Researchers shocked to discover protein that conducts electricity

November 1, 2017 by  
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In a new study from researchers at Arizona State University , scientists have documented that a particular protein known as  alphaVbeta3 has the ability to conduct electricity. Proteins serve as building blocks for cells, but until now, none have been observed conducting electricity. “If it’s true, it’s amazing,” said lead researcher Stuart Lindsay, according to Science Daily . “What this paper is mainly testing out are all the alternative explanations of our data, and ruling out all of the artifacts.” In the past four years since their initial discovery, the team at ASU, whose work was published in the journal  Nano Futures, has been vigilant in checking and rerunning the experiment to determine if there was an alternative explanation. Nonetheless, the most likely conclusion remains that the protein was conducting electricity . The research team first began the work that led to their shocking discovery several years ago when experimenting with DNA and amino acid readers developed by Lindsay, who is a biophysicist and ASU Regents’ Professor. These DNA readers incorporate a technology known as recognition tunneling, which traps individual molecules between electrodes. Curious as to how a whole protein would react to such a process, the team placed the glue-like integrin protein domain alphaVbeta3 and found that it demonstrated “remarkably high electronic conductance.” Through further experimentation and research, the team determined that the protein could become either an electrical conductor or an electrical insulator based on electrical fluctuations. “In our experiments, we were seeing this weird behavior in this huge protein conducting electricity, but it is not static. It’s a dynamic thing,” said Lindsay. “Below a certain bias, it’s just an insulator, but when the fluctuations start kicking in, they are huge.” Related: 10 vegan sources of protein you can grow at home The electrically conductive protein may open up an entirely new way of understanding proteins, how they may be used in nanotechnology , and how treatment for protein-related diseases might be improved. After years of experiments and questions, the team remains curious but cautious. “I believe the data now, but it’s only one protein so far,” said Lindsay. More work will be required before this phenomenon can be harnessed in the medical field and beyond. + Nano Futures Via Futurism Lead image via Depositphotos , others via  Weisi Song/Biodesign Institute/Arizona State University  and Depositphotos

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Ancient flying reptile was around the size of a small plane

November 1, 2017 by  
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Pterosaurs roamed the skies long ago as the first animals to evolve powered flight after insects – and in the Gobi Desert , scientists recently found the remains of one that could have been nearly as big as a small aircraft. The massive pterosaur lived around 70 million years ago and could have been one of the biggest pterosaurs to ever walk the Earth, with a 36-foot wingspan. Pterosaurs were reptiles , according to the American Museum of Natural History . They were close cousins to dinosaurs , and some were as tiny as a paper airplane. But this new pterosaur was anything but tiny. An international team led by the University of Tokyo found what they described as fragmentary cervical vertebral elements. From these fossil bones they determined the creature was huge. No pterosaur that large had been found in Asia until this one. Related: Brand new “mega-carnivore” dinosaur discovered in Africa The two biggest pterosaurs we know of are the Quetzalcoatlus , found in the 1970’s in Texas, and Hatzegopteryx , found in the 1990’s in Romania. These reptiles had wingspans of around 32 to 36 feet, and could have reached 18 feet high on the ground – around as tall as a big bull giraffe, according to National Geographic . Pterosaur expert of the University of Portsmouth Mark Witton, who was not a co-author on this study, said there’s a chance this new pterosaur could have been even bigger than those other two. The new pterosaur is part of a group called azhdarchids, though scientists are reluctant to say they come from a new species given the incomplete remains. The pterosaur possibly ate baby dinosaurs, but could have been capable of taking prey the size of a human, according to Witton. It wouldn’t have been an apex predator, because it was alive alongside a 5.5 ton-relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex , Tarbosaurus – although the pterosaur probably wouldn’t have been lunch for those creatures because in mere seconds it could have hurled itself towards the sky from a standing start. The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology published the discovery online in October. Scientists from Mongolia, the United States, and Japan contributed to the research. Via National Geographic Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Ancient flying reptile was around the size of a small plane

Five bridges topped with urban farms could revitalize war-torn Mosul

November 1, 2017 by  
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Architect Vincent Callebaut recently unveiled plans to rebuild war-torn Mosul as a sustainable, self-sufficient city. Callebaut’s proposal includes five bridges built with stalactite-inspired housing amid self-sustaining urban farms that run on solar power and advanced hydroponic systems. After months of intense fighting, the Islamic State was finally pushed out of the Mosul in summer of 2017. The city had been occupied since 2014, and much of the urban areas have been destroyed over the years, including the beloved five bridges that span the Tigris River. Callebaut believes the bridges could be rebuilt as inhabited spaces covered in self-sustaining urban farms . Related: Visionary eco-resort design for the Philippines features rotating seashell towers The architect submitted his design, 5 Farming Bridges, to a competition that sought potential designs and ideas to rebuild the war-torn city: “ Rebuilding Iraq’s Liberated Areas: Mosul’s Housing “. The proposal features mountainous 3D-printed buildings covered with urban farms that would guarantee food independence while providing excellent thermal insulation. The buildings on the bridges are inspired by the Islamic Muqarnas – ornamental vaults – and the homes are stacked in a vertically efficient manner. Wind chimneys would be installed in the new urban areas to provide cool natural air circulation using the thermal energy of the rivers. Solar water heaters would provide hot water thanks to hundreds of photovoltaic-clad pergolas. The bridges’ many farms and orchards would be irrigated with water from the river. Gray water from the communities would be recycled and filtered by plants in lagoon waterfalls that cascade off the bridges into the river below. Biomass composters would be used to fertilize the various suspended vegetable gardens, creating an amazing, self-sufficient urban oasis. + Vincent Callebaut Images by Vincent Callebaut

