Are hydrogen fuel cell cars doomed?
(Article Continued Below)
Do ‘refueling’ and ‘recharging’ stations hold the key to success?
Will the market dictate the winner in the lithium vs hydrogen car battery ‘war’?
Can lithium and hydrogen car batteries coexist?
Which will stand the test of time?
Conclusion: Will the lithium vs hydrogen debate ever be over?
Mike is Chief Operating Officer of Dubuc Motors, a startup dedicated to the commercialization of electric vehicles targeting niche markets within the automotive industry.
A method for fooling breast cancer cells into fat cells has been discovered by researchers from the University of Basel.
The team were able to transform EMT-derived breast cancer cells into fat cells in a mouse model of the disease – preventing the formation of metastases. The proof-of-concept study was published in the journal Cancer Cell.
Malignant cells can rapidly respond and adapt to changing microenvironmental conditions, by reactivating a cellular process called epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), enabling them to alter their molecular properties and transdifferentiate into a different type of cell (cellular plasticity).
Senior author of the study Gerhard Christofori, professor of biochemistry at the University of Basel, commented in a recent press release: “The breast cancer cells that underwent an EMT not only differentiated into fat cells, but also completely stopped proliferating.”
“As far as we can tell from long-term culture experiments, the cancer cells-turned-fat cells remain fat cells and do not revert back to breast cancer cells,” he explained.
Epithelial-mesenchymal transition and cancer
Cancer cells can exploit EMT – a process that is usually associated with the development of organs during embryogenesis – in order to migrate away from the primary tumor and form secondary metastases. Cellular plasticity is linked to cancer survival, invasion, tumor heterogeneity and resistance to both chemo and targeted therapies. In addition, EMT and the inverse process termed mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET) both play a role in a cancer cell’s ability to metastasize.
Using mouse models of both murine and human breast cancer the team investigated whether they could therapeutically target cancer cells during the process of EMT – whilst the cells are in a highly plastic state. When the mice were administered Rosiglitazone in combination with MEK inhibitors it provoked the transformation of the cancer cells into post-mitotic and functional adipocytes (fat cells). In addition, primary tumor growth was suppressed and metastasis was prevented.
Cancer cells marked in green and a fat cell marked in red on the surface of a tumor (left). After treatment (right), three former cancer cells have been converted into fat cells. The combined marking in green and red causes them to appear dark yellow. Credit: University of Basel, Department of Biomedicine
Christofori highlights the two major findings in the study:
“Secondly, the conversion of malignant breast cancer cells into adipocytes not only changes their differentiation status but also represses their invasive properties and thus metastasis formation and their proliferation. Note that adipocytes do not proliferate anymore, they are called ‘post-mitotic’, hence the therapeutic effect.”
Since both drugs used in the preclinical study were FDA-approved the team are hopeful that it may be possible to translate this therapeutic approach to the clinic.
“Since in patients this approach could only be tested in combination with conventional chemotherapy, the next steps will be to assess in mouse models of breast cancer whether and how this trans-differentiation therapy approach synergizes with conventional chemotherapy. In addition, we will test whether the approach is also applicable to other cancer types. These studies will be continued in our laboratories in the near future.”
Journal Reference: Ronen et al. Gain Fat–Lose Metastasis: Converting Invasive Breast Cancer Cells into Adipocytes Inhibits Cancer Metastasis. Cancer Cell. (2019). Available at: https://www.cell.com/cancer-cell/fulltext/S1535-6108(18)30573-7
Gerhard Christofori was speaking to Laura Elizabeth Lansdowne, Science Writer for Technology Networks
Combining 3D printing with a magnetic ink injection, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have created a new class of metamaterial – engineered with behaviors outside their nature.
Like 4D printed objects, LLNL’s 3D printed lattices rely on the fourth element of time to become something “other” than their natural resting state. However, in contrast to its relatives, that often transform in response to temperatures or water, the change in LLNL’s new structures is almost instantaneous – they stiffen when a magnetic field is applied.
This unique class is the next step forward in metamaterials that can be tuned “on-the-fly” to achieve desired properties, and applied to make intuitive objects: e.g. armor that responds on impact; car seats that reduce whiplash; and next generation neck braces.
Harnessing the power of lattices
In the first stage of this development, the LLNL team performed a digital simulation of their metamaterial lattices. By doing so, the team could determine how the shape would respond to a magnetic field, and therefore optimize its structure for desired mechanical properties.
Mark Messner, former LLNL researcher and co-author of a study presenting the new metamaterial, explains, “The design space of possible lattice structures is huge, so the model and the optimization process helped us choose likely structures with favorable properties before [it was] printed, filled and tested the actual specimens, which is a lengthy process.”
