Microparticles created by new 3-D fabrication method could release drugs or vaccines long after injection.
Anne Trafton | MIT News
MIT engineers have invented a new 3-D fabrication method that can generate a novel type of drug-carrying particle that could allow multiple doses of a drug or vaccine to be delivered over an extended time period with just one injection.
The new microparticles resemble tiny coffee cups that can be filled with a drug or vaccine and then sealed with a lid. The particles are made of a biocompatible, FDA-approved polymer that can be designed to degrade at specific times, spilling out the contents of the “cup.”
Engineers at the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) have developed a stretchy fuel cell that is powered by sweat. The ‘epidermal biofuel cells’ stick to the wearer’s skin and can power devices like LEDs and Bluetooth radios.
Fuel cells work by turning the chemical energy in hydrogen-based fuels into electrical energy when the fuel is exposed to oxygen. The chemical reaction takes place at the fuel cell’s electrodes and produce electrically charged particles. These are carried from one electrode to the other, completing the circuit and producing a current.
Combining chemistry, advanced materials and electronic interfaces, the team have made an exciting breakthrough. Their new cells can generate 10 times the power per surface area than any existing wearable biofuel cells.
Dating back to the 1600s, chemical engineers have changed the world. The industry’s roots lie in the ancient practice of alchemy, before a shift towards modern-age chemistry. While they never quite turned lead into gold, early alchemists did lead the way in manufacturing handy chemicals like sulphuric and hydrochloric acid.
Two hundred years later, George E Davis made a name for the industry with a revolutionary book. In “A Handbook of Chemical Engineering”, he noted the defining characteristics of ‘the chemical engineer’, and made the case for their distinction from chemists.
In just one hour, our sun provides enough energy to supply the world’s electricity for an entire year. This, and many other arguments for solar energy, have made their way into people’s awareness since the 1960s. More recently, concerns over our changing climate have led to an increased interest. Yet solar power has still not been fully embraced. At the time of writing, solar power accounts for a meager 1% of total global energy production.
The technology to capture solar energy exists. Additionally, cheaper and more efficient solar cells are racing their way to industrialization., But ‘more efficient’ doesn’t always ensure adoption by consumers, homeowners and cityscapes. More importantly, adopting a green technology doesn’t always ensure green behavior by the those who use it!
Engineers from Georgia Tech and Emory University have designed a staircase that takes the load off when climbing up to bed. The energy-recycling steps store up the energy of people heading downstairs and use it to give them a boost on the way back up.
Loaded with springs and equipped with pressure sensors, steps sink to meet those below when they detect footsteps. The step then locks into place, storing the energy generated by the user’s bodyweight compressing the springs inside.
Edging along fences and creeping up walls, climbing plants send out tendrils in search of the sunniest spots in the garden.
In the lab, researchers have replicated the movements of nature countless times. Robots can walk, run and jump. They have even learned how to swim. Now, a team of mechanical engineers from Stanford University have taken inspiration for their latest robot from climbing plants. Following the lead of creepers such as ivy, the soft robot shoots out a tendril to ‘grow’ itself forwards.
The concept behind the idea is very simple and uses a process called ‘eversion’. The robot itself is a tube of soft plastic, folded inside itself. (Think of those slippery ‘water snake’ toys from the 90s!). As pressurised air fills the tube, the folded material turns the right way out, propelling the tip forwards.
Dr Stephen Hicks started OxSight from his lab at the University of Oxford. He set out to develop a wearable prosthetic for people with visual impairments. Twelve months later, the product is getting ready to go to market.
Unlike many start-ups and spin out companies, Oxsight has a very specialised audience. The product’s target audience are those registered as legally blind. Its unique selling point is that the smart specs’ technology can allow people to see again.
As a society, we increasingly rely on digital technologies in most aspects of our life, such as social media and online banking. These technologies have had a significant impact on our personal and business interactions.
However, what can be less obvious is the extent to which digital technologies underpin critical services, whose failure can lead to human harm. These ‘safety-critical systems’ have traditionally been dominated by aviation, rail and nuclear power generation; all industries with an impressive track record in achieving high levels of safety.