Tesla wants to build special charging stations that sell food and coffee — and it could be a huge opportunity … Or NOT!


 

Tesla wants to build special charging stations that sell food and coffee — and it could be a huge opportunity

Tesla Coffee – I’ll have a cup of Musk’s Blend – Business Insider

• Tesla is planning to build more retail-and-lifestyle focused “Mega Supercharger locations.”
• This might tempt the company to partner with the Amazons and Starbucks of the world.
• IOHO – That would be a big mistake!

As Tesla expands its Supercharger network, the automaker intends to up its game, building higher-end, retail-rich locations that CEO Elon Musk has called “Mega Superchargers” but that we’ll call just Megachargers.

CEO Elon Musk has speculatively described them as “like really big supercharging locations with a bunch of amenities,” complete with “great restrooms, great food, amenities” and an awesome place to “hang out for half an hour and then be on your way.”


The move makes sense. 



Superchargers are currently located through the US and other countries, providing the fastest rate of recharging available to Tesla owners. The station can have varying numbers of charging stalls, however, and they aren’t always located in the best areas for passing the time while a Tesla inhales new electrons, although Tesla typically tries to construct them near retail and dining options.

With more Tesla hitting the road in coming years as more and more Model 3 sedans are delivered (Tesla has about 500,000 pre-orders for the car, priced from $35,000-$44,000), additional Superchargers will be needed. Creating stand-alone Megachargers that function sort of like Tesla stores would enhance the ownership experience — and open new opportunities to the company.

At Business Insider, when we heard about the Megachargers, a discussion broke out. Should Tesla partner with Amazon or Starbucks to develop these locations, offering great shopping, food, and above all else … coffee?

Bring on the Tesla Brew


A Starbucks store is seen inside the Tom Bradley terminal at LAX airport in Los Angeles, California, United States, October 27, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson      

Don’t do it, Tesla!Thomson Reuters I insisted, “NO NO NO!”
There’s no way that Tesla can blow the chance to create its own coffee. They could call it “Elon’s Blend” — bold, complex flavors, with a hint of, um, musk.

In all seriousness, for Tesla to share its Megacharger commerce might sound great, but it wouldn’t fit with the company’s plan to move toward greater vertical integration, owning not just the entire manufacturing process for its cars but also controlling its brand experience from top to bottom.

A recent example of Tesla’s reluctance to partner for the sake of partnering was the announcement that the carmaker could be working on its own streaming service. There are other instances that aren’t as obvious. Tesla’s audio system is an in-house design, a departure from what most luxury automaker do, which is joined with a well-known premium audio brands such as Bose or Bowers & Wilkins.

The company is already focused on building its own vehicle components, ranging from the guts of its cars — the battery packs and drivetrains — to seats and, of course, software. 

For a huge automaker, this type of integration can be impractical, but at Tesla’s current size, its business model operates more like Ford’s or GM’s did back before World War II, when near-total vertical integration was an advantage.


Supercharging is fun — and could be more fun!

In this respect, I’m using Tesla Brew as a symbolic bit of humor: it’s not entirely logical for Tesla to give away any branding opportunity that bolsters its existing and future owners’ perception that the Tesla experience is unique, self-contained, and dramatically different from what other carmakers are selling.

The Megachargers, if they’re built, are going to have a significant effect on how the overall Tesla experience is enjoyed. At the moment, the Supercharger network is pretty far-flung.

But Tesla wants to locate more fast-charging stations along the routes owners are likely to travel, so you could end up in a nice retail location just as easily as you could an out-of-the-way venue where there isn’t much to do besides consider some fast-food options.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but Tesla is a premium brand and for the most part, presents itself accordingly. You don’t find Tesla stores in odd places; you find them in upscale urban areas.

Tesla has endured its problems, but marketing isn’t one of them. Musk and his team might not yet have delivered 100,000 vehicles in a full year, but they’ve delivered almost that — with no advertising whatsoever. In the car world, 
Tesla ranks with Ferrari in terms of its aspirational aspects, and outside the car world, one thinks immediately of Apple. In the retail realm, Starbucks pops to mind, and that in itself is reason enough for Tesla to avoid putting the Green Siren next to its logo at Megacharger locations. 

If you’re a little bit cynical about Tesla, you might argue that the company is much better at marketing than it is at the whole car thing, and you’d be right. However, few people get excited about Ford- or Toyota-branded products that aren’t cars, and even Ferrari-branded merchandise isn’t always coveted, something that Ferrari, now a public company, is trying to change.

Tesla is already a luxury, and with an added high-tech, save-the-planet edge to everything. It’s begun the remaking of transportation. It could now be time to remake coffee, too. 

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Tiny Nanoparticles Could Help Repair Damaged Brain And Nerve Cells


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When our brains develop problems, such as degenerative diseases or epilepsy, some of the trouble can be electrical. As nerve signals involve electrically charged particles moving around, medics often try to treat associated problems using implanted electrodes. But this is a clumsy and difficult approach. A much better idea could be to implant tiny structures deep in the brain to act almost as miniature electricians. It may sound like science fiction, but it is moving fast towards reality.

