That‘s Cool News | A weekly breakdown of positive Science & Tech news.
Summary: Bringing you the positive STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) news every Monday and explains why these new futuristic innovations are meaningful. The goal is to leave you feeling optimistic and say ”That‘s Cool!”
News: Cabless autonomous electric truck approved for US public roads | New Atlas (01:35) Freight technology company Einride first introduced its cabless autonomous electric T-pod truck back in 2017. Couple years later in 2020, it started rolling along Swedish Roads Now the company has been given the green light for operation on public roads in the US. In what Einride claims is a first, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has approved its purpose-built autonomous electric vehicle to operate on public roads in the US, and there'll be no driver in the cab as the Einride Pod doesn't have a cab. The T-pod Truck makes use of an onboard sensor suite: cameras, radars and LiDARs will be monitored remotely by a human operator If you are curious about the sizing: Each vehicle should measure about 7 meters (23 ft) in length, and be capable of carrying 15 standard pallets worth of cargo. It will weigh 20 tons with a full load, covering a distance of approximately 200 km (124 miles) on one charge of its 200-kWh battery pack. The public road pilot is due to start in Q3 of this year, where the vehicle will merge with existing fleet operations at a GE Appliances manufacturing facility. Expected to move goods between warehouses and operate on public roads in mixed traffic. Enzyme reverses muscle loss due to aging and cancer | The Bright Side News (05:25) An international team led by uOttawa Faculty of Medicine researchers have published findings that could contribute to future therapeutics for muscle degeneration due to old age, and diseases such as cancer and muscular dystrophy. Their work demonstrates the importance of the enzyme GCN5 in maintaining the expression of key structural proteins in skeletal muscle. Those are the muscles attached to bone that breathing, posture and locomotion all rely on. GCN5: a well-studied enzyme which regulates multiple cellular processes such as metabolism and inflammation. Over the span of roughly five years, the uOttawa-led international collaboration painstakingly experimented with a muscle-specific mouse “knockout” of GCN5. In this case, multiple experiments were done to examine the role the GCN5 enzyme plays in muscle fiber. What they found: A notable decline in muscle health during physical stress, such as downhill treadmill running, a type of exercise known by athletes to cause micro-tears in muscle fibers to stimulate muscle growth. The affected mice became dramatically weaker as they scurried downhill, like those of old mice, while wild-type mice were not similarly impacted. Dr. Menzies, the senior author of the study, says the findings are akin to what is observed in advanced aging, or myopathies and muscular dystrophy, a group of genetic diseases that result in progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass. Ultimately, the team’s research found that GCN5 boosts the expression of key structural muscle proteins, notably dystrophin, and a lack of it will reduce them. This is significant because dystrophin is the body’s most important protein for maintaining the membrane of muscle cells, serving as a kind of anchor and cushioning shock absorber in cells of muscles. Dr. Menzies suggests the research could help to create a foundation for developing therapeutics down the line: “These findings may therefore be useful for the discovery of new therapeutics that regulate GCN5 activity, or its downstream targets, for maintaining healthy muscle during cancer, myopathies, muscular dystrophy or aging,” Scientists develop first-of-its-kind implant that relieves pain without drugs | Interesting Engineering (11:13) Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a device that sounds straight out of science fiction: a small, soft, flexible first-of-its-kind implant that relieves pain on demand, without the use of drugs and dissolves. Could provide a much-needed alternative to opioids and other highly addictive medications. As per the researchers, the device could be highly valuable for patients who undergo routine surgeries or amputations that most often need post-operative medications. Northwestern’s John A. Rogers, who led the device’s development, in a press release stated: “As engineers, we are motivated by the idea of treating pain without drugs — in ways that can be turned on and off instantly, with user control over the intensity of relief. The technology reported here exploits mechanisms that have some similarities to those that cause your fingers to feel numb when cold. Our implant allows that effect to be produced in a programmable way, directly and locally to targeted nerves, even those deep within surrounding soft tissues.” The device works by wrapping around nerves softly, to deliver precise and targeted cooling. This in turn numbs nerves and blocks pain signals to the brain. An external pump helps the user to remotely activate the device and control its intensity. Once the device is no longer required, it is naturally absorbed into the body — "bypassing the need for surgical extraction". Why does coolness help with pain? Study co-author Dr. Matthew MacEwan of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis said that as nerves become cooler, the signals that travel through them become slower - eventually stopping completely. “By delivering a cooling effect to just one or two targeted nerves, we can effectively modulate pain signals in one specific region of the body," The device contains tiny microfluidic channels to induce the cooling effect, while concurrently, a tiny integrated sensor monitors the temperature of the nerve to ensure that it doesn't get too cold, which could damage the tissue. Rodgers talks on the monitoring: "By monitoring the temperature at the nerve, the flow rates can be adjusted automatically to set a point that blocks pain in a reversible, safe manner. On-going work seeks to define the full set of time and temperature thresholds below which the process remains fully reversible." At the thickness of a sheet of paper, the soft, elastic nerve cooling device is ideal for treating highly sensitive nerves. Scientists Say New James Webb Images Are So Powerful That It Was Emotional Just Looking at Them | Futurism (18:25) While we await the ceremonial release of the first official images taken by NASA's uber-expensive James Webb Space Telescope, early reactions to the long-awaited shots are already sounding pretty promising. NASA's scientific missions lead Thomas Zurbuchen told reporters on Wednesday: “The images are being taken right now… There is already some amazing science in the can, and some others are yet to be taken as we go forward. We are in the middle of getting the history-making data down." NASA plans to release several images on July 12, the inaugural "first light" observations from the space telescope and a potentially groundbreaking moment for the field of astronomy. Zurbuchen admitted he was in his feelings over the new images: “It's really hard to not look at the universe in a new light and not just have a moment that is deeply personal … It's an emotional moment when you see nature suddenly releasing some of its secrets. and I would like you to imagine and look forward to that." The images are expected to include unprecedented views of the depths of the universe and the atmosphere surrounding a distant exoplanet, potentially giving us glimpses of a habitable world other than our own. It's the culmination of over a decade of research, and a $10 billion investment that could soon pay off in a big way. Elon Musk's Starlink gets FCC green light to beam broadband into moving cars, planes, boats | Business Insider (21:56) SpaceX won approval from the Federal Communications Commission to let its Starlink satellites send broadband internet to moving vehicles on Thursday. Cleared a major hurdle as it has already signed deals with airline carriers including Hawaiian Airlines and exclusive jet firm JSX to provide in-flight WiFi to passengers. "Authorizing a new class of terminals for SpaceX's satellite system will expand the range of broadband capabilities to meet the growing user demands that now require connectivity while on the move, whether driving an RV across the country, moving a freighter from Europe to a US port, or while on a domestic or international flight," the FCC said in its authorization order published Thursday. The FCC's authorization will allow Starlink to pursue deals with transport companies more vigorously. Royal Caribbean became the first cruise line to request Starlink on its ships in June. Starlink also launched a $135 monthly subscription for RVs in May. At launch the company said the internet service could not be used while the RV was in motion.
NEWS: Sugar-studded protein is key to an Alzheimer's cure | The Brighter Side (01:38) In a bit of “reverse engineering” research using brain tissues from five people who died with Alzheimer’s disease, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they discovered that a special sugar molecule could play a key role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. This could indicate the molecule, known as a glycan, to be used as an early diagnostic test. And opens a way to perhaps prevention of the disease Cleaning up the disease-causing forms of amyloid and tau is the job of the brain’s immune cells, called microglia. Earlier studies found that when cleanup is impaired, Alzheimer’s disease is more likely to occur. Thought to be caused by an overabundance of a receptor on the microglia cells, called CD33. Past studies by the researchers showed that for CD33, these “connector” molecules are special sugars. These molecules are ferried around the cell by specialized proteins that help them find their appropriate receptors. The protein-glycan combination is called a glycoprotein. The researchers, to find out more about the glycoproteins, obtained brain tissue from five people who died of Alzheimer’s disease and from five people. Among the many thousands of glycoproteins they gathered from the brain tissues, only one connected to CD33. What was this mysterious glycoprotein? The researchers determined the protein component’s identity by taking its “fingerprint” using mass spectroscopy, which identifies protein building blocks. Then they compared the molecular makeup of the protein with a database of known protein structures. The research team was able to conclude the protein portion of the glycoprotein was receptor tyrosine phosphatase (RPTP) zeta. Further experiments showed that the brain tissue of the five people who died with Alzheimer’s disease had more than twice as much RPTP zeta S3L as the donors who did not have the disease. Implying that this glycoprotein may be connecting with more CD33 receptors than a healthy brain, limiting the brain’s ability to clean up harmful proteins. Gonzalez-Gil Alvarenga, Ph.D., first author on the study stated: “Identifying this unique glycoprotein provides a step toward finding new drug targets and potentially early diagnostics for Alzheimer’s disease.” A Surprising Link Between Immune System and Hair Growth | Neuroscience News (07:36) Salk scientists have uncovered an unexpected molecular target of a common treatment for alopecia, a condition in which a person’s immune system attacks their own hair follicles, causing hair loss. Corresponding author of the study, Ye Zheng, associate professor in Salk’s NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis, stated: “For the longest time, regulatory T cells have been studied for how they decrease excessive immune reactions in autoimmune diseases … Now we’ve identified the upstream hormonal signal and downstream growth factor that actually promote hair growth and regeneration completely separate from suppressing immune response.” Initially the researchers were interested in researching the roles of regulatory T cells and glucocorticoid hormones in autoimmune diseases. They did not function together to play a significant role in any of these conditions. Thought they’d have more luck looking at environments where regulatory T cells expressed particularly high levels of glucocorticoid receptors The glucocorticoid receptor (GR, or GCR) also known as NR3C1 (nuclear receptor subfamily 3, group C, member 1) is the receptor to which cortisol and other glucocorticoids bind. The scientists induced hair loss in normal mice and mice lacking glucocorticoid receptors in their regulatory T cells. After two weeks, the researchers saw the normal mice grew their hair back, while the ones lacking the receptors struggled to grow it back The findings suggested that some sort of communication must be occurring between regulatory T cells and hair follicle stem cells to allow for hair regeneration. They continued to investigate how the regulatory T cells and glucocorticoid receptors behaved in skin tissue samples. They found that glucocorticoids instruct the regulatory T cells to activate hair follicle stem cells, which leads to hair growth. Depends on a mechanism whereby glucocorticoid receptors induce production of the protein TGF-beta3, all