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Five bridges topped with urban farms could revitalize war-torn Mosul

Rural Italian home clad in lush greenery blends into its idyllic surroundings

November 1, 2017 by  
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It would be safe to say that Italian firm Zanon Architetti Associati really loves nature. The firm recently renovated a country home in Treviso, Italy by not only adding a new glass and steel extension to the home, but by covering its exterior walls almost entirely with lush vegetation . The renovation of the 1,500 square-foot home was focused on blending the new addition into the home’s existing structure, without taking away from its original character. Accordingly, the architects used a combination of glass and steel to create a seamless connection between the home’s expansive living space and its idyllic surroundings. Related: Stunning home in India blends into the earth with segmented green roofs “From the outside, the glass volume reflects the surrounding landscape and becomes part of it,” the architects said. “From the inside the windows become invisible giving the impression of being outdoors: the living room becomes one with the countryside.” The interior of the home is an eclectic design that is perfect for both quiet contemplation or lively socialization. The ceilings are covered in weathered steel panels that give off an industrial look, which is enhanced by the brick-tiled flooring. These two materials create a nice frame for the home’s main feature: the various large glazed walls that flood the new living space with natural light and incredible views. + Zanon Architetti Associati Via Freshome Photography by Paolo Belvedere

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Rural Italian home clad in lush greenery blends into its idyllic surroundings

New graphene sieve can remove even small salts from seawater

April 4, 2017 by  
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Graphene is the world’s strongest material, but that’s not all it can do. The wonder material can also be used as a filter that removes salts from seawater so it’s safe to drink. While scientists have eyed graphene-oxide membranes for better filtration – and even showed graphene could filter out large salts – now 13 University of Manchester scientists developed graphene membranes that can sieve common, smaller salts out of water. It takes small sieves to remove common salts from substances like seawater, and in the past when placed in water graphene-oxide membranes swelled, and weren’t able to catch those smaller salts. The University of Manchester scientists found a way to control the pore size of the graphene to sieve those common small salts out of water. Professor Rahul Nair, one of the scientists part of the research, said the realization of “membranes with uniform pore size down to atomic scale” is a significant step. Related: Affordable new biofoam could revolutionize how developing countries clean water The discovery could open doors to efficient, less expensive desalination technology – which the university points out is crucial as climate change depletes water supply in modern cities. In just around eight years, 14 percent of the world’s population could face water scarcity, according to United Nations estimates, and not all countries can afford large, expensive desalination plants to provide relief to their citizens. The university says the graphene technology pursued by the scientists could revolutionize water filtration around the world, offering an affordable option for developing countries . The researchers think their discovery could be scaled up for wider use. Nair said in a statement, “This is the first clear-cut experiment in this regime. We also demonstrate that there are realistic possibilities to scale up the described approach and mass produce graphene-based membranes with required sieve sizes.” The journal Nature Nanotechnology published the research online yesterday. Via The University of Manchester Images via The University of Manchester and Pixabay

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Is tidal power finally coming of age?

April 4, 2017 by  
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A British company wants to demonstrate that underwater turbines can be a viable source of hydroelectricity, by winning a share of $363 million worth of electricity generation contracts being offered up by the U.K. government. As Bloomberg reports, Atlantis Resources wants to build power turbines under the ocean in Scotland, and their success would not only mean a whole pile of cash, but also provide another option for producing clean energy . The company faces steep competition for the government funds from offshore wind power companies, but they’re hoping to convince officials that tidal power has finally come of age. If they manage to do so, tidal power could eventually provide the U.K. with one fifth of its energy needs. As Bloomberg notes, previous efforts at producing tidal power have been largely experimental and operated at costs around triple that of wind power . To be successful in their bid to government, Atlantis must find a way to bring the cost of energy down by 70 percent—to about $125 per megawatt hour. That’s close to the price of nuclear and offshore wind power. If they can pull it off, Atlantis is hoping to get a $125 million investment that would let them build a manufacturing plant in Scotland, which would in turn let the company get much-sought contracts from France, South Korea and Indonesia. It’s all leading up to the final goal of helping to turn Scotland into a “Saudi Arabia of green energy.” Related: World’s longest wind turbine blade expected to drive down offshore energy costs With that in mind, the company is already working on its “MyGen” project, which involves the installation of up to 269 turbines under the Pentland Firth, a stretch of water that links the Atlantic ocean to the North Sea. It’s an eight-mile-wide channel of water that flows regularly at about 10 feet per second. Four turbines are already generating 6 megawatts, and two more phases should see enough turbines to generate about 86 megawatts of power by this summer. Via Bloomberg Images via Atlantis Resources