Attilio Marino and colleagues at the Smart Bio-Interfaces group at the Italian Institute of Technology in Pontedera are striving to bring the idea to the clinic. They summarise progress in the field in a news and opinions article in Nano Today.brain_header

Nanomaterials are showing great potential in biomedicine since they can interact precisely with living systems down to the level of cells, subcellular structures and even individual molecules,” says Marino.

Marino is most interested in ‘piezoelectric‘ materials, which can convert mechanical stimulation into electrical energy, or vice-versa. He is exploring using ultrasound to mechanically stimulate nanoparticles into creating electrical signals that may fix problems with brain cells.

He points out that ultrasound offers a way to get a signal deep into brain tissue without using invasive electrodes, which can cause other problems including inflammation. Some researchers try to get round these difficulties using stimulation with light, but light cannot penetrate very deeply so ultrasound is a better option.

The field is still in its early days. Researchers are mainly studying the effects of piezoelectric nanoparticles on cultured cells rather than in animals or people, but the results are promising. Marino’s team, for example, shows that using ultrasound to stimulate nanoparticles embedded in nerve cells can increase the sprouting of new cell-signalling appendages called axons. This is exactly the kind of effect that may one day repair degenerative brain disease.

“We used barium titanate nanoparticles and confirmed the effect was specifically due to the piezoelectricity of our materials,” says Marino.

Other researchers are working with the ‘stem cells‘ that can develop into a wide range of mature types of cell needed by the body. Some are finding that piezoelectric nanomaterials can stimulate stem cells to begin their transformation into a variety of functional cell types.

A long road of safety studies, animal tests and eventual clinical trials lies ahead. But Marino is optimistic, he concludes: “The preliminary successes strongly encourage us that our research is a realistic approach for use in clinical practice in the near future.”


You can read the article for free for a limited time:

Marino, A., et al.: “Piezoelectric nanotransducers: The future of neural stimulation,” Nano Today (2017)

Better photovoltaic efficiency grows from enormous solar crystals: MH Perovskites 


In-depth analysis of the mechanisms that generate floating crystals from hot liquids could lead to large-scale, printable solar cells


New evidence of surface-initiated crystallization may improve the efficiency of printable photovoltaic materials.

In the race to replace silicon in low-cost solar cells, semiconductors known as metal halide perovskites are favored because they can be solution-processed into thin films with excellent photovoltaic efficiency. 

A collaboration between King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and Oxford University researchers has now uncovered a strategy that grows perovskites into centimeter-scale, highly pure crystals thanks to the effect of surface tension (ACS Energy Letters, “The role of surface tension in the crystallization of metal halide perovskites”).

In their natural state, perovskites have difficultly moving solar-generated electricity because they crystallize with randomly oriented grains. 

Osman Bakr from KAUST’s Solar Center and coworkers are working on ways to dramatically speed up the flow of these charge carriers using inverse temperature crystallization (ITC). This technique uses special organic liquids and thermal energy to force perovskites to solidify into structures resembling single crystals—the optimal arrangements for device purposes.

While ITC produces high-quality perovskites far faster than conventional chemical methods, the curious mechanisms that initiate crystallization in hot organic liquids are poorly understood. Ayan Zhumekenov, a PhD student in Bakr’s group, recalls spotting a key piece of evidence during efforts to adapt ITC toward large-scale manufacturing. “At some point, we realized that when crystals appeared, it was usually at the solution’s surface,” he says. “And this was particularly true when we used concentrated solutions.”

The KAUST team partnered with Oxford theoreticians to identify how interfaces influence perovskite growth in ITC. They propose that metal halides and solvent molecules initially cling together in tight complexes that begin to stretch and weaken at higher temperatures. With sufficient thermal energy, the complex breaks and perovskites begin to crystallize.

But interestingly, the researchers found that complexes located at the solution surface can experience additional forces due to surface tension—the strong cohesive forces that enable certain insects to stride over lakes and ponds. The extra pull provided by the surface makes it much easier to separate the solvent-perovskite complexes and nucleate crystals that float on top of the liquid.

Exploiting this knowledge helped the team produce centimeter-sized, ultrathin single crystals and prototype a photodetector with characteristics comparable to state-of-the-art devices. Although the single crystals are currently fragile and difficult to handle due to their microscale thicknesses, Zhumekenov explains that this method could help direct the perovskite growth onto specific substrates.

“Taking into account the roles of interfaces and surface tension could have a fundamental impact,” he says, “we can get large-area growth, and it’s not limited to specific metal cations—you could have a library of materials with perovskite structures.”

Source: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

The Future of Batteries, from Human Power to a Wireless Grid


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Extending the battery life of our tech is something that preoccupies manufacturers and consumers alike. With every new phone launch we’re treated to new features, such as increasingly high-res displays and better cameras, but it’s longer battery life we all want. For most of us, being able to use our phone for a full day still means charging it every night, or lugging your charger around all day and hunting for a power socket. And when the electric car revolution reaches full speed, fast-charging, long-life batteries are going to be essential.

