. Scientific Frontline: Technology
Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Smart Contact Lens that Diagnoses and Treats Glaucoma

Schematic illustration of a theranostic smart contact lens for glaucoma treatment.
Illustration Credit: Pohang University of Science and Technology

POSTECH research team led by Professor Sei Kwang Hahn proposes a new paradigm for monitoring and control of intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients.

Glaucoma is a common ocular disease in which the optic nerve malfunctions due to the increased intraocular pressure (IOP) caused by drainage canal blocking in the eye. This condition narrows the peripheral vision and can lead to vision loss in severe cases. Glaucoma patients have to manage IOP levels for their lifetime. Automatic monitoring and control of the IOP in these patients would significantly improve their quality of life.

Recently, a research team at POSTECH has developed a smart contact lens by combining an IOP sensor and a flexible drug delivery system to manage IOP measurement and medication administration.

Engineers invent vertical, full-color microscopic LEDs

MIT engineers have developed a new way to make sharper, defect-free displays. Instead of patterning red, green, and blue diodes side by side in a horizontal patchwork, the team has invented a way to stack the diodes to create vertical, multicolored pixels.
Image Credit: Illustration by Younghee Lee

Take apart your laptop screen, and at its heart you’ll find a plate patterned with pixels of red, green, and blue LEDs, arranged end to end like a meticulous Lite Brite display. When electrically powered, the LEDs together can produce every shade in the rainbow to generate full-color displays. Over the years, the size of individual pixels has shrunk, enabling many more of them to be packed into devices to produce sharper, higher-resolution digital displays.

But much like computer transistors, LEDs are reaching a limit to how small they can be while also performing effectively. This limit is especially noticeable in close-range displays such as augmented and virtual reality devices, where limited pixel density results in a “screen door effect” such that users perceive stripes in the space between pixels.

Now, MIT engineers have developed a new way to make sharper, defect-free displays. Instead of replacing red, green, and blue light-emitting diodes side by side in a horizontal patchwork, the team has invented a way to stack the diodes to create vertical, multicolored pixels.

The moon is too hot and too cold; now it could be just right for humans, thanks to newly available science

Issam Mudawar’s research on heat transfer could enable space habitats to be built in extreme environments like the moon.
Photo Credit: Purdue University / John Underwood

With temperatures on the moon ranging from minus 410 to a scorching 250 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s an understatement to say that humans will need habitats with heat and air conditioning to survive there long term.

But heating and cooling systems won’t be effective enough to support habitats for lunar exploration or even longer trips to Mars without an understanding of what reduced gravity does to boiling and condensation. Engineers haven’t been able to crack this science – until now.

“Every refrigerator, every air conditioning system we have on Earth involves boiling and condensation. Those same mechanisms are also prevalent in numerous other applications, including steam power plants, nuclear reactors and both chemical and pharmaceutical industries,” said Issam Mudawar, Purdue University’s Betty Ruth and Milton B. Hollander Family Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “We have developed over a hundred years’ worth of understanding of how these systems work in Earth’s gravity, but we haven’t known how they work in weightlessness.”

A team of engineers at Purdue led by Mudawar, who is collaborating with NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, has spent 11 years developing a facility to investigate these phenomena.

Solid material that 'upconverts' visible light photons to UV light photons could change how we utilize sunlight

Low-intensity visible blue light or lower energy photons being converted into higher energy UV photons using a solid film formed on a round glass substrate, developed by researchers at Tokyo Tech
 Image Credit: Prof. Yoichi Murakami

Ultraviolet (UV) light has higher energy photons than visible light and, thus, has more applications. Tokyo Tech researchers have now developed a brilliant innovation—a solid-state material that can stably and efficiently upconvert sunlight- intensity visible light photons to UV light photons. This photon upconversion (UC) material can utilize visible light to successfully drive reactions that would conventionally need UV light, broadening the spectrum of utility for the former.

