Imagine plugging your phone into your jacket to charge it up or recharging your electric car just by leaving it in a sunny parking lot.
Associate Professor Jayan Thomas teaches nanotechnology at the University of Central Florida. He is working on a filament that can store the energy of the sun and could one day be woven into clothing or coat the roof of a car.
To demonstrate how his project might work, Thomas had to learn how to use some old technology – a loom.
Quantum computing is heralded as the next revolution in terms of global computing. Google, Intel and IBM are just some of the big names investing millions currently in the field of quantum computing which will enable faster, more efficient computing required to power the requirements of our future computing needs.
Now a researcher and his team at Tyndall National Institute in Cork have made a ‘quantum leap’ by developing a technical step that could enable the use of quantum computers sooner than expected.
Conventional digital computing uses ‘on-off’ switches, but quantum computing looks to harness quantum state of matters – such as entangled photons of light or multiple states of atoms – to encode information. In theory, this can lead to much faster and more powerful computer processing, but the technology to underpin quantum computing is currently difficult to develop at scale.
Researchers at Tyndall have taken a step forward by making quantum dot light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that can produce entangled photons (whose actions are linked), theoretically enabling their use to encode information in quantum computing.
“The new development here is that we have engineered a scalable array of electrically driven quantum dots using easily-sourced materials and conventional semiconductor fabrication technologies, and our method allows you to direct the position of these sources of entangled photons,” he says.
“Being able to control the positions of the quantum dots and to build them at scale are key factors to underpin more widespread use of quantum computing technologies as they develop.”
The Tyndall technology uses nanotechnology to electrify arrays of the pyramid-shaped quantum dots so they produce entangled photons. “We exploit intrinsic nanoscale properties of the whole “pyramidal” structure, in particular, an engineered self-assembled vertical quantum wire,which selectively injects current into the vicinity of a quantum dot,” explains Dr Pelucchi.
“The reported results are an important step towards the realization of integrated quantum photonic circuits designed for quantum information processing tasks, where thousands or more sources would function in unison.”
“It is exciting to see how research at Tyndall continues to break new ground, particularly in relation to this development in quantum computing. The significant breakthrough by Dr Pelucchi advances our understanding of how to harness the opportunity and power of quantum computing and undoubtedly accelerates progress in this field internationally. Photonics innovations by the IPIC team at Tyndall are being commercialized across a number sectors and as a result, we are directly driving global innovation through our investment, talent and research in this area,” said Dr Kieran Drain, CEO at Tyndall National Institute.
Dr Tom White from the ANU Research School of Engineering said the new fabrication method significantly improved the performance of perovskite solar cells, which can combine with conventional silicon solar cells to produce more efficient solar electricity.
ANU Ph.D. student The Duong, Dr.Tom White and Ph.D. student Jun Peng.
He said perovskite solar cells were extremely good at making electricity from visible light – blue, green and red – while conventional silicon solar cells were more efficient at converting infrared light into electricity.
“The prospect of adding a few additional processing steps at the end of a silicon cell production line to make perovskite cells is very exciting and could boost solar efficiency from 25 per cent to 30 per cent,” Dr White said.
“By combining these two cells, the perovskite cell and the silicon cell, we are able to make much better use of the solar energy and achieve higher efficiencies than either cell on its own.”
While perovskite cells can improve efficiency, they are not yet stable enough to be used on rooftops. Dr White said the new fabrication technique could help develop more reliable perovskite cells.
The new fabrication method involves adding a small amount of the element indium into one of the cell layers during fabrication. That could increase the cell’s power output by as much as 25 per cent.
“We have been able to achieve a record efficiency of 16.6 per cent for a semi-transparent perovskite cell, and 24.5 per cent for a perovskite-silicon tandem, which is one of the highest efficiencies reported for this type of cell,” said Dr White.
Dr White said the research placed ANU in a small group of labs around the world with the capability to improve silicon solar cell efficiency using perovskites.
