Monthly Archives: September 2018

Let Your Skin Play Music

A variety of nanomaterials have been used over the years in loudspeakers and microphones. Nanoparticles have replaced permanent magnets in loudspeakers and a thin film of carbon nanotubes has done pretty much the same. And, of course, someone tried to use graphene to reproduce sound for microphones.

Now researchers at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in South Korea have made a nanomembrane out of silver nanowires to serve as flexible loudspeakers or microphones. The researchers even went so far as to demonstrate their nanomembrane by making it into a loudspeaker that could be attached to skin and used it to play the final movement of a violin concerto—namely, La Campanella by Niccolo Paganini.

In research described in the journal Science Advances, the Korean researchers embedded a silver nanowire network within a polymer-based nanomembrane. The decision to use silver nanowires rather than the other types of nanomaterials that have been used in the past was based on the comparative ease of hybridizing the nanowires into the polymer. In addition, the researchers opted for nanowires because the other materials like graphene and carbon nanotubes are not as mechanically strong at nanometer-scale thickness when in freestanding form, according to Hyunhyub Ko, an associate professor at UNIST and coauthor of the research. It is this thickness that is the critical element of the material.

The biggest breakthrough of our research is the development of ultrathin, transparent, and conductive hybrid nanomembranes with nanoscale thickness, less than 100 nanometers,” said Ko. “These outstanding optical, electrical, and mechanical properties of nanomembranes enable the demonstration of skin-attachable and imperceptible loudspeaker and microphone.”

The nanomembrane loudspeaker operates by emitting thermoacoustic sound through the oscillation of the surrounding air brought on by temperature differences. The periodic Joule heating that occurs when an electric current passes through a conductor and produces heat leads to these temperature oscillations.

Source: https://spectrum.ieee.org/

How To Recreate Memories Of Faces From Brain Data

A new technique developed by neuroscientists at the University of Toronto can reconstruct images of what people perceive based on their brain activity. The technique developed by Dan Nemrodov, a postdoctoral fellow in Assistant Professor Adrian Nestor’s lab at U of T Scarborough, is able to digitally reconstruct images seen by test subjects based on electroencephalography (EEG) data.

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When we see something, our brain creates a mental percept, which is essentially a mental impression of that thing. We were able to capture this percept using EEG to get a direct illustration of what’s happening in the brain during this process,” says Nemrodov.

For the study, test subjects hooked up to EEG equipment were shown images of faces. Their brain activity was recorded and then used to digitally recreate the image in the subject’s mind using a technique based on machine learning algorithms. It’s not the first time researchers have been able to reconstruct images based on visual stimuli using neuroimaging techniques. The current method was pioneered by Nestor, who successfully reconstructed facial images from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data in the past, but this is the first time EEG has been used.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/
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Robots Help Surgeons To Do The Impossible

Robotic surgery and robotically-assisted surgery have become increasingly widespread in recent years. At the cutting edge of this technology is Eindhoven Medical Robotics, a Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) related start-up.

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Robotics pioneer Maarten Steinbuch, a mechanical engineer by training, is building Eindhoven Medical Robotics with a Jeff Bezos-like 20-year vision … as an enduring business that could redefine this global semiconductor center while revolutionizing the medical world. And he’s hiring with a goal of building EMR into a 1,000-employee company over the next 10 years … but more about that in a minute. At HighTechXL Beyond tech conference and demo day, Steinbuch was one of 10 presenters. His talk was titled “The Future of Medical Robotics,” but he touched on multiple topics including Moore’s Law, emerging technology that will make it illegal for humans to drive cars and the reality of the Robot Revolution. (A hint: The tech behind personal robots is way too expensive right now to be practical, and it’ll be 10 years before you have a robot in your home.) Which was all interesting until he started laying out his vision for building his business.

Steinbuch is a bit like Silicon Valley legend Jim Clark, who founded multiple landmark tech businesses including Netscape and Silicon Graphics. Developing the technology as a professor at Technical University of Eindhoven (TU/e), Steinbuch and his teams of researchers and engineers created Eindhoven’s first startup robotic surgery company back in 2010. TU/e’s Sofie robotic surgery technology competed with da Vinci Surgical Systems, a global phenomenon owned by a Silicon Valley firm, Intuitive Surgical.

