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An artificial hand that can respond sensitively thanks to ‘muscles’ made of shape-memory wires

April 9, 2015

Artificial hand able to respond sensitively thanks to muscles made from smart metal wires (credit: Filomena Simone et al.)

Engineers at Saarland University have created an artificial hand with muscles made from of nickel-titanium alloy shape-memory wire (the wire is able to “remember” its shape and to return to that original shape after it has been deformed).

The new technology allows for fabricating flexible, lightweight robot hands for industrial applications and novel prosthetic devices. The muscle fibers are composed of bundles of ultrafine nickel-titanium alloy wires that are… read more

Robots and prostheses learn human touch

The emerging science of "artificial haptic intelligence"
April 9, 2015

Touch-sensitive robotic hand (Credit: Science Nation)

Research engineers and students in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Biomechatronics Lab are designing artificial limbs that are more touch-sensitive.

The team, led by mechanical engineer Veronica J. Santos, is constructing a language of touch and quantifying it with mechanical touch sensors that interact with objects of various shapes, sizes. and textures.

Using an array of instrumentation, Santos’ team is able to translate that interaction into… read more

Future electronics based on carbon nanotubes now more likely

April 8, 2015

Thermal gradients associated with mild heating of a metallic carbon nanotube induces thermocapillary flows in a thin organic overcoat. The result is an open trench with the tube at the base. (credit: J.Rogers/UIUC)

A method to purify arrays of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) developed by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers could be a step to post-silicon circuits and devices.

The exceptional properties of atomic-scale semiconducting molecular cylinders known as carbon nanotubes have tantalized researchers for years because of the possibility they could serve as a successors to silicon in laying the logic for smaller, faster and cheaper electronic devices.

But… read more

Inkjet-printed liquid metal could lead to new wearable tech, soft robotics

April 8, 2015

Inkjet-functionalized nitrile glove with arrays of electronic strain gauges, intricate wiring, and contact pads (credit: John William Boley et al./Advanced Materials)

Purdue University researchers have developed a potential manufacturing method called “mechanically sintered gallium-indium nanoparticles” that can inkjet-print flexible, stretchable conductors onto anything — including elastic materials and fabrics — and can mass-produce electronic circuits made of liquid-metal alloys for “soft robots” and flexible electronics.

The method uses ultrasound to break up liquid metal into nanoparticles in ethanol solvent to make ink that is compatible with inkjet printing.

Elastic… read more

Using sound waves to detect rare circulating cancer cells

April 8, 2015

As a mix of cancer cells and white blood cells flows through the microfluidic channel, sound waves from the transducers located on both sides of the channel guide them into separate channels, allowing the rare cancer cells to be isolated. (Credit: the researchers)

A team of engineers from MIT, Penn State University, and Carnegie Mellon University is developing a novel way to isolate cancer cells that circulate in the bloodstream: using sound waves to separate them from blood cells.

Cancer cells often break free from their original locations and circulate through the bloodstream, allowing them to form new tumors elsewhere in the body.

Detecting these cells could give doctors a new… read more

First human head transplant planned

April 8, 2015

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The first person to undergo a head-transplant operation will be Valery Spiridinov, The Independent reports. The procedure will be performed by controversial Italian doctor Sergio Canavero, MD.

Canavero hopes to remove Spiridinov’s head (he’s suffering from a wasting or degenerative disease) and transplant it onto the body of someone who is brain-dead but still has a functioning body,

In a 2013 paper in open-access journal… read more

Complex organic molecules discovered in infant star system

Hints that prebiotic organic chemistry is universal
April 7, 2015

Artist impression of the protoplanetary disk surrounding the young star MWC 480. ALMA has detected the complex organic molecule methyl cyanide in the outer reaches of the disk in the region where comets are believed to form. This is another indication that complex organic chemistry, and potentially the conditions necessary for life, is universal. (Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF))

For the first time, astronomers have detected the presence of complex organic molecules, the building blocks of life, in a protoplanetary disk surrounding a young star, suggesting once again that the conditions that spawned our Earth and Sun are not unique in the universe.

This discovery, made with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), reveals that the protoplanetary disk surrounding the million-year-old star MWC 480… read more

MIT invents ultrasensitive magnetic-field detector

Could lead to miniaturized, hypersensitive battery-powered devices for brain-wave sensing, medical, and materials imaging, contraband detection, and geological exploration
April 7, 2015

In this image, laser light enters a synthetic diamond from a facet at its corner and bounces around inside the diamond until its energy is exhausted. This excites "nitrogen vacancies" that can be used to measure magnetic fields. (Credit: H. Clevenson/MIT Lincoln Laboratory)

MIT researchers have developed a new, ultrasensitive magnetic-field detector that is 1,000 times more energy-efficient than its predecessors. It could lead to miniaturized, battery-powered devices for medical and materials imaging, contraband detection, and even geological exploration.

