Mention the word ‘teleportation’ and for many people it conjures up “Beam me up, Scottie” images of Captain James T Kirk.
teleportation2But in the last two decades quantum teleportation – transferring the quantum structure of an object from one place to another without physical transmission — has moved from the realms of Star Trek fantasy to tangible reality.

Quantum teleportation is an important building block for quantum computing, quantum communication and quantum network and, eventually, a quantum Internet. While theoretical proposals for a quantum Internet already exist, the problem for scientists is that there is still debate over which of various technologies provides the most efficient and reliable teleportation system. This is the dilemma which an international team of researchers, led by Dr Stefano Pirandola of the Department of Computer Science at the University of York (UK), set out to resolve.

In a paper published in Nature Photonics, the team, which included scientists from the Freie Universität Berlin and the Universities of Tokyo and Toronto, reviewed the theoretical ideas around quantum teleportation focusing on the main experimental approaches and their attendant advantages and disadvantages. None of the technologies alone provide a perfect solution, so the scientists concluded that a hybridisation of the various protocols and underlying structures would offer the most fruitful approach.

For instance, systems using photonic qubits work over distances up to 143 kilometres, but they are probabilistic in that only 50 per cent of the information can be transported. To resolve this, such photon systems may be used in conjunction with continuous variable systems, which are 100 per cent effective but currently limited to short distances.

Most importantly, teleportation-based optical communication needs an interface with suitable matter-based quantum memories where quantum information can be stored and further processed.

Dr Pirandola, who is also a member of the York Centre for Quantum Technologies, said: “We don’t have an ideal or universal technology for quantum teleportation. The field has developed a lot but we seem to need to rely on a hybrid approach to get the best from each available technology.


The use of quantum teleportation as a building block for a quantum network depends on its integration with quantum memories. The development of good quantum memories would allow us to build quantum repeaters, therefore extending the range of teleportation. They would also give us the ability to store and process the transmitted quantum information at local quantum computers.
“This could ultimately form the backbone of a quantum Internet. The revised hybrid architecture will likely rely on teleportation-based long-distance quantum optical communication, interfaced with solid state devices for quantum information processing.


Ultra-Fast Cheap Diagnosis At Home For Cancer And Many Diseases

Chemists at the University of Montreal used DNA molecules to developed rapid, inexpensive medical diagnostic tests that take only a few minutes to perform. Their findings, which will has been published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, may aid efforts to build point-of-care devices for quick medical diagnosis of various diseases ranging from cancer, allergies, autoimmune diseases, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and many others.

The new technology may also drastically impact global health, due to its potential low cost and easiness of use, according to the research team. The rapid and easy-to-use diagnostic tests are made of DNA and use one of the simplest force in chemistry, steric effects – a repulsion force that arises when atoms are brought too close together – to detect a wide array of protein markers that are linked to various diseases.

The design was created by the research group of Alexis Vallée-Bélisle, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at University of Montreal.

molecular diagnosis

Despite the power of current diagnostic tests, a significant limitation is that they still require complex laboratory procedures. Patients typically must wait for days or even weeks to receive the results of their blood tests,” Vallée-Bélisle said. “The blood sample has to be transported to a centralized lab, its content analyzed by trained personnel, and the results sent back to the doctor’s office. If we can move testing to the point of care, or even at home, it would eliminates the lag time between testing and treatment, which would enhance the effectiveness of medical interventions.

The key breakthrough underlying this new technology came by chance. “While working on the first generation of these DNA-base tests, we realized that proteins, despite their small size (typically 1000 times smaller than a human hair) are big enough to run into each other and create steric effect (or traffic) at the surface of a sensor, which drastically reduced the signal of our tests,” said Sahar Mahshid, postdoctoral scholar at the University of Montreal and first author of the study. “Instead of having to fight this basic repulsion effect, we instead decided to embrace this force and build a novel signaling mechanism, which detects steric effects when a protein marker binds to the DNA test.



A Phone So Smart, It Sniffs Out Cancer

Scientists have been exploring new ways to “smell” signs of cancer by analyzing what’s in patients’ breath. Funded by a grant from the European Commission, the SNIFFPHONE project will link Prof. Haick’s from Technion Israel acclaimed breathalyzer screening technology to the smartphone to provide non-invasive, fast and cheap disease detection. It will work by using micro- and nano-sensors that read exhaled breath and then transfer the information through the attached mobile phone to an information-processing system for interpretation. The data is then assessed and disease diagnosis and other details are ascertained. In ACS‘ journal Nano Letters, the team now reports new progress toward this goal. The researchers have developed a small array of flexible sensors, which accurately detect compounds in breath samples that are specific to ovarian cancer.

