Monthly Archives: June 2018
The traditional hand-crafted pizza has a shiny new rival — pizza made by robot. French startup Ekim wants to speed up the way pizza is made using a three-armed autonomous pizzaiolo robot. Ekim hopes to install its cutting-edge pizza-maker, which is capable of churning out a freshly-made pizza every 30 seconds, in an autonomous 24/7 restaurant soon. The robot’s gestures have been programmed to match those of real-life pizzaiolos, or pizza-makers, and all three arms working independently to enable the robot to make several pizzas at the same time.
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‘We are not faster than a pizzaiolo as we make a pizza in four minutes and 30 seconds because the pizzas are made on demand in front of the customer, we take time to cook them well, to put the ingredients,’ Ekim CEO Philippe Goldman said. ‘But the robot has three arms, can co-ordinate tasks and make several pizzas at once. ‘So yes, making a pizza takes four minutes 30 seconds but we deliver one pizza every 30 seconds, which allows us to deliver 120 pizzas an hour when a pizzaiolo can only make 40 pizzas an hour.’
The idea originated when two Ekim engineers from when they were students after they grew tired of eating low-quality fast food, the only meals they could afford at the time. The robot is currently in a showroom outside Paris while Ekim searches for a location to start a pizza-making service, using produce from France and Italy. Like with a vending machine, the concept would allow customers to order a freshly-made pizza at any time. Using an automated screen, they can chose from an array of pizzas, including the traditional Margherita and richer four cheese.
Researchers at the universities of Lund (Sweden) and Bristol (UK) have conducted a number of experiments using a form of 5G technology called Massive MIMO (multiple input, multiple output), and set not one but two world records in so-called spectrum efficiency for wireless communication. Spectrum efficiency measures how much data can successfully be packed into a radio signal transmitted from an antenna.
This 5G technology developed by the researchers is extremely efficient – in fact, the most efficient technology ever when it comes to managing many simultaneous users. The latest world record was set when researchers from Lund and Bristol attained more than 20 times the total data speed of today’s 4G technology, thereby almost doubling the previous record where they, using the same technology, achieved a twelve-fold improvement.
“Setting a new world record was a significant event as it demonstrated that it is possible to transmit 22 times more data compared to current wireless systems. Although the goal is for 5G to increase the total transmission capacity by a factor 1 000, this is still a big step”, says Steffen Malkowsky, researcher in Electrical and Information Technology at the Lund University Faculty of Engineering.
A work led by SISSA in Italy and published on Nature Nanotechnology reports for the first time experimentally the phenomenon of ion ‘trapping’ by graphene carpets and its effect on the communication between neurons.The researchers have observed an increase in the activity of nerve cells grown on a single layer of graphene. Combining theoretical and experimental approaches they have shown that the phenomenon is due to the ability of the material to ‘trap’ several ions present in the surrounding environment on its surface, modulating its composition.
Graphene is the thinnest bi-dimensional material available today, characterisedby incredible properties of conductivity, flexibility and transparency. Although there are great expectations for its applications in the biomedical field, only very few works have analysed its interactions with neuronal tissue.
A study conducted by SISSA – Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi
Avanzati, and the University of Trieste in association with the University of Antwerp (Belgium), the Institute of Science and Technology of Barcelona (Spain), has analysed the behaviour of neurons grown on a single layer of graphene, observing a strengthening in their activity. Through theoretical and experimental approaches the researchers have shown that such behaviour is due to reduced ion mobility, in particular of potassium, to the neuron-graphene interface. This phenomenon is commonly called ‘ion trapping’, already known at theoretical level, but observed experimentally for the first time only now.
“It is as if graphene behaves as an ultra-thin magnet on whose surface some of the potassium ions present in the extra cellular solution between the cells and the graphene remain trapped.
It is this small variation that determines the increase in neuronal excitability” comments Denis Scaini, researcher at SISSA who has led the research alongside Laura Ballerini.
