Micromotors Powered by Bacteria

Researchers are using genetically engineered E. coli to power micromotors, with the swimming bacteria causing the motors to rotate in a similar fashion to a river rotating a watermill.

“Our design combines a high rotational speed with an enormous reduction in fluctuation when compared to previous attempts based on wild-type bacteria and flat structures,” says Roberto Di Leonardo, co-author of the new research. “We can produce large arrays of independently controlled rotors that use light as the ultimate energy source. These devices could serve one day as cheap and disposable actuators in microrobots for collecting and sorting individual cells inside miniaturized biomedical laboratories.”


Fitness trackerA new biosensor technology, commonly referred to as a “lab on a chip,” could monitor your health and alert you of exposure to bacteria, viruses, and pollutants.

“This is really important in the context of personalized medicine or personalized health monitoring,” says Mehdi Javanmard, co-author of the recently published work on the development. “Our technology enables true labs on chips. We’re talking about platforms the size of a USB flash drive or something that can be integrated onto an Apple Watch, for example, or a Fitbit.”

This from Rutgers University:

The technology, which involves electronically barcoding microparticles, giving them a bar code that identifies them, could be used to test for health and disease indicators, bacteria and viruses, along with air and other contaminants, says Javanmard, senior author of the study.

In recent decades, research on biomarkers—indicators of health and disease such as proteins or DNA molecules—has revealed the complex nature of the molecular mechanisms behind human disease. That has heightened the importance of testing bodily fluids for numerous biomarkers simultaneously, the study says.


According to a new report by IBM, consumers are taking cybersecurity issues seriously, with 56 percent stating that security and privacy will be a key factor in future vehicle purchasing decisions. This is leading automakers to take a hard look at potential points of exploitation, suspicious behavior, and response systems.

As technology advances, cars are becoming much more than just a mode of transportation. Stocked with sensors and computers, your vehicle acts as a kind of moving data center. With the rise of the Internet of Things, car technology is also being integrated with outside devices. While this seamless experience is beneficial in many ways for consumers, it also opens up vulnerabilities in technologies capable of being compromised and hacked.


By: Peter Byrley, University of California, Riverside

A smartphone touchscreen is an impressive piece of technology. It displays information and responds to a user’s touch. But as many people know, it’s easy to break key elements of the transparent, electrically conductive layers that make up even the sturdiest rigid touchscreen. If flexible smartphones, e-paper and a new generation of smart watches are to succeed, they can’t use existing touchscreen technology.

We’ll need to invent something new – something flexible and durable, in addition to being clear, lightweight, electrically responsive and inexpensive. Many researchers are pursuing potential options. As a graduate researcher at the University of California, Riverside, I’m part of a research group working to solve this challenge by weaving mesh layers out of microscopic strands of metal – building what we call metal nanowire networks.

These could form key components of new display systems; they could also make existing smartphones’ touchscreens even faster and easier to use.

The problem with indium tin oxide

A standard smartphone touchscreen has glass on the outside, on top of two layers of conductive material called indium tin oxide. These layers are very thin, transparent to light and conduct small amounts of electrical current. The display lies underneath.

When a person touches the screen, the pressure of their finger bends the glass very slightly, pushing the two layers of indium tin oxide closer together. In resistive touchscreens, that changes the electrical resistance of the layers; in capacitive touchscreens, the pressure creates an electrical circuit.


Access to clean drinking water remains an issues around the globe, with 663 million people lacking access to safe water sources. Current scientific methods that work to remove small and diluted pollutants from water tend to be either energy or chemical intensive. New research from a team at MIT provides insight into a new process of removing even extremely low levels of unwanted compounds.

This from MIT:

The system uses a novel method, relying on an electrochemical process to selectively remove organic contaminants such as pesticides, chemical waste products, and pharmaceuticals, even when these are present in small yet dangerous concentrations. The approach also addresses key limitations of conventional electrochemical separation methods, such as acidity fluctuations and losses in performance that can happen as a result of competing surface reactions.


Researchers have created a flexible electronic device that can easily degrade just by adding a weak acid like vinegar.

“In my group, we have been trying to mimic the function of human skin to think about how to develop future electronic devices,” says Stanford University engineer Zhenan Bao.

