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

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Quantum batteries break causality

Charging quantum batteries in indefinite causal order.
In the classical world, if you tried to charge a battery using two chargers, you would have to do so in sequence, limiting the available options to just two possible orders. However, leveraging the novel quantum effect called ICO opens the possibility to charge quantum batteries in a distinctively unconventional way. Here, multiple chargers arranged in different orders can exist simultaneously, forming a quantum superposition.
Illustration Credit: ©2023 Chen et al.

Batteries that exploit quantum phenomena to gain, distribute and store power promise to surpass the abilities and usefulness of conventional chemical batteries in certain low-power applications. For the first time, researchers including those from the University of Tokyo take advantage of an unintuitive quantum process that disregards the conventional notion of causality to improve the performance of so-called quantum batteries, bringing this future technology a little closer to reality.

When you hear the word “quantum,” the physics governing the subatomic world, developments in quantum computers tend to steal the headlines, but there are other upcoming quantum technologies worth paying attention to. One such item is the quantum battery which, though initially puzzling in name, holds unexplored potential for sustainable energy solutions and possible integration into future electric vehicles. Nevertheless, these new devices are poised to find use in various portable and low-power applications, especially when opportunities to recharge are scarce.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

VR users need an emotional connection to virtual worlds, not better graphics

Realistic graphics are only important when the virtual world triggers a sense of threat
Image Credit: Sara Kurig

Being wowed by powerful graphics is not enough for a person to feel fully immersed in a virtual-reality (VR) world – a strong emotional response to the simulated environment is essential too, according to a new study from the University of Bath.

Indeed, field of view and visual realism – achieved through cutting-edge graphics and usually powered by high-end headsets – can be relatively unimportant in creating a believable VR experience. Far more important is the way a user is made to feel (e.g. happy or scared) within the virtual environment, the study found.

Dr Crescent Jicol, principal investigator of the study, said: “A lot of money goes into making headsets and screens better and into rendering virtual worlds more realistic, but more effort needs to be centered on improving the user’s emotional experience.”

Though the findings of this Bath study may ultimately reduce the pressure on gamers to overspend on high-end VR equipment, the implications of this work extend beyond entertainment: in the years ahead, VR is expected to play an ever-growing role in many areas of life, from workplace training to medical rehabilitation programs.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Advanced MRI technology detects changes in the brain after COVID-19

Ida Blystad and her colleagues examine the brain using MRI. 
Photo Credit: Emma Busk Winquist

Researchers at LiU have examined the brains of 16 patients previously hospitalized for COVID-19 with persisting symptoms. They have found differences in brain tissue structure between patients with persisting symptoms after COVID-19 and healthy people. Their findings can bring insights into the underlying mechanisms of persisting neurological problems after COVID-19.

Several previous studies of persisting problems after COVID have involved MRI brain scanning. Although researchers have found differences compared with healthy brains, these differences are not specific to COVID-19.

“It can be frustrating for me as a doctor when I understand that the patients have problems, but I can’t find an explanation because there’s nothing in the MRI scan to explain it. To me, this underlines the importance of trying other examination technologies to understand what’s happening in the brain in patients with persisting symptoms after COVID-19,” says Ida Blystad, neuroradiologist in the Department of Radiology at Linköping University Hospital and researcher affiliated with the Department of Health, Medicine and Caring Sciences at Linköping University and the Centre for Medical Image Science and Visualization (CMIV).

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Scientists are taking major steps towards completing the world’s first synthetic yeast.

Photo Credit: Karyna Panchenko

A UK-based team of Scientists, led by experts from the University of Nottingham and Imperial College London, have completed construction of a synthetic chromosome as part of a major international project to build the world’s first synthetic yeast genome.

The work, which is published today in Cell Genomics, represents completion of one of the 16 chromosomes of the yeast genome by the UK team, which is part of the biggest project ever in synthetic biology; the international synthetic yeast genome collaboration.

