Tiny Magnetic Robots Infiltrate Tumors to Destroy Cancer

Researchers have figured out how to deliver cancer-killing compounds (called enterotoxins) to tumors using bionic bacteria that are steered by a magnetic field. These “micro-robots” can hunt down and converge on a specific tumor, then shrink it by releasing the bacteria's own naturally produced anti-cancer chemicals. The results were recently published in the journal Science.

Cancer is such a complex disease, it’s hard to combat it with one weapon,” says , a micro-roboticist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich, Switzerland and the first author of the new study.
She and her lab hope that these magnetic, bacteria-riding little robots will offer a precise and powerful addition to the cancer treatment toolbox.

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How to Combine Photons and Phonons

New research by a City College of New York (CCNY) team has uncovered a novel way to combine two different states of matter. For one of the first times, topological photonslight—has been combined with lattice vibrations, also known as phonons, to manipulate their propagation in a robust and controllable way.

The study utilized topological photonics, an emergent direction in photonics which leverages fundamental ideas of the mathematical field of topology about conserved quantitiestopological invariants—that remain constant when altering parts of a geometric object under continuous deformations. One of the simplest examples of such invariants is number of holes, which, for instance, makes donut and mug equivalent from the topological point of view. The topological properties endow photons with helicity, when photons spin as they propagate, leading to unique and unexpected characteristics, such as robustness to defects and unidirectional propagation along interfaces between topologically distinct materials. Thanks to interactions with vibrations in crystals, these helical photons can then be used to channel infrared light along with vibrations.

The implications of this work are broad, in particular allowing researchers to advance Raman spectroscopy, which is used to determine vibrational modes of molecules. The research also holds promise for vibrational spectroscopy—also known as infrared spectroscopy—which measures the interaction of infrared radiation with matter through absorption, emission, or reflection. This can then be utilized to study and identify and characterize chemical substances.

We coupled helical photons with lattice vibrations in hexagonal boron nitride, creating a new hybrid matter referred to as phonon-polaritons,” said Alexander Khanikaev, lead author and physicist with affiliation in CCNY’s Grove School of Engineering. “It is half light and half vibrations. Since infrared light and lattice vibrations are associated with heat, we created new channels for propagation of light and heat together. Typically, lattice vibrations are very hard to control, and guiding them around defects and sharp corners was impossible before.

The new methodology can also implement directional radiative heat transfer, a form of energy transfer during which heat is dissipated through electromagnetic waves.

We can create channels of arbitrary shape for this form of hybrid light and matter excitations to be guided along within a two-dimensional material we created,” added Dr. Sriram Guddala, postdoctoral researcher in Prof. Khanikaev’s group and the first author of the manuscript. “This method also allows us to switch the direction of propagation of vibrations along these channels, forward or backward, simply by switching polarizations handedness of the incident laser beam. Interestingly, as the phonon-polaritons propagate, the vibrations also rotate along with the electric field. This is an entirely novel way of guiding and rotating lattice vibrations, which also makes them helical.”

Entitled “Topological phonon-polariton funneling in midinfrared metasurfaces,” the study appears in the journal Science.

Source: https://www.ccny.cuny.edu/

Artificial Leaf Could Become A Source Of Perpetual Energy

Rice University researchers have created an efficient, low-cost device that splits water to produce hydrogen fuel. The platform developed by the Brown School of Engineering lab of Rice materials scientist Jun Lou integrates catalytic electrodes and perovskite solar cells that, when triggered by sunlight, produce electricity. The current flows to the catalysts that turn water into hydrogen and oxygen, with a sunlight-to-hydrogen efficiency as high as 6.7%. This sort of catalysis isn’t new, but the lab packaged a perovskite layer and the electrodes into a single module that, when dropped into water and placed in sunlight, produces hydrogen with no further input. The platform introduced by Lou, lead author and Rice postdoctoral fellow Jia Liang and their colleagues in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano is a self-sustaining producer of fuel that, they say, should be simple to produce in bulk.

