science + technology news

Tiny soft robotic hands with magnetic nanoparticles could improve cancer diagnostics, drug delivery

February 10, 2015


“Soft robotics” researchers have developed a flexible, microscopic hand-like gripper that could help doctors perform remotely guided surgical procedures, biopsies, and someday deliver therapeutic drugs to hard-to-reach places. 

David H. Gracias at The Johns Hopkins University and colleagues note that many robotic tools require cords to provide power to generate their movements, adding to the bulk of robots and limiting the spaces they can access.

To address this… read more

Google Glass app analyzes plants’ health in seconds

“Okay, Glass, image a leaf.”
February 10, 2015

The Google Glass app and illuminator allow researchers unit to analyze chlorophyll concentration in a leaf without harming the plant (credit: UCLA)

Scientists from UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute have developed a custom-designed Google Glass Android app that, when paired with a handheld device, enables the wearer to quickly analyze the health of a plant without damaging it or requiring expensive lab equipment and expertise.

The app analyzes the concentration of chlorophyll — the substance in plants responsible for converting sunlight into energy. Reduced chlorophyll production… read more

A viral ‘Enigma machine’

February 9, 2015

Credit: University of Leeds

British researchers have cracked a code that governs infections by a major group of viruses including the common cold and polio, which could help prevent diseases.

Until now, scientists had not noticed the code, which had been hidden in plain sight in the sequence of the ribonucleic acid (RNA) that makes up this type of viral genome.

But a paper published in the Proceedingsread more

Flexible 3D graphene supercapacitors may power portables and wearables

February 9, 2015

Laser-induced graphene supercapacitor (credit: Jhiwei Peng et al./Applied Materials and Interfaces)

Rice University scientists have advanced their recent development of laser-induced graphene (LIG) by producing and testing stacked, three-dimensional supercapacitors — energy-storage devices that are important for portable, flexible electronics.

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour discovered last year that firing a laser at an inexpensive polymer burned off other elements and left a film of porous graphene, the much-studied atom-thick lattice of carbon.… read more

A caring robot with ‘emotion’ and memory

February 9, 2015

robot and elderly

Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire have developed a prototype of a social robot that supports independent living for the elderly, working in partnership with their relatives or carers.

Farshid Amirabdollahian, a senior lecturer in Adaptive Systems at the university, led a team of nine partner institutions from five European countries as part of the €4,825,492 project called ACCOMPANY (Acceptable Robotics Companions for Ageing Years).

“This… read more

New software analyzes human genomes for disease-causing variations in 90 minutes

May empower population-scale genomic analysis
February 6, 2015

Genome with mutation (credit: NIH)

Investigators at Nationwide Children’s Hospital say they have developed an optimized analysis “pipeline” that slashes the time it takes to search a person’s genome for disease-causing variations from weeks to hours.

An open-access preview article describing the ultra-fast, highly scalable software was published in the latest issue of Genome Biology.

“It took around 13 years and $3 billion to sequence the first… read more

Replacing lasers with LEDs for short-range optical communications

Applications include short-distance communication, photodetectors, imaging, biosensing, data storage, faster chip interconnects
February 6, 2015

Antenna-enhanced spontaneous emission from Indium Gallium Arsenide Phosphide nanorods (credit: Michael S. Eggleston et al./PNAS)

Berkeley Lab researchers have developed a nano-sized optical antenna that can greatly enhance the spontaneous emission of light from atoms, molecules and semiconductor quantum dots.

That opens the door to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that can replace lasers for short-range optical communications, including optical interconnects for microchips and a host of other potential applications.

“Since the invention of the laser, spontaneous light emission has been… read more

Meditation associated with slower age-related loss of gray matter in the brain

February 6, 2015

Negative correlations between global gray matter and age. The X-axis displays the chronological age (in years); the Y-axis displays the global gray matter volume (in ml). Note the less steep slope of the regression line in meditators (yellow) compared to controls (cyan). (Credit: Frontiers in Psychology)

Results of a new study by UCLA researchers suggest that meditation may help preserve the brain’s gray matter, the tissue that contains neurons.

