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Beyond LEDs: Brighter, new energy-saving flat panel lights based on carbon nanotubes

Beyond LEDs: Brighter, new energy-saving flat panel lights based on carbon nanotubes | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Even as the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics has enshrined light emitting diodes (LEDs) as the single most significant and disruptive energy-efficient lighting solution of today, scientists around the world continue unabated to search for the even-better-bulbs of tomorrow.


Enter carbon electronics. Electronics based on carbon, especially carbon nanotubes (CNTs), are emerging as successors to silicon for making semiconductor materials. And they may enable a new generation of brighter, low-power, low-cost lighting devices that could challenge the dominance of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the future and help meet society's ever-escalating demand for greener bulbs.


Scientists from Tohoku University in Japan have developed a new type of energy-efficient flat light source based on carbon nanotubes with very low power consumption of around 0.1 Watt for every hour's operation—about a hundred times lower than that of an LED.


In the journal Review of Scientific Instruments, from AIP publishing, the researchers detail the fabrication and optimization of the device, which is based on a phosphor screen and single-walled carbon nanotubes as electrodes in a diode structure. You can think of it as a field of tungsten filaments shrunk to microscopic proportions.


They assembled the device from a mixture liquid containing highly crystalline single-walled carbon nanotubes dispersed in an organic solvent mixed with a soap-like chemical known as a surfactant. Then, they "painted" the mixture onto the positive electrode or cathode, and scratched the surface with sandpaper to form a light panel capable of producing a large, stable and homogenous emission current with low energy consumption.


"Our simple 'diode' panel could obtain high brightness efficiency of 60 Lumen per Watt, which holds excellent potential for a lighting device with low power consumption," said Norihiro Shimoi, the lead researcher and an associate professor of environmental studies at the Tohoku University.

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Google tests waters for potential ultra-fast wireless service

Google tests waters for potential ultra-fast wireless service | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

 Google Inc is preparing to test new technology that may provide the foundation for a wireless version of its high-speed "Fiber" Internet service, according to telecommunication experts who scrutinized the company's regulatory filings.


In a public but little-noticed application with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Monday, Google asked the agency for permission to conduct tests in California across different wireless spectrums, including a rarely-used millimeter-wave frequency capable of transmitting large amounts of data.


It is unclear from the heavily redacted filing what exactly Google intends to do, but it does signal the Internet giant's broader ambition of controlling Internet connectivity. The technology it seeks to test could form the basis of a wireless connection that can be broadcast to homes, obviating the need for an actual ground cable or fiber connection, experts say.


By beaming Internet services directly into homes, Google would open a new path now thoroughly dominated by Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and other entrenched cable and broadband providers. It could potentially offer a quicker and cheaper way to deliver high-speed Internet service, a potential threat to the cable-telecoms oligopoly, experts said.


“From a radio standpoint it’s the closest thing to fiber there is,” said Stephen Crowley, a wireless engineer and consultant who monitors FCC filings, noting that millimeter frequencies can transmit data over short distances at speeds of several gigabits per second.


“You could look at it as a possible wireless extension of their Google Fiber wireless network, as a way to more economically serve homes. Put up a pole in a neighborhood, instead of having to run fiber to each home,” said Crowley.


Craig Barratt, the head of the Google Access and Energy division leading the effort to offer high-speed fiber networks in Kansas City and other locations, signed off as the authorized person submitting Google's FCC application.


The world’s No.1 Internet search engine has expanded into providing consumers with services such as Internet access. The company said it wants to roll out its high-speed Internet service to more than 30 U.S. cities, and in 2013 it struck a deal to provide free wireless Internet access to 7,000 Starbucks cafes across America.

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Oceans experiencing largest sea level rise in 6,000 years, study says

Oceans experiencing largest sea level rise in 6,000 years, study says | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

There are two main forces that can drive sea levels higher. One is something called thermal expansion, which involves the expansion of ocean water as it warms. The other is an influx of additional water, ushered into the sea by melting ice sheets and glaciers. Scientists have long concluded that sea levels are rising. Just look at Miami. Or the Maldives. They’ve also discerned that major ice sheets are melting at a faster clip than previously understood.


What has been less clear, however, is whether the development is recent or not. Over the last several thousands of years, has the ocean risen and fallen and risen again? A new study, just published in PNAS, suggests that the ocean has been surprisingly static since 4,000 B.C..


But that changed 150 years ago. Reconstructing 35,000 years of sea fluctuations, the study, which researchers say is the most comprehensive of its kind, found that the oceans are experiencing greater sea rise than at any time over the last 6,000 years. “What we see in the tide gauges, we don’t see in the past record, so there’s something going on today that’s wasn’t going on before,” lead author Kurt Lambeck, a professor at Australian National University, told the Australia Broadcasting Corporation. “I think that is clearly the impact of rising temperatures.”


How much has the sea risen over the past century and a half? A lot. And it’s surging faster than ever. “There is robust evidence that sea levels have risen as a result of climate change,” Australian government research has found. “Over the last century, global average sea level rose by 1.7 mm [0.067 inches] per year, in recent years (between 1993 and 2010), this rate has increased to 3.2 mm [0.126 inches] per year.” In all, the sea has risen roughly 20 centimeters since the start of the 20th century. “The rate of sea level rise over the last century is unusually high in the context of the last 2,000 years,” the Australian report added.


But it’s not just the last 2,000 years. It’s the last 6,000 years, according to this recent study. And now, the rising sea levels over the last 100 years, is “beyond dispute,” Lambeck explained.