He found out quickly that da Vinci “has all the patents” as well as a huge staff dedicated to specifically trying to thwart competitors, Steinbuch told the crowd.

His painful takeaway from that venture: “To do a medical robotics startup, the amount of money you need is beyond imagination if you’re a professor at a university,” at least 10 million to 20 million euros, Steinbuch said. To get back in the game, he had to first figure out which technology could become a viable business. Rather than taking on da Vinci directly, he came up with was a master-slave system that could assist surgeons in operating on the retina, filtering out surgeon’s hand tremors. There are only a few doctors who can suture lymph nodes, for example, at 3 millimetres, “and only in the morning,” Steinbuch said. “We make super surgeons – that’s what we do.”

Source: http://www.medicalrobotictechnologies.com/

First Private Passenger To Fly Around The Moon

SpaceX has signed its first customer to fly on the company’s huge new rocket, the BFR, the company says. The passenger will fly on the monster ship around the Moon, though there are no details yet regarding when the trip will happen.

The BFR, or the Big Falcon Rocket, is the giant rocket that SpaceX is currently developing to send humans to the Moon and Mars. The BFR design, presented by CEO Elon Musk last year, consists of a combined rocket and spaceship, called the BFS for Big Falcon Spaceship. The main rocket will have 31 main Raptor engines and be capable of sending up 150 tons to low Earth orbit, according to that presentation.

In February 2017, SpaceX announced plans to send two passengers around the Moon on the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket, claiming that the flight would happen at the end of 2018. SpaceX never named the passengers, and, ultimately, Musk admitted during the inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy that the trip probably wasn’t going to happen. “We’re sort of debating whether to do that on Falcon Heavy or BFR,” Musk said that  before the launch in February of this year. “It will sort of depend on how well BFR development is going as to whether we focus on BFR for deep-space human flight or whether we do that on Falcon Heavy.”

Source: https://www.spacex.com/

A Wearable Device For Regrowing Hair

Although some people embrace the saying “bald is beautiful,” for others, alopecia, or excessive hair loss, can cause stress and anxiety. Some studies have shown that stimulating the skin with lasers can help regrow hair, but the equipment is often large, consumes lots of energy and is difficult to use in daily life. Now, researchers have developed a flexible, wearable photostimulator that speeds up hair growth in mice. 

Affecting millions of men and women worldwide, alopecia has several known causes, including heredity, stress, aging and elevated male hormones. Common treatments include medications, such as minoxidil, corticosteroid injections and hair transplant surgery. In addition, irradiating the bald area with a red laser can stimulate hair follicles, causing cells to proliferate. However, this treatment is often impractical for home use. So, Keon Jae Lee and colleagues wanted to develop a flexible, durable photostimulator that could be worn on human skin.

Shaved mice with flexible vertical LEDs (f-VLEDs) regrows hair faster than no treatment (Con) or minoxidil injections (MNX)

The team fabricated an ultrathin array of flexible vertical micro-light-emitting diodes (mLEDs). The array consisted of 900 red mLEDs on a chip slightly smaller than a postage stamp and only 20 mm thick. The device used almost 1,000 times less power per unit area than a conventional phototherapeutic laser, and it did not heat up enough to cause thermal damage to human skin. The array was sturdy and flexible, enduring up to 10,000 cycles of bending and unbending. The researchers tested the device’s ability to regrow hair on mice with shaved backs. Compared with untreated mice or those receiving minoxidil injections, the mice treated with the mLED patch for 15 minutes a day for 20 days showed significantly faster hair growth, a wider regrowth area and longer hairs.

The findings are reported in ACS Nano.

