish gill filaments (outlined in red) (credit: Olivia J. Osborne et al./ACS Nano)

A study led by UCLA scientists has found that smaller silver nanoparticles entered fish’s bodies more deeply and persisted longer than larger silver nanoparticles or fluid silver nitrate.

More than 2,000 consumer products today contain nanoparticles — particles so small that they are measured in billionths of a meter. Manufacturers use nanoparticles to help sunscreen work better against the sun’s rays and to make athletic apparel better at wicking… read more

Detecting infectious and autoimmune antibodies with a DNA nanomachine

Aims to replace the current slow, cumbersome, expensive diagnostic process
October 7, 2015

New research may revolutionize the slow, cumbersome and expensive process of detecting the antibodies that can help with the diagnosis of infectious and auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and HIV. An international team of researchers have designed and synthesized a nanometer-scale DNA "machine" whose customized modifications enable it to recognize a specific target antibody. Their new approach, which they described this month in Angewandte Chemie, promises to support the development of rapid, low-cost antibody detection at the point-of-care, eliminating the treatment initiation delays and increasing healthcare costs associated with current techniques. The light-generating DNA antibody detecting nanomachine is illustrated here in action, bound to an antibody. (credit: Marco Tripodi)

An international team of scientists has developed a nanomachine using synthetic DNA for rapid, sensitive, low-cost diagnosis of infectious and auto-immune diseases, including HIV, at the point of care. It aims to replace the current slow, cumbersome, and expensive current process of detecting the protein antibodies used for diagnosis.

An antibody causes a structural change (or switch) in the device, which generates a light signal. The sensor does not… read more

DARPA selects research teams for its ElectRx neuron-sensing/stimulation program

October 6, 2015

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DARPA announced Monday (Oct. 5, 2015) that it has selected seven teams of researchers to begin work on a radical new approach to healing called Electrical Prescriptions (ElectRx). It would involve a system that stimulates peripheral nerves to modulate functions in the brain, spinal cord, and internal organs, according to program manager Doug Weber.

DARPA envisions a closed-loop system aimed at monitoring and treating conditions such as chronic… read more

A fast cell sorter shrinks to cell phone size

October 6, 2015

An artist's conception of an acoustic cell sorter is the cover image on the current issue of Lab on a Chip. (credit: Huang Group/Penn State)

Penn State researchers have developed a new lab-on-a-chip cell sorting device based on acoustic waves that is capable of the kind of high sorting throughput necessary to compete with commercial fluorescence activated cell sorters, described in the cover story in the current issue of the British journal Lab on a Chip.

Commercial fluorescence activated cell sorters have been highly successful in the past 40 years at rapidly and… read more

Sleep may strengthen long-term memories in the immune system

New evidence shows that lack of sleep puts your body at risk
October 6, 2015

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Deep (slow-wave*) sleep, which helps retain memories in the brain, may also strengthen immunological memories of encountered pathogens, German and Dutch neuroscientists propose in an Opinion article published September 29 in Trends in Neurosciences.

The immune system “remembers” an encounter with a bacteria or virus by collecting fragments from the microbe to create memory T cells, which last for months or years and help the body… read more

How the brain’s wiring leads to cognitive control

The human brain resembles a flock of birds
October 5, 2015

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How does the brain determine which direction its thoughts travel? Looking for the mechanisms behind cognitive control of thought, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, University of California, Riverside and Santa Barbara and United States Army Research Laboratory have used brain scans to shed new light on this question.

By using structural imaging techniques to convert brain scans into “wiring diagrams”… read more

First two-qubit logic gate built in silicon

Overcomes crucial hurdle in quantum computing, making silicon quantum computers a reality
October 5, 2015

This is an artist's impression of the two-qubit logic gate device developed at UNSW. Each electron qubit (red and blue in the image) has a 'spin', or magnetic field, indicated by the arrows. Metal electrodes on the surface are used to manipulate the qubits, which interact to create an 'entangled' quantum state. (credit: Tony Melov/UNSW)

University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Keio University engineers have built the first quantum logic gate in silicon, making calculations between two qubits* of information possible and clearing the final hurdle to making silicon quantum computers a reality.

The significant advance appears today (Oct. 5, 2015) in the journal Nature.

“What we have is a game changer,” said team leader Andrewread more

Fusion reactors ‘economically viable’ in a few decades, say experts

Could replace nuclear reactors and fossil fuels
October 5, 2015

An illustration of a tokamak with plasma (credit: ITER Organization)

Fusion reactors could become an economically viable means of generating electricity within a few decades, replacing conventional nuclear power stations, according to new research at Durham University and Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, U.K.

