Tuesday, December 29, 2015

College Life as an Environmental Engineer at UCONN

                Hello everyone, this is Dea! I currently go to UCONN as an environmental engineering major. This is a post on what is going on with me in college, hopefully it'll also give you all some piece of mind by giving some tips that may be able to help you on your college journey.  
                One of the first things that you'll do when you are accepted into a college is to pick your classes. Remember that if you are picking classes early enough, you design your schedule how you want it. One nice idea is to make a schedule for yourself where you won't have classes all of Friday or Monday, with no early morning classes. When I picked my classes, I just enrolled into the ones that were required and was lucky enough to have all of the first half of Monday free, only one class on Friday, and only one 8am class.  
                 Coming to UCONN is a great opportunity for someone who plans on becoming an environmental engineer as it's campus makes use of a lot of environmentally friendly technology, available for you to look into and see for yourself. Because UCONN has plans to continue on improving its sustainability, there are many opportunities to see environmental engineering put into practice right on campus.
                As an engineering major in UCONN, I am required to take a class that introduces you to engineering, ENGR1000. This is a class that is meant to introduce you to all kinds of engineering, but if you are already familiar, you can use it to acquaint yourself with what you are interested in. Near the end of the semester, you are able to attend tours or talks of your choosing that center around various  engineering majors. I was able to get a tour of UCONN's water treatment facility, which allowed for me to get a personal look at what environmental engineers with a focus on water treatment do for a living. This kind of thing is great, as it allows for you to see whether or not you will actually get to like what you claim to want to do as a job.
                 The college life may seem like one that takes a while to settle into, and as a result of that you may not want to involve yourself in extracurricular activities. However, I feel that it is better to dive right in, as the earlier you get involved with something the stronger your connections are with the organization in the long run. Getting involved also adds a nice extracurricular to put on your resume which you will be using to get jobs and internships. As for me, I went to info sessions for around nine extracurriculars, and attempted to stick with seven out of those nine. This sounds like a scheduling nightmare, putting several activities on top of classes, but it helped me find which activities I was willing to stick with. I ended up centering my focus on two organizations: the Environmental Committee in the UCONN Honors Council, and UconnPIRG. The deciding factor being that these were the organizations that could get plans in action on campus, and would allow for me to explore my interests in the environment outside of engineering.
                Now, as for a life outside of classes, if you are ever worried about not being able to find that group of people you fit in with, you don't need to worry. Along with the campus clubs you can join, there are many events you can attend. Go out to the events, and join the clubs that interest you, and you may be able to find the company you want to keep. That's it from me! Hopefully, some of this was helpful, and I wish you all peace of mind in your first steps on your college journey.   
~Dea Acorda

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Summer Lab Internship: Image processing of iron sucrose nanoparticles with ImageJ

July 3

I am excited to begin working with images of Iron Sucrose nanoparticles. I know that it is used to treat anemia/iron deficiency, but after reading and doing literary research, I know a lot more about it’s uses and the uses of nanoparticles in general. I am looking forward to learning more and working first hand with the images of nanoparticles. I also look forward to learning about the program ImageJ, I had not heard of it before my time here, but after reading about it I have noticed that it is extremely useful for research purposes.

July 10

Iron Sucrose is an iron oxyhydroxide core surrounded by a sucrose shell used in the treatment of iron deficiency and anemia. Currently, there is one brand dominating the market. The goal is to compare the brand-name iron sucrose to a generic version and look for similarities. We also want to make sure that the generic brand is reproducible by comparing them in batches. This is done by processing images taken with a Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) in ImageJ, a free and open-source image processing software. We use the particle analysis feature to obtain, accurate and consistent particle sizes, areas, axis, etc.

July 17

We used the following procedure to process our images:

Procedure for Processing Iron Sucrose Nanoparticle Images using ImageJ

  1. Starting with the raw grayscale image, apply a pre-processing filter of “Mean” at the intensity of 1.
  2. Apply a thresholding algorithm. We used one called “Triangle”.
  3. Using the particle analysis feature, select the options to view outlines and results.
  4. Save all of the images from steps 1 - 4.
  5. Rename and save the results. (They will save as an excel file.)
  6. In excel, record the average and standard deviation for the rectangular area, elliptical area, and minor/major axis.

July 24

The most challenging/frustrating part so far has been working with excel. I have never used excel prior to this internship, and in order to complete my tasks I had to learn how to navigate the system. However, I have learned that it is a very handy and useful tool that I will most likely have to use often in the future so I am glad that I have learned to use it.

July 31

So far, I have learned quite a lot about the concept of nanoparticles through primarily literary research. I learned about their uses, functions, and that they hold great importance in the future of medicine. I have also learned about the importance of using computers to analyze images of nanoparticles rather than doing manual measurements. Using computer software/programs instead of manual measurement usually yields better, more accurate, and consistent results.

