science + technology news

New ‘lab-on-a-chip’ could revolutionize early diagnosis of cancer

October 8, 2014

(Credit: University of Kansas Medical Center)

A new miniaturized biomedical “lab-on-a-chip” testing device for exosomes — molecular messengers between cells — promises faster, earlier, less-invasive diagnosis of cancer, according to its developers at the University of Kansas Medical Center and the University of Kansas Cancer Center.

“A lab-on-a-chip shrinks the pipettes, test tubes and analysis instruments of a modern chemistry lab onto a microchip-sized wafer,” explained Yong Zeng, assistant… read more

Quantum robots will be more creative, faster, smarter, say researchers

October 8, 2014

The theoretical work has focused on using quantum computing to accelerate the machine learning. (Credit: SINC)

Quantum computing should be applied to robots, automatons, and other agents that use AI to make them more creative and to learn and respond faster than conventional robots, researchers from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and the University of Innsbruck (Austria) recommend.

In a study in the journal ‘Physical Review X’ modeling the use of quantum physics in future robots (and other agents), they demonstrate that… read more

‘Smart’ bandage glows to measure oxygenation

October 8, 2014

The transparent liquid bandage displays a quantitative, oxygenation-sensitive colormap that can be easily acquired using a simple camera or smartphone (Credit: Li/Wellman Center for Photomedicine)

Inspired by a desire to help wounded soldiers, a team of researchers has created a paint-on, see-through, “smart” bandage that glows to indicate a wound’s tissue oxygenation concentration.

Oxygen plays a critical role in healing, so mapping these levels in severe wounds and burns can help to significantly improve the success of surgeries to restore limbs and physical functions.

The development was led by Assistant Professor Conor L.… read more

The signature of aging in the brain

Cognitive decline may be related to one's "immunological age"
October 7, 2014

Immunofluorescence microscope image of the choroid plexus. Epithelial cells are in green and chemokine proteins (CXCL10) are in red (credit: Weizmann Institute of Science)

Weizmann Institute of Science researchers have found evidence of a unique “signature” that may be the “missing link” between cognitive decline and aging and that may in the future lead to treatments that can slow or reverse cognitive decline in older people, according to Prof. Michal Schwartz of the Department of Neurobiology and Ido Amit of the Department of Immunology.

Until a decade ago, scientific dogma held that the blood-brain… read more

Supercapacitors from ‘crumpled graphene’ could power flexible electronic devices

October 7, 2014

To form the crumpled graphene, a sheet of polymer material is stretched in both dimensions, then graphene paper is bonded to it. When the polymer is released in one direction, the graphene forms pleats, as shown in the bottom left image, taken with a scanning electron microscope (SEM). Then, when released in the other direction, it forms a chaotic crumpled pattern (top left). At top right, an SEM image shows the material in a partially crumpled state. At bottom right, SEM image of a piece that has been crumpled and then flattened out (Credit: Image courtesy of the researchers)

MIT researchers have found that crumpling a piece of graphene “paper” — a material formed by bonding together layers of the two-dimensional form of carbon — can yield new properties that could be useful for creating extremely stretchable supercapacitors to store energy for flexible electronic devices.

The finding is reported in the journal Scientific Reports (open access) by MIT’s Xuanhe Zhao, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and civil and… read more

How to turn your Android phone into a cosmic ray detector

October 7, 2014

Cell-phone-camera image showing evidence of a cosmic ray particle hit (surrounded by sensor noise) (credit: Justin Vandenbroucke)

An Android app (iPhone app planned) that transforms your cell phone into a cosmic-ray particle detector has been created by Justin Vandenbroucke, a University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professor of physics and a researcher at the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC).

“It uses the same principles as these very large experiments,” he says.

Cosmic rays are energetic subatomic particles created, scientists think, in cosmic accelerators like black holes… read more

2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded for ‘inner GPS’ research

Robotic-vision expert extends this research to intelligent robot navigation
October 6, 2014

Grid cells, together with other cells in the entorhinal cortex that recognize the direction of the head of the animal and the border of the room, form networks with<br />
the place cells in the hippocampus. This circuitry constitutes a comprehensive positioning system in the brain that appears to have components similar to those of the rat brain. (Credit:  Mattias Karlén/The Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine)

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has just been awarded to John O´Keefe and jointly to May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser for the discovery of a positioning system in the brain.

