The Two Directions of Nanomedicine in the Treatment of Cancer


direction of cancer download

The cancer nanomedicine field is heading in two directions — debating whether the clinical translation of nanomaterials should be accelerated or whether some of the long-standing drug delivery paradigms have to be challenged first.

At the International Conference on Nanomedicine and Nanobiotechnology that was held in Munich, 16–18 October, the most striking talk was not given by a scientist, nor a clinician, but by Lora Kelly — a six-year pancreatic cancer survivor.

By telling her story of how it actually feels to receive chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation, she reminded everyone about the urgent need to improve cancer treatment regimes. The main goal remains to kill the cancer; however, it has become more evident how equally important it is to improve the quality of life of patients during treatment, that is, to reduce the often devastating side effects.

This is where nanomedicine comes in. Nanomaterials have the potential to direct drugs to specific tissues and to improve drug activity, as well as its transport in blood. Indeed, nanoparticles could ensure that therapeutic treatments act locally and not systemically, and thus improve anti-cancer efficacy while reducing damage to healthy tissues.

However, recent setbacks, including the bankruptcy of a prominent nanomedicine company1 and the less than 1% delivery efficiency claim2 (quoted at every cancer nanomedicine conference on at least one slide) have stirred discussions about the usefulness of nanomedicines for cancer treatment.

Some argue that the field is stuck in preclinical animal models owing to a lack of insight into the basics of nanomaterial–tissue interactions in the human body, from traversing biological barriers to clearance.

 

While less than 1% delivery efficiency might not be much, pharmacological parameters, such as peak drug concentration, clearance rate and elimination half-life, are often not as bad3, and these should be considered with equal importance.

Moreover, there are also clinical success stories of nanomedicines. Onpattro, a lipid nanoparticle-based short interfering RNA (siRNA) drug for the treatment of polyneuropathies, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2018, marking the first approved nanoparticle for nucleic acid delivery.

In a Comment in this issue, Akinc et al. report the endeavour of developing this nanomedicine, from the idea to preclinical and clinical testing4, to the final approval. There are further many opportunities for nanomaterials complementary to drug delivery, including bioimaging, modulation of the immune system and the tumour microenvironment, and, of course, local administration.

 

From an Editorial perspective, the ongoing discussion is reflected in the many manuscripts we receive, which often include both basic investigations and claims of clinical application. Naturally, this can lead to mixed peer-review reports echoing the disconnection between clinical vision and fundamental science.

Reviewers with a background in materials science or biomedical engineering often point out the gaps in the basic understanding of how a nanomaterial interacts with the biological environment, and clinicians would like to see more preclinical animal work. Indeed, a thorough fundamental study does not always need the claim of a specific application, as it might be exactly such overstatements that have precluded the field to deliver on the promise of revolutionizing drug delivery.

Along the same line, studies of nanoparticle transport through specific cells or nanomaterial–cell interactions at a molecular scale, do not necessarily require complex in vivo models; by contrast, applied studies claiming a therapeutic benefit need a robust in vivo validation in a relevant animal model — preferably with an intact immune system.

 

Going back to the goal of improving a patient’s life, possible side effects and impact on tissues other than tumours should also be reported. However, this data is often found, at best, somewhere in the supplementary information.

Regardless of the mouse model, the discussion rarely goes beyond the weight loss and the histology of organs. If the idea is to improve therapies, side effects need to be thoroughly investigated — even at an early preclinical stage. Similarly, we will make sure that studies claiming superiority of a therapeutic treatment compared to state-of-the-art treatment regimes are reviewed by clinical experts to ensure that clinical translation is — at least — possible and feasible.

Also, keeping regulatory requirements in mind, the more complex the new nanoparticle or nanoscale delivery agent, the more difficult it will be to get approval; and this is a valid criticism.

 

At Nature Nanotechnology, we consider both clinically relevant manuscripts and fundamental studies investigating the various barriers nanoparticles face on their journey through the body. We endeavour to assess the manuscripts we receive as fairly and consistently as possible, with the ongoing discussion in mind. We look forward to learning about possible alternative mechanisms and the heterogeneity of the enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect, nanoparticle interactions in the liver, spleen and kidneys during clearance, migration of nanomaterials through the tumour microenvironment, and nanoparticle uptake, lysosomal escape (or not) and transport in different cell types.

Such studies will shine a light on nanomaterial–tissue interactions, and also greatly contribute to the development of improved nanomedicines. Equally important, detailed investigations of nanoparticles in preclinical animal models as well as relevant organoid cultures will allow the optimization of treatment strategies and the reduction of side effects. Regardless of the aim, we urge authors to calibrate their claims in accordance with their data and scope of the investigation to preserve trust in cancer nanomedicine as a whole.

Scientists devise catalyst that uses light to turn carbon dioxide to fuel


 

Researchers find new way to convert carbon dioxide into a usable fuel source.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is steadily increasing, and many scientists believe that it is causing impacts in our environment. Recently, scientists have sought ways to recapture some of the carbon in the atmosphere and potentially turn it into usable fuel — which would be a holy grail for sustainable energy production.

