Researchers have invented a range of instruments from giant telescopes to rovers to search for life in outer space, but so far, these efforts have yielded no definitive evidence that it exists beyond Earth. Now scientists have developed a new tool that can look for signs of life with 10,000 times more sensitivity than instruments carried on previous spaceflight missions.
Their report appears in the ACS journal Analytical Chemistry.
One path to finding life on other planets — or moons — involves looking for signature patterns of amino acids, which are organic molecules that are critical to life on Earth. But looking for these molecules on Mars or other planetary surfaces has been a major challenge. The Curiosity rover exploring Mars attempted to accomplish this, but the rover’s experiments to identify organic chemicals in Martian samples were complicated by reactions with other materials in the samples. So Peter A. Willis, Jessica Creamer and Maria F. Mora set out to address this limitation.
The researchers created methods based on capillary electrophoresis to process soil or ice samples and detect 17 different amino acids simultaneously. This particular set of amino acids can be found in large quantities in biological and non-living samples, but in certain patterns, could serve as an indicator of life. The researchers validated their approach by analyzing samples from California’s Mono Lake, an extremely salty body of water acting as a stand-in for briny water on Mars and on some moons. The methods detected the amino acids with 10,000 times the sensitivity of past approaches and identified three different biosignatures that were present. Willis, a member of the Europa Lander Science Definition Team, says that this type of technology is under consideration for future missions to ocean worlds like Europa and also Enceladus. The researchers say these are the best techniques yet to find signs of life on other worlds.
Each disease produces a unique volatile chemical breathprint
Before modern medical lab techniques became available, doctors diagnosed some diseases by smelling a patient’s breath. Scientists have been working for years to develop analytical instruments that can mimic this sniff-and-diagnose ability. Now, researchers report in the journal ACS Nano that they have identified a unique “breathprint” for each disease. Using this information, they have designed a device that screens breath samples to classify and diagnose several types of diseases.
Exhaled breath contains nitrogen, carbon dioxide and oxygen, as well as a small amount of more than 100 other volatile chemical components. The relative amounts of these substances vary depending on the state of a person’s health. As far back as around 400 B.C., Hippocrates told his students to “smell your patients’ breath” to search for clues of diseases such as diabetes (which creates a sweet smell). In more recent times, several teams of scientists have developed experimental breath analyzers, but most of these instruments focus on a single type of disease, such as cancer. In their own work, Hossam Haick and a team of collaborators in 14 clinical departments worldwide wanted to create a breathalyzer that could distinguish among multiple diseases.
The researchers developed an array of nanoscale sensors to detect the individual components in thousands of breath samples from patients who were either healthy or had one of 17 different diseases, such as kidney cancer or Parkinson’s disease. By analyzing the results with artificial intelligence techniques, the team could use the array to classify and diagnose the conditions. The team used mass spectrometry to identify the breath components associated with the diseases. They found that each disease produces a unique volatile chemical breathprint, based on differing amounts of 13 components. They also showed that the presence of one disease would not prevent the detection of others – a prerequisite for developing a practical device to screen and diagnose various diseases in a noninvasive, inexpensive and portable manner.
