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ScienceDaily

Solar hydrogen production: Splitting water with UV is now at almost 100% quantum efficiency

Pour yourself a glass of water and take a look at it. This water contains an abundant source of fuel, hydrogen. Hydrogen burns clean unlike petrol-based energy products. Sound too good to be true? Scientists in Japan successfully split water into hydrogen and oxygen using light and meticulously designed catalysts, and they did so at the maximum efficiency meaning there was almost no loss and undesired side reactions. This latest breakthrough in solar hydrogen production makes the likelihood of scalable, economically viable hydrogen production more than likely, paving the way for humanity to make the switch to clean energy.

Water splitting using catalysts and sunlight, called photocatalysis has been a promising method of achieving solar hydrogen production for decades. However, most previous attempts only yielded an external quantum efficiency of less than about 50% representing the difficulty in efficient catalyst design for real world use. The catalyst needed to be designed better so every absorbed photon from the light source is used to make hydrogen. The key to improving efficiency was strategic placement of the co-catalysts and preventing defects in the semiconductor.

Published in the May 27th issue of Nature, Tsuyoshi Takata of Shinshu University et al. broke through new frontiers in power production by using aluminum-doped strontium titanate as a photocatalyst, whose properties have been extensively studied and therefore the best understood. They choose co-catalysts rhodium for hydrogen with chromium oxide, and cobalt-oxide for oxygen, by fine-tuning them to engage in only desired reactions. This method made possible for the reaction to have no recombination losses.

These new findings open the doors to achieve scalable and economically viable solar hydrogen production. Their design strategies succeeded in reducing defects that lead to near perfect efficiency, and knowledge obtained will be applied to other materials with intense visible light absorption. More work is still needed before we can run our cars on hydrogen, because this study focused on the use of ultraviolet light and abundant visible light from the sun remained unused. However, this great breakthrough has made that possibility no longer too good to be true, but in theory, just a matter of time. Hopefully it will encourage scientists, researchers and engineers to engage in this field, bringing the use of solar hydrogen power that much closer.

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ScienceDaily

Ultrafast repeated staining and destaining of cell samples for tumor diagnostics

In the treatment of tumors, microenvironment plays an important role. It often contains immune cells that are so changed that they promote tumor growth. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, scientists have introduced a method by which cell samples from tumors and their surroundings can rapidly (under 1 hour) be cycled through staining, destaining, and then restaining with fluorescent antibodies — through attachment of a “black hole quencher” (fluorescence quencher) by means of “click chemistry.”

To effectively and precisely fight a tumor, it is important to specifically characterize not only the cells of the tumor but also those in its microenvironment, including tumor-infiltrating immune cells. Until now, analyses of these dynamic changes with conventional biopsies and tissue sections could take days to weeks, or not occur at all prior to treatment. One alternative method is fine needle aspiration, in which only a few thousand cells are taken from different parts of a tumor and its surroundings. This method has few risks and is faster because it does not require embedding or sectioning. However, to obtain a representative estimate of the immune cell populations in the tumor’s microenvironment, many different stains must be carried out. Because the number of cells is so small, this means that the same sample must be repeatedly stained, destained, and stained again. However, the cells are too delicate for conventional, harsh destaining, and the procedures would take too long.

A team headed by Jonathan Carlson and Ralph Weissleder at the Massachusetts General Hospital Research Institute and Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA, USA) has now developed an ultrafast, highly efficient, and gentle cyclic method for multiplexed protein profiling of individual cells, which allows for numerous different stainings. Instead of splitting off the dye or bleaching it, the fluorescence of the stain is simply “switched off” with a black hole quencher. Black hole quenchers absorb the energy of a fluorescence dye over the entire visible spectrum and convert it to heat as soon as they get near enough. This switches off the glow of the dye.

