Archive for the ‘engineering’ category

May 20, 2020

New imaging analysis pipeline could aid in drug and vaccine development

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, engineering, health

From testing drugs to developing vaccines, the close study of the immune system is key to improving real-world health outcomes. T-cells are integral to this research, as these white blood cells help tailor the body’s immune response to specific pathogens.

With lattice light-sheet microscopy (LLSM), scientists have been able to closely examine , such as T-cells, in 4D. But with limited data points, there wasn’t an effective way to analyze the LLSM data.

A new paper by researchers from the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago, published May 20 in the journal Cell Systems, introduces a solution—a pipeline for lattice light-sheet microscopy multi-dimensional analyses (LaMDA).

May 20, 2020

Intermolecular vibrational energy transfer via microcavity strong light-matter coupling

Posted by in categories: biological, chemistry, engineering, nanotechnology, particle physics

Strong coupling between cavity photon modes and donor/acceptor molecules can form polaritons (hybrid particles made of a photon strongly coupled to an electric dipole) to facilitate selective vibrational energy transfer between molecules in the liquid phase. The process is typically arduous and hampered by weak intermolecular forces. In a new report now published on Science, Bo Xiang, and a team of scientists in materials science, engineering and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego, U.S., reported a state-of-the-art strategy to engineer strong light-matter coupling. Using pump-probe and two-dimensional (2-D) infrared spectroscopy, Xiang et al. found that strong coupling in the cavity mode enhanced the vibrational energy transfer of two solute molecules. The team increased the energy transfer by increasing the cavity lifetime, suggesting the energy transfer process to be a polaritonic process. This pathway on vibrational energy transfer will open new directions for applications in remote chemistry, vibration polariton condensation and sensing mechanisms.

Vibrational energy transfer (VET) is a universal process ranging from chemical catalysis to biological signal transduction and molecular recognition. Selective intermolecular vibrational energy transfer (VET) from solute-to-solute is relatively rare due to weak intermolecular forces. As a result, intermolecular VET is often unclear in the presence of intramolecular vibrational redistribution (IVR). In this work, Xiang et al. detailed a state-of-the-art method to engineer intermolecular vibrational interactions via strong light-matter coupling. To accomplish this, they inserted a highly concentrated molecular sample into an optical microcavity or placed it onto a plasmonic nanostructure. The confined electromagnetic modes in the setup then reversibly interacted with collective macroscopic molecular vibrational polarization for hybridized light-matter states known as vibrational polaritons.

May 20, 2020

A deep-learning-enhanced e-skin that can decode complex human motions

Posted by in categories: engineering, nanotechnology, robotics/AI, virtual reality

Researchers at Seoul National University and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have recently developed a sensor that can act as an electronic skin and integrated it with a deep neural network. This deep learning-enhanced e-skin system, presented in a paper published in Nature Communications, can capture human dynamic motions, such as rapid finger movements, from a distance.

The new system stems from an interdisciplinary collaboration that involves experts in the fields of mechanical engineering and computer science. The two researchers who led the recent study are Seung Hwan Ko, a professor of mechanical engineering at Soul National University and Sungho Jo, a computing professor at KAIST.

For several years, Prof. Ko had been trying to develop highly sensitive strain by generating cracks in metal nanoparticle films using laser technology. The resulting sensor arrays were then applied to a virtual reality (VR) glove designed to detect the movements of people’s fingers.

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May 20, 2020

Researchers build a fast-moving jumping soft robot

Posted by in categories: engineering, robotics/AI

Buckling, the sudden loss of structural stability, is usually the stuff of engineering nightmares. Mechanical buckling means catastrophic failure for every structural system from rockets to soufflés. It’s what caused the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, among numerous other disasters.

But, as anyone who has ever played with a toy popper knows, buckling also releases a lot of energy. When the structure of a popper buckles, the energy released by the instability sends the toy flying through the air. Now, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have harnessed that energy and used buckling to their advantage to build a fast-moving, inflatable soft actuator.

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May 19, 2020

Building Volume into Neural Hardware

Posted by in categories: engineering, robotics/AI

In her new column covering neuromorphic engineering, intelligent robotics, and AI hardware, Sunny Bains looks at attempts to increase connectivity by creating three dimensional systems.