The collaboration, known as 'Sc2.0' has been a 15-year project involving teams from around the world (UK, US, China, Singapore, UK, France and Australia), working together to make synthetic versions of all of yeast's chromosomes. Alongside this paper, another 9 publications are also released today from other teams describing their synthetic chromosomes. The final completion of the genome project - the largest synthetic genome ever - is expected next year.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Under Pressure: Seeing the Squeeze in Living Organisms

Double emulsion droplet (pink and cyan) located in between cells (yellow) of a living zebrafish embryo. Monitoring the changes in droplet size allows scientists to measure the osmotic pressure in the tissue.
Image Credit: © PoL / Antoine Vian

In order to survive, organisms must control the pressure inside them, from the single-cell level to tissues and organs. Measuring these pressures in living cells and tissues in physiological conditions has been very challenging. Now, researchers from the Cluster of Excellence Physics of Life (PoL) at the Technical University in Dresden (TU Dresden), Germany, report in the journal Nature Communications a new technique to ‘visualize’ these pressures as organisms develop. These measurements can help understand how cells and tissues survive under pressure, and reveal how problems in regulating pressures lead to disease. 

When molecules dissolved in water are separated into different compartments, water has the tendency to flow from one compartment to another to equilibrate their concentrations, a process known as osmosis. If some molecules cannot cross compartments, a pressure imbalance, known as osmotic pressure, builds up across them. This principle is the basis for many technical applications, such as the desalination of seawater or the development of moisturizing creams. It turns out that maintaining a healthy functioning organism makes the list too. 

Ural Scientists Have Modernized the Process of Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing

The uranium obtained after reprocessing spent nuclear fuel can be reused.
Photo Credit: Lukas Lehotsk

UrFU scientists have discovered that the use of gallium and indium can make the process of pyrochemical reprocessing of nuclear fuel cheaper while maintaining its efficiency. This technology uses molten salts and liquid gallium to separate components of spent nuclear fuel (SNF). To make the process cheaper, the physicists added indium: the technology remained as effective, but the cost of reprocessing itself decreased. The results of the study will help modernize current SNF reprocessing methods and make them more efficient. Full details of the study are published in Alloys.

"This method has many advantages, in particular it focuses on the reprocessing of high-activity, low-life nuclear fuel with a high burn-up depth, which cannot be achieved by other methods such as water technology. It is also environmentally safer, as the amount of radioactive waste after reprocessing is reduced. Gallium can be used in fuel reprocessing by this method, but we have found that by adding indium, the reprocessing efficiency remains as high, but the cost of the process is reduced," explains Alexander Dedyukhin, senior engineer at the Department of Rare Metals and Nanomaterials at UrFU.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Detecting nuclear materials using light

Sandia National Laboratories researcher Patrick Feng, left, and Former Sandian Joey Carlson, right, hold Organic Glass Scintillators they helped create to detect radioactive materials.
Photo Credit: Randy Wong

Blueshift Optics, owned by former Sandia employee Joey Carlson, is working to shift the way radioactive materials are detected, using technology that he helped create at Sandia National Laboratories.

Radiation detection has long been a critical aspect of national security and efforts to make the world safer.

“Agencies are trying to cast this wide net to catch nuclear smuggling, and this is one aspect of that effort,” said Sandia materials scientist Patrick Feng. “You could use this technology at a border crossing, in a handheld detector as someone enters a facility or fly it on a drone to map an area.”

However, the uses of this technology extend far beyond border security.

“It has the potential to provide us with better data from nuclear physics experiments, enhance national security applications both at home and abroad and has applications in fusion energy,” Carlson said.

Feng and Carlson collaborated to develop the state-of-the-art technology known as Organic Glass Scintillators for radiation detection. Sandia recently licensed the technology to Blueshift Optics, paving the way for potential commercial production.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Using lasers to ‘heat and beat’ 3D-printed steel could help reduce costs

Retrieval of a stainless steel part made by 3D printing 
Photo Credit: Jude E. Fronda

The method, developed by a research team led by the University of Cambridge, allows structural modifications to be ‘programmed’ into metal alloys during 3D printing, fine-tuning their properties without the ‘heating and beating’ process that’s been in use for thousands of years.

The new 3D printing method combines the best qualities of both worlds: the complex shapes that 3D printing makes possible, and the ability to engineer the structure and properties of metals that traditional methods allow. The results are reported in the journal Nature Communications.

3D printing has several advantages over other manufacturing methods. For example, it’s far easier to produce intricate shapes using 3D printing, and it uses far less material than traditional metal manufacturing methods, making it a more efficient process. However, it also has significant drawbacks.

“There’s a lot of promise around 3D printing, but it’s still not in wide use in industry, mostly because of high production costs,” said Dr Matteo Seita from Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, who led the research. “One of the main drivers of these costs is the amount of tweaking that materials need after production.”