After optimization, experimental lattices were 3D printed using a method of Large Area Projection Microstereolithography (LAPµSL). With microscale precision, LAPµSL enabled the team to create thin walls that could support injected fluid.
Lead author Julie Jackson Mancini explains, “In this paper we really wanted to focus on the new concept of metamaterials with tunable properties, and even though it’s a little more of a manual fabrication process,” i.e. with the injection of material, “it still highlights what can be done, and that’s what I think is really exciting.”
Materials with “on-the-fly” tunability
The ink inside the LLNL lattice is a magnetorheological fluid, containing minute magnetic particles.
Like a “dancing” iron filing experiment, when a magnetic field is applied to this lattice, the particles realign, making the structure stiff and supportive of added weight.
This newfound strength is demonstrated through a test in which a 10g weight is added to the top of the lattice. As the magnet beneath the lattice is moved away, the structure gradually gives way, and eventually drops the weight.
“What’s really important,” explains Mancini, “is it’s not just an on and off response, by adjusting the magnetic field strength applied we can get a wide range of mechanical properties,”
“THE IDEA OF ON-THE-FLY, REMOTE TUNABILITY OPENS THE DOOR TO A LOT OF APPLICATIONS.”
The next steps for the LLNL metamaterial team is to develop a means of integrating the ink-injection stage of lattice fabrication, and to increase the size of objects that can be 3D printed.
Results of the lab’s most recent study, “Field responsive mechanical metamaterials” are published online in Science Advances journal. It’s co-authors are listed as Julie A. Jackson, Mark C. Messner, Nikola A. Dudukovic, William L. Smith, Logan Bekker, Bryan Moran, Alexandra M. Golobic, Andrew J. Pascall, Eric B. Duoss, Kenneth J. Loh, and Christopher M. Spadaccini.
Nominate 3D Printing Research Team of the Year and more now for the 2019 3D Printing Industry Awards.
Researchers from the University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) have discovered a unique nano-scaled DNA signature that appears to be common to all cancers.
The study, which was supported by a grant from the National Breast Cancer Foundation and is published in the journal Nature Communications, reveals new insight about how epigenetic reprogramming in cancer regulates the physical and chemical properties of DNA and could lead to an entirely new approach to point-of-care diagnostics.
“Because cancer is an extremely complicated and variable disease, it has been difficult to find a simple signature common to all cancers, yet distinct from healthy cells,” explains AIBN researcher Dr. Abu Sina.
To address this, Dr. Sina and Dr. Laura Carrascosa, who are working with Professor Matt Trau at AIBN, focussed on something called circulating free DNA.
Like healthy cells, cancer cells are always in the process of dying and renewing. When they die, they essentially explode and release their cargo, including DNA, which then circulates.
“There’s been a big hunt to find whether there is some distinct DNA signature that is just in the cancer and not in the rest of the body,” says Dr. Carrascosa.
So they examined epigenetic patterns on the genomes of cancer cells and healthy cells. In other words, they looked for patterns of molecules, called methyl groups, which decorate the DNA. These methyl groups are important to cell function because they serve as signals that control which genes are turned on and off at any given time.
In healthy cells, these methyl groups are spread out across the genome. However, the AIBN team discovered that the genome of a cancer cell is essentially barren except for intense clusters of methyl groups at very specific locations.
This unique signature—which they dubbed the cancer “methylscape”, for methylation landscape—appeared in every type of breast cancer they examined and appeared in other forms of cancer, too, including prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and lymphoma.
“Virtually every piece of cancerous DNA we examined had this highly predictable pattern,” says Professor Trau.
He says that if you think of a cell as a hard-drive, then the new findings suggest that cancer needs certain genetic programmes or apps in order to run.
“It seems to be a general feature for all cancer,” he says. “It’s a startling discovery.”
They also discovered that, when placed in solution, those intense clusters of methyl groups cause cancer DNA fragments to fold up into three-dimensional nanostructures that really like to stick to gold.
Taking advantage of this, the researchers designed an assay which uses gold nanoparticles that instantly change colour depending on whether or not these 3-D nanostructures of cancer DNA are present.
“This happens in one drop of fluid,” says Trau. “You can detect it by eye, it’s as simple as that.”
The technology has also been adapted for electrochemical systems, which allows inexpensive and portable detection that could eventually be performed using a mobile phone.
So far they’ve tested the new technology on 200 samples across different types of human cancers, and healthy cells. In some cases, the accuracy of cancer detection runs as high as 90%.
“It works for tissue derived genomic DNA and blood derived circulating free DNA,” says Sina. “This new discovery could be a game-changer in the field of point of care cancer diagnostics.” It’s not perfect yet, but it’s a promising start and will only get better with time, says the team.
