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Pennsylvania State University

— Energy

Lithium-ion battery warms itself in cold environments to maintain performance

Extreme temperatures can seriously compromise the performance of lithium batteries. We've seen a number of developments promising to reduce the risk of them overheating and catching fire, but at the other end of the scale, freezing temperatures aren't too friendly either, often leading to substantial power loss. In an advance that could have ramifications for everything from electric vehicles to space exploration, researchers have built a lithium battery that warms itself up to battle the winter chill.

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— Medical

Boosting brain molecule points to treatment for autism and other neurological disorders

Rett Syndrome is a rare but severe neurological disorder that causes autism-like behavior in young females. It has long been known that behind the condition is a genetic mutation, and researchers are now claiming to have found an absent molecule that facilitates regular nerve cell function and development in healthy brains. Armed with a drug that can repair this missing link, the scientists are hopeful their work can lead to effective treatments for not only Rett Syndrome, but various forms of autism-spectrum disorders as well.

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— Medical

Engineered fat cells slip through blood-brain barrier to illuminate early-stage tumors

Cancerous growths that arise from the supportive tissue of the brain, known as gliomas, account for around 30 percent of all brain tumors and carry an average survival rate of just 14 months. These aggressive tumors are difficult to detect through MRI, largely due to the the protective blood-brain barrier that stops contrast agents from entering and lighting them up. But a new type of engineered fat cell could make them more treatable, by penetrating the barrier and revealing their presence at a much earlier stage of development.

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— Materials

Boron-doped graphene to enable ultrasensitive gas sensors

As an atom-thick, two-dimensional material with high conductivity, graphene is set to enable a stream of new electronic devices, including particularly sensitive sensors for the detection of various gases, such as those produced by explosives. Now an international team of researchers led by Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) has created a graphene-boron amalgam that can detect particular gases down to mere parts per billion, and may eventually lead to detectors with such sensitivity that they could detect infinitesimally tiny amounts of gas in the order of parts per quadrillion.

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— Materials

Self-healing bioplastic – just add water

Imagine if things like undersea cables or medical implants could simply heal themselves back together if severed – it would certainly be easier than having to go in and fix them. Well, scientists at Pennsylvania State University are bringing such a possibility closer to reality. They've created a moldable polymer that heals itself when exposed to water – and it's based on squid sucker ring teeth.

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— Medical

MIT's acoustic tumor cell sorting method is now up to 20 times faster

A team of researchers from MIT, Pennsylvania State University and Carnegie Mellon University has announced key improvements to its acoustic wave-harnessing cell sorting method unveiled last year. The device, which is intended for use in the detection of cancer cells in the bloodstream, is now able to obtain accurate results from a patient sample in as little as five hours. Read More
— Science

Ammonia-based battery system to convert low-grade waste heat into electricity

As modern power generation methods are designed to squeeze the most power from the least amount of fuel, engineers are constantly looking at techniques to improve efficiency. One way to achieve this is to scavenge waste energy left over from the production process to capture and convert low-grade heat into usable energy. In pursuit of this goal, engineers at Pennsylvania State University have produced an ammonia-based battery that not only captures and converts waste heat economically and efficiently, but is claimed to do so at a greater capacity than other similar systems. Read More
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