The study has also shown that this strengthening occurs when the graphene itself is supported by an insulator, like glass, or suspended in solution, while it disappears when lying on a conductor. “Graphene is a highly conductive material which could potentially be used to coat any surface. Understanding how its behaviour varies according to the substratum on which it is laid is essential for its future applications, above all in the neurological field” continues Scaini, “considering the unique properties of graphene it is natural to think for example about the development of innovative electrodes of cerebral stimulation or visual devices“.
As the demand for smartphones, electric vehicles, and renewable energy continues to rise, scientists are searching for ways to improve lithium-ion batteries—the most common type of battery found in home electronics and a promising solution for grid-scale energy storage. Increasing the energy density of lithium-ion batteries could facilitate the development of advanced technologies with long-lasting batteries, as well as the widespread use of wind and solar energy. Now, researchers have made significant progress toward achieving that goal. A collaboration led by scientists at the University of Maryland (UMD), the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, and the U.S. Army Research Lab have developed and studied a new cathode material that could triple the energy density of lithium-ion battery electrodes.
“Lithium-ion batteries consist of an anode and a cathode,” said Xiulin Fan, a scientist at UMD and one of the lead authors of the paper. “Compared to the large capacity of the commercial graphite anodes used in lithium-ion batteries, the capacity of the cathodes is far more limited. Cathode materials are always the bottleneck for further improving the energy density of lithium-ion batteries.”
Scientists at UMD synthesized a new cathode material, a modified and engineered form of iron trifluoride (FeF3), which is composed of cost-effective and environmentally benign elements—iron and fluorine. Researchers have been interested in using chemical compounds like FeF3 in lithium-ion batteries because they offer inherently higher capacities than traditional cathode materials.
“The materials normally used in lithium-ion batteries are based on intercalation chemistry,” said Enyuan Hu, a chemist at Brookhaven and one of the lead authors of the paper. “This type of chemical reaction is very efficient; however, it only transfers a single electron, so the cathode capacity is limited. Some compounds like FeF3 are capable of transferring multiple electrons through a more complex reaction mechanism, called a conversion reaction.”
The findings are published in Nature Communications.
An international team of university researchers today reports solving a major fabrication challenge for perovskite cells — the intriguing potential challengers to silicon-based solar cells.
These crystalline structures show great promise because they can absorb almost all wavelengths of light. Perovskite solar cells are already commercialized on a small scale, but recent vast improvements in their power conversion efficiency (PCE) are driving interest in using them as low-cost alternatives for solar panels.
In the cover article published online in Nanoscale, a publication of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the research team reveals a new scalable means of applying a critical component to perovskite cells to solve some major fabrication challenges. The researchers were able to apply the critical electron transport layer (ETL) in perovskite photovoltaic cells in a new way — spray coating — to imbue the ETL with superior conductivity and a strong interface with its neighbor, the perovskite layer.
The researchers turned to spray coating, which applies the ETL uniformly across a large area and is suitable for manufacturing large solar panels. They reported a 30 percent efficiency gain over other ETLs – from a PCE of 13 percent to over 17 percent – and fewer defects.
Added Taylor, “Our approach is concise, highly reproducible, and scalable. It suggests that spray coating the PCBM ETL could have broad appeal toward improving the efficiency baseline of perovskite solar cells and providing an ideal platform for record-breaking p-i-n perovskite solar cells in the near future.”
The research is led by André D. Taylor, an associate professor in the NYU Tandon School of Engineering’s Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department, with Yifan Zheng, the first author on the paper and a Peking University researcher. Co-authors are from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Yale University, and Johns Hopkins University.
Researchers at The Rockefeller University in New York have made a component, RU-505, which can be used to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in mice.
