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Archive for the ‘engineering’ category

Aug 16, 2018

Two Industries in One Field

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, engineering, life extension

Now that we are starting to see the arrival of actual therapies aimed at targeting the processes of aging directly in order to prevent age-related diseases, it has become easier to separate two very distinct groups.

The first group consists of the snake oil salesmen peddling unproven supplements and therapies to whoever is foolish enough to buy and take things on faith without using the scientific method. The hucksters have long been a plague on our field, preying on the gullible and tainting legitimate science with their charlatanry and nonsense. One example is the “biotech company” that makes bold claims yet never delivers on those claims in practice, offering data based on poorly designed experiments and tiny cohorts that are statistically irrelevant; another example is the supplement peddler selling expensive supplement blends with flashy names, which, on inspection, turn out to be commonly available herbs and minerals mixed and sold at a high markup. These sorts of people have plagued our community and given the field a reputation of snake oil.

The second group are the credible scientists, researchers, and companies who have been working on therapies for years and sometimes more than a decade. Many of these therapies are following the damage repair approach advocated by Dr. Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Research Foundation over a decade ago. The basic idea is to take an engineering approach to the damage that aging does to the body and to periodically repair that damage in order to keep its level below that which causes pathology. These therapies are now starting to arrive, with some already in human trials right now, and this marks a milestone in our field: the credible science has finally outstripped the snake oil, and the focus can move from pseudoscience to real, evidence-based science.

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Aug 16, 2018

Human wastewater valuable to global agriculture, economics, study finds

Posted by in categories: economics, engineering, food, sustainability

It may seem off-putting to some, but human waste is full of nutrients that can be recycled into valuable products that could promote agricultural sustainability and better economic independence for some developing countries.

Cities produce and must manage huge quantities of . Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a model to clarify what parts of the world may benefit most from re-circulation of human-waste-derived nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus from cities and back into farm fields. They report their findings in the journal Nature Sustainability.

“We grow our in the field, apply nutrient-rich fertilizers, eat the crops, excrete all of the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and then those nutrients end up at the ,” said Jeremy Guest, a civil and environmental engineering professor and study co-author. “It is a very linear, one-directional flow of resources. Engineering a more circular nutrient cycle would create opportunities that could benefit the environment, economy and agriculture.”

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Aug 14, 2018

California water managers vary in use of climate science

Posted by in categories: climatology, engineering, science, sustainability

Historically, water managers throughout the thirsty state of California have relied on hydrology and water engineering—both technical necessities—as well as existing drought and flood patterns to plan for future water needs.

Now, is projected to shift as winters become warmer, spring snowmelt arrives earlier, and extreme weather-related events increase. Some water utilities have started to consider these risks in their management, but many do not. Lack of change adaptation among water utilities can put water supplies and the people dependent on them at risk, especially in marginalized communities, a new University of California, Davis, paper suggests.

The paper, which analyzes various approaches to climate science by drinking water utility managers in California, was presented along with new research at the American Sociology Association Conference in Philadelphia on Aug. 11. The paper, “Climate Information? Embedding Climate Futures within Social Temporalities of California Water Management,” was published this spring in the journal Environmental Sociology.

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Aug 13, 2018

Biomimetic micro/nanoscale fiber reinforced composites

Posted by in categories: biological, engineering, evolution, nanotechnology

Over hundreds of millions of years of evolution, nature has produced a myriad of biological materials that serve either as skeletons or as defensive or offensive weapons. Although these natural structural materials are derived from relatively sterile natural components, such as fragile minerals and ductile biopolymers, they often exhibit extraordinary mechanical properties due to their highly ordered hierarchical structures and sophisticated interfacial design. Therefore, they are always a research subject for scientists aiming to create advanced artificial structural materials.

Through microstructural observation, researchers have determined that many biological materials, including fish scales, crab claws and bone, all have a characteristic “twisted plywood” structure that consists of a highly ordered arrangement of micro/nanoscale fiber lamellas. They are structurally sophisticated natural fiber-reinforced composites and often exhibit excellent damage tolerance that is desirable for engineering structural materials, but difficult to obtain. Therefore, researchers are seeking to mimic this kind of natural hierarchical structure and interfacial design by using artificial synthetic and abundant one-dimensional micro/nanoscale fibers as building blocks. In this way, they hope to produce high-performance artificial structural materials superior to existing materials.

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Aug 12, 2018

UCLan unveils world’s first graphene skinned plane

Posted by in categories: 3D printing, business, engineering, nanotechnology, robotics/AI, transportation

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has unveiled the world’s first graphene skinned plane at an internationally renowned air show. Juno, a three-and-a-half-metre wide graphene skinned aircraft, was revealed on the North West Aerospace Alliance (NWAA) stand as part of the ‘Futures Day’ at Farnborough Air Show 2018.

The University’s aerospace engineering team has worked in partnership with the Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), the University of Manchester’s National Graphene Institute (NGI), Haydale Graphene Industries (Haydale) and a range of other businesses to develop the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which also includes graphene batteries and 3D printed parts.