Nano sensor to detect cancer

Diagnosing cancer today usually involves various imaging techniques, examining tissue samples under a microscope, or testing cells for proteins or genetic material. In search of safer and less invasive ways to tell if someone has cancer, scientists have recently started analyzing breath and defining specific profiles of compounds in breath samples. But translating these exhaled disease fingerprints into a meaningful diagnosis has required a large number of sensors, which makes them impractical for clinical use. Hossam Haick and colleagues sought to address this problem.

The researchers developed a small, breath-diagnostic array based on flexible gold-nanoparticle sensors for use in an “electronic nose.” The system — tested on breath samples from 43 volunteers, 17 of whom had ovarian cancer — showed an accuracy rate of 82 percent. This approach could also apply to diagnostics for other diseases.


How To Spray Solar Cells

A new study out of St. Mary’s College of Maryland puts us closer to do-it-yourself spray-on solar cell technology—promising third-generation solar cells utilizing a nanocrystal ink deposition that could make traditional expensive silicon-based solar panels a thing of the past.

In a 2014 study, published in the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, St. Mary’s College of Maryland energy expert Professor Troy Townsend introduced the first fully solution-processed all-inorganic photovoltaic technology.

spray-on solar cells
While progress on organic thin-film photovoltaics is rapidly growing, inorganic devices still hold the record for highest efficiencies which is in part due to their broad spectral absorption and excellent electronic properties. Considering the recorded higher efficiencies and lower cost per watt compared to organic devices, combined with the enhanced thermal and photo stability of bulk-scale inorganic materials, Townsend, in his 2014 study, focused on an all-inorganic based structure for fabrication of a top to bottom fully solution-based solar cell.

A major disadvantage compared to organics, however, is that inorganic materials are difficult to deposit from solution. To overcome this, Townsend synthesized materials on the nanoscale. Inorganic nanocrystals encased in an organic ligand shell are soluble in organic solvents and can be deposited from solution (i.e., spin-, dip-, spray-coat) whereas traditional inorganic materials require a high temperature vacuum chamber. The solar devices are fabricated from nanoscale particle inks of the light absorbing layers, cadmium telluride/cadmium selenide, and metallic inks above and below. This way, the entire electronic device can be built on non-conductive glass substrates using equipment you can find in your kitchen.

When you spray on these nanocrystals, you have to heat them to make them work,” explained Townsend, “but you can’t just heat the crystals by themselves, you have to add a sintering agent and that, for the last 40 years, has been cadmium chloride, a toxic salt used in commercial thin-film devices. No one has tested non-toxic alternatives for nanoscale ink devices, and we wanted to explore the mechanism of the sintering process to be able to implement safer salts.”


Blindness Cure From Stem Cells

The first patient has been treated in Britain in a pioneering trial of a new treatment co-developed by Pfizer and derived from embryonic stem cells designed for patients with a condition that can cause blindness. Specialists at London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital said the operation, described as “successful”, was the first of 10 planned for participants in a trial of the treatment for a disease called ‘wetage-related macular degeneration (AMD). The trial will test the safety and efficacy of transplanting eye cells known as retinal pigment epithelium, which have been derived from embryonic stem cells.

eye2Stem cells are the body’s master cells, the source of all other cells. Scientists who support the use of embryonic stem cells say they could transform medicine, providing treatments for blindness, juvenile diabetes or severe injuries. But critics object to them because they are harvested from human embryos.

This trial involves surgeons inserting a specially engineered patch behind the retina to deliver the treatment cells to replace diseased cells at the back of the eye. The first surgery was successfully performed on a patient last month, Moorfields said in a statement on Tuesday, and “there have been no complications to date“.

The patient wishes to remain anonymous, but the team hope to determine her outcome in terms of initial visual recovery by early December,” it added.

Retinal surgeon Lyndon Da Cruz, who is performing the operations, said he hoped many patients “will benefit in the future from transplantation of these cells.”

Macular degeneration accounts for almost 50 percent of all cases of blindness or vision loss in the developed world. It usually affects people over 50 and comes in two forms, wet and dry. Wet AMD, which is less common than dry AMD, is generally caused by abnormal blood vessels that leak fluid or blood into a region in center of the retina.


Ocean: NanoMotors Remove Ninety Percent Of The Carbon Dioxide

Machines that are much smaller than the width of a human hair could one day help clean up carbon dioxide pollution in the oceans. Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego have designed enzyme-functionalized micromotors that rapidly zoom around in water, remove carbon dioxide and convert it into a usable solid form. The proof of concept study represents a promising route to mitigate the buildup of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas in the environment, said researchers.

nanomotorsNanoengineers have invented tiny tube-shaped micromotors that zoom around in water and efficiently remove carbon dioxide. The surfaces of the micromotors are functionalized with the enzyme carbonic anhydrase, which enables the motors to help rapidly convert carbon dioxide to calcium carbonate

We’re excited about the possibility of using these micromotors to combat ocean acidification and global warming,” said Virendra V. Singh, a postdoctoral scientist in Wang’s research group and a co-first author of this study. In their experiments, nanoengineers demonstrated that the micromotors rapidly decarbonated water solutions that were saturated with carbon dioxide. Within five minutes, the micromotors removed 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from a solution of deionized water. The micromotors were just as effective in a sea water solution and removed 88 percent of the carbon dioxide in the same timeframe.

