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Wait, some stem cells use nanotubes to communicate with other cells? Seriously?

Ask postdoc Mayu Inaba, who discovered something biologists have mistaken for a speck of dust
July 1, 2015

Confocal microscope image showing stem cells (blue) clustering around a hub in the stem cell niche (pink). One stem cell extends a nanotube into the hub. (credit: Mayu Inaba, University of Michigan)

Certain types of stem cells use microscopic, threadlike nanotubes to communicate with neighboring cells, rather than sending a broadcast signal, researchers at University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have discovered.

The fruit-fly research findings, published today (July 1) in Nature, suggest that short-range, cell-to-cell communication may rely on this type of direct connection more than was previously understood, said… read more

Walking in nature lowers risk of depression, scientists find in MRI study

Urbanization is associated with increased levels of mental illness
July 1, 2015

rumination to sgPFC-ft

A new study has found quantifiable evidence that supports the common-sense idea that walking in nature could lower your risk of depression.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting (El Camino Real in Palo Alto, California, a noisy street with three to four… read more

Future of Life Institute awards $7M to explore artificial intelligence risks

Terminator Genisys film will distract from the real issues posed by future AI, says Tegmark
July 1, 2015

Elon Musk (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Future of Life Institute (FLI) announced today (July 1) the selection of 37 research teams around the world to which it plans to award about $7 million from Elon Musk and the Open Philanthropy Project for a global research program aimed at keeping AI beneficial to humanity.

The grants were funded by part of Musk’s $10 million donation to the group in January and $1.2 million from the… read more

Pulsed electric field technology may rejuvenate skin function and appearance

June 30, 2015

electrodes used for PEF-ft

A team of Tel Aviv University and Harvard Medical School researchers has devised a novel non-invasive tissue-stimulation technique using pulsed electric fields (PEF) to generate new skin tissue growth.

The technique produces scarless skin rejuvenation and may revolutionize the treatment of degenerative skin diseases, according to research team leader Alexander Golberg of TAU’s Porter School of Environmental Studies and the Center for Engineering in Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical… read more

How to form 3-D shapes from flat sheets of graphene

Could lead to highly sensitive 3D sensors, graphene-coated atomic force microscope (AFM) probes, electrode arrays, and new biosensing devices
June 30, 2015

Credit: University of Illinois College of Engineering

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a new approach for forming 3D shapes from flat, 2D sheets of graphene, paving the way for future integrated systems of graphene-MEMS hybrid devices and flexible electronics.

Reported methods of using graphene transfer have been mostly limited to planar or curvilinear surfaces due to the challenges associated with fractures from local stress during transfer onto… read more

Rice University installs powerful electron microscope with sub-nanoscale resolution

Will create awesome 4K images
June 30, 2015

The Titan Themis microscope at Rice University incorporates a variety of detectors, including X-ray, optical and multiple electron detectors and a 4K-resolution camera. The microscope gives researchers the ability to create three-dimensional structural reconstructions and carry out electric field mapping of subnanoscale materials. (credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Rice University has installed the Titan Themis scanning/transmission electron microscope, which will enable scientists from Rice as well as academic and industrial partners to view and analyze materials at angstrom-scale (one-tenth of a nanometer) resolution, about the size of a single hydrogen atom.

Images will be captured with a variety of detectors, including X-ray, optical and multiple electron detectors and a 4K-resolution camera (will create 4K ultra… read more

‘Microswimmer’ robots to drill through blocked arteries within four years

Controlled by an external magnetic field, nanoscale bacteria-like chains could replace stents and angioplasty balloons
June 30, 2015

spiral-shaped microswimmer-ft

Swarms of microscopic, magnetic, robotic beads could be used within five years by vascular surgeons to clear blocked arteries. These minimally invasive microrobots, which look and move like corkscrew-shaped bacteria, are being developed by an $18-million, 11-institution research initiative headed by the Korea Evaluation Institute of Industrial Technologies (KEIT).

These “microswimmers” are driven and controlled by external magnetic fields, similar to how nanowires from … read more

Engineers more than double data transmission capacity over fiber-optic cables

June 29, 2015

A wideband frequency comb ensures that the crosstalk between multiple communication channels within the same optical fiber is reversible. (credit: UC San Diego Photonics Systems Group)

University of California, San Diego electrical engineers have invented a technology that could allow between a two- and fourfold increase in data transmission capacity for the backbone of  Internet, cable, wireless, and landline networks over long distances, while reducing cost and latency (delay).

