Recognizing Advances in the Biomedical Sciences

A mouse brain before and after it's been made transparent using CLARITY.Image: Kwanghun Chung and Karl Deisseroth, Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Stanford University

A mouse brain before and after it’s been made transparent using CLARITY.
Image: Kwanghun Chung and Karl Deisseroth, Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Stanford University

Researchers in the biomedical sciences, such as bioelectrochemistry and biomedical engineering, work every day to create new processes and technology that will better the lives of all. The scientific community is recognizing one expert – Karl Diesseroth – for his two innovative techniques that are now widely used to study Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and other brain disorders.

Disseroth has just been awarded the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences for his achievements in the advancement of brain research technology. Disseroth is the pioneer behind a process called CLARITY and the technique called optogenics. In case you missed them, here’s a brief recap:

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Electrochemistry Fights World Cancer

SA10519_WCD_Logo_4cCancer is among the leading causes of mortality worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 14 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer related deaths were recorded in 2012. If no major breakthroughs are made in the field, that number is expected to rise by 70 percent over the next two decades. In honor of World Cancer Day, we’re taking a look at a few ways electrochemical and solid state science aids in the fight against cancer.

Electrochemical Biosensing for Cancer Detection
By taking biopsy slices for colon cancer, researchers were able to use electrochemical biosensors to distinguish between cancerous and normal epithelial tissues. This development helped promote rapid cancer detection by eliminating pretreatment and providing results obtained within minutes of biopsy removal. Read the full paper here.

Polymer Based Sensors to Diagnose Breast Cancer
There are many issues that mammography faces, including the uncomfortableness of the screening and exposure to radiation. In order to solve this issues, electrochemical scientists developed an Electrical Impedance Tomography (EIT) system. This radiation-less technique aims to enhance early detection capabilities by generating a 3-D map of the breast. Read the full paper here.

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Voltage profiles of charge-discharge cycles of the Li/Li3PS4/S battery.Image: Journal of The Electrochemical Society

Voltage profiles of charge-discharge cycles of the Li/Li3PS4/S battery.
Image: Journal of The Electrochemical Society

A team from Japan’s Samsung R&D has worked in collaboration with researchers from the University of Rome to fabricate a novel all solid state Lithium-sulfur battery.

The paper has been recently published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society. (P.S. It’s Open Access! Read it here.)

The battery’s capacity is around 1,600 mAhg⁻¹, which denotes an initial charge-discharge Coulombic efficiency approaching 99 percent.

Additionally, the battery possesses such beneficial properties as the smooth stripping-deposition of lithium. In contrast to other Li-S cells, the new battery’s activation energy of the charge transfer process is much smaller.

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An Ever-Present Light (Bulb)

Centinnial Light Bulb

Lynn Owens, former chairman of the Centennial Light Bulb

Since 1901, just a year before The Electrochemical Society was founded, a light bulb was installed to bring light into a firehouse in Livermore, California. Back then, if a call came in for the firemen at night, they would have to dress, assemble their gear, and organize the hand water-trucks (no motorized firetrucks yet) in the dark. By adding what we now consider the simple light bulb, a fire station was much more readily able to handle emergencies. And that light bulb, now more than 113 years old, is still burning today.

This incandescent light bulb, invented by Adolphe A. Chaillet, was produced by the Shelby Electric Company. Originally giving off a glowing 60 watts, it now burns steadily at 4 watts. It has been moved several times, most recently in 1976, as the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department has changed locations.

“According to a website dedicated to the bulb, Debora Katz, a physicist at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., has conducted extensive research into the Livermore light bulb’s physical properties, using a vintage light bulb from Shelby Electric Co. that is a near replica of the Livermore light.

“The Livermore light bulb differs from a contemporary incandescent bulb in two ways,” says Katz. “First its filament is about eight times thicker than a contemporary bulb. Second, the filament is a semiconductor, most likely made of carbon.”

Watch the live webcam here to see the longest-burning light bulb in the world.

Listen to the 99% Invisible podcast for an in-depth look at the bulb.

Learn more about light bulbs in the ECS Digital Library.

The Science of Distilling

One brave man is distilling his own potent, yet drinkable, biofuel. Of course, there’s quite a bit of electrochemistry involved via this reflux still.