Advances in battery life are being made all the time, even if we’re yet to see the full benefits in our day-to-day gadgets.

But what’s beyond that? Wireless power. And we don’t mean laying our phone on a charging pad – we’re talking about long-range wireless power. If this is cracked we could have all our devices at full juice all the time, no matter where we are.

The current tech

The batteries in your current phone, and in electric cars, are lithium-ion. These  charge quickly, last for plenty of cycles and offer decent capacity. But devices are more juice-hungry than ever, and with cars in particular fast charging needs to become more effective, because batteries aren’t going away any time soon.

While wireless power could be a viable option in the future, in the short-to-medium term we need to enhance batteries so that individuals and energy providers can first transition from fossil fuels to green renewable power.

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The battery tech in our smartphones has changed little, even as other features have seen dramatic advances

Louis Shaffer of power management solutions firm Eaton tells TechRadar: “We constantly hear about battery breakthroughs but still have the same lithium-ion batteries in our phones. Innovation takes time. It took over 30 years for li-ion batteries to enter the mainstream, from their invention in the 1980s to featuring in iPhones.”

Another factor in slowing this progress is highlighted by Chris Slattery, product manager at smart lighting manufacturer Tridonic. “The interesting point with mobile phones is that one of the major factors for upgrading your phone is the degradation of the current phone’s battery life,“ he says.

“Increasing the life of these batteries removes a major reason for upgrading to the latest smartphone when the feature set itself doesn’t change that greatly.”

Ultracapacitors

Ultracapacitors are seen by many as the future of energy storage, as they store energy in an electric field, rather than in a chemical reaction as a battery does, meaning they can survive hundreds of thousands more charge and discharge cycles than a battery can.

Taavi Madiburk is CEO of Skeleton Technologies, a global leader in ultracapacitor-based storage solutions. He says: “The future, we believe, lies not in replacing lithium-ion, but coupling this technology with ultracapacitors in a hybrid approach.

“In doing so, it is possible to benefit from both the high energy density of batteries, and the high power density and output of ultracapacitors.

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Advances is energy storage and fast-charging tech are urgently needed if electric car use is to become practicable on a large scale

“Ultracapacitors can be re-charged in a matter of 2-3 seconds, providing one million deep charge/discharge cycles. Also, with ultracapacitors protecting batteries from high power surges, the lifetime of the battery pack is increased by 50% and the range by 10%.

Skeleton is already working to improve power grids to cater for the growing number of electric cars. It sees current large-scale electrical grids being replaced in certain areas by smaller, less centralized grids called microgrids, and, Madiburk adds, “We’re currently working on with ultracapacitors as a piece of that puzzle.”

Solid state batteries

One of the major advances in battery tech right now sticks with good old lithium.

Solid-state lithium batteries dispense with the electrolyte liquid that transfers charged particles, making them safer than current batteries yet still able to operate at super-capacitor levels, meaning that charging and discharging can happen faster.

This is great for car batteries, as it means more power can be utilized by the car for quick pull-away speed, but fast charging will mean drivers need to spend less time at charging stations.

One example of this, from Toyota scientists, is a battery that can be fully charged from empty in just seven minutes.

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Toyota is a the forefront of the development of high-capacity, fast-charging batteries for electric cars

Another promising area is aluminium-air batteries, which have been placed in a car to deliver a whopping 1,100 miles on a single charge. Then there are sand-based batteries, which – while still lithium-ion – manage to offer three times better performance than lithium-ion while being cheaper to make, non-toxic and environmentally friendly.

Whisper it, but one of the big hopes for improved batteries for a while now has been graphene. The Grabat battery from Graphenano charges 33 times faster than lithium-ion units, and can deliver high power too, making it ideal for cars.

Battery-free phones

One way to go without batteries is to make gadgets super-low power consuming. A phone has been built that doesn’t even require a battery, so low are its power needs – and it was achieved using components that are available to anyone.

Engineers at the University of Washington designed the phone, which is able to pull power from the environment, with radio signals and light harvested by an antenna and tiny solar cell.

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Engineers at the University of Washington have developed a phone that doesn’t need a battery

The result is enough power to run the 3.5 microwatt-consuming phone. You’re limited to making calls only, but the idea having a tiny credit card-sized backup phone in your wallet will appeal to everyone from constantly on-the-move workers who need to stay in touch, to hikers.

Ambient power

Other breakthroughs have also been based on drawing ambient power from the world around us. One such technology uses sound and nanogenerators, so that simply talking into your phone generates power to charge it.

MIT scientists, meanwhile, have shown off a way to harvest power from water dew in the air; they’ve only been able to create a potential one microwatt so far, but combine these methods, throw in a bit more evolution and we could be looking at a battery-free future.

