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Archive for the ‘biological’ category

Dec 5, 2016

Light Harvesting “Quantum Photocells” Herald A New Age in Solar Energy

Posted by in categories: biological, quantum physics, solar power, space, sustainability

In Brief

  • By combining the fields of quantum physics and biology, researchers have developed more efficient solar cells inspired by photosynthesis.
  • With current solar cells wasting about 80 percent of the energy absorbed, it will be interesting to see what future innovative approaches will allow in the pursuit toward universal clean energy.

Science once again reaches a milestone in technology by modeling it after nature. Researchers have devised a new type of highly efficient photocell by studying photosynthesis in plants.

Nathan Gabor, assistant professor for physics and astronomy at the University of California, Riverside, led research spurred by a simple question as to why plants are green. This eventually led to a quest to mimic plants’ ability to efficiently harvest energy from the Sun regardless of how erratic the sunlight is.

Dec 3, 2016

ARL insight into synthetic biology and advanced 3D printing materials

Posted by in categories: 3D printing, bioengineering, biological, computing, military

The US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) are at an advanced stage of with their synthetic biology research. The work could see bacteria being used to send signals and sense in a way similar to computers, the advantage being that it could potentially provide a more intuitive sensory experience to a piece of tech, and bypass some of the pitfalls unique to electrical structures. The research also has application for new 3D printing materials.

Dec 1, 2016

A.I. Can Teach Itself to Recognize Faces Now

Posted by in categories: biological, information science, mathematics, robotics/AI

The goal of roboticists has long been to make A.I. as efficient as the human brain, and researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology just brought them one step closer.

In a recent paper, published in the journal Biology, scientists were able to successfully train a neural network to recognize faces at different angles by feeding it a set of different orientations for several face templates. Although this only initially gave the neural network the ability to roughly reach invariance — the ability to process data regardless of form — over time, the network taught itself to achieve full “mirror symmetry. Through mathematical algorithms, the neural network was able to mimic the human brain’s ability to understand objects are the same despite orientation or rotation.

The brain requires three different layers to process image orientation.

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Nov 30, 2016

Scientists design living organisms that make chemical bonds not found in nature

Posted by in categories: alien life, biological, chemistry

Move over, chemists. Thanks to proteins from Icelandic bacteria, scientists at Caltech have managed to coax microbes into making silicon-carbon bonds, a feat that until now has been achieved only by humans in the lab.

The findings, published last week in the journal Science, could open the door to new avenues in organic chemistry and drug development — and could help scientists investigate essential mysteries, such as whether life could be based on silicon instead of carbon on other planets.

Nov 30, 2016

Team combines quantum physics and photosynthesis to make discovery that could lead to highly efficient solar cells

Posted by in categories: biological, quantum physics, solar power, sustainability

A University of California, Riverside assistant professor has combined photosynthesis and physics to make a key discovery that could help make solar cells more efficient. The findings were recently published in the journal Nano Letters.

Nathan Gabor is focused on experimental condensed matter physics, and uses light to probe the fundamental laws of quantum mechanics. But, he got interested in photosynthesis when a question popped into his head in 2010: Why are plants green? He soon discovered that no one really knows.

During the past six years, he sought to help change that by combining his background in physics with a deep dive into biology.

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Nov 26, 2016

Biologist discusses a synthetic metabolic pathway that fixes carbon dioxide and synthetic biology

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biological, climatology, sustainability

A synthetic metabolic pathway developed by Tobias Erb and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg converts CO2 from the atmosphere into organic matter more efficiently than plants are able to through photosynthesis. We asked the researcher what significance this process could have for climate protection, discussed the hurdles the research team had to overcome to achieve their goal, and looked at the new perspectives that synthetic biology opens up.

Does the synthetic metabolic pathway that fixes CO2 now represent an effective means of curbing climate change?