American Chemical Society research articles from Innovation Toronto
- Implantable ‘artificial pancreas’ could help diabetes patients control their blood sugar – July 2, 2015
- Toward nanorobots that swim through blood to deliver drugs – June 21, 2015
- On the road to needle-free medicine – June 18, 2015
- New electronic stent could provide feedback and therapy — then dissolve – May 31, 2015
- The next step in DNA computing: GPS mapping? – May 10, 2015
- Artificial photosynthesis could help make fuels, plastics and medicine – all without electricity – April 30, 2015
- Making robots more human – April 30, 2015
- Silk could be new ‘green’ material for next-generation batteries – March 14, 2015
- Energy-generating cloth could replace batteries in wearable devices – March 4, 2015
- Aerogel catalyst shows promise for fuel cells – March 3, 2015
- Tiny robotic ‘hands’ could improve cancer diagnostics, drug delivery – February 4, 2015
- An end to the medicine dropper for eye injuries? – February 4, 2015
- Tattoo-like sensor can detect glucose levels without a painful finger prick – January 14, 2014
- DNA ‘glue’ could someday be used to build tissues, organs – January 14, 2014
- Nanowire clothing could keep people warm — without heating everything else – January 7, 2014
- New ‘electronic skin’ for prosthetics, robotics detects pressure from different directions New ‘electronic skin’ for prosthetics, robotics detects pressure from different directions – December 10, 2014
- Paper electronics could make health care more accessible – November 23, 2014
- Artificial Retina Could Someday Help Restore Vision – November 13, 2014
- Electronic ‘tongue’ to ensure food quality – November 12, 2014
- Microrockets fueled by water neutralize chemical and biological warfare agents – October 31, 2014
- An effective, cost-saving way to detect natural gas pipeline leaks – October 22, 2014
- A brighter design emerges for low-cost, ‘greener’ LED light bulbs – October 16, 2014
- Dolphin ‘breathalyzer’ could help diagnose animal and ocean health – October 15, 2014
- ‘Fracking’ wastewater that is treated for drinking produces potentially harmful compounds – September 24, 2014
- ‘Greener,’ low-cost transistor heralds advance in flexible electronics – September 24, 2014
- Toward making lithium-sulfur batteries a commercial reality for a bigger energy punch – September 18, 2014
- Artificial ‘beaks’ that collect water from fog: A drought solution? – September 18, 2014
- ‘Electronic skin’ could improve early breast cancer detection – September 10, 2014
- Handheld scanner could make brain tumor removal more complete, reducing recurrence – September 3, 2014
- Turning waste from rice, parsley and other foods into biodegradable plastic – August 20, 2014
- ‘Shape-shifting’ material could help reconstruct faces – August 16, 2014
- Could hemp nanosheets topple graphene for making the ideal supercapacitor? – August 15, 2014
- Carbon Dioxide ‘Sponge’ Could Ease Transition to Cleaner Energy? – August 11, 2014
- Like cling wrap, new biomaterial can coat tricky burn wounds and block out infection – August 11, 2014
- On the frontiers of cyborg science – August 11, 2014
- Exploring 3-D printing to make organs for transplants – August 1, 2014
- Bubble wrap serves as sheet of tiny test tubes in resource-limited regions – July 16, 2014
- Using DNA to build a better, safer drug-delivery tool – July 9, 2014
- Bioelectronics could lead to a new class of medicine – July 3, 2014
- How to tell when a sewage pipe needs repair — before it bursts – June 6, 2014
- A promising step toward building a hydrogen economy – May 21, 2014
- Paper-based diagnostics, made with a scrapbooking tool, could curb hepatitis C pandemic – May 21, 2014
- New smart coating could make oil-spill cleanup faster and more efficient – May 14, 2014
- Energy device for flexible electronics packs a lot of power | thin film supercapacitors – May 7, 2014
- Recycling astronaut urine for energy and drinking water – April 9, 2014
- High-tech materials purify water with sunlight | water purifier
- First comprehensive test to detect genetic modification in food | Genetically modified food
- Rice uses light to remotely trigger biochemical reactions
- From Lectures to Explosives Detection: Green Laser Pointer Identifies Traces of Dangerous Chemicals in Real-Time
- “Sweet” chemicals from a “green” raw material
- Giving Soybean Oil a New Role in Serving Society
- Packaging insulin into a pill-friendly form for diabetes treatment
- First plant-based ‘microswimmers’ could propel drugs to the right location
- Toward lowering titanium’s cost and environmental footprint for lightweight products
- Turning waste into power with bacteria — and loofahs | loofah
- Polymer gel, heal thyself: University of Pittsburgh engineering team proposes new composites that can regenerate when damaged
- Solar-powered battery woven into fabric overcomes hurdle for ‘wearable electronics’
- Research Paves Path for Hybrid NanoMaterials That Could Replace Human Tissue or Today’s Pills
- Toward a urine test for detecting blood clots
- Scientists collaborate to maximize energy gains from tiny nanoparticles
- Companies close to reusing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide
- A mimic of ‘good cholesterol’ could someday treat cardiovascular and other diseases
- Recycling valuable materials used in TVs, car batteries, cell phones
- Interstellar travel: Starship troupers
- Managing the data deluge through new software
