This week on Txchnologist, we got up close and personal with some of the tiniest innovations making huge splashes in the world of science. First, Julia Greer and her Caltech research team has made leaps in the world of nanoscale materials. Using direct laser writing, the team is creating complex microscopic architecture that can be tuned to specific needs by engineers.
Scientists in the Netherlands have designed flat shapes that fold into all kinds of tiny 3-D structures with a drop of water. In addition to cool party tricks, these sand granule-sized pieces of silicon have potentially important uses in medicine.
Genetic engineers looking for better ways to make biofuels have designed bacteria to convert complex carbohydrates found in non food plants directly into ethanol. With rising oil prices across the globe and increasing carbon emissions, a new source of fuel is not only important but necessary. This development may have just steered us into the fast lane.
It’s no secret that advances are moving fast throughout medicine. Now, a Swiss team has taken things a step further and designed medical implants that could potentially last a lifetime using diamond-like carbon coatings and the rare, nonreactive metal tantalum. Meanwhile, Indian Institute of Science engineers are using wasp physiology to design new surgical tools. A species of wasp may be the next muse for less invasive tools that will help recovery times and outcomes.
Now we’re bringing you the news we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.
The second most popular beverage in the world, after water, is believed to be tea.
There are different kinds of tea, but green tea carries with it a slew of promised health benefits. And now, scientists have made a new discovery within a simple cup of green tea.
They are known as the window to the soul, each a different color, size and shape. But could your eyes also fight infections?
For years optometrists have been trying to figure out why the human eye is resistant to infection.
“What we know is people virtually never get corneal infections unless they’re a contact lens wearer or unless they have very severe injury to the cornea,” said Suzanne Fleiszig, an optometrist at the University of California, Berkeley.
The world is awash in antibiotics. We take them to fight off the bacteria that mean to colonize us. We feed them to animals to prevent the outbreak of disease in densely packed factory-farming operations. Even many of our cleaning and body care products, controversially, now contain them.
But many antibiotics don’t get fully metabolized within humans or animals and, through excretion, find their way into waste and surface waters. It’s a major environmental concern whose full ecological implications still aren’t clear.
And the problem creates a vicious cycle. Evolution gives our microbial adversaries the strategic advantage—the ability to adapt to our weapons and render them harmless. So we engage in a microscopic arms race, battering increasing numbers of antibiotic-resistant bugs with more and more drug compounds to keep them at bay.
So you could call it a small case of poetic justice when researchers figure out how to use the cellular machinery that renders some bacteria drug-resistant to reclaim antibiotics from contaminated water.