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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Txch This Week: Internet Chatter Spots An Epidemic

by Annie Epstein

This week on Txchnologist, we watched MIT engineers move tiny metallic hairs using magnetic fields. The microhairs are made out of nickel mounted on stretchy silicone. Potential applications for the hairs include tunable waterproof coating, anti-glare applications and smart window coating that can control sun allowed into buildings.

Australian National University researchers manipulated wave frequencies and amplitudes to control the movement of particles on the surface of water. The researchers discovered ways to move objects against the direction of a wave. This research could help contain oil spills and even move small boats.

Japanese chemist Yosuke Okamura and his team have created a flexible, sticky coating called nanosheets that is similar to plastic wrap and, when applied to burns, creates a barrier against potentially fatal bacterial infections. The nanosheets can stick without adhesive and are made with a biodegradable polyester called poly(L-lactic acid), or PLLA.

Finally, using nanoscopic pillars of a polyurethane and adhesive mix, researchers at the University of Michigan have created a watermark only visible when a person breathes on it. Soon we’ll be fighting counterfeiting one breath at a time.

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

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New Ultrathin, Sticky Coating Prevents Infection From Burns

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by Michael Keller

Scientists report they have made a new wound dressing for burn victims that can coat even the toughest nooks and crannies to prevent infection. 

Using a biodegradable polyester called poly(L-lactic acid), or PLLA, chemist Yosuke Okamura has developed a sticky coating called nanosheets that can be applied to any part of the body without adhesive. The nanosheet is like plastic wrap and forms a barrier that bacteria can’t penetrate to infect a patient.

“The nanosheets can adhere not only to flat surfaces, but also to uneven and irregular surfaces without adding any adhesives,” Okamura said.

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How Quantum Mechanics Helps Us Breathe

by Peter Gwynne, Inside Science

Why don’t we suffocate whenever we try to take a breath? An international team of scientists has used quantum mechanics – the science that usually deals with events at the level of the ultra-small – to solve this human-sized mystery.

Quantum mechanics has long proved its value in understanding such phenomena as the behavior of electrons and in classifying subatomic particles. But in recent years theorists have increasingly shown how it applies to all facets of life, large and small.

The new research, led by Cédric Weber of Kings College, London and reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirms that point.

"This work," said team member David O’Regan, a physicist at Ireland’s Trinity College, Dublin, "helps to illustrate the fact that quantum-mechanical effects, which may sometimes be viewed as somehow very exotic or only relevant under extreme conditions, are at play in the day-to-day regimes where biology, chemistry, and materials science operate."

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