The importance of solar power as a renewable energy resource is increasing. Sunlight contains high-energy UV light with a wavelength shorter than 400 nm, which can be broadly used, for example, for photopolymerization to form a resin and activation of photocatalysts to drive reactions that generate green hydrogen or useful hydrocarbons (fuels, sugars, olefins, etc.). The latter of these is often called "artificial photosynthesis." Photocatalytic reaction by UV light to efficiently kill viruses and bacteria is another important application. Unfortunately, only about 4% of terrestrial sunlight falls within the UV range in the electromagnetic spectrum. This leaves a large portion of sunlight spectrum unexploited for these purposes.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Lockheed Martin’s First LM 400 Multi-Mission Spacecraft Completed, Ready For Final Testing

Lockheed Martin’s first LM 400 mid-sized, multi-mission spacecraft will launch in 2023 as a technology demonstrator.
Resized Image using AI by SFLORG
Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin Corporation

The first Lockheed Martin LM 400, a flexible, mid-sized satellite customizable for military, civil or commercial users, rolled off the company’s digital factory production line and is advancing toward its planned 2023 launch.

The agile LM 400 spacecraft bus design enables one platform to support multiple missions, including remote sensing, communications, imaging, radar and persistent surveillance. Lockheed Martin invested in common satellite designs to support demand for more proliferated systems, high-rate production and affordable solutions. The LM 400 is scalable and versatile starting at the size of the average home refrigerator, with capability to grow for higher power and larger payloads and packaged to enable multiple satellites per launch.

The LM 400 bus can operate in low, medium or geosynchronous earth orbits, providing greater flexibility than other buses in this class. The LM 400 space vehicle is compatible with a wide range of launch vehicles in a single, ride-share or multi-launch configuration.

A fresh look at restoring power to the grid

Sandia National Laboratories computer scientists Casey Doyle, left, and Kevin Stamber stand in front of an electrical switching station. Their team has developed a computer model to determine the best way to restore power to a grid after a disruption, such as a complete blackout caused by extreme weather.
Photo Credit: Craig Fritz

Climate change can alter extreme weather events, and these events have the potential to strain, disrupt or damage the nation’s grid.

Sandia National Laboratories computer scientists have been working on an innovative computer model to help grid operators quickly restore power to the grid after a complete disruption, a process called “black start.”

Their model combines a restoration-optimization model with a computer model of how grid operators would make decisions when they don’t have complete knowledge of every generator and distribution line. The model also includes a physics-based understanding of how the individual power generators, distribution substations and power lines would react during the process of restoring power to the grid.

“We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we go beyond simply looking at this as a multi-layered optimization problem,” said project lead Kevin Stamber. “When we start to discuss disruptions to the electric grid, being able to act on the available information and provide a response is critical. The operator still has to work that restoration solution against the grid and see whether or not they are getting the types of reactions from the system that they expect to see.”

The overarching model also can simulate black starts triggered by human-caused disruptions such as a successful cyberattack.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Researchers combine classical and quantum optics for super-resolution imaging

A conceptual rendering of the super-resolution experiment, which will be enabled by a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Illustration Credit: Courtesy of Colorado State University

The ability to see invisible structures in our bodies, like the inner workings of cells, or the aggregation of proteins, depends on the quality of one’s microscope. Ever since the first optical microscopes were invented in the 17th century, scientists have pushed for new ways to see things more clearly, at smaller scales and deeper depths.   

Randy Bartels, professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Colorado State University, is one of those scientists. He and a team of researchers at CSU and Colorado School of Mines are on a quest to invent some of the world’s most powerful light microscopes – ones that can resolve large swaths of biological material in unimaginable detail.   

The name of the game is super–resolution microscopy, which is any optical imaging technique that can resolve things smaller than half the wavelength of light. The discipline was the subject of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and Bartels and others are in a race to keep circumventing that diffraction limit to illuminate biologically important structures inside the body.  

New DNA Biosensor Could Unlock Powerful, Low-Cost Clinical Diagnostics

In a new study, researchers demonstrate the capability of DNA biosensor components for a unique modular DNA biosensor. The researchers plan to integrate their design within a device the size and shape of a smartphone for low-cost clinical diagnostics. 
Illustration Credit: N. Hanacek/NIST

DNA can signal the presence of or predisposition to a slew of diseases, including cancer. The ability to flag down these clues, known as biomarkers, allows medical professionals to make critical early diagnoses and provide personalized treatments. The typical methods of screening can be laborious, expensive or limited in what they can uncover. A new biosensor chip that boasts an accurate and inexpensive design may increase accessibility to high-quality diagnostics. 