- Cheap metals can be used to make products from petroleum
- Paper-based device could bring medical testing to remote locales
- Maximizing broccoli’s cancer-fighting potential
- Toward a urine test for detecting blood clots
- New device harnesses sun and sewage to produce hydrogen fuel
- Rice U. theorists calculate atom-thick carbyne chains may be strongest material ever
- Translating nature’s library yields drug leads for AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease
- Chemists develop new approaches to understanding disturbing trends near Earth’s surface
- Scientists Demonstrate New Method for Harvesting Energy from Light
- Edible coatings for ready-to-eat fresh fruits and vegetables
- Toward making people invisible to mosquitoes
- University nonprofit poised to bridge ‘Valley of Death’ and spur drug development
- The next era in discovering drugs in nature’s own medicine cabinet
- Report proposes microbiology’s grand challenge to help feed the world
- Hydrogen Fuel From Sunlight
- Producing hydrogen from water with carbon/charcoal powder
- Butterfly wings + carbon nanotubes = new ‘nanobiocomposite’ material
- Using a form of ‘ice that burns’ to make potable water from oil and gas production
- Breakthrough advances nanomaterials for printable solar cells
- Waste CO2 Could Be Source of Extra Power
- Oregon lab changes game for synthesizing new materials
- Toward a safer form of acetaminophen
- NYU-Poly Nano Scientists Reach the Holy Grail in Label-Free Cancer Marker Detection: Single Molecules
- Harvesting electricity from the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide
- Nanomaterial to help reduce CO2 emissions
- Breakthrough could lead to “artificial skin” that senses touch, humidity and temperature
- New catalyst could cut cost of making hydrogen fuel
- Toward broad-spectrum antiviral drugs for common cold and other infections
- Guarding Our DNA
- Breakthrough in synthetic fuel production
- Too green to be true? Researchers develop highly effective method for converting CO2 into methanol
- Filmmaking Magic With Polymers
- DNA constructs antenna for solar energy
- An environmentally friendly battery made from wood
- ‘Self-cleaning’ pollution-control technology could do more harm than good
- Nanoparticle Opens the Door to Clean-Energy Alternatives
- Progress in introducing cleaner cook stoves for billions of people worldwide
- Papaya-clay combo could cut cost of cut cost of water purification in developing countries
- The Diabetes ‘Breathalyzer’
- Researchers Work to Bring Cheaper, ‘Greener’ Lighting to Market with Inkjet-printed Hybrid Quantum Dot LEDs
- Biology’s drive toward engineering
- Solar-powered nanofilters pump in antibiotics to clean contaminated water
- First dual-action compound kills cancer cells, stops them from spreading
- Human scabs serve as inspiration for new bandage to speed healing
- UCI chemists devise inexpensive, accurate way to detect prostate cancer
- Fast new, one-step genetic engineering technology
- Pitt Chemists Demonstrate Nanoscale Alloys So Bright They Could Have Potential Medical Applications
- Add boron for better batteries
- Safer, more environmentally friendly flame retardant with first-of-its-kind dual effects
- Oil for the Joints: Grinstaff Advances New Osteoarthritis Treatment
- UNL team’s discovery yields supertough, strong nanofibers
- Greener methods for making silver nanoparticles
- Fighting drug-resistant bacteria with a new genre of antibodies
- Understanding the life of lithium ion batteries in electric vehicles
- Cost-Saving Measure to Upgrade Ethanol to Butanol — A Better Alternative to Gasoline
- Overcoming a major barrier to medical and other uses of ‘microrockets’ and ‘micromotors’
- Major symposium on arsenic contamination in food and water supplies
- Population boom poses interconnected challenges of energy, food, water
- Natural soil bacteria pump new life into exhausted oil wells
- New ‘transient electronics’ disappear when no longer needed
- ‘Artificial leaf’ gains the ability to self-heal damage and produce energy from dirty water
- Reducing waste of food: A key element in feeding billions more people
- Ready for debut: Fruit-juice-infused chocolate with 50 percent less fat
- Engineering Algae to Make the ‘Wonder Material’ Nanocellulose for Biofuels and More
- Microalgae produce more oil faster for energy, food or products
- Advance in re-engineering photosynthesis to make drugs, compounds or ingredients
- Verifying that sorghum is a new safe grain for people with celiac disease
- Big Breakthrough for high-power lithium-ion batteries
- A milestone for new carbon-dioxide capture/clean coal technology
- Paraffin encapsulated in beach sand material as a new way to store heat from the sun
- Paving the way for greater use of ancient medical knowledge
- Duckweed as a cost-competitive raw material for biofuel production
- Estimates reduce amount of additional land available for biofuel production
- First mobile app for green chemistry fosters sustainable manufacturing of medicines
- The nuclear reactor in your basement
- Using millions of gigs of data to improve human health
- A self-healing protective coating for concrete
- Detecting cocaine “naturally”
- New method for uncovering side effects before a drug hits the market
- Advance promises to expand biological control of crop pests
- Lack of energy an enemy to antibiotic-resistant microbes
- Widely used nanoparticles enter soybean plants from farm soil
- Green Chemistry: There’s an App for That!