The researchers cautioned, however, that they cannot draw a direct, causal connection between meditation and preserving gray matter in the brain. Too many other factors may come into play, including lifestyle choices, personality traits, and genetic brain differences.

Since 1970, life expectancy around the world… read more

High-efficiency concentrating solar cells move to the rooftop

February 6, 2015

Photograph of the prototype panel being tested outdoors. The small black squares seen under each lenslet in the close-up are the solar cells (credit: © Nature Communications)

Ultra-high-efficiency multi-junction solar cells similar to those used in space or electric utilities may now be possible on your rooftop thanks to a new microscale solar-concentration technology called concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) developed by an international team of researchers.

The new CPV systems use inexpensive optics to concentrate sunlight,” said Noel C. Giebink, assistant professor of electrical engineering, Penn State. “Current CPV systems are… read more

SuperAger brains yield new clues to their remarkable memories

February 5, 2015

Three cingulate ROIs. Medial ROIs of the cingulate cortex in the Desikan-Killiany (Desikan et al., 2006) cortical labeling protocol are color-coded with their corresponding parcellations characterized by Vogt (2009). (Credit: Tamar Gefen et al./The Journal of Neuroscience)

SuperAgers, aged 80 and above — but with memories that are as sharp as those of healthy persons decades younger — have distinctly different looking brains than those of normal older people, according to new Northwestern Medicine research.

Understanding Superagers’ unique “brain signature” may enable scientists to decipher the genetic or molecular source and develop strategies to protect the memories of normal aging persons, as well as… read more

Smartphone add-on tests for HIV and syphilis in 15 minutes

February 5, 2015

The user presses the bulb of the smartphone dongle, designed to fit in one hand, to initiate the fluid flow. (credit: Tassaneewan Laksanasopin, Columbia Engineering)

A low-cost smartphone accessory that can detect three infectious disease markers from a finger prick of blood in just 15 minutes, performing all mechanical, optical, and electronic functions of a lab-based blood test.

That’s what team of researchers led by Samuel K. Sia, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia Engineering, has developed.

It performs an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) triplexed immunoassayread more

One-atom-thin ‘silicene’ silicon transistors invented

World’s thinnest silicon material promises dramatically faster, smaller, more efficient computer chips
February 5, 2015

Buckled honeycomb lattice structure of silicene (credit: Li Tao et al./Nature Nanotechnology)

The first transistors made of silicene, the world’s thinnest silicon material, have been developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering. The new material may allow for building dramatically faster, smaller, energy-efficient computer chips.

Made of a one-atom-thick layer of silicon atoms, silicene has outstanding electrical properties but has until now proved difficult to produce and work… read more

Scientists predict Earth-like planets around most stars

February 5, 2015

(Credit: Australian National University)

Planetary scientists have calculated that there are hundreds of billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy which might support life.

The new research, led by PhD student Tim Bovaird and Associate Professor Charley Lineweaver from The Australian National University (ANU), made the finding by applying a 200 year old idea called the Titius-Bode relation — used to predict the existence of… read more

Resveratrol, found in red grapes, may help prevent memory loss in the elderly

February 5, 2015

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Resveratrol, touted for its potential to prevent heart disease, may also help prevent age-related decline in memory, according to new research from Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.

Ashok K. Shetty, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine and Director of Neurosciences at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, has been studying the potential benefit of resveratrol, an antioxidant found in the skin of… read more

Fluorescent dyes ‘light up’ brain cancer cells

February 4, 2015

tumor fluorescence ft

Two new fluorescent dyes attracted to cancer cells differentiate brain tumors from normal brain tissue in mice, and may help neurosurgeons more accurately localize and completely resect (remove) brain tumors, suggests an open-access study in the February issue of Neurosurgery.

The two “tumor-selective” fluorescent agents — called CLR1501 and CLR1502 — were molecularly altered to carry fluorescent dyes that glow under lights with specific wavelengths —… read more

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