In the future, we could potentially use these micromotors as part of a water treatment system, like a water decarbonation plant,” said Kevin Kaufmann, an undergraduate researcher in Wang’s lab and a co-author of the study.

The team, led by nanoengineering professor Joseph Wang, has published the work this month in the journal Angewandte Chemie.


“Chewing gum” Material 3 Times Stronger Than Steel

Creating futuristic, next generation materials called ‘metallic glass’ that are ultra-strong and ultra-flexible will become easier and cheaper, based on UNSW Australia research that can predict for the first time which combinations of metals will best form these useful materials.

Just like something from science fiction – think of the Liquid-Metal robot assassin in the Terminator films – these materials behave more like glass or plastic than metal.

While still being metals, they become as malleable as chewing gum when heated and can be easily moulded or blown like glass. They are also three times stronger and harder than ordinary metals, on average, and are among the toughest materials known.


liquid_terminatorThe Terminator‘s Liquid Metal Man: While still being metals, they become as malleable as chewing gum when heated and can be easily moulded or blown like glass.

They have been described as the most significant development in materials science since the discovery of plastics more than 50 years ago,” says study author, UNSW’s Dr Kevin Laws.

Most metals are crystalline when solid, with their atoms arranged in a highly organised and regular manner. Metallic glass alloys, however, have a highly disordered structure, with the atoms arranged in a non-regular way.


How To Trap Greenhouse Gases

Emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, petroleum and natural gas tend to collect within Earth’s atmosphere as “greenhouse gases” that are blamed for escalating global warming.

So researchers around the globe are on a quest for materials capable of capturing and storing greenhouse gases. This shared goal led researchers at Technische Universität Darmstadt in Germany and the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur to team up to explore the feasibility of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes (VACNTs) to trap and store two greenhouse gases in particular: carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). As the team reports in The Journal of Chemical Physics, from AIP Publishing, they discovered that gas adsorption in VACNTs can be influenced by adjusting the morphological parameters of the carbon nanotube thickness, the distance between nanotubes, and their height.

Carbon nanotubes against greenhouse gases
Snapshots of CO2 adsorption in double-walled carbon nanotube arrays (with an inner tube diameter of 2r=3 nanometers and various inter-tube distance at T=303 K and p=1 bar)


These parameters are fundamental for ‘tuning’ the hierarchical pore structure of the VACNTs,” explained Mahshid Rahimi and Deepu Babu, the paper’s lead authors and doctoral students in theoretical physical chemistry and inorganic chemistry at the Technische Universität Darmstadt. “This hierarchy effect is a crucial factor for getting high-adsorption capacities as well as mass transport into the nanostructure. Surprisingly, from theory and by experiment, we found that the distance between nanotubes plays a much larger role in gas adsorption than the tube diameter does.


Electronic Circuits Mimic The Human Brain

Researchers of the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology and the CTIT Institute for ICT Research at the University of Twente in The Netherlands have demonstrated working electronic circuits that have been produced in a radically new way, using methods that resemble Darwinian evolution. The size of these circuits is comparable to the size of their conventional counterparts, but they are much closer to natural networks like the human brain. The findings promise a new generation of powerful, energy-efficient electronics, and have been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. The approach of the researchers at the University of Twente is based on methods that resemble those found in Nature. They have used networks of gold nanoparticles for the execution of essential computational tasks. Contrary to conventional electronics, they have moved away from designed circuits. By using ‘designless‘ systems, costly design mistakes are avoided. The computational power of their networks is enabled by applying artificial evolution. This evolution takes less than an hour, rather than millions of years. By applying electrical signals, one and the same network can be configured into 16 different logical gates. The evolutionary approach works around – or can even take advantage of – possible material defects that can be fatal in conventional electronics.

One of the greatest successes of the 20th century has been the development of digital computers. During the last decades these computers have become more and more powerful by integrating ever smaller components on silicon chips. However, it is becoming increasingly hard and extremely expensive to continue this miniaturisation. Current transistors consist of only a handful of atoms. It is a major challenge to produce chips in which the millions of transistors have the same characteristics, and thus to make the chips operate properly. Another drawback is that their energy consumption is reaching unacceptable levels. It is obvious that one has to look for alternative directions, and it is interesting to see what we can learn from nature. Natural evolution has led to powerful ‘computers’ like the human brain, which can solve complex problems in an energy-efficient way. Nature exploits complex networks that can execute many tasks in parallel.


