science + technology news

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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

The next agricultural revolution: a ‘bionic leaf’ that could help feed the world

April 3, 2017

The radishes on the right were grown with the help of a bionic leaf that produces fertilizer with bacteria, sunlight, water and air. (credit: Nocera lab, Harvard University)

Harvard University chemists have invented a new kind of “bionic” leaf that uses bacteria, sunlight, water, and air to make fertilizer right in the soil where crops are grown. It could make possible a future low-cost commercial fertilizer for poorer countries in the emerging world.

The invention deals with the renewed challenge of feeding the world as the population continues to balloon.* “When you have a large… read more

This advance could finally make graphene-based semiconductor chips feasible

March 31, 2017

Atomic force microscopy image of as-deposited (left) and laser-annealed (right) rGO (bottom) thin films. The entire "pulsed laser annealing" process is done at room temperature and atmospheric pressure using high-power nanosecond laser pulses to "melt" the rGO material; it is completed in about 200 nanoseconds. (credit: Anagh Bhaumik and Jagdish Narayan/Journal of Applied Physics)

Researchers at North Carolina State University (NC State) have developed a layered material that can be used to develop transistors based on graphene — a long-sought goal in the electronics industry.

Graphene has attractive properties, such as extremely high conductivity, meaning it conducts the flow of electrical current really well (compared to copper, for example), but it’s not a semiconductor, so it can’t work in a… read more

Scientists grow beating heart tissue on spinach leaves

How crossing plant and animal kingdoms may lead to radical new tissue-engineering breakthroughs
March 31, 2017

(credit: Worcester Polytechnic Institute)

A research team headed by Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) scientists* has solved a major tissue engineering problem holding back the regeneration of damaged human tissues and organs: how to grow small, delicate blood vessels, which are beyond the capabilities of 3D printing.**

The researchers used plant leaves as scaffolds (structures) in an attempt to create the branching network of blood vessels — down to the capillary scale — required to… read more

Global night-time lights provide unfiltered data on human activities and socio-economic factors

March 29, 2017

Night-time lights from space correlate to everything from electricity consumption and CO2 emissions, to gross domestic product, population and poverty. (credit: Image courtesy of NASA)

Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have developed an online tool that incorporates 21 years of night-time lights data to understand and compare changes in human activities in countries around the world.

The research is published in PLOS One.

The tool compares the brightness of a country’s night-time lights with the corresponding electricity… read more

Graphene-based neural probe detects brain activity at high resolution and signal quality

Potentially relevant to "neural lace" research
March 29, 2017

16 flexible graphene transistors (inset) integrated into a flexible neural probe enable electrical signals from neurons to be measured at high resolution and signal quality. (credit: ICN2)

Researchers from the European Graphene Flagship* have developed a new microelectrode array neural probe based on graphene field-effect transistors (FETs) for recording brain activity at high resolution while maintaining excellent signal-to-noise ratio (quality).

The new neural probe could lay the foundation for a future generation of in vivo neural recording implants, for patients with epilepsy, for example, and for disorders that affect brain function and motor… read more

Musk launches company to pursue ‘neural lace’ brain-interface technology

March 27, 2017

image credit | Bloomberg

Elon Musk has launched a California-based company called Neuralink Corp., The Wall Street Journal reported today (Monday, March 27, 2017), citing people familiar with the matter, to pursue “neural lace” brain-interface technology.

Neural lace would help prevent humans from becoming “house cats” to AI, he suggests. “I think one of the solutions that seems maybe the best is to add an AI layer,” Musk… read more

Travelers to Mars risk leukemia cancer, weakened immune function from radiation, NASA-funded study finds

March 27, 2017

The spleen from a mouse exposed to a mission-relevant dose (20 cGy, 1 GeV/n) of iron ions (bottom) was ~ 30 times the normal volume compared with the spleen (top) from a control mouse. (credit: C Rodman et al./Leukemia)

Radiation encountered in deep space travel may increase the risk of leukemia cancer in humans traveling to Mars, NASA-funded researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and colleagues have found, using mice transplanted with human stem cells.

“Our results are troubling because they show radiation exposure could potentially increase the risk of leukemia,” said Christopher Porada, Ph.D., associate professor of regenerative medicine and… read more

Scientists reverse aging in mice by repairing damaged DNA

Could lead to an anti-aging drug that counters damage from old age, cancer, and radiation
March 26, 2017

Disarming a rogue agent: When the NAD molecule (red), binds to the DBC1 protein (beige), it prevents DBC1 from attaching to and incapacitating a protein critical for DNA repair. (credit: David Sinclair)

A research team led by Harvard Medical School professor of genetics David Sinclair, PhD, has made a discovery that could lead to a revolutionary new drug that allows cells to repair DNA damaged by aging, cancer, and radiation.

In a paper published in the journal Science on Friday (March 24), the scientists identified a critical step in the molecular process related to DNA damage.… read more

A printable, sensor-laden ‘skin’ for robots (or an airplane)

March 24, 2017

Illustration of 3D-printed sensory composite (credit: Subramanian Sundaram)

MIT researchers have designed a radical new method of creating flexible, printable electronics that combine sensors and processing circuitry.

Covering a robot — or an airplane or a bridge, for example — with sensors will require a technology that is both flexible and cost-effective to manufacture in bulk. To demonstrate the feasibility of their new method, the researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have… read more

Mayo Clinic discovers high-intensity aerobic training can reverse aging

March 24, 2017

A Mayo Clinic study found high-intensity aerobic exercise may reverse aging (credit: Flickr user Global Panorama via Creative Commons license)

A Mayo Clinic study says the best training for adults is high-intensity aerobic exercise, which they believe can reverse some cellular aspects of aging.

Mayo researchers compared 12 weeks of high-intensity interval training (workouts in which you alternate periods of high-intensity exercise with low-intensity recovery periods), resistance training, and combined training. While all three enhanced insulin sensitivity and lean mass, only high-intensity interval training and combined training improved aerobic capacity and… read more

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