Over the air power

The dream of transmitting power over the air has existed since the days of the legendary inventor and electrical engineer Nikolas Tesla, but it’s only recently started to become a reality. One company that claims to have mastered the technology, taking it beyond the close-range Qi wireless charging now found in many smartphones, is uBeam.

The uBeam system was cracked by 25-year-old astrobiology grad Meredith Perry, who has since received over $28 million in funding.

This system uses microwaves to transmit energy several metres across a room to power devices. Perry has shown it off charging phones, but says it could be applied to TVs, computers and even cars.

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The uBeam system is capable of charging devices over distances of several meters, but such technology is still in its infancy

It uses a lot of power, costs a lot to manufacture and offers a pretty slow charging rate; but there are no wires to be seen, and this way of delivering power could hail a future without batteries.

If it could be made efficient on a large scale, in a similar way to mobile phone networks, all our devices could draw power from such a system. Imagine phones and electric cars that never need charging.

But is this future as close as uBeam would have its investors and us believe? Probably not.

Human power

This is where things get really interesting – harnessing the power of human beings. Not like in The Matrix, where we’re reduced to a glorified battery, but through friction generated by movement.

Scientists have shown off the tech in action, powering 12 LED bulbs. That’s not going to change the way you use your gadgets right now, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The technology uses a 50nm thin gold film sitting under silicone rubber nanopillars which create maximum surface area with the skin. The result is lots of friction, and all the user has to do is strap the unit on, making it ideal for wearables.

And the Bill Gates Foundation has even developed a process that harvests enough power from our urine to charge a phone, dubbed the Microbial Fuel Cell; that’s pretty much the definition of sustainable power.

GNT New Thumbnail LARGE 2016Watch Our ‘Current’ Video: “Nano Enabled Super Capacitors and Batteries”

 

 

Read More: Super Capacitor Assisted Silicon Nanowire Batteries for EV and Small Form Factor Markets. A New Class of Battery /Energy Storage Materials is being developed to support the High Energy – High Capacity – High Performance High Cycle Battery Markets. “Ultrathin Asymmetric Porous-Nickel Graphene-Based Supercapacitor with High Energy Density and Silicon Nanowire,”

A New Generation Battery that is:

 Energy Dense   High Specific Power

 Simple Manufacturing Process  Low Manufacturing Cost

 Rapid Charge/ Re-Charge  Flexible Form Factor

 Long Warranty Life  Non-Toxic

 Highly Scaleable Key Markets & Commercial Applications

 EV –  (18650 & 21700); Drone and Marine Batteries

 Wearable Electronics and The Internet of Things

 Estimated $112B Market by 2025

MIT: Researchers clarify mystery about proposed battery material – More “Energy Per Pound”- EV’s and Lithium-Air Batteries


MIT-Lithium-i-1_0Study explains conflicting results from other experiments, may lead to batteries with more energy per pound.

Battery researchers agree that one of the most promising possibilities for future battery technology is the lithium-air (or lithium-oxygen) battery, which could provide three times as much power for a given weight as today’s leading technology, lithium-ion batteries. But tests of various approaches to creating such batteries have produced conflicting and confusing results, as well as controversies over how to explain them.

Now, a team at MIT has carried out detailed tests that seem to resolve the questions surrounding one promising material for such batteries: a compound called lithium iodide (LiI). The compound was seen as a possible solution to some of the lithium-air battery’s problems, including an inability to sustain many charging-discharging cycles, but conflicting findings had raised questions about the material’s usefulness for this task. The new study explains these discrepancies, and although it suggests that the material might not be suitable after all, the work provides guidance for efforts to overcome LiI’s drawbacks or find alternative materials.battery-5001

The new results appear in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, in a paper by Yang Shao-Horn, MIT’s W.M. Keck Professor of Energy; Paula Hammond, the David H. Koch Professor in Engineering and head of the Department of Chemical Engineering; Michal Tulodziecki, a recent MIT postdoc at the Research Laboratory of Electronics; Graham Leverick, an MIT graduate student; Yu Katayama, a visiting student; and three others.

The promise of the lithium-air battery comes from the fact one of the two electrodes, which are usually made of metal or metal oxides, is replaced with air that flows in and out of the battery; a weightless substance is thus substituted for one of the heavy components. The other electrode in such batteries would be pure metallic lithium, a lightweight element.

But that theoretical promise has been limited in practice because of three issues: the need for high voltages for charging, a low efficiency with regard to getting back the amount of energy put in, and low cycle lifetimes, which result from instability in the battery’s oxygen electrode. Researchers have proposed adding lithium iodide in the electrolyte as a way of addressing these problems. But published results have been contradictory, with some studies finding the LiI does improve the cycling life, “while others show that the presence of LiI leads to irreversible reactions and poor battery cycling,” Shao-Horn says.

Previously, “most of the research was focused on organics” to make lithium-air batteries feasible, says Michal Tulodziecki, the paper’s lead author. But most of these organic compounds are not stable, he says, “and that’s why there’s been a great focus on lithium iodide [an inorganic material], which some papers said helps the batteries achieve thousands of cycles. But others say no, it will damage the battery.” In this new study, he says, “we explored in detail how lithium iodide affects the process, with and without water,” a comparison which turned out to be significant.