Matter: How To See The Structural Arrangements Of Atoms

Atoms are the building blocks of all matter on Earth, and the patterns in which they are arranged dictate how strong, conductive or flexible a material will be. Now, scientists at UCLA have used a powerful microscope to image the three-dimensional positions of individual atoms to a precision of 19 trillionths of a meter, which is several times smaller than a hydrogen atom.

Their observations make it possible, for the first time, to infer the macroscopic properties of materials based on their structural arrangements of atoms, which will guide how scientists and engineers build aircraft components, for example. The research, led by Jianwei (John) Miao, a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy and a member of UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute, has been published in the online edition of the journal Nature Materials.


atoms+image+(2015)The scientists were able to plot the exact coordinates of nine layers of atoms with a precision of 19 trillionths of a meter

For more than 100 years, researchers have inferred how atoms are arranged in three-dimensional space using a technique called X-ray crystallography, which involves measuring how light waves scatter off of a crystal. However, X-ray crystallography only yields information about the average positions of many billions of atoms in the crystal, and not about individual atoms’ precise coordinates.

“It’s like taking an average of people on Earth,” Miao said. “Most people have a head, two eyes, a nose and two ears. But an image of the average person will still look different from you and me.”


Massive Use Of Nanoparticles Found In Popular Foods

Popular lollies, sauces and dressings have been found to contain nanotechnology that the national food regulator has long denied is being widely used in Australia’s food supply.

For many years, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has claimed there is “little evidence” of nanotechnology in food because no company had applied for approval. It has therefore not tested for nor regulated the use of nanoparticles.​ Frustrated at the inertia, environment group Friends of the Earth commissioned tests that found potentially harmful nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and silica in 14 popular products, including Mars’ M&Ms, Woolworths white sauce and Praise salad dressing.

nanoparticles found in foodNanoparticles of silica found in Maggi‘s Roast Meat Gravy

FSANZ kept saying there’s no evidence of it, we’re not going to do any testing. But all 14 samples came back positive, indicating widespread use of nanoparticles in foods in Australia,” said the group’s emerging tech campaigner, Jeremy Tager. “​Everybody would want to think food is tested and assured to be safe before it hits supermarket shelves. FSANZ is conducting a living experiment with people. It has inexcusably failed in its role as a regulator.

(A human hair is about 100,000 nanometers wide. Nanoparticles are typically less than 100 nanometres and are used to stretch the shelf life and improve the texture of food).

There is no conclusive evidence that nano-titanium dioxide, which whitens and brightens, and nano-silica, which prevents caking, are completely safe to eat. They have been shown to interfere with the immune system and cause cell damage.

The lab test of the 14 supermarket goods, which also included Eclipse chewy mints, Old El Paso taco mix, and Moccona Cappuccino, was conducted by a world-class nanotechnology research facility at Arizona State University.The Food Standards code does not require nanoparticles to be declared on labelling. Nano-titanium dioxide (E171) can be simply described as the conventional-sized type and as “Colour (171)“. Nano-silica (E551) can be listed as the conventional version and as “Anti-caking agent (551)“. FSANZ told Fairfax Media it had not identified any health impacts linked with the consumption of the two types of nanoparticles.


How To Make Objects Invisible

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have devised an ultra-thin invisibilityskincloak that can conform to the shape of an object and conceal it from detection with visible light. Although this cloak is only microscopic in size, the principles behind the technology should enable it to be scaled-up to conceal macroscopic items as well.

Working with brick-like blocks of gold nanoantennas, the Berkeley researchers fashioned a “skin cloak” barely 80 nanometers in thickness, that was wrapped around a three-dimensional object about the size of a few biological cells and arbitrarily shaped with multiple bumps and dents. The surface of the skin cloak was meta-engineered to reroute reflected light waves so that the object was rendered invisible to optical detection when the cloak is activated.

Invisible objectsA 3D illustration of a metasurface skin cloak made from an ultrathin layer of nanoantennas (gold blocks) covering an arbitrarily shaped object. Light reflects off the cloak (red arrows) as if it were reflecting off a flat mirror

This is the first time a 3D object of arbitrary shape has been cloaked from visible light,” said Xiang Zhang, director of Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and a world authority on metamaterials – artificial nanostructures engineered with electromagnetic properties not found in nature. “Our ultra-thin cloak now looks like a coat. It is easy to design and implement, and is potentially scalable for hiding macroscopic objects.”


Nano Is eco-friendly

The root of the humble sugar beet is used to make much of the world’s sugar. But the remainder of the plant is destroyed or made into cheap animal feed. But now Scottish scientists are transforming the sugar byproduct into a wonder material named Curran.


