Cornell University: RESEARCHERS CREATE MATERIAL WITH “ARTIFICIAL METABOLISM”


Scientists just got one step closer to creating living machines — or at least machines that mimic biological life as we know it.

A new biomaterial built in a Cornell University bioengineering lab uses synthetic DNA to continuously and autonomously organize, assemble, and restructure itself in a process so similar to how biological cells and tissues grow that the researchers are calling “artificial metabolism,” according to researchpublished in Science Robotics last week.

 We Can Regrow It

It’s clear that the scientists are dancing around the idea of creating lifelike machinery. They stop short of straight-up claiming that their metabolizing biomaterial is alive, but the research begins by coyly listing the characteristics of life that the material exhibits — self-assembly, organization, and metabolism.

We are introducing a brand-new, lifelike material concept powered by its very own artificial metabolism,” Cornell engineer Dan Lui said in a university-published press release. “We are not making something that’s alive, but we are creating materials that are much more lifelike than have ever been seen before.”

Worming Along

The biomaterial mimics a biological organism’s endless metabolic cycle of taking in energy and replacing old cells. When placed in a nutrient-rich environment, the material grew in the direction of the raw materials and food it needed to thrive — not unlike how a developing brain’s neurons grow out in the direction of specific molecules.

Meanwhile, the material also let its tail end die off and decay, giving the appearance of a constantly-regrowing slime mold traveling around toward food.

While the little bio-blob isn’t alive, it does appear to move and grow like a living thing, suggesting that scientists are blurring the line between life and machine more and more.

READ MORE: FORGET ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE; THINK ARTIFICIAL LIFE[Hackaday]

More on biomaterials: Scientists Manipulated a Material for Robots That Grows Like Human Skin

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Scientists Use Near-Infrared Light and Injected DNA Nanodevice to Guide Stem Cells to a Wound – Accelerating the Healing Process


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Researchers can guide stem cells (like those in the illustration above) to an injury by using near-infrared light and an injected DNA nanodevice. (Image credit: Juan Gaertner/Shutterstock.com)

Imagine physicians having a remote control that they could employ to drive a patient’s own cells to a wound to accelerate the healing process.

Such a device is still away from reality, however, scientists have described in the ACS journal Nano Letters of having taken a key initial step: They employed near-infrared light and an injected DNA nanodevice to direct stem cells to a wound, which helped in the regrowth of muscle tissue in mice.

Complex signaling pathways synchronize cellular activities like proliferation, movement, and even death. For instance, when signaling molecules attach to proteins known as receptor tyrosine kinases on a cell’s surface, they stimulate the receptors to pair up and phosphorylate each other. This process can trigger other proteins that eventually result in a cell moving or growing.

Hong-Hui Wang, Zhou Nie, and partners doubted if they could set up a nanodevice to cells that would rewire this system, activating the receptors by near-infrared light rather than signaling molecules. The scientists opted for near-infrared as it can penetrate living tissues, in contrast to visible or ultraviolet light. The group aimed a receptor tyrosine kinase known as MET, which is important for wound healing.

The scientists developed a DNA molecule that can attach to two MET receptors at the same time, binding them together and stimulating them. In order to make the system responsive to light, the researchers linked multiple copies of the DNA sequence to gold nanorods. On irradiating near-infrared light, the nanorods get heated up and release the DNA so that it could trigger the receptors.

The scientists introduced the DNA-bound gold nanorods into mice at the injured area and illuminated a near-infrared light on the mice for a few minutes. After three days, more muscle stem cells had moved to the wound in treated mice when compared to those in untreated mice. The treated mice also exhibited improved signs of muscle regeneration in comparison to control mice.

The researchers acknowledge funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, National Science and Technology Major Project, the Young Top-Notch Talent for Ten Thousand Talent Program, the Keypoint Research and Invention Program of Hunan Province, and the National Institutes of Health.

 

 

Computer scientists create reprogrammable molecular computing system – “Nano DNA Apps”


 

“Biology is proof that chemistry is inherently information-based and can store information that can direct algorithmic behavior at the molecular level,” he says.

Computer scientists at Caltech have designed DNA molecules that can carry out reprogrammable computations, for the first time creating so-called algorithmic self-assembly in which the same “hardware” can be configured to run different “software.”