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The team looked at the role of LiI on lithium-air battery discharge, using a different approach from most other studies. One set of studies was conducted with the components outside of the battery, which allowed the researchers to zero in on one part of the reaction, while the other study was done in the battery, to help explain the overall process.

They then used ultraviolet and visible-light spectroscopy and other techniques to study the reactions that took place. Both of these processes foster the production of different lithium compound such as LiOH (lithium hydroxide) in the presence of both LiI and water, instead of Li2O(lithium peroxide).  LiI can enhance water’s reactivity and make it lose protons more easily, which promotes the formation of LiOH in these batteries and interferes with the charging process. These observations show that finding ways to suppress these reactions could make compounds such as LiI work better.

This study could point the way toward selecting a different compound instead of LiI to perform its intended function of suppressing unwanted chemical reactions at the electrode surface, Leverick says, adding that this work demonstrates the importance of “looking at the detailed mechanism carefully.”

Shao-Horn says that the new findings “help get to the bottom of this existing controversy on the role of LiI on discharge. We believe this clarifies and brings together all these different points of view.”

But this work is just one step in a long process of trying to make lithium-air technology practical, the researchers say. “There’s so much to understand,” says Leverick, “so there’s not one paper that’s going to solve it. But we will make consistent progress.”

“Lithium-oxygen batteries that run on oxygen and lithium ions are of great interest because they could enable electric vehicles of much greater range. However, one of the problems is that they are not very efficient yet,” says Larry Curtiss, a distinguished fellow at Argonne National Laboratory, who was not involved in this work. In this study, he says, “it is shown how adding a simple salt, lithium iodide, can potentially be used to make these batteries run much more efficiently. They have provided new insight into how the lithium iodide acts to help break up the solid discharge product, which will help to enable the development of these advanced battery systems.”Nissan-Leaf

Curtiss adds that “there are still significant barriers remaining to be overcome before these batteries become a reality, such as getting long enough cycle life, but this is an important contribution to the field.”

The team also included recent MIT graduates Chibueze Amanchukwu PhD ’17 and David Kwabi PhD ’16, and Fanny Bardé of Toyota Motor Europe. The work was supported by Toyota Motor Europe and the Skoltech Center for Electrochemical Energy Storage, and used facilities supported by the National Science Foundation.

Nanotechnology and Cardiovascular Nanomedicine


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Applications of various nano platforms in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. Nano platforms can target and break down coronary artery plaques and prevent injuries caused by stenosis or occlusion of arteries. Nanoparticulate systems can also reduce the adverse effects of reperfusion injuries and regenerate/salvage myocardium after MI, through sustained and targeted delivery of cells, biomolecules and paracrine factors. (© Nature Publishing Group) (click on image to enlarge)

Ischemic cardiomyopathy (CM) is the most common type of dilated cardiomyopathy. In Ischemic CM, the heart’s ability to pump blood is decreased because the heart’s main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, is enlarged, dilated and weak. This is caused by ischemia – a lack of blood supply to the heart muscle caused by coronary artery disease and heart attacks.

Treatment of ischemic CM is aimed at treating coronary artery disease, improving cardiac function and reducing heart failure symptoms. Patients usually take several medications to treat CM. Doctors also recommend lifestyle changes to decrease symptoms and hospitalizations and improve quality of life. In addition, devices and surgery may be advised.
“Nanostructured systems have the potential to revolutionize both preventive and therapeutic approaches for treating cardiovascular disease,” says Morteza Mahmoudi, Director of and Principal Investigator at the NanoBio Interactions Laboratory at Tehran University of Medical Sciences. “Given the unique physical and chemical properties of nanostructured systems, nanoscience and nanotechnology have recently demonstrated the potential to overcome many of the limitations of cardiovascular medicine through the development of new pharmaceuticals, imaging reagents and modalities, and biomedical devices.”
Mahmoudi is first author of a review paper in Nature Nanotechnology (“Multiscale technologies for treatment of ischemic cardiomyopathy”), that covers the current state of the art in employing nanoparticulate systems either to inhibit or treat ischemic heart injuries caused by the stenosis or occlusion of coronary arteries.
The review provides a brief overview of recent advances in the use of nano platforms for early detection and treatment of coronary atherosclerosis to inhibit myocardial infarction (MI; heart attack). The authors also introduce new therapeutic opportunities in the regeneration/repair of ischemic myocardium using both nanoparticles and nanostructured biomaterials that can deliver therapeutic molecules and/or (stem) cells into hibernating myocardium.
The paper further provides an overview of recent advances in precise in vivo imaging of transplanted cells using bacterially developed nanoparticles and explain how these findings address crucial issues in in vivo cell monitoring and facilitate the clinical translation of cell therapies.
Finally, the authors examine the strengths and limitations of current approaches and discuss likely future trends in the application of nanotechnology to cardiovascular nanomedicine. Nano Cardio id48033
Here is a summary of the review, which offers an outline of critical issues and emerging developments in cardiac nanotechnology, which overall represent tremendous opportunities for advancing the field.