Billy Beggs, UCLan’s Engineering Innovation Manager, said: The industry reaction to Juno at Farnborough was superb with many positive comments about the work we’re doing. Having Juno at one the world’s biggest air shows demonstrates the great strides we’re making in leading a programme to accelerate the uptake of graphene and other nano-materials into industry.

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Aug 11, 2018

High thermal conductivity in cubic boron arsenide crystals

Posted by in categories: computing, engineering

Thermal management becomes increasingly important as we decrease device size and increase computing power. Engineering materials with high thermal conductivity, such as boron arsenide (BAs), is hard because it is essential to avoid defects and impurities during synthesis, which would stop heat flow. Three different research groups have synthesized BAs with a thermal conductivity around 1000 watts per meter-kelvin: Kang et al., Li et al., and Tian et al. succeeded in synthesizing high-purity BAs with conductivities half that of diamond but more than double that of conventional metals (see the Perspective by Dames). The advance validates the search for high-thermal-conductivity materials and provides a new material that may be more easily integrated into semiconducting devices.

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Aug 8, 2018

New laser based on unusual physics phenomenon could improve telecommunications, computing

Posted by in categories: computing, engineering, physics

Researchers at the University of California San Diego have demonstrated the world’s first laser based on an unconventional wave physics phenomenon called bound states in the continuum. The technology could revolutionize the development of surface lasers, making them more compact and energy-efficient for communications and computing applications. The new BIC lasers could also be developed as high-power lasers for industrial and defense applications.

“Lasers are ubiquitous in the present day world, from simple everyday laser pointers to complex laser interferometers used to detect gravitational waves. Our current research will impact many areas of laser applications,” said Ashok Kodigala, an electrical engineering Ph.D. student at UC San Diego and first author of the study.

“Because they are unconventional, BIC lasers offer unique and unprecedented properties that haven’t yet been realized with existing laser technologies,” said Boubacar Kanté, electrical engineering professor at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering who led the research.

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Aug 7, 2018

Engineers teach a drone to herd birds away from airports autonomously

Posted by in categories: drones, engineering, information science, robotics/AI

Engineers at Caltech have developed a new control algorithm that enables a single drone to herd an entire flock of birds away from the airspace of an airport. The algorithm is presented in a study in IEEE Transactions on Robotics.

The project was inspired by the 2009 “Miracle on the Hudson,” when US Airways Flight 1549 struck a flock of geese shortly after takeoff and pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles were forced to land in the Hudson River off Manhattan.

“The passengers on Flight 1549 were only saved because the pilots were so skilled,” says Soon-Jo Chung, an associate professor of aerospace and Bren Scholar in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science as well as a JPL research scientist, and the principal investigator on the drone herding project. “It made me think that next time might not have such a happy ending. So I started looking into ways to protect from birds by leveraging my research areas in autonomy and robotics.”

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Aug 6, 2018

Soft, multi-functional robots get really small

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

Roboticists are envisioning a future in which soft, animal-inspired robots can be safely deployed in difficult-to-access environments, such as inside the human body or in spaces that are too dangerous for humans to work, in which rigid robots cannot currently be used. Centimeter-sized soft robots have been created, but thus far it has not been possible to fabricate multifunctional flexible robots that can move and operate at smaller size scales.

A team of researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and Boston University now has overcome this challenge by developing an integrated fabrication process that enables the design of on the millimeter scale with micrometer-scale features. To demonstrate the capabilities of their new technology, they created a robotic soft spider – inspired by the millimeter-sized colorful Australian peacock spider – from a single elastic material with body-shaping, motion, and color features. The study is published in Advanced Materials.

“The smallest soft robotic systems still tend to be very simple, with usually only one degree of freedom, which means that they can only actuate one particular change in shape or type of movement,” said Sheila Russo, Ph.D., co-author of the study. Russo helped initiate the project as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Robert Wood’s group at the Wyss Institute and SEAS and now is Assistant Professor at Boston University. “By developing a new hybrid technology that merges three different fabrication techniques, we created a soft robotic spider made only of silicone rubber with 18 degrees of freedom, encompassing changes in structure, motion, and color, and with tiny features in the micrometer range.”

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Aug 6, 2018

New system allows rapid response to heart attacks, limits cardiac damage

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

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have developed a drug-delivery system that allows rapid response to heart attacks without surgical intervention. In laboratory and animal testing, the system proved to be effective at dissolving clots, limiting long-term scarring to heart tissue and preserving more of the heart’s normal function.

“Our approach would allow health-care providers to begin treating heart attacks before a patient reaches a surgical suite, hopefully improving patient outcomes,” says Ashley Brown, corresponding author of a paper on the work and an assistant professor in the Joint Biomedical Engineering Program (BME) at NC State and UNC. “And because we are able to target the blockage, we are able to use powerful drugs that may pose threats to other parts of the body; the targeting reduces the risk of unintended harms.”

Heart attacks, or myocardial infarctions, occur when a thrombus – or clot – blocks a blood vessel in the heart. In order to treat heart attacks, doctors often perform surgery to introduce a catheter to the blood vessel, allowing them to physically break up or remove the thrombus. But not all patients have quick access to surgical care.

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