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NERONYC's curator insight, October 19, 2014 6:04 PM

Preserve our invironment

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Genetic variant of ITPA protects carriers against hepatitis C

Genetic variant of ITPA protects carriers against hepatitis C | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A Nordic study has shown that one in three Northern Europeans were born with a genetic variation that protects them from the potentially fatal viral disease hepatitis C. 


Scientists from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland have studied the genes of nearly 400 individuals who were treated for hepatitis C They were aware that a third of the Nordic population carries a defect in the gene called ITPA. Now they know that people with this variant benefit more from hepatitis C treatment than those without. Thus, the variant in the gene makes it more likely that these people will full regain their health. Even when medications kill the virus, the infection turns up again in about one-fifth of all hepatitis C patients. But patients with th variation had five times less risk of a relapse after treatment.


The ITPA variation causes the enzyme known as ITPase to malfunction. This enzyme “clears away” genetic building blocks which our cells are not using. The defective version of the enzyme is not fully up to its clean-up task. This allows more unstable building blocks to circulate and be requisitioned by the hepatitis C virus.


The virus is “tricked” into using these faulty building blocks in its own gene sequences. The scientists think this weakens the virus, causing instability and making it more susceptible to antiviral medications. The researchers hope this knowledge will contribute in the development of new drugs that impair the ITPase enzyme.

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Rats! NYC rats infected with at least 18 new viruses, but no bubonic plague bacteria found

Rats! NYC rats infected with at least 18 new viruses, but no bubonic plague bacteria found | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Rats: some people enjoy their company as pets, to many others, they are virulent pests that helped the spread of the bubonic plague ("black death") in Medieval Europe. For New Yorkers, they are just one of many interesting local daily sights on the subway tracks and platforms. I can tell you from experience (source: I live in New York City) that they often seem healthier and in better spirits than many of the humans that call this fair city home. Yet it turns out some of them are carrying a surprising number of previously undocumented viruses, according to the results of a study of the Big Apple's rodents published today in the journal mBio and reported by The New York Times.


Specifically, scientists captured 133 rats from traps set in five locations around New York City, euthanized them, then took genetic samples of the bacteria and viral specimens found in their tissues and excretions (saliva, feces, etc). The scientists found lots of viruses, not surprisingly. But while many of the bacteria detected were expected — including e. coli and salmonella — the scientists also found at 18 completely new viruses. None of these new viruses have been found in humans, at least not yet, but two of them are structurally similar to Hepatitis C, which does occur in people and raises the risk of liver scarring and cancer. While there's no immediate cause for alarm, the scientists note that that the spread of these new viruses from rats to humans could theoretically already be occurring and is possible in the future, and are advocating for more comprehensive disease monitoring in humans. Something to think about the next time you're waiting for the downtown F train.

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A Small Molecule (UM171) Expands Cord Blood Stem Cells, Greatly Advancing Therapy For Leukemias

A Small Molecule (UM171) Expands Cord Blood Stem Cells, Greatly Advancing Therapy For Leukemias | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Cord blood cells are valued for their therapeutic potential for many blood-related diseases including leukemia, and their superiority over bone marrow transplants for higher tolerance by a foreign immune system.  Cord blood is the remaining blood in the placenta and umbilical cord.  Its use is uncontroversial unlike embryonic stem cells obtained from discarded embryos, and is valued for being “stem-like” in having potential to regenerate many cells types.  It is has been used to treat more than 80 different diseases though the most dominant recipient group is patients with leukemia.  While bone marrow donors must match their recipients in 8 different “human leukocyte antigens” (HLAs), cord blood donors can be mismatched.


The most recent study by Canadian and American researchers, is a major advance in treatment of these blood disorders by significantly enhancing the usability of cord blood.  Using a high-throughput method known as a chemical screen, the researchers sifted through more than 5,000 chemical compounds and found one that pushed the cord blood cells into overdrive, expanding their numbers while in the dish.


The treated samples were also examined for LT-HSCs, cells that have the capacity to indefinitely regenerate all blood cells.  In the pre-treated culture LT-HSCs were rare at 1 in 850.  But post-treatment, the LT-HSC proportion was boosted 13-fold, meaning that not only does the small molecule UM171 expand cord blood cells in general, but it also leads to expansion of the important LT-HSC subpopulation.


Importantly, the expanded cells from the laboratory could be transplanted into living tissue and were also shown to continue growing and developing.  Mice were chosen to prove that the cells would take to living tissue.  The researchers made one further check by taking expanded cells from the mice and re-transplanting them again, showing once more that there was no diminished potential.


In leukemia, a combination of chemotherapy and radiation is used first to wipe out a patient’s natural bone marrow which contains the source of diseased cells. The bone marrow, essentially for producing white and red blood cells, is replaced either by a “matching” donor, or in some cases, cord blood collected from delivery rooms which does not have to match as well.   While cord blood seemingly is superior for the reduced match requirement, the number of cells in one or even two combined donations is quite low which increases the time for graft to take hold, thereby increasing the chances of severe infections during this vulnerable phase when the immune system is severely compromised.

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Leia Display System uses mist for large 3D interactive screen display

Leia Display System uses mist for large 3D interactive screen display | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

An organization in Poland has announced that it has a new kind of screen display for sale, all part of what it calls the Leia Display System. In practice, it's like an empty picture frame that has mist pushed from above or below (to where the picture should be) and upon which video imagery is projected. The systems also have sensors that allow the images that are displayed to be manipulated like a touch screen. The result is an interactive 2D hologram that in some respects, allows for displaying video in ways not seen before—mostly because hands and other body parts can pass right through it.

