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Microbes

The Great Work of the Metal Lover forces extremophilic bacteria to metabolize high concent...

For centuries, the world's great thinkers were consumed by the search for the mythical Philosopher's Stone. Franciscan friar Roger Bacon is said to have penned a formula for its creation in the 13th century, legend would have us believe that German friar Albertus Magnus actually found a substance capable of transmuting base metals into gold or silver, and English scientist and mathematician Isaac Newton was a known devotee of the magnum opus. Researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) have put a microbial spin on the ancient quest by creating a bioreactor that forces bacteria to transform a toxic liquid that, as team member Kazem Kashefi says, "has no value into a solid, precious metal that’s valuable."  Read More

The M13 bacteriophage can be used to deliver a DNA message in the “Bi-Fi” biological inter...

The internet has revolutionized global communications and now researchers at Standford University are looking to provide a similar boost to bioengineering with a new process dubbed “Bi-Fi.” The technology uses an innocuous virus called M13 to increase the complexity and amount of information that can be sent from cell to cell. The researchers say the Bi-Fi could help bioengineers create complex, multicellular communities that work together to carry out important biological functions.  Read More

Research at Oregon State University by engineer Hong Liu has discovered improved ways to p...

In the latest green energy – or perhaps that should be brown energy – news, a team of engineers from Oregon State University (OSU) has developed new technology they claim significantly improves the performance of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) that can be used to produce electricity directly from wastewater. With the promise of producing 10 to 50 times the electricity, per volume, than comparable approaches, the researchers say the technology could see waste treatment plants not only powering themselves, but also feeding excess electricity back to the grid.  Read More

Researchers at the UK's Newcastle University have discovered an enzyme from a microbe on t...

From an early age, parents and dentists alike will continually stress the importance of effective dental hygiene into the consciousness of a child but for me, the message didn't really hit home until I met Pogues front-man Shane MacGowan backstage at Leeds University in the mid-1980s. I've been a dedicated twice daily brusher ever since and have noted all manner of decay-fighting ingredients finding their way into my choice of toothpastes, including extracts from cocoa, the neem tree, aloe vera and eucalyptus. New research from the UK suggests using microbes to fight microbes, or more precisely an enzyme from bacteria found on the surface of seaweed. Lab tests have shown that the enzyme is effective in fighting plaque and the researchers believe that the discovery could lead to more effective oral hygiene products.  Read More

The Dip Chip biosensor, with a key for scale

Once upon a time, tasters were employed by the well-to-do, in order to check that their food or drink wasn't poisonous. Today, there are electronic biosensors that can do more or less the same thing. Unfortunately, as was no doubt sometimes the case with the tasters, the biosensors can’t always give us immediate results. Additionally, they’re usually only able to test for specific substances, and not simply for “anything that’s toxic.” An experimental new device known as the Dip Chip, however, is said to address both of those problems.  Read More

A Harvard team is developing a microbial fuel cell-based mobile phone charger, that would ...

There's no doubt that residents of developing nations can benefit hugely from having mobile phones. This particularly applies to the field of medicine, as the phones allow people living in remote areas to contact health care practitioners, or to use health care apps. Given how unreliable the electrical grid can be in such countries, however, keeping those phones charged can be a challenge. That's why a team from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) is working on a microbial fuel cell-based charger – a mobile phone charging system that gets its power from microbes in the soil.  Read More

The LCLS Atomic, Molecular and Optical instrument hutch where the experiments were perform...

An international team of scientists has obtained the world’s first single-shot images of intact viruses – a technology that could ultimately lead to moving video of molecules, viruses and live microbes. The team was also able to successfully utilize a new shortcut for determining the 3D structures of proteins. Both advances were achieved using the world’s first hard X-ray free-electron laser – the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) – which scientists hope could revolutionize the study of life.  Read More

A physicist has created 'biotic video games,' in which players manipulate the behavior of ...

A common criticism of single-player video games is that they isolate their players, shutting them off from anything or anyone that exists in the real world. Well, that certainly can’t be said of the lab-based “biotic games” created by Stanford University physicist Ingmar Riedel-Kruse – while they may be fashioned after arcade classics, his games require players to manipulate living microorganisms in real time. If you want to “kick” a soccer ball into a net, for instance, you have to get an actual paramecium to do it for you.  Read More

Fraunhofer's antibacterial food packaging film kills bacteria on food by releasing sorbic ...

Researchers from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging have developed a new type of food packaging film that kills food-inhabiting bacteria. While antimicrobial polymers in food packaging have been around for some time, the new material is unique in that it incorporates sorbic acid that has been dissolved into a lacquer, which is then deposited onto the film. When that lacquer first touches the food, a timed release of the acid begins, which neutralizes a significant number of the microorganisms on the food’s surface. The result, according to the researchers, is the ability to keep meat, fish and cheese fresher for longer.  Read More

A novel process uses rocket thrusters to clean up waste water and power treatment plants (...

Rocket engines are generally not thought of as being environmentally-friendly, but thanks to a newly-developed process, we may someday see them neutralizing the emissions from wastewater treatment plants. The same process would also see those plants generating their own power, thus meaning they would be both energy-neutral and emissions-free. Developed by two engineers at Stanford University, the system starts with the formation of nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane gas - something that treatment plants traditionally try to avoid.  Read More

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