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ScienceDaily

World’s smallest ultrasound detector created

Researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have developed the world’s smallest ultrasound detector. It is based on miniaturized photonic circuits on top of a silicon chip. With a size 100 times smaller than an average human hair, the new detector can visualize features that are much smaller than previously possible, leading to what is known as super-resolution imaging.

Since the development of medical ultrasound imaging in the 1950s, the core detection technology of ultrasound waves has primarily focused on using piezoelectric detectors, which convert the pressure from ultrasound waves into electric voltage. The imaging resolution achieved with ultrasound depends on the size of the piezoelectric detector employed. Reducing this size leads to higher resolution and can offer smaller, densely packed one or two dimensional ultrasound arrays with improved ability to discriminate features in the imaged tissue or material. However, further reducing the size of piezoelectric detectors impairs their sensitivity dramatically, making them unusable for practical application.

Using computer chip technology to create an optical ultrasound detector

Silicon photonics technology is widely used to miniaturize optical components and densely pack them on the small surface of a silicon chip. While silicon does not exhibit any piezoelectricity, its ability to confine light in dimensions smaller than the optical wavelength has already been widely exploited for the development of miniaturized photonic circuits.

Researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum Mu?nchen and TUM capitalized on the advantages of those miniaturized photonic circuits and built the world’s smallest ultrasound detector: the silicon waveguide-etalon detector, or SWED. Instead of recording voltage from piezoelectric crystals, SWED monitors changes in light intensity propagating through the miniaturized photonic circuits.

“This is the first time that a detector smaller than the size of a blood cell is used to detect ultrasound using the silicon photonics technology,” says Rami Shnaiderman, developer of SWED. “If a piezoelectric detector was miniaturized to the scale of SWED, it would be 100 million times less sensitive.”

Super-resolution imaging

“The degree to which we were we able to miniaturize the new detector while retaining high sensitivity due to the use of silicon photonics was breathtaking,” says Prof. Vasilis Ntziachristos, lead of the research team. The SWED size is about half a micron (=0,0005 millimeters). This size corresponds to an area that is at least 10,000 times smaller than the smallest piezoelectric detectors employed in clinical imaging applications. The SWED is also up to 200 times smaller than the ultrasound wavelength employed, which means that it can be used to visualize features that are smaller than one micrometer, leading to what is called super-resolution imaging.

Inexpensive and powerful

As the technology capitalizes on the robustness and easy manufacturability of the silicon platform, large numbers of detectors can be produced at a small fraction of the cost of piezoelectric detectors, making mass production feasible. This is important for developing a number of different detection applications based on ultrasound waves. “We will continue to optimize every parameter of this technology — the sensitivity, the integration of SWED in large arrays, and its implementation in hand-held devices and endoscopes,” adds Shnaiderman.

Future development and applications

“The detector was originally developed to propel the performance of optoacoustic imaging, which is a major focus of our research at Helmholtz Zentrum München and TUM. However, we now foresee applications in a broader field of sensing and imaging,” says Ntziachristos.

While the researchers are primarily aiming for applications in clinical diagnostics and basic biomedical research, industrial applications may also benefit from the new technology. The increased imaging resolution may lead to studying ultra-fine details in tissues and materials. A first line of investigation involves super-resolution optoacoustic (photoacoustic) imaging of cells and micro-vasculature in tissues, but the SWED could be also used to study fundamental properties of ultrasonic waves and their interactions with matter on a scale that was not possible before.

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ScienceDaily

New science behind algae-based flip-flops

As the world’s most popular shoe, flip-flops account for a troubling percentage of plastic waste that ends up in landfills, on seashores and in our oceans. Scientists at the University of California San Diego have spent years working to resolve this problem, and now they have taken a step farther toward accomplishing this mission.

Sticking with their chemistry, the team of researchers formulated polyurethane foams, made from algae oil, to meet commercial specifications for midsole shoes and the foot-bed of flip-flops. The results of their study are published in Bioresource Technology Reports and describe the team’s successful development of these sustainable, consumer-ready and biodegradable materials.

The research was a collaboration between UC San Diego and startup company Algenesis Materials — a materials science and technology company. The project was co-led by graduate student Natasha Gunawan from the labs of professors Michael Burkart (Division of Physical Sciences) and Stephen Mayfield (Division of Biological Sciences), and by Marissa Tessman from Algenesis. It is the latest in a series of recent research publications that collectively, according to Burkart, offer a complete solution to the plastics problem — at least for polyurethanes.

“The paper shows that we have commercial-quality foams that biodegrade in the natural environment,” said Mayfield. “After hundreds of formulations, we finally achieved one that met commercial specifications. These foams are 52 percent biocontent — eventually we’ll get to 100 percent.”

In addition to devising the right formulation for the commercial-quality foams, the researchers worked with Algenesis to not only make the shoes, but to degrade them as well. Mayfield noted that scientists have shown that commercial products like polyesters, bioplastics (PLA) and fossil-fuel plastics (PET) can biodegrade, but only in the context of lab tests or industrial composting.