The investigations build on Alzheimer’s studies conducted in Rockefeller University labs, particularly research focused on how the cells of the brain process the amyloid precursor protein (APP). Faulty regulation of APP processing — in which APP is chopped into smaller pieces during normal brain cell metabolism — is believed to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. Scientists in the Fisher Center work on understanding why APP can sometimes produce protein fragments that are safely secreted from the cell and at other times produce a protein called amyloid-ß, a major component of the brain plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
A research team led by scientists at AIDS Institute and Department of Microbiology, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine of The University of Hong Kong (HKU) invents a universal antibody drug against HIV/AIDS. By engineering a tandem bi-specific broadly neutralizing antibody, the team found that this novel antibody drug is universally effective not only against all genetically divergent global HIV-1 strains tested but also promoting the elimination of latently infected cells in a humanized mouse model. The new findings are now published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, one of the world’s leading biomedical journals.
AIDS remains an incurable disease. In the world, HIV/AIDS has resulted in estimated 40 million deaths while 36.9 million people are still living with the virus. To end the HIV/AIDS pandemic, it is important to discover either an effective vaccine or a therapeutic cure. There are, however, two major scientific challenges: the tremendous HIV-1 diversity and the antiviral drug-unreachable latency. Since it is extremely difficult to develop an appropriate immunogen to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) against genetically divergent HIV-1 subtypes, developing existing bnAbs as passive immunization becomes a useful approach for HIV-1 prophylaxis and immunotherapy.
Previous studies have investigated the potency, breadth and crystal structure of many bnAbs including their combination both in vitro and in vivo. Naturally occurring HIV-1 resistant strains, however, are readily found against these so-called bnAbs and result in the failure of durable viral suppression in bnAb-based monotherapy. To improve HIV-1 neutralization breadth and potency, bispecific bnAb, which blocks two essential steps of HIV-1 entry into target cells, have been engineered and show promising efficacy in animal models. Before the publication, tandem bi-specific bnAb has not been previously investigated in vivo against HIV-1 infection.
Plastic waste and toxic chemicals found in remote parts of the Antarctic this year add to evidence that pollution is spreading to the ends of the Earth, environmental group Greenpeace said.
Microplastics – tiny bits of plastic from the breakdown of everything from shopping bags to car tires – were detected in nine of 17 water samples collected off the Antarctic peninsula by a Greenpeace vessel in early 2018, it said. And seven of nine snow samples taken on land in Antarctica found chemicals known as PFAs (polyfluorinated alkylated substances), which are used in industrial products and can harm wildlife.
The United Nations’ environment agency says plastic pollution has been detected from the Arctic to Antarctica and in remote places including the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans in the Pacific.
UN agency said that less than a 10th of all the plastic ever made has been recycled, and governments should consider banning or taxing single-use bags or food containers to stem a tide of pollution.
Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance car maker (ranked 1 in the world), has detailed the impact of the driverless car on human daily lives (Interview at the French TV BFM). There are between 1,3 million and 1,4 million death on roads every year in the world. The driverless car will eliminate 90% of the fatal accidents.
“We are five years from safe, driverless cars for all“, adds Ghosn. “Driverless cars impact will be similar to the discovery of antibiotics“.
Famously given the moniker “Le Cost Killer” for his work transforming two ailing brands into one profit-making success story, Carlos Ghosn has achieved celebrity status in the car industry — and was once even portrayed as a superhero in a Japanese comic book.
Today the auto industry is experiencing a paradigm shift with the growth of the global electric vehicle (EV) market, as well as the vast potential offered by disruptive new areas like the autonomously-driven vehicle, using massively Artificial Intelligence. Despite the challenge of staying competitive and profitable in this changing environment, the Brazilian-born 64-year old believes the brands under his watch are already in pole position — and plan to stay there. But he has to stay vigilant and is aware of the dangers, acknowledging that businesses are pushing hard for driverless vehicles. “Amazon, Alibaba, Uber… why are they interested in this? It’s very simple. The driver is the biggest cost they have — you make a quick calculation about a car running 24-7 for a month: the electricity bill is about $250 a month; the lease of the car is $300; plus three drivers, since you’re running for 24 hours a day, are going to cost you $15,000 per month. So getting rid of the driver is a 90% reduction in costs.
“That’s why Uber, DiDi all want to be the first to have this … because if my competitor gets this before me, I’m dead.”