In a paper published in Nature on March 21, a team headed by Caltech’s Erik Winfree (PhD ’98), professor of computer science, computation and neural systems, and bioengineering, showed how the DNA computations could execute six-bit algorithms that perform simple tasks. The system is analogous to a computer, but instead of using transistors and diodes, it uses molecules to represent a six-bit binary number (for example, 011001) as input, during computation, and as output. One such algorithm determines whether the number of 1-bits in the input is odd or even, (the example above would be odd, since it has three 1-bits); while another determines whether the input is a palindrome; and yet another generates random numbers.

 

“Think of them as nano apps,” says Damien Woods, professor of computer science at Maynooth University near Dublin, Ireland, and one of two lead authors of the study. “The ability to run any type of software program without having to change the hardware is what allowed computers to become so useful. We are implementing that idea in molecules, essentially embedding an algorithm within chemistry to control chemical processes.”

The system works by self-assembly: small, specially designed DNA strands stick together to build a logic circuit while simultaneously executing the circuit algorithm. Starting with the original six bits that represent the input, the system adds row after row of molecules–progressively running the algorithm.

 

Modern digital electronic computers use electricity flowing through circuits to manipulate information; here, the rows of DNA strands sticking together perform the computation. The end result is a test tube filled with billions of completed algorithms, each one resembling a knitted scarf of DNA, representing a readout of the computation. The pattern on each “scarf” gives you the solution to the algorithm that you were running. The system can be reprogrammed to run a different algorithm by simply selecting a different subset of strands from the roughly 700 that constitute the system.

 

“We were surprised by the versatility of programs we were able to design, despite being limited to six-bit inputs,” says David Doty, fellow lead author and assistant professor of computer science at the University of California, Davis.

“When we began experiments, we had only designed three programs. But once we started using the system, we realized just how much potential it has. It was the same excitement we felt the first time we programmed a computer, and we became intensely curious about what else these strands could do. By the end, we had designed and run a total of 21 circuits.”

 

The researchers were able to experimentally demonstrate six-bit molecular algorithms for a diverse set of tasks. In mathematics, their circuits tested inputs to assess if they were multiples of three, performed equality checks, and counted to 63. Other circuits drew “pictures” on the DNA “scarves,” such as a zigzag, a double helix, and irregularly spaced diamonds.

Probabilistic behaviors were also demonstrated, including random walks, as well as a clever algorithm (originally developed by computer pioneer John von Neumann) for obtaining a fair 50/50 random choice from a biased coin.

 

Both Woods and Doty were theoretical computer scientists when beginning this research, so they had to learn a new set of “wet lab” skills that are typically more in the wheelhouse of bioengineers and biophysicists.

“When engineering requires crossing disciplines, there is a significant barrier to entry,” says Winfree. “Computer engineering overcame this barrier by designing machines that are reprogrammable at a high level–so today’s programmers don’t need to know transistor physics. Our goal in this work was to show that molecular systems similarly can be programmed at a high level, so that in the future, tomorrow’s molecular programmers can unleash their creativity without having to master multiple disciplines.”

“Unlike previous experiments on molecules specially designed to execute a single computation, reprogramming our system to solve these different problems was as simple as choosing different test tubes to mix together,” Woods says. “We were programming at the lab bench.”

Although DNA computers have the potential to perform more complex computations than the ones featured in the Nature paper, Winfree cautions that one should not expect them to start replacing the standard silicon microchip computers. That is not the point of this research.

“These are rudimentary computations, but they have the power to teach us more about how simple molecular processes like self-assembly can encode information and carry out algorithms. Biology is proof that chemistry is inherently information-based and can store information that can direct algorithmic behavior at the molecular level,” he says.

