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April 30, 2006, 11:50 PM CT

A Biosensor Layered Like Lasagna

A Biosensor Layered Like Lasagna A polymer, here labeled PDDA, clings to a carbon nanotube of opposite charge, and an enzyme, GOX, does the same with the polymer. The steps can be repeated to build up a biosensor's layers, enzyme count and sensitivity. Credit: DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
In a mixing of pasta metaphors, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers have used electrostatic attraction to layer reactive biological molecules lasagna-like around spaghetti-like carbon nanotubes.

This configuration can accommodate a wide range of applications, from ultra-precise blood-sugar monitoring to infectious-agent detection, said Yuehe Lin, who led the research at the Department of Energy campus' W.R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory.

The technique, described in the current (April) Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, enables enzymes, with the help of a long, noodle-like polymer molecule, to self-assemble layer-by-layer on a single carbon nanotube.

Lin and co-author Guodong Liu, a postdoctoral fellow in Lin's group, coaxed electrostatic clinginess in a polymer and an oppositely charged protein-enzyme, in this case glucose oxidase, which reacts in the presence of blood sugar. The catalyzed products from the reaction ping the carbon nanotube; if the tube is connected to an electrode, the tube will carry a signal that corresponds precisely with the amount of glucose detected. The first polymer binds to the carbon nanotube. Enzymes are attracted to the polymer, leaving an outer layer for the next polymer of opposite charge to cling to, and so on.........

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April 29, 2006, 9:33 AM CT

Use Of Information Technology In Hospitals

Use Of Information Technology In Hospitals
Although information technology is now common in many hospitals and biomedical laboratories, in the 1950s only a small number of researchers imagined its enormous potential. In 1967, supported by NCRR, doctor Homer Warner led a seminal effort that created one of the first bioinformatics systems. This work has influenced patient care, increased safety, and produced cost-effective service in hospitals around the nation. Today, NCRR continues its support of clinical bioinformatics as an integral component of the new Clinical and Translational Science Awards.

Clinical application of bioinformatics began in earnest when the University of Utah installed a state-of-the-art computer in the early 1960s. Back then, Warner became intrigued by the possibility of using this new technology with patients at the Latter-day Saints (LDS) Hospital. It wasn't long before he gained access to the giant machine and began writing programs to study coronary blood flow. Because the computer was only available at night, he set a cot beside it to sleep on while the computer slowly crunched numbers.

One of the central questions in his mind was how to obtain around-the-clock physiological information from post-operative cardiac patients. Warner resolved this problem by inserting catheters into patients' arteries. When connected through a computer, the apparatus calculated stroke volume, heart rate, cardiac output, and blood pressure on demand. Resulting data were displayed on the screen of an oscilloscope, and three small lights alerted nurses of abnormal vital signs that could lead to complications. This was one of the first uses of computers for preemptive patient monitoring, a concept now propagated through nearly every intensive care unit.........

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April 28, 2006, 0:07 AM CT

Software Allows Neighbors To Improve Internet Access

Software Allows Neighbors To Improve Internet Access
Computer researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed software that enables the sharing of high-speed wireless connections without compromising security or privacy. The software can improve Internet connectivity in residential areas at no additional cost.

"Significantly improved speed and the 'always on' feature of wireless routers have been driving the rapid spread of broadband Internet access in a number of residential areas," said Haiyun Luo, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "More than 56 percent of homes in the United States already have Internet access, and more than half of those homes are using Wi-Fi wireless home networks."

A typical residential user accesses his broadband home connection about 12 to 15 hours per week, Luo said. "So, while the Internet connection is always on, most of the time it sits idle." Luo would like to see that idleness put to good use by benefiting other users, and he and graduate student Nathanael Thompson came up with a way to do it.

Luo and Thompson have developed a software framework called PERM (Practical End-host collaborative Residential Multihoming) that allows neighbors to pool their Internet access and thereby improve both performance and resilience.........

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April 28, 2006, 0:04 AM CT

Software For The Next Generation Of Net Surfers

Software For The Next Generation Of Net Surfers
With an estimated 12 billion websites online, it's not always easy finding the exact site you want. However, University of Alberta computer researchers have developed software they believe will make surfing the Web faster and easier.