within the regulatory T cells. TGF-beta3 then activates the hair follicle stem cells to differentiate into new hair follicles, promoting hair growth. This study revealed that regulatory T cells and glucocorticoid hormones are not just immunosuppressants but also have a regenerative function. Next, the scientists will look at other injury models and isolate regulatory T cells from injured tissues to monitor increased levels of TGF-beta3 and other growth factors. Engineers devise clever system for EVs to share charge—while driving | Anthropocene (13:34) The charging station expansion isn’t keeping up with the growing number of EVs on the road. The number of EVs on the road per public charging point globally rose to 9.2 at the end of last year, from 7.4 at the end of 2020, according to a study by BloombergNEF analyst Ryan Fisher on the state of public charging infrastructure. In a new study, engineers propose a way around this conundrum: EVs that share charge with each other while driving. In their vision, cars with low batteries could buy some charge from others with extra to spare, all without stopping. Could be orchestrated via a cloud-based control system Electrical and computer engineer Prabuddha Chakraborty the University of Florida and his colleagues propose a two-battery system for EVs. A large, slow-charging lithium-ion battery would drive the car, A smaller, fast-charging battery would be used for on-the-go charging. Once powered up, the small battery would transfer its charge to the car’s main battery. “Just like in your computer you have fast cache memory—but it’s expensive—so you have other type of high-capacity memories that are slower,” said Tamzidul Hoque, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Kansas The cloud-based system idea: Monitor charge levels of electric cars. If a car’s power is starting to run low, the network would alert it to other cars nearby with enough charge to sell. Once two cars are matched with owner consent, cables would connect them for charging and they would be locked at the same speed until the power transfer is complete. Yet even in a well-planned, dynamic peer charging network, the researchers found in simulations that the total charge of the network will slowly deplete. To try to get around this idea, they propose the concept of mobile charging stations: large battery-loaded trucks that would recharge multiple vehicles at once. Like military jets being refueled in-flight by tanker aircraft. Using popular traffic modeling software they were able to simulate their idea somewhat. They found that it would eliminate range anxiety and re-charging wait time, and reduce EV cost by eliminating the need to have big batteries. Scientists Use Vegetable Oil Byproduct to Remove Heavy Metals From Contaminated Water | EcoWatch (20:27) Scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, collaborating with ETH Zurich, Switzerland (ETHZ), have discovered a way to turn byproduct from vegetable oil production into a membrane that filters out heavy metals from water. Ali Miserez, study author and professor at Nanyang Technological University, stated: “Water pollution remains a major global issue in many parts of the world…Heavy metals represent a large group of water pollutants that can accumulate in the human body, causing cancer and mutagenic diseases. Current technologies to remove them are energy-intensive, requiring power to operate, or are highly selective in what they filter.” The researchers noticed that proteins in peanut and sunflower oil waste byproducts, called oilseed meals, were useful in attracting heavy metal ions. Turned the oilseed meals’ proteins into nano-sized protein amyloid fibrils, which strongly attract heavy metal ions. Combined these amyloid fibrils with activated carbon and tested the filters on three types of metal: platinum, chromium and lead. The membranes were 99.89% effective at filtering out all of the heavy metals from water, with the best results for platinum and lead. The membrane made from waste byproduct proteins is a low-cost option that requires little energy for decontamination, and the researchers say this innovation could work all over the world for water purification. “Recovering precious platinum, which costs US$33,000/kg, only requires 32 kg of protein, while recovering gold, which is worth almost US$60,000/kg, only requires 16 kg of protein. Considering that these proteins are obtained from industrial waste that is worth less than US$1/kg, there are large cost benefits,” Miserez explained. Because of the simple technology, this filtration membrane is readily scalable, according to the researchers. Tesla launches new virtual power plant that pays Powerwall owners to help end brownouts | Electrek (25:30) Tesla has launched a new virtual power plant in partnership with PG&E in California that will pay Powerwalls owners to help stabilize the electric grid and end brownouts in California. What is a virtual power plant? Consists of distributed energy storage systems, like Tesla Powerwalls, used in concert to provide grid services and avoid the use of polluting and expensive peaker power plants. Tesla has partnered with PG&E to launch a new version of its virtual power plant that will actually compensate people participating: The company’s statement: “Become a part of the largest distributed battery in the world and help keep California’s energy clean and reliable. Opt-in to the Tesla Virtual Power Plant (VPP) with PG&E and your Powerwall will be dispatched when the grid needs emergency support. Through the Emergency Load Reduction Program (ELRP) pilot, you will receive $2 for every additional kWh your Powerwall delivers during an event. Adjust your Backup Reserve to set your contribution, while maintaining backup energy for outages.” Depending on the events and the number of Powerwalls homeowners have, they could earn anywhere from $10 to $60 per event or even more for bigger systems. The extra capacity your Powerwall provides could help avoid or reduce blackouts in a severe emergency. This way, Powerwall can keep the lights on for both you and your community. Tesla said that it has about 50,000 Powerwalls that could be eligible for this VPP, which add up to a significant 500 MWh of energy capacity than can be distributed in any event.
SHOW NOTES 01:50 The first perovskite solar cell with a commercially viable lifetime is here | Interesting Engineering A team of researchers from Princeton University has built the first perovskite solar cells that last long enough to be commercially viable. Silicon-based cells, which many regard as an expensive and suboptimal component, have dominated the renewable energy market since their introduction in 1954. This new technology, which is not only incredibly durable but also meets common efficiency standards, has the potential to change that. Expected to outperform industry norms for roughly 30 years, well beyond the 20-year criterion for solar cell viability Perovskite solar cells are regarded as high-efficiency, low-cost modular technology for implementation in the renewable power industry. Less Energy = Less $$$ Would become more fragile in that case The name “perovskite” comes from the nickname for their crystal structure. Can be manufactured at room temperature, which means they need less energy than manufacturing silicon. Can be modified to be flexible and transparent The new device created by these researchers estimated lifetime is a five-fold increase over the previous record, which was established by a lower efficiency perovskite solar cell in 2017. Additionally they created a new testing method allowing them to test the longevity of these particular types of solar cells. Ranging from a regular summer day's baseline temperature to an extreme of 230 degrees Fahrenheit (110 degrees Celsius). “accelerated aging technique” Chose four aging temperatures and measured outcomes over four independent data streams. Overall, they found that the device will run at or above 80 percent of its peak efficiency under continuous illumination for at least five years. According to the researchers, that is the equivalent of 30 years of outdoor operation in a city like Princeton, New Jersey. Joseph Berry, a senior fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory who was not involved in the study, said: “This paper is likely going to be a prototype for anyone looking to analyze performance at the intersection of efficiency and stability … By producing a prototype to study stability, and showing what can be extrapolated [through accelerated testing], it’s doing the work everyone wants to see before we start field testing at scale. It allows you to project in a way that’s really impressive." 07:36 Immunotherapy booster produces 10,000 times more cancer-fighting cells | New Atlas Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have found that adding a booster protein can significantly improve the outcome of cancer immunotherapy. The research showed the protein produced 10,000 times more immune cells in mice, and all mice survived the entire experiment. We are talking about CAR T cell immunotherapy, which is a promising new treatment where doctors extract T cells from a patient, genetically engineer them to target specific cancer cells, and return them to the body to hunt those cells down. The effectiveness can start to drop over time. In the new study, the scientists investigated ways to combat this problem by boosting the number of T cells. Doesn’t naturally stick around very long, so the researchers modified it to circulate in the body for weeks. They turned to a protein called interleukin-7 (IL-7), which the body naturally expresses to ramp up T cell production in the event of illness. The team tested this longer-lasting IL-7 in mouse models of lymphoma, administering the protein on various days after the initial CAR T cell injection. 3 groups: 1.) Control (no immunotherapy), 2.) Received CAR T cell therapy without IL-7, and 3.) with IL-7 John DiPersio, senior author of the study, talks on the findings: “When we give a long-acting type of IL-7 to tumor-bearing immunodeficient mice soon after CAR T cell treatment, we see a dramatic expansion of these CAR-T cells greater than ten-thousandfold compared to mice not receiving IL-7 … These CAR T cells also persist longer and show dramatically increased anti-tumor activity.” Every mouse that received CAR T cell therapy and IL-7 survived the entire 175 days of the experiment, with their tumors shrinking to the point of being undetectable by day 35. In contrast, mice that received immunotherapy alone survived just 30 days on average. Human clinical trials of IL-7-boosted CAR T cell therapy are set to begin soon in patients with a type of lymphoma. 12:29 Study identifies receptor that could alleviate need for chemo, radiation pre-T cell therapy | ScienceDaily Before a patient can undergo T cell therapy designed to target cancerous tumors, the patient's entire immune system must be destroyed with chemotherapy or radiation. Reducing your immune cells helps the transferred T cells to be more effective. Toxic Side Effects: nausea, extreme fatigue and hair loss. Now a research team ,a collaboration between scientists from UCLA, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania, has shown that a synthetic IL-9 receptor allows those cancer-fighting T cells to do their work without the need for chemo or radiation. Christopher Garcia, PhD, at Stanford, talks on these T cells: “When T cells are signaling through the synthetic IL-9 receptor, they gain new functions that help them not only outcompete the existing immune system but also kill cancer cells more efficiently … I have a patient right now struggling through toxic chemotherapy just to wipe out his existing immune system so T cell therapy can have a fighting chance. But with this technology you might give T cell therapy without having to wipe out the immune system beforehand." Imagine being able to receive this treatment without destroying your whole body. The body would be in a much better position to fight off any other outside problem. Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD, a senior investigator on the study, believes this finding, “opens a door for us to be able to give T cells a lot like we give a blood transfusion." Back in 2018 a set of researchers found that a synthetic cell growth cytokine could be used to stimulate T cells engineered with a matching synthetic receptor. With this system, T cells can be manipulated even after they have been given to a patient. But they were looking at IL-2 back then, but now they started investigating IL-9. The synthetic IL-9 signal made T cells take on a unique mix of both stem-cell and killer-like qualities that made them more robust in fighting tumors. According to the researchers, "In one of our cancer models, we cured over half the mice that were treated with the synthetic IL-9 receptor T cells." Proved to be effective in multiple systems The process worked whether they gave the cytokine to the whole mouse or directly to the tumor 17:34 Astronomers Unveil The Most Detailed Map of The Metal Asteroid Psyche Yet | ScienceAlert The asteroid Psyche is especially interesting, and NASA is sending a mission to investigate the unusual chunk of rock. In advance of that mission, a team of researchers combined observations of Psyche from an array of telescopes and constructed a map of the asteroid's surface. Psyche (16 Psyche) is an M-type asteroid, which is the rarest type of asteroid and makes up about 8 percent of known asteroids. Contain more metal than the other asteroid types, and scientists think they're the source of iron meteorites that fall to Earth. Called a dwarf planet because it's about 220 kilometers (140 mi) in diameter. Psyche is sometimes called the 'Gold-mine asteroid' because of the wealth of iron and nickel it contains NASA wants to take a closer look at the asteroid. The mission is called Psyche and is scheduled for launch sometime in fall 2022. The spacecraft will rely on solar-electric propulsion and a gravity-assist maneuver with Mars to arrive at Psyche in 2026. It'll spend 21 months studying the asteroid and will follow four separate orbital paths, each successive one closer than the previous. A team of researchers constructed a new map of Psyche's surface to help prepare for the mission. Saverio Cambioni from MIT's Department of Earth said in a press release: “Psyche's surface is very heterogeneous … It's an evolved surface, and these maps confirm that metal-rich asteroids are interesting enigmatic worlds. It's another reason to look forward to the Psyche mission going to the asteroid." The new map is based on two types of measurements. Pure iron has an infinite dielectric constant. One is thermal inertia, which is how long a material takes to reach the temperature of its environment. Higher thermal inertia means it takes longer. The second is the dielectric constant. The dielectric constant describes how well a material conducts heat, electricity, or sound. A material with a low dielectric constant conducts poorly and is a good insulator and vice versa. Combining thermal inertia and dielectric constant measurements gives a good idea of which surface regions on Psyche are rich in iron and other metals. Overall, the study shows that 16 Psyche's surface is covered in a large variety of materials. It also adds to other evidence showing that the asteroid is metal-rich, though the abundance of metals and silicates varies significantly in different regions. 22:39 World's most efficient passenger plane gets hydrogen powertrain | New Atlas The Celera 500L is a remarkable design, and according to the company behind it, Otto Aviation, its odd shape delivers an astonishing 59 percent reduction in drag, and a massive leap in efficiency and range compared to traditional plane geometries. Otto claims the Celera 500L in standard fossil fuel-propelled form is "the most fuel-efficient, commercially viable business aircraft in the world." The whole thing is designed to maximize laminar flow – smooth layers of airflow with little to no mixing of adjacent layers moving at different speeds. Trying to avoid the swirls and eddies that lead to air turbulence at speed, causing aerodynamic drag and wasted energy. The company states that it uses 80 percent less fuel than a traditional design. Running on an efficient 550-horsepower combustion engine, Otto claims this thing will fly six passengers up to 4,500 nautical miles (8,334 km) at cruise speeds over 460 mph (740 km/h), challenging small business jets for top speed while more than doubling their range. A glide ratio of 22:1 allows pilots to switch off the engine altogether and glide for up to 120 miles (200 km) completely unpowered. Now the rich people who fly around in their CO2 producing private jets can make a change…will they? Otto has built a full-scale prototype, and by November last year the company announced it had completed some 55 successful test flights, reaching speeds over 250 mph (400 km/h) and altitudes up to 15,000 ft, and that "all test flights have validated the aircraft's operating performance goals." Otto has now announced a collaboration with hydrogen aviation pioneers ZeroAvia to develop a fuel cell-electric powertrain specific to the Celera's requirements. The shape works well with a hydrogen concept – hydrogen powertrains can weigh much less than battery-electric ones, but they tend to take up a bit of space. ZeroAvia is being relatively humble with its ambitions to begin with, aiming for a range of just 1,000 nautical miles (1,852 km) of zero-emissions range for a hydrogen-fueled Celera. Founder and CEO of ZeroAvia, Val Miftakhov, said in a press release: “The majority of our commercial deals to date have focused on retrofit and line-fit for existing airframes, which is essential to deliver zero-emission flight to market as quickly as possible. However, efficiency gains from new airframe design can expand the impact of zero-emission aviation. We are pleased to collaborate with innovators, like Otto Aviation, bringing cutting-edge clean sheet designs to market as we can optimize the hydrogen-electric propulsion system for those designs.” Otto has already shown it can complete successful flights of their fossil fuel plane, but we will wait and see how this partnership pans out.
News: Researchers run a gas turbine on pure hydrogen in world first | New Atlas (01:51) Gas turbines are found in aircraft, trains, ships, generators, pumps, compressors and all sorts of other places. 90% currently run on natural gas, which produces carbon dioxide when you burn it In the race to zero emissions by 2050, several organizations, including General Electric, have been looking into transitioning gas turbines to burn green hydrogen as a clean fuel source. As of now, GE has more than 100 turbines running on at least 5 percent hydrogen fuel by volume, and they say they are on the path to 100 percent. Researchers at the University of Stavinger in Norway say they've beaten everyone to the punch, claiming that they've had a 100 percent hydrogen-burning gas turbine running since mid-May this year. Runs its own micro gas power plant, and its gas turbine produces heat, electricity and hot water for hydronic heating. Professor Mohsen Assadi, leader of the research team, states: “We have set a world record in hydrogen combustion in micro gas turbines. No one has been able to produce at this level before … The efficiency of running the gas turbine with hydrogen will be somewhat less. The big gain though, is to be able to utilize the infrastructure that already exists.” Eventually, these kinds of projects will lead to conversion kits that can keep old turbine equipment alive while moving it to zero-emissions fuel sources. But this process needs to become economically viable, which means the price of green hydrogen needs to come down substantially. First successful treatment of severe pulmonary hypertension with umbilical cord stem cells | MedicalXPress (05:27) Clinical researchers at Hannover Medical School (MHH) have succeeded for the first time in stopping the usually fatal course of pulmonary hypertension thanks to a novel therapeutic approach. Pulmonary hypertension is a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs and the right side of the heart. Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), blood vessels in the lungs are narrowed, blocked or destroyed. In some people, pulmonary hypertension slowly gets worse and can be life-threatening. A three-year-old girl suffering from so-called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) was treated a total of five times with mesenchymal stem cell products obtained from a human umbilical cord. The researchers' analysis showed that the products of the stem cells from the umbilical cord were able to improve regeneration in the damaged blood vessels, inhibit inflammation of the blood vessels and curb damage to certain parts of the cells. Professor Dr. Georg Hansmann, head of the Translational Cardiopulmonary Biomedicine research group, talked on the treatment’s success: “The treatment led to a significant improvement in growth, exercise tolerance and clinical cardiovascular variables and reduced the number of plasma markers in the blood that can be detected in vascular constriction and inflammation." After six months, not only was there a clear improvement in health, but there were also no undesirable side effects. First time there is a therapy for people suffering from pronounced forms of pulmonary hypertension The team assumes that such a therapy must be repeated at regular intervals in order to be successful long term, in the case of chronically progressive, often therapy-resistant pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Japan Is Dropping a Gargantuan Turbine Into The Ocean to Harness 'Limitless' Energy | ScienceAlert (08:53) Japanese engineers have constructed a true leviathan, a beast capable of withstanding the strongest of ocean currents to transform its flow into a virtually limitless supply of electricity. IHI Corporation – has been tinkering with the technology for over a decade now, partnering with New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) in 2017 to put their designs to the test. In February, the project passed a major milestone with the completion of a successful three-and-a-half year field test in the waters off Japan's southwestern coast. Prototype called Kairyu 330 tons 20 meter (66 foot) long fuselage flanked by a pair of similar-sized cylinders Housing a power generation system attached to an 11 meter long turbine blade. The device can orient itself to find the most efficient position to generate power from the push of a deep-water current, and channel it into a grid. IHI estimates that if the energy present in the current could be harnessed, it could feasibly generate around 205 gigawatts of electricity, an amount it claims is in the same ballpark as the country's current power generation. Enormous amount of potential in the ocean's tumultuous movements Kairyu was designed to hover roughly 50 meters below the waves – as it floats towards the surface, the drag created provides the necessary torque on the turbines. The turbine blades rotate in an opposing direction keeping the device relatively stable. Churning out a total of 100 kilowatts of power. With demonstrated success at withstanding what nature can throw at it, Kairyu could soon have a monster sibling swinging 20-meter-long turbines to generate a more respectable 2 megawatts. I covered another tidal turbine The Orbital 02 developed a Scottish Engineering Company back in episode 55 that was able to generate 2 MW of power. Woman receives 3D-printed ear made from her own cells | The Verge (12:23) Around 1,500 babies born in the United States each year have microtia, a condition where one or both ears are underdeveloped or missing entirely. A regenerative medicine company, 3DBio Therapeutic, announced in a press release doctors successfully transplanted a 3D-printed ear made from human cells onto a woman born with the rare ear deformity microtia. Part of the first clinical trial of the technology, Marks a major step forward for tissue engineering. 3DBio Therapeutics has an ongoing clinical trial with 11 participants testing its AuriNovo ear, a personalized tissue implant to replace the missing ear in these patients. This experimental process involves taking a biopsy from the patient’s existing ear and pulling out cartilage cells. Those cells are then grown and 3D printed into the shape of the patient’s ear. The ear keeps regenerating cartilage over patients’ lifetimes, and because it is made from their own cells, it’s less likely to be rejected. Executives from 3DBio Therapeutics told The New York Times they thought their technology could potentially print other body parts like noses and rotator cuffs and, eventually, complex organs like livers and kidneys. Ears are simpler than organs and, unlike livers, aren’t necessary to keep people alive, so it’ll be a long road toward that potential future. NASA assembles a UFO research team to study ‘unidentified aerial phenomena’ | TechCrunch (16:22) NASA has announced the formation of a study team dedicated to UFOs — or unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) Starting this fall, the study will have researchers identify what UAP data already exists, determine how best to collect UAP data moving forward and develop methods to study the nature of UAPs, for both scientific and aerospace defense reasons. Part of the team will be Daniel Evans, the assistant deputy associate administrator for research at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, who stated: “Over the decades, NASA has answered the call to tackle some of the most perplexing mysteries we know of, and this is no different … I do want to underscore that NASA is uniquely positioned to address UAPs, because who other than us can use the power of data and science to look at what’s happening in our skies? And quite frankly, this is why we do what we do.” This isn’t the first program dedicated to UAP research: 1952 and 1969, the United States Air Force (USAF) studied UAPs under Project Blue Book. In 2017, The New York Times revealed a Pentagon UAP research program called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), which ended in 2012 due to lack of funding. NASA will not be seeking to develop explanations for UAPs, extraterrestrial or otherwise This is more of an information-gathering mission — one whose results will be shared publicly, unlike many findings of the DoD — that may open the door for further UAP research and analysis.