In a recent study from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, scientists have used sunlight and a catalyst largely made of copper to transform carbon dioxide to methanol. A liquid fuel, methanol offers the potential for industry to find an additional source to meet America’s energy needs.

Carbon dioxide is such a stable molecule and it results from the burning of basically everything, so the question is how do we fight nature and go from a really stable end product to something useful and energy rich.” — Argonne Distinguished Fellow Tijana Rajh

The study describes a photocatalyst made of cuprous oxide (Cu­2O), a semiconductor that when exposed to light can produce electrons that become available to react with, or reduce, many compounds. After being excited, electrons leave a positive hole in the catalyst’s lower-energy valence band that, in turn, can oxidize water.

This photocatalyst is particularly exciting because it has one of the most negative conduction bands that we’ve used, which means that the electrons have more potential energy available to do reactions,” said Argonne Distinguished Fellow Tijana Rajh, an author of the study.

Previous attempts to use photocatalysts, such as titanium dioxide, to reduce carbon dioxide tended to produce a whole mish-mash of various products, ranging from aldehydes to methane. The lack of selectivity of these reactions made it difficult to segregate a usable fuel stream, Rajh explained.

Carbon dioxide is such a stable molecule and it results from the burning of basically everything, so the question is how do we fight nature and go from a really stable end product to something useful and energy rich,” Rajh said.

The idea for transforming carbon dioxide into useful energy comes from the one place in nature where this happens regularly. ​We had this idea of copying photosynthesis, which uses carbon dioxide to make food, so why couldn’t we use it to make fuel?” Rajh said. ​It turns out to be a complex problem, because to make methanol, you need not just one electron but six.”

By switching from titanium dioxide to cuprous oxide, scientists developed a catalyst that not only had a more negative conduction band but that would also be dramatically more selective in terms of its products. This selectivity results not only from the chemistry of cuprous oxide but from the geometry of the catalyst itself.

With nanoscience, we start having the ability to meddle with the surfaces to induce certain hotspots or change the surface structure, cause strain or certain surface sites to expose differently than they are in the bulk,” Rajh said.

Because of this ​meddling,” Rajh and Argonne postdoctoral researcher Yimin Wu, now an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo, managed to create a catalyst with a bit of a split personality. The cuprous oxide microparticles they developed have different facets, much like a diamond has different facets. Many of the facets of the microparticle are inert, but one is very active in driving the reduction of carbon dioxide to methanol.

According to Rajh, the reason that this facet is so active lies in two unique aspects.  First, the carbon dioxide molecule bonds to it in such a way that the structure of the molecule actually bends slightly, diminishing the amount of energy it takes to reduce. Second, water molecules are also absorbed very near to where the carbon dioxide molecules are absorbed.

In order to make fuel, you not only need to have carbon dioxide to be reduced, you need to have water to be oxidized,” Rajh said. ​Also, adsorption conformation in photocatalysis is extremely important — if you have one molecule of carbon dioxide absorbed in one way, it might be completely useless. But if it is in a bent structure, it lowers the energy to be reduced.”

Argonne scientists also used scanning fluorescence X-ray microscopy at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) and transmission electron microscopy at the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM) to reveal the nature of the faceted cuprous oxide microparticles. The APS and CNM are both DOE Office of Science User Facilities.

A paper based on the study, ​Facet-dependent active sites of a single Cu2O particle photocatalyst for CO2 reduction to methanol,” appeared in the November 4 online edition of Nature Energy. Other contributors to the study include Argonne’s Ian McNulty, Cong Liu, Kah Chun Lau, Paul Paulikas, Cheng-Jun Sun, Zhonghou Chai, Jeff Guest, Yang Ren, Vojislav Stamenkovic, Larry Curtiss and Yuzi Liu. Qi Liu of the City University of Hong Kong also contributed.

The work was funded by an Argonne Laboratory-Directed Research and Development grant and by the DOE’s Office of Science.

 

About Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials
The Center for Nanoscale Materials is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers, premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale supported by the DOE Office of Science. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. For more information about the DOE NSRCs, please visit https://​sci​ence​.osti​.gov/​U​s​e​r​-​F​a​c​i​l​i​t​i​e​s​/​U​s​e​r​-​F​a​c​i​l​i​t​i​e​s​-​a​t​-​a​-​G​lance.

 

About the Advanced Photon Source
This research used resources of the Advanced Photon Source, a U.S. DOE Office of Science User Facility operated for the DOE Office of Science by Argonne National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC0206CH11357.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.

DNA Nanomachines Are Opening Medicine to the World of Physics


Nano Machines 1 detectinghiv

When I imagine the inner workings of a robot, I think hard, cold mechanics running on physics: shafts, wheels, gears. Human bodies, in contrast, are more of a contained molecular soup operating on the principles of biochemistry.

Yet similar to robots, our cells are also attuned to mechanical forces—just at a much smaller scale. Tiny pushes and pulls, for example, can urge stem cells to continue dividing, or nudge them into maturity to replace broken tissues. Chemistry isn’t king when it comes to governing our bodies; physical forces are similarly powerful. The problem is how to tap into them.

