November 21, 2019

    A battery that could decrease fossil fuel use
    Lithium-ion batteries power 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry - short science news and articles

    The Lithium-ion battery, which is now a days used to power everything from cell phones to laptops as well as electric cars powered the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for this year.

    These batteries store sufficient energy from both solar and wind power making it possible to help our society to slowly move towards being fossil-fuel free.

    While Stanley Whittingham did the foundation work for these batteries in 1970, John Goodenough in 1980 increased its potential for changing the cathode used in the batteries. This spurred Akira Yoshino to release the first commercially viable lithium-ion battery in 1985. The prize was shared by the three laureates.

    Read the full story: The Nobel Prize

    Emitted greenhouse gases could be used for the synthesis of useful products by modified E. coli bacteria
    Bacteria convert greenhouse gases into useful products - climate change short science news

    A new study reports that E. coli bacteria (normally found in our intestines) can be transformed with a manipulated form of a human gene to convert greenhouse gases into useful products. The gene encodes an enzyme that in its manipulated form can couple carbon molecules (such as found in carbon dioxide) into more complex structures. These structures, which are currently produced from oil, can be used in for example cosmetics and in plastics.

    Thus, this new technique can be beneficial for our combat against global warming. On the one hand, it might capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to synthesize useful polymers, and on the other hand reduces the need for oil.

    Read the full story: University of South Florida
    Scientific publication: Nature Chemical Biology

    In Giapis's reactor, carbon dioxide is converted into molecular oxygen. Credit: Caltech
    Making Oxygen from CO2  - interesting science news

    Exploring space with all its complexities has one big issue; we as humans need oxygen and hence we need to carry our own oxygen wherever we go into space.

    Scientists have now demonstrated a new chemical reaction for generating oxygen which could not only help us explore the universe but also fight climate change on Earth. They found that CO2 on collision with the comet surface effectively splitting it such that O2 gets released from the same CO2 molecule.

    The researchers used a gold foil to mimic the comet surface in their experiments. The basic requirements are that the surface and CO2 should crash each other at a very high speed like in a comet. While the current efficacy is very low (2 O2 molecules from 100 CO2 molecules), further refinement is being done right now.

    Read the full story: Caltech
    Scientific publication: Nature Communication

    Under green light and assisted by an ionic liquid, gold nanoparticles, bottom, lend electrons to convert CO2 molecules, the red and grey spheres in the center, to more complex hydrocarbon fuel molecules. Image: Sungju Yu, Jain Lab at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Artificial photosynthesis for green energy advances - green technology short science news

    Researchers have succeeded to produce fuel from water, carbon dioxide, and sunlight, in a process that is similar to what plants use to generate energy from light (photosynthesis).

    By converting carbon dioxide into more complex organic molecules like propane, with the aid of gold as a catalyst in the chemical reactions, they have come closer to using excess carbon dioxide to store solar energy.

    While this artificial from of photosynthesis is not as efficient yet as natural photosynthesis in plants, the storing capacity of energy in the form of chemical bonds inn liquid fuel might be a strategy to be adopted in the future for the development of green energy.

    Read the full story: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    Unlike conventional plastics, the monomers of PDK plastic could be recovered and freed from any compounded additives simply by dunking the material in a highly acidic solution. (Credit: Peter Christensen et al./Berkeley Lab)
    Plastic gets its much-needed makeover - interesting science news

    Like a Lego set, researchers have designed a recyclable plastic which can be broken down into its individual parts at the molecular level and the it can be put back together into any other shape, texture and color multiple time. All this without a loss of performance or quality.

    The new material is called polydiketoenamine (PDK). Unlike the conventional plastic currently used, PDK can be broken down into its individual components by simply putting it in a highly acidic solution. This acid also separates PDK from the chemical additives which gives it a brand fresh look.

    This take recycling to the next level because the current plastic’s most recyclable component PET is only recycled at the rate of 20-30% and the rest of it goes into landfills to lie around for hundreds of years.

    Read the full story: DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
    Scientific publication: Nature Chemistry

    Neuroscientists have developed a brain-machine interface which uses brain activity to control virtual vocal track which is a computer simulation of lips, jaws, tongue and larynx to create a natural sounding synthetic speech.

    While previous efforts to do this we mildly successful at best, the scientists this time hypothesized that the speech centers do not code the acoustic properties of sound, but rather coordinate the movement of the mouth, tongue and throat during speech. Turned out to be the correct hypothesis!!

    This tech could be the first step towards restoring voices in people who have lost the ability to speak during to paralysis or other impairments. Still, this tech has a success rate of approximately 50% and hence needs more fine tuning.