Scientists just broke the record for the highest efficiency solar cell | Interesting Engineering (01:46) A team of researchers at the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has created a solar cell with a record efficiency of 39.5 percent. This is the highest efficiency solar cell of any type, measured using standard 1-sun conditions. Under lighting conditions equivalent to that of the sun The solar cell was also tested for its potential in space, especially for powering communications satellites, which are powered by solar cells and require high cell efficiency. Under such conditions, it has a 34.2 percent efficiency. Principal investigator Myles Steiner, talks on the new solar cell: “The new cell is more efficient and has a simpler design that may be useful for a variety of new applications, such as highly area-constrained applications or low-radiation space applications." The novel solar cell is built on an architecture known as inverted metamorphic multijunction (IMM) cells. gallium indium phosphide on top, gallium arsenide in the center, gallium indium arsenide on the bottom. Has three components that generate electric current in response to light. Each component is built with a different material: These materials specialize in various light wavelengths, this allows the cell to capture more energy from the whole light spectrum. The researchers created these “quantum wells” with the middle layer. Represents the minimum energy that is required to excite an electron up to a state in the conduction band where it can participate in conduction By sandwiching a conductive layer between two other materials with a wider band gap, they were able to get the electrons confined to two dimensions, which allowed the material to capture more light in return. A band gap is the distance between the valence band of electrons and the conduction band. This solar cell's middle layer comprised up to 300 quantum wells, which greatly increased the total efficiency Before the novel cell can become widespread, the researchers will need to reduce the expenses and find potential new uses. First Patient Injected With Experimental Cancer-Killing Virus in New Clinical Trial | Science Alert (07:18) An experimental cancer-killing virus has been administered to a human patient for the first time, with hopes the testing will ultimately reveal evidence of a new means of successfully fighting cancer tumors in people's bodies. The drug candidate, called CF33-hNIS (aka Vaxinia) The drug is an oncolytic virus, which is a genetically modified virus designed to selectively infect and kill cancer cells while sparing healthy ones. A modified smallpox virus Works by entering cells and duplicating itself. Eventually, the infected cell bursts, releasing thousands of new virus particles that act as antigens, stimulating the immune system to attack nearby cancer cells. Previous research in animal models has shown the drug can harness the immune system in this way to hunt and destroy cancer cells, but up until now no testing has been done in humans. The first phase of the trial focuses on the safety and tolerability of the drug. The intervention is expected to enroll 100 participants in total, each being an adult patient with metastatic or advanced solid tumors who has previously tried at least two prior lines of standard treatment. These individuals will receive low doses of the experimental treatment via direct injection or intravenously. If early results are successful and CF33-hNIS is deemed safe and well tolerated, additional tests will investigate how the drug pairs with pembrolizumab, an existing antibody treatment already used in cancer immunotherapy. If the drug does turn out to be safe and well-tolerated, we could be looking at a powerful new tool for fighting tumors, and a game-changer. According to surgical oncologist Susanne Warner, said back in 2020 “Our oncolytic virus trains the immune system to target a specific cancer cell … Meaning if a similar cancer cell ever tries to regrow, the immune system will be ready and waiting to shut it down." Scientists can now grow wood in a lab without cutting a single tree | Interesting Engineering (11:46) The market for wood-derived products stood at $631 billion in 2021, and despite all the efforts that environmentalists have been putting in to prevent deforestation activities, it is expected to cross the mark of $900 billion by 2026, according to the Wood Products Global Market 2022 Report. That’s a lot of trees being cut down, but what would happen if we could grow wood without cutting trees? Interesting question, that we may have to answer soon. A team of researchers at MIT claims that lab-grown timber can replace deforestation driving products made from real wood. They have developed a technique using which timber can be produced in any shape and size, so you can create it in a lab without cutting a single tree. The researchers at MIT performed an experiment that gave stem cell-like properties to normal plant cells Extracted cells from the leaves of a flowering plant called Common zinnia (Zinnia elegans) Then they stored the cells in a liquid medium for a couple of days. The researchers treated the plant cells with a gel-based medium enriched with nutrients and hormones. After some time, the cells gave rise to new plant cells. The researchers during this process noticed that by changing the hormonal concentration in the gel medium, they could control the physical and mechanical properties of the newly grown cells. Lead researcher Ashley Beckwith explains the role of hormones in plant cell growth: “In the human body, you have hormones that determine how your cells develop and how certain traits emerge. In the same way, by changing the hormone concentrations in the nutrient broth, the plant cells respond differently. Just by manipulating these tiny chemical quantities, we can elicit pretty dramatic changes in terms of the physical outcomes.” Beckwith and her team were also able to 3D print custom-designed structures out of the cells cultured in the gel using a 3D bioprinting method. Does not generate any waste, unlike the current furniture-making process, which leads to the loss of about 30% of the total wood as waste For three months, the lab-printed plant material was incubated in the dark. Not only did the lab wood manage to survive, but also grow at a rate twice that of a regular tree. Senior author and scientist Luis Fernando Velásquez-García talks on the techniques future: “Though still in its early days, this research demonstrates that lab-grown plant materials can be tuned to have specific characteristics, which could someday enable researchers to grow wood products with the exact features needed for a particular application.” Dissolving pacemaker links up with wearables to better control the heart | New Atlas (17:42) Last year, scientists at Northwestern University announced a transient pacemaker that dissolves when no longer needed. Now, they improved the device, and incorporated it into a linked suite of wearable sensors. The original implant: The original implant was designed for people recovering from an injury or heart surgery, or who otherwise only require a pacemaker for a short amount of time. Once they've recovered from their condition – within five to seven weeks – the pacemaker will have biodegraded and been harmlessly absorbed by their body. Doesn't have to be wired to a separate battery, and is just 250 microns thick, and weighs less than half a gram. Only one surgery is required Among the improvements in the new version: Its ability to stretch as well as flex – thus allowing it to better conform to the surface of a beating heart. Now releases an anti-inflammatory drug as it dissolves, in order to prevent foreign-body immune reactions. Wirelessly communicates with four other soft-electronic devices, temporarily adhered to the skin on various parts of the patient's upper body. All of the collected data is wirelessly transmitted to a nearby internet-connected smartphone or tablet, allowing the patient's doctor to remotely monitor their condition. Monitors blood oxygen levels, Tissue oxygenation and blood vessel tone; A respiratory module at the base of the throat, that monitors coughing and other respiratory activity; A haptic feedback module worn anywhere on the body, which vibrates to alert the patient of malfunctions or other problems; A cardiac module, located on the chest. Prof. John Rogers, who is leading the research, talks on the device: “For temporary cardiac pacing, the system untethers patients from monitoring and stimulation apparatuses that keep them confined to a hospital setting … Instead, patients could recover in the comfort of their own homes while maintaining the peace of mind that comes with being remotely monitored by their physicians. This also would reduce the cost of health care and free up hospital beds for other patients." New Research Shows ADHD Medication Doesn't Help Kids Learn | SciTechDaily (22:03) For decades, most doctors, parents, and teachers have believed that stimulant medications help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) learn. Approximately 10 percent of children in the U.S. are diagnosed with ADHD. Of those, more than 90 percent are prescribed stimulant medication as the main form of treatment in school settings. However, in the first study of its kind, scientists at the Center for Children and Families at Florida International University (FIU) found medication has no detectable impact on how much children with ADHD learn in the school classroom. William E. Pelham, Jr., senior author of the study, stated: “Physicians and educators have held the belief that medication helps children with ADHD learn because they complete more seatwork and spend more time on-task when medicated … Unfortunately, we found that medication had no impact on learning of actual curriculum content.” Researchers evaluated 173 children between the ages of 7 and 12 with ADHD participating in the center’s Summer Treatment Program, a comprehensive eight-week summer camp program. Children completed two consecutive phases of daily, 25-minute instruction in vocabulary and subject-area content in science and social studies. Each child was randomized to be medicated with a sustained-release stimulant medication during either the first or second of the instructional phases, receiving a placebo during the other. Contrary to expectations, researchers found that children learned the same amount of science, social studies, and vocabulary content whether they were taking the medication or the placebo. While medication did not improve learning, the study showed that medication helped children complete more seatwork and improve their classroom behavior, as expected. In more detail, while taking medication, children completed 37 percent more arithmetic problems per minute and committed 53 percent fewer classroom rule violations per hour. Additionally, consistent with previous studies, researchers found that medication slightly helped to improve test scores when medication is taken on the day of a test, but not enough to boost most children’s grades. Helped children increase on average 1.7 percentage points out of 100 on science and social studies tests. Pelham talks on this jump in society to medicate: “Our research has found time and time again that behavioral intervention is best for children with ADHD because they, their teachers, and their parents learn skills and strategies that will help them succeed at school, at home and in relationships long-term … Medicating our children doesn’t solve the problem—it only takes away the symptoms temporarily. Instead, families should focus on behavioral interventions first and add medication only if needed.” Researchers note that the study was conducted in a controlled summer school-like environment and results may be different in a regular classroom setting. They would like to replicate this study in a natural classroom environment using academic curricula over the duration of a school year to further evaluate the impact of medication on learning.