“We certainly don’t know yet whether it’s the Holy Grail or not for all cancer diagnostics,” says Trau, “but it looks really interesting as an incredibly simple universal marker of cancer, and as a very accessible and inexpensive technology that does not require complicated lab based equipment like DNA sequencing.”
More information: Abu Ali Ibn Sina et al, Epigenetically reprogrammed methylation landscape drives the DNA self-assembly and serves as a universal cancer biomarker, Nature Communications(2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-07214-w
Provided by University of Queensland
Explore further: New cancer monitoring technology worth its weight in gold
Graphene is the strongest material ever tested. It’s also flexible, transparent and conducts heat and electricity 10 times better than copper.
After graphene research won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010 it was hailed as a transformative material for flexible electronics, more powerful computer chips and solar panels, water filters and bio-sensors. But performance has been mixed and industry adoption slow.
Now a study published in Nature Communications identifies silicon contamination as the root cause of disappointing results and details how to produce higher performing, pure graphene.
The RMIT University team led by Dr Dorna Esrafilzadeh and Dr Rouhollah Ali Jalili inspected commercially-available graphene samples, atom by atom, with a state-of-art scanning transition electron microscope.
“We found high levels of silicon contamination in commercially available graphene, with massive impacts on the material’s performance,” Esrafilzadeh said.
Testing showed that silicon present in natural graphite, the raw material used to make graphene, was not being fully removed when processed.
“We believe this contamination is at the heart of many seemingly inconsistent reports on the properties of graphene and perhaps many other atomically thin two-dimensional (2D) materials ,” Esrafilzadeh said.
Graphene has not become the next big thing because of silicon impurities holding it back, RMIT researchers have said.
Graphene was billed as being transformative, but has so far failed to make a significant commercial impact, as have some similar 2D nanomaterials. Now we know why it has not been performing as promised, and what needs to be done to harness its full potential.”
The testing not only identified these impurities but also demonstrated the major influence they have on performance, with contaminated material performing up to 50% worse when tested as electrodes.
“This level of inconsistency may have stymied the emergence of major industry applications for graphene-based systems.
But it’s also preventing the development of regulatory frameworks governing the implementation of such layered nanomaterials, which are destined to become the backbone of next-generation devices,” she said.
The two-dimensional property of graphene sheeting, which is only one atom thick, makes it ideal for electricity storage and new sensor technologies that rely on high surface area.
This study reveals how that 2D property is also graphene’s Achilles’ heel, by making it so vulnerable to surface contamination, and underscores how important high purity graphite is for the production of more pure graphene.
Using pure graphene, researchers demonstrated how the material performed extraordinarily well when used to build a supercapacitator, a kind of super battery.
When tested, the device’s capacity to hold electrical charge was massive. In fact, it was the biggest capacity so far recorded for graphene and within sight of the material’s predicted theoretical capacity.
In collaboration with RMIT’s Centre for Advanced Materials and Industrial Chemistry, the team then used pure graphene to build a versatile humidity sensor with the highest sensitivity and the lowest limit of detection ever reported.
These findings constitute a vital milestone for the complete understanding of atomically thin two-dimensional materials and their successful integration within high performance commercial devices.
“We hope this research will help to unlock the exciting potential of these materials.”
Drexel’s College of Engineering reports that researchers and the industry are looking at Li-S batteries to eventually replace Li-ion batteries because a new chemistry that theoretically allows more energy to be packed into a single battery.
This improved capacity, on the order of 5-10 times that of Li-ion batteries, equates to a longer run time for batteries between charges.
However, the problem is that Li-S batteries have trouble maintaining their superiority beyond just a few recharge cycles. But a solution to that problem may have been found with new research.
The new approach, reported by in a recent edition of the American Chemical Society journal Applied Materials and Interfaces, shows that it can hold polysulfides in place, maintaining the battery’s impressive stamina, while reducing the overall weight and the time required to produce them.
“We have created freestanding porous titanium monoxide nanofiber mat as a cathode host material in lithium-sulfur batteries,” said Vibha Kalra, PhD, an associate professor in the College of Engineering who led the research.
“This is a significant development because we have found that our titanium monoxide-sulfur cathode is both highly conductive and able to bind polysulfides via strong chemical interactions, which means it can augment the battery’s specific capacity while preserving its impressive performance through hundreds of cycles.
We can also demonstrate the complete elimination of binders and current collector on the cathode side that account for 30-50 percent of the electrode weight — and our method takes just seconds to create the sulfur cathode, when the current standard can take nearly half a day.”