- A Material That Most Liquids Won’t Wet
- Development of the first way to make large amounts of promising anti-cancer substance
- Ingredient in diarrhea medicine leads to sustainable new farm fertilizer
- Another tiny miracle: Graphene oxide soaks up radioactive waste
- New method for uncovering side effects before a drug hits the market
- New twist on using biomass for perfume, cosmetic, personal care products
- Hagfish slime as a model for tomorrow’s natural fabrics
- Ingredient in diarrhea medicine leads to sustainable new farm fertilizer
- New micropumps for hand-held medical labs produce pressures 500 times higher than car tire
- Speed limits on cargo ships could reduce their pollutants by more than half
- New malaria treatment
- New advance could help soldiers, athletes, others rebound from traumatic brain injuries
- Sticky paper offers cheap, easy solution for paper-based medical diagnostics
- A complete solution for oil-spill cleanup
- New evidence on easing inflammation of brain cells for Alzheimer’s disease
- Forensic science on trial
- An advance toward a flu-fighting nasal spray
- Cooled coal emissions would clean air and lower health and climate-change costs
- New era in camouflage makeup: Shielding soldiers from searing heat of bomb blasts
- Cleaner fuel for cruise ships and other big vessels from ingredients in detergents, medicines
- Uranium supply extracted from Seawater could last for Centuries
- Good News for Banana Lovers: Help May Be on the Way to Slow That Rapid Over-Ripening
- Biorefinery makes use of every bit of a soybean
- Fueling the future with renewable gasoline and diesel
- Breakthrough in Doubling the Survival Rate of Internal Injuries
- Electrifying success in raising antioxidant levels in sweet potatoes
- New Space-Age Insulating Material for Homes, Clothing and Other Everyday Uses
- “THERANOSTIC’ IMAGING OFFERS MEANS OF KILLING PROSTATE CANCER CELLS WITHOUT HARMING OTHER HEALTHY CELLS
- Discovering new uses for old drugs
- The first robot that mimics the water striders’ jumping abilities
- Nano-Infused Paint Can Detect Strain
- 1960s-Era Anti-Cancer Drug Points to Treatments for Lou Gehrig’s Disease
- Light-Induced Delivery of Nitric Oxide Eradicates Drug-Resistant Bacteria
- Nature’s billion-year-old battery key to storing energy
- Advance could mean stain-busting super scrub brushes and other new laundry products
- New plastic bleeds and heals like human skin
- Two Drugs Already On the Market Show Promise Against Tuberculosis
- ‘Noodle Gels’ or ‘Spaghetti Highways’ Could Become Tools of Regenerative Medicine
- Butterfly Wings’ ‘Art of Blackness’ Could Boost Production of Green Fuels
- One-Pound Boat That Could Float 1,000 Pounds
- Combating climate change
- Origami-Inspired Paper Sensor Could Test for Malaria and HIV for Less Than 10 Cents
- New Nanopatterned Surfaces Could Improve the Efficiency of Powerplants and Desalination Systems
- Nano-Oils Keep the Electronic Devices Really Cool
- Particle-Free Silver Ink Prints Small, High-Performance Electronics
- New Materials Remove Carbon Dioxide from Smokestacks, Tailpipes and Even the Air
- Edible Carbon Dioxide Sponge
- Scientists Build Battery in a Nanowire
- Bionic Microrobot Mimics the ‘Water Strider’ and Walks On Water
- An Advance Toward Ultra-Portable Electronic Devices
- ‘Super sand’ to help clean up dirty drinking water
- Sniffing out disease
- Can a vaccine stop drug abuse?
