We get a jolt of energy after eating food sweetened with sugarcane or sorghum, so why can’t our engines?
Separate research teams in February presented their work on coaxing the two globally important, high-sugar-content crops into becoming better raw materials for biofuel production. Their work was part of the showcase presented at the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit.
The first, led by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign plant biologists, say they have successfully introduced genes into sugarcane plants to make them withstand cooler climates and produce more oil that can be turned into biodiesel.
“Our goal is to make sugarcane produce more oil, be more productive with more photosynthesis and be more cold-tolerant,” said Stephen P. Long, a UI plant biology professor and leader of the initiative, in a university statement. “Sugarcane and sorghum are exceptionally productive plants, and if you could make them accumulate oil in their stems instead of sugar, this would give you much more oil per acre.”
Engineers have demonstrated an inexpensive handheld device that can analyze up to 170,000 different molecules in a blood sample. The stapler-sized unit might one day make a doctor’s office checkup a thing of the past.
Measuring minute changes in the intensity of light flashed through a sample, the optical lab-on-a-chip could simultaneously investigate levels of insulin in the blood, viruses and disease markers that indicate cancer or other problems.
"We were looking to build an interface similar to a car’s dashboard, which is able to indicate gas and oil levels as well as let you know if your headlights are on or if your engine is working correctly," said Hatice Altug, an associate engineering professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and Boston University, in a statement.