Source: https://www.acs.org/

Blood Vessels Can Contribute To Tumor Suppression

A study from the Institute of Pharmacology and Structural Biology in Toulouse (France) has introduced a novel concept in cancer biology : Blood vessels in human tumors are not all the same and some types of blood vessels found in the tumor microenvironment (i. e. HEVs) can contribute to tumor suppression rather than tumor growth(Cancer Res 2011).

 A better understanding of HEVs at the molecular level, which is one of the major objectives of the research team, may have an important impact for cancer therapy.

Dendritic cells, which are well known for their role as antigen-presenting cells, play an unexpected and important role in the maintenance of HEV blood vessels in lymph nodes (Nature 2011). In addition, the scientists discovered the frequent presence of HEVs in human solid tumors, and their association with cytotoxic lymphocyte infiltration and favourable clinical outcome in breast cancer. They also showed that IL-33 is a chromatin-associated cytokine (PNAS 2007, 453 citations) that function as an alarm signal (alarmin) released upon cellular damage (PNAS 2009, 312 citations). Inflammatory proteases can generate truncated forms of IL-33 that are 30-fold more potent than the full length protein for activation of group 2 innate lymphoid cells (PNAS 2012, 133 citations, PNAS 2014).

An important objective  is now to further characterize IL-33 regulation and mechanisms of action in vivo, through the use of multidisciplinary approaches.

Source: http://www.ipbs.fr/

New Solar Cells Could Harvest 85% of Visible Light

Scientists have developed a photoelectrode that can harvest 85 percent of visible light in a 30 nanometers-thin semiconductor layer between gold layers, converting light energy 11 times more efficiently than previous methods. In the pursuit of realizing a sustainable society, there is an ever-increasing demand to develop revolutionary solar cells or artificial photosynthesis systems that utilize visible light energy from the sun while using as few materials as possible. The research team, led by Professor Hiroaki Misawa of the Research Institute for Electronic Science at Hokkaido University (Japan), has been aiming to develop a photoelectrode that can harvest visible light across a wide spectral range by using gold nanoparticles loaded on a semiconductor. But merely applying a layer of gold nanoparticles did not lead to a sufficient amount of light absorption, because they took in light with only a narrow spectral range.

In the study published in Nature Nanotechnology, the research team sandwiched a semiconductor, a 30-nanometer titanium dioxide thin-film, between a 100-nanometer gold film and gold nanoparticles to enhance light absorption. When the system is irradiated by light from the gold nanoparticle side, the gold film worked as a mirror, trapping the light in a cavity between two gold layers and helping the nanoparticles absorb more light. To their surprise, more than 85 percent of all visible light was harvested by the photoelectrode, which was far more efficient than previous methods. Gold nanoparticles are known to exhibit a phenomenon called localized plasmon resonance which absorbs a certain wavelength of light.

“Our photoelectrode successfully created a new condition in which plasmon and visible light trapped in the titanium oxide layer strongly interact, allowing light with a broad range of wavelengths to be absorbed by gold nanoparticles,” says Hiroaki Misawa.

 Source: https://www.global.hokudai.ac.jp/

Amazon to datamine the stars

Amazon.com is in talks with Chile to house and mine massive amounts of data generated by the country’s giant telescopes, which could prove fertile ground for the company to develop new artificial intelligence tools. The talks are aimed at fuelling growth in Amazon.com Inc’s cloud computing business in Latin America and boosting its data processing capabilities.

President Sebastian Pinera’s center-right government, which is seeking to wean Chile’s $325 billion economy from reliance on copper mining, announced last week it plans to pool data from all its telescopes onto a virtual observatory stored in the cloud, without giving a timeframe. The government talked of the potential for astrodata innovation, but did not give details.

Amazon executives have been holding discussions with the Chilean government for two years about a possible data center to provide infrastructure for local firms and the government to store information on the cloud. The talks have included discussion about the possibility of Amazon Web Services (AWS), hosting astrodata.