The feed stock that we use is from a sidestream of the sugar producing industry. It’s the waste pulp that comes after they’re removed the sugar, which is then pressed and dried into pellets for ease of shipment. So you can see the bottom of this stick here I’ve got the dried pellets…..but obviously we want to take this material and turn it into something that has a lot more value“,  says  Dr. David Hepworth, co-founder of the company Cellucomp (UK).

In its factory near Edinburgh, Cellucomp is doing just that. Having originally demonstrated Curran‘s strength by using it to make fishing rods, the firm turned its attention to selling it in granule form, for use in industrial liquids and composites. Its creators say Curran is eco-friendly, twice as strong as carbon fibre, with impressive viscosity. Decorating guru Cait Whitson worked with Cellucomp to create her new range of Whitson paint.,

One of the things I wanted to talk about was durability and one of the things that excited me about the Curran product was that a very small amount of Curran adds a significant amount of durability to the paint product. Secondly was the rheology, about how the paint flowed from the brush“, says Cait Whitson, founder of Whitson Paint. He adds that Curran makes paint scrub-resistant, avoids unsightly brush marks, and helps prevent cracking. With the paint additive business worth a billion dollars, Cellucomp could be sitting on a goldmine. It wants to expand production fivefold within three years.

There are all kinds of potential applications that Curran can be used for. It can go into things like paint and coatings, it can go into concrete, cosmetics. It can even be used for drilling fluids, be an additive to go into your food, and go into composites. So you can imagine one day airplane wings made from Curran“, concludes Christian Kemp-Griffin, CEO of Cellucomp. All of which paints a very bright future for the company..


Hybrid Solar Cells 20% More Efficient

Scientists have developed a new hybrid, solar-energy system that harnesses the full spectrum of the sun’s radiation by pairing a photovoltaic cell with polymer films. The films convert the light that goes unused by the solar cell into heat and then converts the heat into electricity. The device produces a voltage more than five times higher than other hybrid systems.

Solar cells today are getting better at converting sunlight to electricity, but commercial panels still harvest only part of the radiation they’re exposed to. Scientists are working to change this using various methods. One approach is to hybridize solar cells with different materials to capture more of the sun’s energy. Professor Eunkyoung Kim, from Seoul’s Yonsei University (Korea), and colleagues turned to a clear, conductive polymer known as PEDOT to try to accomplish this.

hybrid solar cells

A display changes colors, powered solely by a new hybrid solar-energy device

The researchers layered a dye-sensitized solar cell on top of a PEDOT film, which heats up in response to light. Below that, they added a pyroelectric thin film and a thermoelectric device, both of which convert heat into electricity. The efficiency of all components working together was more than 20 percent higher than the solar cell alone. With that boost, the system could operate an LED lamp and an electrochromic display.

A report has been published in the journal ACS Nano.


Car, Boat, Airplane: Bye Bye Sickness

The misery of motion sickness could be ended within five to ten years thanks to a new treatment being developed by scientists. The cause of motion sickness is still a mystery but a popular theory among scientists says it is to do with confusing messages received by our brains from both our ears and eyes, when we are moving. It is a very common complaint and has the potential to affect all of us, meaning we get a bit queasy on boats or rollercoasters. However, around three in ten people experience hard-to-bear motion sickness symptoms, such as dizziness, severe nausea, cold sweats, and more.

Research from Imperial College London, published today (4 September) in the journal Neurology, shows that a mild electrical current applied to the scalp can dampen responses in an area of the brain that is responsible for processing motion signals. Doing this helps the brain reduce the impact of the confusing inputs it is receiving and so prevents the problem that causes the symptoms of motion sickness. This technique offers a safe and effective intervention that is likely to be available for anyone to buy, in the future.


We are confident that within five to ten years people will be able to walk into the chemist and buy an anti-seasickness device. It may be something like a tens machine that is used for back pain”, said Dr Qadeer Arshad from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London who led the research. “We hope it might even integrate with a mobile phone, which would be able to deliver the small amount of electricity required via the headphone jack. In either case, you would temporarily attach small electrodes to your scalp before travelling – on a cross channel ferry, for example.


How To Fight Septic Shock, Save Millions

Last year, a Wyss Institute (Harvard) team of scientists described the development of a new device to treat sepsis that works by mimicking our spleen. It cleanses pathogens and toxins from blood circulating through a dialysis-like circuit. Now, the Wyss Institute team has developed an improved device that synergizes with conventional antibiotic therapies and that has been streamlined to better position it for near-term translation to the clinic. Sepsis is a common and frequently fatal medical complication that can occur when a person’s body attempts to fight off serious infection. Resulting widespread inflammation can cause organs to shut down, blood pressure to drop, and the heart to weaken. This can lead to septic shock, and more than 30 percent of septic patients in the United States eventually die. In most cases, the pathogen responsible for triggering the septic condition is never pinpointed, so clinicians blindly prescribe an antibiotic course in a blanket attempt to stave off infectious bacteria and halt the body’s dangerous inflammatory response.

