science tech bioengineering cell_biology protein motors optogenetics dna
Light Makes Engineered Protein Motors Switch Gear

by Txchnologist staff

Bioengineers have cobbled together DNA fragments from several organisms to build remote-controlled protein motors that change course and speed on command.

By customizing these proteins, which normally ferry molecules around inside cells, researchers hope to better understand how organisms convert energy from chemical to mechanical. They will also get a better picture of the forces that these motors generate within cells.

"Biology is full of these nanoscale machines that can perform complex tasks," said Stanford bioengineer Zev Bryant, who led the study. "Evolution takes a basic design and makes motors that are fast and motors that are slow and motors that move long distances. We’ve tried to build diverse motors and really challenge our understanding by pushing ourselves outside of what’s already been done by evolution."

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science tech graphene health medicine blindness prosthetics retina assistive_technology

Graphene-Based Artificial Retina Sensor Being Developed

Researchers at Germany’s Technical University of Munich are developing graphene sensors like the ones depicted above to serve as artificial retinas. The atom-thick sheet of linked carbon atoms is being used because it is thin, flexible, stronger than steel, transparent and electrically conductive. 

TUM physicists think that all of these characteristics and graphene’s compatibility with the body make it a strong contender to serve as the interface between a retinal prosthetic that converts light to electric impulses and the optic nerve. A graphene-based sensor could help blind people with healthy nerve tissue see, they say.

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science tech space mars rover chemcam laser robot geology chemistry

NASA recently announced the instruments that will be aboard the rover for its next mission to Mars in 2020. Pictured above is an artist’s rendition of the robot as it operates the SuperCam, a device that will fire a high-powered laser at rock targets up to 20 feet away. 
A more muscular version of the Chemistry Camera (ChemCam) on the current Mars rover, the SuperCam laser will vaporize minerals to analyze the atoms that are present in the planet’s geology. The same Los Alamos National Lab team that developed the ChemCam will also build SuperCam using the facility’s laser-Induced breakdown spectroscopy that can deduce the elemental composition of rocks from a distance.
The laser’s operating spectrum will also get an upgrade over ChemCam that will let it to run Raman and time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy, a technique to deduce the molecular makeup of rocks to understand the planet’s more complex mineralogy and search for organic materials.[[MORE]]
SuperCam’s imaging capabilities will also be a step above the current model, beaming back high-resolution color images along with visible and infrared spectroscopy.
“We are extremely excited to be going to Mars again,” said planetary scientist Roger Wiens, who will lead the SuperCam team and currently heads the Curiosity Rover’s ChemCam Team. “More importantly for the mission, I know SuperCam is the very best remote sensor that NASA can have aboard.”

NASA recently announced the instruments that will be aboard the rover for its next mission to Mars in 2020. Pictured above is an artist’s rendition of the robot as it operates the SuperCam, a device that will fire a high-powered laser at rock targets up to 20 feet away. 

A more muscular version of the Chemistry Camera (ChemCam) on the current Mars rover, the SuperCam laser will vaporize minerals to analyze the atoms that are present in the planet’s geology. The same Los Alamos National Lab team that developed the ChemCam will also build SuperCam using the facility’s laser-Induced breakdown spectroscopy that can deduce the elemental composition of rocks from a distance.

The laser’s operating spectrum will also get an upgrade over ChemCam that will let it to run Raman and time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy, a technique to deduce the molecular makeup of rocks to understand the planet’s more complex mineralogy and search for organic materials.

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science tech camouflage biologically_inspired_engineering cephalopod disguise

Octopus-Inspired Camo Changes Color In Light

Researchers have taken a tip from the ocean’s masters of disguise to develop a new active camouflage system. 

An international team of scientists coupled heat-sensitive dye with a distributed grid of photoreceptors to make a flexible material that changes color based on the light that falls on it. When any of the system’s cells is heated above 117 degrees Fahrenheit by a silicon diode underneath, the dye turns from black to clear.

Like the cephalopods that inspired the work, the camo system can respond to changes in light within two seconds using 

"The concepts provide realistic routes to thin sheets that can be conformally wrapped onto solid objects to modulate their visual appearance, with potential relevance to consumer, industrial, and military applications," the authors write in a report on their work published today in the journal PNAS. 

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