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Binghamton computer scientists program robotic seeing-eye dog to guide the visually impaired

Associate Professor of Computer Science Shiqi Zhang and his students have programmed a robot guide dog to assist the visually impaired. The robot responds to tugs on its leash.
Photo Credit: Stephen Folkerts

Last year, the Computer Science Department at the Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science went trick-or-treating with a quadruped robotic dog. This year, they are using the robot for something that Assistant Professor Shiqi Zhang calls “much more important” than handing out candy, as fun as that can be.

Zhang and PhD students David DeFazio and Eisuke Hirota have been working on a robotic seeing-eye dog to increase accessibility for visually impaired people. They presented a demonstration in which the robot dog led a person around a lab hallway, confidently and carefully responding to directive input.

Zhang explained some of the reasons behind starting the project.

“We were surprised that throughout the visually impaired and blind communities, so few of them are able to use a real seeing-eye dog for their whole life. We checked the statistics, and only 2% of them are able to do that,” he said.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Carbon copy: new method of recycling carbon fiber shows huge potential

UNSW Canberra researcher Di He with a sample of carbon fiber recycled using a method he developed.
 Photo Credit: UNSW Canberra

Ultra-light cars made from recycled carbon fiber are a step closer, thanks to a new method of recycling developed at UNSW Canberra. 

As manufacturing and technology continually take steps forward, products are using more advanced materials and becoming more sophisticated, but also more complicated.

This presents a problem when these products reach the end of their useable life, because they’re either difficult or expensive to recycle, or both.

For example, as the world transitions to electric vehicles, disposing of their used batteries, some made with highly toxic materials, will be a challenge.

As it stands, many advanced products either end up in landfill or incinerated, which is a waste of valuable resources and harmful to the planet.

One material that has been difficult to recycle is carbon fiber.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Breakthrough synthesis method improves solar cell stability

Jin Hou is a Rice University graduate student and lead author on a study published in Nature Synthesis. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jin Hou

Solar cell efficiency has soared in recent years due to light-harvesting materials like halide perovskites, but the ability to produce them reliably at scale continues to be a challenge.

A process developed by Rice University chemical and biomolecular engineer Aditya Mohite and collaborators at Northwestern University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Rennes yields 2D perovskite-based semiconductor layers of ideal thickness and purity by controlling the temperature and duration of the crystallization process.

Known as kinetically controlled space confinement, the process could help improve the stability and reduce the cost of halide perovskite-based emerging technologies like optoelectronics and photovoltaics.

Unlocking Sugar to Generate Biofuels and Bioproducts

Chang-Jun Liu (left) and Nidhi Dwivedi (right) in the Brookhaven Lab greenhouse with rice plants like those used in this study.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory

Plant biologists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have engineered enzymes to modify grass plants so their biomass can be more efficiently converted into biofuels and other bioproducts. As described in a paper just published in Plant Biotechnology Journal, these enzymes modify molecules that make up plant cell walls to provide access to fuel-generating sugars normally locked within complex structures. 

“The concept of biomass to biofuel seems simple, but it is technically very difficult to release the sugars,” noted Chang-Jun Liu, a senior plant biologist at Brookhaven Lab who led the study.

Plant biomass is full of energy-rich complex sugar molecules generated from photosynthesis. Each plant cell is surrounded by a rigid cell wall made of sugars and a material called lignin that provides structural support. Reducing lignin to gain access to the sugars has been the focus of research aimed at using plants to generate fuels and other products commonly made from petroleum.

Machine can quickly produce needed cells for cancer treatment

WSU researchers have developed a minifridge-sized bioreactor that is able to manufacture the cells, called T cells, at 95% of the maximum growth rate – about 30% faster than current technologies.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Washington State University

A new tool to rapidly grow cancer-killing white blood cells could advance the availability of immunotherapy, a promising therapy which harnesses the power of the body’s immune response to target cancer cells.

Washington State University researchers have developed a minifridge-sized bioreactor that is able to manufacture the cells, called T cells, at 95% of the maximum growth rate – about 30% faster than current technologies. The researchers report on their work in the journal Biotechnology Progress. They developed it using T cells from cattle, developed by co-author Bill Davis of WSU’s Veterinary College, and anticipate it will perform similarly on human cells.

