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Exciting New Scavenger Technology Can Generate Energy

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Exciting New Scavenger Technology Can Generate Energy From the Surface of Metal

When electronics need their own power sources, there are two basic options: batteries and harvesters.

Batteries store energy internally, but are therefore heavy and have a limited supply. Harvesters, such as solar panels, collect energy from their environments. This gets around some of the downsides of batteries but introduces new ones, in that they can only operate in certain conditions and can’t turn that energy into useful power very quickly.

New research from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science is bridging the gap between these two fundamental technologies for the first time in the form of a “metal-air scavenger” that gets the best of both worlds.

This metal-air scavenger works like a battery, in that it provides power by repeatedly breaking and forming a series of chemical bonds. But it also works like a harvester, in that power is supplied by energy in its environment: specifically, the chemical bonds in metal and air surrounding the metal-air scavenger.

The result is a power source that has 10 times more power density than the best energy harvesters and 13 times more energy density than lithium-ion batteries.

In the long term, this type of energy source could be the basis for a new paradigm in robotics, where machines keep themselves powered by seeking out and “eating” metal, breaking down its chemical bonds for energy like humans do with food.

In the near term, this technology is already powering a pair of spin-off companies. The winners of Penn’s annual Y-Prize Competition are planning to use metal-air scavengers to power low-cost lights for off-grid homes in the developing world and long-lasting sensors for shipping containers that could alert to theft, damage, or even human trafficking.

The researchers, James Pikul, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, along with Min Wang and Unnati Joshi, members of his lab, published a study demonstrating their scavenger’s capabilities in the journal ACS Energy Letters.

The motivation for developing their metal-air scavenger, or MAS, stemmed from the fact that the technologies that make up robots’ brains and the technologies that power them are fundamentally mismatched when it comes to miniaturization.

As the size of individual transistors shrink, chips provide more computing power in smaller and lighter packages. But batteries don’t benefit the same way when getting smaller; the density of chemical bonds in a material are fixed, so smaller batteries necessarily mean fewer bonds to break.

“This inverted relationship between computing performance and energy storage makes it very difficult for small-scale devices and robots to operate for long periods of time,” Pikul says. “There are robots the size of insects, but they can only operate for a minute before their battery runs out of energy.”

Worse still, adding a bigger battery won’t allow a robot to last longer; the added mass takes more energy to move, negating the extra energy provided by the bigger battery. The only way to break this frustrating inverted relationship is to forage for chemical bonds, rather than to pack them along.

“Harvesters, like those that collect solar, thermal or vibrational energy, are getting better,” Pikul says. “They’re often used to power sensors and electronics that are off the grid and where you might not have anyone around to swap out batteries. The problem is that they have low power density, meaning they can’t take energy out of the environment as fast as a battery can deliver it.

“Our MAS has a power density that’s ten times better than the best harvesters, to the point that we can compete against batteries,” he says, “It’s using battery chemistry, but doesn’t have the associated weight, because it’s taking those chemicals from the environment.”

Like a traditional battery, the researchers’ MAS starts with a cathode that’s wired to the device it’s powering. Underneath the cathode is a slab of hydrogel, a spongy network of polymer chains that conducts electrons between the metal surface and the cathode via the water molecules it carries. With the hydrogel acting as an electrolyte, any metal surface it touches functions as the anode of a battery, allowing electrons to flow to the cathode and power the connected device.

For the purposes of their study, the researchers connected a small motorized vehicle to the MAS. Dragging the hydrogel behind it, the MAS vehicle oxidized metallic surfaces it traveled over, leaving a microscopic layer of rust in its wake.

To demonstrate the efficiency of this approach, the researchers had their MAS vehicle drive in circles on an aluminum surface. The vehicle was outfitted with a small reservoir that continuously wicked water into the hydrogel to prevent it from drying out.