August 7

The purpose of my project was to determine the best image processing procedure to create images that can be used to determine the size and general shape of each particle. That information could then be used to compare iron sucrose from different sources. Hopefully, my information will assist in proving that one source of iron sucrose is the same as another. This will potentially provide more options of iron sucrose for people. The procedure I have developed could also be used in the future on similar images.

August 14

I did not attend the MAYA conference.

August 21

I enjoyed my time in the lab working with graduate students and professors on a project that, to me, seemed important. I am a lot more interested in the scientific research process now than I was before. It may even be something I want to do in the future. This experience was very valuable for me and my future in the science field. On top of getting familiar with a lab setting, I was able to articulate scientific information in the form of a presentation to people with a lot more knowledge than me. I believe it is a good thing to not always be the smartest person in the room, working with people that had a significantly larger amount of knowledge and experience allowed me to learn something new every day. I am glad this program was a part of my summer and I enjoyed all the time I spent with the funny, friendly, and knowledgeable people in the lab.

Conclusions & Future Implications: Osuji Lab

As my four weeks came dwindling down, my mentor and I were able to conclude our studies and determine what states provided the most optimal results of ZnO nanorod growth. Through the variation of acetone concentration, revolutions per minutes of spin coating, and the growth temperature, we somewhat optimized conditions for unseeded brass substrates. The conditions necessary for the optimal growth on brass would be a 15% acetone concentration and an RPM of 2000 revolutions. We ultimately decided, however, that unseeded substrates do not provide adequate control of array morphology as was shown by the uncorrelated molecular weight nanorod diameter data. During the last week, we seeded brass substrates with the hydrolyzed zinc solution expecting that the layer would fill the scratches on the brass substrates. This method worked, and we achieved more uniform growth. Although this process does not eliminate the time-consuming seeding step, it does provide an alternative set of substrates that are cheaper than silicon.

Two future implications I’ve found are necessary for further optimization of our studies are:
  1. A Decrease in Substrate Roughness 
  2. ZnO Nanotube Array Formation Through Ethanol Reconstruction
A decrease in substrate roughness (including the absence of micro-scratches) will produce a better quality of arrays. Creating a forest of ZnO nanotubes would be an important expansion for the development in photovoltaic devices. Nanotubes exhibit nearly twice as much surface area as opposed to rod-like structures that are within similar dimensions.

Results: Osuji Lab

We tested the following variables for array optimization: Acetone Concentration in Growth Solution (%), Spin-Coat RPM (1750-2500), Growth Temperature (60-80), & Molecular Weight of Ps-b-P4VP block copolymer. My mentor and I had initial expectations before conducting each variable. We expected that an increase in acetone concentration would give us a larger areal density of rods. This is because the acetone swells the PS coronas, which allows more reactants to come into contact with the cores. We also understood that the micelle cores were made of P4VP polymer chains. The size of the P4VP cores is directly related to the nanorod diameter, meaning that as the molecular weight of the P4VP increases, the diameter will as well.

We attained the following results.

From our investigation, we were able to determine that 15% acetone concentration provided the best uniform growth of the four shown.

We also determined that 2000 RPM was a soundly speed at which the nanorods could be most uniform.

As you can see, there is no adequate growth pattern that is dependent on the molecular weight of the polymer.

As you increase the temperature, the aerial density increases and the rod diameter decreases.

Things Learned & Motivation: Osuji Lab

As with the completion of many tests and trial runs come results. These results helped distinguish which state certain variables should have been set at for optimal results. But, what are these results for? Why should we have an optimal array of nanorod arrays on brass nonetheless?

Inside: Photovoltaic Cell
Over the course of my first two weeks at my internship, I slowly began to understand the worth of our results. By finding stable variants, we could take these optimized arrays and apply them to important devices. One specific device I learned about was “Hybrid Nanocomposite Photovoltaics”. Photovoltaics are devices used to convert sunlight directly into electricity. We want to make these devices more efficient with our research. Photovoltaic efficiency is directly related to the amount of interface contact between the polymer and the semiconductor. When you excite the polymer layer, the first particles from the layer become dipole-induced and expand to about ten nanometers. This length is known as an exciton diffusion length. The semiconductor collects these excitons. By nano-forming these electrodes we can increase the surface area of interface contact. We want to optimize the surface area, keeping in mind that the space between the nanorods cannot be too small. Otherwise, the polymer will not be able to fit in between the rods. For these reasons, I realized that it is important to systematically control the diameter and spacing between the ZnO nanorods for this specific application.

