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A chip that can simulate a tumor’s ‘microenvironment’

Could test the effectiveness of nanoparticles and drugs that target cancer
September 25, 2014

This illustration shows the design of a new chip capable of simulating a tumor's "microenvironment" to test the effectiveness of nanoparticles and drugs that target cancer. The new system, called a tumor-microenvironment-on-chip device, will allow researchers to study the complex environment surrounding tumors and the barriers that prevent the targeted delivery of therapeutic agents.  (Credit: Purdue University photo/Altug Ozcelikkale, Bumsoo Han)

Purdue University researchers have developed a chip capable of simulating a tumor’s “microenvironment” to test the effectiveness of nanoparticles and drugs that target cancer.

The new tumor-microenvironment-on-chip (T-MOC) will allow researchers to study the complex environment surrounding tumors and the barriers that prevent targeted delivery of therapeutic agents, said Bumsoo Han, a  Purdue associate professor of mechanical engineering.

Researchers are trying to perfect “targeted… read more

Ultra-fast ‘phase-change materials’ could lead to 1,000-times-faster computers

September 25, 2014

Solid (top) to liquid (bottom) transition in Germanium-tin antimony-telluride (Ge–Sb-Te, or GST) alloy model (Ge: blue, Sb: red, Te, yellow) (credit: Desmond Loke et al./PNAS)

Replacing silicon, new ultra-fast “phase-change materials” (PCMs) that could eventually enable processing speeds 500 to 1,000 times faster than the average laptop computer today — while using less energy — have been modeled and tested by researchers from the University of Cambridge, the Singapore A*STAR Data-Storage Institute, and the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

PCMs are capable of reversibly switching between two structural phases with different… read more

New UHF RFID technology helps robots find household objects

Machine plays "hotter/colder” game while searching
September 24, 2014

Researchers equipped a PR2 robot with articulated, directionally sensitive antennas and a new algorithm that allows the robot to successfully find and navigate to objects (credit: Georgia Tech/Travis Deyle)

A new search algorithm that improves a robot’s ability to find and navigate to tagged objects in a room or house has been developed by Charlie Kemp, an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, former Georgia Tech student Travis Deyle, and University of Washington Professor Matthew Reynolds,

The team has implemented their system in a PR2 robot, allowing it to… read more

Soft robotics ‘toolkit’ features everything a budding robot-maker needs

September 24, 2014

(Credit: Eliza Grinnell, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences)

Several Harvard University labs in collaboration with Trinity College Dublin have developed the Soft Robotics Toolkit — an online treasure trove of downloadable open-source plans, how-to videos, and case studies to assist users in the design, fabrication, modeling, characterization, and control of soft robotic devices.

With the advent of low-cost 3D printing, laser cutters, and other advances in manufacturing technology, soft robotics is emerging as an increasingly… read more

A nanosized, environmentally friendly hydrogen generator

Could produce hydrogen for cars and generators in the future; we meet reduced graphene oxide (rGO) in yet another radical role
September 23, 2014

Depiction of photocatalytic hydrogen evolution using platinum/titanium oxide (Pt/TiO2) interfaced with reduced graphic oxide (rGO) and photosensitive proton pump bacteriorhodopsin (bR) (credit: Peng Wang et al./ACS Nano)

A small-scale “hydrogen generator” that uses light and a two-dimensional graphene platform to boost production of hydrogen has been developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.

While hydrogen is ubiquitous, it’s typically bonded with other elements, such as oxygen in H2O, where it must be separated to produce free hydrogen. The commercial separation process uses natural gas to react with superheated… read more

Is climate science ‘settled’?

"Rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is 'settled' (or is a 'hoax') demeans and chills the scientific enterprise."
September 23, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

The claim that “climate science is settled,” which runs through today’s popular and policy discussions, is misguided, says computational physicist Steven E. Koonin*, Director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University, writing in The Wall Street Journal Friday.

“It has … distorted our public and policy debates on issues related to energy, greenhouse-gas emissions and the environment … and inhibited… read more

Making quantum dots glow brighter

May lead to improved LED moniitors and medical imaging
September 23, 2014

This image shows the experimental set-up researchers used to analyze the behavior of quantum dots placed on metal oxides. A laser illuminated the quantum dots to make them glow and a spectrometer was used to analyze the light they emitted. (Credit: Seyed Sadeghi/ University of Alabama, Huntsville)

Researchers from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the University of Oklahoma have found a new way to control the properties of quantum dots, those tiny chunks of semiconductor material that glow different colors depending on their size, using ultrathin layers of metal oxides.