- Squeeze power: First ‘practical nanogenerator’ developed
- New Trash-to-Treasure Process Turns Landfill Nuisance Into Plastic
- Waste Ash from Coal Could Save Billions in Repairing Bridges and Roads
- ‘Bacterial Dirigibles’ Emerge as Next-Generation Disease Fighters
- First Practical Nanogenerator Produces Electricity With Pinch of the Fingers
- Algae Holds Promise for Nuclear Clean-Up
- Fires could be extinguished using beams of electricity
- New High-Performance Lithium-Ion Battery ‘Top Candidate’ for Electric Cars
- Computer Game Taps Creativity Of Scientists To Solve Energy Problems
- Herbs ‘can be natural pesticides’
- Is saving our atmosphere killing our seas?
- Fighting Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria by Treating Municipal Wastewater at Higher Temperatures
- New Memory Material May Hold Data For One Billion Years
- Hydrogen Fuel for Thought: Metallacarboranes May Meet DOE Storage Goals
- Advances Offer Path to Shrink Computer Chips Again
- Juicing Up Laptops and Cell Phones With Soda Pop or Vegetable Oil?
- ‘Dry Water’ Could Make a Big Splash Commercially, Help Fight Global Warming
- Hi-Tech Rechargeable Batteries Developed for Military
- Scientists Devise New “Benign by Design” Drugs, Paints, Pesticides and More
- Doctors Underestimate Environment as Cause for Cancer
- U.S. Could Eliminate CO2 Emissions from Coal in 20 Years
- Lowering the Ceiling on Roof Energy Losses
- Addicted to Fat: Overeating May Alter the Brain as Much as Hard Drugs
- New Form of Insulin Can Be Inhaled Rather Than Injected
- Tires could be on the road to a greener future
- The Body Politic
- Can We Feed and Save the Planet?
- New compound provides a better cage for carbon dioxide
- Eco-friendly Self-cleaning Material Tough On Stains, Light On Effort
- Researchers Boost Production Of Biofuel That Could Replace Gasoline
- Plastics break down fast in ocean
- ‘Cold Fusion’ Rebirth? New Evidence For Existence Of Controversial Energy Source
Founded in 1876 at New York University, the ACS currently has more than 163,000 members at all degree levels and in all fields of chemistry, chemical engineering, and related fields. It is the world’s largest scientific society and one of the leading sources of authoritative scientific information.
The ACS is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The ACS holds national meetings twice a year covering the complete field of chemistry and also holds dozens of smaller conferences in specific fields. Its publications division produces dozens of scholarly journals including the prestigious Journal of the American Chemical Society. The primary source of income of the ACS is the Chemical Abstracts Service and 38 peer-reviewed publications. Chemical & Engineering News is the weekly news magazine published by the American Chemical Society and is sent to all members. The ACS membership is organized into 187 geographical Local Sections and 33 Technical Divisions.
The group holds a congressional charter under Title 36 of the United States Code.
Electronic-skin prototypes are stretchy, thin films that can sense temperature, pressure and even monitor blood oxygen or alcohol levels. But most of these devices are missing a key feature of real skin that allows us to feel a wider range of conditions: hair. Now researchers have combined hair-like wires with electronic skin to make a more versatile sensor for robots, prosthetics and other applications.
Their report appears in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
Robots and prosthetics are becoming ever more human-like, but the electronic skins designed to enhance their usefulness don’t yet have the full range of tactile senses that we have. For example, they cannot “feel” a light breeze. But fine hair, which covers 95 percent of the human body, helps us feel the slightest wind. To capture that sensation, some researchers have developed separate sensors that mimic this fine hair by sensing and detecting air flow. However, that’s about all these particular devices can do. Rongguo Wang, Lifeng Hao and colleagues wanted to expand on this, combining the features of electronic skin and hair in a single device.
The researchers created an array of artificial hairs with glass-coated, cobalt-based microwires and embedded the ends of the wires in a silicon-rubber “skin.” The “hairy skin” could repeatedly detect a range of pressures, including the landing of a fly, a light wind and a 10-pound weight. And when used with a two-finger robot gripping a plastic block, the new sensor could “feel” slip and friction forces.