Challenges & Frustrations: Osuji Lab

When you pose a research question and conduct an experiment, you always want to find some sort of result that is in favor of your hypothesis. You’re not always going to find the results you want when you conduct your experiments due to a variety of reasons, however. Human error, substrate wear-and-tear, and chemical inconsistencies are just a few reasons.

The internship I experienced was founded on top of a single research topic, “Optimal Growth of ZnO Nanorods on Brass”. We were given a single procedure that was tailored for silicon substrates, a couple research papers, and the liberty of testing any variable we deemed fit for optimal array growth. With this liberty, however, came good and bad consequences. Valeria and I were able to learn from these consequences—nonetheless being disappointed by bad results. Changing the acetone percentage in the growth solution bore great results! We were able to determine that 15% acetone concentration was the best level for nanorod growth.

Changing the molecular weight of the PS-b-P4VP block copolymer didn’t produce the quality results we assumed would occur. Theoretically, the micelle cores are comprised on P4VP polymer chains. This means that the size of the P4VP cores is directly related to the nanorod diameter. This relation would mean that as the molecular weight of the P4VP increases, the diameter would increase as well. When we characterized our nanorods for each molecular weight state (235K/23, 41K/24K, 15K/7K), we saw no adequate growth pattern that was dependent on the molecular weight of the polymer. Another important frustration was the difference in uniformity between brass and silicon substrates. No matter how optimized we could make unseeded ZnO nanorod arrays on brass look, the arrays were never going to be as uniform as the silicon substrates.

Procedures: Osuji Lab

During the course of my four weeks, we tested the following variables for array optimization: Acetone Concentration in Growth Solution (%), Spin-Coat Rotations Per Minute (1750-2500 RPM), Growth Temperature (60-80 Degrees Celsius), & Molecular Weight of Ps-b-P4VP block copolymer.

© Candice Pelligra, Osuji Lab

In order to prepare for the experimental process, brass substrates were sonicated in a water-soap, ethanol, and acetone solution-each state for 15 minutes. Afterwards, the substrates were UV irradiated for further elimination of organic contaminants.

About 4 mL of micelle solution are coated above the brass substrate by spin coater revolving from ranges 1750 RPM to 2500 RPM. By adjusting the solution concentration and spin speed, we achieve a block copolymer monolayer. The machine used to spin-coat our substrates is called the “WS-650-23 Spin Coater”.

The spin-casted substrate was then placed in a growth solution containing hexamethylenetetramine (HMTA) and zinc acetate dihydrate dissolved in deionized water and acetone. The vial was sealed and then placed in a water bath that was variably heated at 60, 70, 75, and 80 degrees Celsius between 15, 20, and 30-minute increments. The final step before rod characterization was a water and ethanol cleansing, each done for 45 seconds. In order to later characterize our nanorod at high resolutions, we took our substrate samples to the Hitachi SU-70 SEM machine.

Research Summary: Osuji Internship

The current approaches to controlling the geometry of nano-arrays are nanoimprint lithography and unconstrained hydrothermal growth. Nanoimprint lithography is when a polymer imprint is used to form nanoscale patterns that are later cured by UV radiation. This procedure is not suitable for scaling, because it is expensive. Unconstrained hydrothermal growth is another method. Despite many developments in ZnO seed-layer thicknesses, precursor concentrations, and chemical etching treatments, this specific growth does not provide adequate control over the morphology of nanorod arrays.

The approach that we’ve been using to systematically customize ZnO nanorod arrays is the self-assembly of block copolymer chains. When two incompatible monomers are chemically linked, a block copolymer forms. Due to the homopolymers in the chains and their separation response, the block copolymers phase-separate into nanoscale microdomains. The following microdomains covered are spherical (s), cylindrical (c), gyroidal (g), and lamellar (l). For this particular method, the BCP PS-b-P4VP is used at ratios that form spherical microdomains. The solution used creates P4VP micelles that are surrounded by a corona of PS chains. The block copolymer is dissolved in toluene, which is a strongly selective solvent for polystyrene (PS).

The polymer polystyrene-b-poly-4-vinylpyridine (PS-b-P4VP) is amphiphilic (partially hydrophobic, partially hydrophilic), allowing for the selective permeation (penetration through a solid) of aqueous reactants in the growth solution. As shown in the image, aqueous reactants permeate through P4VP micellar bodies to react with the substrate and form rods. The addition of acetone to the hydrothermal growth solution swells PS chains that surround the P4VP cores enough to allow the aqueous reactions to reach the depth at which the micelles are located.

A procedure that controls nanorod synthesis through block copolymer self-assembly has already been created for silicon-seeded substrates. Rather than using silicon, my research involved ZnO rod growth on top of brass substrates. Brass is an alloy of zinc and copper. This means that the growth procedure for these substrates would not require Zinc seeding, which would speed up the process. Brass substrates are also cheaper, making the procedure more scalable.