Diagnosis and treatment of coronary atherosclerosis

Nanoparticles have demonstrated potential in both detection and removal of atherosclerotic plaques. For instance, nanoparticles can deliver therapeutic biomolecules to the site of coronary atherosclerosis and shrink plaques by reducing inflammation (for example, by activation of pro-resolving pathways), and removing lipids and cholesterol crystals.
“The main limiting issue for design of safe and efficient nanoparticles for both prognosis and treatment of coronary atherosclerosis is our lack of a deep understanding of the biological identity of nanoparticles” the authors write (see our previous Nanowerk Spotlight on this issue: “Pre-coating nanoparticles to better deal with protein coronas“). “More specifically, nanoparticles in contact with biological fluids are quickly surrounded by a layer of proteins that form what is called the protein corona, which has not yet been adequately addressed in the field of cardiac nanotechnology.”
Therefore, to accelerate the clinical translation of nanoparticles and nanostructured materials for use in cardiac nanotechnology, their biological identities must be precisely assessed and reported.

Cell therapy for salvage and regeneration of heart tissue

Over the past decade, the majority of efforts in myocardial regeneration have been centred on cell-based cardiac repair (see for instance: “Nanotechnology based stem cell therapies for damaged heart muscles“).
However, patient-specific therapeutic cells have limitations and nanoparticles could substantially help overcome them by targeting the injured portion of the myocardium.

Delivery of therapeutic molecules to CMs

Nanoparticles demonstrate great potential for delivering therapeutic agents specifically to the ischemic injured heart, although they accumulate mainly at pre-infarcted areas rather than the diseased tissue.
According to the authors, there are two major issues that should be addressed in future studies: 1) as only a low percentage of the injected nanoparticles can pass through the coronary arteries, the targeting capabilities of these particles to the heart tissue should be precisely defined; and 2) the effect of the protein corona on the in vivo release kinetics of the payloads should be characterized. Addressing these critical issues will help scientists design safe and efficient dosage of nanoparticles for biomolecular delivery applications.

Nanostructured scaffolding strategies for myocardial repair

As a bioartificial extracellular matrix (ECM), cardiac tissue scaffolds are engineered to interact optimally with cardiac cells during their gradual degradation and neotissue formation.
A variety of nanobiomaterials have been used to recapitulate the nanoscale features of the native ECM. In comparison with conventional tissue-engineering scaffolds, nanostructured biomaterials (for example, nanofiber/tube and nanoporous scaffolds) offer more biomimetic structural and physiomechanical cues, enhancing protein (molecular) and cellular interactions.
As the field of tissue engineering evolves, more attention is being given to the development of alternative biofabrication strategies to control the nano-scaffold 3D architecture in a more reproducible and patient/tissue-specific manner. Examples include 3D bioprinting and nanoprinting technologies that use computer-assisted layer-by-layer deposition (that is, additive manufacturing) to create 3D structures with sub-micrometer resolution.

Challenges in designing nanoparticles for clinical applications

Despite the enormously large and rapidly growing arsenal of nanoparticle technologies developed to date, few have reached clinical development and even fewer have been approved for clinical use.
This is in part attributed to the challenges associated with controllable and reproducible synthesis of nanoparticles using processes and unit operations that allow for scalable manufacturing required for clinical development and commercialization.
Nanoparticles also encounter unique physiological barriers in the body as compared with small molecule drugs with regard to systemic circulation, access to tissue and intra-cellular trafficking.
The authors point out that, as nanoparticles are increasingly being used in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac diseases, their potential cardiotoxicity should be examined in detail. Their potential toxicity for cardiac tissue and heart function is of crucial importance for the safety of such nanoparticles.
“To accelerate additional breakthrough discoveries in the field, funding for cardiac nanotechnology should be substantially increased,” the authors conclude their review. “Compared with other biomedical applications of nanotechnology, such as cancer nanotechnology, cardiac nanotechnology has lagged in achieving ‘traction’, and its slower progress also mirrors (at least in part) less investment both from governments/ foundations and financial and strategic investors. During the past few years, however, a growing number of funding opportunities have been created in the field of cardiac nanotechnology, and this has translated into the progress we outline above. We believe that nanomedicines will shift the paradigm of both predictive and therapeutic approaches in cardiac disease in the foreseeable future.”
By Michael Berger Copyright © Nanowerk

Graphene-MoS2 Hybrid Material for Energy Storage and Transfer Applications



The exponential growth rates of population density and the worldwide economy has required a significant investment in energy storage devices, particularly those which are portable and can be used for future flexible electronics.

To meet the increasing energy demands of a growing population, not only are new ways of creating the energy being devised, but so are new ways of storing this that energy. 

A team of Researchers from India have developed a hybrid nanomaterial composed of graphene and flower-shaped MoS2 nanostructures to store energy in a prototype supercapacitor.