The That's Cool New Podcast will be back next week :)
Brilliant Planet plans cheap, gigaton-scale carbon capture using algae | New Atlas (01:08) Direct air carbon capture is currently far too costly – but this London company, Brilliant Planet, says it can do it at enormous scale for a tenth the price, using engineered algal blooms in ponds located near desert coastlines Goals to de-acidify the ocean as well. Direct air capture will need to be part of the decarbonizing equation, and it'll need to be massively scalable, energy efficient and much, much cheaper than today's technology. The idea is to corral and harness the carbon-gobbling power of algae, replicating and maintaining the conditions that cause algal blooms in large, low-density outdoor ponds full of seawater. Algae is an inherently more efficient biological machine for carbon capture than trees or plants Its entire surface area is dedicated to photosynthesis and it doesn't waste resources creating trunks, roots or branches Another bonus is that it grows and proliferates extremely fast under the right conditions. Simplified process: Account for most of the energy this system requires A location is chosen, on flat desert land near a coast, A team of bio-prospectors starts filtering through samples of thousands of local strains of algae, selecting the ones that best fits the location. Thus, there are no introduced species, and the algae is already well adapted to the local climate and conditions. They set up a series of pumps, with which to bring seawater into a series of containers and ponds. In these right conditions they would monitor, they can grow a lot of algae. It also can deacidify the seawater. CEO Adam Taylorm said: “For every unit of water that passes through the system we de-acidify the equivalent of 5.1 units back to pre-industrial pH levels." Taylor says the company's already identified a "short list" of about half a million square kilometers of suitably flat coastal desert land. Potential for about two gigatons – two billion tons – of carbon capture In other words, it could cancel out more than 5.5 percent of humanity's annual global CO2 emissions, offsetting about half the total emissions of today's road transport sector. The company has tested its approach successfully in Oman, South Africa. Now they plan on moving to a large area, roughly 74 acres, in 2023. Musk's Starlink Internet Is Now Available in 32 Countries | CNET (07:14) SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet service has now rolled out to 32 countries, the company said Thursday. The hardware can ship "immediately" to areas where the service is available. Starlink is available in much of the US, Europe and New Zealand, in addition to chunks of Canada, Australia and South America. Many of the remaining countries and areas show availability coming in 2023. After a few years of launches, the company has amassed a constellation of more than 2,000 low Earth orbit satellites to provide satellite internet around the globe. Plants Have Been Grown in Lunar Soil For The First Time Ever | Good News Network (09:29) Food has been grown in soil collected from the moon for the first time, paving the way for human migration across the solar system. It is a first step towards producing food and oxygen on the moon, or during space missions. This all relates to NASA’s Artemis program which will lay the foundation for a sustained colony on the lunar surface. Using the moon to validate deep space systems and operations—before embarking on a manned voyage to Mars. Co-author Professor Rob Ferl, talked about the future missions and growing food in the lunar soil: “For future, longer space missions, we may use the moon as a hub or launching pad. It makes sense that we would want to use the soil that’s already there to grow plants … So, what happens when you grow plants in lunar soil, something that is totally outside of a plant’s evolutionary experience? What would plants do in a lunar greenhouse? Could we have lunar farmers?” This University of Florida team planted thale cress seeds in lunar soil picked up by the Apollo 11, 12, and 17 crews between 1969 and 1972. Added water, a cocktail of nutrients, and light, and watched the edible spring salad green flourish. A tiny ‘lunar garden’ was created from just a few teaspoons of the prized dirt specially loaned from NASA. The horticulturalists weren’t sure if they would sprout, but nearly all of them did. This discovery opens the door to “resource independence” from Earth. Makes missions more sustainable on the lunar surface knowing you can start the growing process and feel that into more growth. Co-author Prof Anna-Lisa Paul talks on what the plants had to go through to grow: “At the genetic level, the plants were pulling out the tools typically used to cope with stressors, such as salt and metals or oxidative stress. So we can infer the plants perceive the lunar soil environment as stressful … Ultimately, we would like to use the gene expression data to help address how we can ameliorate the stress responses to the level where plants – particularly crops – are able to grow in lunar soil with very little impact to their health.” Follow-up studies will build on these questions and more. For now, the researchers are celebrating.. Denmark is launching a huge trio of 15-MW offshore wind turbines | Interesting Engineering (15:03) European Energy and Vestas, a wind turbine manufacturer, have greenlit the installation of the latter's flagship V236-15 MW offshore wind turbines in Denmark. Danish city of Frederikshavn "a focal point in the future of offshore wind technology", per a press release. The offshore wind turbines are planned to be built and operational by 2024, with further plans involving turning green power into green fuels that can help the maritime industry run on sustainable energy. Offshore wind energy is acquired by using the wind force produced on the high seas, where it reaches a greater and more consistent speed than on land due to the lack of obstructions. Erected on the seafloor Outfitted with cutting-edge technological advancements Vestas will design and build three of its newest offshore wind turbines at three of the five test spots presently being developed by European Energy Roughly four kilometers off the coast Enabling Vestas to demonstrate the wind turbines' viability in an offshore environment Provide early know-how with installation methods and technician training Christian Gjerløv, Head of Offshore Wind Technology at Vestas, talked on the venture: “We are working on getting our flagship offshore wind turbine constructed here in Denmark and look forward to the joint efforts with European Energy to achieve the construction of the offshore wind turbines at the test site outside the city of Frederikshavn … The position will provide us with a unique opportunity to test the offshore wind turbines close to our factories and research facilities in Denmark prior to the serial production and export to the global market." SkySpecs watches wind turbines from above, lands $80M led by Goldman Sachs | TechCrunch (19:20) The company, SkySpecs, is using drones and AI to detect future equipment failures before they grind those giant turbine blades to a halt. Works with wind farms to monitor the health of turbine blades from above. Just locked down a fresh $80 million Series D funding round led by Goldman Sachs to expand its “geographic footprint” and software tools. SkySpecs builds its hardware and software in house, and already claims to monitor the health of close to half of all turbine blades in North America. 71,666 turbines in the U.S. alone Since it launched in 2012, the firm says its drones have inspected more than 300,000 blades across dozens of countries. SkySpecs’ larger goal is to “help displace fossil fuel generation” by making renewables more efficient, per a statement from the firm. Danny Ellis, CEO, SkySpecs, talks on renewables and his company: “Renewable energy is becoming a viable, attractive, and profitable energy source. In order to scale fast enough to meet the demand, the market needs experts and solutions to help them navigate the complexities of managing their assets. We help customers get the most out of the life of their assets by identifying solutions to their most complex problems … That’s why we’ve developed a solution set that enables companies to manage and optimize their assets from the planning phase right through the full asset lifecycle, including predicting future failures, and prioritizing repairs in order to optimize their maintenance budgets.” SkySpecs is one among many drone businesses to focus on monitoring critical infrastructure.
Starlink's new Portability feature brings internet to vanlifers - The Verge (01:02) Starlink’s internet-from-SpaceX service has gone mobile with a new Portability feature. It costs an additional $25 each month, on top of monthly subscriptions that already start at $110 after a one-time hit of $599 to purchase the Starlink kit. Starlink subscribers can now take their “dishy” anywhere on their home continent that provides active internet coverage. That opens up connectivity to remote places that will likely never be covered by 5G Starlink doesn’t support use while driving yet, but the company says it’s actively working on a solution for moving vehicles. Musk has previously tweeted about working on a power-efficient solution that can plug into a car’s 12V cigarette lighter and still maintain connectivity. Starlink reportedly draws between 60-70W, an improvement on the 80-100W draw from just a year ago. Starlink is offering Portability on a “best effort basis,” the company says, with users at their registered service addresses receiving priority for network resources. Rocket Lab launched and recovered a rocket mid-air in a world first | Interesting Engineering (05:31) Rocket Lab, a private aerospace firm, launched a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from Launch Complex 1A on Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, at roughly 6:48 PM EDT Payload of 34 picosatellites and cubesats into orbit Less than 30 minutes after launch, the rocket's first stage was actually caught mid-air by a flying helicopter. They captured the rocket's drogue chute line. A few seconds after recovering the rocket, the helicopter pilot opted to release the rocket — which plummeted into the deep blue ocean, where it was picked up by a ship From a tweet from Reuters' Joey Roulette: “Rocket Lab's Murielle Baker says the helicopter pilots [decided] to drop the rocket booster in the ocean after noticing "different load characteristics" than what they experienced during previous testing” Murielle Baker is Rocket Labs' Senior Communications Adviser This is real, it's happening. A flying helicopter successfully caught a first-stage booster rocket, in mid-air. This may not have been a full recovery and reuse of the rocket, but Rocket Lab has just taken us a major step closer to comparatively cheap ways of recycling used booster engines. Lithium-ion recycler Li-Cycle lands $200 million to power future EVs | TechCrunch (09:54) Metals and fossil fuels behemoth Glencore is pumping $200 million into battery recycler Li-Cycle as part of a larger, symbiotic supply deal inked by the two firms. The Swiss materials giant, Glencore, will ship burnt-out batteries and scraps to Li-Cycle, which will recover the high-demand metals so they can be reused in electric vehicle batteries and other applications. Li-Cycle’s Process: Shred spent batteries and use a water-based system, known as hydrometallurgical processing, to begin to break down the batteries. Hydrometallurgy involve the use of aqueous solutions for the recovery of metals from ores, concentrates, and recycled or residual materials In Li-Cycle’s own hubs, they separate black mass into a variety of materials, including those that can be used to make new lithium-ion batteries. In this partnership, Glencore will be providing Li-Cycle with black mass for processing as well as manufacturing scrap. Securing a supply of scrap could be advantageous for the startup since it is easier to recycle than whole batteries. Why is Glencore doing this? Glencore has been advancing efforts to boost recycling of the batteries that power electric vehicles, including its plans to build a U.K. plant as part of a deal to help Britishvolt Ltd. develop Britain’s first large-scale EV battery plant. Electric automakers, mining companies and chemical suppliers are racing to control more supplies of materials that are key to transitioning the world to cleaner energy sources. Car manufacturers and industry analysts expect recycled batteries to play a vital role in addressing supply constraints over the long term. Why is battery recycling important? An estimated 62,000 tons of used EV and stationary storage packs reached their end of life last year, and that will rise to 4 million tons by 2035, according to BloombergNEF, Bloomberg’s energy and data analysis unit. Lunar Soil Can Be Used To Generate Oxygen and Fuel for Moon Astronauts | SciTechDaily (14:17) Soil on the moon contains active compounds that can convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and fuels, according to a new study by scientists in China. Nanjing University material scientists Yingfang Yao and Zhigang Zou hope to design a system that takes advantage of lunar soil and solar radiation, the two most abundant resources on the moon. After analyzing the lunar soil brought back by China’s Chang’e 5 spacecraft, their research team found the sample contains compounds—including iron-rich and titanium-rich substances—that could work as a catalyst to make desired products such as oxygen using sunlight and carbon dioxide. How would this work? Mainly, the system uses lunar soil to electrolyze water extracted from the moon and in astronauts’ breathing exhaust into oxygen and hydrogen powered by sunlight. Carbon dioxide exhaled by moon inhabitants is also collected and combined with hydrogen from water electrolysis during a hydrogenation process catalyzed by lunar soil. While the catalytic efficiency of lunar soil is less than catalysts available on Earth, The researchers are testing different approaches to improve the design, such as melting the lunar soil into a nanostructured high-entropy material, which is a better catalyst. In the end, the process yields hydrocarbons such as methane, which could be used as fuel. The strategy uses no external energy but sunlight to produce a variety of desirable products such as water, oxygen, and fuel that could support life on a moonbase, the researchers say. The team is looking for an opportunity to test the system in space, likely with China’s future crewed lunar missions. New imaging tech promises cheap, handheld skin cancer scanner | New Atlas (19:09) A team of researchers from the Stevens Institute of Technology has demonstrated the effectiveness of a new kind of non-invasive skin cancer detection tool. Leverages a technology called high-resolution millimeter-wave imaging. Initial testing shows that it is 97 percent effective at detecting cancerous tissue and the researchers are now working to miniaturize the system into a low-cost handheld device. The device returns results in about 20 seconds! I should mention that this system was not tested on tissue in a lab, but on human subjects! The researchers recruited 71 patients with 136 suspicious skin lesions. Following assessment with the new high-resolution millimeter-wave imaging device the lesions were biopsied. This preliminary test showed the system had 98 percent specificity (meaning two percent of its results were false positives) and 97 percent sensitivity (meaning it accurately detected all but three percent of malignant cancers). Negar Tavassolian, a researcher working on the project, said their new system is not the first to use sophisticated imaging technology to automatically flag dangerous skin cancers. Those are big, expensive, and require trained operators. This new technology is proposed to be engineered into a small, handheld device that can be used by doctors as part of a straightforward clinical checkup. Tavassolian states: “We're creating a low-cost device that's as small and as easy to use as a cellphone, so we can bring advanced diagnostics within reach for everyone… That means doctors can integrate accurate diagnostics into routine checkups, and ultimately treat more patients.” The current iteration of the device is far from portable but the researchers are confident handheld millimeter-wave diagnostic devices are possible. Tavassolian predicts within a few years a handheld skin cancer detection device could be manufactured for under US$100.