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IBM creates first-ever artificial neurons that behave like the real thing

August 4, 2016 by  
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IBM researchers in Switzerland have created an artificial neuron that behaves just like the real thing . For the first time in history, artificial phase-change neurons have been grouped together (in a population of 500 synthesized in a lab) to process a neurological signal in more or less the same way that biological neurons transmit messages. They can be made exceptionally small and are similar in power and energy usage to biological neurons, and can even produce results with random variations, also just like biological neurons. For non-scientists, the importance of this discovery may not be immediately apparent. IBM ’s artificial neuron , developed by a research team in Zurich, is quite literally the next best thing to a naturally created biological neuron. The lab-created version has all the same components of a biological neuron, including inputs (dendrites), a neuronal membrane (lipid bilayer) around the spike generator (soma, nucleus), and an output (axon). Likewise, its functions mimic those of its biological counterpart. Related: Scientists create the world’s first enzymes using synthetic biology In addition to all that, the artificial neurons are durable, made from well-known materials that can withstand trillions of switching cycles. They are tiny (around 90 nanometers) and researchers believe they can make them even smaller, possibly as minuscule as 14nm. The researchers started by creating 500 artificial neurons together in a chain capable of sending signals, which means the IBM team has created the closest artificial version of a biological neuron. In the next phase of research, the team will create a much larger population of artificial neurons, with thousands of individual units, and write software to push their capabilities to the limit. The study results were published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. Via Ars Technica Images via IBM

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Groundbreaking affordable, paper-thin filter removes viruses from water

May 19, 2016 by  
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Though over 748 million people around the world don’t have access to clean drinking water , water filters aren’t as widely used as they could be due to prohibitive costs. Many rely on chemical methods of cleaning water instead, which only inactivate microorganisms rather than getting rid of them. Yet Uppsala University researchers developed a paper-thin water filter called the mille-feuille filter that not only cleans water, but rids it of harmful viruses , all at an affordable price. Uppsala University designed a filter that comes as a paper sheet using cellulose nanofibers, which allows it to perform the potentially life-saving application of cleaning water of viruses. Cellulose is used in vacuum cleaners and tea bags, among several other common uses, yet typical cellulose can’t filter out viruses. This development is especially groundbreaking because most water filters can’t filter out viruses either; the pores in such filters are too large. Some viruses even resist chemical methods. Related: Researchers create nanoparticles that scrub polluted water at an accelerated rate The mille-feuille filter, named for its internal resemblance to the French pastry of the same name, is not only effective but affordable as well. Uppsala University Professor of Nanotechnology Albert Mihranyan said , “With a filter material directly from nature, and by using simple production methods, we believe that our filter paper can become the affordable global water filtration solution and help save lives. Our goal is to develop a filter paper that can remove even the toughest viruses from water as easily as brewing coffee.” Water-borne infections threaten not only those in developing countries who often don’t have adequate sanitation, but developed countries as well. One example is the Swedish town of Lilla Edet, where residents were infected with norovirus due to unsanitary municipal water in 2008. The mille-feuille filter could improve lives in every country worldwide. Via Phys.org Images via Wikimedia Commons and YouTube screenshot

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Light-powered nano-submarines could deliver medicine inside the body

December 17, 2015 by  
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A team from Rice University has created a single-molecule, submersible machine that could one day be used to target medications toward specific parts of the body. The Unimolecular Submersible Nanomachines (USNs) are made of 244 individual atoms that are bound together to create a microscopic device powered by ultraviolet light and can be tracked using lasers. Read the rest of Light-powered nano-submarines could deliver medicine inside the body

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Never buy toothpaste again with this nanotech toothbrush

April 13, 2015 by  
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Japanese designer Kosho Ueshima of The Industrial Design Studio  created Misoka , the nanotechnological toothbrush that can clean your teeth without toothpaste. The designer teamed up with nanotechnology company Yumeshokunin Co. LTD and came up with this toothbrush coated in nanosized mineral ions which move in the water, removing stains and coating teeth to keep them shiny and clean all day. The designer will present Misoka at the 2015 Milan Design Week happening now. Read the rest of Never buy toothpaste again with this nanotech toothbrush Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: green design , green technology , Japanese design , Kosho Ueshima , Milan Design Week 2015 , mineral ions , minerals , Misoka toothbrush , nanotechnology , sustainable toothbrush

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