“We redeveloped polyurethanes with bio-based monomers from scratch to meet the high material specifications for shoes, while keeping the chemistry suitable, in theory, so the shoes would be able to biodegrade,” Mayfield explained.

Putting their customized foams to the test by immersing them in traditional compost and soil, the team discovered the materials degraded after just 16 weeks. During the decomposition period, to account for any toxicity, the scientists, led by UC San Diego’s Skip Pomeroy, measured every molecule shed from the biodegradable materials. They also identified the organisms that degraded the foams.

“We took the enzymes from the organisms degrading the foams and showed that we could use them to depolymerize these polyurethane products, and then identified the intermediate steps that take place in the process,” said Mayfield, adding, “We then showed that we could isolate the depolymerized products and use those to synthesize new polyurethane monomers, completing a ‘bioloop.'”

This full recyclability of commercial products is the next step in the scientist’s ongoing mission to address the current production and waste management problems we face with plastics — which if not addressed, will result in 96 billion tons of plastic in landfills or the natural environment by 2050. According to Pomeroy, this environmentally unfriendly practice began about 60 years ago with the development of plastics.

“If you could turn back the clock and re-envision how you could make the petroleum polymer industry, would you do it the same today that we did it years ago? There’s a bunch of plastic floating in every ocean on this planet that suggests we shouldn’t have done it that way,” noted Pomeroy.

While commercially on track for production, doing so economically is a matter of scale that the scientists are working out with their manufacturing partners.

“People are coming around on plastic ocean pollution and starting to demand products that can address what has become an environmental disaster,” said Tom Cooke, president of Algenesis. “We happen to be at the right place at the right time.”

The team’s efforts are also manifested in the establishment of the Center for Renewable Materials at UC San Diego. Begun by Burkart, Mayfield, Pomeroy and their co-founders Brian Palenik (Scripps Institution of Oceanography) and Larissa Podust (Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences), the center focuses on three major goals: the development of renewable and sustainable monomers made from algae and other biological sources; their formulation into polymers for diverse applications, the creation of synthetic biology platforms for the production of monomers and crosslinking components; and the development and understanding of biodegradation of renewable polymers.

“The life of material should be proportional to the life of the product,” said Mayfield. “We don’t need material that sits around for 500 years on a product that you will only use for a year or two.”

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ScienceDaily

Is it a bird, a plane? Not superman, but a flapping wing drone

A drone prototype that mimics the aerobatic manoeuvres of one of the world’s fastest birds, the swift, is being developed by an international team of engineers in the latest example of biologically inspired flight.

A research team from Singapore, Australia, China and Taiwan has designed a 26 gram ornithopter (flapping wing aircraft) which can hover, dart, glide, brake and dive just like a swift, making them more versatile, safer and quieter than the existing quadcopter drones.

Weighing the equivalent of two tablespoons of flour, the flapping wing drone has been optimised to fly in cluttered environments near humans, with the ability to glide, hover at very low power, and stop quickly from fast speeds, avoiding collisions — all things that quadcopters can’t do.

National University of Singapore research scientist, Dr Yao-Wei Chin, who has led the project published today in Science Robotics, says the team has designed a flapping wing drone similar in size to a swift, or large moth, that can perform some aggressive bird flight manoeuvres.

“Unlike common quadcopters that are quite intrusive and not very agile, biologically-inspired drones could be used very successfully in a range of environments,” Dr Chin says.

The surveillance applications are clear, but novel applications include pollination of indoor vertical farms without damaging dense vegetation, unlike the rotary-propelled quadcopters whose blades risk shredding crops.

Because of their stability in strong winds, the ornithopter drone could also be used to chase birds away from airports, reducing the risk of them getting sucked into jet engines.

University of South Australia (UniSA) aerospace engineer, Professor Javaan Chahl, says copying the design of birds, like swifts, is just one strategy to improve the flight performance of flapping wing drones.

“There are existing ornithopters that can fly forward and backward as well as circling and gliding, but until now, they haven’t been able to hover or climb. We have overcome these issues with our prototype, achieving the same thrust generated by a propeller,” Dr Chahl says.

“The triple roles of flapping wings for propulsion, lift and drag enable us to replicate the flight patterns of aggressive birds by simple tail control. Essentially, the ornithopter drone is a combination of a paraglider, aeroplane and helicopter.”

There are currently no commercialised ornithopters being used for surveillance, but this could change with the latest breakthrough, researchers claim.

By improving the design so ornithopters can now produce enough thrust to hover and to carry a camera and accompanying electronics, the flapping wing drone could be used for crowd and traffic monitoring, information gathering and surveying forests and wildlife.

“The light weight and the slow beating wings of the ornithopter poses less danger to the public than quadcopter drones in the event of a crash and given sufficient thrust and power banks it could be modified to carry different payloads depending on what is required,” Dr Chin says.

One area that requires more research is how birds will react to a mechanical flying object resembling them in size and shape. Small, domesticated birds are easily scared by drones but large flocks and much bigger birds have been known to attack ornithopters.