In a new perspectives article in Science, Dr. Khalid Salaita and graduate student Aaron Blanchard from Emory University in Atlanta point to DNA as the solution. The team painted a futuristic picture of DNA mechanotechnology, in which we use DNA machines to control our biology. Rather than a toxic chemotherapy drip, for example, a cancer patient may one day be injected with DNA nanodevices that help their immune cells better grab onto—and snuff out—cancerous ones.

“For a long time,” said Salaita, “scientists have been good at making micro devices, hundreds of times smaller than the width of a human hair. It’s been more challenging to make functional nano devices, thousands of times smaller than that. But using DNA as the component parts is making it possible to build extremely elaborate nano devices because the DNA parts self-assemble.”

Just as the steam engine propelled civilization through the first industrial revolution, DNA devices may fundamentally change medicine, biological research, and the development of biomaterials, further merging man and machine.

Why DNA?

When picturing a tiny, whirling machine surveying the body, DNA probably isn’t the first candidate that comes to mind. Made up of long chains of four letters—A, T, C, and G—DNA is normally secluded inside a tiny porous “cage” in every cell, in the shape of long chains wrapped around a protein “core.”

Yet several properties make DNA a fascinating substrate for making mechano-machines, the authors said. One is its predictability: like soulmates, A always binds to T, and C with G. This chemical linking in turn forms the famous double helix structure. By giving the letters little chemical additions, or swapping them out altogether with unnatural synthetic letters, scientists have been able to form entirely new DNA assemblies, folded into various 3D structures.

Nano Machines 2 downloadRead More: Detecting HIV diagnostic antibodies with DNA nanomachines

Rather than an unbreakable, immutable chain, DNA components are more like Japanese origami paper, or Lego blocks. While they can’t make every single shape—try building a completely spherical Death Star out of Lego—the chemistry is flexible enough that scientists can tweak its structure, stiffness, and coiling by shifting around the letters or replacing them with entirely new ones.

 

The Rise of DNA Machines

In the late fall of 1980, Dr. Nadrian Seeman was relaxing at the campus pub at New York University when he noticed a mind-bending woodcut, Depth, by MC Escher. With a spark of insight, he realized that he could form similar lattice shapes using DNA, which would make it a lot easier for him to study the molecule’s shape. More than a decade later, his lab engineered the first artificial 3D nanostructure—a cube made out of DNA molecules. The field of DNA nanotechnology was born.

Originally considered a novelty, technologists rushed to make increasingly complex shapes, such as smiley faces, snowflakes, a tiny world map, and more recently, the world’s smallest playable tic-tac-toe set. It wasn’t just fun. Along the way, scientists uncovered sophisticated principles and engineering techniques to shape DNA strands into their desired structures, forming a blueprint of DNA engineering.

Then came the DNA revolution. Reading and writing the molecule from scratch became increasingly cheaper, making it easier to experiment with brand-new designs. Additional chemical or fluorescent tags or other modifications gave scientists a direct view of their creations. Rather than a fringe academic pursuit, DNA origami became accessible to most labs, and the number of devices rapidly exploded—devices that can sense, transmit, and generate mechanical forces inside cells.

“If you put together these three main components of mechanical devices, you begin to get hammers and cogs and wheels and you can start building nano machines,” said Salaita.

The Next Generation

Salaita is among several dozen labs demoing the practical uses of DNA devices.

For example, our cells are full of long-haul driver proteins that carry nutrients and other cargo throughout their interior by following specific highways (it eerily looks like a person walking down a tightrope). Just as too much traffic damages our roadways, changes in our cells’ logistical players can also harm the cell’s skeleton. Here, scientists have used DNA “handles” to measure force-induced changes like stretching, unfolding, and rupture of molecules involved in our cells’ distribution system to look for signs of trouble.

Then there are DNA tension sensors, which act like scales and other force gauges in our macroscopic world. Made up of a stretchable DNA “spring” to extend with force, and a fluorescent “ruler” that measures the extension, each sensor is anchored at one end (generally, the glass bottom of a Petri dish) and binds to a cell at the other. If the pulling force exceeds a certain threshold, the “spring” unfolds and quenches the fluorescent light in the ruler, giving scientists a warning that the cellular tugging is too strong.

The work may sound abstruse, but its implications are plenty. One is for CAR-T, the revolutionary cancer treatment that uses gene therapy to amp up immune cells with better “graspers” to target tumor cells. The “kiss of death” between graspers and tumors are extremely difficult to measure because it’s light and fleeting. Using a DNA tension sensor, the team was able to track the force during the interaction, which could help scientists engineer better CAR-T therapies. A similar construct, the DNA tension gauge tether, irreversibly ruptures under too much force. The gauge is used to track how stem cells develop into brain cells under mechanical forces, and how immune cells track down and recognize foreign invasion.

“[Immune] T cells are constantly sampling cells throughout your body using these mechanical tugs. They bind and pull on proteins on a cell’s surface and, if the bond is strong, that’s a signal that the T cell has found a foreign agent,” explained Salaita. DNA devices provide an unprecedented look at these forces in the immune system, which in turn could predict how strongly the body will mount an immune response.

