This New Smartphone Screen Material Can Repair Its Own Scratches.


If you drop your phone and the screen shatters, you usually have two options: get it repaired or replace the phone entirely.

Chemists at the University of California, Riverside, have invented what could become a third option: a phone screen material that can heal itself.

 

The researchers conducted several tests on the material, including its ability to repair itself from cuts and scratches.

After they tore the material in half, it automatically stitched itself back together in under 24 hours, Chao Wang, a chemist leading the self-healing material research, tells Business Insider.

The material, which can stretch to 50 times its original size, is made of a stretchable polymer and an ionic salt.

It features a special type of bond called an ion-dipole interaction, which is a force between charged ions and polar molecules. This means that when the material breaks or has a scratch, the ions and molecules attract to each other to heal the material.

This is the first time scientists have created a self-healing material that can conduct electricity, making it especially useful for use for cell phone screens and batteries, Wang says.

material heals after being cut

Some LG phones, like the G Flex, already include a similar material on its back covers that can self-heal scratches. But this material can’t conduct electricity, so manufacturers can’t use it for screens.

Most phone screens have a grid of electrodes underneath, and when you touch it, your finger (which is also conductive) completes a circuit, telling the phone what to do.

 Wang predicts that this new self-healing material will be used for phone screens and batteries by 2020.

The team will present its research at an April 4 meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific organisation devoted to the study of chemistry.

“Self-healing materials may seem far away for real application, but I believe they will come out very soon with cell phones. Within three years, more self-healing products will go to market and change our everyday life,” he says.

“It will make our cell phones achieve much better performance than what they can achieve right now.”

Source:sciencealert.com

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Fungi: The New Hope For Recycling E-Waste


IN BRIEF

Following American Chemical Society research, three strains of fungus were found to extract up to 85 percent of the lithium and up to 48 percent of the cobalt from old batteries. If successful, this research could have a great impact on our environment—reducing the amount of e-waste which rapidly fills up the Earth.

HOPE IN FUNGI

Every day, tonnes of electronic waste is sent to developing countries at the expense of the people and their environment. For years, they are exposed to highly toxic chemicals when handling this kind of waste, which could damage their brains, reproductive systems, and kidneys. There is a dire need for change in the systems currently used to deal with this kind of waste.

Fortunately, a team from the American Chemical Society (ACS) led by Dr. Jeffrey A. Cunningham, has developed a way to extract some of the precious metals from discarded batteries by using a trio of naturally occurring species of fungus.

Over the years, reliance on lithium-ion batteries has increased dramatically. Although there have been attempts to lessen the amount of waste by extending battery-life, we have still yet to find an efficient way of recycling them. This is where fungi play a part.

Many species are good at dealing with exposure to metals like lithium. As Cunningham explains, fungi naturally generate organic acids that leach out metals. This has been observed for some time, and it’s one of the main reasons that fungi are used all over industry to extract metals.

Aspergillus niger (top left), Penicillium simplicissimum (top right) and Penicillium chrysogenum (bottom)
Aspergillus niger (top left), Penicillium simplicissimum (top right) and Penicillium chrysogenum (bottom). 

EXTRACTION PROCESS

The batteries are first taken apart and the cathodes are pulverized. Then, the three different strains of fungus—Aspergillus niger, Penicillium simplicissimum and Penicillium chrysogenum—take over. These fungi will then produce organic acids such as oxalic acid and citric acid, which, according to ExtremeTech “can extract up to 85 percent of the lithium and up to 48 percent of the cobalt from the cathodes of spent batteries.”

The team eagerly seeks to further this research. “We have ideas about how to remove [them], but at this point they remain ideas,” Cunningham says. “However, figuring out the initial extraction with fungi was a big step forward.”

If successful, this research could have a great impact on our environment—capable of reducing the amount of the toxic battery waste rapidly filling the Earth.

RNA therapy has shown real promise against psoriasis in its first human trial


A phase 1 trial involving a new type of RNA therapy has shown that the treatment could be used to fight psoriasis, a debilitating skin condition that affects nearly 3 percent of the world’s population.

At the American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting in Philadelphia last week, researchers announced that AST-005, a type of RNA therapy, is safe to use in humans, and were optimistic about the drug’s dose-dependent response in psoriasis patients.

Psoriasis is an auto-immune disease, triggered when the body creates too much of a normally healthy protein, tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). The immune system attacks this protein, causing red, itchy, and scaly skin patches.

Right now, there is no cure, and very limited treatments, but RNA could be the key to controlling it.

In every one of your cells, RNA acts as a messenger between your DNA and protein. Although DNA stays in the nucleus at all times, RNA moves around the cell, directing the creation of various proteins.

