Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

University of Illinois

A beating rabbit's heart, fitted with one of the membranes (Photo: Igor Efimov)

When it comes to monitoring the electrical activity of the heart, or delivering electrical stimulation to it (as in the case of pacemakers), most current technologies rely on electrodes that make contact with the organ in just a few locations. That doesn't necessarily provide a very detailed picture of what's going on, nor does it deliver stimulation all that evenly. Now, scientists have created a sensor-laden three-dimensional elastic membrane that can be pulled over the whole heart, to provide a large number of contact points.  Read More

Scientists are working on a biofuel-producing strain of sugarcane  (Photo: Shutterstock)

Sugarcane grows like crazy, so if it could be used as a source of biofuel, well ... not only might it produce higher yields than other crops, but it could conceivably do so using less land. With that in mind, scientists from the University of Illinois are creating a strain of the plant that produces more oil, gets more energy from the sun, and can be grown in colder climates.  Read More

Brajendra Kumar Sharma, center, with research chemist Dheeptha Murali, left, and process c...

Despite efforts to limit their use through implementation of charges or bans, billions of plastic bags continue to clog landfills, waterways and the world's oceans every year. Already a potential source for carbon fiber and carbon nanotubes, researchers have provided another reason not to throw the ubiquitous bags away by converting them into a range of petroleum products.  Read More

A piece of dynamic polyurea, that has healed up after being cut in two

Stretchy, self-healing paints and other coatings recently took a step closer to common use, thanks to research being conducted at the University of Illinois. Scientists there have used "off-the-shelf" components to create a polymer that melds back together after being cut in half, without the addition of catalysts or other chemicals.  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

Circuit Scribe uses silver ink to draw circuits

A new company called Electroninks is seeking to make DIY electronics child’s play ... literally. Circuit Scribe is a roller-ball pen filled with conductive silver ink that enables the creation of circuits by simply drawing them.  Read More

Researchers have found a simple way to preserve broccoli’s cancer-fighting properties afte...

Broccoli is one of those foods we’re told to eat as youngsters because it’s good for us. Unfortunately, researchers at the University of Illinois (U of I) found some of that goodness, namely the vegetable’s cancer-protective benefits, doesn’t survive the process its subjected to before reaching the freezers at supermarkets. Thankfully, the researchers followed up their initial research and found a simple way to preserve broccoli’s cancer-fighting properties.  Read More

Researchers have found that an AI system has an average IQ of a four-year-old child (Image...

Those who saw IBM’s Watson defeat former winners on Jeopardy! in 2011 might be forgiven for thinking that artificially intelligent computer systems are a lot brighter than they are. While Watson was able to cope with the highly stylized questions posed during the quiz, AI systems are still left wanting when it comes to commonsense. This was one of the factors that led researchers to find that one of the best available AI systems has the average IQ of a four-year-old  Read More

One of the lithium-ion 'microbatteries'

While we’re currently witnessing the rise of tiny electronic devices such as biosensors, many of those devices do have one limiting factor – they still require not-so-tiny batteries, which ends up somewhat defeating the whole miniaturization process. Although some devices can get their power from external sources, scientists from Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have come up with an alternative ... functional 3D-printed lithium-ion batteries no larger than a grain of sand.  Read More

The University of Illinois' iPhone-based biosensor

We already know that smartphones can perform many of the same features as more expensive computers, cameras and other devices. Now, a portable iPhone cradle made up of about US$200 worth of electronics is claimed to be as accurate of a biosensor as a $50,000 spectrophotometer that remains stuck in a lab.  Read More

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