Though the company isn't saying so, it's likely the name for the system comes from the movie Star Wars, where a Princess Leia hologram is projected to offer a message. Thus far the company is offering two display sizes, the S-95, which the company describes as TV sized, (approximately 37x25 inches) uses mist pushed from below—company reps suggest it might be useful as a virtual assistant, for modeling or for playing games. The other display, the X-300, is much bigger—it's hanged from above and pushes mist from the top down and has a display size of approximately 10x8 feet—big enough to walk through, the company notes on its site. It's also big enough to drive a car through, which when combined with special effects, creates quite an impression. One interesting aspect of the displays is that both have water consumption statistics because they need to create the mist, which is of course lost to the air as it's made. The smaller version uses approximately .10 gallons per hour, while the larger model uses up to a gallon per hour.

Both models are currently ready for sale or rent—the company has distributors in South Korea, Saudi Arabia/Dubai, and Benulux/France—though prices for the displays have not be announced—the web site simply asks those interested to call them.

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Atomic map reveals clues to how cholesterol is made

Atomic map reveals clues to how cholesterol is made | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In spite of its dangerous reputation, cholesterol is in fact an essential component of human cells. Manufactured by the cells themselves, it serves to stiffen the cell’s membrane, helping to shape the cell and protect it. By mapping the structure of a key enzyme involved in cholesterol production, Rockefeller University researchers and a colleague in Italy have gained new insight into this complex molecular process.


“This is the first report to pinpoint the location of every atom — in this case nearly 3,000 of them — in one of the membrane-embedded enzymes cells use to make cholesterol. With the structure of this enzyme, we can better understand how the body synthesizes it,” says Günter Blobel, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Professor, head of the Laboratory of Cell Biology and recipient of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. “This accomplishment offers new insight on genetic disorders as well as the possibility of new approaches to lowering blood cholesterol when it becomes dangerously high.” The findings were published today (October 12) in Nature.


The cholesterol-making process in cells requires about 30 chemical reactions and 20 enzymes, seven of which are embedded in the cellular membrane. The mapping project focused on one of these, known as a sterol reductase, which helps two electrons travel from a molecule known as NADPH to another molecule that will eventually become cholesterol. This type of reaction is known as a reduction.


“Our images revealed two pockets within the enzyme’s architecture. One contains the NADPH, and the other provides access to the cholesterol precursor. When in place, these molecules are close enough to spark this important step in the synthesis of cholesterol,” says first author Xiaochun Li, a postdoc.

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How to hide like an octopus: New materials to quickly change color and texture

How to hide like an octopus: New materials to quickly change color and texture | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Researchers create materials that reproduce cephalopods’ ability to quickly change colors and textures.


Cephalopods, which include octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish, are among nature’s most skillful camouflage artists, able to change both the color and texture of their skin within seconds to blend into their surroundings — a capability that engineers have long struggled to duplicate in synthetic materials. Now a team of researchers has come closer than ever to achieving that goal, creating a flexible material that can change its color or fluorescence and its texture at the same time, on demand, by remote control.


The results of their research have been published in the journal Nature Communications, in a paper by a team led by MIT Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Xuanhe Zhao and Duke University Professor of Chemistry Stephen Craig.


Zhao, who joined the MIT faculty from Duke this month and holds a joint appointment with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, says the new material is essentially a layer of electro-active elastomer that could be quite easily adapted to standard manufacturing processes and uses readily available materials. This could make it a more economical dynamic camouflage material than others that are assembled from individually manufactured electronic modules.


While its most immediate applications are likely to be military, Zhao says the same basic approach could eventually lead to production of large, flexible display screens and anti-fouling coatings for ships.


In its initial proof-of-concept demonstrations, the material can be configured to respond with changes in both texture and fluorescence, or texture and color. In addition, while the present version can produce a limited range of colors, there is no reason that the range of the palette cannot be increased, Craig says.

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Team's curator insight, October 16, 2014 10:47 AM

Philippe: le titre est interessant

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Icebergs once drifted to Florida, new climate model suggests

Icebergs once drifted to Florida, new climate model suggests | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The first study to show that when the large ice sheet over North America known as the Laurentide ice sheet began to melt, icebergs calved into the sea around Hudson Bay and would have periodically drifted along the east coast as far south as Miami.


 IMAGE: This is a map showing the pathway taken by icebergs from Hudson Bay, Canada, to Florida. The blue colors (behind the arrows) are an actual snapshots.


Click here for more information.


Using a first-of-its-kind, high-resolution numerical model to describe ocean circulation during the last ice age about 21,000 year ago, oceanographer Alan Condron of the University of Massachusetts Amherst has shown that icebergs and meltwater from the North American ice sheet would have regularly reached South Carolina and even southern Florida. The models are supported by the discovery of iceberg scour marks on the sea floor along the entire continental shelf.


Such a view of past meltwater and iceberg movement implies that the mechanisms of abrupt climate change are more complex than previously thought, Condron says. "Our study is the first to show that when the large ice sheet over North America known as the Laurentide ice sheet began to melt, icebergs calved into the sea around Hudson Bay and would have periodically drifted along the east coast of the United States as far south as Miami and the Bahamas in the Caribbean, a distance of more than 3,100 miles, about 5,000 kilometers."