One of the ways scientists have been able to limit protein creation – such as the overproduction of TNF- α – is by destroying RNA genes using a relatively new technique called RNA interference, or RNAi. RNAi enters the cell, destroys the regular RNA, and less protein is created.

While we’ve been able to use RNAi in animal models pretty effectively, as Robert Service explains at Science Magazine, this has been difficult to get right in humans:

“The trouble is that traditional antisense RNA drugs [synthetic RNAi] usually don’t work. To date, only two antisense RNA therapies have been approved in the United States, despite decades of effort and dozens of clinical trials.

Among other problems, most introduced RNA snippets get chopped up before they reach their target by enzymes that patrol the cell for foreign material.”

But there’s renewed hope that this technique could work in humans, with the development of a new type of RNAi, called spherical nucleic acid (SNA).

Developed by researchers at US-based company, Exicure, AST-005 is a gel made up of SNAs, which has been shown in the past to lower the amount of TNF-α in animal trials. And unlike previous synthetic RNAis, the SNA’s structure is not chopped up by enzymes in the cell.

Back in April, researchers from Exicure announced treatment of its first patients for a phase 1 clinical trial for the AST-005 gel, which they hoped would lower the amount of TNF-α protein produced by the corresponding gene, and therefore limit patients’ symptoms.

“This clinical trial will enable our team to study safety and tolerability of AST-005 while demonstrating that the SNA technology can be used to treat diseases locally using a nucleic acid therapy. We are excited to bring this approach to patients in need,” said David Giljohann, CEO at Exicure, when the trial was first announced.

The results are looking promising. At the ASC meeting, one of the team, Chad Mirkin, explained that AST-005 has been found to be safe in humans, and shows a dose-dependent response to TNF-α.

This means that although there is more work to do in finding the correct dose, the researchers are hoping that a treatment could be on the way for those suffering psoriasis.

The researchers didn’t go into much detail, as it is still very early days yet. The initial observations have only been discussed at the ASC meeting, there has been no paper published in a peer reviewed journal, so unfortunately we can’t explain much more about the trial, or get too excited just yet.

But if the treatment continues to show promise in this and other follow-up trials, it’s just the beginning for similar SNA therapies, with the potential for more new drugs based on this technique to target cancer-causing genes, and a number of auto-immune diseases.

Although this is just an initial observation, we’re looking forward to seeing the final results.

SPECIAL MICROBES MAKE ANTI-OBESITY MOLECULE IN THE GUT


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Microbes may just be the next diet craze. Researchers have programmed bacteria to generate a molecule that, through normal metabolism, becomes a hunger-suppressing lipid. Mice that drank water laced with the programmed bacteria ate less, had lower body fat and staved off diabetes — even when fed a high-fat diet — offering a potential weight-loss strategy for humans.

The team will describe their approach in one of nearly 11,000 presentations at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, taking place here through Thursday.

Obesity strongly increases the risk for developing several diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. One in three Americans is obese, and efforts to stem the epidemic have largely failed. Lifestyle changes and medication typically achieve only modest weight loss, and most people regain the weight. In recent years, numerous studies have shown that the population of microbes living in the gut may be a key factor in determining the risk for obesity and related diseases, suggesting that strategically altering the gut microbiome may impact human health.

One advantage to microbial medicine would be that it’s low maintenance, says Sean Davies, Ph.D. His goal is to produce therapeutic bacteria that live in the gut for six months or a year, providing sustained drug delivery. This is in contrast to weight-loss drugs that typically need to be taken at least daily, and people tend not to take their medications as directed over time. “So we need strategies that deliver the drug without requiring the patient to remember to take their pills every few hours,” Davies says.

For a therapeutic molecule, Davies and colleagues at Vanderbilt University selectedN-acyl-phosphatidylethanolamines (NAPEs), which are produced in the small intestine after a meal and are quickly converted into N-acyl-ethanolamines (NAEs), potent appetite-suppressing lipids. The researchers altered the genes of a strain of probiotic bacteria so it would make NAPEs. Then they added the bacteria to the drinking water of a strain of mice that, fed a high-fat diet, develop obesity, signs of diabetes and fatty livers.

Compared to mice who received plain water or water containing control, non-programmed bacteria, the mice drinking the NAPE-making bacteria gained 15 percent less weight over the eight weeks of treatment. In addition, their livers and glucose metabolism were better than in the control mice. The mice that received the therapeutic bacteria remained lighter and leaner than control mice for up to 12 weeks after treatment ended.

In further experiments, Davies’ team found that mice that lacked the enzyme to make NAEs from NAPEs were not helped by the NAPE-making bacteria; but this could be overcome by giving the mice NAE-making bacteria instead. “This suggests that it might be best to use NAE-making bacteria in eventual clinical trials,” says Davies, especially if the researchers find that some people don’t make very much of the enzyme that converts NAPEs to NAEs. “We think that this would work very well in humans.”

