Monthly Archives: February 2019
Hiding an object from heat-sensing cameras could be useful for military and technology applications as well as for research. Efforts to develop such a method have been underway for decades with varying degrees of success. Now, researchers report in ACS Nano that they have fabricated an inexpensive, easy-to-produce film that makes objects completely invisible to infrared detectors.
Several prior systems have been developed to mask the difference in temperature between an object and its surroundings. But each of these alternatives has weaknesses, such as difficulty in making the devices, the need for a power supply, the use of rigid materials or the addition of thick and heavy thermal blankets that can lead to heat buildup. Xuetong Zhang and colleagues wanted to find a better way.
A new, flexible infrared stealth cloak is made of a porous film of Kevlar nanofibers impregnated with polyethylene glycol.
The researchers fabricated an aerogel film made of DuPont™ Kevlar® fibers. By itself, the aerogel turned out to be a good thermal insulator, but the researchers enhanced its capabilities by coating its fibers with polyethylene glycol (PEG) and a protective waterproof layer. PEG stores heat when it melts and releases heat when it solidifies. In simulated sunlight, the composite film covering an object soaked up heat from the sun while only slowly increasing in temperature, just like the surroundings, making the object invisible to a thermal camera.
When the light was turned off to simulate night, the coating gradually surrendered its stored heat energy to match the surroundings. Without the coating, the object heated up or cooled off much faster than its environment, making it visible. In a second type of application, a combined structure consisting of aerogel films and the PEG composite film could hide hot targets from a thermal camera. The researchers say their film performs comparably to other stealth films but is simpler and cheaper to make.
Founded in 2015, CloudMinds’ unique Cloud Robot Service Platform consists of Human Augmented Robotics Intelligence with Extreme Reality (HARIX), Secure virtual backbone network (VBN over 4G/5G), and Robot Control Unit (RCU). HARIX is a highly scalable “cloud brain” that can operate millions of cloud robots of different types and service roles. HARIX features a highly efficient multi-media switching engine, a MMO gaming engine, and a powerful AI Cloud that seamlessly integrates best-of-breed AI technologies developed by CloudMinds and others, such as face and object recognition, voice recognition and NLP, navigation, and motion control (vision controlled robotic grasping and move) as well as third party AI services. With a broad ecosystem of partners,
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CloudMinds’ cloud robotic services are empowering customer engagements in retail, hospitality, real estate, smart city and a wide range of vertical applications.
How to make robots marter? CoudMinds is connecting robots and devices over secure Virtual Backbone Networks (VBN) to Cloud AI. The Human Augmented Robotics Intelligence with Extreme Reality (HARIX) platform is an ever evolving “cloud brain”. It is capable of operating millions of cloud robots performing different tasks. It also empowers robots and devices with Cloud AI capabilities such as Natural Language Processing (NLP), Computer Vision (CV), navigation, and vision-controlled manipulation.
For sure in the vision of CloudMinds initiators, by 2025 helpful humanoid robots will be affordable for the average household.
New research suggests that a controversial gene-editing experiment to make children resistant to HIV may also have enhanced their ability to learn and form memories. The twins, called Lulu and Nana, reportedly had their genes modified before birth by a Chinese scientific team using the new editing tool CRISPR. The goal was to make the girls immune to infection by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Now, new research shows that the same alteration introduced into the girls’ DNA, deletion of a gene called CCR5, not only makes mice smarter but also improves human brain recovery after stroke, and could be linked to greater success in school.
“The answer is likely yes, it did affect their brains,” says Alcino J. Silva, a neurobiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, whose lab uncovered a major new role for the CCR5 gene in memory and the brain’s ability to form new connections.
“The simplest interpretation is that those mutations will probably have an impact on cognitive function in the twins,” says Silva. He says the exact effect on the girls’ cognition is impossible to predict, and “that is why it should not be done.”
The Chinese team, led by He Jiankui of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, claimed it used CRISPR to delete CCR5 from human embryos, some of which were later used to create pregnancies. HIV requires the CCR5 gene to enter human blood cells.
The experiment has been widely condemned as irresponsible, and He is under investigation in China. News of the first gene-edited babies also inflamed speculation about whether CRISPR technology could one day be used to create super-intelligent humans, perhaps as part of a biotechnology race between the US and China.
