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A novel thought-controlled prosthesis for amputees

November 30, 2012

When amputee patients have received their new prosthesis, it will be controlled with their own brain signals. The signals are transferred via the nerves through the arm stump and captured by electrodes. These will then transmit the signals through a titanium implant (OPRA Implant System) to be decoded by the prosthetic arm. The prosthesis is anchored directly to the skeleton by a process known as osseointegration. (Credit: Integrum)

An implantable robotic arm controlled by thoughts is being developed by Chalmers University of Technology industrial doctoral student Max Ortiz Catalan in Sweden.

Ever since the 1960s, amputees have been able to use prostheses controlled by electrical impulses in the muscles, their functionality is limited because they are difficult to control, according to Catalan.

Today’s standard socket prostheses, which are attached to the body… read more

Giant black hole could upset galaxy evolution models

November 30, 2012

Image of the disk galaxy (lenticular galaxy) NGC 1277, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. This small, flattened galaxy contains one of the biggest central super-massive black holes ever found in its center. With the mass of 17 billion Suns, the black hole weighs in at an extraordinary 14% of the total galaxy mass. (Credit: NASA / ESA / Andrew C. Fabian / Remco C. E. van den Bosch (MPIA))

A group of astronomers led by Remco van den Bosch from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) have discovered a black hole that could shake the foundations of current models of galaxy evolution.

At 17 billion times the mass of the Sun, its mass is much greater than current models predict — in particular in relation to the mass of its host galaxy. This… read more

Waterloo researchers create ‘world’s largest functioning model of the brain’

November 30, 2012

Serial working memory task (from movie)

A team of researchers from the University of Waterloo have built what the claim is the world’s largest simulation of a functioning brain.

The purpose is to help scientists understand how the complex activity of the brain gives rise to the complex behavior exhibited by animals, including humans.

The model is called Spaun (Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network). It consists of 2.5… read more

This radical discovery could turn semiconductor manufacture inside out

How to "grow" self-assembling semiconductors, atomic layer by atomic layer
November 30, 2012

Aerotaxy production process (credit: Lars Samuelson et al./Lund University)

A completely new method of manufacturing the smallest structures in electronics could make their manufacture thousands of times quicker, allowing for cheaper semiconductors.

Instead of starting from a silicon wafer or other substrate, the idea is to grow gallium arsenide semiconductor structures from freely suspended nanoparticles of gold in a flowing gas. Semiconductor nanowires are key building blocks for the next generation of light-emitting diodes, solar cells,… read more

Is this the biggest breakthrough in propulsion since the jet engine?

November 30, 2012

skylon_sabre_open_610

Reaction Engines Ltd. has announced what is says is the “biggest breakthrough in aerospace propulsion technology since the invention of the jet engine.”

Critical tests have been successfully completed on the key technology for SABRE, an engine that will enable aircraft to reach the opposite side of the world in under four hours, or to fly directly into orbit and return in a single stage,… read more

Implantable silk optics tissue improves imaging, enables photothermal therapy, drug delivery/monitoring

November 30, 2012

Microscopic image of a silk optical implant embedded with gold nano particles. When implanted in tissue and illuminated with green laser light, the particles converted light to heat, turning the reflector into a thermal therapy to control bacterial infection or kill malignant cells. (Credit: Fiorenzo Omenetto)

Tufts University School of Engineering researchers have demonstrated silk-based implantable optics that  offer significant improvement in tissue imaging while simultaneously enabling photothermal therapy, administering drugs, and  monitoring drug delivery.

The devices also lend themselves to a variety of other biomedical functions.

Biodegradable and biocompatible, these tiny mirror-like devices dissolve harmlessly at predetermined rates and require no surgery to remove them.

The technology is the brainchild… read more

The music of the silks

Researchers synthesize a new kind of silk fiber --- and find that music can help fine-tune the material’s properties
November 30, 2012

This diagram of the molecular structure of one of the artificially produced versions of spider silk depicts one that turned out to form strong, well-linked fibers. A different structure, made using a variation of the same methods, was not able to form into the long fibers needed to make it useful. Musical compositions based on the two structures helped to show how they differed. (Credit: Markus Buehler/MIT)

Research by MIT’s Markus Buehler — together with David Kaplan of Tufts University and Joyce Wong of Boston University — has synthesized new variants on silk’s natural structure, and found a method for making further improvements in the synthetic material.

