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April 07, 2006

society: Privacy is history get over it

General eavesdropping on phone and internet All phone and internet traffic getting data mined.

Nanoscale tech: Nanotopography alone can cause Stem cell differentiation

Stem cells can be prompted to develop into bone, instead of muscle or cartilage tissue, if they are grown on a substrate etched with nanoscopic patterns – and no added chemicals – researchers have found.

The discovery could lead to longer-lasting artificial implants that are nano-engineered to encourage suitable tissue to develop around them, experts say.

Other tech: Firm converts software to custom hardware, 10 to 50 times faster performance

Embedded applications are sped up. By converting only those portions of software that can truly benefit from hardware acceleration, the technology can provide a 10x to 50x speedup over a pure software implementation.

other tech: Self driving cars in traffic, the next goal for the Stanford team behind Stanley

The goal at Stanford is to be able, within the next two years, to drive from downtown San Francisco to downtown Los Angeles with 100 percent autonomy--without any human intervention whatsoever. Stanford's Thrun predicts that full autonomy--not just convoy lanes on the freeway--is at least 30 years away. But between then and now will come many milestones, such as autonomous military convoys and a whole raft of convenience and safety features that will slowly bestow various degrees of autonomy onto commercial and consumer vehicles.

Schulmeyer sees three distinct stages ahead for autonomous safety systems: First, radar will be proven out on adaptive cruise controls; next will come more-active safety systems, such as emergency brakes that apply maximum braking to minimize damage when an "inevitable collision" is detected; and finally, full collision-avoidance systems will steer around upcoming obstacles to prevent collisions from ever happening.

why don't cars drive themselves already? One reason is that vehicles need to be able to "drive by wire," meaning that all mechanical linkages, from accelerator to transmission to brakes and steering, have to be controlled by computer-activated electric servos. The previous article describes the move to brake by wire starting in 2010.

If you could switch on the self-driving mode, he said, "you could become more productive--you could read or sleep or answer your e-mail, or even watch a movie." And such a car could keep the elderly, who might otherwise have to give up their driver's licenses, independent longer. Plus lives could be saved, 44000 traffic deaths in the USA each year and 1.2 million each year for the world. Most accidents are at intersections.

Other tech; Lithium ion batteries can also help morph vehicles

Lithium ion batteries can be used for more efficient and larger shape changes than piezoelectrics.

Lithium ion batteries expand and contract under tremendous stresses, a must for devices that will be changing the shape of, say, a stiff helicopter rotor that's also exposed to aerodynamic forces. The electrically activated batteries can operate at low voltages (less than five volts) as compared to the hundreds of volts required by piezoelectrics. The materials that make up the batteries are also inherently light. The researchers have already demonstrated basic battery-based actuators that can pull and push with large force. Later this year, they hope to demonstrate the shape-morphing of a helicopter rotor blade. The morphing capability should allow for a more efficient design, ultimately making it possible for a vehicle to carry heavier loads. Team members say that other applications, including miniaturized devices for Micro-Electrical-Mechanical Systems (MEMS), may flow from these initial demonstrations.

Other tech: electrical brakes could replace hydraulic brakes in cars starting 2010

Electrical brakes would be lower cost, more energy efficient (10 times), have fewer parts, be more reliable, and will brake the car faster

April 06, 2006

Nanoscale, nanomaterials: Battery wire self assembled in viruses

By manipulating a few genes inside these viruses, the MIT team was able to coax the organisms to grow and self-assemble into a functional electronic device. The goal of the work, led by MIT Professors Angela Belcher, Paula Hammond and Yet-Ming Chiang, is to create batteries that cram as much electrical energy into as small or lightweight a package as possible. More details at MIT technology review. The viruses collect cobalt oxide and gold. The viruses are negatively charged. They are drawn into a layer between oppositely charged polymers to form thin, flexible sheets. Each virus, and thus the wire, is only 6 nanometers (6 billionths of a meter) in diameter, and 880 nanometers in length. The nanoscale materials supply two to three times the electrical energy for their mass or volume, compared to previous materials. according to wikipedia Specific energy density: 200 Wh/kg,
Volumetric energy density: 530 Wh/L. So three times would be 600Wh/kg and 1590 Wh/L.

They observed reversible capacity ranging from 600 to 750 mAh/g, which is about
twice that of current carbon-based negative electrodes.
The charge and discharge capacities stabilized at 600 mAh/g over 20 cycles. The cell was found to sustain and deliver 94% of its theoretical capacity at a rate of 1.12 C and 65% at a rate of 5.19 C, demonstrating the capability for high cycling rate. We believe that the power of the cell can be further increased by alternating stacks of nanowire monolayers and polymer layers of LPEI and PAA or other polyions. In addition, the
Au-Co3O4 hybrid nanowires should also increase the total capacity.