The biosensor, developed by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Brown University and the French government-funded research institute CEA-Leti, identifies biomarkers by measuring how binding occurs between DNA strands and the device. What sets it apart from other similar sensors is its modular design, which lowers costs by making it easier to mass produce and allowing the most expensive components to be reused. 

In a paper just posted online from the latest IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting, the researchers presented results of a study that demonstrates the device’s high sensitivity and precision despite its modularity, which is typically associated with diminished performance.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Scientists Unveil Least Costly Carbon Capture System to Date

Chemist Dave Heldebrant, a recently selected fellow of the American Chemical Society who holds a joint appointment with Washington State University, has helped design several solvents that can deftly capture carbon dioxide molecules before they reach Earth’s atmosphere. 
Photo Credit: Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

The need for technology that can capture, remove and repurpose carbon dioxide grows stronger with every CO2 molecule that reaches Earth’s atmosphere. To meet that need, scientists at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have cleared a new milestone in their efforts to make carbon capture more affordable and widespread. They have created a new system that efficiently captures CO2—the least costly to date—and converts it into one of the world’s most widely used chemicals: methanol.

Snaring CO2 before it floats into the atmosphere is a key component in slowing global warming. Creating incentives for the largest emitters to adopt carbon capture technology, however, is an important precursor. The high cost of commercial capture technology is a longstanding barrier to its widespread use.

PNNL scientists believe methanol can provide that incentive. It has many uses as a fuel, solvent, and an important ingredient in plastics, paint, construction materials and car parts. Converting CO2 into useful substances like methanol offers a path for industrial entities to capture and repurpose their carbon.

Soft robots harness viscous fluids for complex motions

Soft Robot
Video Credit: Courtesy of Collective Embodied Intelligence Lab | Cornell University 

One of the virtues of untethered soft robots is their ability to mechanically adapt to their surroundings and tasks, making them ideal for a range of roles, from tightening bolts in a factory to conducting deep-sea exploration. Now they are poised to become even more agile and controlled.

A team of researchers led by Kirstin Petersen, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering, designed a new – and surprisingly simple – system of fluid-driven actuators that enable soft robots to achieve more complex motions. The researchers accomplished this by taking advantage of the very thing – viscosity – that had previously stymied the movement of such robots.

The team’s paper, “Harnessing Nonuniform Pressure Distributions in Soft Robotic Actuators,” published Jan. 20 in Advanced Intelligent Systems. The paper’s lead author is postdoctoral researcher Yoav Matia.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

DARPA Selects Aurora Flight Sciences for Phase 2 of Active Flow Control X-Plane

DARPA CRANE X-Plane configuration in development for flight testing Active Flow Control (AFC) technologies
Image Credit: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

DARPA has selected Aurora Flight Sciences to move into the detailed design phase of the Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) program. This follows successful completion of the project’s Phase 1 preliminary design, which resulted in an innovative testbed aircraft that used active flow control (AFC) to generate control forces in a wind tunnel test. Phase 2 will focus on detailed design and development of flight software and controls, culminating in a critical design review of an X-plane demonstrator that can fly without traditional moving flight controls on the exterior of the wings and tail.

The contract includes a Phase 3 option in which DARPA intends to fly a 7,000-pound X-plane that addresses the two primary technical hurdles of incorporation of AFC into a full-scale aircraft and reliance on it for controlled flight. Unique features of the demonstrator aircraft will include modular wing configurations that enable future integration of advanced technologies for flight testing either by DARPA or potential transition partners.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Getting under your skin for better health

UC College of Engineering and Applied Science professor Jason Heikenfeld in his Novel Devices Lab.
 Photo Credit: Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

The next frontier of continuous health monitoring could be skin deep.

Biomedical engineers at the University of Cincinnati say interstitial fluid, the watery fluid found between and around cells, tissues or organs in the body, could provide an excellent medium for early disease diagnosis or long-term health monitoring.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, they outlined the potential advantages and technological challenges of using interstitial fluid.

“Why we see it as a valuable diagnostic fluid is continuous access. With blood, you can’t easily take continuous readings,” said UC doctoral graduate Mark Friedel, co-lead author of the study.