 

Diverse and robust molecular algorithms using reprogrammable DNA self-assembly

Damien Woods, David Doty, Cameron Myhrvold, Joy Hui, Felix Zhou, Peng Yin & Erik Winfree
Naturevolume 567, pages366–372 (2019)

 

Israeli scientists ‘print’ world’s first 3D heart with human tissue | The Jerusalem post


A team of Tel Aviv University researchers revealed the heart, which was made using a patient’s own cells and biological materials.
— Read on m.jpost.com/HEALTH-SCIENCE/Israeli-scientists-print-first-3D-heart-586902/amp

Genesis Nanotech – ICYMI – Our Top 3 Blog Posts (as picked by you) This Week


#1

MIT Review: Borophene (not graphene) is the new wonder material that’s got everyone excited

#2

China made an artificial star that’s 6 times (6X) as hot as our sun … And it could be the future of energy

 

#3

Graphene Coating Could Help Prevent Lithium Battery Fires

 

Read/ Watch More …

Genesis Nanotech – Watch a Presentation Video on Our Current Project

Nano Enabled Batteries and Super Capacitors

Tenka Energy, Inc. Building Ultra-Thin Energy Dense SuperCaps and NexGen Nano-Enabled Pouch & Cylindrical Batteries – Energy Storage Made Small and POWERFUL!

 

 

 

Penn State: Fingerprints provide crucial clue to New Nanofiber Fabrication Technique – Applications for Advanced Filtration, Wound care, Drug Delivery, and other Medical Applications


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Tortellini-like PECA film obtained by initiation with sodium hydroxide.

Fingerprints are usually used to identify people but, this time, they gave Penn State chemical engineers the crucial clue needed to discover an easy, versatile new method for making nanofibers that have potential uses in advanced filtration as well as wound care, drug delivery, bioassays and other medical applications.

The new technique is based on the way forensic scientists develop fingerprints from a crime scene and is easier and more versatile than either of the current methods, templates or electrospinning, used commercially to make nanofibers. The first nanofibers generated by the technique are made from the basic ingredient of Super Glue , cyanoacrylate, which is a biologically-compatible material already used in liquid sutures, spheres for drug delivery and in experimental cancer treatment. However, the researchers say that other materials, like cyanoacrylate, that form solid polymers when nudged by a catalyst could potentially also be used in the process.

Dr. Henry C. Foley, professor of chemical engineering who directed the project, says, “The new technique is so versatile that it allows us not only to make nano-scale fibers but also nano-sized flat sheets, spheres and even wrinkled sheets that look tortellini-like.”

The researchers can also generate patterned surfaces and say that the process could conceivably be used in an ink jet printer.

The research is detailed in a paper, “Facile Catalytic Growth of Cyanoacrylate Nanofibers,” published online today (Jan. 26) in the British journal, The Royal Society of Chemistry, Chemical Communications. The authors are Pratik J. Mankidy, doctoral candidate in chemical engineering; Ramakrishnan Rajagopalan, research associate at Penn State’s Materials Research Laboratory, and Foley, who is also associate vice president for research at the University. The journal is available at: xlink.rsc.org/?DOI=B514600C

Foley explains that forensic scientists develop latent fingerprints via a process known as cyanoacrylate fuming. Fingerprints left on a surface are exposed to fumes of cyanoacrylate, which form a white polymer residue that makes the ridges of the fingerprint visible.

One of the researchers, Pratik Mankidy, had accidentally left his fingerprints on a piece of research equipment that had been secured with Super Glue and nanofibers appeared. Putting two and two together, the researchers set out to discover what constituents of fingerprints trigger the cyanoacrylate polymerization on the ridges of fingerprints. They made synthetic fingerprints from a mixture of a known polymer initiator, common table salt in water, and a non-initiator, linoleic acid, found on fingers.

Then they exposed the fake prints to cyanoacrylate fuming. Sure enough, they got nanofibers similar to the ones Mankidy’s fingerprints had generated accidentally. They also fumed cyanoacrylate on single initiators and found that sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide and potassium acetate produced tortellini-like films of the polymer. When ammonium hydroxide was fumed with cyanoacrylate, it produced nano-sized spheres.

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The researchers note that the role played by the presence of the non-initiating components in the fingerprint mixture is not completely understood. They are continuing their experiments to understand the process more completely. A majority of the fibers produced by the new process have diameters in the 200-250-nanometer range and are hundreds of microns long. Typically, nanofibers that are currently commercially available are in this same range. Foley notes, “Our findings open up a whole new world of opportunity for control of nanoscale structures through chemistry via catalysis.”