“Energy density is the ratio of available energy to the weight that has to be carried,” Pikul says. “Even factoring in the weight of the extra water, the MAS had 13 times the energy density of a lithium ion battery because the vehicle only has to carry the hydrogel and cathode, and not the metal or oxygen which provide the energy.”

The researchers also tested the MAS vehicles on zinc and stainless steel. Different metals give the MAS different energy densities, depending on their potential for oxidation.

This oxidation reaction takes place only within 100 microns of the surface, so while the MAS may use up all the readily available bonds with repeated trips, there’s little risk of it doing significant structural damage to the metal it’s scavenging.

With so many possible uses, the researchers’ MAS system was a natural fit for Penn’s annual Y-Prize, a business plan competition that challenges teams to build companies around nascent technologies developed at Penn Engineering. This year’s first-place team, Metal Light, earned $10,000 for their proposal to use MAS technology in low-cost lighting for off-grid homes in the developing world. M-Squared, which earned $4,000 in second place, intends to use MAS-powered sensors in shipping containers.

“In the near term, we see our MAS powering internet-of-things technologies, like what Metal Light and M-Squared propose,” Pikul says. “But what was really compelling to us, and the motivation behind this work, is how it changes the way we think about designing robots.”

Much of Pikul’s other research involves improving technology by taking cues from the natural world. For example, his lab’s high-strength, low-density “metallic wood” was inspired by the cellular structure of trees, and his work on a robotic lionfish involved giving it a liquid battery circulatory system that also pneumatically actuated its fins.

The researchers see their MAS as drawing on an even more fundamental biological concept: food.

“As we get robots that are more intelligent and more capable, we no longer have to restrict ourselves to plugging them into a wall. They can now find energy sources for themselves, just like humans do,” Pikul says. “One day, a robot that needs to recharge its batteries will just need to find some aluminum to ‘eat’ with a MAS, which would give it enough power to for it work until its next meal.”

Reprinted from University of Pennsylvania

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These Plastic Chewing Caterpillars Can Help Fight Plastic Pollution And Can Prove Beneficial

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The small wax worm went from obscurity to a disclosure in 2017 when scientists found the caterpillar might help solve one of the world’s most hazardous natural issues: plastic waste.

Credits:GettyImages

The creature can chomp through plastic, even polyethylene, a common and non-biodegradable plastic currently clogging up landfills and seas.

Scientists have discovered that wax worms can eat and biodegrade polyethylene, the rugged, common plastic used to make the shopping bags that are currently glutting landfill sites. The discovery was serendipitous. The findings, which were published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B Tuesday, could guide efforts to find an effective biodegradation system to tackle plastic waste.

Credit:GettyImages

“We found that wax worm caterpillars are equipped with gut organisms that are basic in the plastic bio degradation process, ” said Christophe LeMoine, a associate professor and chair person of biology at Brandon University in Canada.

Credit:IndiaTimes

Why The Humanity Post?

The World Health Organisation has named depression as the greatest cause of suffering worldwide. In the U.S., 1 out of 5 deals with depression or anxiety. For youth, that number increases to 1 in 3.

The good news is that 40% of our happiness can be influenced by intentional thoughts and actions, leading to life changing habits. It’s this 40% that The Humanity Post  help to impact.

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Researchers Use Gene-focusing on Breakthrough Against COVID-19 Cells With CRISPR Tool Called ‘PAC-MAN’

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DOE / LAWRENCE BERKELEY NATIONAL LABORATORY, R.N. Zuckermann

A group of scientists from Stanford University is working with researchers at the Molecular Foundry, a nanoscience client office situated at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), to build up a quality focusing on, antiviral specialist against COVID-19.

Last year, Stanley Qi, an assistant professor in the departments of bioengineering, and chemical and systems biology at Stanford University and his team had begun working on a technique called PAC-MAN—or Prophylactic Antiviral CRISPR in human cells—that uses the gene-editing tool CRISPR to fight influenza.