But sepsis can be caused by a wide-ranging variety of pathogens that are not susceptible to antibiotics, including viruses, fungi and parasites. What’s more, even when antibiotics are effective at killing invading bacteria, the dead pathogens fragment and release toxins into the patient’s bloodstream.
The inflammatory cascade that leads to sepsis is triggered by pathogens, and specifically by the toxins they release,” said Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., who leads the Wyss team developing the device and is the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science. “Thus, the most effective strategy is to treat with the best antibiotics you can muster, while also removing the toxins and remaining pathogens from the patient’s blood as quickly as possible.”

The Wyss team’s blood-cleansing approach can be administered quickly, even without identifying the infectious agent. This is because it uses the Wyss Institute‘s proprietary pathogen-capturing agent, FcMBL, that binds all types of live and dead infectious microbes, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, as well as toxins they release. FcMBL is a genetically engineered blood protein inspired by a naturally-occurring human molecule called Mannose Binding Lectin (MBL), which is found in the innate immune system and binds to toxic invaders, marking them for capture by immune cells in the spleen.

The findings are described in the October volume 67 of Biomaterials.


Solar Cells Collect 30 Times More From Sun’s Photons

By combining designer quantum dot light-emitters with spectrally matched photonic mirrors, a team of scientists with Berkeley Lab and the University of Illinois created solar cells that collect blue photons at 30 times the concentration of conventional solar cells, the highest luminescent concentration factor ever recorded. This breakthrough paves the way for the future development of low-cost solar cells that efficiently utilize the high-energy part of the solar spectrum.


 Solar (or photovoltaic) cells convert the sun’s energy into electricity. Whether they’re adorning your calculator or orbiting our planet on satellites, they rely on the the photoelectric effect: the ability of matter to emit electrons when a light is shone on it. Silicon is what is known as a semi-conductor, meaning that it shares some of the properties of metals and some of those of an electrical insulator, making it a key ingredient in solar cells. Let’s take a closer look at what happens when the sun shines onto a solar cell.
Sunlight is composed of miniscule particles called photons, which radiate from the sun. As these hit the silicon atoms of the solar cell, they transfer their energy to loose electrons, knocking them clean off the atoms. The photons could be compared to the white ball in a game of pool, which passes on its energy to the coloured balls it strikes. Freeing up electrons is however only half the work of a solar cell: it then needs to herd these stray electrons into an electric current. This involves creating an electrical imbalance within the cell, which acts a bit like a slope down which the electrons will flow in the same direction. Creating this imbalance is made possible by the internal organisation of silicon.


“Nanopore” Scanners To Find Early Signs Of Cancer

Using tiny “nanopore” scanners that can detect individual DNA molecules, Professor Amit Meller and colleagues are on the hunt for biological markers in cancer cells tha t may help clinicians diagnose colorectal and lung cancers at their earliest stages. Prof. Meller, of the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, leads a research group that is a partner in BeyondSeq, an international research consortium looking for new methods of decoding genetic and epigenetic information from medical samples. BeyondSeq, supported by a €6 million grant from Horizon 2020, the European Union’s framework program, was one of only eight consortia chosen out of 450 submitted proposals.


We are the only lab in the consortium working on early diagnosis of cancer biomarkers, which…will allow doctors to combat the cancers much more effectively and save human lives,” Meller explained. “Currently there are no good ways to diagnose colorectal cancer and lung cancer at early stages. Usually these cancers are diagnosed at later stage (stage 2 or above) in which the patients may already have multiple secondary tumors, hence highly complicating treatment.


Nanotube-based Transistor For Nanocomputers

Individual transistors made from carbon nanotubes are faster and more energy efficient than those made from other materials. Going from a single transistor to an integrated circuit full of transistors, however, is a giant leap.

carbon nanotube integrated circuits

A single microprocessor has a billion transistors in it,” said Northwestern Engineering’s Mark Hersam. “All billion of them work. And not only do they work, but they work reliably for years or even decades.

When trying to make the leap from an individual, nanotube-based transistor to wafer-scale integrated circuits, many research teams, including Hersam’s, have met challenges. For one, the process is incredibly expensive, often requiring billion-dollar cleanrooms to keep the delicate nano-sized components safe from the potentially damaging effects of air, water, and dust. Researchers have also struggled to create a carbon nanotube-based integrated circuit in which the transistors are spatially uniform across the material, which is needed for the overall system to work.

Now Hersam and his team have found a key to solving all these issues. The secret lies in newly developed encapsulation layers that protect carbon nanotubes from environmental degradation.