There is no evidence that He actually set out to modify the twins’ intelligence. MIT Technology Review contacted scientists studying the effects of CCR5 on cognition, and they say the Chinese scientist never reached out to them, as he did to others from whom he hoped to get scientific advice or support.
“As far as I know, we never heard from him,” says Miou Zhou, a professor at the Western University of Health Sciences in California.
Although He never consulted the brain researchers, the Chinese scientist was certainly aware of the link between CCR5 and cognition. It was first shown in 2016 by Zhou and Silva, who found that removing the gene from mice significantly improved their memory. The team had looked at more than 140 different genetic alterations to find which made mice smarter.
Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) scientists have figured out a better way to deliver a DNA editing tool to shorten the presence of the editor proteins in the cells in what they describe as a “hit and run” approach.
CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) technology is used to alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. CRISPR/Cas9 is an enzyme that is used like a pair of scissors to cut two strands of DNA at a specific location to add, remove or repair bits of DNA. But CRISPR/Cas9 is not 100 percent accurate and could potentially cut unexpected locations, causing unwanted results.
“One of the major challenges of CRISPR/Cas9 mRNA technologies is the possibility of off-targets which may cause tumors or mutations,” said Baisong Lu, Ph.D, assistant professor of regenerative medicine at WFIRM and one of the lead authors of the paper. Although other types of lentivirus-like bionanoparticles (LVLPs) have been described for delivering proteins or mRNAs, Lu said, “the LVLP we developed has unique features which will make it a useful tool in the expanding genome editing toolbox.”
To address the inaccuracy issue, WFIRM researchers asked the question: Is there a way to efficiently deliver Cas9 activity but achieve transient expression of genome editing proteins? They tested various strategies and then took the best properties of two widely used delivery vehicles – lentivirus vector and nanoparticles – and combined them, creating a system that efficiently packages Cas9 mRNA into LVLPs, enabling transient expression and highly efficient editing.
Lentiviral vector is a widely used gene delivery vehicle in research labs and is already widely used for delivering the CRISPR/Cas9 mRNA technology for efficient genome editing. Nanoparticles are also being used but they are not as efficient in delivery of CRISPR/Cas9.
“By combining the transient expression feature of nanoparticle-delivery strategies while retaining the transduction efficiency of lentiviral vectors, we have created a system that may be used for packaging various editor protein mRNA for genome editing in a ‘hit and run’ manner,” said Anthony Atala, M.D., director of WFIRM and co-lead author of the paper. “This system will not only improve safety but also avoid possible immune response to the editor proteins, which could improve in vivo gene editing efficiency which will be useful in research and clinical applications.”
The WFIRM team published its findings in a paper published recently in the journal Nucleic Acids Research.
The need to store energy for portable devices, vehicles and housing is ever increasing.The transformation from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources need to be hastened to decrease greenhouse gases and limit global warming. The utilization of wind and solar power requires effective storage system to ensure continuous energy supply as a part of smart grid. Li-ion batteries are considered to be the best route for many advanced storage applications related to the clean electricity due to their high energy density.
The latest lithium-ion batteries on the market are likely to extend the charge-to-charge life of phones and electric cars by as much as 40 percent. This leap forward, which comes after more than a decade of incremental improvements, is happening because developers replaced the battery’s graphite anode with one made from silicon. Research from Drexel University and Trinity College in Ireland now suggests that an even greater improvement could be in line if the silicon is fortified with a special type of material called MXene.
Regarding the present Li-ion batteries, one of the limiting factors in their performance is the anode material that most commonly is graphite. Silicon is a promising material for Li-ion battery anodes: By using silicon instead of graphite, the energy density of a battery cell ccould be increased by 30 %. To achieve this, several obstacles have to be overcome: First, silicon experiences a volume expansion of 300 % when lithiated. During discharging, the particles tend to fracture and lose contact. Secondly, the volume expansion prevents the formation of a stable electrode-electrolyte interface resulting in a continuous decomposition of the electrolyte. These two reasons are main causes for the limited use of silicon in commercial batteries.
The image shows PSi microparticles connected to each other with CNTs to improve the conductivity of the material
Both of the above mentioned problems with silicon material can be avoided by designing optimal porous structures of mesoporous silicon (PSi). Porosity of PSi needs to be high enough for the material to be able to withstand the volume expansion but also low enough so that the volumetric capacity/energy density is still better than for graphite anodes.