The research, published in the journal Fusion Engineering and Design, builds on earlier findings that a fusion power plant could generate electricity at a price similar to that of a fission plant… read more

How to grow a functional 3-D mini-brain for 25 cents

An easy-to-make 3-D testbed for biomedical research such as drug testing, testing neural tissue transplants, or experimenting with how stem cells work
October 2, 2015

A bioengineering team at Brown University has grown 3-D “mini-brains” of neurons and supporting cells that form networks and are electrically active. This reconstruction of confocal images of a 21 day-in-vitro 3D cortical neural spheroid shows β-III-butulin+ neurons in red, GFAP+ astrocytes in green, and DAPI-stained nuclei in blue. (credit: Hoffman-Kim lab/Brown University)

Brown University scientists have developed a “mini-brain” — an accessible method for making a working sphere of central nervous system tissue and providing an inexpensive, easy-to-make 3-D testbed for biomedical research such as drug testing, testing neural tissue transplants, or experimenting with how stem cells work. (No, they don’t think. Yet.)

Mini-brains (cortical neural spheroids) produce electrical signals and form their own synapses. “We think of this… read more

Vertical ‘light antennas’ grown from organic semiconductor crystals

Could absorb light from all directions, improving solar cells and photosensors
October 2, 2015

In full bloom: A scanning electron microscopy image produced by Jessica Wang of a vertical tetraanaline semiconductor crystal (credit: Jessica Wang)

Materials scientists from the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA have discovered a way to make organic (carbon-based) semiconductors more powerful and efficient by creating “light antennas.” The thin, pole-like devices could absorb light from all directions, an improvement over today’s wide, flat panels that can only absorb light from one surface.

The breakthrough was in creating an improved structure for one type of organic semiconductor: a building… read more

Method to replace silicon with carbon nanotubes developed by IBM Research

Could work down to the 1.8 nanometer node in the future
October 2, 2015

Schematic of a set of molybdenum end-contacted nanotube transistors (Qing Cao et al./Science)

IBM Research has announced a “major engineering breakthrough” that could lead to carbon nanotubes replacing silicon transistors in future computing technologies.

As transistors shrink in size, electrical resistance increases within the contacts, which impedes performance. So IBM researchers invented a metallurgical process similar to microscopic welding that chemically binds the contact’s metal (molybdenum) atoms to the carbon atoms at the ends of nanotubes.

The new method promises… read more

Study of protein folds adds to evidence that viruses are alive and ancient

Scientists estimate there are more than a million viral species, but less than 4,900 viruses have been identified and sequenced
October 1, 2015


Viruses are actually living entities that share a long evolutionary history with cells, researchers report in a study that traces viral evolution back to a time when neither viruses nor cells existed in the forms recognized today.

The new findings appear in an open-access paper in the journal Science Advances.

Some scientists have argued that viruses are nonliving entities, bits of DNA and RNA shed by… read more

New test detects almost all viruses that infect people, animals

Additional research needed to validate the test accuracy
October 1, 2015

A new test developed at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis can detect virtually any virus that infects people and animals, including the Ebola virus (above). (credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

A new test that detects virtually any virus that infects people and animals has been developed at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Current tests aren’t sensitive enough to detect low virus levels or are limited to detecting only those viruses suspected of being responsible for a patient’s illness.

“With this test, you don’t have to know what you’re looking for,” said the study’s… read more

Invisibility cloak may enhance efficiency of solar cells

October 1, 2015

A special invisibility cloak (right) guides sunlight past the contacts for current removal to the active surface area of the solar cell. (credit: Graphics: Martin Schumann, KIT)

A new approach to increasing solar-cell panel efficiency using an “invisibility cloak” has been developed by scientists at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany.

Up to one tenth of the surface area of solar cells is typically covered by “contact fingers” that extract current generated by solar cells. The fingers block some of the light from the active area of the solar cell, decreasing cell efficiency. By guiding… read more

A promising new 2-D semiconductor material

Berkeley Lab researchers produce first ultrathin sheets of perovskite hybrids
September 30, 2015

Ultrathin sheets of a new 2-D hybrid perovskite are square-shaped and relatively large in area, properties that should facilitate their integration into future electronic devices. (credit: Peidong Yang, Berkeley Lab)

The first atomically thin 2D sheets of organic-inorganic hybrid perovskites have been created by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researchers, adding to the growing list of two-dimensional semiconductors, such as graphene, boron nitride, and molybdenum disulfide, whose unique electronic properties make them potential successors to silicon in future devices.

However, unlike the other contenders, which are covalent semiconductors,… read more

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