With the ubiquity of lithium-ion batteries in smartphones and other rechargeable devices, it’s hard to imagine replacing them. But the rising price of lithium has spurred a search for alternatives. One up-and-coming battery technology uses abundant, readily available seawater. Now, making this option viable is one step closer with a new report on a sodium-air, seawater battery.
The study appears in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
Sodium-air — or sodium-oxygen — batteries are considered one of the most promising, and cost-effective alternatives to today’s lithium-ion standby. But some challenges remain before they can become a commercial reality. Soo Min Hwang, Youngsik Kim and colleagues have been tackling these challenges, using seawater as the catholyte — an electrolyte and cathode combined. In batteries, the electrolyte is the component that allows an electrical charge to flow between the cathode and anode. A constant flow of seawater into and out of the battery provides the sodium ions and water responsible for producing a charge. The reactions have been sluggish, however, so the researchers wanted to find a way to speed them up.
For their new battery, the team prepared a catalyst using porous cobalt manganese oxide nanoparticles. The pores create a large surface area for encouraging the electrochemical reactions needed to produce a charge. A hard carbon electrode served as the anode. The resulting battery performed efficiently over 100 cycles with an average discharge voltage of about 2.7 volts. This doesn’t yet measure up to a lithium-ion cell, which can reach 3.6 to 4.0 volts, but the advance is getting close to bridging the gap, the researchers say.
“Electrically Controllable Light Trapping for Self-Powered Switchable Solar Windows”
Smart windows get darker to filter out the sun’s rays on bright days, and turn clear on cloudy days to let more light in. This feature can help control indoor temperatures and offers some privacy without resorting to aids such as mini-blinds. Now scientists report a new development in this growing niche: solar smart windows that can turn opaque on demand and even power other devices. The study appears in ACS Photonics.
Most existing solar-powered smart windows are designed to respond automatically to changing conditions, such as light or heat. But this means that on cool or cloudy days, consumers can’t flip a switch and tint the windows for privacy. Also, these devices often operate on a mere fraction of the light energy they are exposed to while the rest gets absorbed by the windows. This heats them up, which can add warmth to a room that the windows are supposed to help keep cool. Jeremy Munday and colleagues wanted to address these limitations.
The researchers created a new smart window by sandwiching a polymer matrix containing microdroplets of liquid crystal materials, and an amorphous silicon layer — the type often used in solar cells — between two glass panes. When the window is “off,” the liquid crystals scatter light, making the glass opaque. The silicon layer absorbs the light and provides the low power needed to align the crystals so light can pass through and make the window transparent when the window is turned “on” by the user. The extra energy that doesn’t go toward operating the window is harvested and could be redirected to power other devices, such as lights, TVs or smartphones, the researchers say.
The idea of eating bugs has created a buzz lately in both foodie and international development circles as a more sustainable alternative to consuming meat and fish. Now a report appearing in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry examines how the nutrients — particularly iron — provided by grasshoppers, crickets and other insects really measures up to beef. It finds that insects could indeed fill that dietary need.
Edible bugs might sound unappetizing to many Westerners, but they’ve long been included in traditional diets in other regions of the world, which are now home to more than 2 billion people, according a report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. The report also notes that about 1,900 insect species have been documented as a food source globally. That they’re a source of protein is well established, but if the world is to turn to bugs to replace meat, the critters will need to offer more than protein. Iron is a particularly important nutrient that is often missing in non-meat diets, causing iron-deficiency anemia, which can lead to lower cognition, immunity, poor pregnancy outcomes and other problems. In light of these concerns, Yemisi Latunde-Dada and colleagues wanted to find out whether commonly eaten insects could contribute to a well-rounded meal.
The researchers analyzed grasshoppers, crickets, mealworms and buffalo worms for their mineral contents and estimated how much of each nutrient would likely get absorbed if eaten, using a lab model of human digestion. The insects had varying levels of iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese and zinc. Crickets, for example, had higher levels of iron than the other insects did. And minerals including calcium, copper and zinc from grasshoppers, crickets and mealworms are more readily available for absorption than the same minerals from beef. The results therefore support the idea that eating bugs could potentially help meet the nutritional needs of the world’s growing population, the researchers say.
Learn more: The buzz about edible bugs: Can they replace beef?