The development builds on the state-of-the-art silicon cell research at ANU and is part of a $12.2 million “High-efficiency silicon/perovskite solar cells” project led by University of New South Wales and supported by $3.6 million of funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
Research partners include Monash University, Arizona State University, Suntech R&D Australia Pty Ltd and Trina Solar.
Smart windows get darker to filter out the sun’s rays on bright days, and turn clear on cloudy days to let more light in. This feature can help control indoor temperatures and offers some privacy without resorting to aids such as mini-blinds.Now scientists report a new development in this growing niche: solar smart windows that can turn opaque on demand and even power other devices. The study appears in ACS Photonics (“Electrically Controllable Light Trapping for Self-Powered Switchable Solar Windows”).
Smart windows get darker to filter out the sun’s rays on bright days, and turn clear on cloudy days to let more light in. This feature can help control indoor temperatures and offers some privacy without resorting to mini-blinds. Now scientists report a new development in this growing niche: solar smart windows that can turn opaque on demand and even power other devices.
Most existing solar-powered smart windows are designed to respond automatically to changing conditions, such as light or heat. But this means that on cool or cloudy days, consumers can’t flip a switch and tint the windows for privacy.
Also, these devices often operate on a mere fraction of the light energy they are exposed to while the rest gets absorbed by the windows. This heats them up, which can add warmth to a room that the windows are supposed to help keep cool. Jeremy Munday and colleagues wanted to address these limitations.
The researchers created a new smart window by sandwiching a polymer matrix containing microdroplets of liquid crystal materials, and an amorphous silicon layer — the type often used in solar cells — between two glass panes.
When the window is “off,” the liquid crystals scatter light, making the glass opaque. The silicon layer absorbs the light and provides the low power needed to align the crystals so light can pass through and make the window transparent when the window is turned “on” by the user.
The extra energy that doesn’t go toward operating the window is harvested and could be redirected to power other devices, such as lights, TVs or smartphones, the researchers say.
A new research, affiliated with Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) has presented a novel strategy for non-precious metal catalyst that can replace rare and expensive platinum(Pt)-based catalyst, currently used in hydrogen fuel cell.
Synthetic scheme for the preparation of CNT/PC catalysts. (Image: UNIST) (click on image to enlarge)
Hydrogen fuel cell generates electricity with hydrogen and oxygen, producing water as a byproduct. Precious platinum(Pt) has been used in commercialized fuel cell. However, the high cost of Pt (>40$ per g) hampers widespread application of the fuel cell.
The research team has attempted to develop high-performance non-precious metal catalyst which can substitute for state-of-the-art Pt-based catalysts. In this research, they focused on carbon-based catalyst with iron and nitrogen due to low cost and high activity (Fe-N/C catalyst). During the preparation of the Fe-N/C catalysts, high-temperature heat-treatment at over 700°C is commonly required to endow high catalystic activity, but unfortunately this treatment also diminishes the number of active site. The active site refers to the place where rate-determining catalytic reaction occurs.
To solve the problem, they have introduced ‘silica-protective-layer’ approach. The silica layer effectively preserved the active site at high-temperature, preventing the destruction of the active site.
The novel Fe-N/C catalyst prepared by ‘silica-protective-layer’ approach showed very high oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) activity which is comparable to Pt catalyst. ORR is an electrochemical reaction at the cathode of hydrogen fuel cell. Due to 1-million-times slower reaction kinetics of ORR at the cathode compared with hydrogen oxidation reaction at the anode, ORR is a major factor for a large drop of the efficiency of fuel cell. Up to date, expensive Pt has been used primarily as an efficient ORR catalyst.
The research team realized a record high activity by employing their catalyst as the cathode catalyst of alkaline membrane fuel cell (one type of hydrogen fuel cell). The team also demonstrated very high performance in proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC), in which the developed catalyst showed the activity of 320 A cm-3, exceeding 2020 US Department of Energy (DOE) activity target for non-precious metal catalyst (300 A cm-3).
“Our novel strategy for high-performance catalyst is expected to hasten the commercialization of hydrogen fuel cell, and the catalyst design can be also applied to other energy storage and conversion devices.” says Prof. Joo.