This “inner GPS” makes it possible to orient ourselves in space, demonstrating a cellular basis for higher cognitive function. According to the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine:

John O’Keefe discovered,… read more

Green-tea-based nanocarrier kills cancer cells more effectively

October 6, 2014

Green-tea based druig carrier

A drug-delivery system that may kill cancer cells more efficiently has been developed by Singapore researchers, using an antioxidant ingredient of green tea.

A key ingredient in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), is an antioxidant known to have therapeutic applications in the treatment of many disorders, including cancer. A*STAR’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) researchers have now engineered nanocarriers using EGCG that they say can deliver drugs and kill cancer… read more

Hijacking the bacterial ‘communication system’ to tell cancer cells to stop spreading — or even die

October 3, 2014

Cancer cells on the left are pre-molecule treatment. The cells on the right are after the treatment and are dead.

A molecule used as a bacteria communication system can be hijacked and used to prevent cancer cells from spreading — or even to die on command, University of Missouri researchers have discovered.

“During an infection, bacteria release molecules which allow them to ‘talk’ to each other,” explained Senthil Kumar, an assistant research professor and assistant director of the Comparative Oncology and Epigenetics Laboratory at the MU College of Veterinaryread more

Google Glass can now display captions for hard-of-hearing users

October 3, 2014

Captioning on Glass display captions for the hard-of-hearing (credit: Georgia Tech)

Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have created a speech-to-text Android app for Google Glass that displays captions for hard-of-hearing persons when someone is talking to them in person.

“This system allows wearers like me to focus on the speaker’s lips and facial gestures, “said School of Interactive Computing Professor Jim Foley.

“If hard-of-hearing people understand the speech, the conversation can continue immediately without waiting for the caption. However,… read more

Harvesting hydrogen fuel from sunlight and water at lower cost

October 2, 2014

Credit: Alain Herzog.

Swiss researchers have created a method of producing hydrogen fuel from sunlight and water at 12.3 percent conversion efficiency, a record using earth-­abundant materials instead of expensive rare metals.

The EPFL researchers used a pair of solar cells made with a mineral called perovskite and low-cost electrodes to create an electrolyzer that separates the water molecules.

The high efficiency is based on a characteristic of perovskite cells: their… read more

Graphene flaws could be used to create hypersensitive ‘electronic nose’

October 2, 2014

Amin Salehi-Khojin, UIC assistant professor of mechanical engineering (credit: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services)

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) researchers have discovered a way to create a chemical sensor that could increase sensitivity to absorbed gas molecules by 300 times, based on imperfections in graphene sheets.

The researchers discovered that gas molecules accumulate at micrometer-sized, individual graphene grain boundaries, making them ideal spots for sensing gas molecules.

The irregular nature of the grain boundary produces hundreds of electron-transport gaps with… read more

A bucket-full of this material can absorb all the oxygen in a room

The stored oxygen can be easily released again whenever and wherever needed
October 1, 2014

This exotic crystalline material changes color when absorbing or releasing oxygen. Crystals are black when saturated with oxygen and pink when the oxygen has been released. (Credit: University of Southern Denmark)

A new crystalline material absorbs 160 times more oxygen than in the air around you — only a spoonful bucket-full (10 liters) of it is enough to suck up all the oxygen in a room, according to its developer, Professor Christine McKenzie in the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy at the University of Southern Denmark.

A few grains of this material might absorb enough oxygen from the… read more

MIT researchers design ‘perfect’ solar absorber

New system aims to harness the full useful portion of the solar spectrum, no solar trackers required
October 1, 2014

This rendering shows a metallic dielectric photonic crystal that stores solar energy as heat (credit: Jeffrey Chou)

MIT researchers say they have developed a material that comes very close to the “ideal” for converting solar energy to heat (for conversion to electricity).

It should absorb virtually all wavelengths of light that reach Earth’s surface from the sun — but not much of the rest the longer-wavelength infrared portion of the solar spectrum, since that would increase the energy that is re-radiated by the material,… read more

Massive electrode array system will do first large-scale network recording of brain activity

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory awarded NIH grant
October 1, 2014

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is developing a neural measurement and manipulation system -- an advanced electronics system to monitor and modulate neurons -- that will be packed with more than 1,000 tiny electrodes embedded in different areas of the brain to record and stimulate neural circuitry (credit: LLNL)

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) a grant Tuesday to develop an electrode array system that will “enable researchers to better understand how the brain works through unprecedented resolution and scale.”

The electrode array is part of an advanced electronics system to monitor and modulate neurons, using more than 1,000 tiny electrodes embedded in different areas of the brain to record and stimulate… read more

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