As a result of an ever-expanding population and its associated energy consumption, there is a projection that the demand for energy in 2050 will exceed 40 terawatts (TW). 




Because of the requirements for a high amount of energy, new ways of producing renewable energy are being researched and implemented, as current non-renewable fuels will eventually run out.

Due to both the energy increase and nature of the produced energy, new materials are also being developed that can store this energy efficiently.

At present, such storage capabilities are not even close to meeting the energy demands set out in future predictions. Current devices can only store 1% of renewable energy that storage devices do for fossil fuels.

As such, there is a great need to not only create materials which can store renewable energy, but to also produce materials with a real-world function that can rival non-renewable storage options, potentially as a variant of Li-ion and Na-air batteries that can hold renewable-produced energy.



The team of Researchers have created a hybrid nanomaterial composed of flower-like MoS2 nanostructures and 3D graphene heterostructures to be used as an active material in energy storage and transfer devices.
 

The Researchers also tested and employed the material in a solid-state supercapacitor, where the 3D graphene-MoS2 material was used with a graphite current collector.

To create the active material, the Researchers first created MoS2 nanospheres through a hydrothermal method using ammonium molybdate and thiourea. 

A modified hydrothermal method was then utilized to deposit 3D graphene oxide onto a graphite electrode using a series of wet synthetic steps.

The MoS2 nanostructures were then also deposited onto the graphene sheets. To create the supercapacitor, the Researchers, alongside the electrodes, used a polyvinyl acetate (PVA) gel and a gel-soaked whatman filter paper as part of the internal components. A drying time of 12 hours was required for the device to be fully fabricated.

Nanogels for heart attack patients: Getting to the “heart” of the matter


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Heart disease and heart-related illnesses are a leading cause of death around the world, but treatment options are limited. Now, one group reports in ACS Nano that encapsulating stem cells in a nanogel could help repair damage to the heart.

Myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack, causes damage to the muscular walls of the heart. Scientists have tried different methods to repair this damage. For example, one method involves directly implanting stem cells in the heart wall, but the cells often don’t take hold, and sometimes they trigger an immune reaction. Another treatment option being explored is injectable hydrogels, substances that are composed of water and a polymer. Naturally occurring polymers such as keratin and collagen have been used but they are expensive, and their composition can vary between batches. So Ke Cheng, Hu Zhang, Jinying Zhang and colleagues wanted to see whether placing stem cells in inexpensive hydrogels with designed tiny pores that are made in the laboratory would work.

The team encapsulated stem cells in nanogels, which are initially liquid but then turn into a soft gel when at body temperature. The nanogel didn’t adversely affect stem cell growth or function, and the encased stem cells didn’t trigger a rejection response. When these enveloped cells were injected into mouse and pig hearts, the researchers observed increased cell retention and regeneration compared to directly injecting just the stem cells.

In addition, the heart walls were strengthened. Finally, the group successfully tested the encapsulated  in mouse and pig models of .

 Explore further: Cardiac stem cells from heart disease patients may be harmful

More information: “Heart Repair Using Nanogel-Encapsulated Human Cardiac Stem Cells in Mice and Pigs with Myocardial Infarction” ACS Nano (2017). pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsnano.7b01008

 

Researchers make atoms-thick Post-It notes for solar cells and circuits: U of Chicago


23-scientistsmaSchematic diagram (left) and electron microscope image (right) of a stacked set of semiconductor films, made using the Park lab’s new technique. Credit: Park et. al./Nature

Over the past half-century, scientists have shaved silicon films down to just a wisp of atoms in pursuit of smaller, faster electronics. For the next set of breakthroughs, though, they’ll need novel ways to build even tinier and more powerful devices.

A study led by UChicago researchers, published Sept. 20 in Nature, describes an innovative method to make stacks of semiconductors just a few atoms thick. The technique offers scientists and engineers a simple, cost-effective method to make thin, uniform layers of these materials, which could expand capabilities for devices from solar cells to cell phones.

Stacking thin layers of materials offers a range of possibilities for making  with unique properties. But manufacturing such  is a delicate process, with little room for error.

“The scale of the problem we’re looking at is, imagine trying to lay down a flat sheet of plastic wrap the size of Chicago without getting any  in it,” said Jiwoong Park, a UChicago professor with the Department of Chemistry, the Institute for Molecular Engineering and the James Franck Institute, who led the study. “When the material itself is just atoms thick, every little stray atom is a problem.”

Today, these layers are “grown” instead of stacking them on top of one another. But that means the bottom layers have to be subjected to harsh growth conditions such as high temperatures while the new ones are added—a process that limits the materials with which to make them.

Park’s team instead made the films individually. Then they put them into a vacuum, peeled them off and stuck them to one another, like Post-It notes. This allowed the scientists to make films that were connected with weak bonds instead of stronger covalent bonds—interfering less with the perfect surfaces between the layers.