Source: Penn State

Graphene Coating could help Prevent Lithium Battery Fires


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Lithium batteries are what allow electric vehicles to travel several hundred miles on one charge. Their capacity for energy storage is well known, but so is their tendency to occasionally catch on fire—an occurrence known to battery researchers as “thermal runaway.” These fires occur most frequently when the batteries overheat or cycle rapidly. With more and more electric vehicles on the road each year, battery technology needs to adapt to reduce the likelihood of these dangerous and catastrophic fires.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Engineering report that graphene—wonder material of the 21st century—may take the oxygen out of lithium battery fires. They report their findings in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

The reasons  catch fire include rapid cycling or charging and discharging, and  in the battery. These conditions can cause the cathode inside the battery—which in the case of most lithium batteries is a lithium-containing oxide, usually lithium cobalt oxide—to decompose and release oxygen. If the oxygen combines with other flammable products given off through decomposition of the electrolyte under high enough heat, spontaneous combustion can occur.

“We thought that if there was a way to prevent the oxygen from leaving the cathode and mixing with other flammable products in the battery, we could reduce the chances of a fire occurring,” said Reza Shahbazian-Yassar, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering in the UIC College of Engineering and corresponding author of the paper.

It turns out that a material Shahbazian-Yassar is very familiar with provided a perfect solution to this problem. That material is graphene—a super-thin layer of carbon atoms with unique properties. Shahbazian-Yassar and his colleagues previously had used graphene to help modulate lithium buildup on electrodes in lithium metal batteries.

graphenecoat

Lithium cobalt oxide particles coated in graphene. Credit: Reza Shahbazian-Yassar.

Shahbazian-Yassar and his colleagues knew that graphene sheets are impermeable to oxygen atoms. Graphene is also strong, flexible and can be made to be electrically conductive. Shahbazian-Yassar and Soroosh Sharifi-Asl, a graduate student in mechanical and  at UIC and lead author of the paper, thought that if they wrapped very small particles of the lithium cobalt oxide cathode of a lithium battery in graphene, it might prevent oxygen from escaping.

First, the researchers chemically altered the graphene to make it electrically conductive. Next, they wrapped the tiny particles of lithium cobalt oxide cathode electrode in the conductive graphene.

When they looked at the -wrapped lithium cobalt oxide particles using electron microscopy, they saw that the release of oxygen under high heat was reduced significantly compared with unwrapped particles.

Next, they bound together the wrapped particles with a binding material to form a usable cathode, and incorporated it into a lithium metal battery. When they measured released oxygen during battery cycling, they saw almost no oxygen escaping from cathodes even at very high voltages. The lithium metal battery continued to perform well even after 200 cycles.

“The wrapped cathode battery lost only about 14% of its capacity after rapid cycling compared to a conventional  metal battery where performance was down about 45% under the same conditions,” Sharifi-Asl said.

“Graphene is the ideal material for blocking the release of oxygen into the electrolyte,” Shahbazian-Yassar said. “It is impermeable to oxygen, electrically conductive, flexible, and is strong enough to withstand conditions within the battery. It is only a few nanometers thick so there would be no extra mass added to the . Our research shows that its use in the  can reliably reduce the release of  and could be one way that the risk for fire in these batteries—which power everything from our phones to our cars—could be significantly reduced.”


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Liquid microscopy technique reveals new problem with lithium-oxygen batteries

Purdue University: A New hybrid energy method with Highly Porous Graphene Foams – Could Fuel the Future of Rockets, Space Exploration


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Purdue University researchers have developed a new propellant formulation method to use graphene foams to power spacecraft. Credit: Purdue University

Graphene, a new material with applications in biomedical technology, electronics, composites, energy and sensors, may soon help send rockets to space.

A new  formulation method to use  foams – material used in electronics, optics and  – to power spacecraft is being developed in Purdue University’s Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, which is the largest academic propulsion lab in the world. The research is showing success at increasing burn rate of solid propellants that are used to fuel rockets and spacecraft.

“Our propulsion and physics researchers came together to focus on a material that has not previously been used in rocket propulsion, and it is demonstrating strong results,” said Li Qiao, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics in Purdue’s College of Engineering.