The software uses machine learning technology to predict the information needs of web surfers by refining search engine queries and filtering out irrelevant search results based on surfers' past surfing results.

WebIC is a "complete Web recommendation system" says one of its creators, Tingshao Zhu, a doctoral student in the U of A Department of Computing Science. "Surfing the Web can be time-consuming and frustrating, but this product can simplify things a lot".

The software can be incorporated with search engines (e.g. Google) or be downloaded directly onto to individual computers. It works by anticipating users' info needs; users can click on an icon that leads to suggested sites the user may be looking for, which is a step beyond the usual search engine index retrievals. It can also be used to filter emails and find specific articles online (not simply direct you to related sites).

"On most search engines the order of the keyed words is very important as the associations are made sequentially," Zhu said. "But our software uses machine learning to transfer human inquiries into the type of inquiries a computer can fully understand. Our system can point you directly to the sites that you want and not just to sites that are correlation to your keyed words".........

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April 27, 2006, 11:54 PM CT

Unexpected Plasmonic Discovery

Unexpected Plasmonic Discovery
Frequently, the unexpected results in science are the most exciting. That's the case with the latest findings from the lab of Rice University's electrical engineer Daniel Mittleman, who was trying to find new ways to use terahertz energy, or T-rays, for chemical sensing when he noticed a strange tendency of the signals to travel slower if they were sent down smaller metal wires.

Mittleman and graduate student Kanglin Wang reported their findings in the April 21 issue of Physical Review Letters. Their explanation for the odd phenomenon arises from the unique way that T-rays interact with the sea of electrons flowing across the surface of the metal wire.

"A similar variation in wave velocity is well-documented for higher frequency radiation in the visible portion of the spectrum, but this was a real puzzle because no one had predicted it for such low frequencies," said Mittleman, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Mittleman and Wang discovered the phenomenon during follow-up experiments to last year's groundbreaking development of the first T-ray wire waveguides. Their discovery that T-rays propogate down bare metal wires has allowed them to make T-ray endoscopes that can carry T-rays around corners and into tight places - like pipes and metal containers - where it hasn't been feasible to place a T-ray generator. Mittleman hopes to use the technique to design a new class of chemical sensors that port security officers can use to quickly determine whether explosives are hidden inside shipping containers.........

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April 26, 2006, 8:03 PM CT

Micro-pump Is Cool Idea For Future Computer Chips

Micro-pump Is Cool Idea For Future Computer Chips
Engineers at Purdue University have developed a tiny "micro-pump" cooling device small enough to fit on a computer chip that circulates coolant through channels etched into the chip.

Innovative cooling systems will be needed for future computer chips that will generate more heat than current technology, and this extra heating could damage electronic devices or hinder performance, said Suresh Garimella, a professor of mechanical engineering.

The new device has been integrated onto a silicon chip that is about 1 centimeter square, or roughly one-sixth of a square inch. The technology is an example of a microelectromechanical system, or MEMS, a tiny mechanical device fabricated using methods generally associated with microelectronics.

"Because it's a MEMS pump, we were able to integrate the entire cooling system right onto a chip," Garimella said. "The most innovative part of the technology is the micro-pump".

An article about the cooling device will appear in the recent issue of Electronics Cooling magazine. The article was written by doctoral student Brian D. Iverson, Garimella and former doctoral student Vishal Singhal, who recently graduated and co-founded Thorrn Micro Technologies Inc., in Redwood City, Calif.

Chips in today's computers are cooled primarily with an assembly containing conventional fans and "heat sinks," or metal plates containing fins to dissipate heat. But because chips a decade from now will likely contain upwards of 100 times more transistors and other devices, they will generate far more heat than chips currently in use, Garimella said.........

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April 26, 2006, 6:59 PM CT

Water and Nanoelectronics Will Mix to Create Ultra-Dense Memory Storage Devices

Water and Nanoelectronics Will Mix to Create Ultra-Dense Memory Storage Devices
Excessive moisture can typically wreak havoc on electronic devices, but now researchers have demonstrated that a little water can help create ultra-dense storage systems for computers and electronics.

A team of experimentalists and theorists at the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and Harvard University has proposed a new and surprisingly effective means of stabilizing and controlling ferroelectricity in nanostructures: terminating their surfaces with fragments of water. Ferroelectrics are technologically important "smart" materials for many applications because they have local dipoles, which can switch up and down to encode and store information. The team's work is reported in the recent issue of Nano Letters.