    Read the full story: UCSF
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Theoretically, this experimental device could turn boiling water to ice, without using any energy. (Andreas Schilling, UZH)
    Cooling without energy consumption? - interesting science news

    Physicists are always up to something weird. Now they have developed a simple device that facilitates heat to flow temporarily from a cold to a warm object without an external power supply. Surprisingly, at first sight this might contradict some fundamental laws of physics.

    To do this, researchers used a Peltier element which is usually used to cool minibars in hotels. This element can convert electric current to temperature differences. This element creates thermal oscillating circuits, in which an oscillating heat current flows between two bodies perpetually changing directions. So, heat also temporarily flows from colder to warmer objects cooling the cold object further.

    However, rest assured that this does not contradict the laws of physics since the scientists have shown that entropy of the whole system increases with time in full compliance with the law of thermodynamics.

    Read the full story: University of Zurich
    Scientific publication: Science Advances

    A 3D-printed, small-scaled human heart engineered from the patient's own materials and cells. Credit: Advanced Science. © 2019 The Authors.
    3D printed heart… How cool is that - interesting science news

    In a first, researchers have 3D printed the world’s first engineered heart using patients own cells and other biological materials. The first heart with cells, blood vessels, all the chambers and everything else together.

    Until now researchers in regenerative medicine had only printed simple tissues without any blood vessels. The new 3D printed heart is made from human cells and biological materials made of sugars and proteins which serve as biolink while printing the tissue.

    With heart disease as the leading cause of death and heart transplantation being the only definitive treatment for end stage heart failure, this new technology could help millions if scientists are able to scale it to human size.

    Read the full story: American Friends of Tel Aviv University
    Scientific publication: Advanced Science

    The taste of basil has been enhanced using algorithms that determine optimal growth conditions
    The future of agriculture: Cyber agriculture - technology short science news

    Researchers are in the process of growing crops that taste good, without genetic modifications. To this end, they use computer algorithms to determine optimal growing conditions to obtain the best concentration that give the plants flavor.

    The first plants to have been cultured with artificial intelligence is basil, but it is envisaged that this is only the first of many.

    Researchers believe that such “Cyber agriculture”, as they call it, may play an important role in growing crops, not only to improve taste but also to make plants more resistant to disease or to study how crops grow with changing climate conditions.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: PLoS ONE

    Seawater is the most abundant source of chemical energy and could soon be used for the production of hydrogen
    Creating hydrogen fuel from seawater - technology short science news

    Hydrogen is an appealing option for fuel, because burning it produces only water, no carbon dioxide. As powering cars and cities would take enormous amounts of hydrogen, it seems impossible to use purified water to obtain sufficient amounts of hydrogen, especially in more arid areas of the planet.

    Now researchers have discovered a way to split seawater (the Earth’s most abundant source for chemical energy) into hydrogen and oxygen by a process called electrolysis. The corrosive effects of chloride in the seawater was prevented by a special coating on the anode.

    This method might prove useful for hydrogen production at large scale in the future.

    Read the full story: Stanford University
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of the USA

    A sensor that stimulates sweat, and provides continuous information about illness, metabolites, or drugs in a noninvasive manner. Image: Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services
    Sweat holds great promise for noninvasive testing - health technology short science news

    Scientists and clinicians search for biosensors that accurately reflect metabolite concentrations and effects of drugs in the blood.

    It turns out that measurements in sweat hold great promise for such continuous, noninvasive testing. They give very similar results as measuring in blood, and the secretion of sweat can be controlled and stimulated, even if a person is resting and cool.

    Sweat sensors are under development, and the first sensors, the size of a Band-Aid that can be applied on the skin, are likely to become available soon.

    Read the full story: University of Cincinnati
    Scientific publication: Nature Biotechnology

    A simple trap to reduce antibiotic resistance
    A ‘trap’ to slow down antibiotic resistance - interesting science news

    Scientists have developed a faster test, which is able to identify how single bacteria react to antibiotics. Importantly, the susceptibility to an antibiotic can be ascertained in one-hour as compared to the 1-2 day in culture tests.

    The technique involves micro-channels on a glass side along which the bacteria swim. These channels induce the bacteria into tiny traps, and then the scientists can inject drugs and observe how the bacteria, reacts under a microscope.

    This information could help in our fight against antibiotic resistance because how drugs affect single bacteria could help our clinicians choose the right antibiotic, thereby decreasing the incidence of use of prolonged treatments with less effective bacteria which contributes to antibiotic resistance.

    Read the full story: University of York

    Mobile phone increase lonely time even with together
    Increased ‘alone-together’ family time due to mobile devices- interesting science news

    Researchers have found out that children are spending more time at home with their parents than before, but this has not increased the together time spent by them such as watching TV or eating. Rather, there is an increase in the ‘alone-together’ time.