The research team, led by Qiao, developed methods of making and using compositions with solid fuel loaded on highly conductive, highly porous graphene foams for enhanced burn rates for the loaded . They wanted to maximize the catalytic effect of metal oxide additives commonly used in solid propellant to enhance decomposition.

The graphene  structures are also thermally stable, even at , and can be reused. The developed compositions provide significantly improved burn rate and reusability.

New hybrid energy method could fuel the future of rockets, spacecraft for exploration

A new propellant formulation method to use porous graphene foams to power spacecraft is being developed at Purdue University. Credit: Purdue University

Qiao said the graphene foam works well for solid propellants because it is super lightweight and highly porous, which means it has many holes in which scientists can pour fuel to help ignite a rocket launch.

The graphene foam has a 3-D, interconnected structure to allow a more efficient thermal transport pathway for heat to quickly spread and ignite the propellant.

“Our patented technology provides higher performance that is especially important when looking at areas such as hypersonics,” Qiao said. “Our tests showed a burn rate enhancement of nine times the normal, using functionalized graphene foam structures.”

Qiao said the Purdue graphene foam discovery has applications for energy conversion devices and missile defense systems, along with other areas where tailoring nanomaterials for specific outcomes may be useful.


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New technologies could solve rocket challenges 800 years in the making

Flexible Nanoribbons of Crystalline Phosphorus are a World First – They could Revolutionize Electronics and Fast-Charging Battery Technology.


Phosphorous Nanoribbons 5cadc15c710a9
Credit: University College London

Tiny, individual, flexible ribbons of crystalline phosphorus have been made by UCL researchers in a world first, and they could revolutionise electronics and fast-charging battery technology.

Since the isolation of 2-dimensional phosphorene, which is the phosphorus equivalent of graphene, in 2014, more than 100  have predicted that new and exciting properties could emerge by producing narrow ‘ribbons’ of this material. These properties could be extremely valuable to a range of industries.

In a study published today in Nature, researchers from UCL, the University of Bristol, Virginia Commonwealth and University and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, describe how they formed quantities of high-quality ribbons of phosphorene from crystals of black phosphorous and lithium ions.

“It’s the first time that individual phosphorene nanoribbons have been made. Exciting properties have been predicted and applications where phosphorene nanoribbons could play a transformative role are very wide-reaching,” said study author, Dr. Chris Howard (UCL Physics & Astronomy).

The ribbons form with a typical height of one , widths of 4-50 nm and are up to 75 μm long. This  is comparable to that of the cables spanning the Golden Gate Bridge’s two towers.

“By using advanced imaging methods, we’ve characterised the ribbons in great detail finding they are extremely flat, crystalline and unusually flexible. Most are only a single-layer of atoms thick but where the ribbon is formed of more than one layer of phosphorene, we have found seamless steps between 1-2-3-4 layers where the ribbon splits. This has not been seen before and each layer should have distinct electronic properties,” explained first author, Mitch Watts (UCL Physics & Astronomy).

While nanoribbons have been made from several materials such as graphene, the phosphorene nanoribbons produced here have a greater range of widths, heights, lengths and aspect ratios. Moreover, they can be produced at scale in a liquid that could then be used to apply them in volume at low cost for applications.

The team say that the predicted application areas include batteries, solar cells, thermoelectric devices for converting waste heat to electricity, photocatalysis, nanoelectronics and in quantum computing. What’s more, the emergence of exotic effects including novel magnetism, spin density waves and topological states have also been predicted.

Wonder material—individual 2-D phosphorene nanoribbons made for the first time

Credit: University College London

The nanoribbons are formed by mixing black phosphorus with lithium ions dissolved in  at -50 degrees C. After twenty-four hours, the ammonia is removed and replaced with an organic solvent which makes a solution of nanoribbons of mixed sizes.

“We were trying to make sheets of  so were very surprised to discover we’d made ribbons. For nanoribbons to have well defined properties, their widths must be uniform along their entire length, and we found this was exactly the case for our ribbons,” said Dr. Howard.