Be that as it may, that all changed in January, when updates on the COVID-19 pandemic rose. Qi and his group were out of nowhere stood up to with a baffling new infection for which nobody had an unmistakable arrangement. “So we figured, ‘For what reason don’t we take a stab at utilizing our PAC-MAN innovation to battle it?'” said Qi.

Since late March, Qi and his team have been collaborating with a group led by Michael Connolly, a principal scientific engineering associate in the Biological Nanostructures Facility at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, to develop a system that delivers PAC-MAN into the cells of a patient.

Like all CRISPR frameworks, PAC-MAN is made out of a chemical—for this situation, the infection murdering compound Cas13—and a strand of guide RNA, which orders Cas13 to pulverize explicit nucleotide successions in the coronavirus’ genome. By scrambling the infection’s hereditary code, PAC-MAN could kill the coronavirus and prevent it from repeating inside cells.

It’s all in the delivery

Qi said that the key test to deciphering PAC-MAN from a sub-atomic instrument into an enemy of COVID-19 treatment is finding a compelling method to convey it into lung cells. At the point when SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, attacks the lungs, the air sacs in a contaminated individual can get aroused and load up with liquid, seizing a patient’s capacity to relax.

“But my lab doesn’t work on delivery methods,” he said. So on March 14, they published a preprint of their paper, and even tweeted, in the hopes of catching the eye of a potential collaborator with expertise in cellular delivery techniques.

Soon after, they learned of Connolly’s work on synthetic molecules called lipitoids at the Molecular Foundry.

Lipitoids are a kind of engineered peptide imitate known as a “peptoid” first found 20 years prior by Connolly’s tutor Ron Zuckermann. In the decades since, Connolly and Zuckermann have attempted to create peptoid conveyance atoms, for example, lipitoids. Also, as a team with Molecular Foundry clients, they have exhibited lipitoids’ adequacy in the conveyance of DNA and RNA to a wide assortment of cell lines.

Today, researchers studying lipitoids for potential therapeutic applications have shown that these materials are nontoxic to the body and can deliver nucleotides by encapsulating them in tiny nanoparticles just one billionth of a meter wide—the size of a virus.

Now Qi hopes to add his CRISPR-based COVID-19 therapy to the Molecular Foundry’s growing body of lipitoid delivery systems.

In late April, the Stanford researchers tested a type of lipitoid—Lipitoid 1—that self-assembles with DNA and RNA into PAC-MAN carriers in a sample of human epithelial lung cells.

As per Qi, the lipitoids performed well indeed. At the point when bundled with coronavirus-focusing on PAC-MAN, the framework decreased the measure of engineered SARS-CoV-2 in arrangement by over 90%. “Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry has furnished us with an atomic fortune that changed our examination,” he said.

The team next plans to test the PAC-MAN/lipitoid system in an animal model against a live SARS-CoV-2 virus. They will be joined by collaborators at New York University and Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

If successful, they hope to continue working with Connolly and his team to further develop PAC-MAN/lipitoid therapies for SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses, and to explore scaling up their experiments for preclinical tests.

“An effective lipitoid delivery, coupled with CRISPR targeting, could enable a very powerful strategy for fighting viral disease not only against COVID-19 but possibly against newly viral strains with pandemic potential,” said Connolly.

“Everybody has been working nonstop attempting to think of new arrangements,” included Qi, whose preprint paper was as of late companion looked into and distributed in the Journal Cell. “It’s exceptionally compensating to join skill and test new thoughts across establishments in these troublesome occasions.”

Credit:phys.org

Why The Humanity Post?

The World Health Organisation has named depression as the greatest cause of suffering worldwide. In the U.S., 1 out of 5 deals with depression or anxiety. For youth, that number increases to 1 in 3.

The good news is that 40% of our happiness can be influenced by intentional thoughts and actions, leading to life changing habits. It’s this 40% that The Humanity Post  help to impact.