His work, conducted with Jenna Hill of Coastal Carolina University, is described in the current advance online issue of Nature Geosciences. "Determining how far south of the subpolar gyre icebergs and meltwater penetrated is vital for understanding the sensitivity of North Atlantic Deep Water formation and climate to past changes in high-latitude freshwater runoff," the authors say.


Hill analyzed high-resolution images of the sea floor from Cape Hatteras to Florida and identified about 400 scour marks on the seabed that were formed by enormous icebergs plowing through mud on the sea floor. These characteristic grooves and pits were formed as icebergs moved into shallower water and their keels bumped and scraped along the ocean floor.


"The depth of the scours tells us that icebergs drifting to southern Florida were at least 1,000 feet, or 300 meters thick," says Condron. "This is enormous. Such icebergs are only found off the coast of Greenland today."


To investigate how icebergs might have drifted as far south as Florida, Condron simulated the release of a series of glacial meltwater floods in his high-resolution ocean circulation model at four different levels for two locations, Hudson Bay and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.


Condron reports, "In order for icebergs to drift to Florida, our glacial ocean circulation model tells us that enormous volumes of meltwater, similar to a catastrophic glacial lake outburst flood, must have been discharging into the ocean from the Laurentide ice sheet, from either Hudson Bay or the Gulf of St. Lawrence."


Further, during these large meltwater flood events, the surface ocean current off the coast of Florida would have undergone a complete, 180-degree flip in direction, so that the warm, northward flowing Gulf Stream would have been replaced by a cold, southward flowing current, he adds.

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Desktop sonic black hole emits Hawking radiation

Desktop sonic black hole emits Hawking radiation | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A model black hole that traps sound instead of light has been caught emitting quantum particles, thought to be the analogue of the theoretical Hawking radiation. The effect may be the first time that a lab-based black hole has created Hawking particles in the same way expected from real black holes.


Black holes are ultra-dense concentrations of matter left behind when a star or other massive body collapses. Their gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape from their edge – a boundary called the event horizon.


Given that, physicists expected that black holes would be, well, black. But in 1974, Stephen Hawking of the University of Cambridge predicted they should emit a faint glow of particles now known as Hawking radiation.


An oddity of quantum theory that says that the vacuum of space is not truly empty, but fizzes with pairs of particles and their antimatter counterparts. Normally, these pairs annihilate each other and disappear. But if one gets caught inside a black hole's event horizon, the other is free to escape and becomes observable as Hawking radiation.


The glow from real-life black holes would be too faint to see so, to confirm Hawking's prediction, physicists have built artificial black holes that mimic the event horizon.


In 2009 Jeff Steinhauer at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and his colleagues made just such a model black hole using Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs), a quantum state of matter where a clump of super-cold atoms behaves like a single atom.


Now, the team claims that their black hole has produced just the kind of Hawking radiation expected of a real black hole. "This tells us that the idea of Hawking actually works," Steinhauer says. "A black hole should really produce Hawking radiation."


The team used one laser to confine the BEC to a narrow tube, and another to accelerate some of it faster than the speed of sound. This fast flow created two horizons: an "outer" one at the point where the flow became supersonic, and an "inner" one further on where the flow slowed down again.


The Hawking effect comes from quantum noise at the horizon, says William Unruh at the University of British Columbia in Canada, one of the first to propose fluid-based black hole analogues. The horizons create pairs of particles of sound, or phonons. One phonon escapes the horizon, and the other is trapped inside it. A single phonon is too weak to observe, but the phonons inside the black hole bounce back and forth between the inner and outer horizons, triggering the creation of more Hawking phonons each time, much like a laser amplifies light. Physicists call this effect a black hole laser.


"The Hawking radiation exponentially grows, it self-amplifies," Steinhauer says. "That allows me to observe it, because the amplitude has grown." In the future he hopes to improve his detectors to sense radiation from a single horizon, which could help determine whether the pairs of phonons are entangled – another predicted feature of real black holes that may have fiery consequences.

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High-speed fluorescence for 1,000-times-faster LEDs

High-speed fluorescence for 1,000-times-faster LEDs | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Duke University researchers have made fluorescent molecules emit photons of light 1,000 times faster than with previous designs — a speed record, and a step toward realizing superfast light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for nanophotonic devices, such as telecommunication lasers and as single-photon sources for quantum cryptography. Future uses include telecommunication lasers and as single-photon sources for quantum cryptography.


The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for the discovery 20 years ago of how to make blue LEDs, leading to more efficient white light bulbs and video screens. But LEDs’ slow emission rate (∼10 nanoseconds) and non-directional emission has limited their use.


Now in a new study, engineers from Duke headed by Maiken Mikkelsen, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and physics, significantly increased the photon emission rate of fluorescent molecules. The results appear online October 12 in Nature Photonics.


To attain the greatest effect, Mikkelsen’s team tuned the gap’s resonant frequency to match the color of light that the molecules respond to (in a range from green to infrared). With the help of co-author David R. Smith, the James B. Duke Professor and Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke, they used computer simulations to determine the exact size of the gap needed between the nanocubes and gold film to optimize the setup, which turned out to be 20 nanometers.


“We can select cubes with just the right size and make the gaps with nanometer precision,” said Gleb Akselrod, a postdoc in Mikkelsen’s lab and first author on the study. “When we have the cube size and gap perfectly calibrated to the molecule, that’s when we see the record 1,000-fold increase in fluorescence speed.”