    This ‘alone-together’ time has increased by nearly 30 minutes a day from 2000 to 2015 and this is attributed to rapid increase in home internet and personal mobile devices.

    However, all is not bad since there is not change in the time spent in shared activities, which continues to be 90 minutes per day. However, it is possible that there is a feeling of poor quality family relationships due to increased time spent on mobile devices.

    Read the full story: University of Warwick
    Scientific publication: Journal of Marriage and Family

    How cool is this? Researchers have developed a movie inspired liquid formula which is a wearable technology that converts the mechanical energy due to movement to electricity. The team invented a liquid-metal-inclusion based triboelectric nanogenerator which harvests energy, and this is predicted to be $480 million market by 2028.

    This wearable system senses the biomechanical signals from our body and then use this converted energy to power technological devices. This is fascinating since this technology coverts energy which would be otherwise wasted and puts it to powering devices.

    The potential applications range from wearable sensors, advanced health care, human machine interface as well as Internet of Things.

    Read the full story: Purdue University
    Scientific publication: Journal of Materials Chemistry A

    Pools of hot water like this are the home to bacteria that can eat and breathe electricity. Photo cresit: WSU
    Bacteria that eat waste and breathe electricity - interesting science news

    Researchers visited the Yellowstone National Park for an entirely different reason. To capture bacteria from the hot springs that eat and breathe electricity. The scientists left a few electrodes submerged in the pools of hot water and came back after a month to collect these electrodes and analyze them. Surprisingly, they were able to capture these heat-loving bacteria.

    These bacteria could be our answer to our current existential crisis, mainly pollution and energy. These bacteria can ‘eat’ the pollution causing toxins and, in the process, produce electricity. The electricity produced can be used for low-power applications.

    A potentially world changing discovery, don’t you think?

    Read the full story: Washington State University
    Scientific publication: Journal of Power Sources

    MIT researchers have developed a four-legged robot. Weighing just 20 pounds, it can get back into its natural position in a blink even when it is pushed to the ground. The most impressive stunt this robot can do is a 360 degree back-flip.

    The scientists state that this robot, which they call ‘mini-cheetah’ is virtually indestructible and can recover with little damage even when it stunts go wrong. And if it breaks, the scientists have been smart to use only off the shelf parts so that it can be restored to its back-flipping potential at no significant higher costs.

    They tested the mini-cheetah in an obstacle course in the lab and made it do yoga poses and found that it is very flexible while maintaining its balance at the same time.

    Read the full story: MIT news

    Mice injected with newly-deveoped nanoparticles in the retina can see infrared light as green light
    Mice with night vision - nanotechnology short science news

    Scientists have developed nanoparticles that can be injected in the retina and convert here infrared light into visible green light.

    When applied in the retina, which converts light into electrical pulses, of mice, shining infrared light contracted the pupils, indicating that the mice had seen the light. Also, these mice avoided a chamber which was lit by infrared light, and preferred to stay in the dark.

    Thus, it seems that the nanoparticles had effectively converted infrared light into visible light. This technique might used in the future for the treatment of, for example, color blindness.

    Read the full story: University of Science and Technology of China
    Scientific publication: Cell

    Control of the activity of worm neurons through two-photon stimulation. A neuron in the tail of the worm (enlarged square region) is stimulated with pulses of infrared light in the presence of the new molecule and an activation response occurs. Image: Montserrat Porta, Aida Garrido.
    Switching on the activity of drugs with infrared light - technology short science news

    Scientists have developed a new technique that makes it possible to activate a molecule that is already in the body by light.

    Shining light locally is thought to limit unwanted side effects of the molecule, which is important for medical use.

    This new technique has been developed in worms and is an important step forward to full control of when and where medication should become active in the body.

    Read the full story: Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    Excess wind energy can be stored in the form of hydrogen, which is later added to the gas distribution network: profitable and green
    Power-to-gas technology: profitable and green - technology short science news

    Economists have established that so-called « power-to-gas » technology is already commercially viable today. Power-to-gas technology involves the storage of hydrogen and the use of hydrogen to balance power distribution networks. This is an environmentally green technique as excess wind and solar energy can be used to produce hydrogen through water electrolysis.

    The hydrogen can recover the energy later, and be added to the gas pipeline network. Calculations show that power-to-gas technology is now advantageous for smaller to mid-sized industry, and is expected to be so for big industry in 2030.

    Power-to-gas technology can thus be used to develop a climate-friendly infrastructure linking power generation, production, and transport, the economists say.

