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Mar 14, 2016

Why Scientists Want to Study Robot Roaches

Posted by in category: robotics/AI

Roaches are speedy, agile, and nearly indestructible—which is why engineers are so interested in them.

Robots can look like just about anything: people, dinosaurs, quadcopters—you name it. So why would anyone design a robot that looks like one of the grossest and most detested species on the planet?

Well, like cephalopods, roaches’ bodies gives them distinct, if squirm-worthy, advantages—namely, the ability to become nearly two-dimensional to squeeze through cracks and under doors. Cockroaches can flatten themselves to a one-tenth of an inch and can bear loads 900 times heavier than they are (which is why we have to stomp on them extra hard). Perhaps most impressive is their ability to scurry along at top speed when compressed to half their normal height. These attributes make roaches nimble, persistent, and hardy—three supremely useful qualities for a robot, and three reasons scientists have pursued the development of robo-roaches.

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Mar 14, 2016

Solar micro-grids launched in three remote villages

Posted by in categories: business, solar power, sustainability

The three solar micro-grids, with combined capacity of 35 kilowatts, were installed in the communities of Harkapur in Okhaldhunga district, and Kaduwa and Chyasmitar in Khotang District, as per a statement issued today. They will provide a 24-hour reliable electricity supply to around 540 people in 83 households and 25 local businesses.

“Nearly a quarter of Nepal’s population has no access to electricity and rely heavily instead on kerosene in particular. Since most of them live in remote areas, there is little possibility of connecting to the national power grid in the near future,” said Jiwan Acharya, senior energy specialist at the Asian Development Bank (ADB). “The solar micro-grids that we are piloting here provide a clean, cost-effective, local solution involving private sector that will change the lives of these communities and serve as a model for other far-flung villages.”

Electricity costs for households are forecast at $4 to $6 per month. Currently households relying on kerosene for lighting alone, can pay up to $10 a month. And by using solar power rather than fossil fuels, the project will avoid 41 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year.

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Mar 14, 2016

Worm-Like Bio-Bots Inch Toward Light

Posted by in categories: energy, genetics, robotics/AI

Genetically engineered muscles power tiny, light-sensitive biobots. Continue reading →

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Mar 14, 2016

Australian Scientist Develops Record-Breaking Security Enhancing Quantum Computing Chip

Posted by in categories: computing, quantum physics, security

An international team of scientists has set a new record for the complexity possible on a quantum computing chip, bringing us one step closer to the ultra-secure telecommunications of the future.

Image: Shutterstock.

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Mar 14, 2016

Light illuminates the way for bio-bots

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, genetics, health, robotics/AI

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A new class of miniature biological robots, or bio-bots, has seen the light — and is following where the light shines.

The bio-bots are powered by muscle cells that have been genetically engineered to respond to light, giving researchers control over the bots’ motion, a key step toward their use in applications for health, sensing and the environment. Led by Rashid Bashir, the University of Illinois head of bioengineering, the researchers published their results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Light is a noninvasive way to control these machines,” Bashir said. “It gives us flexibility in the design and the motion. The bottom line of what we are trying to accomplish is the forward design of biological systems, and we think the light control is an important step toward that.”

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Mar 14, 2016

‘Sweet’ quantum dots light the way for new HIV and Ebola treatment

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, quantum physics

A research team led by the University of Leeds has observed for the first time how HIV and Ebola viruses attach to cells to spread infection.

The findings, published today in the journal Angewandte Chemie (“Compact, Polyvalent Mannose Quantum Dots as Sensitive, Ratiometric FRET Probes for Multivalent Protein-Ligand Interactions”), offer a new way of treating such viruses: instead of destroying the pathogens, introduce a block on how they interact with cells.

Quantum Dots

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Mar 14, 2016

On-the-spot diagnosis of certain cancers with sensitive bionsensor

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

For Gartner and their Emerging Tech graph; may wish to rethink the biosensor being over 10 years away.

MicroRNAs are a newly discovered class of short (about 19 to 24 nuclides in length) fragments of noncoding RNAs that are useful biomarkers for diagnosing various diseases, including cardiac disease and some cancers. Since they are surprisingly well preserved in fluids such as urine and blood, their detection is well suited to a rapid, point-of-care method.

Mi Kyoung Park at the A*STAR Institute of Microelectronics and her co-workers have devised a silicon photonic biosensor that can detect tiny changes in the phase of a light beam caused by hybridization between an immobilized DNA probe and target microRNAs in a sample.

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Mar 14, 2016

High-power biological wheels and motors imaged for first time

Posted by in categories: energy, nanotechnology

Behold – the only known example of a biological wheel. Loved by creationists, who falsely think they are examples of “intelligent design”, the bacterial flagellum is a long tail that is spun like a propeller by nano-sized protein motors.

Now these wheels and their gearing have been imaged in high resolution and three dimensions for the first time. Morgan Beeby and his colleagues at Imperial College London used an electron microscope to resolve the mechanisms that provide different amounts of torque to the motors.

The motors are diverse, coming in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and power outputs. Indeed, the diversity of the motors and the fact that they have evolved many times in different bacterial lineages, scuppers the creationist view that the machinery is “irreducibly complex”.

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Mar 14, 2016

Nano-balls filled with poison wipe out metastatic cancer in mice

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, nanotechnology

Polymers laden with chemotherapy drugs assemble at tumor cells and slip past their defenses.

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Mar 14, 2016

Newly developed optical biosensor can detect viruses quickly and cheaply

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics

A team of researchers at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has designed a biosensor that uses an optical method called upconversion luminescence resonance energy transfer (LRET) for virus detection within 2–3 hours. Its cost is around HK$20 ($2.50) per sample—about 80% lower than traditional testing methods—and can be used for detecting different types of viruses, shedding new light on the development of low-cost, rapid, and ultrasensitive detection of different viruses.

Related: Infectious disease control with portable CMOS-based diagnostics

Traditional biological methods for flu virus detection include genetic analysis—reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) used in immunology. However, RT-PCR is expensive and time-consuming, while the sensitivity for ELISA is relatively low. Such limitations make them difficult for clinical use as a front-line and onsite diagnostic tool for virus detection.

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