To the authors, however, the most promising emerging DNA devices don’t just observe—they can also generate forces. DNA walkers, for example, uses DNA feet to transport (and sort) molecular cargo while walking down a track also made of DNA strands. When the feet “bind” to the “track” (A to T, C to G), it releases energy that propel the walker forward.

Even more exciting are self-assembling DNA machines. The field has DNA-based devices that “transmit, sense and generate mechanical forces,” the authors said. But eventually, their integration will produce nanomachines that “exert mechanical control over living systems.”

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

As costs keep dropping, the authors believe we’ll witness even more creative and sophisticated DNA nanomachines.

Several hiccups do stand in the way. Like other biomolecules, foreign DNA can be chopped up by the body’s immune system as an “invader.” However, the team believes that the limitation won’t be a problem in the next few years as biochemistry develops chemically-modified artificial DNA letters that resist the body’s scissors.

Another problem is that the DNA devices can generate very little force—less than a billionth the weight of a paperclip, which is a little too low to efficiently control forces in our cells. The authors have a solution here too: coupling many force-generating DNA units together, or engineer “translators” that can turn electrical energy into mechanical force—similar to the way our muscles work.

Fundamentally, any advancements in DNA mechanotechnology won’t just benefit medicine; they will also feed back into the design of nanomaterials. The “techniques, tools and design principles…are not specific” to DNA, the authors said. Add in computer-aided design templates, similar to those used in 3D printing, and “potentially anyone can dream up a nano-machine design and make it a reality,” said Salaita.

 

5 Trends in Entrepreneurship You Can’t Afford to Ignore in 2020 – Are You Ready?


This past week, I attended Ernst & Young’s Strategic Growth Forum U.S. event. With some of the smartest founders in the country, I chatted about best practices and trends that will shape 2020.

Although my prior co-founder and I received the “Best Emerging Company” award at the 2016 event, I joined this year not as a competitor but as a listener. I came away with new ideas for growing my company while playing it safe, which will be key in what I and others expect to be a volatile election year. With uncertainty ahead, I paid special attention to the trends on attendees’ minds. These five came up again and again:

1. Optimization is becoming the new risk management.

With political tensions running high and a potential recession on everyone’s radar, it’s no wonder this year’s event was focused on playing it safe while doubling down. Lee Henderson, EY Americas Growth Markets Leader, hit on the importance of Playing it Safe, but still doubling down.

Lee said “Companies need to look at things like contracts, vendors, costs, and business operations so that there’s comfort in efficiency, but they should still be looking for areas to grow and innovate. There will certainly be opportunities, and you want to be ready to capitalize on them when the time comes.”

According to EY data, entrepreneurs are more optimistic about those opportunities than other business leaders. Among entrepreneurs, 67% said they were focused on “pursuing new market opportunities,” compared to just 19% of leaders at large companies. 

2. Industry-specific startups are seeing the greatest growth.

One of my favorite people I met at this year’s event was Brad Keywell, CEO of Uptake and 2019’s World Entrepreneur of the Year. Brad echoed my belief that the best opportunities for entrepreneurs are not always found in broad business services. “Big companies like Amazon are great at delivering value through technology to mass market audiences,” Brad explained. “It’s the niches they do not deal in that offer real opportunity to entrepreneurs, who can be flexible and move quickly.”

3. Non-technical entrepreneurs are winning with partnerships.

Plenty of people with big ideas cannot code. Todd Buelow, founder of Dualboot Partners, pointed out to me that more non-technical entrepreneurs are trusting others to build out the technologies needed to turn their dreams into reality. 

The reason for this, according to Todd, is that a lot of tech experts are also turning to entrepreneurship. They may have the skills to build the product, but they often need help on the sales and marketing side of things — where many non-technical founders shine. 

4. Teams are using technology to maximize their operations.

One way companies are playing it safe, as Lee Henderson suggested they should, is through technology. Time-saving tools make it possible for entrepreneurs to accomplish more with fewer resources.

One company at ground zero of this trend is Teamwork, a project management platform based in Ireland. CEO Peter Coppinger, who received the EY Ireland Entrepreneur of the Year award, and I talked at length about how efficiency improvements across operating systems are a great way to stay safe while pursuing growth. 

5. Companies are becoming more culture-conscious.

A theme I heard over and over — and I wholeheartedly agree with — is that it’s people who make a business thrive. Many of the people who attended EY’s event this year wanted to learn about building diverse teams, bringing out the best in their employees, and creating the sort of work culture where the best employees want to stay.

Especially with unemployment at record lows, a lot of entrepreneurs are struggling to find talent. The solution, I and others have found, is to invest in team members’ personal growth. That means providing a flexible work environment, plenty of autonomy, and performance-based compensation like profit sharing to maintain motivation.

Trend predictions do not always pan out, but I’m convinced EY attendees know what they’re talking about. With the new year just weeks away, I’ll be investing in areas like culture and technology that provide protection without putting a damper on growth. Bring it on, 2020.