Other claims have been 300Wh/kg and 900 Wh/l Comparison of battery techhnology in 2004

They created 10-centimetre-long anode sheets. The genetic material added to the viruses can easily be interchanged, the researchers say, so it should be relatively simple to create other electronic components, including a positively charged battery electrode (cathode) using the technique. Belcher is currently investigating how to use viruses to create self-assembling solar cells.

An article that discusses Belcher vision. The battery reached the theoretical capacity for energy density with the material they created

Society: Climate researchers not able to speak freely

The White House is pressuring climate researchers so that climate researchers are not able to speak freely about global warming and climate change

Project that will try to screen for diseases with biomarkers

Researchers from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at The University of Queensland, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre (USA), the University of Washington (USA) and the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute (USA) are forming an international project that aims to investigate and test a set of unique, Australian-owned nanotechnologies that will accelerate advances in the early detection and diagnosis of many diseases. The goal is create effective tools to diagnose disease at the molecular level

Society: Aids in Africa was overstated

Aids in East and West Africa was overstated. Data from Urban pernatal clinics was skewed higher because the city populations (especially those going to the prenatal clinics) were getting higher rate of infection Aids and healthcare in Africa are still serious problems, particularly in South Africa.

April 05, 2006

other tech: Polyester fabric neutralizes Taser stun gun

Thor Shield is a polyester fabric bonded to a conducted material that effectively loops the electricity coming from a nonlethal electricity weapon back to the weapon.

other tech: RNAi therapy controls genes in monkeys

A disease-causing gene was silenced in monkeys through RNA interference (RNAi) therapy delivered into the bloodstream, scientists reported online yesterday (March 26) in Nature. This is the first study to show that systemic administration of RNAi works in non-human primates, and the findings affirm the promise of this new type of therapy, scientists say.

In the study, gene silencing using the highest dose persisted for 11 days, without any observed toxicity, a finding that "bodes well for future human systemic trials of RNAi therapies," John Rossi of the Beckman Research Institute.

Scientists at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Protiva Biotherapeutics gave cynomolgus monkeys a single injection of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) against the gene for apolipoprotein B (ApoB). This gene is involved in the assembly and secretion of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and has not proven accessible to targeting with conventional small molecule or protein therapies.

Gene silencing occurred in a dose-dependent manner. Within 48 hours, the maximum level of APOB silencing exceeded 90%, with a more than 75% reduction in plasma ApoB and a more than 80% drop in LDL.

A report on other RNAi related work

RNAi therapy has been proposed by Ray Kurzweil and Bill Joy as part of the basis for a broad program of defence against natural and artificial viruses.

Some general references on size and scale

How big is.. a cell or a mite. It gives a visual idea of the scale of things.

Another tutorial on size and scale with a glossary

Visual Scale from very small to very big

Orders of magnitude Guide on Wikipedia

Other tech: New membrane for more powerful and less expensive fuel cells

the new membrane conducts protons nearly three times as well as the currently used material, significantly improving power density. Also, unlike the current material, the new membrane can be easily molded into patterns to increase its surface area. By increasing the area by up to 60 percent, the researchers have further doubled the power density of a fuel cell. Joseph DeSimone, the UNC-Chapel Hill chemistry and chemical engineering professor who heads the lab where the work was done, thinks they can increase the membrane's surface area 20 to 40 times by using different patterns, increasing the power density proportionately.

Such improvements in power density mean that a much smaller fuel cell could provide adequate power for a vehicle. The material is also easier to work with, which should reduce manufacturing costs. DeSimone says that a clearer idea of potential cost savings from their new material should be available within six months. And he expects that fuel cells using the membrane could be in production within two to three years

April 04, 2006

Other tech: Kilocore chip, one thousand cores and low power usage

Rapport is working with IBM to deliver chips in 2007 with 1000 Power PC microprocessors. The technology, known as Kilocore, will initially be aimed at portable applications like digital video delivered to cellphones. Rapport created a chip with 256 computing elements that can be configured on the fly to adapt to different software problems. A follow-on version of the chip will have more than 1,000 computing elements and will contain a version of I.B.M.'s Power PC microprocessor. The new Rapport chip will convert 30 frames a second while consuming only 100 milliwatts, about one-fifth the power of an Arm 7 system.