Because the experiment used many randomly aligned molecules, the researchers believe they can do even better. They plan to design a system with individual fluorescent molecule placed precisely underneath a single nanocube. According to Akselrod, they can achieve even higher fluorescence rates by standing the molecules up on edge at the corners of the cube.


“If we can precisely place molecules like this, it could be used in many more applications than just fast LEDs,” said Akselrod. “We could also make fast sources of single photons that could be used for quantum cryptography. This technology would allow immediate communications across vast distances that could not be hacked.”

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A microchip implant for women containing 16 years of contraceptives ready for pre-clinical trials next year

A microchip implant for women containing 16 years of contraceptives ready for pre-clinical trials next year | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Women may soon bid farewell to birth control pills and welcome a new type of contraception in the form of microchip implants. An MIT startup backed by the Bill Gates Foundation plans to start pre-clinical testing for the birth control chip next year and pave the way for a possible market debut in 2018.


The fingernail-size microchip implant holds enough 30-microgram daily doses of levonorgestrel—a hormone already used in several contraceptives—to last for 16 years. Women who received the implant under the skin of buttocks, upper arm or abdomen would also get a remote control that allows them to halt or restart the implant whenever they like, according to MIT Technology Review.


MicroCHIPS, the MIT startup behind the birth control implant, developed a clever design for a titanium and platinum seal that temporarily melts when an internal battery sends an electric charge running through the seal. That lasts just long enough for the melted seal to release the daily dose of levonorgestrel from the microchip reservoirs.


The microchip technology's latest mission first came about when Bill Gates visited the MIT lab of Robert Langer and challenged researchers to come up with a birth control method that women could control themselves and would also last for many years. Langer, an MIT professor who already holds 1,050 patents worldwide, thought of using the controlled release microchip technology that he and his colleagues had developed in the 1990s.


MicroCHIPS had previously demonstrated how the microchip technology could release daily doses of an osteoporosis drug during human clinical trials detailed in the 16 Feb 2012 online edition of the journal Science Translational Medicine. The new application for the microchips—each measuring 20 x 20 x 7 millimeters—could potentially revolutionize the level of control women have over their birth control technologies.


The biggest difference that the MicroCHIPS technology brings comes from giving women control over starting and stopping birth control regimens that can otherwise work for years without requiring regular attention. By comparison, existing contraceptive implants require a trip to the local clinic or hospital for removal if a woman wants to stop using the implant.


Any device offering wireless control for its users also runs the risk of being hacked. But Robert Farra, president and CEO of MicroCHIPS, told BBC Newsthat their technology included secure encryption to prevent outsiders from blocking or reprogramming the implants wirelessly. As an added precaution, the remote control can only communicate with the microchip implant across a distance equivalent to skin contact.

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Boise State Scoop's curator insight, October 12, 2014 7:02 PM

Human contraception has become high tech....this article examines the invention of a birth-control microchip.

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First Photos of Water Ice on Mercury Captured by NASA Spacecraft

First Photos of Water Ice on Mercury Captured by NASA Spacecraft | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The first-ever photos of water ice near Mercury's north pole have come down to Earth, and they have quite a story to tell.


The images, taken by NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft (short for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging), suggest that the ice lurking within Mercury's polar craters was delivered recently, and may even be topped up by processes that continue today, researchers said.


More than 20 years ago, Earth-based radar imaging first spotted signs of water ice near Mercury's north and south poles — a surprise, perhaps, given that temperatures on the solar system's innermost planet can top 800 degrees Fahrenheit (427 degrees Celsius). [Water Ice On Mercury: How It Was Found (Video)]

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"Nanograss" boosts the efficiency of organic solar cells

"Nanograss" boosts the efficiency of organic solar cells | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Solar cells are built using two different types of semiconductors ("p-type" and "n-type"), each with a slightly different composition; when the two come in close contact, they form a so-called "PN junction." This junction is a critical component of any solar cell because it generates an electric field that causes charge inside the cell to flow in a set direction, creating a voltage. Voltage times current equals (solar) power.


After decades of trial and error, scientists now believe that the ideal geometry for a PN junction would consist of a series of vertical nanoscale pillars made from one type of semiconductor (either p- or n-type) and surrounded by a semiconductor of the opposite type. This shape is extremely effective at trapping light without reflecting it, resulting in a greater amount of charge being collected, while also allowing the use of cheaper, lower-grade materials in smaller volumes, which decreases the overall cost of the cell.


This "Holy Grail" structure has already been achieved in inorganic solar cells, but has been elusive for their organic counterpart due to some of the unique challenges they present. Now, however, a team led by Prof. Alejandro Briseno at UMass Amherst has developed a new simple and highly adaptable technique that can produce "nanograss" for use in organic solar cells, which could lead to a significant boost in their efficiency.

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Human stem cell-derived retinal cells for macular diseases improves vision of nearly blind

Human stem cell-derived retinal cells for macular diseases improves vision of nearly blind | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

New research published in an article in Lancet provides the first evidence of the medium- to long-term safety and tolerability of transplanting human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in humans. Schwartz and colleagues report the outcomes of hESCs for the treatment of macular degeneration and Stargardt’s macular dystrophy, the leading causes of adult and juvenile blindness in the developed world. Much work remains to be done before hESC and induced pluripotent stem cell therapies go beyond regulatory trials, but the path is now set in motion.