The main obstacle to starting human trials is the potential risk that a treated person could transmit these special bacteria to another by fecal exposure. “We don’t want individuals to be unintentionally treated without their knowledge,” says Davies. “Especially because you could imagine that there might be some individuals, say the very young or old or those with specific diseases, who could be harmed by being exposed to an appetite-suppressing bacteria. So, we are working on genetically modifying the bacteria to significantly reduce its ability to be transmitted.”

OPOSSUM-BASED ANTIDOTE TO VENOM FROM SNAKE BITES COULD SAVE THOUSANDS OF LIVES


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Scientists will report in a presentation today that they have turned to the opossum to develop a promising new and inexpensive antidote for poisonous snake bites. They predict it could save thousands of lives worldwide without the side effects of current treatments.

The presentation will take place here at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society. The meeting features nearly 11,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics. It is being held through Thursday.

Worldwide, an estimated 421,000 cases of poisonous snake bites and 20,000 deaths from these bites occur yearly, according to the International Society on Toxicology.

Intriguingly, opossums shrug off snake bite venom with no ill effects. Claire F. Komives, Ph.D., who is at San Jose State University, explains that initial studies showing the opossum’s immunity to snake venom were done in the 1940s. In the early 1990s, a group of researchers identified a serum protein from the opossum that was able to neutralize snake venoms. One researcher, B. V. Lipps, Ph.D., found that a smaller chain of amino acids from the opossum protein, called a peptide, was also able to neutralize the venom.

But Komives says it appears that no one has followed up on those studies to develop an antivenom therapy –– at least not until she and her team came along. Armed with this information, they had the peptide chemically synthesized. When they tested it in venom-exposed mice, they found that it protected them from the poisonous effects of bites from U.S. Western Diamondback rattlesnakes and Russell’s Viper venom from Pakistan.

The exact mechanism is not known, but recently published computer models have shown that the peptide interacts with proteins in the snake venom that are toxic to humans, she says. “It appears that the venom protein may bind to the peptide, rendering it no longer toxic.”

Komives’ team showed that they could program the bacteria E. coli to make the peptide. Producing the peptide in bacteria should enable the group to inexpensively make large quantities of it. The peptide should also be easy to purify from E. coli.

“Our approach is different because most antivenoms are made by injecting the venom into a horse and then processing the serum,” says Komives. “The serum has additional components, however, so the patient often has some kind of adverse reaction, such as a rash, itching, wheezing, rapid heart rate, fever or body aches. The peptide we are using does not have those negative effects on mice.”

Because the process is inexpensive, the antivenom has a good chance of being distributed to underserved areas across the globe, according to Komives. That includes India, Southeast Asia, Africa and South America, where poisonous snakes bite thousands of people every year.

Komives says that based on the original publications, the antivenom would probably work against venoms from other poisonous snakes, as well as against scorpion, plant and bacterial toxins.

The new antivenom has another potential advantage: It likely could be delivered in just one injectable dose. “Since when a snake bites, it injects venom into the victim in different ways, depending on which part of the body is bitten and the angle of the bite, it is likely that each snake bite would need to be treated differently,” says Komives. “It is common that additional antivenom needs to be injected if the patient continues to show the effects of the venom.” But because the new antidote appears to have no side effects, at least in mice, it probably could be given in one large dose to attack all of the venom, making additional injections unnecessary, she explains. The team plans to test this theory soon. They also will make large quantities of the antivenom and test it on mice, using a wide variety of venoms and toxins.

COULD HEMP NANOSHEETS TOPPLE GRAPHENE FOR MAKING THE IDEAL SUPERCAPACITOR? 



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As hemp makes a comeback in the U.S. after a decades-long ban on its cultivation, scientists are reporting that fibers from the plant can pack as much energy and power as graphene, long-touted as the model material for supercapacitors. They’re presenting their research, which a Canadian start-up company is working on scaling up, at the 248thNational Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.

The meeting features nearly 12,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics and is being held here through Thursday.

David Mitlin, Ph.D., explains that supercapacitors are energy storage devices that have huge potential to transform the way future electronics are powered. Unlike today’s rechargeable batteries, which sip up energy over several hours, supercapacitors can charge and discharge within seconds. But they normally can’t store nearly as much energy as batteries, an important property known as energy density. One approach researchers are taking to boost supercapacitors’ energy density is to design better electrodes. Mitlin’s team has figured out how to make them from certain hemp fibers — and they can hold as much energy as the current top contender: graphene.

“Our device’s electrochemical performance is on par with or better than graphene-based devices,” Mitlin says. “The key advantage is that our electrodes are made from biowaste using a simple process, and therefore, are much cheaper than graphene.”

