science + technology news

A portable paper-smartphone device that analyzes trace pesticides

A fast, low-cost device for home use
October 20, 2015

The prototype smartphone-based detection system – courtesy of Professor Mei et al., the images first appeared in the paper in Biosensors and Bioelectronics. (credit: Elsevier)

A new system that may allow people to detect pesticides cheaply and rapidly, combining a paper sensor and an Android program on a smartphone, has been developed by researchers in China and Singapore, according to a new study published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

As the potential effects of pesticides on health become clearer, it is increasingly important to be able to detect them in the environment… read more

A metamaterial that enhances thermal energy harvesting

October 19, 2015

A schematic drawing shows a metamaterial surface with bow-tie antennas (credit: Won Park/University of Colorado)

Scientists from the University of Colorado are developing a new type of “rectenna” to efficiently “harvest” thermal emissions (waste heat) radiated from devices (a rectenna converts electromagnetic radiation to DC current).

Currently rectennas work best at low frequencies, but most heat is at higher radiation frequencies — up to the 100 THz (100 trillion cycles per second) range. So Won Park and his… read more

Engineered viruses provide quantum-based enhancement of energy transport

October 19, 2015

Rendering of a virus used in the MIT experiments. The light-collecting centers, called chromophores, are in red, and chromophores that just absorbed a photon of light are glowing white. After the virus is modified to adjust the spacing between the chromophores, energy can jump from one set of chromophores to the next faster and more efficiently. (credit: the researchers and Lauren Alexa Kaye)

MIT engineers have achieved a significant efficiency boost in a light-harvesting system, using genetically engineered viruses to achieve higher efficiency in transporting energy from receptors to reaction centers where it can be harnessed, making use of the exotic effects of quantum mechanics. Emulating photosynthesis in nature, it could lead to inexpensive and efficient solar cells or light-driven catalysis,

This achievement in coupling quantum research and genetic manipulation,… read more

3-D-printed ‘soft’ robotic tentacle with new level of octopus agility

October 19, 2015


Cornell University engineers have developed a process for 3D-printing a soft robotic tentacle that mimics the complex movements and degree of freedom of an octopus tentacle.

The tentacle achieves its dexterity through a 3-dimensional arrangement of muscles in three mutually perpendicular directions (longitudinal, transverse and helical). The process uses an elastomeric (both elastic and flows) material combined with a low-cost, reliable, and simple method for… read more

Carbon nanotubes found in cells from airways of asthmatic children in Paris

Carbon nanotubes, possibly from cars, are ubiquitous, found even in ice cores --- we may all have them in our lungs, say Rice scientists
October 19, 2015

carbon in lung cells

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have been found in cells extracted from the airways of Parisian children under routine treatment for asthma, according to a report in the journal EBioMedicine (open access) by scientists in France and at Rice University.

The cells were taken from 69 randomly selected asthma patients aged 2 to 17 who underwent routine fiber-optic bronchoscopies as part of their treatment. The… read more

Artificial ‘skin’ system transmits the pressure of touch

Might someday be applied to prosthetics to mimic human skin’s ability to feel sensation
October 16, 2015

Model robotic hand with artificial mechanoreceptors (credit: Bao Research Group, Stanford University)

Researchers have created a sensory system that mimics the ability of human skin to feel pressure and have transmitted the digital signals from the system’s sensors to the brain cells of mice. These new developments, reported in the October 16 issue of Science, could one day allow people living with prosthetics to feel sensation in their artificial limbs.

The system consists of printed plastic circuits, designed to… read more

Graphene nano-coils discovered to be powerful natural electromagnets

The solenoid/inductor may become one of the remaining bulky electronic parts to be nanoscaled
October 16, 2015

A nano-coil made of graphene could be an effective solenoid inductor for electronic applications, according to researchers at Rice University (credit: Yakobson Research Group/Rice University)

Rice University scientists have discovered that a widely used electronic part called a solenoid could be scaled down to nano-size with macro-scale performance.

The secret: a spiral form of atom-thin graphene that, remarkably, can be found in nature, even in common coal, according to Rice theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson and his colleagues.