John Hall is a Contributing writer to Forbes Business

Nikola Corporation to Unveil Game-Changing Battery Cell Technology at Nikola World 2020


Nikola 1A download

Technology encompasses world’s first free-standing / self-supported electrode with a cathode that has 4x the energy density of lithium-ion

Nikola Corporation is excited to announce details of its new battery that has a record energy density of 1,100 watt-hours per kg on the material level and 500 watt-hours per kg on the production cell level. The Nikola prototype cell is the first battery that removes binder material and current collectors, enabling more energy storage within the cell. It is also expected to pass nail penetration standards, thus reducing potential vehicle fires.

  • Technology encompasses world’s first free-standing / self-supported electrode with a cathode that has 4x the energy density of lithium-ion
  • Achieves 2,000 cycles
  • Cell technology expected to cost 50% less to produce than lithium-ion
  • Could drive down the cost of hydrogen and double the range of battery-electric vehicles worldwide
  • Nikola will share IP with all other OEM’s around the world that contribute.

This battery technology could increase the range of current EV passenger cars from 300 miles up to 600 miles with little or no increase to battery size and weight. The technology is also designed to operate in existing vehicle conditions. Moreover, cycling the cells over 2,000 times has shown acceptable end-of-life performance.

Nikola’s new cell technology is environmentally friendly and easy to recycle. While conventional lithium-ion cells contain elements that are toxic and expensive, the new technology will have a positive impact on the earth’s resources, landfills and recycling plants.

This month, Nikola entered into a letter of intent to acquire a world-class battery engineering team to help bring the new battery to pre-production. Through this acquisition, Nikola will add 15 PhDs and five master’s degree team members. Due to confidentiality and security reasons, additional details of the acquisition will not be disclosed until Nikola World 2020.

“This is the biggest advancement we have seen in the battery world,” said Trevor Milton, CEO, Nikola Motor Company. “We are not talking about small improvements; we are talking about doubling your cell phone battery capacity. We are talking about doubling the range of BEVs and hydrogen-electric vehicles around the world.”

“Nikola is in discussions with customers for truck orders that could fill production slots for more than ten years and propel Nikola to become the top truck manufacturer in the world in terms of revenue. Now the question is why not share it with the world?” said Milton.

Nikola 1A download

 

Nikola Reveals Range of Hydrogen Fuel Cell and Battery-Electric Vehicles

Nikola will show the batteries charging and discharging in front of the crowd at Nikola World. The date of Nikola World will be announced soon but is expected to be fall of 2020.

Points include:

  • Nikola’s battery electric trucks could now drive 800 miles fully loaded between charges
  • Nikola trucks could weigh 5,000 lbs. less than the competition if same battery size was kept
  • Nikola’s hydrogen-electric fuel cell trucks could surpass 1,000 miles between stops and top off in 15 minutes
  • World’s first free-standing electrode automotive battery
  • Energy density up to 1,100 watt-hours per kg on a material level and 500 watt-hours per kg on a production cell level including; casing, terminals and separator — more than double current lithium-ion battery cells
  • Cycled over 2,000 times with acceptable end-of-life performance
  • 40% reduction in weight compared to lithium-ion cells
  • 50% material cost reduction per kWh compared to lithium-ion batteries

Due to the impact this technology will have on society and emissions, Nikola has taken an unprecedented position to share the IP with all other OEM’s, even competitors, that contribute to the Nikola IP license and new consortium.

OEMs or other partners can email batteries@nikolamotor.com for more information.

ABOUT NIKOLA CORPORATION
Nikola Corporation designs and manufactures hydrogen-electric vehicles, electric vehicle drivetrains, vehicle components, energy storage systems, and hydrogen stations. Nikola is led by its visionary CEO Trevor Milton. The company is privately held and headquartered in Arizona. For more information, visit www.nikolamotor.com.

Scientists want to use mountains like batteries to store energy – ‘MGES’


 

Researchers propose a gravity-based system for long-term energy storage.

 

  • A new paper outlines using the the Mountain Gravity Energy Storage (or MGES) for long-term energy storage.
  • This approach can be particularly useful in remote, rural and island areas.
  • Gravity and hydropower can make this method a successful storage solution. 

Can we use mountains as gigantic batteries for long-term energy storage? Such is the premise of new research published in the journal Energy.

The particular focus of the study by Julian Hunt of IIASA (Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) and his colleagues is how to store energy in locations that have less energy demand and variable weather conditions that affect renewable energy sources.

The team looked at places like small islands and remote places that would need less than 20 megawatts of capacity for energy storage and proposed a way to use mountains to accomplish the task.

Hunt and his team want to use a system dubbed Mountain Gravity Energy Storage (or MGES). MGES employes cranes positioned on the edge of a steep mountain to move sand (or gravel) from a storage site at the bottom to a storage site at the top.

Like in a ski-lift, a motor/generator would transport the storage vessels, storing potential energy. Electricity is generated when the sand is lowered back from the upper site. 

 

How much energy is created? The system takes advantage of gravity, with the energy output being proportional to the sand’s mass, gravity and the height of the mountain. Some energy would be lost due in the loading and unloading process.

Hydropower can also be employed from any kind of mountainous water source, like river streams. When it’s available, water would be used to fill storage containers instead of sand or gravel, generating electricity in that fashion.