Jeffrey Kratz, AWS’s General Manager for Public Sector for Latin American, has confirmed the company’s interest in astrodata but said Amazon had no announcements to make at present. “Chile is a very important country for AWS,” he said in an email to Reuters. “We kept being amazed about the incredible work on astronomy and the telescopes, as real proof points on innovation and technology working together.” “The Chilean telescopes can benefit from the cloud by eliminating the heavy lifting of managing IT,” Kratz added.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/

Machine Learning Techniques Cut Surgical Infections By 74%

By applying predictive analytics and machine learning techniques to patient data and real-time data from operating theatres the University of Iowa Hospital in the US managed to reduce the incidence of wound infections acquired during surgery by 74 percent. The hospital has now spun-off a company, Dash Analytics, to commercialise its technology.

Dr John Cromwell, associate chief medical officer at University of Iowa Hospital, and now also CTO at Dash Analytics, initiated the project in 2012. Speaking at Tibco Live in Las Vegas, he said: “We started work with the hypothesis that if we could predict which patients would get surgical infections we could change the wound management strategies at the time of surgery to reduce the risk of infection.

Surgical infection in the US is the number one hospital infection and carries the most morbidity,” he said. “It is also the most expensive type of hospital infection to treat.

(The most recent, 2011, statistics available from the US Center for Disease Control put the annual number of surgical site infections at 157,000 out of a total of 722,000 hospital-acquired infections).

Cromwell explained that a number of factors contributed to the risk of surgical infection: “The patient might be malnourished, or morbidly obese, or they might be on medications that supress the immune system. The duration of the operation influences the risk, and whether you keep the patient warm throughout the entire operation makes a difference.

We designed a real time tool that uses the medical record data plus the real time data from the operating room to provide some decision support to the surgeon at the time of the operations to change the wound management strategy.” He said surgeons had basically two options at the time of surgery that could be applied to mitigate the risk of infection: Leave the wound open or use a technique known as negative pressure wound therapy where the wound is sealed and a vacuum applied to it.”Negative pressure wound therapy can reduce infections significantly if it is applied to the right patients, but it is not inexpensive so we wanted to be selective. There are different hypotheses as to why it works. “We used the analytic tools to determine which patients should get negative pressure therapy and within two years we had reduced the surgical infections by 58 per cent and in three years by 74 per cent. “We were very surprised. The result was far better than antibiotics. … And we probably saved the hospital between [US]$1.2 million and $2 million per year.”

Source: https://www.computerworld.com.au/

Electric Robo-Taxi

Volvo Cars presented a fully electric robo-taxi on Wednesday, as the Geely-owned Swedish company races to meet an ambitious target for driverless vehicle sales with its Uber supply deal on hold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides city driving, Volvo said the 360c would extend its customer base by tapping into demand from inter-city taxi passengers traveling as far as 300 km (186 miles), allowing it to challenge short-haul airlines and train operatorsVolvo, which is weighing a stock market listing, is trying to make headway in self-driving cars as a mid-size luxury player with more limited resources than a BMW or Audi. It expects autonomous cars to account for a third of sales by 2025, with fully electric cars claiming 50 percent.

The world’s largest automakers are developing new types of vehicle such as self-driving passenger shuttles as they look to capture new markets in which direct car sales dwindle as fewer people own them. Tech companies such as Uber and Alphabet’s Waymo are pouring billions of dollars into autonomous car development, while auto manufacturers such as Daimler are testing prototypes.

Few details have yet been announced, however, a year before Daimler and partner Bosch are due to deploy robo-taxis in California’s Silicon Valley. So far, Volvo’s self-driving ambitions have been closely linked with Uber, which was operating a fleet of autonomous Volvo XC90s until a recent fatal collision with a pedestrian brought the program to a halt. Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson said the Uber partnership remained intact, with Volvo set to supply up to 24,000 cars to the startup over two years.

Samuelsson, speaking to journalists at the launch, said the company was in talks to deliver an autonomous car specially designed for Uber’s driverless program as it sees ride-hailing as the right way for Volvo to make good on its promise to deliver its first autonomous car by the 2020s. “This is a product where we see interest from ride-hailing businesses,” Samuelsson said. R&D head Henrik Green said that Uber was “up and running” with its program again, albeit with humans in the driving seat, and was testing to collect data.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/