The work stems from a collaboration of civil and environmental engineers, mathematicians, biomedical engineers and musical composers. The results are reported in a paper published… read more

NASA spacecraft finds new Mercury water ice evidence

December 1, 2012

messenger_mercury_mosaic

Instruments aboard NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft studying the planet Mercury have provided compelling support for the long-held hypothesis the planet harbors abundant water ice and other frozen volatile materials within its permanently shadowed polar craters.

“About the last thing you would expect on a planet so close to the sun is water ice,” said Matthew Siegler, a scientist at… read more

DNA imaged with electron microscope for the first time

December 2, 2012

dna_imaging_difabrizio

An electron microscope has imaged threads of DNA directly or the first time, New Scientist reports.

The technique will let researchers see how proteins, RNA and other biomolecules interact with DNA.

The structure of DNA was originally discovered using X-ray crystallography, requiring complex mathematics to reconstruct the crystal structure from the observed patterns.

The new images are a direct picture of the DNA strands, seen with… read more

Imaging brain structures that deteriorate in Parkinson’s

New MRI technique could help doctors track how patients respond to treatment
December 2, 2012

substantia nigra

A new imaging technique developed at MIT offers the first glimpse of the degeneration of two brain structures affected by Parkinson’s disease.

The technique, which combines several types of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), could allow doctors to better monitor patients’ progression and track the effectiveness of potential new treatments, says Suzanne Corkin, MIT professor emerita of neuroscience and leader of the research team.… read more

Creating 3D brain tissues in a lab dish

December 3, 2012

Fabrication of 3D multilayer tissue prototypes via a layer-by-layer photomasking (credit: U. Gurkan et al./Advanced Materials)

Borrowing from microfabrication techniques used in the semiconductor industry, MIT and Harvard Medical School (HMS) engineers have developed a simple, inexpensive way to create three-dimensional brain tissues in a lab dish, using brain cells taken from the primary cortex of rats.

The new technique yields tissue constructs that closely mimic the cellular composition of those in the living brain, allowing scientists to study how neurons… read more

A step toward creating a bio-robot hybrid

December 3, 2012

Orr Yarkoni, Lynn Donlon and Daniel Frankel<br />
Department of Chemical Engineering, Newcastle University,

Would it be possible to integrate biological components with advanced robotics, using biological cells to do machine-like functions and interface with an electronic nervous system — in effect, creating an autonomous, multi-cellular biohybrid robot?

Researchers Orr Yarkoni, Lynn Donlon, and Daniel Frankel, from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Newcastle University think so, and they’ve developed an interface to allow communication… read more

NASA-NOAA satellite reveals new views of Earth at night

December 4, 2012

Composite map of the world assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October 2012 (credit: NASA Earth Observatory/NOAA NGDC)

Scientists have unveiled an unprecedented new look at our planet at night. A global composite image, constructed using cloud-free night images from a new NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite, shows the glow of natural and human-built phenomena across the planet in greater detail than ever before.

Many satellites are equipped to look at Earth during the day, when they can observe our planet… read more

Researchers create versatile 3D nanostructures using DNA bricks

New method greatly expands repertoire of nanobiotechnology applications in medicine and beyond
December 4, 2012

DNAbricks-micrographs-full

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have created more than 100 three-dimensional (3D) nanostructures using DNA building blocks that function like Lego bricks — a major advance from the two-dimensional (2D) structures the same team built a few months ago.

The new method is the next step toward using DNA nanotechnologies for more sophisticated applications than ever possible before,… read more

A reconfigurable miniature robot

The robotic equivalent of a Swiss army knife
December 4, 2012

A four-segment milli-motein chain with a one-centimeter<br />
module size (credit: MIT Center for Bits and Atoms)

MIT scientists have designed a little device called a “milli-motein” (millimeter-sized components and a motorized design inspired by proteins, which naturally fold themselves into incredibly complex shapes) that may be a harbinger of future devices that could fold themselves up into almost any shape imaginable.

The device was conceived by Neil Gershenfeld, head of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, visiting scientist Ara… read more

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