    Read the full story: Technical University of Munich
    Scientific publication: Nature Energy

    A tiny proton withstands pressures bigger than the ones seen in a neutron star
    Scientists calculate the pressure inside a proton - science news articles with summaries

    For the first time, physicists were able to calculate the pressure distribution of a proton. Amazingly, it turns out that protons’ interior contains a pressure higher than the one experienced by a neutron star, the densest objects in the universe.

    According to the study, the protons contain a highly pressurized core that generates an enormous amount of pressure pushing outwards. In the same time, the region surrounding the core pushes inwards and the balance between the two forces stabilizes the integrity of the proton.

    To calculate the pressure, several factors were considered including the contributions of both quarks and gluons, the proton’s subatomic constituents. This theoretical study should be experimentally confirmed and it is expected that this will be done over the following years.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: Physical Review Letters

    Antbot, the first walking robot that moves without GPS. Image: Julien Dupeyroux, ISM (CNRS/AMU)
    A robot that finds its way like a desert ant - technology short science news

    While moving robots find their way in their environment by GPS, researchers have now constructed one that navigates like a desert ant.

    Desert ants use the polarized pattern of skylight and combine this with an estimation of the distance traveled based on how many steps they took and to the rate at which the ground moves across the eye. The newly developed robot uses these principles successfully, as indicated by the mean homing error of only 0.67%.

    Thus, it seems possible to use the strategies found in ants for robotics, and could be combined with already existing techniques, researchers say.

    Read the full story: CNRS
    Scientific publication: Science Robotics

    Tiny, modular robots, powered by small muscles could have important applications in medicine. Credit: Microbiorobotic Systems Laboratory (MICROBS), EPFL
    Microscopic, soft robots might keep you healthy in the near future - science news articles

    A team of researchers reports the development of microscopic, soft micromachines, able to travel inside the body and mechanically stimulate cells and tissues. The tiny robots are powered by artificial muscles, the size of a cell and are wirelessly activated by laser beams.

    Inside the human body, there is a variety of mechanical stimuli that act on tissues affecting their ability to carry on physiological functions. The scientists aim to control and reproduce these types of stimuli using the micromachines.

    For the moment the discovery is used for fundamental research, but the technology has practical applications too. Soon, these devices could be used as medical implants with the aim of improving the health of human beings.

    Read the full story: EPFL
    Scientific publication: Lab on a Chip

    This material can adapt to stretch and pressure, and repair itself
    New hydrogel material works like human muscle - Science and technology news articles

    A new material made from a double-network of hydrogels has the ability to increase its strength in response to mechanical stress, similar to the human muscles. This ability allows the material to repair the damage induced by tensile forces.

    The material contains two intertwined networks of polymer strands, with one network rigid and the other one flexible. The rigid component breaks down when mechanical stress is applied, but this triggers a local polymerization process that creates new bounds within the material, making it strong again. The soft component helps maintain its shape and the gel appearance.

    This process is pretty similar to what happens inside muscles during intense exercise. The new self-growing fatigue-free material could be used for various applications, from soft robots to medicine.

    Read the full story: Physics World
    Scientific publication: Science

    Bacteria help scientists grow thermoelectric paper. A researcher holding a sample of the new thermoelectric cellulose produced by bacteria. Credit: ICMAB
    Thermoelectric paper produced through sustainable and environmentally friendly process - Science and technology news articles

    Researchers announced the development of a new method to produce thermoelectric paper that is both sustainable and environmentally friendly. Thermoelectric paper is a material made of cellulose, containing small amounts of conductive nanomaterials that enable it to convert heat into electricity.

    The scientists used bacteria to produce the nanocellulose fibers that end up forming the device. The new material has high thermal stability (it can reach up to 250 Celsius degrees) and it doesn’t use any toxic elements. Moreover, it can be easily recycled since it can be degraded by an enzymatic process converting it into glucose.

    The thermoelectric paper could be used to generate electricity from residual heat, with many potential applications in technology, medicine, and even sports.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Energy and Environmental Science

    For the first time, scientists decoded the genome of mosquitos using DNA from one single individual
    Major advancement in sequencing the genome of small species - short science news

    Decoding the genome of small organisms has proven difficult due to the challenges associated with extracting enough DNA to achieve a quality analysis from a single specimen. To overcome this scientists pool DNA from different individuals or inbreed them to produce genetically related organisms, both approaches having disadvantages.

    Now, a team of scientists managed to decode the entire genome of one single mosquito. This achievement was facilitated by using a new sequencing technology that reduces the amount of starting DNA needed.

    The discovery will facilitate the understanding of the genetic diversity of insects and other small organisms. Moreover, it could be useful for humans, for example, it could allow the analysis of the whole genetic code of a patient’s cancer, from a single biopsy.

    Read the full story: Wellcome Sanger Institute
    Scientific publication: Genes

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