Firstly, we are aiming to understand the fundamental biological and chemical principles of how CO2 in gaseous form can be converted into organic molecules. Our primary motivation is not stopping . We are seeking to develop atmospheric CO2 as a source of carbon for the future using biological methods. Producing a CO2-neutral process or even one that removes CO2 from the atmosphere and has a positive impact on the climate would be a fantastic secondary effect.

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Nov 25, 2016

For the First Time, Living Cells Have Formed Carbon-Silicon Bonds

Posted by in categories: biological, computing

Scientists have managed to coax living cells into making carbon-silicon bonds, demonstrating for the first time that nature can incorporate silicon — one of the most abundant elements on Earth — into the building blocks of life.

While chemists have achieved carbon-silicon bonds before — they’re found in everything from paints and semiconductors to computer and TV screens — they’ve so far never been found in nature, and these new cells could help us understand more about the possibility of silicon-based life elsewhere in the Universe.

After oxygen, silicon is the second most abundant element in Earth’s crust, and yet it has nothing to do with biological life.

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Nov 23, 2016

Qubits in brain can make it a quantum computer?

Posted by in categories: biological, computing, neuroscience, particle physics, quantum physics

The mere mention of “quantum consciousness” makes most physicists cringe, as the phrase seems to evoke the vague, insipid musings of a New Age guru. But if a new hypothesis proves to be correct, quantum effects might indeed play some role in human cognition. Matthew Fisher, a physicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, raised eyebrows late last year when he published a paper in Annals of Physics proposing that the nuclear spins of phosphorus atoms could serve as rudimentary “qubits” in the brain — which would essentially enable the brain to function like a quantum computer.

Isher’s hypothesis faces the same daunting obstacle that has plagued microtubules: a phenomenon called quantum decoherence. To build an operating quantum computer, you need to connect qubits — quantum bits of information — in a process called entanglement. But entangled qubits exist in a fragile state. They must be carefully shielded from any noise in the surrounding environment. Just one photon bumping into your qubit would be enough to make the entire system “decohere,” destroying the entanglement and wiping out the quantum properties of the system. It’s challenging enough to do quantum processing in a carefully controlled laboratory environment, never mind the warm, wet, complicated mess that is human biology, where maintaining coherence for sufficiently long periods of time is well nigh impossible.

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Nov 22, 2016

A synthetic biological metabolic pathway fixes CO2 more efficiently than plants

Posted by in categories: biological, climatology, food, sustainability

In future, greenhouse gas carbon dioxide could be removed from the atmosphere by deploying a new biological method. A team headed by Tobias Erb, Leader of a Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg, has developed a synthetic but completely biological metabolic pathway based on the model of photosynthesis that fixes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere 20% more efficiently that plants can photosynthetically. The researchers initially planned the new system, which they presented in the magazine Science this week, on the drawing board and then turned it into reality in the laboratory.

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of our time. The concentration of (CO2) in the atmosphere owing to human activities has continually risen since the start of the Industrial Revolution. All scientific evidence indicates that this increase is exacerbating the greenhouse effect and changing the climate. The consequences are already clearly evident. To overcome the environmental as well as the social challenge of climate change, “we must find new ways of sustainably removing excessive CO2 from the atmosphere and turning it into something useful,” underlined Erb, who leads a Junior Research Group at the Max Planck Institute in Marburg.

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Nov 22, 2016

Researchers Just Solved One of the Biggest Problems in Synthetic Biology

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biological, genetics

In Brief

  • Researchers have discovered that placing synthetic genetic circuits in liposomes prevents them from interfering with one another, while still allowing them to communicate.
  • Not only could this new form of “modular” genetic circuits lead to more complex engineered circuits, it could also provide insight as to how the earliest life on Earth formed.

By applying engineering principles to biology, researchers can create biological systems that don’t exist naturally. A problem of synthetic biology, however, is that these engineered genetic circuits can interfere with each other. While beneficial on their own, some of these man-made circuits become useless when they come in contact with each other, and this bars them from being used to solve complex biological problems.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have found a way around this by creating a synthetic cell barrier to separate genetic circuits from each other, preventing interference while still allowing the circuits to communicate with each other when researchers want them to.

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