She described how skin is stretchable, self-healable, and also biodegradable—an attractive list of characteristics for electronics. “We have achieved the first two [flexible and self-healing], so the biodegradability was something we wanted to tackle.”

A United Nations Environment Program report found that almost 50 million tons of electronic waste were thrown out in 2017—more than 20 percent higher than waste in 2015.

“This is the first example of a semiconductive polymer that can decompose,” says lead author Ting Lei, a postdoctoral fellow working with Bao.

In addition to the polymer—essentially a flexible, conductive plastic—the team developed a degradable electronic circuit and a new biodegradable substrate material for mounting the electrical components. This substrate supports the electrical components, flexing and molding to rough and smooth surfaces alike. When the electronic device is no longer needed, the whole thing can biodegrade into nontoxic components.


Exploring the possibilities of Gallium Oxide

SemiconductorSemiconductor materials make possible many of today’s technological advances, from handheld electronics to solar cells and even electric vehicles. Specifically, wide bandgap semiconductors have opened new opportunities in ultra-high power electronics applications for utility grid management, military radar systems, and smart grid technologies. In order for these emerging technologies to be successful, researchers are looking to develop materials that are stronger, faster, and more efficient than ever before.

“New materials are the cornerstone of innovation in technology since they allow improved performance and lead to new applications and markets,” says Stephen Pearton, ECS fellow and professor at the University of Florida. “The semiconductor industry has a long history of such innovation and Gallium Oxide (Ga2O3) is a promising new material to continue this trend.”

Pearton recently co-authored an open access Perspective article published in the ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology, “Opportunities and Future Directions for Ga2O3,” discussing the potential for Gallium Oxide to surpass conventional semiconductor materials, emphasizing its capability to handle extremely high power applications. ECS’s Perspective articles provide a platform for author’s to offer insight into emerging or established fields.


Water purificationAccess to adequate water and sanitation is a major obstacle that impacts nations across the globe. Currently 1 in 10 people – or 663 million – lack access to safe water. Due to the global water crisis, more than 1.5 billion people are affected by water-related diseases every year. However, many of those disease causing organisms could be removed from water with hydrogen peroxide, but production and distribution of hydrogen peroxide is a challenge in many parts of the world that struggle with this crisis.

Now, a team of researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have develop a small device that can produce hydrogen peroxide with a little help from renewable energy sources (i.e. conventional solar panels).

“The idea is to develop an electrochemical cell that generates hydrogen peroxide from oxygen and water on site, and then use that hydrogen peroxide in groundwater to oxidize organic contaminants that are harmful for humans to ingest,” says Chris Hahn, a SLAC scientist.


By: Chenfeng Ke, Dartmouth College

Nanomachines are tiny molecules – more than 10,000 lined up side by side would be narrower than the diameter of a human hair – that can move when they receive an external stimulus. They can already deliver medication within a body and serve as computer memories at the microscopic level. But as machines go, they haven’t been able to do much physical work – until now. The Conversation

My lab has used nano-sized building blocks to design a smart material that can perform work at a macroscopic scale, visible to the eye. A 3-D-printed lattice cube made out of polymer can lift 15 times its own weight – the equivalent of a human being lifting a car.

Nobel-winning roots are rotaxanes

The design of our new material is based on Nobel Prize-winning research that turned mechanically interlocked molecules into work-performing machines at nanoscale – things like molecular elevators and nanocars.

Rotaxanes are one of the most widely investigated of these molecules. These dumbbell-shaped molecules are capable of converting input energy – in the forms of light, heat or altered pH – into molecular movements. That’s how these kinds of molecular structures got the nickname “nanomachines.”


Sensors have become intertwined with our everyday life. From the cars to phones to medical devices, sensors are embedded in many of the technologies we consistently use.

However, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) accelerometers, which measure the rate of change in an object’s speed, can be tricked, according to a new study from the University of Michigan.

This from the University of Michigan:

Researchers used precisely tuned acoustic tones to deceive 15 different models of accelerometers into registering movement that never occurred. The approach served as a backdoor into the devices—enabling the researchers to control other aspects of the system.


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