The researchers determined that when a voltage is applied to… read more

Affordable camera reveals hidden details invisible to the naked eye

Could be added to a future camera for about $50
October 16, 2015

HyperFrames taken with HyperCam predicted the relative ripeness of 10 different fruits with 94 percent accuracy, compared with only 62 percent for a typical (RGB) camera. (credit: University of Washington)

HyperCam, an affordable “hyperspectral” (sees beyond the visible range) camera technology being developed by the University of Washington and Microsoft Research, may enable consumers of the future to use a cell phone to tell which piece of fruit is perfectly ripe or if a work of art is genuine.

The technology uses both visible and invisible near-infrared light to “see” beneath surfaces and… read more

Protein-folding discovery opens a window on basic life processes

October 16, 2015

Proteins can go through odd changes as they shift from one stable shape to a different, folded one. (credit: Oregon State University)

Biochemists at Oregon State University have made a fundamental discovery about protein structure that sheds new light on how proteins fold — one of the most basic processes of life. Even the process of thinking involves proteins at the end of one neuron passing a message to different proteins on the next neuron.

The findings, announced today (Oct. 16) in an open-access paper in Scienceread more

Moving cooling directly to the chip for denser, longer-life electronics

October 15, 2015

These are liquid ports carry cooling water to specially designed passages etched into the backs of FPGA devices to provide more effective cooling. The liquid cooling provides a significant advantage in computing throughput. (credit: Rob Felt, Georgia Tech)

Using microfluidic passages cut directly into the backsides of production field-programmable gate array (FPGA) devices, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have put liquid cooling where it’s needed the most: a few hundred microns away from where the transistors are operating.

Combined with connection technology that operates through structures in the cooling passages, the new technologies could allow development of denser and more powerful integrated electronic… read more

Surgeons reroute nerves to restore hand, arm movement to quadriplegic patients

October 15, 2015

A nerve transfer bypasses the zone of a spinal cord injury (C7). Functional nerves (green) that are under volitional control are rerouted (yellow) to nerves (red) that come off below the spinal cord injury. (credit: Washington University in St. Louis)

A pioneering surgical technique has restored some hand and arm movement to nine patients immobilized by spinal cord injuries in the neck, reports a new study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Bypassing the spinal cord, the surgeons rerouted healthy nerves sitting above the injury site, usually in the shoulders or elbows, to paralyzed nerves in the hand or arm. Once a connection was established, patients… read more

Telsa Motors to introduce new self-driving features Thursday

October 14, 2015

Tesla Model S (credit: Tesla)


Tesla Motors will introduce on Thursday (October 15, 2015) an advanced “beta test” set of autonomous driving features, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The software will allow hands- and feet-free driving in everything from stop-and-go traffic to highway speeds, and enables a car to park itself, the journal says. It will be available for 50,000 newer Model S cars world-wide via software… read more

Light-controlled ‘quantum Etch-a-Sketch’ could lead to advanced computers and quantum microchips

October 14, 2015

Artist’s rendition of optically-defined quantum circuits in a topological insulator. (credit: Peter Allen)

Penn State University and University of Chicago researchers say an accidental discovery of a “quantum Etch-a-Sketch” may lead to a new way to use beams of light to draw and erase quantum circuits, and that could lead to the next generation of advanced computers and quantum microchips.

The new technique is based on “topological insulators” (a material that behaves as an insulator in… read more

Hybrid bio-robotic system models physics of human leg locomotion

Could help design optimal prosthetic and exoskeleton systems
October 14, 2015

bio-robotic system ft

North Carolina State University (NC State) researchers have developed a bio-inspired system that models how human leg locomotion works, by using a computer-controlled nerve stimulator (acting as the spinal cord) to activate a biological muscle-tendon.

The findings could help design robotic devices that begin to merge human and machine to assist human locomotion, serving as prosthetic systems for people with mobility impairments or exoskeletons for increasing the abilities… read more

FDA approves the first 3D-printed drug product

October 13, 2015

SPRITAM® levetiracetam, for oral use: 750 mg (foreground) and 1000 mg (background) (credit: Aprecia Pharmaceuticals Company)

The FDA has approved the first 3D-printed drug — Aprecia’s SPRITAM (levetiracetam) for oral use as a prescription adjunctive therapy in the treatment of seizures in adults and children with epilepsy.

SPRITAM manufacturing uses 3D printing to produce a porous formulation that rapidly disintegrates with a sip of liquid, making it easier to swallow.

The “ZipDose Technology” allows for delivering a high drug load, up to… read more

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