Source: Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology
A Perth tech company Dotz Nano has made a stunning ASX debut with its shares reaching more than double their issue price on the company’s first day of trade.
The company, a backdoor listing through the shell of former explorer Northern Iron, focuses on the development, manufacture and commercialisation of Graphene Quantum Dots (GQDs).
The company raised $6 million at 20 cents a share. Its shares hit an intraday high of 49 cents before retracing to close up more than 75 per cent at 36.5 cents.
GQDs are nanoparticles which have applications in LED displays, pigments, dyes and detergents as well as energy, electrical and medical applications.
Non-graphene derived quantum dots are already widely used in products such as high-definition TVs, medical imaging and lighting products. However they have limited applications because of their toxicity and production costs.
Dotz Nano said it had exclusive capabilities to extract GQDs from coal rather than graphite, allowing it to produce inexpensive, non-toxic GQDs at ten times the production yield of conventional GQDs.
The company said its patented technology was developed by Professor James Tour of the William Marsh Rice University in Houston, Texas. It also has a strong partnership with the Ben-Gurion University in Israel.
Watch A Video On Graphene-Quantum Dots
Dotz Nano said it was not aware of any other party commercialising GQDs and that it holds five patents covering all major jurisdictions.
Chief executive Moti Gross said the company had first mover advantage in its field.
“We have had extremely encouraging discussions with potential customers, sub-licensees and distributors, as with the Mainami Group in Japan, and there will be no shortage of activity from our potential deal pipeline,” he said.
“We take the opportunity to welcome our new shareholders on board and we look forward to updating the market as we continue to scale our business.”
The company also announced today a memorandum of understanding to establish a $S 20 million research centre at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
Unique optical features of quantum dots make them an attractive tool for many applications, from cutting-edge displays to medical imaging. Physical, chemical or biological properties of quantum dots must, however, be adapted to the desired needs. Unfortunately, up to now quantum dots prepared by chemical methods could be functionalized using copper-based click reactions with retention of their luminescence. This obstacle can be ascribed to the fact that copper ions destroy the ability of quantum dots to emit light.
Scientists from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IPC PAS) in Warsaw and the Faculty of Chemistry of the Warsaw University of Technology (FC WUT) have shown, however, that zinc oxide (ZnO) quantum dots prepared by an original method developed by them, after modification by the click reaction with the participation of copper ions, fully retain their ability to emit light.
“Click reactions catalyzed by copper cations have long attracted the attention of chemists dealing with quantum dots. The experimental results, however, were disappointing: after modification, the luminescence was so poor that they were just not fit for use. We were the first to demonstrate that it is possible to produce quantum dots from organometallic precursors in a way they do not lose their valuable optical properties after being subjected to copper-catalysed click reactions,” says Prof. Janusz Lewinski (IPC PAS, FC WUT).
Quantum dots are crystalline structures with size of a few nanometers (billionth parts of a meter). As semiconductor materials, they exhibit a variety of interesting features typical of quantum objects, including absorbing and emitting radiation of only a strictly defined energy. Since atoms interact with light in a similar way, quantum dots are often called artificial atoms. In some respects, however, quantum dots offer more possibilities than atoms. Optical properties of each dot actually depend on its size and the type of material from which it is formed. This means that quantum dots may be precisely designed for specific applications.
To meet the need of specific applications, quantum dots have to be tailored in terms of physico-chemical properties. For this purpose, chemical molecules with suitable characteristics are attached to their surface. Due to the simplicity, efficacy, and speed of the process, an exceptionally convenient method is the click reaction. Unfortunately, one of the most widely used click reactions takes place with the participation of copper ions, which was reported to result in the almost complete quenching of the luminescence of the quantum dots.