A new device powered by the heart could finally solve the pacemaker problem. Some 1.5 million Americans have pacemakers implanted to keep their hearts beating steadily. The devices are life-saving, but they don’t last forever. Currently, most pacemaker batteries have to be replaced every five to 12 years, and doing so means invasive surgery each time. Researchers at the National Key Laboratory for Science and Technology in Shanghai, China have developed a tiny device that piggybacks off the heart itself to generate energy – meaning a pacemaker battery would never have to be replaced.
A healthy heart can keep time for itself, by way of an internal pacemaker called the sinus node in the upper right chamber. It fires off an electrical charge some 60 to 100 times a minute, and that electrical energy sets off a series of contractions of heart muscle which in turn pumps blood throughout the body. But as the heart ages or once it becomes diseased, the sinus node takes a hit, too, and may fail to keep the heart beating in time or at all. Fortunately, since the late 1950s, we’ve been able to substitute a small, implantable, battery-powered device to send these electrical signals once the heart can’t any more. Even 60 years later, however, we haven’t figured out what to do about the device’s power supply, however.
Surgery to place the pacemaker and wires that feed its electrical pulses to the heart is complex, requiring doctors to open the chest cavity. The pacemaker itself is tucked away in a ‘pocket’ much closer to the skin surface. Once the battery runs out, usually only a local anesthetic is required to remove the old device and put a new, fully charged one. Still, the procedure is an unpleasant hassle that comes with a risk of infection, and it’s expensive to have done. Depending on the pacemaker, the device itself may cost anywhere from $19,000 to $96,000, according to Costhelper – and that doesn’t include the expenses for the operation.
But the new Chinese-developed device shows promise to end the procedure. The new pacemaker accessory can actually harness the heart’s beats to power a pacemaker. The key to innovation is its flexible plastic frame, which allows the device to capture more energy from the heart than previous hard cases have done. At the device’s center are layers of piezoelectric material, which generates power whenever it is bent. Many materials acquire an electrical charge when force is applied to them, including natural ones in our bodies. Crystals, DNA and even bone are capable of capturing electrical energy. The trick is to apply enough force to a piezoelectric material, then supercharge it, because, on their own, these materials don’t work up all that much energy.
Scientists have long been looking to piezoelectricity as an elegant solution to recapturing otherwise wasted energy, and some have even applied it to the pacemaker before. But, previously, other researchers have not been able to create a device that bends enough to generate sufficient power. Now, the Chinese scientists have shown their device can fuel a pacemaker and keep a pig’s heart beating. The devices frame allows it to flex significantly with as little movement as is created by a heartbeat. While the pacemaker itself is implanted in its usual place, near the collar bone and just under the skin, the new power device is tucked underneath the heart, where the organ’s contractions bend it rhythmically. In tests in pigs, the new pacemaker generated just as much power as a pacemaker, using a completely renewable energy source.
Researchers have developed a new way to deliver treatment for cartilage regeneration. The nanoclay-based platform for sustained and prolonged delivery of protein therapeutics could improve the treatment of osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease that affects nearly 27 million Americans, according to Akhilesh K. Gaharwar, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Texas University A&M. Osteoarthritis is caused by breakdown of cartilage that can lead to damage of the underlying bone. As America’s population ages, osteoarthritis incidences are likely to increase. One of the greatest challenges with treating osteoarthritis and subsequent joint damage is repairing the damaged tissue, especially as cartilage tissue is difficult to regenerate.
One method for repair or regeneration of damaged cartilage tissue is to deliver therapeutic growth factors, a special class of proteins that can aid in tissue repair and regeneration. However, current versions of growth factors break down quickly and require a high dose to achieve a therapeutic potential. Recent clinical studies have demonstrated significant adverse effects to this kind of treatment, including uncontrolled tissue formation and inflammation.
In the study, published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, Gaharwar’s lab designed two-dimensional mineral nanoparticles to deliver growth factors for a prolonged duration to overcome this drawback. These nanoparticles provide a high surface area and dual charged characteristics that allow for easy electrostatic attachment of growth factors.
“These nanoparticles could prolong delivery of growth factors to human mesenchymal stem cells, which are commonly utilized in cartilage regeneration,” Gaharwar said. “The sustained delivery of growth factors resulted in enhanced stem cell differentiation towards cartilage lineage and can be used for treatment of osteoarthritis.”
