105. Suitcase Sized Desalination, Electronic Skin, Reducing Tumors with Sound

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Summary: News <p><a href="https://techxplore.com/news/2022-04-seawater-button.html">From seawater to drinking water, with the push of a button</a> | TechXPlore (01:04)</p> <ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">MIT researchers have developed a portable desalination unit, weighing less than 10 kilograms, that can remove particles and salts to generate drinking water.<ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">Suitcase-sized device</li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Requires less power to operate than a cell phone charger </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Can be powered by a small, portable solar panel, which can be purchased online for around $50. </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Generates drinking water that exceeds<a href="https://www.who.int/teams/environment-climate-change-and-health/water-sanitation-and-health/water-safety-and-quality/drinking-water-quality-guidelines"> World Health Organization quality standards</a>.</li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Runs with the push of one button.</li> </ul> </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Unlike other portable desalination units that require water to pass through filters, this device utilizes electrical power to remove particles from drinking water. <ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">Eliminating the need for replacement filters</li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Relies on a technique called <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-04646-0">ion concentration polarization</a> (ICP)</li> </ul> </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Rather than filtering water, the ICP process applies an electrical field to membranes placed above and below a channel of water. <ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">The membranes repel positively or negatively charged particles—including salt molecules, bacteria, and viruses—as they flow past.</li> <li style="font-weight:400;">The process removes both dissolved and suspended solids, allowing clean water to pass through the channel. </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Once the salinity level and the number of particles decrease to specific thresholds, the device notifies the user that the water is drinkable.</li> </ul> </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">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.<ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">Their prototype generates drinking water at a rate of 0.3 liters per hour, and requires only 20 watts of power per liter.</li> </ul> </li> </ul> <p> </p> <p><a href="https://news.mit.edu/2022/low-power-thin-loudspeaker-0426">Researchers develop a paper-thin loudspeaker</a> | MIT News (06:21)</p> <ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">MIT engineers have developed a paper-thin loudspeaker that can turn any surface into an active audio source.<ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">Produces sound with minimal distortion while using a fraction of the energy required by a traditional loudspeaker. </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Weighing about as much as a dime and can generate high-quality sound no matter what surface the film is bonded to.</li> </ul> </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">The new loudspeaker simplifies the speaker design by using a thin film of a shaped <a href="https://sciencing.com/piezoelectric-materials-8251088.html">piezoelectric material </a>that moves when voltage is applied over it, which moves the air above it and generates sound.</li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Most thin-film loudspeakers are designed to be freestanding because the film must bend freely to produce sound. <ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">If the thin speaker needs to be bound to a surface that would impede the sound generation process.</li> <li style="font-weight:400;">To overcome this problem , their design relies on tiny domes on a thin layer of piezoelectric material which each vibrate individually. </li> </ul> </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">The researchers pioneered a deceptively simple fabrication technique, which requires only three basic steps and can be scaled up to produce ultrathin loudspeakers.</li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Lead author Jinchi Han talks on the process:<ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">“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”</li> </ul> </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">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. <ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">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. </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">At 10 kilohertz, the sound pressure level increased to 86 decibels, about the same volume level as city traffic.</li> </ul> </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Another cool feature of this thin speaker is it can be used effectively for ultrasound applications, like imaging.<ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">Because the tiny domes are vibrating, rather than the entire film, the loudspeaker has a high enough resonance frequency for ultrasound imaging </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">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.</li> </ul> </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">This device has many possible applications:<ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">Provide active noise cancellation in clamorous environments</li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Used for immersive entertainment, 3D audio</li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Well-suited for applications on smart devices where battery life is limited.</li> </ul> </li> </ul> <p> </p> <p><a href="https://newatlas.com/science/electronic-skin-eskin-touch-sense-hairs/">Electronic skin uses tiny magnetic hairs to sense touch</a> | New Atlas  (13:04)</p> <ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">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!</li> <li style="font-weight:400;">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.<ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">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. </li> </ul> </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">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.</li> <li style="font-weight:400;">The breakthrough comes from mimicking an important but overlooked factor in the human sensation of touch – tiny hairs lining the skin.<ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">It contains a new type of sensor that makes it extra sensitive to touch. </li> </ul> </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">The scientists embedded tiny, magnetic hairs into an elastomeric material to make their e-skin.<ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">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.</li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Each of these roots is surrounded by a 3D magnetic sensor, allowing the exact position of the root to be tracked in real-time.</li> </ul> </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">The team says these magnetic sensors can be fabricated in bulk sheets fairly easily. <ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">Can self-fold into 3D boxes to house the hair roots, through a process known as <a href="https://physics.aps.org/story/v19/st11">micro-origami.</a> </li> </ul> </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Christian Becker, first author of the study, talks on this approach:<ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">“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.”</li> </ul> </li> </ul> <p> </p> <p><a href="https://interestingengineering.com/worlds-first-airport-flying-cars">The world's first airport for flying cars opens in the UK</a>  | Interesting Engineering (18:17)</p> <ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">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.<ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">Dubbed Air One, was completed in 15 months, including the planning and building of the airport. </li> </ul> </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">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.</li> <li style="font-weight:400;">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.</li> <li style="font-weight:400;">The airport can handle electric drones and air taxis and has collaborated with Hyundai's air mobility arm, <a href="https://supernal.aero/">Supernal</a>, to use a full-sized model of their SA-1 air taxi as a demonstrator. </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">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. </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">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. </li> </ul> <p> </p> <p><a href="https://scitechdaily.com/noninvasive-sound-technology-breaks-down-tumors-kills-cancer-cells-and-spurs-the-immune-system/">Noninvasive Sound Technology Breaks Down Tumors</a> | SciTechDaily (21:40)</p> <ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">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.<ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">Figuring out a way to fight it is on the mind of many researchers. </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">That’s where researchers at the University of Michigan come into play.</li> </ul> </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">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.<ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">The treatment, called histotripsy, noninvasively focuses ultrasound waves to mechanically destroy target tissue with millimeter precision. </li> </ul> </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">They provide microsecond long pulses from UM’s transducer to generate microbubbles within the targeted tissues—bubbles that rapidly expand and collapse. <ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">These violent but extremely localized mechanical stresses kill cancer cells and break up the tumor’s structure.</li> </ul> </li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Important to point out that this treatment technique works without the harmful side effects of current approaches such as radiation and chemotherapy.</li> <li style="font-weight:400;">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.</li> <li style="font-weight:400;">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.</li> <li style="font-weight:400;">Tejaswi Worlikar, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering, talks on the treatment: <ul> <li style="font-weight:400;">“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.”</li> </ul> </li> </ul> <p> </p>