The method goes like this: using a connector that contains a trans-cyclooctene group, a fluorescent dye is attached to antibodies that specifically recognize the characteristic marker molecules of the cells. If the target marker is in a given sample, the antibody binds to it and the fluorescence can be detected. Then the quencher carrying a tetrazine group is added. Using this tetrazine group and the trans-cyclooctene, the quencher can simply be attached by being “clicked” on as though with a snap (hence the term click chemistry for this type of reaction). The quencher is thus site-specifically and very quickly and efficiently brought near to the dye, immediately quenching its fluorescence. The rapidity of this click reaction is remarkable, running orders of magnitude faster than expected. The reason for this may be the strong interaction between the fluorescence dye and the quencher.

The next fluorescent antibody can be applied immediately after the fluorescence quenching. The researchers were able to stain twelve different marker molecules in a sample within one hour. This makes it possible to rapidly characterize the immune cell populations in tumors to select the most suitable treatments.

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ProgrammableWeb

10 Most Popular APIs for Books

10 Most Popular APIs for Books

The Books category on ProgrammableWeb contains dozens of Application Programming Interface (or API) listings in which developers may use to create applications with book data. These include APIs for libraries, textbooks, book sharing, book reviews, literacy, book printing and publishing, storytelling, photo books and more.

In this article, we highlight the most popular books APIs listed on ProgrammableWeb according to user page views.

1. Google Books API

Google Books is a repository that Google maintains with digitized books from around the world. Developers can use the Google Book Search Data APITrack this API to submit full-text searches for books and get book information, ratings, and reviews. Also users may get individual users’ library collections, public reviews. Users may also submit authenticated requests to create and modify library collections, ratings, labels, reviews, and more.

2. Goodreads API

Goodreads has 10 million book reviews across 700,000 titles. The Goodreads APITrack this API lets users display these reviews on their websites and applications. Use the Goodreads API to get the books on a shelf, get your friends’ updates, link to a book by ISBN or other method, get the url for a book or author, get a members’ friends, look up a member by email address, and get reviews by ISBN.

3. SHOP.COM API

SHOP.COM is an online store offering a wide range of products. The SHOP.COM APITrack this API allows developers to integrate SHOP.COM services and content into their applications. This enables users of the developer’s applications to search and view product details for exclusive SHOP.COM products, and 1000s of major and specialty brand products. Return data includes pre-formatted referral links for publishers that are registered with the SHOP.COM Affiliate Publisher Network (APN).

4. Harry Potter API

The Harry Potter APITrack this API can enable applications to return spell routes, character routes, house routes, and sorting hat routes from the popular children’s book series by author J. K. Rowling in JSON format. Parameters for characters include patronus, bloodStatus, school, wand, animagus, ministry of magic and others. The API is provided by developer Kristen Spencer.

5. Opinionated Quotes API

The Opinionated Quotes APITrack this API returns JSON formatted quotes from the requested author’s personal collection. This is a REST interface and supports random outputs. Parameters include author, tags, and language.

6. IT Bookstore API

The IT Bookstore APITrack this API enables users to search the IT Bookstore database for available books. IT Bookstore is a California-based IT, Programming, and Computer Science bookseller.

7. Marvel Comics API

Marvel Comics is the publisher of comic books featuring superheroes such as Captain Marvel, Spiderman, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and hundreds of other characters. The Marvel Comics APITrack this API provides developer access to metadata describing Marvel’s 70+ years of comics. The RESTful API delivers JSON formatted information about creators, characters, series, storylines, individual issues, and crossover events.

8. Game of Thrones Quotes API

The Game of Thrones Quotes APITrack this API allows developers to create a platform for searching the quotes attributable to different characters of the TV series based on the A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin. It filters search results and matches a quote against the corresponding character assigned to it.

9. Open Library API

Internet Archive is a non-profit that offers free online library and repository with free books, music, movies, software, and websites. The Internet Archive’s Open Library is an open repository of millions of books and book information. The Open Library REST APITrack this API allows developers to interact with book records, cover images, subject listings, user lists, search-inside and more.

10. Poemist

Poemist is an online database of poets and poems. The Poemist APITrack this API allows developers to access poetry data, including information on poets and poems. Currently the only completed API method is one that allows users to retrieve random poems.

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Author: <a href="https://www.programmableweb.com/user/%5Buid%5D">joyc</a>

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IEEE Spectrum

Why Does Israel Have So Many Startups?