First Impressions: Osuji Internship

Good evening, everyone.

My name is Sofia Azmal, and I’m a rising high schooler who was given the opportunity to work inside the Osuji Lab. didn’t have any high expectations coming into my internship, because I wanted a fresh template to work off of. If my expectations were too high, I would just disappointment myself. Rather than visualizing my future, I focused on the “now” and found myself in a wonderful intern position. Past experiences from EVO goers were misleading. I’d heard some were scrubbing mud off of fossils, while others categorized and filed papers. I never assumed that my work would just be “cleaning up the office space”, but I also didn’t have expectations that would put me into a critical position in the lab. When I first arrived, other in the lab greeted me with questionable expressions—nonetheless with “Hellos”. The days following that first meet were simple, my mentor and I were given a research question to investigate for us. The Osuji lab was our oyster to cultivate this project, and we began testing different variables that would lead to the most optimal zinc-oxide nanorod arrays on brass. On paper, the project seemed like a difficult synthesis that focused on the development of block-copolymer self assembly. I realized during my first week that this wasn’t the case. The concepts were simple to understand with a little explanation. Rather than a jumbled mess of chemical phrases, I understood my mission in the lab for the next month.

My mission was to control the geometry of ZnO nanorods on brass substrates with the use of block copolymer self-assembly.

Overseas in the Phillipines

A team of aspiring green engineers from UPD (University of Philippines Diliman) have developed a low-cost dam that will primarily prevent flooding, generate electricity, and aid food/water shortages.

The Gaia dam was designed to have the ability to prevent flooding from torrential rains on farms and to reroute river flows in coastal areas for sea concentration leveling. The dam’s constructural frame is composed of gabion structures, which are wire mesh baskets stabilized by recycled concrete-rock columns. This stabilization is necessary to combat hydrostatic forces pushing upwards through the dam.

Internally, the dam has additional cleansing systems. Proprietary enzymes and proteins are located inside the dam’s recycled concrete-rock columns. The benefit of having proteins located in the columns’ specialized core is for farm irrigation. The water flowing through the Gaia dam will later flow to crops; due to the additional proteins located in the water, nutrients and minerals are absorbed fluidly. Additional enzymes located in the water help dissolve insect exoskeletons and other pests that are detrimental to crop growth.

Cost-wise, the Gaia dam is a valuable structure. Similar to the likes of a hydroelectric power plant, the Gaia has the ability to divert water into a turbine powerhouse. The difference is that the dam can do so at a significantly lower cost than standard concrete dams.

What are your thoughts on the Gaia dam? Should the Philippines incorporate more of these structural dams throughout their nation?

For more information, visit: http://tiny.cc/vr8uzx

Chameleon Clothes

Just recently, nanoscientist Debashis Chanda developed a new technique that is the world’s first full-color, flexible thin-film reflective display. Furthermore, these etched displays can be embedded onto a variety of surfaces including fabrics.

As with many brilliant inventions, Chanda’s research utilized biomimicry techniques. Specially, his peculiar questions were often inspired by local nature. Animals such as chameleons, octopuses, and squids are born with simplistic structures that allow flexibility and color-adaptivity. What exactly powers these animal aesthetics, however? External aesthetics such as color adaptivity for chameleons and squids aren’t powered by any light source. It is their skin that controls this alternating behaviour. Alternative skin displays on animals such as the octopus are what has inspired Chanda’s research on creating a skin-like display.

Chanda’s new technique is able to change different colors on an ultrathin nanostructured surface through light refraction. Rather than needing a light source, the nanostructured surface reflects the ambient light around it. The nanostructured surface is composed of a fine liquid crystal layer placed over a metallic nanosubstrate. The physical shape can actually be compared to a microscopic egg carton. The following surface can absorb and reflect different light wavelengths depending on the frequency and the period. In order to generate the color adaptive display, liquid crystal molecules and metallic plasmon waves must interact. This interaction converts the adaptive surface from a polarization-dependent state to a polarization-independent state.

The application of this technique can potentially make a big impact on a variety of categories that won’t solely be focused on fabric implementation. The potential for this technique can be placed on a wide spectrum that can and will entertain many people across the globe.