Please find the full report here: LINK
TiO Phase Stabilized into Free-Standing Nanofibers as Strong Polysulfide Immobilizer in Li-S Batteries: Evidence for Lewis Acid-Base Interactions
Arvinder Singh and Vibha Kalra
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, Just Accepted Manuscript
We report the stabilization of titanium monoxide (TiO) nanoparticles in nanofibers through electrospinning and carbothermal processes and their unique bi-functionality – high conductivity and ability to bind polysulfides – in Li-S batteries. The developed 3-D TiO/CNF architecture with the inherent inter-fiber macropores of nanofiber mats provides a much higher surface area (~427 m2 g-1) and overcomes the challenges associated with the use of highly dense powdered Ti-based suboxides/monoxide materials, thereby allowing for high active sulfur loading among other benefits.
The developed TiO/CNF-S cathodes exhibit high initial discharge capacities of ~1080 mAh g-1, ~975 mAh g-1, and ~791 mAh g-1 at 0.1C, 0.2C, and 0.5C rates, respectively with long term cycling. Furthermore, free-standing TiO/CNF-S cathodes developed with rapid sulfur melt infiltration (~5 sec) eradicate the need of inactive elements viz. binders, additional current collectors (Al-foil) and additives. Using postmortem XPS and Raman analysis, this study is the first to reveal the presence of strong Lewis acid-base interaction between TiO (3d2) and Sx2- through coordinate covalent Ti-S bond formation.
Our results highlight the importance of developing Ti-suboxides/monoxide based nanofibrous conducting polar host materials for next-generation Li-S batteries.
“Reprinted with permission from (DOI: 10.1021/acsami.8b11029). Copyright (2018) American Chemical Society.”
IMMORTAL: Human beings could soon live forever
Dr Ian Pearson has previously said people will have the ability to “not die” by 2050 – just over 30 years from now.
Two of the methods he said humans might use were “body part renewal” and linking bodies with machines so that people are living their lives through an android.
But after Dr Pearson’s predictions, immortality may now be a step nearer following the launch of a new start-up.
Human is hoping to make the immortality dream a reality with an ambitious plan.
Last year, UK-based stem cell bank StemProject said it could eventually potentially develop treatments that allow humans to live until 200.
Watch Dr. Ian Pearson Talk About the Possibility of Immortality by 2050
New solar flow battery with a 14.1 percent efficiency. Photo: David Tenenbaum, UW-Madison
Solar energy is becoming more and more popular as prices drop, yet a home powered by the Sun isn’t free from the grid because solar panels don’t store energy for later. Now, researchers have refined a device that can both harvest and store solar energy, and they hope it will one day bring electricity to rural and underdeveloped areas.
The problem of energy storage has led to many creative solutions, like giant batteries. For a paper published today in the journal Chem, scientists trying to improve the solar cells themselves developed an integrated battery that works in three different ways.
It can work like a normal solar cell by converting sunlight to electricity immediately, explains study author Song Jin, a chemist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. It can store the solar energy, or it can simply be charged like a normal battery.
“IT COULD HARVEST IN THE DAYTIME, PROVIDE ELECTRICITY IN THE EVENING.”
It’s a combination of two existing technologies: solar cells that harvest light, and a so-called flow battery.
The most commonly used batteries, lithium-ion, store energy in solid materials, like various metals. Flow batteries, on the other hand, store energy in external liquid tanks.
This means they are very easy to scale for large projects. Scaling up all the components of a lithium-ion battery might throw off the engineering, but for flow batteries, “you just make the tank bigger,” says Timothy Cook, a University at Buffalo chemist and flow battery expert not involved in the study.
“You really simplify how to make the battery grow in capacity,” he adds. “We’re not making flow batteries to power a cell phone, we’re thinking about buildings or industrial sites.
Jin and his team were the first to combine the two features. They have been working on the battery for years, and have now reached 14.1 percent efficiency.
Jin calls this “round-trip efficiency” — as in, the efficiency from taking that energy, storing it, and discharging it. “We can probably get to 20 percent efficiency in the next few years, and I think 25 percent round-trip is not out of the question,” Jin says.
Apart from improving efficiency, Jin and his team want to develop a better design that can use cheaper materials.
The invention is still at proof-of-concept stage, but he thinks it could have a large impact in less-developed areas without power grids and proper infrastructure. “There, you could have a medium-scale device like this operate by itself,” he says. “It could harvest in the daytime, provide electricity in the evening.” In many areas, Jin adds, having electricity is a game changer, because it can help people be more connected or enable more clinics to be open and therefore improve health care.
And Cook notes that if the solar flow battery can be scaled, it can still be helpful in the US.
The United States might have plenty of power infrastructure, but with such a device, “you can disconnect and have personalized energy where you’re storing and using what you need locally,” he says. And that could help us be less dependent on forms of energy that harm the environment.
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