Quantum dots, which are so small they start to exhibit atom-like quantum properties, have a wide range of potential applications, from sensors, light-emitting diodes,… read more

Sensing neuronal activity with light

September 23, 2014

Archer1 fluorescence in a cultured rat hippocampal neuron. By monitoring changes in this fluorescence at up to a thousand frames per second, researchers can track the electrical activity of the cell. (Credit: Nicholas Flytzanis, Claire Bedbrook and Viviana Gradinaru/Caltech)

Caltech researchers have developed a new optogenetics material  for mapping brain activity.

Optogenetics uses light to sense or control neurons that have been genetically sensitized to light.

The work — a collaboration between Viviana Gradinaru, assistant professor of biology and biological engineering, and Frances Arnold, the Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry—was described in two separate… read more

On/off switch for aging cells discovered, may hold the key to ‘healthy aging’

Flipping on the telomerase switch to restore telomeres
September 23, 2014

Human chromosomes (gray) capped by telomeres (white) (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered an on-and-off “switch” in cells that points to a way to encourage healthy cells to keep dividing and generating, for example, new lung or liver tissue — even in old age — and may hold the key to healthy aging.

In our bodies, newly divided cells constantly replenish lungs, skin, liver and other organs. However, most human cells cannot divide… read more

Superlattice transforms graphene into a semiconductor

September 22, 2014

Graphene placed on top of boron nitride to form a superlattice (credit: Berkeley Lab)

Graphene can be transformed into a new superlattice state that converts graphene — normally a metallic conductor — into a semiconductor, MIT and University of Manchester researchers have found.

In a research paper published in Science, the collaboration, led by MIT‘s theory professor Leonid Levitov and Manchester‘s Nobel laureate Sir Andre Geim, reports that they created a superlattice… read more

Russian scientists create ultrahard ‘Fullerite’ material at room temperature and lower pressure

"Ultrahard" materials are harder than diamond
September 22, 2014

Photo of a Vickers indenter made of ultrahard fullerite (credit: Mikhai lPopov)

A method for synthesis of an ultrahard material called Fullerite (exceeding diamond in hardness) at room temperature and lower pressure has been developed by Russian researchers from the Technological Institute for Superhard and Novel Carbon Materials in Troitsk, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), MISiS, and MSU.

The research is described in a recently published paper in the journal Carbon.

Fullerite is a polymer… read more

Ultra-thin diamond nanothreads are strongest, stiffest materials

Could make possible construction of a "space elevator"
September 22, 2014

Diamond nanothread structure, artist's impression (credit: Penn State University)

Scientists have discovered how to produce ultra-thin “diamond nanothreads” that promise extraordinary properties, including strength and stiffness greater than that of today’s strongest nanotubes and polymers.

A paper describing this discovery by a research team led by John V. Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University, was published in the September 21, 2014 issue of the journal Nature Materials.

Potential applications that most interest… read more

A new impermeable form of graphene oxide could be the ultimate protective coating

September 19, 2014

Water permeation through a brick with (right) and without (left) graphitic coating (credit: Y. Su et al./ArXiv)

A new form of graphene oxide could be the ultimate protective coating and could have a significant impact on chemical, pharmaceutical, and electronic industries, according to University of Manchester researchers.

For example, applied as paint, it could provide an ultra-strong, non-corrosive coating for a wide range of industrial applications.

Besides being protective, the new material is mechanically nearly as tough as graphene itself, the strongest known… read more

Car hacking: who’s monitoring (or controlling) your car?

September 19, 2014

Ford reportedly shares emails sent via its Ford SYNC with business partners (credit: Ford)

As vehicles become computers on wheels, the risk of car hacking is real, according to Australia-based Queensland University of Technology (QUT) road-safety expert Professor Andry Rakotonirainy from QUT’s Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS).

He has researched the security systems of existing fleet and future autonomous and connected cars and found there is little protection against hacking.

“The… read more

A long-lasting, water-based nuclear-energy-powered battery

Could be used in cars, emergency devices, and spaceships
September 19, 2014

Schematic diagram and photograph of the Pt-nanoporous TiO2 electrode (credit: Baek Hyun Kim & Jae W. Kwon/Scientific Reports)

University of Missouri (MU) researchers have developed a prototype of an efficient nuclear-energy-powered* battery that does not require recharging and could be a reliable energy source in automobiles and space vehicles.

Betavoltaics [a battery technology that generates electrical power from beta-particle radiation] has been studied as an energy source since the 1950s,” said Jae W. Kwon, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and… read more

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