The Nano Electromechanical “Squitch”

A MIT graduate student is changing the landscape of electromechanical switches.

Farnaz Niroui, an electrical engineering graduate student at MIT, has developed a squeezable nano electrochemical switch with quantum tunneling functions. Her development combats the longstanding problem of the switch locking in an “on” position due to metal-to-metal contacts sticking together.

The challenge of this permanent adhesion is called stiction, which often results in device failure. Niroui looks to solve this issue by creating electrodes with nanometer-thin separators.

She has effectively turned stiction from a problem into a solution.

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Nanoscale Microscopy

The microscope they developed produces x-ray images by scanning a sample while collecting various x-ray signals emerging from the sample.Image: Brookhaven National Laboratory

The microscope they developed produces x-ray images by scanning a sample while collecting various x-ray signals emerging from the sample.
Image: Brookhaven National Laboratory

Researchers have developed a new x-ray microscope that will provide scientists with the opportunity to image nanostructures and chemical reactions down to the nanometer.

The new class of x-ray microscope allows for nanoscale imagining like never before. This development brings researchers one step closer to the ultimate goal of nanometer resolution.

This from Brookhaven National Laboratory:

The microscope manipulates novel nanofocusing optics called multilayer Laue lenses (MLL) — incredibly precise lenses grown one atomic layer at a time — which produce a tiny x-ray beam that is currently about 10 nanometers in size. Focusing an x-ray beam to that level means being able to see the structures on that length scale, whether they are proteins in a biological sample, or the inner workings of a fuel cell catalyst.

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Graphene Fights Cancer

Graphene oxide is stable in water and has shown potential in biomedical applications.Image: Oncotarget

Graphene oxide is stable in water and has shown potential in biomedical applications.
Image: Oncotarget

They don’t call it the wonder material for nothing. Since its inception, graphene has shown an amazing array of possibilities – from its potential in renewable resources to its ability to revolutionize electronics. Now, it may even be able to aid in the fight against cancer.

Scientists at the University of Manchester have used graphene to target and neutralize cancer stem cells without harming non-cancerous cells. By taking a modified form of graphene called graphene oxide, the researchers have discovered a quality in the material that acts as an anti-cancer agent that selectively targets cancer stem cells.

The graphene oxide formulations show the potential to treat a broad range of cancers with non-toxic material, including: breast, pancreatic, lung, brain, ovarian, and prostate cancer. The scientist state that if the new treatment were to be combined with existing treatment, it could eventually lead to tumor shrinkage as well as stop the spread of cancer and its reassurance after treatment.

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Electrocatalyst to Make Breathing Easy in Space

The new system aims to provide oxygen for long-duration space flights.Image: University of Delaware

The new system aims to provide oxygen for long-duration space flights.
Image: University of Delaware

Neil deGrasse Tyson once said, “Space exploration is a force of nature unto itself that no other force in society can rival.” Unfortunately, there are many factors that stifle human space exploration – one of which is the lack of oxygen.

How people will breathe is a constant concern among space missions. It’s impossible to shuttle oxygen tanks out and the air recycling systems are only about 50 percent efficient when it comes to recovering oxygen from carbon dioxide – but now a new development could mean easy breathing in space.

Research on a discovery from January 2014 is being expanded to develop silver electrocatalysts that may help enable long-term space travel. The original paper, “A selective and efficient electrocatalyst for carbon dioxide reduction,” detailed a development from scientists at the University of Delaware of a silver electrocatalyst that, due to its nanoscale structure, could convert carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide with 92 percent efficiency – freeing the oxygen in the process.

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New Approach to Molecular Catalysts

Using a desktop computer, scientists can query the model about the thermodynamic properties needed to create the desired catalysts. They can use those parameters to inform experimentalists in their synthetic work.Image: Accounts of Chemical Research

Using a desktop computer, scientists can query the model about the thermodynamic properties needed to create the desired catalysts. They can use those parameters to inform experimentalists in their synthetic work.
Image: Accounts of Chemical Research

We’re one step closer to transitioning renewable energy sources from intermittent to sustainable with this new development from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Scientists are eliminating all of the unnecessary detours when dealing with molecular catalysts by elaborating on a strategy to map the catalytic route. With this strategy, researchers can modify just one part of a catalyst and see how that affects everything – including all the side reactions.

“We now know how catalysts with desired properties will behave in a given circumstance before we ever leave the computer. By working backwards, we can even ask which catalysts are the best performers for a set of conditions. We are on the verge of designing molecular electrocatalysts in silico — or conducting research by means of computer modeling,” said study co-leader, Dr. Simone Raugei.