Magnetic-field detectors (magnetometers) are already used for all those applications. But existing technologies have drawbacks: Some rely on gas-filled chambers; others work only in narrow frequency bands, limiting their… read more

Master protein found to enhance both muscles and the brain

Could lead to treatments in regenerative medicine and for defects in learning and memory
April 7, 2015

Salk researchers and collaborators discovered that physical and mental activities rely on a single metabolic protein, ERRγ, that controls the flow of blood and nutrients throughout the body. In this image, ERRγ is shown (stained red) in the hippocampus, the area of the brain largely responsible for memory. The new work could point to a way to enhance learning. (Credit: Salk Institute)

Salk Institute for Biological Studies scientists and collaborators have discovered that physical and mental activities rely on a single metabolic protein called estrogen-related receptor gamma (ERRγ) that controls the flow of blood and nutrients throughout the body.

The new study could point to potential treatments in regenerative and developmental medicine as well as ways to address defects in learning and memory.

“This is all about… read more

Miniaturized camera chip provides superfine depth resolution for 3D printing

Could allow driverless cars to see at unprecedented 3D detail
April 6, 2015

A 3D image produced by the new NCI chip. The image, taken from roughly half a meter (1.5 feet) away, shows an angled side view of the penny. (credit: Ali Hajimiri/Caltech)

Imagine you need to have a precise copy of an object. You take a snapshot with your smartphone, send it to your 3D printer, and within minutes you have a replica accurate to within microns of the remote original object.

That’s what a tiny new high-resolution 3D imager developed at Caltech called a “nanophotonic coherent imager” (NCI) could achieve in the future.

The NCI provides the… read more

Typhoon Maysak’s strongest winds tightly wound

April 3, 2015

Image of Typhoon Maysak from International Space Station (Credit: ESA)

ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti has shot some awesome (and scary) images of super typhoon Maysak from the International Space Station.

The RapidScat instrument on the ISS saw Typhoon Maysak’s strongest winds wrapped tightly around its center, extending outward to over 30 miles from the eye.

With sustained winds at 160 mph, Maysak struck the Micronesian nation over the weekend, killing at least five people,… read more

Geomagnetic compass hooked to the brain allows blind rats to ‘see’

Research suggests humans could one day sense geomagnetic direction, ultraviolet radiation, ultrasound, other physical data
April 3, 2015

This is an illustration of a rat wearing the geomagnetic device (credit: Norimoto and Ikegaya)

By attaching a microstimulator and geomagnetic compass to the brains of blind rats, researchers found that the animals can spontaneously learn to use new information about their location to navigate through a maze, and nearly as well as normally sighted rats.

The researchers say the findings suggest that a similar kind of neuroprosthesis might also help blind people walk freely through the world.

Most notably, perhaps, the findings,… read more

3D neural reconstruction guided with biocompatible nanofiber scaffolds and hydrogels

April 3, 2015

Images of neuronal cultures in 3D hydrogel with laminin-coated nanofibers (100× magnification). Blue marks nanofibers and red marks neurites. (credit: Richard J. McMurtrey/Journal of Neural Engineering)

Damage to neural tissue is typically permanent and causes lasting disability in patients. But a method for reconstructing neural tissue using patterned nanofibers in 3D hydrogel structures promises to one day help in the restoration of functional neuroanatomical pathways and structures at sites of spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, tumor resection, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Richard J. McMurtrey, director of the Institute of Neural Regeneration &read more

Light therapy for brain injuries

VA study with 160 Gulf War veterans testing red, near-infrared light
April 3, 2015

A staffer in Dr. Margaret Naeser's lab demonstrates the equipment built especially for the research: an LED helmet (Photomedex), intranasal diodes (Vielight), and LED cluster heads placed on the ears (MedX Health). The real and sham devices look identical. Goggles are worn to block out the red light. The near-infrared light is beyond the visible spectrum and cannot be seen. (Credit: Naeser lab)

Researchers at the VA Boston Healthcare System are testing the effects of light therapy on brain function in the Veterans with Gulf War Illness study.

Veterans in the study wear a helmet lined with light-emitting diodes that apply red and near-infrared light to the scalp. They also have diodes placed in their nostrils, to deliver photons to the deeper parts of the brain.

The light… read more

Getting enough sleep?

Johns Hopkins mobile app helps physicians identify common sleep disorders in patients
April 2, 2015

My Sleep101 ft.

Experts from the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep hope to help patients get a better night’s sleep by providing health care staff members with a basic educational tool on their smartphones.

Called MySleep101, the mobile learning application offers providers who are not experts in sleep disorders information on how to screen and counsel patients experiencing sleepless nights. Doctors, nurses and other care providers can access basic information about the seven… read more

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