With the help of artificial intelligence, you can manipulate video of public figures to say whatever you like — or now, create images of people’s faces that don’t even exist. You can see this in action on a website called thispersondoesnotexist.com. It uses an algorithm to spit out a single image of a person’s face, and for the most part, they look frighteningly real. Hit refresh in your browser, and the algorithm will generate a new face. Again, these people do not exist.
The website is the creation of software engineer Phillip Wang, and uses a new AI algorithm called StyleGAN, which was developed by researchers at Nvidia. GAN, or Generative Adversarial Networks, is a concept within machine learning which aims to generate images that are indistinguishable from real ones. You can train GANs to remember human faces, as well bedrooms, cars, and cats, and of course, generate images of them.
Wang explained that he created the site to create awareness for the algorithm, and chose faces “because our brains are sensitive to that kind of image.” He added that it costs $150 a month to hire out the server, as he needs a good amount of graphical power to run the website.
“It also started off as a personal agenda mainly because none of my friends seem to believe this AI phenomenon, and I wanted to convince them,” Wang said. “This was the most shocking presentation I could send them. I then posted it on Facebook and it went viral from there.”
“I think eventually, given enough data, a big enough neural [network] can be teased into dreaming up many different kinds of scenarios,” Wang added.
A pharmaceutical scientist at the University of Sussex has published a guide to 3D and 4D printing technology in the biomedical and pharmaceutical arenas. Dr Mohammed Maniruzzaman, a lecturer in Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery, edited ‘3D and 4D Printing in Biomedical Applications: Process Engineering and Additive Manufacturing’. He also authored sections of the book, alongside an international panel of academic scholars and industry experts. The book, written for pharmaceutical chemists, medicinal chemists, biotechnologists and pharma engineers, covers the key aspects of the printing of medical and pharmaceutical products and the challenges and advances associated with their development. It explores the process optimization, innovation process, engineering and technology behind printed medicine and provides information on biomedical developments such as shape memory polymers, 4D bio-fabrications and bone printing.
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“There are numerous potential applications of this emerging technology. In the future we predict doctors would be able to send a 3D prescription to a Pharmacy, via e-mail or a shared server, and the Pharmacists would then be able to print the required dosage via a 3D printer placed right at the dispensing counter- at the point of need, eliminating the need for paper-based prescriptions. Similarly, we are not far off from when patients would be able to print their own medication on demand by using their small printing unit right at the kitchen or bedside”, explains Dr Maniruzzaman.
“Another example can be that a 3D printer or bio-printer placed right by the operation bed in the operation theatre can print the medical implants required for that patient lying on the bed just right at the point of care. The dimensions and geometry of the implants can be tailored specifically for that patient saving both time and cost for manufacturing. Above all, this would enhance the patient compliance significantly,” he adds.
3D printing has appeared as one of the most promising additive manufacturing techniques across many industries, now including the medical and pharmaceutical arenas. 4D printing is an emerging technology that, simply put, refers to a printed object that transforms over time. It is envisaged this technology will revolutionize biomedical developments.
A British arts engineering company says it has created the world’s first AI robot capable of drawing people who pose for it. The humanoid called Ai-Da can sketch subjects using a microchip in her eye and a pencil in her robotic hand – coordinated by AI processes and algorithms. Ai-Da‘s ability as a life-like robot to draw and paint ultra-realistic portraits from sight has never been achieved before, according to the designers in Cornwall. It is the brainchild of art impresario and galleries Aidan Meller.
Named after Ada Lovelace , the first female computer programmer in the world, Ai-Da the robot has been designed and built by Cornish robotics company Engineered Arts who make robots for communication and entertainment.
In April 2018, Engineered Arts created an ultra-realistic robot to promote the Westworld TV show.
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“Pioneering a new AI art movement, we are excited to present Ai-Da, the first professional humanoid artist, who creates her own art, as well as being a performance artist. “As an AI robot, her artwork uses AI processes and algorithms. “The work engages us to think about AI and technological uses and abuses in the world today.” explains Aidan Meller.
Professors and post-Phd students at Oxford University and Goldsmiths are providing Ai-Da with the programming and creative design for her art work. While students at Leeds University are custom designing and programming a bionic arm to create her art work.
Ai-Da has a “RoboThespian” body , featuring an expressive range of movements and she has the ability to talk and respond to questions. The robot also has a “Mesmer” head, featuring realistic silicone skin, 3D printed teeth and gums, integrated eye cameras, as well as hair.