Biodegradable Batteries May One Day Power Implantable Devices

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Medical implants would monitor vital signs or dispense therapies before vanishing.

 

In recent years, scientists have been trying to develop implantable devices that make it easier for the patient and doctors — most devices currently require maintenance, usually to replace an expired battery, every seven to 10 years. Scientists, however, have now developeda biodegradable battery that, once out of power, can be absorbed by the body.

 

“This is really a major advance,” Jeffrey Borenstein, a biomedical engineer at Draper Laboratory, a research and development center in Massachusetts, told Nature. “Until recently, there has not been a lot of progress in this area.”

 

The device was created by researchers at the University of Illiinois, who, in January, developed a rechargeable nanoribbon that relied on the electromechanical interaction, piezoelectricity, to power a device. Essentially, the rechargeable “battery” converted the movement of organs into electricity devices could use. 

See on www.nature.com

Engineers design ‘living materials’

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Inspired by natural materials such as bone — a matrix of minerals and other substances, including living cells — MIT engineers have coaxed bacterial cells to produce biofilms that can incorporate nonliving materials, such as gold nanoparticles and quantum dots.

 

Biological and electrical engineers at MIT have combined E.coli cells with gold nanoparticles to make the bacteria conductive — all using “sticky” biofilms. The hope is that by engineering inorganic cells like these that “talk to each other”, just like their living equivalent, we can produce self-assembling or even self-healing batteries, solar cells or even medical diagnostic sensors that hop a ride on molecular drug delivery systems.

 

“It shows that you can make cells that talk to each other and they can change the composition of the material over time,” said Timothy Lu, lead author on the paper describing the technique in Nature Materials. “Ultimately, we hope to emulate how natural systems, like bone, form. No one tells bone what to do, but it generates a material in response to environmental signals.”

See on www.mit.edu

Sun powers complex cancer test for remote regions

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Kaposi’s sarcoma is a type of cancer linked to AIDS, and remains commonplace across Africa due to a lack of basic medical care and simple lab tests. Thankfully, Cornell University engineers have created a solar-powered smartphone accessory that can detect the problem, and also be adapted for other ailments such as E. coli and hepatitis.

The device consists of a smartphone, an app, a lens and a tiny round chip, which are used to carry out a chemical test. Gold nanoparticles are combined with slices of DNA that bind to Kaposi’s DNA sequences in a solution, which is then added to a microfluidic chip. In the presence of viral DNA, particles clump together and limit how much light can travel through the solution, which also causes a color change.

 

An optical sensor hooked up to the smartphone via a micro-USB port detects the amount of color change to indicate the severity of infection. The solution is bright red when there is little or no Kaposi’s virus present, whereas it turns purple when the concentrations of viral DNA are higher.

A fully-charged phone battery supplies enough power for the whole system to run for up to 70 hours, with each test taking about half an hour to complete. Compared to traditional methods, the solar-powered device uses 100 times less energy, and is expected to cost less than $500.

See on www.news.cornell.edu

Scientists 3D Print New Solar Panels Which Work Best When Cloudy

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Even though conventional solar panels can still function well in overcast weather, British scientists at the National Physical Laboratory have created a new type of solar cell that thrives in overcast environments. What’s more impressive however, is that they are made from small organic molecules that can easily be dissolved into a solution and 3D printed into any shape, size, or color desired.

 

That’s right, they produce more energy when clouds are blocking the sun, than when the sun is out in full force. In fact, scientists have shown that the new solar panels manage only 10% efficiency when placed in direct sunlight, while that number jumps to 13% when placed in cloudy conditions.

See on www.ornl.gov

20 Crucial Terms Every 21st Century Futurist Should Know

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We live in an era of accelerating change, when scientific and technological advancements are arriving rapidly. As a result, we are developing a new language to describe our civilization as it evolves.

 

Here are 20 terms and concepts that you’ll need to navigate our future.

 

1. Co-veillance

2. Multiplex Parenting

3. Technological Unemployment

4. Substrate-Autonomous Person

5. Intelligence Explosion

6. Longevity Dividend

7. Repressive Desublimation

8. Intelligence Amplification

9. Effective Altruism

10. Moral Enhancement

11. Proactionary Principle

12. Mules

13. Anthropocene

14. Eroom’s Law

15. Evolvability Risk

16. Artificial Wombs

17. Whole Brain Emulations

18. Weak AI

19. Neural Coupling

20. Computational Overhang

 

Read the explanations in the article.

See on io9.com

Sniff out explosives with “lobster radar”

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The way lobsters find a specific scent might one day keep soldiers safe on the battlefield.

 

Researchers say the neurons involved in “lobster radar” could be used to develop improved electronic “noses” to detect landmines and other explosives.

 

For many years, scientists have worked to create sensors that can detect everything from contamination in food products to harmful bacteria, as well as land mines and explosives. And because of the dangerous nature of hazardous material detection, scientists are constantly looking for ways to improve those devices.

 

“An electronic nose has to recognize an odor and locate its source. Finding the source has often been the job of the person handling the electronic nose,” said Barry W. Ache, distinguished professor of neuroscience and biology and director of the Center for Smell and Taste in UF’s Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute. To date, the technology has had its drawbacks — especially when the nose is used to detect potentially deadly materials that could endanger its human handler.

See on news.ufl.edu

Smartphone Lens Could Diagnose Diseases On The Spot

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We’ve recently seen a number of projects aimed at creating Star Trek-like medical tricorders, that take the form of stand-alone electronic devices built specifically for the purpose. Now, however, scientists at the University of Houston are taking an approach that’s currently popular in many other areas of product design – they’ve asked, “Why build a whole new device, if a smartphone can provide the electronics?”. The result is a proposed phone lens attachment, that could be used to diagnose diseases in real time.

 

A special lens uses a thin, glass slide with a gold grid, which will be blocked up if bacteria are present in a person’s fluid sample. While the slides of the lens are currently only visible under a microscope, the researchers hope to develop a working model that can be inspected with the phone’s flash function. Below is a picture of the lens under a microscope, with bacteria covering up parts of the grid.

See on www.egr.uh.edu