News From seawater to drinking water, with the push of a button | TechXPlore (01:04) MIT researchers have developed a portable desalination unit, weighing less than 10 kilograms, that can remove particles and salts to generate drinking water. Suitcase-sized device Requires less power to operate than a cell phone charger Can be powered by a small, portable solar panel, which can be purchased online for around $50. Generates drinking water that exceeds World Health Organization quality standards. Runs with the push of one button. Unlike other portable desalination units that require water to pass through filters, this device utilizes electrical power to remove particles from drinking water. Eliminating the need for replacement filters Relies on a technique called ion concentration polarization (ICP) Rather than filtering water, the ICP process applies an electrical field to membranes placed above and below a channel of water. The membranes repel positively or negatively charged particles—including salt molecules, bacteria, and viruses—as they flow past. The process removes both dissolved and suspended solids, allowing clean water to pass through the channel. Once the salinity level and the number of particles decrease to specific thresholds, the device notifies the user that the water is drinkable. This filterless process enables the unit to be deployed in remote and severely resource-limited areas, such as communities on small islands or aboard seafaring cargo ships. Their prototype generates drinking water at a rate of 0.3 liters per hour, and requires only 20 watts of power per liter. Researchers develop a paper-thin loudspeaker | MIT News (06:21) MIT engineers have developed a paper-thin loudspeaker that can turn any surface into an active audio source. Produces sound with minimal distortion while using a fraction of the energy required by a traditional loudspeaker. Weighing about as much as a dime and can generate high-quality sound no matter what surface the film is bonded to. The new loudspeaker simplifies the speaker design by using a thin film of a shaped piezoelectric material that moves when voltage is applied over it, which moves the air above it and generates sound. Most thin-film loudspeakers are designed to be freestanding because the film must bend freely to produce sound. If the thin speaker needs to be bound to a surface that would impede the sound generation process. To overcome this problem , their design relies on tiny domes on a thin layer of piezoelectric material which each vibrate individually. The researchers pioneered a deceptively simple fabrication technique, which requires only three basic steps and can be scaled up to produce ultrathin loudspeakers. Lead author Jinchi Han talks on the process: “This is a very simple, straightforward process. It would allow us to produce these loudspeakers in a high-throughput fashion if we integrate it with a roll-to-roll process in the future. That means it could be fabricated in large amounts, like wallpaper to cover walls, cars, or aircraft interiors” They tested their thin-film loudspeaker by mounting it to a wall 30 centimeters from a microphone to measure the sound pressure level, recorded in decibels. When 25 volts of electricity were passed through the device at 1 kilohertz, the speaker produced high-quality sound at conversational levels of 66 decibels. At 10 kilohertz, the sound pressure level increased to 86 decibels, about the same volume level as city traffic. Another cool feature of this thin speaker is it can be used effectively for ultrasound applications, like imaging. Because the tiny domes are vibrating, rather than the entire film, the loudspeaker has a high enough resonance frequency for ultrasound imaging Could use it to detect where a human is standing in a room, just like bats do using echolocation, and then shape the sound waves to follow the person as they move. This device has many possible applications: Provide active noise cancellation in clamorous environments Used for immersive entertainment, 3D audio Well-suited for applications on smart devices where battery life is limited. Electronic skin uses tiny magnetic hairs to sense touch | New Atlas (13:04) The body’s largest organ, the skin, plays a key role in facilitating our sense of touch, but its sensitivity is hard to replicate in artificial versions. Until Now! Researchers from Chemnitz University of Technology and Leibniz IFW Dresden have developed a new type of electronic skin (e-skin) containing tiny embedded hairs that can precisely perceive touch and the direction it moves. E-Skin: thin films of material with electronic properties that allow them to perform some of the functions of natural human skin, such as registering touch, pressure, temperature or even pain. These artificial skins could be useful for patients needing grafts after major injury, or to give a more advanced sense of touch to prosthetic limbs and robots. The breakthrough comes from mimicking an important but overlooked factor in the human sensation of touch – tiny hairs lining the skin. It contains a new type of sensor that makes it extra sensitive to touch. The scientists embedded tiny, magnetic hairs into an elastomeric material to make their e-skin. The artificial hair has bulbous roots, like natural hair, that sit below the surface of the e-skin and move around when the hair above is touched. Each of these roots is surrounded by a 3D magnetic sensor, allowing the exact position of the root to be tracked in real-time. The team says these magnetic sensors can be fabricated in bulk sheets fairly easily. Can self-fold into 3D boxes to house the hair roots, through a process known as micro-origami. Christian Becker, first author of the study, talks on this approach: “Our approach allows a precise spatial arrangement of functional sensor elements in 3D that can be mass-produced in a parallel manufacturing process … Such sensor systems are extremely difficult to generate by established microelectronic fabrication methods.” The world's first airport for flying cars opens in the UK | Interesting Engineering (18:17) The world's first urban airport that will allow 'flying taxis' to take off and land in the busy areas of cities has opened up in the city of Coventry in the U.K. Dubbed Air One, was completed in 15 months, including the planning and building of the airport. Developed by the U.K.-based startup Urban-Air Port Ltd (UAP) who is working to demonstrate that the infrastructure needed to make these urban aerial transport centers an operational reality is not as complicated as it may seem. Powered by hydrogen fuel cells, Air One is designed to be fully autonomous and integrates with electric vehicles to deliver a zero-emission urban public transport system. The airport can handle electric drones and air taxis and has collaborated with Hyundai's air mobility arm, Supernal, to use a full-sized model of their SA-1 air taxi as a demonstrator. According to Air One’s website, at the airport, one can witness all the elements of urban mobility such as passenger taxi processing, command and control center, logistics, charging infrastructure as well as disaster management and security services. Air One has an address in Coventry but only till the 15th of May. After that, the company plans to wrap up the airport and then set it up again at other sites in the U.K. to take the experience closer to people. Noninvasive Sound Technology Breaks Down Tumors | SciTechDaily (21:40) Liver cancer ranks among the top 10 causes of cancer related deaths worldwide and in the U.S. Even with multiple treatment options, the prognosis remains poor with five-year survival rates less than 18% in the U.S. Figuring out a way to fight it is on the mind of many researchers. That’s where researchers at the University of Michigan come into play. These researchers developed a noninvasive sound technology, which breaks down liver tumors in rats, kills cancer cells, and spurs the immune system to prevent further spread—an advance that could lead to improved cancer outcomes in humans. The treatment, called histotripsy, noninvasively focuses ultrasound waves to mechanically destroy target tissue with millimeter precision. They provide microsecond long pulses from UM’s transducer to generate microbubbles within the targeted tissues—bubbles that rapidly expand and collapse. These violent but extremely localized mechanical stresses kill cancer cells and break up the tumor’s structure. Important to point out that this treatment technique works without the harmful side effects of current approaches such as radiation and chemotherapy. It was able to deastory roughly 50% to 75% of liver tumor volume in rats, which then allowed their immune systems to clear away the rest, with no evidence of recurrence or metastases in more than 80% of the animals. Results showed the treatment stimulated the rats’ immune responses, possibly contributing to the eventual regression of the untargeted portion of the tumor and preventing further spread of the cancer. Tejaswi Worlikar, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering, talks on the treatment: “Histotripsy is a promising option that can overcome the limitations of currently available ablation modalities and provide safe and effective noninvasive liver tumor ablation … We hope that our learnings from this study will motivate future preclinical and clinical histotripsy investigations toward the ultimate goal of clinical adoption of histotripsy treatment for liver cancer patients.”
