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Jun 1, 2020

Researchers Propose New Diamond Nanostructure For Efficient Energy Storage

Posted by in categories: chemistry, computing, cyborgs, nanotechnology, sustainability

One of the biggest challenges for renewable energy research is energy storage. The goal is to find a material with high energy storage capacity and energy storage material with high storage capacity that can also quickly and efficiently discharge a large amount of energy. In an attempt to overcome this hurdle, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have proposed a brand-new carbon nanostructure designed to store energy in mechanical form.

Most portable energy storage devices currently rely on storing energy in chemical form such as batteries, however this proposed new structure, made from a bundle of diamond nanothread (DNT) does not suffer from the same limiting properties as batteries, such as temperature sensitivity, or the potential to leak or explode. I have previously written about carbon nanotubes, and their applications in everything from Batman-like artificial muscle, to an analogy of the fictional element Vibranium, but a lot of research around carbon nanotubes is already focused on energy harvesting and energy storage applications.

What makes this energy storage method different is the method by which energy is stored, and also the related increased robustness of the resultant material. Dr Haifei Zhan and his team at the QUT Centre for material science used computer modelling to propose the structure of these ultra-thin one-dimensional carbon threads. The theory is that these threads should be able to store energy when they are twisted or stretched, similar to the way we store energy in wind-up toys. By turning the key, we force the spring inside into a tight coil. Once the key is released, the coil wishes to release the extra tension held within it and begins to unfurl. In doing so it transfers that mechanical energy into the movement of the toy’s wheels.

Jun 1, 2020

‘Black nitrogen’: Researchers discover new high-pressure material and solve a puzzle of the periodic table

Posted by in categories: chemistry, materials

In the periodic table of elements there is one golden rule for carbon, oxygen and other light elements: Under high pressures, they have similar structures to heavier elements in the same group of elements. But nitrogen always seemed unwilling to toe the line. However, high-pressure chemistry researchers of the University of Bayreuth have disproved this special status. Out of nitrogen, they created a crystalline structure which, under normal conditions, occurs in black phosphorus and arsenic. The structure contains two-dimensional atomic layers, and is therefore of great interest for high-tech electronics. The scientists have presented this “black nitrogen” in Physical Review Letters.

Nitrogen—an exception in the periodic system?

When you arrange the chemical elements in ascending order according to their number of protons and look at their properties, it soon becomes obvious that certain properties recur at large intervals (periods). The brings these repetitions into focus. Elements with similar properties are placed one below the other in the same column, and thus form a group of elements. At the top of a column is the element that has the fewest protons and the lowest weight compared to the other group members. Nitrogen heads element group 15, but was previously considered the “black sheep” of the group. The reason: In earlier experiments, showed no structures similar to those exhibited under normal conditions by the of this group—specifically, phosphorus, arsenic and antimony. Instead, such similarities are observed at high pressures in the neighboring groups headed by carbon and oxygen.

Jun 1, 2020

Nevada home to 246M-year-old fossil of pregnant ichthyosaur

Posted by in category: futurism

Autumn was closing in fast on northern Nevada when Martin Sander took one last look around the excavation site in the Augusta Mountains 150 miles (241 kilometers) east of Reno.

The longtime paleontologist from Germany had been working summers in Nevada for 20 years by that point and believed in the maxim that, “we find the spectacular things on the second to last day or last day.”

It was Oct. 3, 2011, and Sander and his team were nearing the end of a two-week expedition in an area that’s a hotspot for fossils.

Jun 1, 2020

Eli Lilly and AbCellera Dose First Patients with COVID-19 Antibody in Phase I Study

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

Eli Lilly and AbCellera dosed the first patients in a Phase I study of a potential antibody treatment for COVID-19. The two companies were able to get their antibody candidate into the clinic within two months of announcing their collaboration in response to the global pandemic.

The announcement was made a day after it was announced that more than 6 million people across the globe have been infected with the virus, including 1.79 million in the United States. COVID-19 has been responsible for the deaths of more than 372,000 people, with nearly one-third (104,383) in the U.S.

Patients were dosed with LY-CoV555, a neutralizing IgG1 monoclonal antibody (mAb) directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. It is designed to block viral attachment and entry into human cells, which should neutralize the virus, and potentially prevent and treat COVID-19. Because it’s an antibody derived from the blood of a recovered patient, Eli Lilly said LY-CoV555 is the first potential new medicine specifically designed to attack SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Jun 1, 2020

Using hydrogen to heat steel

Posted by in category: futurism

European manufacturing company Ovako has announced the results of a full-scale trial using hydrogen to heat steel before rolling, which could slash the industry’s carbon emissions.