Tel Aviv contains more startups per capita than any city in the world other than Silicon Valley, according to the 2019 Global Startup Ecosystem Report published by Startup Genome and the Global Entrepreneurship Network. Prior to 2019, Tel Aviv contained the most startups per capita, even beating Silicon Valley. With companies including Google, Nielsen, and Nvidia operating incubators, accelerators, and competitions around Israel, some are even calling Tel Aviv the next Silicon Valley. 

But the authors of the Global Startup Ecosystem Report disagree—there’s not going to be a “next” Silicon Valley. Quite the opposite actually; there will be many, and Tel Aviv is just one. Still, the report states, Tel Aviv is unique. 

The report points to the Tnufa National Pre-Seed Fund, which is a risk-free grant that the government awards to entrepreneurs based in Israel to explore innovative technology. The fund is one possible reason why so many startups exist there. But it’s not the only one—the study fails to mention several other plausible explanations to the question: Why do Tel Aviv and Israel have so many startups? 

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ScienceDaily

Lead isotopes a new tool for tracking coal ash

Inhaling dust that contains fly ash particles from coal combustion has been linked to lung and heart disease, cancer, nervous system disorders and other ill effects.

But tracking the presence of coal ash in dust has been a challenge for scientists.

Until now.

Researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill have developed a new forensic tracer that uses lead isotopes to detect coal fly ash in dust and other solids, including soil and sediments. Fly ash is a fine particulate produced by burning pulverized coal.

Tests show that the tracer can distinguish between the chemical signature of lead that comes from coal ash and lead that comes from other major human or natural sources, including legacy contamination from leaded gasoline and lead paint.

“Lead adds to our forensic toolbox and gives us a powerful new method for tracking fly ash contamination in the environment,” said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

The tracer broadens scientists’ ability to assess and monitor exposure risks of people who live or work near coal ash ponds and landfills or near sites where coal ash is being spread on soil as fill or reused for other purposes.

“Many clean-up workers and local residents who were exposed to fly ash dust containing high levels of lead, arsenic and other contaminants following the massive TVA coal ash spill in eastern Tennessee in 2008 have experienced debilitating health effects,” Vengosh said. “Communities near coal ash storage facilities or sites where coal ash has been mixed with soil as fill are now worried they too might be exposed to harmful contaminants.”

“These types of risks are only going to increase under the EPA’s pending proposal to relax restrictions on spreading coal ash for ‘beneficial use’ or storing it in unlined pits and landfills,” Vengosh said.

“Our hope is that this new tracer, which augments the suite of isotopic tracers we already have developed for tracking coal ash contamination in aquatic environments, will help us provide greater protection to communities at risk,” he said.

Vengosh and his colleagues published their peer-reviewed study Oct. 16 in Environmental Science & Technology Letters. They analyzed 45 fly ash samples collected from 12 U.S. coal-fired power plants between 2004 and 2013. Sixteen samples of the fly ash originated from Appalachian coal, 22 came from coal in the Illinois Basin, and seven came from the Powder River Basin.

It is the first study to provide a systematic analysis of lead isotopes in coal fly ash from all three major U.S. coal-producing basins.

As a proof-of-concept experiment, the researchers used the new lead isotope tracer to analyze sediments from Sutton Lake in eastern North Carolina. The lake served as an impoundment for a coal-fired power plant from the 1970s until the plant was replaced with a natural gas-powered plant in 2013 and a study earlier this year by Vengosh’s team showed that it was the site of multiple unreported coal ash spills over the years. Sutton Lake is located on the Cape Fear River about 11 miles upstream from the city of Wilmington. The researchers also tested sediment samples from nearby Lake Waccamaw, which has never been used as a coal ash impoundment.

“The tests showed the Sutton Lake sediments had a lead isotopic fingerprint similar to that of fly ash from Appalachian Basin coal and quite different from those of sediments in unaffected Lake Waccamaw,” said Zhen Wang, a doctoral student in Vengosh’s lab who was lead author on the study. “This was consistent with the results of the previous study, confirming our earlier findings and validating the applicability of lead isotopes as a new tool for tracking coal fly ask in the environment.”