“Can you imagine going about your day with a needle stuck in your vein all day? So, we need other tools.”

Algae Can Help Dispose of Hazardous Substances and Produce Bioethanol

Algae can absorb zinc, magnesium, iron, aluminum, silicon and lead.
Photo Credit: Rodion Narudinov

Scientists of the Ural Federal University have developed a technology for the production of environmentally friendly bioethanol fuel using waste heat from thermal power plants (TPP) and combined heat and power plants (CHPP) and freshwater algae produced in large quantities in cooling ponds. The use of this technology leads to a reduction in harmful emissions and makes energy production more efficient. The developers emphasize that the technology signifies a transition from hydrocarbon to green energy. An article describing the technology has been published in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy.

TPPs and CHPPs are the main suppliers of heat, light, and hot water; at the same time, they are sources of greenhouse gas emissions generated during fuel combustion and saturated with carbon dioxide, soot, unburned particles, and various chemical substances. Another byproduct is the so-called waste heat - water heated during the cooling of superheated steam, rotating turbines of TPPs and CHPPs. The waste heat, in the form of steam, evaporates into the atmosphere in large quantities and is discharged together with industrial effluents into storage ponds. Process water containing solutions of hydrochloric acid, caustic soda, ammonia, ammonium salts, iron and other substances is discharged after flushing the flue gases and boiler units.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Sensing the Odor Molecules on Graphene Surface Layered with Self-Assembled Peptides

Graphene-based olfactory sensors that can detect odor molecules based on the design of peptide sequences were recently demonstrated by researchers at Tokyo Tech. The findings indicated that graphene field-effect transistors (GFETs) functionalized with designable peptides can be used to develop electronic devices that mimic olfactory receptors and emulate the sense of smell by selectively detecting odor molecules.

Olfactory sensing or odor sensing is an integral part of many industries including healthcare, food, cosmetics, and environmental monitoring. At present, the most commonly used technique for detecting and estimating odor molecules is gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS). Though very effective, GC–MS has some limitations, such as its bulky setup and limited sensitivity. As a consequence, scientists have been looking for more sensitive and easy-to-use alternatives.

In recent years, graphene field-effect transistors (GFETs) have begun being used to develop highly sensitive and selective odor sensors by integrating with olfactory receptors, also known as electronic noses. The atomically flat surfaces and high electron mobility of graphene surfaces make GFETs ideal for adsorbing odor molecules. However, the application of GFET as electrical biosensors with the receptors is severely limited by factors, such as the fragility of receptors and the lack of alternative synthetic molecules that can function as olfactory receptors.

New, safe, and biodegradable compound blocks radiation

Hesham Zakali: The material developed by an international group of scientists could become an alternative to toxic lead, for example.
Photo Credit: Anastasia Kurshpel

Polylactic acid combined with tungsten trioxide effectively blocks gamma radiation, an international group of scientists including specialists from Russia (Ural Federal University), Saudi Arabia and Egypt has found. In the future, it will be possible to create safe and biodegradable screens for protection against low-energy radiation on the basis of the new material, the researchers believe. Such screens are used in medicine, agriculture and the food industry. A description of the material has been published in the journal Radiation Physics and Chemistry.

"Polylactic acid is a non-toxic polymer of natural origin. It is inexpensive and, importantly, can be broken down by microbes when placed in an industrial plant at high temperatures. Since lactic acid is regularly produced as a byproduct of metabolism in both plants and animals, polylactic acid and its degradation products are non-toxic and safe for the environment," explains Hesham Zakali, co-author of the development and Researcher at the Department of Experimental Physics at UrFU.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Microelectronics give researchers a remote control for biological robots

Remotely controlled miniature biological robots have many potential applications in medicine, sensing and environmental monitoring.   
Photo Credit: Yongdeok Kim

First, they walked. Then, they saw the light. Now, miniature biological robots have gained a new trick: remote control.

The hybrid “eBiobots” are the first to combine soft materials, living muscle and microelectronics, said researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University and collaborating institutions. They described their centimeter-scale biological machines in the journal Science Robotics.