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Scientists Develop Near Invincible Textile Coating That Can Repel Almost Anything

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Scientists Develop Near-Invincible Textile Coating That Can Repel Blood, Bacteria, and Even Viruses

Masks, gowns, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) are essential for protecting healthcare workers—however, the textiles and materials used in such items can absorb and carry viruses and bacteria, inadvertently spreading the disease the wearer sought to contain.

When the coronavirus spread amongst healthcare professionals and left PPE in short supply, finding a way to provide better protection while allowing for the safe reuse of these items became paramount.

Thankfully, researchers from the LAMP Lab at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering may have a solution. The lab has created a textile coating that can not only repel liquids like blood and saliva but can also prevent viruses from adhering to the surface. The work was recently published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

Photo by University of Pittsburgh

“Recently there’s been focus on blood-repellent surfaces, and we were interested in achieving this with mechanical durability,” said Anthony Galante, PhD student in industrial engineering at Pitt and lead author of the paper. “We want to push the boundary on what is possible with these types of surfaces, and especially given the current pandemic, we knew it’d be important to test against viruses.”

What makes the coating unique is its ability to withstand ultrasonic washing, scrubbing and scraping. With other similar coatings currently in use, washing or rubbing the surface of the textile will reduce or eliminate its repellent abilities.

“The durability is very important because there are other surface treatments out there, but they’re limited to disposable textiles. You can only use a gown or mask once before disposing of it,” said Paul Leu, co-author and associate professor of industrial engineering, who leads the LAMP Lab. “Given the PPE shortage, there is a need for coatings that can be applied to reusable medical textiles that can be properly washed and sanitized.”

Galante put the new coating to the test, running it through tens of ultrasonic washes, applying thousands of rotations with a scrubbing pad (not unlike what might be used to scour pots and pans), and even scraping it with a sharp razor blade. After each test, the coating remained just as effective.

The treatment consists of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) nanoparticles in a solvent thermally sintered to polypropylene microfibers. PTFE is stable and nontoxic at temperatures lower than 260 °C (500 °F).

The researchers worked with the Charles T. Campbell Microbiology Laboratory’s Research Director Eric Romanowski and Director of Basic Research Robert Shanks, in the Department of Ophthalmology at Pitt, to test the coating against a strain of adenovirus.

“As this fabric was already shown to repel blood, protein and bacteria, the logical next step was to determine whether it repels viruses. We chose human adenovirus types 4 and 7, as these are causes of acute respiratory disease as well as conjunctivitis (pink eye),” said Romanowski. “It was hoped that the fabric would repel these viruses similar to how it repels proteins, which these viruses essentially are: proteins with nucleic acid inside. As it turned out, the adenoviruses were repelled in a similar way as proteins.”

The coating may have broad applications in healthcare: everything from hospital gowns to waiting room chairs could benefit from the ability to repel viruses, particularly ones as easily spread as adenoviruses.

“Adenovirus can be inadvertently picked up in hospital waiting rooms and from contaminated surfaces in general. It is rapidly spread in schools and homes and has an enormous impact on quality of life—keeping kids out of school and parents out of work,” said Shanks. “This coating on waiting room furniture, for example, could be a major step towards reducing this problem.”

The next step for the researchers will be to test the effectiveness against betacoronaviruses, like the one that causes COVID-19.

“If the treated fabric would repel betacornonaviruses, and in particular SARS-CoV-2, this could have a huge impact for healthcare workers and even the general public if PPE, scrubs, or even clothing could be made from protein, blood-, bacteria-, and virus-repelling fabrics,” said Romanowski.

At the moment, the coating is applied using drop casting, a method that saturates the material with a solution from a syringe and applies a heat treatment to increase stability. But the researchers believe the process can use a spraying or dipping method to accommodate larger pieces of material, like gowns, and can eventually be scaled up for production.

Reprinted from University of Pittsburgh

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