“The films, vertically controlled at the atomic-level, are exceptionally high-quality over entire wafers,” said Kibum Kang, a postdoctoral associate who was the first author of the study.

Kan-Heng Lee, a graduate student and co-first author of the study, then tested the films’ electrical properties by making them into devices and showed that their functions can be designed on the atomic scale, which could allow them to serve as the essential ingredient for future computer chips.

The method opens up a myriad of possibilities for such films. They can be made on top of water or plastics; they can be made to detach by dipping them into water; and they can be carved or patterned with an ion beam. Researchers are exploring the full range of what can be done with the method, which they said is simple and cost-effective.

“We expect this new  to accelerate the discovery of novel , as well as enabling large-scale manufacturing,” Park said.

 Explore further: A simple additive to improve film quality

More information: “Layer-by-layer assembly of two-dimensional materials into wafer-scale heterostructures,” Kang et. al, Nature, Sept. 20. DOI: 10.1038/nature23905

 

Graphene and other carbon Nanomaterials can Replace Scarce Metals


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Scarce metals are found in a wide range of everyday objects around us. They are complicated to extract, difficult to recycle and so rare that several of them have become “conflict minerals” which can promote conflicts and oppression. New research shows that there are potential technology-based solutions that can replace many of the metals with carbon nanomaterials, such as graphene.

Scarce metals are found in a wide range of everyday objects around us. They are complicated to extract, difficult to recycle and so rare that several of them have become “conflict minerals” which can promote conflicts and oppression. A survey at Chalmers University of Technology now shows that there are potential technology-based solutions that can replace many of the metals with carbon nanomaterials, such as graphene.

They can be found in your computer, in your mobile phone, in almost all other electronic equipment and in many of the plastics around you. Society is highly dependent on scarce metals, and this dependence has many disadvantages.

Scarce metals such as tin, silver, tungsten and indium are both rare and difficult to extract since the workable concentrations are very small. This ensures the metals are highly sought after — and their extraction is a breeding ground for conflicts, such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where they fund armed conflicts.

In addition, they are difficult to recycle profitably since they are often present in small quantities in various components such as electronics.

Rickard Arvidsson and Björn Sandén, researchers in environmental systems analysis at Chalmers University of Technology, have now examined an alternative solution: substituting carbon nanomaterials for the scarce metals. These substances — the best known of which is graphene — are strong materials with good conductivity, like scarce metals.

“Now technology development has allowed us to make greater use of the common element carbon,” says Sandén. “Today there are many new carbon nanomaterials with similar properties to metals. It’s a welcome new track, and it’s important to invest in both the recycling and substitution of scarce metals from now on.”

The Chalmers researchers have studied the main applications of 14 different metals, and by reviewing patents and scientific literature have investigated the potential for replacing them by carbon nanomaterials. The results provide a unique overview of research and technology development in the field.

According to Arvidsson and Sandén the summary shows that a shift away from the use of scarce metals to carbon nanomaterials is already taking place.

“There are potential technology-based solutions for replacing 13 out of the 14 metals by carbon nanomaterials in their most common applications. The technology development is at different stages for different metals and applications, but in some cases such as indium and gallium, the results are very promising,” Arvidsson says.

“This offers hope,” says Sandén. “In the debate on resource constraints, circular economy and society’s handling of materials, the focus has long been on recycling and reuse. Substitution is a potential alternative that has not been explored to the same extent and as the resource issues become more pressing, we now have more tools to work with.”

The research findings were recently published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. Arvidsson and Sandén stress that there are significant potential benefits from reducing the use of scarce metals, and they hope to be able to strengthen the case for more research and development in the field.

“Imagine being able to replace scarce metals with carbon,” Sandén says. “Extracting the carbon from biomass would create a natural cycle.”

“Since carbon is such a common and readily available material, it would also be possible to reduce the conflicts and geopolitical problems associated with these metals,” Arvidsson says.

At the same time they point out that more research is needed in the field in order to deal with any new problems that may arise if the scarce metals are replaced.

“Carbon nanomaterials are only a relatively recent discovery, and so far knowledge is limited about their environmental impact from a life-cycle perspective. But generally there seems to be a potential for a low environmental impact,” Arvidsson says.

Facts:

Carbon nanomaterials consist solely or mainly of carbon, and are strong materials with good conductivity. Several scarce metals have similar properties. The metals are found, for example, in cables, thin screens, flame-retardants, corrosion protection and capacitors.

Rickard Arvidsson and Björn Sandén at Chalmers University of Technology have investigated whether the carbon nanomaterials graphene, fullerenes and carbon nanotubes have the potential to replace 14 scarce metals in their main areas of application (see table in attached image). They found potential technology-based solutions to replace the metals with carbon nanomaterials for all applications except for gold in jewellery. The metals which we are closest to being able to substitute are indium, gallium, beryllium and silver.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Chalmers University of TechnologyNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Rickard Arvidsson, Björn A. Sandén. Carbon nanomaterials as potential substitutes for scarce metalsJournal of Cleaner Production, 2017; 156: 253 DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.04.048