Supported by the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation, the research appears online in Nature Nanotechology on September 7. Tobin J. Marks,  professor of materials science and engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering, coauthored the paper. Michael Geier, a graduate student in Hersam’s lab, was first author. “One of the realities of a nanomaterial, such as a carbon nanotube, is that essentially all of its atoms are on the surface,” said Hersam, the Walter P. Murphy Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. “So anything that touches the surface of these materials can influence their properties. If we made a series of transistors and left them out in the air, water and oxygen would stick to the surface of the nanotubes, degrading them over time. We thought that adding a protective encapsulation layer could arrest this degradation process to achieve substantially longer lifetimes.

Hersam compares his solution to one currently used for organic light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which experienced similar problems after they were first realized. Many people assumed that organic LEDs would have no future because they degraded in air. After researchers developed an encapsulation layer for the material, organic LEDs are now used in many commercial applications, including displays for smartphones, car radios, televisions, and digital cameras. Made from polymers and inorganic oxides, Hersam’s encapsulation layer is based on the same idea but tailored for carbon nanotubes.

To demonstrate proof of concept, Hersam developed nanotube-based static random-access memory (SRAM) circuits. SRAM is a key component of all microprocessors, often making up as much as 85 percent of the transistors in the central-processing unit in a common computer. To create the encapsulated carbon nanotubes, the team first deposited the carbon nanotubes from a solution previously developed in Hersam’s lab. Then they coated the tubes with their encapsulation layers.

Using the encapsulated carbon nanotubes, Hersam’s team successfully designed and fabricated arrays of working SRAM circuits. Not only did the encapsulation layers protect the sensitive device from the environment, but they improved spatial uniformity among individual transistors across the wafer. While Hersam’s integrated circuits demonstrated a long lifetime, transistors that were deposited from the same solution but not coated degraded within hours.

After we’ve made the devices, we can leave them out in air with no further precautions,” Hersam said. “We don’t need to put them in a vacuum chamber or controlled environment. Other researchers have made similar devices but immediately had to put them in a vacuum chamber or inert environment to keep them stable. That’s obviously not going to work in a real-world situation.”


Paralyzed Man Controls His Leg Muscles, Walks Again

UCLA scientists publish findings that show a paralyzed man was able to voluntarily control his leg muscles and take steps in a robotic exoskeleton device. Jim Drury reports.

paralyzed man walks again

Mark Pollock gets back on his feet – five years after becoming paralysed from the waist down. The Briton is wearing a battery-powered exoskeleton that allows him to move his legs in a step-like fashion. The device captures data that allows scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles to see whether he’s moving his limbs independently or being aided by the suit. Data showed Pollock – who’s also blind – is the first person with complete paralysis to regain enough voluntary control to actively work with an exoskeleton. The Commonwealth Games medallist was also able to flex his knee with the aid of electrical spinal stimulation. The researchers do not describe his steps as “walking” because of the need for the robotic device and stimulation. But the 39-year-old has now taken thousands of steps, describing his training as “addictive“.


Electric Power: How To Increase Solar Cells Efficiency

Rice University researchers have demonstrated an efficient new way to capture the energy from sunlight and convert it into clean, renewable energy by splitting water molecules.

Hot elsplitting water Riceectrons have the potential to drive very useful chemical reactions, but they decay very rapidly, and people have struggled to harness their energy,” said lead researcher Isabell Thomann, assistant professor of nanoengineering at Rice. “For example, most of the energy losses in today’s best photovoltaic solar panels are the result of hot electrons that cool within a few trillionths of a second and release their energy as wasted heat.” Capturing these high-energy electrons before they cool could allow solar-energy providers to significantly increase their solar-to-electric power-conversion efficiencies  and reduce  the cost of solar electricity.

In the light-activated nanoparticles studied by Thomann and colleagues at Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP), light is captured and converted into plasmons, waves of electrons that flow like a fluid across the metal surface of the nanoparticles. Plasmons are high-energy states that are short-lived, but researchers at Rice and elsewhere have found ways to capture plasmonic energy and convert it into useful heat or light. Plasmonic nanoparticles also offer one of the most promising means of harnessing the power of hot electrons, and LANP researchers have made progress toward that goal in several recent studies.

Thomann and her team created a system that uses the energy from hot electrons to split molecules of water into oxygen and hydrogen. That’s important because oxygen and hydrogen are the feedstocks for fuel cells, electrochemical devices that produce electricity cleanly and efficiently.

Because of the inherent inefficiencies, we wanted to find a new approach to the problem,” Thomann said. “We took an unconventional approach: Rather than driving off the hot electrons, we designed a system to carry away the electron holes. In effect, our setup acts like a sieve or a membrane. The holes can pass through, but the hot electrons cannot, so they are left available on the surface of the plasmonic nanoparticles.”

The technology, is described online in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.