News: US Navy wirelessly beamed 1.6kW of power using microwaves | Interesting Engineering (01:22) New miniature heart could help speed heart disease cures | MedicalXPress (10:08) Ultra-light liquid hydrogen tanks promise to make jet fuel obsolete | New Atlas (16:20) Old skins cells reprogrammed to regain youthful function | Science Daily (23:15) Tesla is testing in-car Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity with several major internet providers | Electrek (27:01)
News: Reversing hearing loss with regenerative therapy | MIT News (01:28) Engineered bacteria could help protect “good” gut microbes from antibiotics | Big Think (07:01) Wireless camera tool could make intubation safer and easier | Futurity (12:40) A massive ”space cannon” can shoot payloads into space at hypersonic speeds | Interesting Engineering (16:31) A new heat engine with no moving parts is as efficient as a steam turbine | MIT News (22:54)
NEWS Stanford engineers invent a solar panel that generates electricity at night | Interesting Engineer (01:08) Rocket Lab prepares its chopper to catch a returning booster in midair | New Atlas (07:28) Looking Through Mojo Vision's Newest AR Contact Lens | IEEE Spectrum (12:17) Simple delivery method enhances a promising cancer treatment | MedicalXPress (20:11) Israeli bee tech startup Beewise pulls in $80m investment for robotic beehives | Times of Israel (27:19)
News: Scientists Say New Treatment Lets Alopecia Patients Regrow Hair | Futurism (01:14) Scientists at Yale announced this week that a common arthritis medication (baricitinib) appears to help alopecia patients regrow their hair. a potential treatment for a widespread autoimmune condition. Baricitinib is used to reduce pain, stiffness, and swelling in adults with rheumatoid arthritis after other treatments have failed. Helps slow the progression of bone and joint damage. It is a Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors are a group of medications that inhibit activity and response of one or more of the Janus kinase enzymes (JAK1, JAK2, JAK3, and TYK2). These enzymes normally promote inflammation and autoimmunity. Alopecia is a common autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss Affects people of all ages, although it most commonly appears in adolescence or early adulthood. Affects 1 in every 500 to 1,000 people in the United States. There is currently no FDA-approved treatment for the disease. Dr. Brett King, lead author on the study told Yale news: “This is so exciting, because the data clearly show how effective baricitinib is … These large, controlled trials tell us that we can alleviate some of the suffering from this awful disease.” For the study, the researchers conducted two large, randomized trials involving a total of 1,200 people. For 36 weeks, participants were given a daily dose of either 4 milligrams of baricitinib, 2 milligrams of baricitinib, or a placebo. One-third of the patients who received the larger dose grew hair back. The researchers stated that baricitinib thwarts the disease by disrupting the communication of immune cells involved in harming hair follicles. Hopefully this medication will be proven to be safe & effective and approved by regulators. Waymo says fully driverless rides are coming to San Francisco | The Verge (06:47) Waymo plans to start offering rides in its fully autonomous vehicles — without human safety drivers behind the wheel — in San Francisco. They join a waitlist and, once approved, sign non-disclosure agreements to get access to the company’s early technology. As of right now it is only available to employees but will soon grow to include members of the company’s “Trusted Tester” program. The Trusted Tester program is for customers interested in using Waymo’s robotaxis. The vehicles will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Waymo says. Additionally, Waymo is making moves in Arizona. Growing to include downtown Phoenix after operating exclusively in the exurban towns of Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, and Tempe for nearly five years. Waymo has been running fully driverless rides without a safety driver in those towns outside of Phoenix for more than a year now. They must be confident they have enough data to move forward with autonomous taxis. Last year, the company logged the most miles driven autonomously of all the companies permitted to test in the state: 2.3 million miles, a huge increase over 2020, when it had about 629,000 miles driven, and even the pre-pandemic year of 2019, with 1.45 million. The expansion of Waymo’s service area in Phoenix and the imminent launch of driverless rides in San Francisco signal the company’s sense of confidence that its vehicles can operate safely and efficiently in more dense, urban environments. Quantum technology could make charging electric cars as fast as pumping gas | Phys.org (12:10) For a long time, batteries had far lower energy density than those offered by hydrocarbons, which resulted in very low ranges of early electric vehicles. Improvements in battery technologies eventually allowed the drive ranges of electric cars to be within acceptable levels However, despite the vast improvements in battery technology, today's consumers of electric vehicles face another difficulty: slow battery charging speed. Takes about 10 hours to fully recharge at home Even the fastest superchargers require up to 20 to 40 minutes to fully recharge This creates additional costs and inconvenience to the customers. To address this problem, scientists looked for answers in the field of quantum physics. Which led to a discovery that quantum technologies may promise new mechanisms to charge batteries at a faster rate. It was theorized that quantum resources, such as entanglement, can be used to vastly speed up the battery charging process by charging all cells within the battery simultaneously in a collective manner. Conventional batteries collective charging is not possible, where the cells are charged in parallel independently of one another. In this most recent study, researchers were able to precisely quantify how much charging speed can be achieved with this collective charging scheme vs parallel. The charging speed increases linearly with the number of cells in classical batteries. The study showed, however, that quantum batteries employing global operation can achieve quadratic scaling in charging speed. To illustrate this, consider a typical electric vehicle with a battery that contains about 200 cells. Charging time at home would be cut from 10 hours to about 3 minutes. Quantum charging would lead to a 200 times speedup over classical batteries, High-speed charging stations, the charge time would be cut from 30 minutes to mere seconds. Of course, quantum technologies are still in their infancy and there is a long way to go before these methods can be implemented in practice. However, this study creates a promising direction and can incentivize the funding agencies and businesses to further invest in these technologies. HB11's hydrogen-boron laser fusion test yields groundbreaking results | New Atlas (18:24) Australian company HB11 is approaching nuclear fusion from an entirely new angle, using high power, high precision lasers instead of hundred-million-degree temperatures to start the reaction. The 1st demo produced 10 times more fusion reactions than expected The company started tooting their own horn: “the only commercial entity to achieve fusion so far [making it] the global frontrunner in the race to commercialize the holy grail of clean energy." Just to summarize quickly what is required for fusion: Like throwing powerful magnets at each other in space Most companies try to replicate this by magnetically confining hydrogen atoms in a plasma In order to smash atoms together hard enough to make them fuse together and form a new element, you need to overcome the incredibly strong repulsive forces that push two positively-charged nuclei apart. The Sun accomplishes this by having a huge amount of hydrogen atoms packed into a plasma that's superheated to tens of millions of degrees at its core. HB11 is using a different approach that doesn't require huge amounts of heat, or tricky, radioactive fuels like tritium. Takes advantage of recent advances in ultra-high powered "chirped pulse amplification" lasers that can produce monstrous, unprecedented power levels over 10 petawatts. An HB11 reactor would be a mostly empty metal sphere, with a "modestly sized" boron fuel pellet held in the middle, and apertures in two spots on the sphere for a pair of lasers. One laser, in combination with a capacitive coil, is used to establish a powerful kilotesla magnetic containment field for the plasma. The second is used to massively accelerate hydrogen atoms through the boron sample. The reactor is not heating things up in the hope that they'll smack together at speed. It is aiming the hydrogen right at the boron and using these bleeding-edge lasers to make it go so fast that it'll fuse if it hits a nucleus. Hydrogen-boron fusion doesn't create heat, it merely creates "naked" positively charged helium atoms, or alpha particles They collect that charge to create energy, rather than needing to superheat steam and drive turbines. Initial experiments on laser-triggered chain reactions returned reaction rates a billion times higher than anticipated, and then seem pretty happy about it and a little cocky: “This is many orders of magnitude higher than those reported by any other fusion company, most of which have not generated any reaction despite billions of dollars invested in the field. The results show great potential for clean energy generation: hydrogen-boron reactions use fuels that are safe and abundant, don’t create neutrons in the primary reaction so cause insignificant amounts of short-lived waste, and can provide large-scale power for base-load grid electricity or hydrogen generation." Mitochondrial transplants between living cells could save dying organs | ETH News (23:53) In a technological breakthrough, researchers at ETH Zurich have announced the development of a new technique that can transplant mitochondria. Mitochondria are the tiny powerhouses of the cell where the processes of cellular respiration take place In their research, recently published in the journal PLOS Biology, the group successfully used a ‘nanosyringe’ they had previously developed to transplant mitochondria from one living cell to another. In more detail: These cylindrical nanosyringes were specially developed for this study, the researchers pierced the cell membrane and sucked up the spherical mitochondria. They then pierced the membrane of a different cell and pumped the mitochondria back out of the nanosyringe into the recipient cell. The position of the nanosyringe is controlled by laser light from a converted atomic force microscope. A pressure regulator adjusts the flow, allowing scientists to transfer incredibly small volumes of fluid in the femtoliter range (millionths of a millionth of a milliliter) during organelle transplants The transplanted mitochondria have a high survival rate – more than 80 percent. The injected mitochondria begin to fuse with the filamentous network of the new cell 20 minutes after transplantation. The technique could be deployed as a way of treating diseased organs, but may also find use in the realm of anti-aging, rejuvenating stem cells that deteriorate in metabolic activity as we grow older.