The race toward the ideal supercapacitor has largely focused on graphene — a strong, light material made of atom-thick layers of carbon, which when stacked, can be made into electrodes. Scientists are investigating how they can take advantage of graphene’s unique properties to build better solar cells, water filtration systems, touch-screen technology, as well as batteries and supercapacitors. The problem is it’s expensive.

Mitlin’s group decided to see if they could make graphene-like carbons from hemp bast fibers. The fibers come from the inner bark of the plant and often are discarded from Canada’s fast-growing industries that use hemp for clothing, construction materials and other products. The U.S. could soon become another supplier of bast. It now allows limited cultivation of hemp, which unlike its close cousin, does not induce highs.

Scientists had long suspected there was more value to the hemp bast — it was just a matter of finding the right way to process the material.

“We’ve pretty much figured out the secret sauce of it,” says Mitlin, who’s now with Clarkson University in New York. “The trick is to really understand the structure of a starter material and to tune how it’s processed to give you what would rightfully be called amazing properties.”

His team found that if they heated the fibers for 24 hours at a little over 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and then blasted the resulting material with more intense heat, it would exfoliate into carbon nanosheets.

Mitlin’s team built their supercapacitors using the hemp-derived carbons as electrodes and an ionic liquid as the electrolyte. Fully assembled, the devices performed far better than commercial supercapacitors in both energy density and the range of temperatures over which they can work. The hemp-based devices yielded energy densities as high as 12 Watt-hours per kilogram, two to three times higher than commercial counterparts. They also operate over an impressive temperature range, from freezing to more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We’re past the proof-of-principle stage for the fully functional supercapacitor,” he says. “Now we’re gearing up for small-scale manufacturing.”

Study Explains Why We Can’t Stop after Eating One Potato Chip.


chips

A study conducted by researchers at FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, sheds new light on the causes of hedonic hyperphagia, a condition that plagues hundreds of millions around the world.

Hedonic hyperphagia – eating for pleasure independent from hunger – is a phenomenon almost everybody knows.

“It’s recreational over-eating that may occur in almost everyone at some time in life. And the chronic form is a key factor in the epidemic of overweight and obesity that here in the United States threatens health problems for two out of every three people,” explained lead author Dr Tobias Hoch, who presented the findings at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

The scientists allowed one group of laboratory rats to feast on potato chips. Another group got bland old rat chow. They then used high-tech magnetic resonance imaging devices to peer into the rats’ brains, seeking differences in activity between the rats-on-chips and the rats-on-chow.

“The effect of potato chips on brain activity, as well as feeding behavior, can only partially be explained by its fat and carbohydrate content. There must be something else in the chips that make them so desirable,” Dr Hoch said.

The rats were offered one out of three test foods in addition to their standard chow pellets: powdered standard animal chow, a mixture of fat and carbs, or potato chips. “They ate similar amounts of the chow as well as the chips and the mixture, but the rats more actively pursued the potato chips, which can be explained only partly by the high energy content of this snack. And, in fact, they were most active in general after eating the snack food.”

“Although carbohydrates and fats also were a source of high energy, the rats pursued the chips most actively and the standard chow least actively. This was further evidence that some ingredient in the chips was sparking more interest in the rats than the carbs and fats mixture,” Dr Hoch said.

The researchers mapped the rats’ brains using Manganese-Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MEMRI) to monitor brain activity. They found that the reward and addiction centers in the brain recorded the most activity. But the food intake, sleep, activity and motion areas also were stimulated significantly differently by eating the potato chips.

“By contrast, significant differences in the brain activity comparing the standard chow and the fat carbohydrate group only appeared to a minor degree and matched only partly with the significant differences in the brain activities of the standard chow and potato chips group.”

Dr Hoch said: “since chips and other foods affect the reward center in the brain, an explanation of why some people do not like snacks is that possibly, the extent to which the brain reward system is activated in different individuals can vary depending on individual taste preferences.”

“In some cases maybe the reward signal from the food is not strong enough to overrule the individual taste. And some people may simply have more willpower than others in choosing not to eat large quantities of snacks.”

“If scientists can pinpoint the molecular triggers in snacks that stimulate the reward center in the brain, it may be possible to develop drugs or nutrients to add to foods that will help block this attraction to snacks and sweets.”

The next project for the team is to identify these triggers. MRI studies with humans are on the research agenda for the FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg group.

Source: /www.sci-news.com

 

How Nanotechnology Could Reengineer Us?


 

Nanotechnology is an important new area of research that promises significant advances in electronics, materials, biotechnology, alternative energy sources, and dozens of other applications. The graphic below illustrates, at a personal level, the potential impact on each of us. And where electrical measurement is required, Keithley instrumentation is being used in an expanding list of nanotechnology research and development settings.