“Integrating microelectronics allows the merger of the biological world and the electronics world, both with many advantages of their own, to now produce these electronic biobots and machines that could be useful for many medical, sensing and environmental applications in the future,” said study co-leader Rashid Bashir, an Illinois professor of bioengineering and dean of the Grainger College of Engineering.

Boeing Awarded NASA Sustainable Flight Demonstrator Contract

SFD Rendering
NASA has selected Boeing and its industry team to lead the development and flight testing of a full-scale Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) demonstrator airplane.
Image Credit: Boeing

NASA has selected Boeing and its industry team to lead the development and flight testing of a full-scale Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) demonstrator airplane.

The technologies demonstrated and tested as part of the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator (SFD) program will inform future designs and could lead to breakthrough aerodynamics and fuel efficiency gains.

When combined with expected advancements in propulsion systems, materials and systems architecture, a single-aisle airplane with a TTBW configuration could reduce fuel consumption and emissions up to 30% relative to today's most efficient single-aisle airplanes, depending on the mission. The SFD program aims to advance the civil aviation industry's commitment to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, as well as the goals set forth in the White House's U.S. Aviation Climate Action Plan.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Wearable, Printable, Shapeable Sensors Detect Pathogens and Toxins in the Environment

“Using the sensor, we can pick up trace levels of airborne SARS-CoV-2, or we can imagine modifying it to adapt to whatever the next public health threat might be,” Omenetto said. Here, a sensor is embedded on a drone.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Silklab

Researchers at Tufts School of Engineering have developed a way to detect bacteria, toxins, and dangerous chemicals in the environment using a biopolymer sensor that can be printed like ink on a wide range of materials, including wearable items such as gloves, masks, or everyday clothing.

Using an enzyme similar to that found in fireflies, the sensor glows when it detects these otherwise invisible threats. The new technology is described in the journal Advanced Materials.

The biopolymer sensor, which is based on computationally designed proteins and silk fibroin extracted from the cocoons of the silk moth Bombyx Mori, can also be embedded in films, sponges, and filters, or molded like plastic to sample and detect airborne and waterborne dangers, or used to signal infections or even cancer in our bodies.

The researchers demonstrated how the sensor emits light within minutes as it detects the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID, anti-hepatitis B virus antibodies, the food-borne toxin botulinum neurotoxin B, or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), an indicator of the presence of breast cancer.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Sandia work at the heart of next generation nuclear reactor

A team of Sandia National Laboratories researchers is testing materials to make the next generation of fusion reactors. This container is used to expose the samples to nuclear fusion. It holds seven samples of innovative tungsten alloys, post exposure.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Coburn

A team of Sandia National Laboratories researchers working on the reactor at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility is testing materials to make the next generation of fusion reactors, in the quest to develop more carbon-free energy sources.

These magnetic confinement fusion reactors, called tokamaks, use magnetic fields to shape plasma into a donut shape that generates power from nuclear fusion. DIII-D is the largest such facility currently operating in the Department of Energy complex. Tokamaks create high heat and particle fluxes that can cause significant erosion of the reactor wall materials. If these materials contaminate the core plasma, it could make it impossible to bring the reactor to a temperature high enough to start stable, safe fusion.

Jonathan Coburn is one such researcher, part of a team of Sandians that collaborates with DIII-D to test and develop much needed specialized fusion materials for the hot fusion plasma environment.

Multi-layered ‘space skin’ can help future satellites and spacecraft harvest energy

Credit: NASA

A 'space skin' could help protect spacecraft and satellites from harsh solar radiation while also harvesting energy for future use in the craft's mission, according to a study from the University of Surrey and Airbus Defense and Space.

The research team has shown that their innovative nano-coating, called the Multifunctional Nanobarrier Structure (MFNS), can reduce the operating temperatures of space-qualified structures from 120°C to 60°C.

Thanks to its custom-built, room temperature application system, researchers were able to show that it is possible to use the MFNS alongside a craft's sensors and advanced composite materials.

Professor Ravi Silva, corresponding author of the study and Director of the Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey, said:

"Space is a wondrous but dangerous place for us humans and other human-made structures. While solutions already on the market offer protection, they are bulky and can be restrictive when it comes to thermal control.

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