“Failure is usually a result of the inadequate quality of quantum dots, which is determined by the synthesis method. Currently, ZnO dots are mainly produced by the sol-gel method from inorganic precursors. Quantum dots generated in this manner are coated with a heterogeneous and probably leaky protective shell, made of various sorts of chemical molecules. During a click reaction, the copper ions are in direct contact with the surface of quantum dots and quench the luminescence of the dot, which becomes completely useless,” explains Dr. Agnieszka Grala (IPC PAS), the first author of the article in the Chemical Communications journal.
For several years, Prof. Lewinski’s team has been developing alternative methods for the preparation of high quality ZnO quantum dots. The method presented in this paper affords the quantum dots derived from organozinc precursors. Composition of the nanoparticles can be programmed at the stage of precursors preparation, which makes it possible to precisely control the character of their organic-inorganic interface.
“Nanoparticles produced by our method are crystalline and all have almost the same size. They are spherical and have characteristics of typical quantum dots. Every nanoparticle is stabilized by an impermeable protective jacket, built of organic compounds, strongly anchored on the surface of the semiconductor core. As a result, our quantum dots remain stable for a long time and do not aggregate, that is clump together, in solutions,” describes Malgorzata Wolska-Pietkiewicz, a PhD student at FC WUT.
“The key to success is producing a uniform stabilizing shell. Such coatings are characteristic of the ZnO quantum dots obtained by our method. The organic layer behaves as a tight protective umbrella protecting dots from direct influence of the copper ions,” says Dr. Grala and clarifies: “We carried out click reaction known as alkyne-azide cycloaddition, in which we used a copper(l) compound as catalysts. After functionalization, our quantum dots shone as brightly as at the beginning.”
Quantum dots keep finding more and more applications in various industrial processes and as nanomarkers in, among others, biology and medicine, where they are combined with biologically active molecules. Nanoobjects functionalized in this manner are used to label both individual cells as well as whole tissues.
The unique properties of quantum dots also enable long-term monitoring of the labelled item. Commonly used quantum dots, however, contain toxic heavy metals, including cadmium. In addition, they clump together in solutions, which supports the thesis of the lack of tightness of their shells. Meanwhile, the ZnO dots produced by Prof. Lewinski’s group are non-toxic, they do not aggregate, and can be bound to many chemical compounds – so they are much more suitable for medical diagnosis and for imaging cells and tissues.
Research on the methods of production of functionalized ZnO quantum dots was carried out under an OPUS grant from the Poland’s National Science Centre.
In a proof-of-concept study with mice, scientists at The Johns Hopkins University show that a novel coating they made with antibiotic-releasing nanofibers has the potential to better prevent at least some serious bacterial infections related to total joint replacement surgery.
A report on the study, published online the week of Oct. 24 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was conducted on the rodents’ knee joints, but, the researchers say, the technology would have “broad applicability” in the use of orthopaedic prostheses, such as hip and knee total joint replacements, as well pacemakers, stents and other implantable medical devices. In contrast to other coatings in development, the researchers report the new material can release multiple antibiotics in a strategically timed way for an optimal effect.
“We can potentially coat any metallic implant that we put into patients, from prosthetic joints, rods, screws and plates to pacemakers, implantable defibrillators and dental hardware,” says co-senior study author Lloyd S. Miller, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of dermatology and orthopaedic surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Surgeons and biomedical engineers have for years looked for better ways —including antibiotic coatings—to reduce the risk of infections that are a known complication of implanting artificial hip, knee and shoulder joints.
Every year in the U.S., an estimated 1 to 2 percent of the more than 1 million hip and knee replacement surgeries are followed by infections linked to the formation of biofilms—layers of bacteria that adhere to a surface, forming a dense, impenetrable matrix of proteins, sugars and DNA. Immediately after surgery, an acute infection causes swelling and redness that can often be treated with intravenous antibiotics. But in some people, low-grade chronic infections can last for months, causing bone loss that leads to implant loosening and ultimately failure of the new prosthesis. These infections are very difficult to treat and, in many cases of chronic infection, prostheses must be removed and patients placed on long courses of antibiotics before a new prosthesis can be implanted. The cost per patient often exceeds $100,000 to treat a biofilm-associated prosthesis infection, Miller says.