“At the same time as discovering the ribbons, our own tools for characterising their morphologies were rapidly evolving. The high-speed atomic force microscope that we built at the University of Bristol has the unique capabilities to map the nanoscale features of the ribbons over their macroscopic lengths,” explained co-author Dr. Loren Picco (VCU Physics).

Wonder material—individual 2-D phosphorene nanoribbons made for the first time

Credit: University College London

“We could also assess the range of lengths, widths and thicknesses produced in great detail by imaging many hundreds of ribbons over large areas.”

While continuing to study the fundamental properties of the nanoribbons, the team intends to also explore their use in energy storage, electronic transport and thermoelectric devices through new global collaborations and by working with expert teams across UCL.


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Small tweaks to nanoribbon edge structures can drastically alter heat conduction

MIT Review: Borophene (not graphene) is the new wonder material that’s got everyone excited


Stronger and more flexible than graphene, a single-atom layer of boron could revolutionize sensors, batteries, and catalytic chemistry.

Not so long ago, graphene was the great new wonder material. A super-strong, atom-thick sheet of carbon “chicken wire,” it can form tubes, balls, and other curious shapes.

And because it conducts electricity, materials scientists raised the prospect of a new era of graphene-based computer processing and a lucrative graphene chip industry to boot. The European Union invested €1 billion to kick-start a graphene industry.

This brave new graphene-based world has yet to materialize. But it has triggered an interest in other two-dimensional materials. And the most exciting of all is borophene: a single layer of boron atoms that form various crystalline structures.

The reason for the excitement is the extraordinary range of applications that borophene looks good for. Electrochemists think borophene could become the anode material in a new generation of more powerful lithium-ion batteries.

Read More: Borophene Discoveries at Rice University

Chemists are entranced by its catalytic capabilities. And physicists are testing its abilities as a sensor to detect numerous kinds of atoms and molecules.

Today, Zhi-Qiang Wang at Xiamen University in China and a number of colleagues review the remarkable properties of borophene and the applications they might lead to.

Borophene has a short history. Physicists first predicted its existence in the 1990s using computer simulations to show how boron atoms could form a monolayer.

But this exotic substance wasn’t synthesized until 2015, using chemical vapor deposition. This is a process in which a hot gas of boron atoms condenses onto a cool surface of pure silver.

The regular arrangement of silver atoms forces boron atoms into a similar pattern, each binding to as many as six other atoms to create a flat hexagonal structure. However, a significant proportion of boron atoms bind only with four or five other atoms, and this creates vacancies in the structure. The pattern of vacancies is what gives borophene crystals their unique properties.

Since borophene’s synthesis, chemists have been eagerly characterizing its properties. Borophene turns out to be stronger than graphene, and more flexible. It a good conductor of both electricity and heat, and it also superconducts. These properties vary depending on the material’s orientation and the arrangement of vacancies. This makes it “tunable,” at least in principle. That’s one reason chemists are so excited.

Borophene is also light and fairly reactive. That makes it a good candidate for storing metal ions in batteries. “Borophene is a promising anode material for Li, Na, and Mg ion batteries due to high theoretical specific capacities, excellent electronic conductivity and outstanding ion transport properties,” say Wang and co.

Hydrogen atoms also stick easily to borophene’s single-layer structure, and this adsorption property, combined with the huge surface area of atomic layers, makes borophene a promising material for hydrogen storage. Theoretical studies suggest borophene could store over 15% of its weight in hydrogen, significantly outperforming other materials.

Then there is borophene’s ability to catalyze the breakdown of molecular hydrogen into hydrogen ions, and water into hydrogen and oxygen ions.

“Outstanding catalytic performances of borophene have been found in hydrogen evolution reaction, oxygen reduction reaction, oxygen evolution reaction, and CO2 electroreduction reaction,” say the team. That could usher in a new era of water-based energy cycles.

Nevertheless, chemists have some work to do before borophene can be more widely used. For a start, they have yet to find a way to make borophene in large quantities.

And the material’s reactivity means it is vulnerable to oxidation, so it needs to be carefully protected. Both factors make borophene expensive to make and hard to handle. So there is work ahead.

But chemists have great faith. Borophene may just become the next wonder material to entrance the world.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1903.11304 : Review of borophene and its potential applications

From MIT Technology Review March 2019