Researchers at the Center for Multidimensional Carbon Materials (CMCM), within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) have demonstrated graphene coating protects glass from corrosion. Their research, published in ACS Nano, can contribute to solving problems related to glass corrosion in several industries.
Glass has a high degree of both corrosion and chemical resistance. For this reason it is the primary packaging material to preserve medicines and chemicals. However, over time at high humidity and pH, some glass types corrode. Corroded glass loses its transparency and its strength is reduced. As a result, the corrosion of silicate glass, the most common and oldest form of glass, by water is a serious problem especially for the pharmaceutical, environmental and optical industries, and in particular in hot and humid climates.
Although there are different types of glass, ordinary glazing and containers are made of silicon dioxide (SiO2), sodium oxide (Na2O) along with minor additives. Glass corrosion begins with the adsorption of water on the glass surface. Hydrogen ions from water then diffuse into the glass and exchange with the sodium ions present on the glass surface. The pH of the water near the glass surface increases, allowing the silicate structure to dissolve.
▲ Corrosion mechanism on the glass surface (via Bin Wang et al, ACS Nano 2016. American Chemical Society).
Scientists have been looking at how to coat glass to protect it from damage. An ideal protective coating should be thin, transparent, and provide a good diffusion barrier to chemical attack. Graphene with its chemical inertness, thinness, and high transparency makes it very promising as a coating material. Moreover, owing to its excellent chemical barrier properties it blocks helium atoms from penetrating through it. The use of graphene coating is being explored as a protective layer for other materials requiring resistance to corrosion, oxidation, friction, bacterial infection, electromagnetic radiation, etc.
IBS scientists grew graphene on copper using a technique previously invented by Prof. Rodney S. Ruoff and collaborators, and transferred either one or two atom-thick layers of graphene onto both sides of rectangular pieces of glass. The effectiveness of the graphene coating was evaluated by water immersion testing and observing the differences between uncoated and coated glass. After 120 days of immersion in water at 60°C, uncoated glass samples had significantly increased in surface roughness and defects, and reduced in fracture strength. In contrast, both the single and double layer graphene-coated glasses had essentially no change in both fracture strength and surface roughness.
“The purpose of the study was to determine whether graphene grown by chemical vapor deposition on copper foils, a now established method, could be transferred onto glass, and protect the glass from corrosion. Our study shows that even one atom-thick layer of graphene does the trick,” explains Prof. Ruoff, director of the CMCM and Professor at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST). “In the future, when it is possible to produce larger and yet higher-quality graphene sheets and to optimize the transfer on glass, it seems reasonably likely that graphene coating on glass will be used on an industrial scale.”
ACES researchers have for the first time, developed a smart textile from carbon nanotube and spandex fibres that can both sense and move in response to a stimulus like a muscle or joint.
“We have already made intelligent materials as sensors and integrated them into devices such as a knee sleeve that can be used to monitor the movement of the joint, providing valuable data that can be used to create a personalised training or rehabilitation program for the wearer,” Dr Foroughi said.
“Our recent work allowed us to develop smart clothing that simultaneously monitors the wearer’s movements, senses strain, and adjusts the garment to support or correct the movement,” he said.
The smart textile, which is easily scalable for the fabrication of industrial quantities, generates a mechanical work capacity and a power output which higher than that produced by human muscles.
It has many potential applications ranging from smart textiles to robotics and sensors for lab on a chip devices. The team, having already created the knee sleeve prototype, is now working on using the smart textile as a wearable antenna, as well as in other biomedical applications.
The new smart textile, described last month in the high ranking international journal, American Chemical Society (ACS Nano), was made possible through collaborations facilitated by ACES between researchers at the University of Wollongong and the University of Texas at Dallas.
ACES Director Prof. Gordon Wallace said the breadth of expertise required to enable fundamental materials science discoveries and their application into practical structures is enormous.
“It can only be done in a reasonable time frame within a culture like ACES that encourages the forging of appropriate research alliances,” Prof Wallace said.
“Materials that can provide both sensing and response capabilities are the holy grail of intelligent materials research. This fundamental discovery will find widespread application,” he said.
The discovery came three years into Dr Foroughi’s ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) project which aimed to create a new class of smart textile.
