Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Microbes

Antimicrobial Corning Gorilla Glass is claimed to kill up to 99.9 percent of bacterial pop...

Last July, Corning announced that germ-killing glass for mobile device screens could be less than two years away. Well, things are apparently progressing quickly. Yesterday, the company unveiled its Antimicrobial Corning Gorilla Glass – although you can't buy a phone that features it quite yet.  Read More

A bacterium, after being 'deflated' by a cicada wing's array of blunt spikes

Imagine if you took a water balloon and placed it on a bed of widely-spaced blunt nails. While the nails wouldn’t be pointy enough to pierce the balloon’s rubber skin, eventually the weight of the water would cause the rubber suspended between the nails to rupture. Well, it turns out that the clanger cicada uses the same principle to kill bacteria that settle on its wings. That finding could result in a new generation of antibacterial materials.  Read More

PureMadi project leaders James Smith and Dr. Rebecca Dillingham

Silver is known for its antibacterial qualities, and has thus found its way into water filters created at institutions such as Stanford and McGill universities. Given that these filters are often used in developing nations, however, it would be nice if they could also contribute to the local economy – instead of being just one more thing that’s brought in from outside. Well, that’s just the idea behind the University of Virginia’s PureMadi filters and MadiDrops.  Read More

A diagram of the Purrfect Air Litter Box System

Indoor green walls, for those who don’t know, are essentially flat vertical surfaces that are completely covered in plants. Not only do they look nice, but they also help remove toxins from the air. Now, gardening entrepreneur Mark Prescott has taken that same idea and applied it to a cat litter box deodorizer, known as the Purrfect Air Litter Box System.  Read More

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

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