Gary S. Dwyer of Duke and Drew S. Coleman of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill co-authored the study with Wang and Vengosh.

Funding came from Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

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ScienceDaily

New brain map could improve AI algorithms for machine vision

Despite years of research, the brain still contains broad areas of uncharted territory. A team of scientists, led by neuroscientists from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and University of Sydney, recently found new evidence revising the traditional view of the primate brain’s visual system organization using data from marmosets. This remapping of the brain could serve as a future reference for understanding how the highly complex visual system works, and potentially influence the design of artificial neural networks for machine vision.

In the quest of the whole-brain connectivity in marmosets, the team found that parts of the primate visual system may work differently than previously thought. Mapping out how distinct types of cells connect can help researchers understand how groups of cells play in concert to relay and process sensory information from the outside environment to the brain.

For their research, the team looked at the thalamus, a brain structure located above the brainstem that consists of different nuclei (groups of cells or neurons that are packed together) thought to relay and coordinate sensory information to the cerebral cortex, typically conceived of as the seat of higher cognitive function.

Researchers have traditionally categorized different thalamic nuclei as either relay nuclei or association nuclei. The visual thalamus, for example, contains the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN), considered to be a relay of information from the retina to the visual cortex, and the visual pulvinar, which is thought to be responsible for multisensory coordination and attention.

The new study found that the same type of cells exist in specific regions of the LGN and the visual pulvinar. These cells, the researchers discovered, form the same kind of connectivity with the cortex, implying that these sub-compartments of the LGN and pulvinar may share the same function, and collaborate in a way that wasn’t previously expected.

The research is also important because it’s the first time this type of brain mapping was conducted on primates, which have brain structures similar to humans.

“The pulvinar is not well defined in rodent models, that’s the value of this particular research in primates, that would be transferable to humans,” said Bingxing Huo, a computational science manager in CSHL professor Partha Mitra’s lab and the first author on the study. Their findings are published in the European Journal of Neuroscience.

This study is the second piece of data analysis the group has published on this marmoset dataset. This series of research show that in analyzing data about the whole brain in finer detail, “we may have to redraw some of the traditional boundaries that people have drawn, or reclassify functions that people have attributed to parts of the brain,” said Mitra, the senior author on the study.

Outside of basic science implications of the findings, Mitra also suggested possible applications in artificial intelligence.

“People are basing the algorithms that they develop on a dated view of the visual system’s anatomy,” Mitra said. “As we understand it better, maybe that will allow for new thinking about network algorithms for machine vision.”

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Hackster.io

This Animatronic Eye of Agamotto Was 3D-Printed in Amazing Detail

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Eye of Agamotto is a powerful and mystical item that contains the Time Stone — one of the six Infinity Stones that Thanos collected for his gauntlet. The Eye of Agamotto resides within an amulet worn by Doctor Strange. The comic books featured many different variations of the Eye of Agamotto, but the way it was depicted in the MCU movies was particularly iconic. Instagrammer ezbsvs has brought that design to life using high-quality 3D-printing and animatronics.

The amulet, as shown in the modern MCU movies, contains the Eye of Agamotto locked within a small chamber and surrounded by complex spinning mechanisms. Amazingly, ezbsvs was able to recreate that intricate movement, with a design featuring concentric rings each turning in opposite directions and then opening the “eyelid” to expose the Eye of Agamotto. That required brilliant engineering work to design the mechanisms and gears in Autodesk Fusion 360 CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software.

After designing those parts, ezbsvs sent them off to Shapeways to be 3D-printed using the MultiJet printing process, which is ideal for parts with a lot of fine details. That was necessary to ensure that the gears meshed smoothly. The rings are spun by six 700:1 plastic gearmotors, and the eyelid is opened and closed with a 1000:1 metal gearmotor. All of those are powered through Pololu motor drivers, and controlled by an Arduino Nano. The Arduino also controls the LEDs inside of the actual eye. With the addition of a masterful paint job, the amulet and Eye of Agamotto look as good as what Doctor Strange wears in the movies.

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Author: Cameron Coward