“Working with world-class scientists Prof Geoff Spinks and United States collaborator Prof Ray Baughman made it possible to create the first generation 3D carbon nanotube knitted smart textile,” Dr Foroughi said.
Malaria remains one of the world’s leading causes of mortality in developing countries. Last year alone, it killed more than 400,000 people, mostly young children. This week in ACS Central Science, an international consortium of researchers unveils the mechanics and findings of a unique “open science” project for malaria drug discovery that has been five years in the making.
The current gold standard antimalarial treatments are based on artemisinin, a compound developed in the 1970s in China, combined with a partner drug. Yet, resistance to artemisinin and its partners has already emerged in some parts of the world. If the resistance spreads, there are no viable replacement treatments. Given the lack of commercial incentive for industry to develop drugs for neglected diseases such as malaria, and because academic researchers often lack resources to move compounds forward, there is a clear need for new approaches. In response, Matthew Todd from the University of Sydney together with the not-for-profit research and development organization Medicines for Malaria Venture proposed an “open source” solution akin to the open source concept used in software development.
More than 50 researchers from 21 organizations in eight countries added their research to the project, which started with a large set of potential drug molecules made public by the company GlaxoSmithKline. Anyone willing to contribute — anywhere in the world — was welcome to share data and collaborate by adding comments to an electronic notebook as part of the Open Source Malaria Consortium. Some scientists designed and synthesized new generations of the antimalarial compounds; others ran assays and interpreted results. Several rounds of research were conducted, addressing water solubility and structural issues, with all the data being made public in real time. A wide array of scientists, from professors to undergraduates, participated by choice, agreeing that no one would individually seek patents to protect their contributions. The authors note that the current results, while promising, are merely the beginning of the story. They continue to welcome additional contributions, also researched openly and collaboratively.
A future of soft robots that wash your dishes or smart T-shirts that power your cell phone may depend on the development of stretchy power sources. But traditional batteries are thick and rigid — not ideal properties for materials that would be used in tiny malleable devices. In a step toward wearable electronics, a team of researchers has produced a stretchy micro-supercapacitor using ribbons of graphene.
The researchers will present their work today at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS, the world’s largest scientific society, is holding the meeting here through Thursday. It features more than 9,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.
“Most power sources, such as phone batteries, are not stretchable. They are very rigid,” says Xiaodong Chen, Ph.D. “My team has made stretchable electrodes, and we have integrated them into a supercapacitor, which is an energy storage device that powers electronic gadgets.”
Supercapacitors, developed in the 1950s, have a higher power density and longer life cycle than standard capacitors or batteries. And as devices have shrunk, so too have supercapacitors, bringing into the fore a generation of two-dimensional micro-supercapacitors that are integrated into cell phones, computers and other devices. However, these supercapacitors have remained rigid, and are thus a poor fit for soft materials that need to have the ability to elongate.
In this study, Chen of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and his team sought to develop a micro-supercapacitor from graphene. This carbon sheet is renowned for its thinness, strength and conductivity. “Graphene can be flexible and foldable, but it cannot be stretched,” he says. To fix that, Chen’s team took a cue from skin. Skin has a wave-like microstructure, Chen says. “We started to think of how we could make graphene more like a wave.”
The researchers’ first step was to make graphene micro-ribbons. Most graphene is produced with physical methods — like shaving the tip of a pencil — but Chen uses chemistry to build his material. “We have more control over the graphene’s structure and thickness that way,” he explains. “It’s very difficult to control that with the physical approach. Thickness can really affect the conductivity of the electrodes and how much energy the supercapacitor overall can hold.”
The next step was to create the stretchable polymer chip with a series of pyramidal ridges. The researchers placed the graphene ribbons across the ridges, creating the wave-like structure. The design allowed the material to stretch without the graphene electrodes of the superconductor detaching, cracking or deforming. In addition, the team developed kirigami structures, which are variations of origami folds, to make the supercapacitors 500 percent more flexible without decaying their electrochemical performance. As a final test, Chen has powered an LCD from a calculator with the stretchy graphene-based micro-supercapacitor. Similarly, such stretchy supercapacitors can be used in pressure or chemical sensors.
In future experiments, the researchers hope to increase the electrode’s surface area so it can hold even more energy. The current version only stores enough energy to power LCD devices for a minute, he says.