Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Nanotechnology

The SaveOneLife system

Boot insoles can turn a pair of really uncomfortable brogues into podiatric clouds that can take a long hike and remove the foot ache. Now, Lemur Studio Design based in Bogota, Colombia, has come up with a concept for insoles that won’t just save your instep, but could save your life. A submission to the World Design Impact Prize 2013-2014 competition, SaveOneLife is a wearable mine detector that fits in a shoe and warns the wearer if and where a potentially deadly landmine might lurk nearby.  Read More

A diagram and a microscope image (inset) of one of the bio-bots

If you were asked to think of something microscopic that moves quickly, chances are that sperm would be the first thing to come to mind. The tiny reproductive cells are able to swim as fast as they do thanks to their long whip-like tails, known as flagella. So, imagine how helpful it might be if sperm-like machines could be used for applications such as delivering medication to targeted areas of the body. Well, that's what scientists at the University of Illinois are in the process of making possible, with the creation of their heart cell-powered "bio-bots."  Read More

A new type of carbon nanotube sponge containing sulfur and iron could help clean up oil sp...

A new type of carbon nanotube (CNT) sponge that contains sulfur and iron has been developed and is proving to be more effective at soaking up water contaminants, such as oil, fertilizers, pesticides and pharmaceuticals, than previously seen. The magnetic properties of these nanosponges also make them easier to retrieve from the environment once the clean-up job is done.  Read More

Spermbots created at IFW Dresden approach an egg, and the microtube falls away (Image: IFW...

Hijacking sperm cells to create little robots might seem far out, but that's exactly what researchers from the Dresden Institute for Integrative Nanosciences have done. Their "spermbots" consist of live sperm cells in little tubes, that can be magnetically controlled to move in a desired direction until they reach their destination and do their job – they're currently robust enough to even guide a specific sperm cell to an egg cell. The scientists hope that further development will allow the technology to offer a viable alternative to parents trying to have a child through in-vitro fertilization. When perfected, the spermbots could also be used as a safe means for drug delivery and gene manipulation.  Read More

A liquid crystal 'flower' under magnification (Photo: University of Pennsylvania)

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have grown liquid crystal flowers, making it possible to create lenses as complex as the compound eye of a dragonfly. When perfected, the technology could allow the growth of lenses on curved surfaces, and structures to be assembled out of liquid crystals to build new materials, smart surfaces, microlens arrays and advanced sensors.  Read More

Bioinspired magnetically propelled helical microswimmers could deliver drugs at the right ...

If you remember the 1966 science fiction film Fantastic Voyage, you'll recall how miniaturized government agents traveled through blood vessels in a tiny submarine, in their attempt remove a blood clot from a scientist's brain. Synthetic nanomotors that can do the same job have been the subject of numerous research efforts and now University of California, San Diego (UCSD) researchers report that they've created powerful biodegradable "microswimmers" that can deliver drugs more precisely, derived from common plants like passion fruit and wild banana.  Read More

A young entrepreneur named Aamir Patel recently developed the Silic shirt, which is made f...

We're still a long ways away from the self-drying clothing seen in Back to the Future II, but we may have a useful alternative in the form of a piece of clothing that never gets wet to begin with. Young entrepreneur Aamir Patel has developed the Silic shirt, which is made from a hydrophobic fabric that repels liquids away from it like a force field to keep it from getting wet.  Read More

The development of graphene based nanoelectromechanical systems could lead to even slimmer...

A team of engineers from Columbia University has created a nano-mechanical system with the ability to create FM radio signals. In other words, they've built what is effectively the world’s smallest FM radio transmitter.  Read More

The genetically modified M13 virus creates maganese oxide nanowires with spikes providing ...

In recent years, lithium-air batteries that promise improved power density per pound over lithium-ion batteries have been the subject of much research in the quest to give electronic vehicles greater range. By enlisting the help of a genetically-modified virus, researchers at MIT have found a way to improve the performance and durability of lithium-air batteries, which offer the potential of two to three times the energy density of current lithium-ion batteries.  Read More

UCL graduate student Alice Pyne works on a LEGO-based atomic force microscope (Photo: Inst...

Scanning atomic force microscopes, first introduced into commerce in 1989, are a powerful tool for nanoscale science and engineering. Capable of seeing individual atoms, commercial AFM prices range between US$10K and $1M, depending on the unit's features and capabilities. During the recent LEGO2NANO summer school held at Tsinghua University in Beijing, a group of Chinese and English students succeeded in making a Lego-based AFM in five days at a cost less than $500.  Read More

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