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Txch This Week: Flying Saucers from Earth and Medical Innovations

by Norman Rozenberg

This week on Txchnologist, we looked at innovations improving the medical field and the environment around us. First, MIT researchers have unlocked the mystery of what makes oyster shells so strong. Their discovery could make lightweight, translucent and extremely strong armor.

Medical devices continue to advance in leaps and bounds. The newest discovery can monitor the heart and perform other hospital-quality diagnostic functions with tiny wearable sensors. This marks a new step in miniature, flexible and wearable medical technology. Other diagnostic methods are getting an upgrade thanks to developments made with Google Glass. A new app developed for the hardware can scan samples and digitally send them out for analysis. This development by UCLA researchers reduces the need for nearby labs and might improve medical treatment in areas without large medical facilities.

Some optimistic news about U.S. air quality came out recently. Research shows that Americans are breathing air with fine fewer particulates. The new study shows that this measure of air quality has significantly improved over the last decade thanks to effective state emission control plans.

Buildings regularly suffer lightning strikes, offering a brilliant - and destructive - light show during storms. Scientists say they have devised a way to save buildings from Zeus’ wrath using laser beams. The high-intensity beams can guide lightning away from buildings.

And now we’re bringing you the news and trends we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.

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Engineered Bacteria Produces Rocket Fuel

by Txchnologist staff

Microbes programed to pump out a natural insect repellant produced by trees might power your next trip to the moon. Engineers have coaxed genetically altered bacteria to create a compound called pinene, a hydrocarbon present in some tree resin that contains lots of energy.

They say more research to boost bacterial output could one day make the alternative fuel competitive with petroleum-based JP-10, a powerful propellant that can be used in rockets, missiles and turbine engines.

“We have made a sustainable precursor to a tactical fuel with a high energy density,” said Georgia Tech’s Pamela Peralta-Yahya, an assistant professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “We are concentrating on making a ‘drop-in’ fuel that looks just like what is being produced from petroleum and can fit into existing distribution systems.”

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Txch This Week: Drone Internet Providers and Dissolving Batteries

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by Norman Rozenberg

This week on Txchnologist, we looked at innovation offering perspectives from the cosmic scale all the way down to strands of DNA. First, NASA unveiled a 360-degree view of the Milky Way, the galaxy we call home. The interactive 20-gigapixel map is the result of 10 years of telescope imaging and work.

Next, looked at an interesting entrant into the ranks of digital currencies—this one looking to stoke investmentment in solar energy production. The project, inspired by BitCoin, pays one SolarCoin for every megawatt-hour of electricity your solar panels produce.

Researchers in Germany have created a material that is less dense than water and stronger than steel. The polymer and alumina structure was inspired by wood, bone and honeycombs.

A breakthrough in cancer research could be around the corner thanks to more than 239,000 computers from around the world that are working together. The virtual supercomputer has uncovered the folding steps that activate a protein key to disease progression. Meanwhile, researchers are working on stimulating parts of the brain with electricity to boost learning and brain activity.

Scientists have sequenced Loblolly Pine DNA, making it the largest genome decoded and analyzed to date. A research team from 12 institutions banded together and used cutting-edge techniques to read and assemble the DNA code.

Now we’re bringing you the news and trends we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.

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Bioengineers Hope To Make Sorghum and Sugarcane A Sweet Deal For Biofuel

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by Michael Keller

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.”

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