Previously noted on this site is a plan for a 1,000 processor workstation for faster simulations

April 03, 2006

towards nanomedicine : microdosing

Details of the innovative test -- which uses micro doses of carbon-14-labeled vitamin B12 produced by a modified strain of Salmonella bacteria and a $2 million accelerator mass spectrometer to measure vitamin levels

Other Tech: Robot suit will be used to climb mountain

HAL, which stands for “hybrid assistive limb,” is a kind of wearable robot or motorized exoskeleton. Tsukuba University engineering professor Yoshiyuki Sankai developed HAL to help its operator perform tasks that a normal human would not be strong enough to perform otherwise, according to the web page of Mr. Sankai's venture company Cyberdyne.



A link to images of HAL-5 at Sankai's lab and his company cyberdyne

Frequently asked questions about HAL It sells for 1.5 million yen and 300,000 to 400,000 yen per year for maintenance. So that converts to USD14,000 and then say USD3,500 per year of maintenance.

Here is an IEEE spectrum article from October 2005 that summarizes several exoskeleton projects in the USA, Asia and Europe Photos of exoskeletons around the world A japanese journal of robotics

Noteable exoskeleton systems:
Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton developed at Berkeley University

Bleex 2, should be unveiled soon. In tests, Bleex 2 let operators carry 200-lb loads and run faster than 6 fps. Bleex-2 weighs 14 kilograms

Sarcos research corp has a full body system that lets the user lift 84 kilograms without feeling it.

Oak Ridge National Labs has a tethered robotic system for moving 1000 kilogram bombs as though they weighed about 3 kilograms.

Servo magazine sponsors a robotic assisted lifting competition called Tetsujin It was held in 2004 but the 2005 competition was postponed.

Japan is working on robots (such as RI-MAN humanoid robot) to help assist its current and future aged population 22.7% of the population will be over 65 years of age by 2010.

An article on this site about major improvements in robotic muscle

A past summary on this site about robots and robotics

other tech: Rebuilt Bladders in Seven Patients, regenerative medicine advance

The first complex organ, the bladder, has been rebuilt in seven patients from living tissue cultivated in the lab.

Over the past decade, researchers began fashioning better scaffold-like platforms that hold growing cells and dissolve inside the body. The study of stem cells, which can mature into all the body's other tissues, has also supercharged progress in regenerative medicine.

The researchers at Children's Hospital in Boston used a more mature cell type known as a progenitor. They first operated on the patients to remove bad tissue that made up more than half their bladders. They fished out muscle and bladder wall cells, seeded them on cup-like bladder-shaped scaffolds of collagen, then let the cells reproduce in the lab for seven weeks. Starting with tens of thousands, they ended up with about 1.5 billion cells. The cell-bearing molds were then surgically sewn back to the remnants of the patients' original and partly working bladders, where the lab-nurtured cells kept maturing.

The team, which began its work in 1999, followed the last patient for almost two years. In undergoing the experimental procedure, the patients skirted the typical side effects of grafts that would otherwise have been made with their own intestinal tissue.

The patients in the study must still cope with the ravages of spina bifida, the birth defect that caused their bladder problems. Leaving the spine incompletely closed, spina bifida can turn off nerve signals that keep the bladder healthy. The stiff, leathery bladder leaks frequently, forcing the person to wear pads or diapers. What's worse, the weakened bladders can flush urine back into the kidneys and damage them too.

The rebuilt bladders, though, were up to three times more elastic and better at holding urine, the researchers report. In all seven patients, kidney function was preserved, the study said. The patients must still empty their bladders regularly with a tube but can avoid leaking in between.

For Kaitlyne McNamara, the urinary infections, leaking, and daily diapers are now just embarrassing memories.

A previous article from this site summarized the status of regenerative medicine

space tech: European Sapce Agency Near Earth Object deflection mission

ESA’s Near-Earth Object deflecting mission Don Quijote, three teams of European industries are now carrying out studies on how to prevent disasterous impacts from space Don Quijote is a NEO deflection test mission based entirely on conventional spacecraft technologies. It would comprise two spacecraft - one of them (Hidalgo) impacting an asteroid at a very high relative speed while a second one (Sancho) would arrive earlier at the same asteroid and remain in its vicinity before and after the impact to measure the variation on the asteroid’s orbital parameters, as well as to study the object. Secondary mission goals have also been defined, which would involve the deployment of an autonomous surface package and several other experiments and measurements.

One of my past articles on space objects as weapons