A schematic and electron microscope cross-section show the structure of an integrated, solar-powered catalyst to split water into hydrogen fuel and oxygen. The module developed at Rice University can be immersed into water directly to produce fuel when exposed to sunlight

The concept is broadly similar to an artificial leaf,” Lou said. “What we have is an integrated module that turns sunlight into electricity that drives an electrochemical reaction. It utilizes water and sunlight to get chemical fuels.”

Perovskites are crystals with cubelike lattices that are known to harvest light. The most efficient perovskite solar cells produced so far achieve an efficiency above 25%, but the materials are expensive and tend to be stressed by light, humidity and heat.  “Jia has replaced the more expensive components, like platinum, in perovskite solar cells with alternatives like carbon,” Lou commented. “That lowers the entry barrier for commercial adoption. Integrated devices like this are promising because they create a system that is sustainable. This does not require any external power to keep the module running.”

Liang said the key component may not be the perovskite but the polymer that encapsulates it, protecting the module and allowing to be immersed for long periods. “Others have developed catalytic systems that connect the solar cell outside the water to immersed electrodes with a wire,” he explained. “We simplify the system by encapsulating the perovskite layer with a Surlyn (polymer) film.”

The patterned film allows sunlight to reach the solar cell while protecting it and serves as an insulator between the cells and the electrodes, Liang said. “With a clever system design, you can potentially make a self-sustaining loop,” Lou added. “Even when there’s no sunlight, you can use stored energy in the form of chemical fuel. You can put the hydrogen and oxygen products in separate tanks and incorporate another module like a fuel cell to turn those fuels back into electricity.”

Source: https://news.rice.edu/

Perovskite Could Convert Up To 44% Of Light Into Electricity

Perovskites are a family of crystals that show promising properties for applications in nano-technology. However, one useful property that until now was unobserved in perovskites is so-called carrier multiplication – an effect that makes materials much more efficient in converting light into electricity. New research, led by University of Amsterdam (UvA-IoP) physicists Dr Chris de Weerd and Dr Leyre Gomez from the group of Prof. Tom Gregorkiewicz, has now shown that certain perovskites in fact do have this desirable propertyCrystals are configurations of atoms, molecules or ions, that are ordered in a structure that repeats itself in all directions. We have all encountered some crystals in everyday life: ordinary salt, diamond and even snowflakes are examples. What is perhaps less well-known is that certain crystals show very interesting properties when their size is not that of our everyday life but that of nanometers – a few billionths of a meter.

Perovskites – named after 19th century Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski – form a particular family of materials that all share the same crystal structure. These perovskites have many desirable electronic properties, making them useful for constructing for example LEDs, TV-screens, solar cells and lasers. A property which so far had not been shown to exist in perovskites is carrier multiplication. When semiconductors – in solar cells, for example – convert the energy of light into electricity, this is usually done one particle at a time: a single infalling photon results in a single excited electron (and the corresponding ‘hole’ where the electron used to be) that can carry an electrical current. However, in certain materials, if the infalling light is energetic enough, further electron-hole pairs can be excited as a result; it is this process that is known as carrier multiplication.

Until now, carrier multiplication had not been reported for perovskites. That we have now found it is of great fundamental impact on this upcoming material. For example, this shows that perovskite nanocrystals can be used to construct very efficient photodetectors, and in the future perhaps solar cells”, says De Weerd, who successfully defended her PhD thesis based on this and other research last week.

When carrier multiplication occurs, the conversion from light into electricity can become much more efficient. For example, in ordinary solar cells there is a theoretical limit (the so-called Shockley-Queisser limit) on the amount of energy that can be converted in this way: at most a little over 33% of the solar power gets turned into electrical power. In semiconductor nanocrystals that feature the carrier multiplication effect, however, a maximum efficiency of up to 44% is predicted.

The paper in which the researchers report on their findings was published in Nature Communications this week.

Source: http://iop.uva.nl/