Read more at: http://tiny.cc/lx5uzx

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Darpa Robotics Challenge Results

This weekend, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) held their Robotics Challenge finals. The event was a fantastic display of the high-tech robots that are being developed to aid in emergency operations. In the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, humans could not safely access important areas to perform tasks that would slow or stop the destruction of the plant. Robots were used to a small extent, but were not quite up to challenge of saving the plant. Afterwards, Darpa designed this challenge with Fukushima and similar situations in mind. Robots had to drive a car, open a door, turn a valve, operate a drill, and perform other tasks, all in under an hour. All robots had to be wireless, meaning they carried their own power in a battery, and communication was remote and also imperfect--just like in a real emergency situation. The winner, Team Kaist from South Korea, was awarded a $2 million grand prize to continue development. In the future, these impressive humanoid robots may have what it takes to stop disasters in progress, rescue humans from burning buildings, and go anywhere else where man cannot safely go.

See for more:http://www.wsj.com/video/robots-compete-in-2015-darpa-robotics-challenge/A0B2DF40-D923-471C-B679-06E5FD6F8264.html

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dissolvable Surgical Clips

Dissolvable Surgical Clips

Standard surgical clips can be a cause of many complications during and after surgical procedures. Most surgical clips are usually made from titanium and as many as thirty to forty of them could be used in any one procedure. However, the Division of Mechanics and Physics of Materials at the Kobe University Graduate School of Engineering has collaborated with the Division of Hepato-Biliary-Pancreatic Surgery at the Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine to create a completely safe and dissolvable version of the surgical clip.
The big issue with standard surgical clips used today is that they remain inside the patient’s body after the wounds are healed. The clips left behind lead to lesser quality CT and MRI images around the wound and can cause other complications. The new clip designed at Kobe University is 5 mm and created from a magnesium alloy. It is also dissolvable and will be absorbed by the patient’s body after a certain amount of time.
Evaluations show that these newly designed clips dissolve while creating very little gas and and causes no inflammation of the surrounding tissue. This means that these clips can be used without very harmful effects. The studies has also shown that the clip will most likely dissolve and exit the body over the course of one year.
The new surgical clip designed by Kobe University is a promising solution for future procedures.

Friday, May 22, 2015

UAV for the Nepali

The Nepal quake happened in one of the world’s most active seismic zones. That is the trans-global mountain belt that stretches from the Pyrenees and through Alps forested ranges. This forcible meet of the two tectonic plates has caused of quake with a 7.9 magnitude, which struck the mountain nation of Nepal on Saturday, April 25th.

There are general warning systems used in place to identify the magnitude of quakes such as the seismograph; a device used to accurately record the vibrations of the ground during the quake. Drones, however, will play an interesting part in international responses to the disaster.

Nepali citizens are currently suffering from lack of available helicopters due to questionable media coverage. With the help of these camera-bearing machines, responders hope to utilize unused helicopters for rescue missions as drones are used for damage mapping updates. Drones used during this disaster are being equipped with UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) technology. This makes these devices all the more necessary to use versus ground surveys (Seismographs), aircrafts, and satellite imagery.  

These drone-driven UAVs can cover 5 to 10 km2 in a few hours at high resolution values. Aerial imagery captured by these UAVs provides large collections of photographs that are processed to create a 3D model of the Nepali terrain. These detailed models are beneficial to response groups when determining local points for rescue missions.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Brain-like Computing

Brain-like Computing

Man-made computers are very impressive in their own right; however, the most efficient computer possible already exists and that is the human brain. It adapts without programming or updates, is speedy, and has nearly infinite memory. Computer scientists around the globe wish to mimic these abilities in physical technology.
Researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois are a few steps closer to making brain-like computing a reality. The team completed work on memristors. Memristors are resistors in a circuit that can “remember” how much current has flowed through them. A researcher at the university says that memristors are stable and can remember their state even when power is lost. However, the team did run into a problem when implementing the memristors. Since they are two-terminal electronic devices, they can only control one voltage channel. Researchers at Northwestern wanted to change it into a three-terminal device which could be used in more complex systems. To do so, the team used a two-dimensional nanomaterial semiconductor called single-layer molybdenum disulfide (MoS2). By using this material, they were able to create a three-terminal device that can be adjusted.
"With a memristor that can be tuned with a third electrode, we have the possibility to realize a function you could not previously achieve," Hersam said, "A three-terminal memristor has been proposed as a means of realizing brain-like computing. We are now actively exploring this possibility in the laboratory."

Recent meeting update

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with the juniors, which I found to be both a teaching and a learning experience. I was glad to pass on some of the things I learned in the last summer about lab work and research--and this advice will likely come in handy to this summer's interns. It was also an honor to present my research poster once again and discuss some engineering careers that I learned about in the past year and that we as a group are interested in. Overall, it is exciting to see that some EVO members are going to be lucky enough to have the same awesome experiences that I had last summer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Jackie, the indoor drone

Jackie is the name of a new drone designed for indoor use.  The design is a modified Crazflie copter with video that links to an app on your smartphone.  The designers posed possible uses such as checking if you locked the front door, monitoring and talking to pets, and home security.  Because we all have so much to think about every day, Jackie is like an assistant that can patrol the house and ease our minds when we are away.  The designers envision other uses as well; from security in storage facilities to maintenance checks, Jackie would be very useful especially in remote areas or places that people do not access regularly.  The group that designed the drone is currently raising funds on Kickstarter.