Jun 1, 2020

Natural Killer Cell-Based Therapies Targeting Cancer: Possible Strategies to Gain and Sustain Anti-Tumor Activity

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics

Circa 2015

Natural killer (NK) cells were discovered 40 years ago, by their ability to recognize and kill tumor cells without the requirement of prior antigen exposure. Since then, NK cells have been seen as promising agents for cell-based cancer therapies. However, NK cells represent only a minor fraction of the human lymphocyte population. Their skewed phenotype and impaired functionality during cancer progression necessitates the development of clinical protocols to activate and expand to high numbers ex vivo to be able to infuse sufficient numbers of functional NK cells to the cancer patients. Initial NK cell-based clinical trials suggested that NK cell-infusion is safe and feasible with almost no NK cell-related toxicity, including graft-versus-host disease. Complete remission and increased disease-free survival is shown in a small number of patients with hematological malignances. Furthermore, successful adoptive NK cell-based therapies from haploidentical donors have been demonstrated. Disappointingly, only limited anti-tumor effects have been demonstrated following NK cell infusion in patients with solid tumors. While NK cells have great potential in targeting tumor cells, the efficiency of NK cell functions in the tumor microenvironment is yet unclear. The failure of immune surveillance may in part be due to sustained immunological pressure on tumor cells resulting in the development of tumor escape variants that are invisible to the immune system. Alternatively, this could be due to the complex network of immune-suppressive compartments in the tumor microenvironment, including myeloid-derived suppressor cells, tumor-associated macrophages, and regulatory T cells. Although the negative effect of the tumor microenvironment on NK cells can be transiently reverted by ex vivo expansion and long-term activation, the aforementioned NK cell/tumor microenvironment interactions upon reinfusion are not fully elucidated. Within this context, genetic modification of NK cells may provide new possibilities for developing effective cancer immunotherapies by improving NK cell responses and making them less susceptible to the tumor microenvironment. Within this review, we will discuss clinical trials using NK cells with a specific reflection on novel potential strategies, such as genetic modification of NK cells and complementary therapies aimed at improving the clinical outcome of NK cell-based immune therapies.

Keywords: natural killer cells, adoptive cell therapy, immunotherapy, cancer, clinical trials, expansion, tumor microenvironment, genetic modifications.

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Jun 1, 2020

ARC reactor design uses superconducting magnets to draw fusion power closer

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, military, nuclear energy, particle physics

Circa 2015

Fusion power can seem a bit like the last bus at night; it’s always coming, but never arrives. MIT is working to change that with a new compact tokamak fusion reactor design based on the latest commercially available magnetic superconductor technology. The ARC (affordable, robust, compact) reactor design promises smaller, cheaper reactors that could make fusion power practical within 10 years.

A commercially viable fusion reactor has been the Holy Grail of engineering since the 1950s, with the potential to turn almost all other major electricity sources into an historical footnote overnight. If perfected, it would essentially be an inexhaustible source of power, impacting on almost every aspect of life, from the environment to global politics. The trick is making it practical.

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Jun 1, 2020

How the Brain Resolves Ambiguity

Posted by in category: neuroscience

A new study sheds light on how the brain categorizes ambiguous visual images as faces or hands.

Jun 1, 2020

A new theorem predicts that stationary black holes must have at least one light ring

Posted by in categories: cosmology, physics

Black holes, regions in space with such an intense gravitational field that no matter or radiation can escape from them, are among the most mysterious and fascinating cosmological phenomena. Over the past five years or so, astrophysicists collected the first observations of the strong gravitational forces around black holes.

The LIGO-Virgo collaboration was able to detect gravitational waves around these using some of the most advanced gravitational-wave detectors in the world. Meanwhile, the Event Horizon Telescope research group captured the very first image of a black hole shadow.

While both these observations are highly promising and captivating, neither of them is likely to unveil the event horizon, the boundary defining the specific region in space around a black hole from which nothing can escape. Nonetheless, they should contain a signature pointing to a neighboring region just outside of the event horizon, wherein is bent so strongly that its path closes over itself and forms circular orbits known as light rings.

Jun 1, 2020

Battling Parkinson’s disease

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics, life extension, neuroscience

Who has heard of mitochondrial medicine?

“We know that increased rates of mtDNA mutation cause premature aging,” said Bruce Hay, Professor of biology and biological engineering at the California Institute of Technology. “This, coupled with the fact that mutant mtDNA accumulates in key tissues such as neurons and muscle that lose function as we age, suggests that if we could reduce the amount of mutant mtDNA, we could slow or reverse important aspects of aging.”

This brings us to the second major development relevant to mitochondria in disease — that genetic technology is now at a point where the targeted removal of the problem mitochondrial genes can become the basis for clinical intervention. This is the implication of research that Hay and colleagues both at Caltech and the University of California at Los Angeles described in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.

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