This is the first time that clinical benefits have been demonstrated in the medium to long term in patients with any disese treated with hESC-derived cells, and is a major milestone in the development of the field of regenerative medicine. The trial focused on 18 patients with two different types of macular degeneration,  Stargardt’s macular dystrophy and nine with dry atrophic age-related macular degeneration, that are common causes of blindness in adults and children and for which no effective treatments are currently available.


Nine patients with Stargardt’s macular dystrophy and nine with dry atrophic age-related macular degeneration received injections of 50,000 to 150,000 RPE cells behind the retina of their worst-affected eye. Robert Lanza, adjunct Professor at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Chief Scientific Officer at Advanced Cell Technology who funded the trial, describes the results:


  • The vision of most patients improved after transplantation of the cells. Overall, the vision of the patients improved by about three lines on the standard visual acuity chart, whereas the untreated fellow eyes did not show similar improvements in visual acuity. The patients also reported notable improvements in their general and peripheral vision, as well as in near and distance activities”
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Lockheed Martin aims to develop compact fusion reactor prototype in 5 years, production unit in 10

Lockheed Martin aims to develop compact fusion reactor prototype in 5 years, production unit in 10 | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Hidden away in the secret depths of the Skunk Works, a Lockheed Martin research team has been working quietly on a nuclear energy concept they believe has the potential to meet, if not eventually decrease, the world’s insatiable demand for power.


Dubbed the compact fusion reactor (CFR), the device is conceptually safer, cleaner and more powerful than much larger, current nuclear systems that rely on fission, the process of splitting atoms to release energy. Crucially, by being “compact,” Lockheed believes its scalable concept will also be small and practical enough for applications ranging from interplanetary spacecraft and commercial ships to city power stations. It may even revive the concept of large, nuclear-powered aircraft that virtually never require refueling—ideas of which were largely abandoned more than 50 years ago because of the dangers and complexities involved with nuclear fission reactors.


Yet the idea of nuclear fusion, in which atoms combine into more stable forms and release excess energy in the process, is not new. Ever since the 1920s, when it was postulated that fusion powers the stars, scientists have struggled to develop a truly practical means of harnessing this form of energy. Other research institutions, laboratories and companies around the world are also pursuing ideas for fusion power, but none have gone beyond the experimental stage. With just such a “Holy Grail” breakthrough seemingly within its grasp, and to help achieve a potentially paradigm-shifting development in global energy, Lockheed has made public its project with the aim of attracting partners, resources and additional researchers.


Although the company released limited information on the CFR in 2013, Lockheed is now providing new details of its invention. Aviation Week was given exclusive access to view the Skunk Works experiment, dubbed “T4,” first hand. Led by Thomas McGuire, an aeronautical engineer in the Skunk Work’s aptly named Revolutionary Technology Programs unit, the current experiments are focused on a containment vessel roughly the size of a business-jet engine. Connected to sensors, injectors, a turbopump to generate an internal vacuum and a huge array of batteries, the stainless steel container seems an unlikely first step toward solving a conundrum that has defeated generations of nuclear physicists—namely finding an effective way to control the fusion reaction.


“I studied this in graduate school where, under a NASA study, I was charged with how we could get to Mars quickly,” says McGuire, who earned his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Scanning the literature for fusion-based space propulsion concepts proved disappointing. “That started me on the road and [in the early 2000s], I started looking at all the ideas that had been published. I basically took those ideas and melded them into something new by taking the problems in one and trying to replace them with the benefits of others. So we have evolved it here at Lockheed into something totally new, and that’s what we are testing,” he adds.

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From decisions to disorders: how neuroscience is changing what we know about ourselves

From decisions to disorders: how neuroscience is changing what we know about ourselves | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

People have wanted to understand our motivations, thoughts and behaviors since the ancient Greeks inscribed “know thyself” on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. And understanding the brain’s place in health and disease is one of this century’s greatest challenges – take Alzheimer’s, dementia and depression for example.


There are many exciting contributions from neuroscience that have given insight into our thoughts and actions. Three neuroscientists have just been awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize for their discoveries of cells that act as a positioning system in the brain – in other words, the mechanism that allows us to navigate spaces using spatial information and memory at a cellular level.


There are many exciting contributions from neuroscience that have given insight into our thoughts and actions. For example, the neural basis of how we make fast and slow decisions and decision-making under conditions of uncertainty. There is also an understanding how the brain is affected by stress and how these stresses might switch our brains into habit mode, for example operating on “automatic pilot” and forgetting to carry out planned tasks, or the opposite goal-directed system, which would see you going out of your usual routine, for example, popping into a different supermarket to get special ingredients for a recipe.


Disruption in the balance between the two is evident in neuro-psychiatric disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, and recent evidence suggests that lower grey matter volumes in the brain can bias towards habit formation. Neuroscience is also demonstrating commonalities in disorders of compulsivity, methamphetamine abuse and obese subjects with eating disorders.


Neuroscience can challenge previously accepted views. For example, major abnormalities in dopamine function were thought the main cause of adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, recent work suggests that the main cause of the disorder may instead be associated with structural differences in grey matter in the brain.


What neuroscience has made evidently clear is that changes in the brain cause changes in your thinking and actions, but the relationship is two-way. Environmental stressors, including psychological and substance abuse, can also change the brain. We also now know our brains continue developing into late adolescence or early young adulthood, it is not surprising that these environmental influences are particularly potent in a number of disorders during childhood and adolescence including autism.