Friday, April 10, 2015

“Recycling” Fracking Wells

“Geothermal Engineering”, a Cornwall European company, innovated a peculiar idea. This idea is to recycled previously used and exhausted fracking (hydraulic fracturing wells) harvested from oil and gas industries as a geothermal power source. The company will be specifically used old wells drilled by “Cuadrilla”, a fracking company. Recent notes have called for a systematic design where the fracking wells will potentially deliver both shale gas and a ‘renewable’ geothermal heat.

Newly established geothermal plants have relatively high foundation costs. This approach at utilizing previously drilled wells for innovative purposed could provide a more economic approach to implementing this clean energy source. The managing director of the company, Ryan Law, mentioned that the program could bore positive results. “The possibility of using existing wells enables us to not only deliver renewable geothermal heat at a much lower cost but also to recycle wells that would otherwise be wasted”, stated by Law.  These results could effect the reduction of costs associated with geothermal projects.

So, what do you think? Should we utilizing a destructive practice (Fracking) in a positive way? Or terminate the practice entirely?

Read more at this article: http://tiny.cc/kx4mwx

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Light: now one step closer to replacing electricity in the transportation of information

Current technology utilizes the movement of electrons to carry information through many of the things that we take for granted, such as computers and television. In an effort to carry information at a faster rate, we've replaced electricity with beams of light, which move thousands of times faster due to the fact that there is no longer any need to deal with natural resistance caused by wires.
The problem with light is that it cannot easily change direction without it being weakened or distorted, which can cause a loss in the transmitted information. Altering the light's path without such consequences requires a gradual turn, which is inefficient for practical use in today's small devices. However, thanks to researchers at the University of Texas El Paso and the University of Central Florida, advancements in nanotechnology have overcome that hurdle.
The device they use to achieve such a feat is a plastic device smaller than a bee's stinger. It is a lattice structure shaped in such a way that light that enters it can be guided around corners without any loss of energy, allowing for the optical transmission of data in small, possibly handheld, devices.
Scientists invent new way to control light, critical for next gen of super fast computing
These kind of components may one day be used in our laptops, cellphones, and other everyday devices that require the transmission of information. For now, the team of researchers that created this device are looking to improve it, seeking a way to make light beams take sharper turns in less space.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Repairing Damaged Nerves via 3D Printing

In cases with traumatic injuries casualties are susceptible to damaged nerves. What that means is that the 3 types of nerves you have in you body, the autonomic, the motor , and the sensory nerves are unable to function as they were created. Damage to the nerves causes dysfunctions such as unable to control muscles and even losing sensation in the body part rendering you unable to feel pain in that area.

There are currently methods of repairing nerve endings which require suturing the nerve endings in surgery but results prove to be rather inefficient in producing desirable results for not only the patients but the doctors as well. What’s needed is a way to repair the nerves to restore function as close to the way the patient was prior to the injury. This is where the 3D printers come in.

Using their Nerve Guidance Conduit(NGC) on mouses, the Scientists at the University of Sheffield have successfully restored nerve function on a mouse. The scientists utilized a form of 3D printing called Computer Aided Design(CAD) in order to create unique nerves personalized to the patient being treated.The benefits of 3D printing are quite obvious, the modern technology permits clinicians to print exact models that encourages the self-repairing of nerves over time. Their experiments with the mouse concluded with the repair of a 3mm injury gab over the course of 21 days. All that is left is to conduct trials on a larger scale to see if the NGC works. This brings great potential in restoring nerve function to patients who no longer have them at the moment.

Learn more about nerve damage here: http://www.webmd.com/brain/nerve-pain-and-nerve-damage-symptoms-and-causes 

Click on the link below to read more on NGCs:

Written by: Josh Estores

Google Artificial Intelligence

Google's artificial intelligence, DeepMind, has figured out how to play and master a handful of Atari video games. Partnered with Oxford University, Google developed an AI unit capable of learning and bettering itself over time. ”with its algorithm can not only learn how to play computer games from scratch - but go on to ace them after a few hours of practice.” This self taught AI not is not only capable of learning from past mistakes, it also has the capability to develop new tactics based on them.  At first, the algorithm struggles to return the ball but, after a few hundred plays, it eventually learns the best strategy to beat the game: break a tunnel into the side of the brick wall and then aim the ball behind the wall.” This is one step forward for science as it shows that we can create more delicate robots implemented with artificial intelligence, capable of distinguishing right from wrong and that are able to perform more delicate tasks.