Major downsides to existing options for local antibiotic delivery, such as antibiotic-loaded cement, beads, spacers or powder, during the implantation of medical devices are that they can typically only deliver one antibiotic at a time and the release rate is not well-controlled. To develop a better approach that addresses those problems, Miller teamed up with Hai-Quan Mao, Ph.D., a professor of materials science and engineering at the Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering, and a member of the Institute for NanoBioTechnology, Whitaker Biomedical Engineering Institute and Translational Tissue Engineering Center.
Over three years, the team focused on designing a thin, biodegradable plastic coating that could release multiple antibiotics at desired rates. This coating is composed of a nanofiber mesh embedded in a thin film; both components are made of polymers used for degradable sutures.
To test the technology’s ability to prevent infection, the researchers loaded the nanofiber coating with the antibiotic rifampin in combination with one of three other antibiotics: vancomycin, daptomycin or linezolid. “Rifampin has excellent anti-biofilm activity but cannot be used alone because bacteria would rapidly develop resistance,” says Miller. The coatings released vancomycin, daptomycin or linezolid for seven to 14 days and rifampin over three to five days. “We were able to deploy two antibiotics against potential infection while ensuring rifampin was never present as a single agent,” Miller says.
The team then used each combination to coat titanium Kirschner wires—a type of pin used in orthopaedic surgery to fix bone in place after wrist fractures—inserted them into the knee joints of anesthetized mice and introduced a strain of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that commonly causes biofilm-associated infections in orthopaedic surgeries. The bacteria were engineered to give off light, allowing the researchers to noninvasively track infection over time.
Miller says that after 14 days of infection in mice that received an antibiotic-free coating on the pins, all of the mice had abundant bacteria in the infected tissue around the knee joint, and 80 percent had bacteria on the surface of the implant. In contrast, after the same time period in mice that received pins with either linezolid-rifampin or daptomycin-rifampin coating, none of the mice had detectable bacteria either on the implants or in the surrounding tissue.
“We were able to completely eradicate infection with this coating,” says Miller. “Most other approaches only decrease the number of bacteria but don’t generally or reliably prevent infections.”
After the two-week test, each of the rodents’ joints and adjacent bones were removed for further study. Miller and Mao found that not only had infection been prevented, but the bone loss often seen near infected joints—which creates the prosthetic loosening in patients—had also been completely avoided in animals that received pins with the antibiotic-loaded coating.
Miller emphasized that further research is needed to test the efficacy and safety of the coating in humans, and in sorting out which patients would best benefit from the coating—people with a previous prosthesis joint infection receiving a new replacement joint, for example.
The polymers they used to generate the nanofiber coating have already been used in many approved devices by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, such as degradable sutures, bone plates and drug delivery systems.
More information: Polymeric nanofiber coating with tunable combinatorial antibiotic delivery prevents biofilm-associated infection in vivo, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1613722113
Predictions from the co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Future Council, Melanie Walker, say we’ll soon enter a post-hospital world due to advances in personalized medicine, health monitoring, and nanotechnology.New and evolving technologies in medical science convince Walker we’ll live in a society not dependent on hospitals by 2030.
BRAVE NEW WORLD
As the world of medicine is increasingly changed by biology, technology, communications, genetics, and robotics, predicting the outlook of the next few decades of medicine becomes harder. But that is exactly what Melanie Walker of the World Economic Forum does, and she predicts a bright new future for healthcare.
Walker is the co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Future Council on neurotechnology and brain science and has been a doctor for the past 20 years.
“Nearly 20 years ago, when I graduated from medical school, the world of healthcare was dominated by breakthroughs in the field of biology,” Walker said in the article. “But, that is changing quickly because biology is being eaten by robotics and genetics as we evolve deeper into the networked age.”
The lynchpin of Walker’s predictions is the increasing adoption of new healthcare technologies, not just in hospitals but in homes. In fact, she says the rise of personalized medicine means we’re moving from hospitals to “home-spitals.” (article continued below)
Cambridge, MA (Scicasts) – Inspired by natural materials such as bone — a matrix of minerals and other substances, including living cells — MIT engineers have coaxed bacterial cells to produce biofilms that can incorporate nonliving materials, such as gold nanoparticles & quantum dots.