Utilizing the mountain, hydropower can be invoked from any height of the system, making it more flexible than usual hydropower, explains the press release from IIASA.

There are specific advantages to using sand, however, as Hunt explained:

“One of the benefits of this system is that sand is cheap and, unlike water, it does not evaporate – so you never lose potential energy and it can be reused innumerable times,” said Hunt. “This makes it particularly interesting for dry regions.”

Energy From Mountains | Renewable Energy Solutions

Where would be the ideal places to install such a system? The researchers are thinking of locations with high mountains, like the Himalayas, Alps, and Rocky Mountains or islands like Hawaii, Cape Verde, Madeira, and the Pacific Islands that have mountainous terrains.

The scientists use the Molokai Island in Hawaii as an example in their paper, outlining how all of the island’s energy needs can be met with wind, solar, batteries and their MGES setup.

The MGES system.

“It is important to note that the MGES technology does not replace any current energy storage options but rather opens up new ways of storing energy and harnessing untapped hydropower potential in regions with high mountains,” Hunt noted.

Check out the new study “Mountain Gravity Energy Storage: A new solution for closing the gap between existing short- and long-term storage technologies”.

MIT – New ‘battery’ aims to spark a carbon capture revolution


Smoke and steam billows from Belchatow Power Station, Europe’s largest coal-fired power plant near Belchatow, Poland on November 28, 2018. Inventors claim a new carbon capture “battery” could be retrofitted for industrial plants but also for mobile sources of CO2 emissions like cars and airplanes. Photo by REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Renewable energy alone is not enough to turn the tide of the climate crisis. Despite the rapid expansion of wind, solar and other clean energy technologies, human behavior and consumption are flooding our skies with too much carbon, and simply supplanting fossil fuels won’t stop global warming.

To make some realistic attempt at preventing a grim future, humans need to be able to physically remove carbon from the air. 

That’s why carbon capture technology is slowly being integrated into energy and industrial facilities across the globe. Typically set up to collect carbon from an exhaust stream, this technology sops up greenhouse gases before they spread into Earth’s airways.

But those industrial practices work because these factories produce gas pollutants like carbon dioxide and methane at high concentrations. Carbon capture can’t draw CO2 from regular open air, where the concentration of this prominent pollutant is too diffuse. 

Moreover, the energy sector’s transition toward decarbonization is moving too slowly. It will take years — likely decades — before the world’s hundreds of CO2-emitting industrial plants adopt capture technology.

Humans have pumped about 2,000 gigatonnes — billions of metric tons — of carbon dioxide into the air since industrialization, and there will be more. 

But what if you could have a personal-sized carbon capture machine on your car, commercial airplane or solar-powered home?

Chemical engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a new device that can remove carbon dioxide from the air at any concentration.

Published in October in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, the project is the latest bid to directly capture CO2 emissions and keep them from accelerating and worsening future climate disasters. 

Think of the invention as a quasi-battery, in terms of its shape, its construction and how it works to collect carbon dioxide. You pump electricity into the battery, and while the device stores this charge, a chemical reaction occurs that absorbs CO2 from the surrounding atmosphere — a process known as direct air capture. The CO2 can be extracted by discharging the battery, releasing the gas, so the CO2 then can be pumped into the ground. The researchers describe this back-and-forth as electroswing adsorption.

I realized there was a gap in the spectrum of solutions,” said Sahag Voskian, who co-led the project with fellow MIT chemical engineer T. Alan Hatton. “Many current systems, for instance, are very bulky and can only be used for large-scale power plants or industrial applications.”

Relative to current technology, this electroswing adsorber could be retrofitted onto smaller, mobile sources of emissions like autos and planes, the study states.

Voskian also pictures the battery being scaled to plug into power plants powered by renewables, such as wind farms and solar fields, which are known to create more energy than they can store. Rather than lose this power, these renewable plants could set up a side hustle where their excess energy is used to capture carbon. 

“That’s one of the nice aspects of this technology — is that direct linkage with renewables,” said Jennifer Wilcox, a chemical engineer at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, who was not involved in the study. 

The advantage of an electricity-based system for carbon capture is that it scales linearly. If you need 10 times more capacity, you simply build 10 times more of these “electroswing batteries” and stack them, Voskian said. 

He estimates that if you cover a football field with these devices in stacks that are tens of feet high, they could remove about 200,000 to 400,000 metric tons of CO2 a year. Build another 100,000 of these fields, and they could bring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere back to preindustrial levels within 40 years. 

One hundred thousand installations sounds like a lot, but keep in mind that these devices can be built to any size and run off the excess electricity created by renewables like wind and solar, which at the moment cannot be easily stored. Imagine turning the more than 2 million U.S. homes with rooftop solar into mini-carbon capture plants. 

On paper, this invention sounds like a game changer. But it has a number of feasibility hurdles to surmount before it leaves the laboratory. 

How electroswing battery works

The idea of using electricity to trigger a chemical reaction — electrochemistry — as a means for capturing carbon dioxide isn’t new. It has been around for nearly 25 years, in fact. 

But Voskian and Hatton have now added two special materials into the equation: quinone and carbon nanotubes. 