Written by: Jeff Almozar

A Minute's Charge

A tedious task most young adults face nowadays is having to charge their phones on the dial. In certain cases, this repeated charging session can happen more than once a day depending on the user. There is a plethora of different smart phone devices that have varying uses. Some of these uses can list from job-related tasks/quotas to daunting social media platforms (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat). While many devices have a battery interfaces that can last through the day, there are plenty of other devices that do not. Battery interfaces have become a hot issue for all smartphone makers alike. As communal productivity increases, the need for technology increases too. These smartphone makers are amidst the different options they can go into in terms of steady performance and task endurance. It wasn’t until later last year where a unique Israeli company showed potential in finding the solution to smartphone battery interfaces once and for all.

The StoreDot is a by-product of presumably unrelated research made by the nanotechnology department at the Tel Aviv University. While looking into the Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers discovered a peculiar peptide molecule that has high capacitance (ability to hold an electric charge). Batteries utilizing the peptide molecule absorb electric charges faster than previous smartphone batteries. Another aspect to look into is the battery’s capacity. Interestingly enough, the overall capacity for these peptide batteries are smaller. The current state of the StoreDot cannot be used in existing smartphones and tablets due to its low capacity. However, that doesn’t stop the StoreDot's company leaders from further developing their much-needed battery. The need for modification of these battery interfaces has been identified as well. The company had already discussed the future of utilizing the StoreDot in future smartphone contenders with more than fifteen different smartphone makers. Of these makers, one of two companies hopes to use of this technology in future device by the Christmas of year 2016.

With the addition of the battery alone, the company needs to create a special charger and handset component that can easily sync into the fast-charging feature the peptide battery StoreDot has. The addition of these select pieces can cause the phone’s cost to increase. This increase would be approximately $50 USD. It was suggested, by the company, that many buyers would not mind paying the additional fees necessary for a strong battery charge. This poses a question: Who would not be willing to switch?

Read more at: http://tiny.cc/p35mux

Written by: Sofia Azmal

Car and Vehicle Safety Programming

The partial control or autonomy of vehicles is pretty prevalent today and we know these features as co-piloting in planes or cruising in cars. Google, one of the leading search engines, is working on a prototype of a car that does not require a steering wheel. Their aim is to create a driverless car in which technology is in control. Safety programming is involved when we do hand over our control to technology. The company has to take into consideration the factors that apply such as human interaction. This is what the Professor Zilberstein from University of Massachusetts Amherst tries to do. He obtains the elements of human behavior and encodes them into computer programs that the technology can read. An experiment Professor Zilberstein conducted involved semi-autonomous cars with drivers with varying levels of fatigue. In this scenario he utilized an algorithm that he created which favored roads that let the vehicle drive autonomously when the control is transferred from the man to the car. His algorithm gave drivers a better sense of safety because the vehicle would avoid roads like highways as they were fatigued. Acting with the support of The National Science Foundation, Zilberstein along with several AI researchers hope to further advance the studies of smart technology as they already integrate themselves into our societies. Studies such as this put to use decades worth of efforts and labor making changes in the world more prominent.


Written by: Josh Estores

3D Printed Concept Car

3D printing is the seemingly magical process of making physical objects from three-dimensional computer models. You can design and produce almost anything through 3D printing and students at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have even built urban solar electric cars. They have designed a car with an innovative body shell consisting of 150 parts using a 3D printer called the NV(8) which will race in the Urban Concept category at this year’s Shell Eco-marathon Asia which focuses on creating a prototype that is both fuel-efficient and road-worthy. The competition challenges students to build a vehicle that can travel the furthest distance while using the least amount of energy. The students at NTU have also built the NV(9), a three-wheeled racer that can execute sharp turns with little speed loss due to its motorcycle racing inspired tilting ability.
These two cars were built over the span of a year with the goal of highest fuel efficiency. The students built these cars from scratch and faced a couple of difficulties. One of which was the assembly of the cars. The shell of the car was produced in different pieces by a number of 3D printers at the university and other sponsor companies. Creations like this really put into perspective just how revolutionary 3D printing will be.

Written by: Imari Clement

Gimball: Is it SUPPOSED to crash?

There has been astounding, technological progress in terms of vehicles and drones sensing, avoiding, and navigating around sects of obstacles. A new innovation has recently sprung up, which does the exact opposite: This mechanism intentionally collides with obstacles. Swiss company called ‘Flyability’ has recently proposed a novel-like product: The Gimball. The Gimball is a drone consisting of two rotors placed dead-center of a meshed, soft globe. The meshed, outer fractal interchanges in independent motions when compared to the nucleic drone in the center. Due to this independent rotation, the drone is able to bounce off a platitude of different obstacles, while maintaining it’s altitude. This independent rotation is quite unique, because the Gimball actually uses the collision between different materials as a navigating push. When the drone is given a specific endpoint location, it will roll along and steer way off of ceilings and walls in order to find a manageable path towards the endpoint.