News Elon Musk floats idea for new social media platform | Twitchy (01:45) Elon Musk, you know the dude by now, posted a Twitter poll this past Friday (March 25th) asking the question: “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?” With the caveat that “The consequences of this poll will be important. Please vote carefully.” With over 2 million votes 70% of people responded with “No.” After the poll concluded the next day he responded with, “Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy. What should be done? … Is a new platform needed?” This has led to plenty of speculation that Elon could be contemplating building his own platform, while others just want him to purchase Twitter and fix it. What is the best route? Not sure, Twitter has the user base already there, but there is a lot of built in “rot” so to speak. Then to further cement the idea he is considering building a new platform, a twitter user @PPathole asked: “Would you consider building a new social media platform? … One that would consist of an open source algorithm, one where free speech and adhering to free speech is given top priority, one where propaganda is very minimal. I think that kind of a platform is needed.” Elon simply responded with: “Am giving serious thought to this” Just to throw it out there that some people were thinking of name ideas for Elon’s new social media platform and here is my favorite from @RealSteveAyer: MySpaceX AI algorithm accurately predicts risk of heart attack within 5 years | New Atlas (08:47) A new AI tool developed by researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center can accurately measure plaque deposits in coronary arteries and predict a patient’s risk of suffering a heart attack within five years. A scan known as computed tomography angiography (CTA) is one of the best tools doctors currently have at their disposal to evaluate heart disease patients. By imaging plaque deposits within coronary arteries Damini Dey, senior author on the study, talks on the speed improvement with utilizing this new automated AI tool: “Coronary plaque is often not measured because there is not a fully automated way to do it … When it is measured, it takes an expert at least 25 to 30 minutes, but now we can use this program to quantify plaque from CTA images in five to six seconds." Creating the tool: Two Categories: high and low risk. First, trained the algorithm to recognize plaque deposits using a dataset of CTA images from 921 patients. Validated the results with the “human expert readers.” Utilizing a plaque amount threshold, they trained the algorithm to place separate images based on risk of having a heart attack within five years of CTA imaging: The new study is an exciting demonstration of the possible future of medicine. A future where AI tools can swiftly analyze diagnostic imaging to deliver immediate risk reports to patients. It is early days for the technology. Larger studies will be required to better train the algorithms on diverse patient populations and figure out how they could make the tech accessible & cheap. Exxon Mobil has a pilot project for using excess gas to mine Bitcoin | Interesting Engineering (14:50) What do you do with excess natural gas if you are one of the world's biggest providers of energy sources? Exxon Mobil has come up with an inventive solution. It's taking the excess natural gas that would otherwise be burned off from North Dakota oil wells and using it to power cryptocurrency mining operations. Bitcoin Mining: the process of creating new bitcoin by solving puzzles. The first bitcoin miner to solve the puzzle is rewarded with bitcoin. The mining process also confirms transactions on the cryptocurrency's network and makes them trustworthy. According to anonymous sources, the oil giant has started a pilot project in cooperation with Crusoe Energy Systems Inc. to take gas from an oil well pad in the Bakken shale basin to power Bitcoin mining servers. The initiative began back in January 2021. It is estimated that the project makes use of up to 18 million cubic feet of gas per month that would have otherwise been wasted due to a lack of pipelines. This process does not reduce the emissions of Exxon Mobil's activities but it does ensure that greenhouse gas emissions are not simply created as waste. Methane emissions from natural gas range from 1 to 9 percent of total life cycle emissions Just to point out since I feel like people lump them all together but shouldn’t, a natural gas plant emits 50 to 60 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) compared with emissions from a typical new coal plant. Leap Forward in Genetic Sequencing Will Lead to Improved Personalized Medicine and Understanding of Evolution | SciTechDaily (19:28) Researchers at the University of California, Irvine revealed new details about a key enzyme that makes DNA sequencing possible. A leap forward into the era of personalized medicine when doctors will be able to design treatments based on the genomes of individual patients. The molecule the UCI-led team studied is an enzyme called Taq, a name derived from the microorganism it was first discovered in, Thermos aquaticus. Taq helps make new copies of DNA in an unexpected way According to UCI professor, Greg Weiss, “Instead of carefully selecting each piece to add to the DNA chain, [Taq] grabs dozens of misfits for each piece added successfully … Like a shopper checking items off a shopping list, the enzyme tests each part against the DNA sequence it’s trying to replicate.” Taq rejects any wrong items that land into its proverbial shopping cart in a very inefficient way as well But understanding this enzyme is an important step because if scientists understand how Taq functions, then they can better understand just how accurate a person’s sequenced genome truly is. Philip Collins, a UCI professor, touches on the variety of genome out there: “Every single person has a slightly different genome … with different mutations in different places. Some of those are responsible for diseases, and others are responsible for absolutely nothing. To really get at whether these differences are important for healthcare – for properly prescribing medicines – you need to know the differences accurately.” How Geothermal Plants Could Unlock Vast Supplies of Lithium in the American West | SingularityHub (23:28) Geothermal technologies are on the verge of unlocking vast quantities of lithium from naturally-occurring hot brines beneath places like California’s Salton Sea, a two-hour drive from San Diego. Lithium is essential for lithium-ion batteries, which power electric vehicles and energy storage. Demand for these batteries is quickly rising, but the US is currently heavily reliant on lithium imports from other countries. Most of the nation’s lithium supply comes from Argentina, Chile, Russia, and China. According to the article, this technology can bolster the nation’s critical minerals supply chain at a time when concerns about the supply chain’s security are rising. So how would we get it? Let’s start with what a Geothermal power plant does: it uses heat from the Earth to generate a constant supply of steam to run turbines that produce electricity. The plants operate by bringing up a complex saline solution (the brine) located far underground, where it absorbs heat and is enriched with minerals such as lithium, manganese, zinc, potassium, and boron. These brines are the concentrated liquid left over after heat and steam are extracted at a geothermal plant. It contains high concentrations (about 30 percent) of dissolved solids. Test Projects are now underway to see how much lithium and other minerals could be extracted from this brine. The 11 existing geothermal plants along the Salton Sea alone could have the potential to produce enough lithium metal to provide about 10 times the current US demand. About 20,000 metric tons of lithium metal per year, which equates to a market value of $5 billion at current prices. Adding the production of critical metals like lithium, manganese, and zinc from geothermal brines could provide geothermal electrical power operators a new competitive advantage and help geothermal technology boom.
News Disney's "Holobricks" could stack up for larger holograms | New Atlas (01:03) Scientists at Cambridge and Disney Research may be closer to making holograms “less disappointing.” They’ve created new “holobricks” that can stack and tile together to produce large 3D images that can be viewed from multiple angles. Holograms are three-dimensional virtual images that appear to exist within the real world instead of on a screen. Produced in multiple ways: Reflective Screens Projections onto fog Then you have the classic “Pepper’s Ghost” illusion. Started in the 1860s A brightly lit figure out of the audience's sight below the stage is reflected in a pane of glass placed between the performer and the audience. To the audience, it appears as if the ghost is on stage. Old ways are low in resolution, while the new system, from Cambridge and Disney, is designed to boost the picture quality with scalable, modular holographic blocks, or holobricks as the team calls them. Each holobrick is made up of a spatial light modulator, a scanner, and coarse integrated optics. The system combines three images of the same object from slightly different angles, which creates a sense of depth. Then light is then sent through a series of lenses that separates the images, so that when it appears on the 2D display on the surface of the holobrick, but from different angles. Has a resolution of 1024 x 768, a 40-degree field of view and at a cinematic frame rate of 24 frames per second. Essentially, that means that as you walk around the screen, your view of the virtual object or scene changes with you. Additionally it is modular, allowing the size of the holograms to be increased. There is still more work to do, but the researchers say that the holobricks could open up possibilities like holographic video walls or interactive kiosks. Obesity alters molecular architecture of liver cells; repairing structure reverses metabolic disease | Harvard News (06:23) According to Harvard researchers, cells use their molecular architecture to regulate their metabolic functions, and repairing diseased cells’ architecture to a healthier state can also repair metabolism. This could have implications on reversing obesity, and reversing the damage it causes to the body. Gökhan Hotamışlıgi, a Harvard public health professor, mentions the regulatory mechanism they discovered: “The fundamental regulatory mechanism that we discovered can be used to evaluate the susceptibility—or resistance—of individuals to a disease state like obesity, and determine what steps, such as diet, nutrients, or fasting, will reduce, eliminate, or exacerbate these states. We can imagine a whole new array of therapeutic strategies targeting molecular architecture, similar to the restoration of an ailing building or preventing its deterioration.” The study compared liver samples from healthy, lean mice with samples from obese mice with fatty liver disease. Using machine learning & AI, along with high-resolution imaging the researchers generated three-dimensional reconstructions of specialized structures, called organelles, inside cells. Organelles are the components of the cell. Then compared the architecture/structure of the organelles between the lean & obese mice. The images produced from this research are the most detailed visualization to date of subcellular structures while the cells are still intact in their tissue environment. Through these analyses, the team determined that obesity leads to dramatic alterations in subcellular molecular architecture, particularly in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), an organelle involved in the creation and shaping of proteins and lipids. The team then partially restored the ER’s structure using technologies that can repair molecules and proteins that can reshape cellular membranes to see what would happen. “The outcome was really striking—when structure is repaired, so is the cell’s metabolism,” said Ana Paula Arruda, co-lead on the research. “What we are describing here is a whole new way of controlling metabolism by regulating molecular architecture, which is critical for health and disease.” Researchers Make 'Giant Leap' to Produce Affordable Renewable Hydrogen | Good News Network (11:53) An Australian company, Hysata, has invented a totally new electrolyzer to expand use of hydrogen fuel, which they say represents the first real revolution in the technology in 200 years. Electrolyzer is the device that would separate water into hydrogen gas and oxygen with electrical current In more detail, an electrolyzer consists of an anode and a cathode separated by a sponge-like membrane. H2O is sent into the anode, where its electrons are stripped and turned into electricity, powering whatever it’s connected to. Positively charged protons cross through the membrane into the cathode, where oxygen is pulled into. There, the protons, reunited with their electrons post-electricity harvest, combine with the oxygen to form water and heat. The company changed the design of the electrolyzer to make the cost of pure hydrogen fuel competitive with fossil fuels. Decreasing the heat and resistance generated through separating hydrogen. In a typical electrolyzer, gas bubbles form, reducing the efficiency of the process, but with this new design, Hysata was able to eliminate the problem. Resulting in 95% efficiency, or 41.5 kWh per kilogram of hydrogen Typical electrolyzer produce 39.4 kWh of energy from 1 kg of hydrogen. Hysata aren’t just scientists however, and the economics of their electrolyzer make sense. The membranes are easy to manufacture and the process can be automated at scale. Microbes in Your Gut May Affect Personality – Could Be Associated With Mental and Physical Fatigue | SciTechDaily (16:25) Clarkson University researchers are performing research to determine if gut microbiome and metabolomic pathways in the gut could be associated with the personality traits mental energy, mental fatigue, physical energy, and physical fatigue. Gut metabolomes are small molecules, such as amino acids, enzymes, and co-factors, that are produced in the gut. There are thousands of different types of bacteria living in the gut determined by many factors, such as health status, dietary habits, and even physical activity levels. The researchers performed initial research on a small sample of young physically active adults. The preliminary findings found that there are distinct bacteria and metabolomes that are associated with each personality trait. One bacterium was associated with three of the four personality traits, but none between all four traits. Bacteria associated with metabolism were associated with either mental or physical energy, Bacteria associated with inflammation were associated with mental or physical fatigue. The results build on previous work that reports that mental energy, mental fatigue, physical energy and physical fatigue are four distinct biological moods. Lead researcher, Ali Boolani, talks on the findings: “These new findings support my previous work where we report that feelings of energy are associated with metabolic processes, while feelings of fatigue are associated with inflammatory processes … Since we are still learning about the gut microbiome, we don’t know whether if we try to change our personality trait, we might see a change in gut microbiome; or if we try to change our gut microbiome, we might also change our personality trait. Additionally, these findings may help explain some of the interpersonal differences that we see in response to the anti-fatiguing effects of nutritional interventions.” Next, Boolani and his team plan to duplicate the current study with samples from a much larger number of participants. SpaceX is hosting a new fellowship on space-based surgery. It could save lives | Interesting Engineering (20:39) Performing simple tasks in space becomes difficult, so you can imagine performing surgery would be even more difficult. In a bid to start tackling that issue head on, SpaceX has partnered with the University of Arizona and Banner Health to host the first-ever Aerospace Surgery Fellowship starting this July. All according to a press release by Banner health. The APEX fellowship will last for a year It will be the first-ever fellowship training program in the U.S. to go beyond medical oversight for astronauts, delving into the field of aerospace surgery. Aims to train future astronaut surgeons, who will travel to space with the express goal of keeping their fellow space explorers alive. The APEX Aerospace Surgery Fellowship will bring expert surgeons and physicians together in the U.S., helping them prepare to work in the commercial aerospace medical field. They will form a part of the medical teams serving upcoming missions launched by SpaceX, NASA, and other space programs. Fellows will have the opportunity to spend six months conducting research with SpaceX, the world's leading launch provider. Nathanial Soper, executive director for general surgery at Banner, talked on the fellowship: "Individuals who train in this program will not only be qualified to support the space program personally … they will also be on the leading edge of developing the necessary tools and procedures to facilitate this exciting next phase in space exploration. I am truly excited and enthusiastic about our institution being involved in this novel undertaking." With the backing of SpaceX, which aims to reach the red planet in the 2030s, we may soon breach a new frontier with the world's first space surgery.