"It is astonishing to see that a single wire of even a few atoms across can act as a stable and switchable dipole memory element," Jonathan Spanier, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Drexel, said.

Spanier and his colleagues successfully demonstrated the benefits of using water to stabilize memory bits in segments of oxide nanowires that are only about 3 billionths of a meter wide.

"We have been interested in how water sticks to oxides," Alexie Kolpak, Penn graduate student in theoretical physical chemistry, said. "We are particularly excited that water is the key ingredient in making these wires 'remember' their state".........

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April 25, 2006, 8:06 PM CT

Prototype For Revolutionary One-metre Wide Vehicle

Prototype For Revolutionary One-metre Wide Vehicle
The prototype of a revolutionary new type of vehicle only one metre wide specially designed for cities has been developed by a team of European scientists. The vehicle combines the safety of a micro-car and the manoeuvrability of a motorbike, while being more fuel-efficient and less polluting than other vehicles.

The CLEVER (Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transport) vehicle is a £1.5 million collaborative project which has involved nine European partners from industry and research, including the University of Bath.

The three-year international project has produced a tilting three-wheeled vehicle that is fully enclosed and has seats for the driver and a passenger. Its strengthened frame protects the driver in a crash and the vehicle has a top speed of approximately 60 mph (about 100 kph) and an acceleration of 0-40 mph (60 kph) in seven seconds.

At just over three feet (1 metre) wide, it is 20 inches (0.5 metres) narrower than a micro-car, and three feet narrower than a medium sized conventional car. This reduced width means more efficient parking bays, and the possibility of narrower lanes for such vehicles.

The vehicle is different from prior attempts to create a small urban vehicle in that it is fully enclosed in a metal framework, is stylishly designed and is much safer. Its roof is as high as conventional cars, and it carries one passenger, who sits behind the driver.........

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April 24, 2006, 7:19 PM CT

Harvesting Daylight And Saving Energy

Harvesting Daylight And Saving Energy
Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lighting Research Center (LRC) have developed a simple, cost-effective, energy-saving device designed to harvest daylight automatically. The DaySwitch was designed as an alternative to traditional dimming ballast systems that adjust light levels by reducing the lamp current.

"The DaySwitch is designed to build end-use efficiency by reducing light energy usage in commercial buildings and maintaining occupant satisfaction," said Peter Morante, director of energy programs at the LRC. "It is estimated that the DaySwitch will be able to reduce lighting energy consumption by 30 percent in buildings with significant daylight contribution through windows or skylights, allowing for a payback period of approximately three years".

Typical dimming systems have several drawbacks, including high initial cost and difficult photosensor programming and installation. As a result, dimming systems have not permeated the market, according to Morante.

The DaySwitch development team, led by Morante and Richard Pysar, an electronic design engineer at the LRC, created a low-cost prototype to control individual light fixtures, unlike traditional systems where one sensor controls numerous lamps. Individual control provides flexibility for on/off control and simple installation.........

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April 24, 2006, 6:50 PM CT

Nanotechnology May Find Disease Before It Starts

Nanotechnology May Find Disease Before It Starts
Nanotechnology may one day help physicians detect the very earliest stages of serious diseases like cancer, a new study suggests.

It would do so by improving the quality of images produced by one of the most common diagnostic tools used in doctors' offices - the ultrasound machine.

In laboratory experiments on mice, scientists found that nano-sized particles injected into the animals improved the resulting images. This study is one of the first reports showing that ultrasound can detect these tiny particles when they are inside the body, said Thomas Rosol, a study co-author and dean of the college of veterinary medicine at Ohio State University.

"Given their tiny size, nobody thought it would be possible for ultrasound to detect nanoparticles," he said.

It turns out that not only can ultrasound waves sense nanoparticles, but the particles can brighten the resulting image. One day, those bright spots may indicate that a few cells in the area may be on the verge of mutating and growing out of control.

"The long-term goal is to use this technology to improve our ability to identify very early cancers and other diseases," said Jun Liu, a study co-author and an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Ohio State University. "We ultimately want to identify disease at its cellular level, at its very earliest stage".........

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