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NASA: September Was Warmest Month on Record

NASA: September Was Warmest Month on Record | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The global average temperature in September was the warmest in a record dating back to 1880, according to an update from NASA’sGoddard Institute for Space Studies. That makes it two months in a row: August was also the hottest on record by NASA’s reckoning. Later this week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will release its own, independent calculation of how September 2014 stacked up. Sometimes NOAA’s calculation differs.


Unless something really weird happens, 2014 is on track to be the warmest in the instrumental record.


The map above shows how temperatures around the globe varied from the long-term average in September. Two things catch my eye:


  • The warmth bedeviling roughly the western third of the United States and all the way up into Alaska. This is the result of a high-pressure ridge that has remained stubbornly and remarkably persistent for many months (with some short-term ebbing and flowing, to be sure). The ridge has also prevented storms from reaching California, bringing record drought. The flip side is a trough of low pressure across the U.S. mid-section, which has brought cool temperatures this year, although in September, the map indicates temperatures close to normal across that region. (For more detail on this pattern, check out this post from the California Weather Blog.)


  • The tongue of warm ocean water extending west from the coast of South America out into the central Pacific also catches my attention. Warm sea surface temperatures persisting in the eastern and central Pacific comprise the signature of an El Niño trying to be born. Labor pains have been ongoing for quite some time now, and the odds are good that a weak El Niño will emerge in the next couple of months.
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Australian teams set new records for silicon quantum computing

Australian teams set new records for silicon quantum computing | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Two research teams working in the same laboratories at UNSW Australia have found distinct solutions to a critical challenge that has held back the realization of super powerful quantum computers.


The teams created two types of quantum bits, or "qubits" – the building blocks for quantum computers – that each process quantum data with an accuracy above 99%. The two findings have been published simultaneously today in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.


"For quantum computing to become a reality we need to operate the bits with very low error rates," says Scientia Professor Andrew Dzurak, who is Director of the Australian National Fabrication Facility at UNSW, where the devices were made.


"We've now come up with two parallel pathways for building a quantum computer in silicon, each of which shows this super accuracy," adds Associate Professor Andrea Morello from UNSW's School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications.


The UNSW teams, which are also affiliated with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation & Communication Technology, were first in the world to demonstrate single-atom spin qubits in silicon, reported in Nature in 2012 and 2013.


Now the team led by Dzurak has discovered a way to create an "artificial atom" qubit with a device remarkably similar to the silicon transistors used in consumer electronics, known as MOSFETs. Post-doctoral researcher Menno Veldhorst, lead author on the paper reporting the artificial atom qubit, says, "It is really amazing that we can make such an accurate qubit using pretty much the same devices as we have in our laptops and phones".


Meanwhile, Morello's team has been pushing the "natural" phosphorus atom qubit to the extremes of performance. Dr Juha Muhonen, a post-doctoral researcher and lead author on the natural atom qubit paper, notes: "The phosphorus atom contains in fact two qubits: the electron, and the nucleus. With the nucleus in particular, we have achieved accuracy close to 99.99%. That means only one error for every 10,000 quantum operations."


Dzurak explains that, "even though methods to correct errors do exist, their effectiveness is only guaranteed if the errors occur less than 1% of the time. Our experiments are among the first in solid-state, and the first-ever in silicon, to fulfill this requirement."


The high-accuracy operations for both natural and artificial atom qubits is achieved by placing each inside a thin layer of specially purified silicon, containing only the silicon-28 isotope. This isotope is perfectly non-magnetic and, unlike those in naturally occurring silicon, does not disturb the quantum bit. The purified silicon was provided through collaboration with Professor Kohei Itoh from Keio University in Japan.

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Alzheimer’s in a Dish: How to grow diseased brain cells in vitro to quickly and cheaply test new treatments

Alzheimer’s in a Dish: How to grow diseased brain cells in vitro to quickly and cheaply test new treatments | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

For the first time, and to the astonishment of many of their colleagues, researchers created what they call Alzheimer’s in a Dish — a petri dish with human brain cells that develop the telltale structures of Alzheimer’s disease. In doing so, they resolved a longstanding problem of how to study Alzheimer’s and search for drugs to treat it; the best they had until now were mice that developed an imperfect form of the disease.


The key to their success, said the lead researcher, Rudolph E. Tanzi of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, was a suggestion by his colleague Doo Yeon Kim to grow human brain cells in a gel, where they formed networks as in an actual brain. They gave the neurons genes for Alzheimer’s disease. Within weeks they saw the hard Brillo-like clumps known as plaques and then the twisted spaghetti-like coils known as tangles — the defining features of Alzheimer’s disease.


The work, which also offers strong support for an old idea about how the disease progresses, was published in Nature.


“It is a giant step forward for the field,” said Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, an Alzheimer’s researcher at Duke University. “It could dramatically accelerate testing of new drug candidates.”


Of course, a petri dish is not a brain, and the petri dish system lacks certain crucial components, like immune system cells, that appear to contribute to the devastation once Alzheimer’s gets started. But it allows researchers to quickly, cheaply and easily test drugs that might stop the process in the first place. The crucial step, of course, will be to see if drugs that work in this system stop Alzheimer’s in patients.


The discovery, said Dr. Sam Gandy of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, is “a real game changer” and “a paradigm shifter.” He added, “I’m really enthusiastic to take a crack at this in my lab.”

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Top scientist worries that Ebola has already mutated to become more contagious

Top scientist worries that Ebola has already mutated to become more contagious | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Peter Jahrling, who helped to discover a new strain of Ebola, thinks the virus that's circulating now might be more easily spread.


