Posts Tagged ‘ Research ’

The Futures Of Prosthetics… Artificial Skin.


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The first time I watched the movie iRobot, I was transfixed on the concept of an injured person receiving a prosthetic that the rest of the world couldn’t detect.  (Spoiler Alert: Will Smith gets his arm ripped off by a robot in a car crash, but if you haven’t seen the movie already, you probably never will, so I just saved you $4.99).  The first and fundamental steps in developing a prosthesis like this is already out in the real world.  Soldiers, and civilians alike can have prosthetic limbs fashioned for them, and it’s no longer necessarily considered a miracle of science.  These prosthesis however are primarily for mobility only, they can’t feed the wearer any information about the surrounding environment.

Simply put before you step on something hot, you can feel it in the bottom of your feet. This is a functionality that the great folks over at Stanford are trying to bring to prosthetics, much like the skin surrounding our own limbs.  Artificial skin created in a lab can “feel” similar to the way a fingertip senses pressure.  The stretchy, flexible skin is made of a synthetic rubber that has been designed, to have  micron-scale pyramid like structures that make it especially sensitive to pressure, sort of like mini internal mattress springs.

Stanford scientists sprinkled the pressure-sensitive rubber with carbon nanotubes— microscopic cylinders of carbon that are highly conductive to electricity — so that, when the material was touched, a series of pulses is generated from the sensor.  The series of pulses is then sent to brain cells in a way that resembles how touch receptors in human skin send sensations to the brain.  “We were able to create [a system] very similar to biological mechanical receptors,” said Benjamin Tee, lead author of the paper and a scientist at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore.

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To test whether the skin could create electric pulses that brain cells could respond to, the scientists connected the synthetic skin to a circuit connected to a blue LED light. When the skin was touched, the sensor sent electric pulses to the LED which pulsed in response. The sensors translated that pressure pulse into an electric pulses. When the sensors in the skin sent the electrical pulse to the LED (very much like touch receptors in real-life skin sending touch-sensation signals to the brain) a blue light flashed. The higher the pressure, the faster the LED flashed.

Scientists added channelrhodopsin, a special protein that causes brain cells to react to blue light, to the mouse brain cells. The channelrhodopsin let the LED light act like receptor cells in the skin. When the light flashed it sent a signal to the brain cells that the artificial skin had been touched.  The experiment showed that, when the artificial skin was touched, the brain cells would react in the same way as brains react to real skin being touched, the researchers said in the study, published Oct. 16 in the journal Science.

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Using light to stimulate brain cells is a fairly recent area of study called optogenetics, in which scientists add special proteins to brain cells that let them react to light and shows scientists how different parts of the brain work. The advantage of using optogenetics over other technologies that directly stimulate neurons, such as electrodes directly attached to brain tissue, is that higher frequencies can be used, Lee said. Having a technology that can stimulate the cells at higher frequencies is important because it more accurately recreates the way that receptor cells send signals to our brains.

The testing is still in the early phases, and the skin hasn’t been tested with human neurons as of yet.  Tee said to Live Science – “We actually did connect [the sensors] to a robotic hand and a computer,” adding that they were able to record the pulse spikes. However, these experiments were designed primarily to prove that the technology was able to send a signal that could be registered by the same robotics technologies used in advanced prosthetic technologies.  “The natural next step would be to test [the skin] in higher primates,” Tee said. “The eventual goal is to have the skin stimulate real human brains.”

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Science Has Just Had A Global Breakthrough… Have You Heard?


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Irish researchers have achieved a breakthrough in the production of ‘wonder material’ graphene.  Scientists at the AMBER, a materials science centre at Trinity College Dublin and funded by Science Foundation Ireland, have discovered a way to produce the material in industrial quantities.  What makes “Graphene” so incredible you may ask?  The substance is one the strongest known with a section 1mm thick being 200 times stronger than steel and a superconductor of electricity more than 1000 times more effective than copper.  It’s also 97.3 per cent transparent and extremely bendable.

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Until now, it was extremely difficult to produce because it is essentially a  single-atom thick sheets of carbon made from graphite.  In mass quantities, graphene could potentially revolutionize many parts of our lives, from providing the next step in battery technology, biomedical sensors, water filtration, to even photovoltaic cells used in solar panels  The Dublin findings are to be published in the Nature Materials publication, heralded as a ‘global breakthrough’.  “This shows how industry and academic collaboration can lead to research of the highest calibre, with real commercial applications,” Prof Jonathan Coleman from AMBER said.  “Graphene has been identified as a life changing material and to be involved at this stage of development is a wonderful achievement.”

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Minister for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock praised the team’s work, saying producing graphene in mass quantities is “something that USA, China, Australia, UK, Germany and other leading nations have all been striving for and have not yet achieved”. Thomas Swan Ltd have now signed a contract with AMBER to scale-up production.  The project was part of the Graphene Flagship, spanning 17 countries with 126 academics as well as industry partners working on a common goal, and was part of the €1 billion research project announced by the EU, of which Ireland received 1 per cent.

18goj49pmg50fjpgA simple breakdown of what graphene based products could do for our world reads just like this…

Plug your phone in for five seconds and it would be all charged up. The downside here is that you won’t be able to use a dead phone as an excuse anymore.

 

What if we actually had a clear solution for cleaning up the tainted water near Fukushima? Scientists at Rice say graphene could potentially clump together radioactive waste, making disposal is a breeze.

 

Water, water everywhere and EVERY drop drinkable. MIT mindshave a plan for a graphene filter covered in tiny holes just big enough to let water through and small enough to keep salt out, making salt water safe for consumption.

 

Touchscreens that use graphene as their conductor could beslapped onto plastic rather than glass. That would mean super thin, unbreakable touchscreens and never worrying about shattering your phone ever again.

 

Just a single sheet of graphene could produce headphones that have a frequency response comparable to a pair of Sennheisers, as some scientists at UC Berkeley recently showed us.

 

High-power graphene supercapacitors would make batteries obsolete.  You wouldn’t have to charge your phone for years.

 

Graphene could pave the way for bionic devices in living tissues that could be connected directly to your neurons. So people with spinal injuries, for example, could re-learn how to use their limbs.

 

Asking Guys For Sex (Social Experiment)


 

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The Whatever YouTube video team has done a social experiment to take this research into the field. In a video, college dudes are suddenly approached by an attractive co-ed, who asks if they want to have sex with her. It started off with one man calling the police. Other responses included “Have you been drinking?” and “Are you … what?” Guessing that every guy said yes? Think again.

 

The State Of Marital Sex In 2012.


Getting married has tons of stigma’s attached to it, one of the biggest being that sex decreases by a massive amount once you’ve tied the knot.  Weather this is true or not for every married couple, the world will never know, but iVilliage did a survey that had some very interesting statistics among married couples.  Check the method.

Hopefully saying something nice will help more married men get it in.

Is Starting A Business Safer Than Keeping Your Job?


While doing the research necessary for starting another new business, I found some statistics about the job market that were somewhat shocking. With a slow economy, many people have turned to entrepreneurship as a means to pay the bills. Which begs the question, what’s better today — getting a job or starting a business?  I dug deep to find out the numbers and have compared the risk of starting a business to keeping a job. If you’ve ever thought about starting your own company, take a look at our graphic below to help decide if entrepreneurship is right for you.

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Do Colors Effect The Way You Buy?


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