Good News Tuesday

Nanotechnology is upon us! Scary, but also promising. I mean, check this out:

Scientists Can Use Wires 3 Atoms Wide to Create Fabric That Generates Electricity

“What we have shown here is that we can make tiny, conductive wires of the smallest possible size that essentially assemble themselves,” said Hao Yan, a Stanford postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the paper. “The process is a simple, one-pot synthesis. You dump the ingredients together and you can get results in half an hour. It’s almost as if the diamondoids know where they want to go.”

The needle-like wires have a semiconducting core – a combination of copper and sulfur known as a chalcogenide – surrounded by the attached diamondoids, which form an insulating shell.

Their minuscule size is important, Melosh said, because a material that exists in just one or two dimensions – as atomic-scale dots, wires or sheets – can have very different, extraordinary properties compared to the same material made in bulk. The new method allows researchers to assemble those materials with atom-by-atom precision and control.”

It’s a science fiction universe, it really is.

Same basic theme:

Scientists Build Battery on Single Sheet of Paper Powered by Bacteria

Researchers at Binghamton University – SUNY (State University of New York) have created a bacteria-powered battery on a single sheet of paper – a design that could revolutionize the use of bio-batteries as a power source in remote, dangerous, or resource-limited areas. The simple manufacturing technique also reduces the fabrication time and cost.


This next one may be a bit of an overstatement, but still:

2017 – the year seasteading begins

Our venture is poised to launch a seasteading industry that will provide environmental resiliency to the millions of people threatened by rising sea levels, provide economic opportunities to people in remote and economically deprived environments, and provide humanity with new opportunities for organizing societies and governments.

As far as I’m concerned, the year seasteading begins is the year it actually, you know, begins. Not the year various bureaucrats lay plans to begin seasteading eventually. Still, wouldn’t this be cool? Definitely a science fiction universe.

Okay, more currently useful:

Zambia tries new way to beat drought: solar grain mills

Since 2015 [Zambia’s government] has been installing hundreds of small solar-powered mills in rural areas as a way to help hold down the price of producing food.

One hopes this pans out for them and other countries.

Onward to the intersection of science fiction and medicine:

Soft Robot Hugs Your Heart to Keep It Pumping

The cylindrical device, constructed of silicon less than a millimeter thick, is layered with actuators that form rings around a sleeve and a helical spiral from top to bottom. These mechanical rings are tubes that inflate and contract when filled with pressurized air. This enables the robot—unlike other heart sleeves—to perform a variety movements on demand, even contracting one side of the heart at a time.

Still in trials, but this sounds very promising. Here’s another, this one already being used in trials on human patients:

The Tiny Robots Revolutionizing Eye Surgery

R2D2 and other robots like it will enable surgeons to, for the first time, operate underneath the retina and interact with blood vessels in the eye. “Undoubtedly this will lead to improvements in quality of eye surgery that require highly technical procedures,” he says. “But most significantly they will open the door to new operations for which the human hand does not have the necessary control and precision.

Yes, R2D2. It actually stands for Robotic Retinal Dissection Device . . . they say. One rather suspects someone had an ulterior motive for coming up with a name that would reduce to, ahem, R2D2. Either way, though, onward with snazzy little tiny robot devices to improve eye surgery!

One more robot-in-medicine, coming to a future near you:

This Tiny Submarine Cruises Inside A Stomach To Deliver Drugs

The swallowable device reacts with stomach acid release of tiny hydrogen bubbles. The bubbles scoot it around the stomach, and a magnesium core reduces acidity as it goes. The tiny device is covered by a special polymer, like a jacket, that is sensitive to changes in the acidity. Once the acid in the stomach is neutralized, the polymer dissolves and the submarines unload their antibiotic payload.

The micro submarine is only 20 microns across, about one-fifth the width of a human hair.

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