In 2022, there were over 1,400 different types of therapies using T cells in development, with seven approved by the FDA for a variety of cancer treatments. Use of the therapy, called chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T), is limited, however, because of the cost and time needed to grow T cells. Each infusion treatment for a cancer patient requires up to 250 million cells.

Better batteries for electric cars

Eric Ricardo Carreon Ruiz (left) and Pierre Boillat in front of part of PSI's Swiss spallation neutron source SINQ. There, at the BOA experimental station, they conducted their investigations.
Photo Credit: Paul Scherrer Institute/Mahir Dzambegovic

PSI researchers are using neutrons to make changes in battery electrolytes visible. The analysis enables better understanding of the physical and chemical processes and could aid in the development of batteries with better characteristics. The results have now been published in Science Advances.

The range is too limited, charging is too slow when it’s cold . . . the list of prejudices against electric cars is long. Even though progress is rapid, batteries remain the critical component for electromobility – as well as for many other applications, from smartphones to large storage devices designed to stabilize the power grid. The problem: Battery developers still lack a full understanding of what is happening, chemically and physically, during charging and discharging, especially in liquid electrolytes between the two electrodes through which charge carriers are exchanged.

Now Eric Ricardo Carreon Ruiz of PSI is bringing light into this darkness. A doctoral researcher in Pierre Boillat’s group at PSI, he is using neutrons from the Swiss spallation neutron source SINQ to investigate different electrolytes, studying for example their behavior at fluctuating temperatures. His results provide important insights that could help in the development of new electrolytes and higher-performance batteries.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Preventing Airborne Infection without Impeding Communication with Ions and Electric Field

Figure 1.
Novel device for preventing airborne infection The design (a) and schematic (b) of the mechanism of the device for capturing infectious droplets and aerosols without hindering communication. The negatively charged ions attach to the droplets and the electric field guides them to the collecting electrode.
Illustration Credit: Courtesy of Tokyo Institute of Technology

A novel device developed by Tokyo Tech researchers in a new study utilizes ions and an electric field to effectively capture infectious droplets and aerosols, while letting light and sound pass through to allow communication. The innovation is significant in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, since it shows promise in preventing airborne infection while facilitating communication.

Airborne infections, such as H1N1 influenza, SARS, and COVID-19, are spread by aerosols and airborne droplets. While droplet/aerosol transmission can be prevented using acrylic partitions or, as with the COVID-19 pandemic, by imposing lockdowns in severe cases, these countermeasures can significantly impede communication. This, in turn, can lead to unintended consequences.

For instance, lockdown measures during the COVID-19 pandemic led to severe economic losses as well as a rise in cases of mental illness like depression and suicide around the world. Therefore, as we prepare for a potential future pandemic, it is necessary to develop more sustainable countermeasures that do not disrupt economic activities and daily face-to-face interactions.

To this end, a research team including Kaito Kanda, a graduate student at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) at the time of research, Assistant Professor Tetsuya Yamada, from the Institute of Innovative Research at Tokyo Tech, and Professor Takeo Fujiwara from Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) and Chiba University researchers, has now developed a device that successfully captures droplets and aerosols while allowing the transmission of light and sound for effective communication.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Preventing collateral damage in cancer treatment

The Electronic Polymer Dosimeter for Radiotherapy, created by a team at Sandia National Laboratories.
 Photo Credit: Spencer Toy

Using a simple concept and a patented Sandia sensor that detects radioactive materials, a team at Sandia National Laboratories has developed a patch to stop damage to healthy tissue during proton radiotherapy, one of the best tools to target certain cancerous tumors.

“This is an important need, especially among pediatric patients,” said Patrick Doty, one of the creators of the patch. Proton radiation therapy is used to send a high dose of radiation into a specific area of the body to disrupt and destroy tumor cells, but the radiation also kills nearby healthy cells. The goal is to be as precise as possible when targeting the radiation, but human movement is an issue especially when dealing with children.

“If you breathe, you move. When your heart beats, you move. You can’t stop those types of motions. And kids are wiggly. You can’t keep them still for long,” Doty said. “Sometimes doctors must resort to general anesthesia and the treatments sometimes go day after day for six weeks. Imagine going to the hospital and having to be put under every day for weeks. That is not good for anyone, but it’s especially bad for kids.”