The new system addresses a problem known as the “Kerr effect”: distortion of optical signals that travel on optical fibers over distances, requiring the… read more

Creating a better semiconductor in femtoseconds with ‘photo-doping’

June 29, 2015

Certain compounds can exhibit multiple quantum phases, including Mott insulator, superconductor, and spin or charge density wave (CDW) states based on subtle physical tunings, including applying heat and photo-doping (credit: Tzong-Ru T. Han et al./Science Advances)

Michigan State University (MSU) researchers have developed a “photo-doping” process by shooting an ultrafast laser pulse into a semiconductor* material — rapidly changing its properties as if it had been chemically “doped.”

Changing the electrical properties of semiconductors formerly required a complex, expensive process of adding different dopants, or trace chemical impurities.

The new research could lead to development of next-generation electronic materials and even optically controlled… read more

Swedish scientists create an artificial neuron that mimicks an organic one

Could remotely stimulate neurons based on specific chemical signals received from different parts of the body, or doctors could artificially bridge damaged nerve cells and restore neural functions
June 29, 2015

Glutamate drops are added to a dish containing a biosensor (green) that generates electronic signals (e–), which (via hardware/software) regulate hydrogen ion delivery  (white tube) to another dish, where pH is monitored microscopically (video). (credit: Daniel T. Simon et al./Biosensors and Bioelectronics)

Scientists at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet and Linköping University have built what they claim is a “fully functional neuron” that mimicks the functions of a human nerve cell.

The “organic electronic biomimetic neuron” combines a biosensor and ion pump. It senses a chemical change in one dish and translates it into an electrical/ionic signal that travels along an “axon” to a “synapse” and releases chemical signals… read more

D-Wave Systems breaks the 1000 qubit quantum computing barrier

June 26, 2015

(credit: D-Wave Systems)

D-Wave Systems has broken the quantum computing 1000 qubit barrier, developing a processor about double the size of D-Wave’s previous generation, and far exceeding the number of qubits ever developed by D-Wave or any other quantum effort, the announcement said.

It will allow “significantly more complex computational problems to be solved than was possible on any previous quantum computer.”

At 1000 qubits, the new processor considers 21000 possibilities… read more

Could stretching a thin crystal create a better solar cell?

Stretched molybdenum disulfide crystal could absorb more solar energy than conventional solar-cell materials
June 26, 2015

This colorized image shows an ultra thin layer of semiconductor material stretched over the peaks and valleys of part of a device the size of a pinkie nail. Just three atoms thick, this semiconductor layer is stretched in ways enhance its electronic potential to catch solar energy. The image is enlarged 100,000 times. (credit: Hong Li, Stanford Engineering)

Stanford University researchers have stretched an atomically thin Molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) semiconductor crystal to achieve a variable bandgap (defined as the amount of energy it takes to move an electron in a material).

That could lead to solar cells that absorb more energy from the sun by being sensitive to a broader spectrum of light, and could also find applications in next-generation optoelectronics.

Crystalline semiconductors like silicon… read more

Transparent, stretchable conductors using nano-accordion structure

Could this material be used as an interface for your future cell phone?
June 26, 2015

Researchers from North Carolina State University have created stretchable, transparent conductors that work because of the structures' "nano-accordion" design. The material is shown here, rolled up to highlight its flexibility. (credit: Abhijeet Bagal)

Researchers from North Carolina State University (NC State) have created stretchable, transparent conductors based on a “nano-accordion” design inspired by springs.

Why is this important?

Imagine a material that is a flexible, stretchable, and transparent. So it could be attached to human or robot skin (or woven into clothing) for use as a wearable, stretchable, touch-sensitive smartphone display, for example, or used as a… read more

Nanowire implants for remote-controlled drug delivery

June 25, 2015

polyprrole-nanowires-ft

Purdue researchers have created a new implantable drug-delivery system using nanowires that can be wirelessly controlled. The nanowires respond to an electromagnetic field generated by a separate device, which can be used to control the release of a preloaded drug.

The system eliminates the tubes and wires required by other implantable devices that can lead to infection and other complications, said team leader Richard Borgens,… read more

How to use graphene as a biosensor by increasing its chemical selectivity

Could be used to create an inexpensive "lab-on-a-chip"
June 25, 2015

The illustration shows how maleimide compounds bind to the graphene surface. The graphene monolayer lies on a thin film of silicon nitride (red) that in turn is on a quartz microbalance (blue) and can be subjected to a potential via a gold contact (yellow). (credit: Marc Gluba/HZB)

Scientists at the HZB Institute for Silicon Photovoltaics in Berlin have succeeded in precisely measuring and controlling the thickness of an organic compound that has been bound to a graphene layer. This could enable graphene to be used as a sensitive detector for biological molecules in the future.

It has long been known that graphene is useful for detecting traces of organic molecules, because the… read more

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