Archive for August, 2015

Microscopic Fish May Change How We View Internal Medicine

There is no denying that robot are useful when it comes to medical care.  The robotic surgeries are more precise, the robot health care givers for the elderly at home are better than humans, and now the robotic revolution is ready to pass on its benefits to the field of internal medicine.

Futuristic microscopic fish are all set to enter where no robot has been before, inside the human body. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have taken 3D printing to a new level by churning out a fish that is so small that sixteen of them would fit into the area occupied by a single grain of sand. That is small indeed, but its not the only fascinating thing about these fish.

With magnetic iron oxide nano particles in the head and platinum nano particles in the tail, the fish can be directed through the blood stream by effectively controlling its direction and speed. The body itself is made of a gel which has already been used in other medical applications.

Sending in the microscopic fish to diagnose and even cure ailments is the next step for the researchers.  Needless to say this science project is indeed ground breaking stuff in the field of internal medicine. Although we are still a few years away from the fish living up to their full potential.

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Water Repellent Surfaces

The Lotus Leaf has a natural tendency to repel water. A very useful trait for a water based plant to have, as otherwise there would be a great likelihood of the flower and plant not surviving in the marshy waters. The surface of the lotus flower tends to let water slide right off without absorbing it. This is a principle which has inspired a number of liquid repellent projects in science laboratories worldwide.

The latest study in engineering a surface which un-sticks water droplets comes from Penn State Materials Research Institute, where the researchers have developed the first nano, micro-textured highly slippery surface that can work even with tiny water molecules or even water vapour form.

Tak-Sing Wong, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and a faculty member at the institute said that the work  represented a fundamentally new concept in engineered surfaces. Mobility of liquid droplets on rough surfaces is highly dependent on how the liquid wets the surface. We have demonstrated for the first time experimentally that liquid droplets can be highly mobile when in the Wenzel state, Wong added.

There are many practical applications of liquid repellent surfaces from water harvesting in arid areas, to heat exchangers in power plants. The surface designed in this science project will have a multitude of practical uses.

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The Shape Changing Galaxies

There are traditionally held views on the shape of different galaxies which are now being questioned at the Cardiff University by researchers. It was initially believed that the galaxy was formed in a certain shape and maintained that shape, more or less, over a period of time. This was an accepted practice till a team of scientists have shown over the course of a new study that galaxies can actually change their shapes over a period of time.

At Cardiff University the researchers have been using the Hubble and Herschel telescopes to observe galaxies and classified them into two primary types. The flat, rotating, disc-shaped galaxies like the Milky way is the first shape and the large, oval-shaped galaxies with a swarm of disordered stars is the second shape. As they looked further out in to the night sky and so further into the past, they noticed that the majority of galaxies that formed shortly after the Big Bang were disc shaped.

However when they compared the 83% disc shaped galaxies in the ancient past to the mere 49% disc shaped galaxies in the more recent past, they developed the theory that galaxies indeed change their shapes over a period of time. Of course this science project is in a nascent state and will need a whole lot more collaboration.

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Making CO2 Useful

Carbon dioxide is often referred to as a waste gas as a by product of breathing. It is also associated with rising temperature levels globally and also has negative connotations as the by product of fossil fuel burning. In short, while plants may need carbon dioxide to make food, we humans are not very fond of it per se.

On the other hand if it is reduced to carbon monoxide it is seen as a building block for a number of other chemical components including renewable fuel. Imagine if you could take the CO2 and remove one oxygen molecule and make it CO with the least bit of effort, you could be sitting on a very useful process indeed.

The department of engineering at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is working on a science project which incorporates molecules of porphyrin CO2 catalysts into a crystal of covalent organic frameworks that absorb carbon dioxide and even reduces it to carbon monoxide.

Christopher Chang, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division said that “To date, such porous materials have mainly been used for carbon capture and separation, but in showing they can also be used for carbon dioxide catalysis, our results open up a huge range of potential applications in catalysis and energy.” What specific science projects this will be used in, only time can tell.

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Side Benefit of War – Cleaner Air?

Guess how civil unrest and humanitarian crises can be picked out from outer space? Apparently war torn areas depict better quality and cleaner air as seen from space. An article in a science journal analysed the satellite data from observations of major cities in West Asia to reach the conclusion that areas which have seen recent conflict show a rapid decline in nitrogen oxides in their atmosphere.

The main reason for the decline in nitrogen oxides, which are a by product of most manufacturing industries, is the dampener that war like situations place on the economy of an area. So if there is civil unrest and the economy is tanking, there is no production taking place and hence there are less pollutants in the air.

The article mentions studying the data collected from 2005 to 2010, where West Asia was rapidly developing economically. During this time the nitrogen oxide levels were fairly high. However as political conflicts began to assault the area from 2010 to 2015, the level of economic activity took a nose dive.

This also correlated with the clearing up of air in the area above major cities in the West Asia region. While going to war may not be the best solution for reducing air pollution, this science study sure brought home an interesting point.

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Postal Drones in Switzerland

Postal Drones in Switzerland have already began delivery runs, even if they are just practice runs. The country is hoping to have these flying postmen in full swing within the next five years. As of now its a very scaled down test project. The initial testing of the drone’s post delivery abilities will run over the next month. Now when you are waiting for your mail to be delivered, you will not be looking down the road and at your gate, but up in the sky!

And here’s how to identify your postal drone…You will see a snow-white colored drone with four branches. Each will have a propeller aloft it and the branches extend out from a ring which is roughly the size of your toilet seat. The distinguishing mark of course is the yellow box that it will carry which is emblazoned with the Postal Service logo of the Swiss postal services in the middle.

At present a single drone may carry about one kilogram worth of mail over a radius of ten kilo meters in a single charge. That is about 2.2 pounds over 6.2 miles, not bad for an unmanned robot. The science project dealing with the drones is bound to make better versions which can carry more load and deliver it a farther distance in the not so distant future.

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