A carbon nanotube is a human-made atom-sized cylinder — a sheet of carbon molecules spread into a single layer and wrapped up like a tube. Aside from being more than 100 times stronger than stainless steel or titanium, carbon nanotubes are excellent conductors of electricity, making them sturdy building blocks for electrified equipment. 

Much like a regular battery, Voskian and Hatton’s device has a positive electrode and a negative electrode — “plus” and “minus” sides. But the minus side — the negative electrode — is infused with quinone, a chemical that, after being electrically charged, reacts and sticks to CO2.

“You can think of it like the charge and discharge of a battery,” Voskian said. “When you charge the battery, you have carbon capture. When you discharge it, you release the carbon that you captured.” 

Their approach is unique because all the energy required for their direct air capture comes from electricity. The three major startups in this emerging space — Climeworks, Global Thermostat and Carbon Engineering — rely on a mixture of electric and thermal (heat) energy, Wilcox said, with thermal energy being the dominant factor. 

For power plants and industrial facilities, that excess heat — or waste heat, a byproduct of their everyday work, isn’t a perfect fit for carbon capture. Waste heat isn’t very consistent. Imagine standing next to a fire — its warmth changes as the flames flit about.

This heat can come from carbon-friendly options — such as a hydrothermal plant — but some current startups are preparing their capture systems to run on thermal energy from fossil-fuel burning facilities. So they may capture 1.5 tons of CO2, but they also generate about a half ton in the process

In Voskian’s operation, “We don’t have any of that. We have full control over the energetics of our process,” he said.

Will it work?

Voskian and Hatton, who have launched a startup called Verdox, write in their study that operating electroswing carbon capture would cost between $50 to $100 per metric ton of CO2.

“If it’s true, that’s a great breakthrough,” said Richard Newell, president and CEO of Resources for the Future, a nonprofit research organization that develops energy and environmental policy on carbon capture. But, he cautioned, “the distance between showing something in the laboratory and then demonstrating it at a commercial scale is very big.” 

New Approach to Treating Lung Cancer with Inhaled Nanoparticles – Wake Forest University


Deep Breath download

A new technique for treating lung cancer by inhaling nanoparticles created at Wake Forest School of Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist Health, has been reported by researchers.

As part of the proof-of-concept study, Dawen Zhao, MD, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Wake Forest School of Medicine, made use of a mouse model to ascertain whether metastatic lung tumors responded to an inhalable nanoparticle-immunotherapy system in combination with the radiation therapy that is usually used for the treatment of lung cancer.

The study has been reported in the current issue of Nature Communications.

The second most common type of cancer is lung cancer, which is also the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among both men and women. More people die due to lung cancer compared to breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. Immunotherapy looks promising, but at present, it works in less than 20% of patients suffering from lung cancer.

Considerable clinical evidence indicates that during diagnosis, the tumors of a majority of the patients are poorly infiltrated by immune cells. Such a “cold” immune environment in tumors inhibits the immune system of the body from identifying and destroying the tumor cells.

WATCH: “A Deep Breath Makes the Medicine Go Down”

QUT pharmaceutical scientist Dr. Nazrul Islam, from School of Clinical Sciences, said lung cancer was one of the most common cancers globally and one of the deadliest, being a leading cause of cancer deaths. Credit: Queensland University of Technology

 

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According to Zhao, the ability to overcome such an immunosuppressive tumor environment to work efficiently against the cancer is now an area of keen interest among the scientific community.

Earlier techniques include directly injecting immunomodulators into tumors to improve their immune response. But this technique is usually restricted to surface and tumors that can be easily accessed. Thus, it can be less effective if repeated injections are required to preserve immune response.

The goal of our research was to develop a novel means to convert cold tumors to hot, immune-responsive tumors. We wanted it to be non-invasive without needle injection, able to access multiple lung tumors at a time, and be safe for repeated use. We were hoping that this new approach would boost the body’s immune system to more effectively fight lung cancer.

Dawen Zhao, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Wake Forest School of Medicine

The nanoparticle-immunotherapy system developed by Zhao and his colleagues administered immunostimulants through inhalation to a mouse model of metastatic lung cancer. When the immunostimulant-loaded nanoparticle was deposited in the air sacs of the lungs, they were absorbed by one particular type of immune cells, known as antigen-presenting cells (APC).

Then cGAMP, an immunostimulant in the nanoparticle, was discharged within the cell, where the APC cell was activated by the stimulation of a specific immune pathway (STING). This is a crucial step in inducing systemic immune response.

The researchers also demonstrated that when the nanoparticle inhalation was combined with radiation applied onto a part of one lung, the result was the regression of tumors in both lungs and prolonged survival of the mice. Moreover, the researchers noted that it thoroughly removed lung tumors in a few of the mice.

The researchers then performed mechanistic studies and showed that the inhalation system transformed the initially cold tumors in both lungs to hot tumors desirable for powerful anti-cancer immunity.

The inhalable immunotherapy developed by Zhao offers various key benefits to earlier techniques—specifically the capability to access deep-rooted lung tumors, since the aerosol that carries the nanoparticulate was designed such that it reaches all portions of the lung—and the viability of repeated treatment by employing a non-irritating aerosol formulation.