” … The new materials represent a simple demonstration of the power of this approach, which could one day be used to design more complex devices such as solar cells, self-healing materials, or diagnostic sensors, says Timothy Lu, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and biological engineering.”
(continued) We can already see these trends playing out. Many of the biggest diseases are largely vascular, and better understanding is making them more predictable and preventable. Accidents are likely to fall with the advent of automation and driverless tech and regenerative medicine is already stretching the lifespans in the most advanced countries.
Improvements in health monitoring will also make doctor’s visits rarer since they’ll acquire health data from your smartphone. And scanning technology will one day create devices that combine spectroscopy, magnetic resonance, and radiation in an all-in-one scanner.
The trend also points to less intrusive and more automated surgeries and operations. Microbots will perform surgeries from inside your body and ingestible robotics will diagnose or operate on you before they dissolve.
There’ll also be an end to organ waiting lists. Advancements in 3D printing have made great leaps in printing artificial organs, bones, and even tissue.
One day, instead of getting prescriptions from your doctor, brain implants may read your symptoms and beam them directly to the smartphone. It will then print out a custom set of drugs to address the root of your problems.
Advancements in genomics will also ensure you know which diseases you’re most likely to get so you’re prepared or even able to edit them out of your genome.
This isn’t a prediction designed to be 100 percent as new advancements and discoveries are made every day. Rather, the predictions help set us on a path to advance the regulatory structure to accommodate future advances and get funding towards the right fields to achieve this vision.
Matteo Achilli (R) works with one of his assistants in his office in Formello, north of Rome July 25, 2013.
Achilli, dubbed the Italian Zuckerberg by Panorama Economy, is the 21-year-old founder of Egomnia, a social network created to match companies looking to hire graduate job seekers.
According to Achilli, Egomnia, which was founded in February 2012, has around 100,000 users, about 600 multinational companies in Italy as clients and a 2013 sales volume of about 500,000 euros.
Could a robot do your job?
Millions of people who didn’t see automation coming will soon find out the painful way. The answer is a resounding yes.
The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs study predicts that 5 million jobs will be lost before 2020 as artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology and other socio-economic factors replace the need for human workers.
The good news is that those same technological advances will also create 2.1 million new jobs. But the manual and clerical workers who find themselves out of work are unlikely to have the required skills to compete for the new roles. Most new jobs will be in more specialized areas such as computing, mathematics, architecture and engineering.
“Without urgent and targeted action today, to manage the near-term transition and build a workforce with future-proof skills, governments will have to cope with ever-growing unemployment and inequality, and businesses with a shrinking consumer base,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.
New skills for new economies
So what skills should workers be acquiring to make sure they have value as the Fourth Industrial Revolution gathers pace? Some may be surprised to learn that skills we develop in pre-school will be valued highly.
David Deming, associate professor of education and economics at Harvard University, argues that soft skills like sharing and negotiating will be crucial. He says the modern workplace, where people move between different roles and projects, closely resembles pre-school classrooms, where we learn social skills such as empathy and cooperation.
Deming has mapped the changing needs of employers and identified key skills that will be required to thrive in the job market of the near future. Along with those soft skills, mathematical ability will be enormously beneficial.
Single-skillset jobs in decline
Deming shows that in recent years, many jobs requiring only mathematical skills have been automated. Bank tellers and statistical clerks have suffered.
Roles which require predominantly social skills (childcare workers, for example) tend to be poorly paid as the supply of potential workers is very large.
The study shows that workers who successfully combine mathematical and interpersonal skills in the knowledge-based economies of the future should find many rewarding and lucrative opportunities.
Refocusing skills education
The challenge now, says Deming, is for educators to complement their teaching of technical skills like mathematics and computer science, with a focus on making sure the workers of the future have the soft skills to compete in the new jobs market.