Robot Mother Builds Its Own Children

Researchers led by the University of Cambridge have built a mother robot that can independently build its own children and test which one does best; and then use the results to inform the design of the next generation, so that preferential traits are passed down from one generation to the next. Without any human intervention or computer simulation beyond the initial command to build a robot capable of movement, the mother created children constructed of between one and five plastic cubes with a small motor inside. In each of five separate experiments, the mother designed, built and tested generations of ten children, using the information gathered from one generation to inform the design of the next.

mother robot

Natural selection is basically reproduction, assessment, reproduction, assessment and so on,” said lead researcher Dr Fumiya Iida of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, who worked in collaboration with researchers at ETH Zurich. “That’s essentially what this robot is doing – we can actually watch the improvement and diversification of the species.” For each robot child, there is a unique ‘genome’ made up of a combination of between one and five different genes, which contains all of the information about the child’s shape, construction and motor commands. As in nature, evolution in robots takes place through ‘mutation’, where components of one gene are modified or single genes are added or deleted, and ‘crossover’, where a new genome is formed by merging genes from two individuals.
The results, reported in the open access journal PLOS One, found that preferential traits were passed down through generations, so that the ‘fittest’ individuals in the last generation performed a set task twice as quickly as the fittest individuals in the first generation.


Water-powered MotorBike

Ricardo Azevedo was frustrated with the ever increasing price of gas. So he used his skills as a mechanic and took some tips from his son’s chemistry book to build a water powered motorcycle.

hydrogen motobike

I still haven’t developed everything is it capable of, but I did some tests and in certain settings it can go 500 kilometres (310 miles) using one litre of water,” says Azevedo.
An electrical current is fed into a canister of water which breaks the liquid down into hydrogen and oxygen using the process of electrolysis. The hydrogen gas is then used to power the engine. Research into hydrogen combustion power has increased dramatically over the past decade and while the chemical process used to generate energy from water is well understood, its market potential is curbed until a way to safely contain and use the highly flammable hydrogen gas is developed. Azevedo says the environmental benefits of using his water powered bike or other hydrogen energy sources far outweigh the risks involved.  “It does not cause any damage to the environment, on the contrary as it will go on to replace fossil fuels and reduce carbon monoxide emissions,” he adds.
Azevedo is continuing to tinker and improve the efficiency of his bike. He says getting fuel from a river beats stopping at a gas station any day of the week.


How To Measure Cancer In Living Cells

Purdue University researchers have developed a way to detect and measure cancer levels in a living cell by using tiny gold particles with tails of synthetic DNA. A team led by Joseph Irudayaraj, professor of agricultural and biological engineering, used gold nanoparticles to target and bind to fragments of genetic material known as BRCA1 messenger RNA splice variants, which can indicate the presence and stage of breast cancer. The number of these mRNA splice variants in a cell can be determined by examining the specific signal that light produces when it interacts with the gold nanoparticles.

A single gold nanoparticle, or monomer, appears green when illuminated (top left), while a pair of gold nanoparticles bound to an mRNA splice variant, or dimer, appears reddish (top right). Monomers and dimers also scatter light differently, as shown in the graph above

This is a simple yet sophisticated technique that can be used to detect cancer in a single cell and determine how aggressive it is,” said Irudayaraj, who is also the deputy director of the Bindley Bioscience Center. “Being able to quantify these genetic molecules could ultimately help clinicians provide better and more individualized treatment to cancer patients.”

The technique also could increase our understanding of cell biology and paves the way for genetic profiling and diagnosis based on a single cell, Irudayaraj said.

Lungs May Be Attacked By Nanoparticles

Nanoparticles are used in all kinds of applications — electronics, medicine, cosmetics, even environmental clean-ups. More than 2,800 commercially available applications are now based on nanoparticles, and by 2017, the field is expected to bring in nearly $50 billion worldwide.
But this influx of nanotechnology is not without risks, say researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology.
There is an urgent need to investigate the potential impact of nanoparticles on health and the environment,” says Yue-Wern Huang, professor of biological sciences at Missouri S&T.
Huang and his colleagues have been systematically studying the effects of transition metal oxide nanoparticles on human lung cells. These nanoparticles are used extensively in optical and recording devices, water purification systems, cosmetics and skin care products, and targeted drug delivery, among other applications.

In their typical coarse powder form, the toxicity of these substances is not dramatic,” says Huang. “But as nanoparticles with diameters of only 16-80 nanometers, the situation changes significantly.
About 80 percent of the cells died in the presence of nanoparticles of copper oxide and zinc oxide,” says Huang. “These nanoparticles penetrated the cells and destroyed their membranes. The toxic effects are related to the nanoparticles’ surface electrical charge and available docking sites.”
Huang says that certain nanoparticles released metal ions — called ion dissolution — which also played a significant role in cell death.