It was demonstrated that the treatment was well-tolerated and safe without any adverse immune-related distress in the mice.

The Wake Forest School of Medicine scientists have filed a provisional patent application for their inhalable nanoparticle-immunotherapy system.

Source: https://www.wakehealth.edu/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nanotechnology for disease diagnosis and treatment earns Florida Poly professor international award


Doc Ajeet dr-ajeet-kaushik-627 (1)

Florida Polytechnic University professor Dr. Ajeet Kaushik received the 2019 USERN Prize in biological sciences, an international award recognizing his work in the field of nanomaterials for the detection and treatment of diseases.

Florida Polytechnic University professor Dr. Ajeet Kaushik is determined to make detecting and treating diseases easy, accessible, and precise through the use of nanomaterials for biosensing and medicine.

His extensive work and resolute desire to improve the delivery of healthcare has earned Kaushik the prestigious Universal Scientific Education Research Network (USERN) Prize. He was named a laureate in the field of biological sciences during the group’s fourth annual congress on Nov. 8 in Budapest, Hungary.

USERN, a non-governmental, non-profit organization and network dedicated to non-military scientific advances, is committed to exploring science beyond international borders.

“I was speechless for a while,” said Kaushik, who is an assistant professor of chemistry at Florida Polytechnic University.

Kaushik did not attend the awards ceremony in person but did submit a video to be played at the event. He was among hundreds vying for the prize and one of five people who were recognized in different areas of study.

His submitted project, Nano-Bio-Technology for Personalized Health Care, focuses on using nanomaterials to create biosensors that will detect the markers of a disease at very low levels.

“Biosensing is not a new concept, but now we are making devices that are smarter and more capable,” Kaushik said.

He cited the recent zika virus epidemic that affected pregnant women and their fetuses, leading to significant health complications upon birth.

“There was a demand to have a system that could detect the virus protein at a very low level, but there was no device. There was no diagnostic system,” he said.

Kaushik worked on the development of a smart zika sensor that could detect the disease at these low levels.

“The kind of systems I’m focusing on can be customized in a way that we carry like a cell phone and do the tests wherever we need to do them,” he said.

In addition to using nanotechnology for the detection of diseases like zika, his research on nanoparticles is advancing efforts to precisely deliver medicine to a specific part of the body without affecting surrounding tissue or other parts of the body.

“The drugs we use now do not go only where they need to go, or sometimes they have side effects. We are treating one disease but creating other symptoms,” Kaushik said. “I’m exploring nanotechnology that can carry a drug, selectively go to a place, and release the drug so we avoid using excessive drugs.”

This nanomedicine could be used to precisely target brain tumors or other difficult-to-treat conditions.

He has published papers in scientific journals about this work and also holds multiple patents.

“My whole approach is using smart material science for better health for everybody, which is accessible to everybody everywhere,” Kaushik said.

In addition to his USERN prize, Kaushik was named a USERN junior ambassador for 2020 and will work to advance the organization’s mission in the United States.

For the most recent university news, visit Florida Poly News.

About Florida Polytechnic University: Florida Polytechnic University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and is a member of the State University System of Florida. It is the only state university dedicated exclusively to STEM and offers ABET accredited degrees. Florida Poly is a powerful economic engine within the state of Florida, blending applied research with industry partnerships to give students an academically rigorous education with real-world relevance. Connect with Florida Poly.

NCM 811 Almost Account For A Fifth Of EV Li-Ion Deployment In China


China is well advanced in switching to the NCM 811 type of lithium-ion cathode for EV batteries. 

The new NCM 811 lithium-ion battery chemistry takes the Chinese passenger xEV (BEV, PHEV, HEV) market like a storm.

According to Adamas Intelligence, In September, NCM 811 was responsible for 18% of passenger xEV battery deployment (by capacity).

The NCM 811 is a low cobalt-content cathode (nickel:cobalt:manganese at a ratio of 8:1:1).

The expansion is tremendous compared to 1% in January, 4% in June and 13% in August.

NCM 811 cells combines high-energy density with affordability (lower content of expensive cobalt), which probably is enough for most manufacturers to make the switch from NCM 523 and LFP (often bypassing NCM 622).

“In China, for the second month in a row, NCM 811 was second-only to NCM 523 by capacity deployed, while the once-popular NCM 622 now finds itself in fifth spot with a mere 5% of the market.

In the pursuit of lower costs and higher energy density, a growing number of automakers in China have seemingly opted to bypass NCM 622, shifting instead straight from LFP or NCM 523 cathode chemistries into high-nickel NCM 811.

Since January 2019, the market share of NCM 811 in China’s passenger EV market has rapidly increased from less than 1% to 18% and shows little signs of slowing its ingress. Outside of China, however, automakers have been slow to adopt NCM 811 to-date but we expect to see the chemistry make inroads in Europe and North America by as early as next year.”

NCM 811 share globally is also growing and in September it was at 7%.

The other leading low cobalt chemistry is Tesla/Panasonic’s NCA.

Source: Adamas Intelligence