WARNING: Distilling alcohol is illegal in many places. (It can also be pretty dangerous for the novice distiller, so let’s leave this one to Hackett.)

Smaller, More Powerful Li-Ion Battery

Researchers around the world are in a scientific race to develop a near-perfect lithium-ion battery, and a startup from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) may have just unlocked the secret.

In 2012, Qichao Hu founded SolidEnergy – a startup that grew out of research and academics from MIT. Qichao started with battery technology that he and ECS member Donald Sadoway developed.

Now, the company is claiming to have built a lithium-ion battery that could change battery technology as we know it.

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Bill Nye + Deflategate = Climate Change?

Bill Nye the Science Guy drops some science on the Patriots and takes the opportunity to deliver a message on climate change.

Beyond Open Access

"The unique and longer-term part of our OA plan is to "Free the Science™": to provide all ECS content at no cost to anyone—no fees for authors, readers, and libraries."

“The unique and longer-term part of our OA plan is to “Free the Science™“: to provide all ECS content at no cost to anyone—no fees for authors, readers, and libraries.”

Published in the latest issue of Interface.

The models of scientific communication and publication—which have served us all so well for so long—are no longer fully meeting the spirit of the ECS mission, may not be financially viable, and are hurting the dissemination of the results of scientific research.

The future of Open Access (OA) can change not only scholarly publishing, but can change the nature of scientific communication itself. OA has the power to more “evenly distribute” the advantages currently given to those who can easily access the outputs of scientific research.

ECS has long been concerned with facilitating that access, and our mission has been to disseminate the content from within our technical domain, as broadly as possible, and with as few barriers as possible. To accomplish this, we have maintained a robust, high-quality, high-impact publishing program for over 100 years.

Several years ago, ECS started taking a serious look at the challenges facing us in fulfilling our mission, specifically with respect to our publishing program. The challenges—faced by others in publishing, to a greater or lesser degree—are many and have become increasingly sever.

When a commercial scientific publisher is taking a 35% net profit out of the system, compared with under 2% by ECS, something is not only wrong, but it is clear that some publishers will do anything and everything they can to keep maintaining that level of profit. For many, journal publishing has indeed become a business.

Read the rest.

The Real Science of an Alkali Metal Explosion

You may remember the classic alkali metal explosion demonstration in one of your early chemistry classes. Many educators use this experiment to show the volatile power of chemistry. The thought was that the unstable reaction was caused by the ignition of hydrogen gas, but scientists in the Czech Republic have found new information behind this classic demonstration by using high-speed video.

The researchers began investigating the science behind this experiment by dropping a sodium-potassium alloy droplet into water. From there, they recorded the explosion with a high-speed camera that is capable of capturing 10,000 frames per second.

Of course, there’s a video.

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Modeling Corrosion, Atom by Atom

corrosion_atom_by_atomAn article by Christopher D. Taylor in the latest issue of Interface.

In the late 20th century, computer programs emerged that could solve the fundamental quantum mechanical equations that control the interactions of atoms that give rise to bonding. These tools, first applied to molecules and bulk solid materials, then began to be applied to surfaces and, in the early 21st century, to electrochemical environments. Commercial and open-source programs are now readily available and can be used on both desktop and high-performance computing platforms to solve for the electronic structure of a given configuration of atomic centers (nuclei) and, in so doing, provide the basis for determining a whole host of properties, including electronic and vibrational spectra, electrical moments such as the system dipole, and, most importantly, the energy and forces on the atoms. Other derived properties include the extent to which each atom is charged and bond-orders, although to compute these latter properties one of a variety of methods for dividing up and quantifying the electron density associated with each atom must be selected.

The physics behind these codes is complex, and, challengingly, has no rigorous analytical solution that can be obtained within a finite allotment of time. Thus, the computer programs themselves take advantage of approximations that allow for a feasible solution but, at the same time, constrain the accuracy of the result. Nonetheless, solutions can usually be reliably obtained for model systems representing materials, interfaces, or molecules that do not exceed thousands, and, more realistically, hundreds of atoms. Given that system sizes of hundreds or thousands of atoms amount to no more than the smallest nanoparticle of a substance, the question arises: What can atomistic simulations teach us about corrosion?

Read the rest.

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