The current outbreak involves the Zaire strain, which was discovered in 1976 — the year Ebola was first identified in what was then Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). That same year, the virus was also discovered in South Sudan.

Since 1976, there have only been about 20 known Ebola outbreaks. Until last year, the  total impact of these outbreaks included 2,357 cases and 1,548 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They all occurred in isolated or remote areas of Africa, and Ebola never had a chance to go very far.

And that's what makes the 2014 outbreak so remarkable: the virus has spread to five countries in Africa plus America, and has already infected more than 8,000 people. It has killed more than 4,000 people. That is more than triple the sum total of all previous outbreaks combined.


NIH Ebola Information

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NTU scientists develop ultra-fast charging batteries that last 20 years

NTU scientists develop ultra-fast charging batteries that last 20 years | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) have developed ultra-fast charging batteries that can be recharged up to 70 per cent in only two minutes. The new generation batteries also have a long lifespan of over 20 years, more than 10 times compared to existing lithium-ion batteries.


This breakthrough has a wide-ranging impact on all industries, especially for electric vehicles, where consumers are put off by the long recharge times and its limited battery life.


With this new technology by NTU, drivers of electric vehicles could save tens of thousands on battery replacement costs and can recharge their cars in just a matter of minutes.


Commonly used in mobile phones, tablets, and in electric vehicles, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries usually last about 500 recharge cycles. This is equivalent to two to three years of typical use, with each cycle taking about two hours for the battery to be fully charged.


In the new battery, the traditional graphite used for the anode (negative pole) in lithium-ion batteries is replaced with a new gel material made from titanium dioxide.


Titanium dioxide is an abundant, cheap and safe material found in soil. It is commonly used as a food additive or in sunscreen lotions to absorb harmful ultraviolet rays.


Naturally found in spherical shape, the NTU team has found a way to transform the titanium dioxide into tiny nanotubes, which is a thousand times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. This speeds up the chemical reactions taking place in the new battery, allowing for superfast charging. 

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Bioinspired coating for medical devices repels blood and bacteria

Bioinspired coating for medical devices repels blood and bacteria | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
From joint replacements to cardiac implants and dialysis machines, medical devices enhance or save lives on a daily basis. However, any device implanted in the body or in contact with flowing blood faces two critical challenges that can threaten the life of the patient the device is meant to help: blood clotting and bacterial infection.

A team of Harvard scientists and engineers may have a solution. They developed a new surface coating for medical devices using materials already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The coating repelled blood from more than 20 medically relevant substrates the team tested — made of plastic to glass and metal — and also suppressed biofilm formation in a study reported in Nature Biotechnology. But that's not all.

The team implanted medical–grade tubing and catheters coated with the material in large blood vessels in pigs, and it prevented blood from clotting for at least eight hours without the use of blood thinners such as heparin. Heparin is notorious for causing potentially lethal side–effects like excessive bleeding but is often a necessary evil in medical treatments where clotting is a risk.

"Devising a way to prevent blood clotting without using anticoagulants is one of the holy grails in medicine," said Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., Founding Director of Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and senior author of the study. Ingber is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital, as well as professor of bioengineering at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).
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FDA Approval For Mini NMR-Based Pathogen Detector

FDA Approval For Mini NMR-Based Pathogen Detector | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Startup T2 Biosystems in Lexington, Mass., got the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA’s) approval for a device that quickly and accurately detects dangerous pathogens. The instrument is based on miniaturized nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology developed by MIT and Harvard Medical School researchers who founded the company eight years ago. The Harvard researchers are also developing the tool for cancer detection.


Today’s culture-based diagnostic tests for viral and bacterial infections are expensive, and require a few days wait, even with the equipment at full-scale laboratories. A speedy, portable, sensitive detector could save lives and money.


T2 Biosystem’s fully automated bench-top tool delivers results in three to five hours and is more sensitive than culture-based tests, according to the company. It works like this: A clinician loads a patient’s blood sample into a disposable test cartridge containing a few reagents, inserts the cartridge into the machine, and waits. The machine is capable of detecting a range of biological material including proteins, DNA, small molecules, viruses, and bacteria.


In conventional NMR machines, atoms aligned in a magnetic field are vibrated using a radio-frequency signal in order to measure their oscillation frequency. Those machines require large, powerful magnets.


In T2 Bio’s miniature NMR device, the magnet can be smaller because the sample volume is tiny and because the system measures how quickly the atoms’ vibrations decay instead of their frequency. Specifically, the instrument probes water molecules in a sample. Magnetic nanoparticles coated with antibodies that bind to the target molecule are added to the sample. If the target molecule is present in the sample, the nanoparticles cluster around the target, changing the signal decay rate.


The FDA approved T2 Bio's diagnostic instrument and a test for Candida yeast that runs on the machine. The test can detect five Candida species that cause potentially fatal bloodstream infections. Clinical trials in over 1,500 people showed that the T2 system could detect Candida yeast with 91.1-percent accuracy, a major improvement over blood culture-based tests, which are 60 to 70 percent accurate.


A typical Candida-infected patient stays in the hospital for 40 days at a cost of over $130,000, states the company's website. Doctors usually put patients on antifungal drugs while waiting for blood culture results. Getting a result in a few hours would let doctors quickly deliver the most effective course of treatment. The company mentions a study that shows that providing the right antifungal therapy within 24 hours of symptom onset decreases the length of hospital stay by approximately ten days and decreases the average cost of care by approximately $30,000 per patient.

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