It is probable that in the future our clothes will be equipped with tiny power generators, which could be used for charging mobile phones and other gadgets. U.S. researchers created the world’s thinnest generator based on the properties of a new layered material, which has a thickness of just one atom and is able to produce electricity when bent or stretched.
The microscopic generator consists of the atomically thin molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), a material in which all the atoms are arranged in the same plane. It means that the material is technically two-dimensional as it has only length and width, while its thickness is negligible and comprises only a single atomic layer.
Researchers at Columbia Engineering and the Georgia Institute of Technology, who published their findings in the journal «Nature» on October, 15, 2014, demonstrated that, in contrast to the molybdenum disulfide in its bulk form, the monoatomic layers of MoS2 exhibit the so-called piezoelectric effect — they produce electricity when compressed or stretched.
The study is the first to demonstrate the piezoelectric properties of two-dimensional materials, which earlier had been predicted theoretically. “This adds another member to the family of piezoelectric materials for functional devices,” says Wenzhuo Wu of Columbia University, a member of the research team.
Two conditions must be satisfied to use molybdenum disulfide for generating electricity: using an odd number of atomic layers and flexing the material in the proper direction. Since MoS2 is highly polar, an even number of atomic layers cancels out the piezoelectric effect.
“What’s really interesting is we’ve now found that a material like MoS2, which is not piezoelectric in bulk form, can become piezoelectric when it is thinned down to a single atomic layer,” says Lei Wang of Columbia University, who took part in the study.
This happens due to a fact that a single atomic layer of MoS2 has a structure that breaks central symmetry, while in bulk MoS2, the oppositely oriented layers generate positive and negative voltages which cancel each other out, resulting in the absence of piezoelectric effect.
Thanks to its amazing properties and microscopic size, the material could find a number of applications – from wearable chargers for daily use gadgets and medical implants to robotics and flexible electronics.
“This material—just a single layer of atoms—could be made as a wearable device, perhaps integrated into clothing, to convert energy from your body movement to electricity and power wearable sensors or medical devices, or perhaps supply enough energy to charge your cell phone in your pocket,” says James Hone of Columbia University, a co-leader of the research.
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Featured image: Copyright Rob Felt/Georgia Institute of Technology
Scientists Create First-Ever Embryos With Monkey and Human Cells
For the first time, scientists have created embryos in a lab that contain the cells of both humans and monkeys.
Scientists hope that by creating chimeric embryos – embryos containing cells from two distinct species – they might be able to create organs for people who desperately need transplants.
Over 100,000 people in the United States lone are currently on a waiting list for organ transplants crucial to saving their lives, but the supply of donor organs has dropped significantly since the pandemic began unfolding.
Researchers have attempted to inject human stem cells into the embryos of pigs and sheep in recent years in hopes of growing organs for transplants, but this hasn’t yielded positive results. Scientists are hoping that by turning to macaque monkeys, which share a greater genetic similarity to humans, they may have more success.
In a study published Thursday in the journal Cell, researchers in the U.S. and China injected 25 pluripotent stem cells from humans into embryos from macaque monkeys.
After one day, the researchers detected human cells beginning to grow in 132 of the embryos. They embryos ultimately survived for 19 days.
However, bioethicists have raised concerns about the potential for abusing medical regulations that currently govern the treatment of animal and human subjects, as well as the possibility that a rogue scientists might potentially spike living creatures with human cells.
“My first question is: Why?” Kirstin Matthews, a science and technology fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, told NPR. “I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we’re just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do.”
Researchers insist that the study serves purely humanitarian goals that could save countless lives in the future.
“This work is an important step that provides very compelling evidence that someday when we understand fully what the process is we could make them develop into a heart or a kidney or lungs,” said University of Michigan professor Jeffrey Platt, who was not involved in the study.
In Major First, New System Lets Paralyzed Users Control Tablet Computer Wirelessly
In what could be a major breakthrough for people suffering paralysis and other permanent disabilities, the first wireless command to a computer has been demonstrated.
According to a new study published in IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, scientists at Brown University say that the new system called BrainGate can transmit brain signals at “single-neuron resolution and in full broadband fidelity.”
BrainGate clinical trial participants with paralysis used a small transmitter connected to a person’s brain motor cortex to manipulate the interface of a tablet computer.
Participants were able to achieve the same typing speeds and point-and-click accuracy on the BrainGate system as they could with wired systems.
“We’ve demonstrated that this wireless system is functionally equivalent to the wired systems that have been the gold standard,” said John Simeral, an assistant professor of engineering at Brown University.
“The signals are recorded and transmitted with appropriately similar fidelity, which means we can use the same decoding algorithms we used with wired equipment,” Simeral said.
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“The only difference is that people no longer need to be physically tethered to our equipment, which opens up new possibilities in terms of how the system can be used,” he added.
Neural interface technologies have attracted such high-profile figures as Elon Musk and social media titan Facebook in recent years.
“With this system, we’re able to look at brain activity, at home, over long periods in a way that was nearly impossible before,” said Brown University engineering professor and clinical trial leader Leigh Hochberg.
“This will help us to design decoding algorithms that provide for the seamless, intuitive, reliable restoration of communication and mobility for people with paralysis,” Hochberg added.
Scientists Discover X-Rays Coming From Uranus For Very First Time
Scientists are seeing X-rays being emitted from Uranus for the very first time, according to new research.
On Wednesday, the study was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research that lays out how a comparison of two images of the planet taken by the Chandra Observatory in 2002 and 2017 show a clear detection of X-rays in the first image, while the second shows a possible flare of X-rays on the enigmatic and icy planet.
According to NASA, the reason for these X-rays is “mainly the sun.”
However, “there are tantalizing hints that at least one other source of X-rays is present,” the space agency noted.
“One possibility is that the rings of Uranus are producing X-rays themselves, which is the case for Saturn’s rings,” NASA said. “Another possibility is that at least some of the X-rays come from auroras on Uranus, a phenomenon that has previously been observed on this planet at other wavelengths.”
X-rays can be provide a crucial window into the processes and characteristics of our universe. In the case of Uranus, these characteristics can include “atmospheric, surface and planetary ring composition.”
And while X-ray lights given off by the sun have been previously observed by astronomers on Jupiter and Saturn, this hasn’t been the case for icy giants like Uranus and Neptune.
The agency hopes that by figuring out the origin of the X-rays observed at Uranus, researchers can better grasp how mysterious objects including black holes and neutron stars emit X-rays.
Uranus is roughly four times the diameter of Earth and is the seventh planet from the sun, and is known for its distinct pair of rings around its equator and its unique side rotation.
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