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Google Celebrates Electrochemistry

In honor of Alessandro Volta’s 270th birthday, Google is celebrating the man best known for inventing the first battery with today’s Google Doodle.

While Volta was a trained physicist, many consider him to be the first great electrochemist. By inventing the first battery, which he called the electric “pile”, he established the starting point of electrochemical science and technology with the first notable electrochemical storage device.

The turning point for Volta’s development of the battery came in 1780, when his collaborator Luigi Galvani discovered that the contact of two different metals with the muscle of a frog leg resulted in the generation of electric current.

Volta respectfully disagreed with Luigi’s theory that animal tissue was essential in the creation of electricity, arguing that the frog legs served only as an electroscope and further suggested that the true source of stimulation was the contact between dissimilar metals. With this theory, he began experimenting with metals alone in 1794.

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Controlling Car Pollution at the Quantum Level

Toyota Central R&D Labs in Japan have reviewed research that might be leading the way towards a new generation of automotive catalytic converters.Image: Bertel Schmitt/CC

Toyota Central R&D Labs in Japan have reviewed research that might be leading the way towards a new generation of automotive catalytic converters.
Image: Bertel Schmitt/CC

Soon we may be able to better control pollution created by cars at the quantum level.

Researchers from the Toyota Central R&D Labs are conducting research that may lead toward a new generation of automotive catalytic converters.

The new catalytic converters differ from the typical toxic fuel filtering systems due to the new catalyst’s focus on metal clusters, which allows it to be controlled at the quantum-level.

“We can expect an extreme reduction of precious metal using in automotive exhaust catalysts and/or fuel cells,” says Dr. Yoshihide Wantanabe, chief researcher at the Toyota Central R&D Labs in Japan.

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The nanotubes can be tumor-targeted and have a central 'hollow' core that can be loaded with a therapeutic payload.Image: Jing Claussen (iThera Medical, Germany)

The nanotubes can be tumor-targeted and have a central ‘hollow’ core that can be loaded with a therapeutic payload.
Image: Jing Claussen (iThera Medical, Germany)

Gold nanotubes have multiple applications in fighting cancer, including internal nanoprobes for high-resolution imaging and drug delivery vehicles. With new research from the University of Leeds, we’re discovering that these gold nanotubes may also be able to give doctors the chance to treat cancer as soon as they spot it.

“Gold nanotubes – that is, gold nanoparticles with tubular structures that resemble tiny drinking straws – have the potential to enhance the efficacy of these conventional treatments by integrating diagnosis and therapy in one single system,” said Professor at the University of Leeds Institute for Biomedical and Clinical Science Sunjie Ye in a release.

The new study shows the first successful demonstration of biomedical use of gold nanotubes in a mouse model of human cancer. The researchers hope that these results will aid in the treatment of cancer and address the issue of high recurrence rates of tumors after surgical removal.

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The Science of Love

Best-selling American author Julia Quinn once said, “Love works in mysterious ways.” Well, it turns out love isn’t quite as mysterious as we once thought.

With countries across the world celebrating Valentine’s Day on February 14th, we figured we’d take a look at the science behind romantic love.

However, the answer to the age old question, “What is love?” really comes down to what aspect of science you’re looking at. Here at ECS, we’re going to delve into the chemical reactions that occur to make a person feel sensations associated with love.

While the heart is the most common image associated with the idea of love, it’s really the brain that’s doing all the work. When we make a connection that falls along the path of romantic love, our brain releases a plethora of chemicals that cause us to experience excitement, euphoria, and bonding.

Chemicals such as adrenaline, norepinephrine, and dopamine are released in the early stages of love. Along with being able to see these chemicals at work on a brain scan, electrochemistry also offers us the option to track them and pick up patterns via sensors.

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Lab-on-a-Chip to Improve Clinical Diagnostics

The new method, which uses beads and microfluidics can change the way we study mixed populations of cells, such as those of tumors. Image: EPFL

The new method, which uses beads and microfluidics can change the way we study mixed populations of cells, such as those of tumors.
Image: EPFL

Scientist have developed a process that has the potential to make the study of tumor cells significantly more efficient.

They call it a “lab-on-a-chip,” and it’s allowing scientist to isolate single cells for study. The key here is in the difficulty that scientists typically face when attempting to study a single cell in a population. Due to factors such as variation of the isolated cell’s biochemistry and function, and technological and physical limitation dealing with size and fragility of the cells, studying at the single-cell level has always proven to be difficult.

In order to combat this issue, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) scientists have combined affinity beads with microfluidics to produce an integrated, highly sensitive method for studying single cells – which has the potential to be adopted into clinical diagnostics.

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