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Rice researcher scans tropical forest with mixed-reality device

Rice doctoral alumnus Daniel Gorczynski wearing a Microsoft HoloLens headset.
Photo Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

Rice University scientists used a commercially available mixed-reality headset with custom-designed software to measure and analyze forest floor vegetation, demonstrating a correlation between animal diversity and the mapped habitat of a Tanzanian national park. According to the paper published in the journal Ecology, the greater the microhabitat surface area, the richer the biodiversity of its mammals.

Traditional habitat field research requires a significant amount of time and effort, but Rice postdoctoral researcher Daniel Gorczynski reduced those costs by incorporating a Microsoft HoloLens with his innovative VegSense software. Gorczynski and his advisor, assistant professor of biosciences Lydia Beaudrot, created VegSense to help researchers measure animal habitats, while the HoloLens was initially designed to improve work quality and outcomes in manufacturing, engineering, healthcare and education.

“Because the HoloLens is a mixed-reality device, you can see both the projected mesh over the forest structure as well as your local surroundings,” Gorczynski said.

A miniature magnetic resonance imager made of diamond

Prof. Dominik Bucher uses defects in diamond (NV-centers) as quantum sensors for NMR spectroscopy on the nano- to microscale. His research group works at the unique interface between quantum sensing and (bio) chemistry with interdisciplinary approaches from applied quantum physics, chemical synthesis and biophysics. The over goal is to perform NMR spectroscopy on smallest length-scales - from nano- and surface science to microfluidics and single-cell biology.
Photo Credit: Andreas Heddergott / TUM

The development of tumors begins with minuscule changes within the body's cells; ion diffusion at the smallest scales is decisive in the performance of batteries. Until now the resolution of conventional imaging methods has not been high enough to represent these processes in detail. A research team led by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed diamond quantum sensors which can be used to improve resolution in magnetic imaging.

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is an important imaging method in research which can be used to visualize tissue and structures without damaging them. The technique is better known from the medical field as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), where the patient is moved into the bore of a large magnet on a table. The MRI device creates a very strong magnetic field which interacts with the tiny magnetic fields of the hydrogen nuclei in the body. Since the hydrogen atoms are distributed in a particular way amongst different types of tissues, it becomes possible to differentiate organs, joints, muscles and blood vessels.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Warmer climate may impact reliability of solar farms: modeling

Managing weather-induced power fluctuations will be a growing challenge for variable renewables in the future.
Photo Credit: Quang Nguyen Vinh

New research suggests Australia will need to adjust to climate-driven shifts in solar power production.

Australia’s renewable energy transition is well underway, but an impending shift in the reliability of solar due to climate change could impact generation capacity and the management of the electricity grid. 

Modeling conducted by researchers from UNSW Sydney predicts changes in the availability of solar across different regions of Australia under a warmer climate. The findings, published in the journal Solar Energy, have implications for future solar power infrastructure development in Australia, including the world’s largest solar infrastructure energy network.

Australia is a prominent solar hotspot, with several notable large-scale grid-connected solar power systems – or solar photovoltaics (PV) plants – in operation or development. However, the sensitivity of solar power generation to weather-induced variability can limit its ability to deliver a consistent and dependable energy supply.

Managing grid stability due to inherent variability in solar energy generation due to factors like cloud cover, seasonal cycles, and location – all of which will be impacted by future warming – is possible with proper forecasting, power storage and load controls. But, if left unmanaged, it can lead to power deficits that can result in outages or even complete grid failures.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

The world may have crossed solar power ‘tipping point’

Photo Credit: American Public Power Association

The world may have crossed a “tipping point” that will inevitably make solar power our main source of energy, new research suggests.

The study, based on a data-driven model of technology and economics, finds that solar PV (photovoltaics) is likely to become the dominant power source before 2050 – even without support from more ambitious climate policies.

However, it warns four “barriers” could hamper this: creation of stable power grids, financing solar in developing economies, capacity of supply chains, and political resistance from regions that lose jobs.

The researchers say policies resolving these barriers may be more effective than price instruments such as carbon taxes in accelerating the clean energy transition.

The study, led by the University of Exeter and University College London, is part of the Economics of Energy Innovation and System Transition (EEIST) project, funded by the UK Government’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF).

“The recent progress of renewables means that fossil fuel-dominated projections are no longer realistic,” Dr Femke Nijsse, from Exeter’s Global Systems Institute.

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