In the words of Adrien Briod ( Flyability’s co-founder and CTO), “The goal of this flying robot is to reproduce the amazing capabilities of insects”. Utilizing the term of biomimicry (The design/production of materials modeled after the movements of biological entities), the company hopes to utilize the internal structure of insects that is able to collide into things naturally and continue to fly undamaged when descending.

The company envisions the drone “Gimball” for dangerous indoor situations that need third-party assistance. Some of these situations could be fire, chemical leaks, or nuclear meltdowns. In case of high-danger emergencies, a “Gimball” mechanism can be deployed in order to search and locate any potential survivors, or to determine whether or not going into a particular environment is too dangerous for a human to intervene. I have to say, this little drone can end up making a huge difference for safety precautions in the near future.

Read More At: http://tiny.cc/a1m4tx

Written by: Sofia Azmal

The Blind's Insight on the Brain

Can the blind see? From years before the 21st Century it would've been a ridiculous statement to even ponder upon. However, the technology today permits the unbelievable to happen. Just as the bionic eye allows a man to see through the conversion of images into electrical pulses, the Sensory Substitution Device (SSD), used in the Amedi Lab in the Hebrew University, does the same by converting other senses, such as the sense of feelings and hearings into images that the blind can view.

With practice, the blind would have the opportunity to read words. The discovery led to a question of whether the sudden implementation of sight via a foreign source such as the SSD, would stimulate the same areas in the brain reserved for reading texts for a blind as it does for a normal person. Scientists immediately got to uncovering the problem by using fMRIs to study the brains of the blind people as they utilize the SSD to identify objects through other means like hearing. Scientists discovered that instead of vision identifying the letters, it is actually the responsibility of specialized compartments in the brain that interprets  the recognition of letters.


Written by: Josh Estores 

The Apple Watch

The multi-billion dollars company, Apple, managed to surprise us once more. The creators of the IPhone introduced their latest technology, said to be released sometimes this year, the Apple Watch. They worked on keeping the retro usage of a watch, with the crown which in old watches were meant to set the time and date,  while focusing on making the device as technologically advanced as possible. “Every new product we’ve introduced has been defined by a unique input device. With Apple Watch, it’s the Digital Crown.”  They worked on keeping a mechanical use for retro lovers, while implementing new usage for it. Instead of the Crown adjusting the date and time, the Crown now scroll up and down to select different functions with the watch itself, zooming in and out, or going straight to the home screen.
Next, because it is connected to your IPhone, the Apple Watch can be used to keep up with schedule, Emails, messages, notifications, and more. It makes the need for checking your phone every 5 seconds futile. It also has a very convenient and updated  new and improved Siri on the go, Siri is now closer than ever. Simply raise your hand and greet Siri or press and hold the Digital Crown and you can get step by step directions. The Apple watch is set to keep the company’s legacy; better technology in a smaller device.

Written by: Jeff Almozar

Measuring How Birds Take Flight

Measuring How Birds Take Flight

Understanding exactly how birds lift off has proven to be difficult for scientists. However, engineers at Stanford have created a device that can precisely and humanely measure the forces generated by a bird’s wings during flight. The work can provide the answer to the many mysteries of how birds take flight. These answers can even aid in the design of innovative and more efficient unmanned aerial vehicles, such as drones. The measurements of the lift forces of birds in free flight has been attempted many times before, with every technique producing uncertain results. Many of the techniques considered are inhumane to the birds being tested, including one technique where a laser is required for measurement. However, this new device allows the birds to fly freely in a nice environment and still provide clean and precise data. It features highly sensitive force sensors located on the bottom of a box the shape and size of a large birdcage with two perches inside. When the bird flies from each perch, the beat of its wings pushes against the air, which then pushes against the bottom of the box and sucks down the ceiling slightly.These forces are recorded and provide a precise measurement for each stroke of the bird’s wings, with the sensors taking a measurement every 1 millisecond. The system is so sensitive that the air conditioning in the lab has to be turned off to avoid the vibrations from the ventilation system being recorded. They have tested the device with two parrots and have already gotten interesting results. They have discovered that, during their downwards stroke, birds produce life equal to two times their body weight, while producing virtually no lift on their upwards stroke. This new device has made it possible to effectively understand how animals fly which can improve designs for drones and get instant and certain feedback.

Written by: Imari Clement