May 18, 2020

National Lab Scientists Work to Reprogram Genes to Fight COVID-19

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, engineering, genetics

Using CRISPR, Sandia National Lab researchers are genetically engineering antiviral countermeasures to fight the coronavirus—and potentially future outbreaks.

May 14, 2020

A new, highly sensitive chemical sensor uses protein nanowires

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, engineering, food, health, nanotechnology

Writing in the journal NanoResearch, a team at the University of Massachusetts Amherst reports this week that they have developed bioelectronic ammonia gas sensors that are among the most sensitive ever made.

The sensor uses electric-charge-conducting protein derived from the bacterium Geobacter to provide biomaterials for electrical devices. More than 30 years ago, senior author and microbiologist Derek Lovley discovered Geobacter in river mud. The microbes grow hair-like protein filaments that work as nanoscale “wires” to transfer charges for their nourishment and to communicate with other bacteria.

First author and doctoral student Alexander Smith, with his advisor Jun Yao and Lovley, say they designed this first sensor to measure ammonia because that gas is important to agriculture, the environment and biomedicine. For example, in humans, ammonia on the breath may signal disease, while in poultry farming, the gas must be closely monitored and controlled for bird health and comfort and to avoid feed imbalances and production losses.

May 13, 2020

World’s Hardest Concrete With Improved Impact Resistance for Disaster Prevention

Posted by in categories: engineering, materials

A research team including Kanazawa University tests the impact response of the world’s hardest concrete.

Concrete is the most widely used building material in the world and consequently is being continuously developed to fulfill modern-day requirements. Efforts to improve concrete strength have led to reports of porosity-free concrete (PFC), the hardest concrete tested to date. Some of the basic properties of PFC have already been explored, and now a team including Kanazawa University has probed the impact response of this innovative material. Their findings are published in International Journal of Civil Engineering.

Ultra-high-strength concrete offers significant advantages including reducing the weight of large structures and protecting them against natural disasters and accidental impacts. PFC is an ultra-high-strength concrete whose properties can be further enhanced by incorporating steel fibers.

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May 12, 2020

Soft robotic exosuit makes stroke survivors walk faster and farther

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, cyborgs, engineering, robotics/AI, wearables

Stroke is the leading cause of serious long-term disability in the US with approximately 17 million individuals experiencing it each year. About 8 out of 10 stroke survivors suffer from “hemiparesis”, a paralysis that typically impacts the limbs and facial muscles on one side of their bodies, and often causes severe difficulties walking, a loss of balance with an increased risk of falling, as well as muscle fatigue that quickly sets in during exertions. Oftentimes, these impairments also make it impossible for them to perform basic everyday activities.

To allow to recover, many rehabilitation centers have looked to robotic exoskeletons. But although there are now a range of exciting devices that are enabling people to walk again who initially were utterly unable to do so, there remains significant active research trying to understand how to best apply wearable robotics for rehabilitation after stroke. Despite the promise, recent clinical practice guidelines now even recommend against the use of robotic therapies when the goal is to improve walking speed or distance.

In 2017, a multidisciplinary team of mechanical and electrical engineers, apparel designers, and neurorehabilitation experts at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and Boston University’s (BU) College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College showed that an ankle-assisting soft robotic exosuit, tethered to an external battery and motor, was able to significantly improve biomechanical gait functions in stroke patients when worn while walking on a treadmill. The cross-institutional and cross-disciplinary team effort was led by Wyss faculty members Conor Walsh, Ph.D. and Lou Awad, P.T., D.P.T., Ph.D, together with Terry Ellis, Ph.D., P.T., N.C.S. from BU.

May 11, 2020

Study suggests polymer composite could serve as lighter, non-toxic radiation shielding

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, engineering, health

A new study from researchers at North Carolina State University suggests that a material consisting of a polymer compound embedded with bismuth trioxide particles holds tremendous potential for replacing conventional radiation shielding materials, such as lead.

The trioxide compound is lightweight, effective at shielding against ionizing radiation such as , and can be manufactured quickly—making it a promising material for use in applications such as , medical imaging and .

“Traditional radiation shielding materials, like lead, are often expensive, heavy and toxic to human health and the environment,” says Ge Yang, an assistant professor of nuclear engineering at NC State and corresponding author of a paper on the work. “This proof-of-concept study shows that a bismuth trioxide compound could serve as effective radiation shielding, while mitigating the drawbacks associated with traditional shielding materials.”

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