And while the bio-inspired breakthrough is impressive, we are a long way from replicating biological flight, Dr Chin says.

“Although ornithopters are the closest to biological flight with their flapping wing propulsion, birds and insects have multiple sets of muscles which enable them to fly incredibly fast, fold their wings, twist, open feather slots and save energy.

“Their wing agility allows them to turn their body in mid-air while still flapping at different speeds and angles.

“Common swifts can cruise at a maximum speed of 31 metres a second, equivalent to 112 kilometres per hour or 90 miles per hour.

“At most, I would say we are replicating 10 per cent of biological flight,” he says.

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3D Printing Industry

INTAMSYS and Victrex partner to propel high-performance PAEK filament

FFF 3D printer manufacturer INTAMSYS has become the world’s first global reseller of polymer specialist Victrex’s new polyaryletherketone (PAEK) filament – VICTREX AM 200. The collaboration also marks INTAMSYS as the first company in Victrex’s proposed filament fusion network, which aims to facilitate and encourage the use of AM 200 and any future PAEK-based filaments […]

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ScienceDaily

Faster-degrading plastic could promise cleaner seas

To address plastic pollution plaguing the world’s seas and waterways, Cornell University chemists have developed a new polymer that can degrade by ultraviolet radiation, according to research published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

“We have created a new plastic that has the mechanical properties required by commercial fishing gear. If it eventually gets lost in the aquatic environment, this material can degrade on a realistic time scale,” said lead researcher Bryce Lipinski, a doctoral candidate in the laboratory of Geoff Coates, professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell University. “This material could reduce persistent plastic accumulation in the environment.”

Commercial fishing contributes to about half of all floating plastic waste that ends up in the oceans, Lipinski said. Fishing nets and ropes are primarily made from three kinds of polymers: isotactic polypropylene, high-density polyethylene, and nylon-6,6, none of which readily degrade.

“While research of degradable plastics has received much attention in recent years,” he said, “obtaining a material with the mechanical strength comparable to commercial plastic remains a difficult challenge.”

Coates and his research team have spent the past 15 years developing this plastic called isotactic polypropylene oxide, or iPPO. While its original discovery was in 1949, the mechanical strength and photodegradation of this material was unknown before this recent work. The high isotacticity (enchainment regularity) and polymer chain length of their material makes it distinct from its historic predecessor and provides its mechanical strength.

Lipinski noted that while iPPO is stable in ordinary use, it eventually breaks down when exposed to UV light. The change in the plastic’s composition is evident in the laboratory, but “visually, it may not appear to have changed much during the process,” he said.

The rate of degradation is light intensity-dependent, but under their laboratory conditions, he said, the polymer chain lengths degraded to a quarter of their original length after 30 days of exposure.

Ultimately, Lipinski and other scientists want to leave no trace of the polymer in the environment. He notes there is literature precedent for the biodegradation of small chains of iPPO which could effectively make it disappear, but ongoing efforts aim to prove this.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation’s Center for Sustainable Polymers, the NSF-supported NMR Facility at Cornell, and the Cornell Center for Materials Research.

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Materials provided by Cornell University. Original written by Blaine Friedlander. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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ProgrammableWeb

Nium Opens Innovation Lab to Help Encourage Innovation in Fintech

NIUM, one of the world’s largest Global Financial Infrastructure Platform providers today announced the launch of “BOLT”, its unique platform to boost innovation in the global Fintech space and help entrepreneurs speed their products/services to market.

The platform has been engineered to act as a regional hub for budding Fintech entrepreneurs as well as seed-stage start-ups. They can now build on NIUM’s success and benefit from its core infrastructure.

Designed as an intense 26-week collaborative program, BOLT, the R&D Fintech Hub, is a first-of-its-kind independent platform. It offers entrepreneurs unrestricted access to the business ecosystem of NIUM. Fintech entrepreneurs can leverage the opportunity to collaborate with NIUM and connect to its existing API stack.

At the heart of the BOLT program is a unique innovation ecosystem led by Nium’s high-density Fintech expertise and the full range of NIUM’s ‘Send’ (55+ countries via direct ACH coverage), ‘Spend’ (card issuance in 32+ countries) and ‘Receive’ (30+ countries via direct ACH coverage) capabilities. Entrepreneurs with an idea for the next big FinTech solution can now gain complete access to Nium’s API network through BOLT.

Discussing the launch, Prajit Nanu, Co-founder, and CEO of NIUM said, “BOLT focuses on accelerating the translation of innovative ideas & concepts into tangible prototypes & products. We provide a truly independent platform with absolutely no predatory equity-in-lieu, or IP-in lieu, or even any lien on the future line of sight profits. Your success is yours alone, we are here only to enable your path to success.”

Co-located at NIUM’s global headquarters, BOLT offers world-class infrastructure spanning nearly 2,000 square feet of dedicated space in the heart of CBD, Singapore. Fully equipped with state-of-the-art infrastructure and amenities, BOLT’s vision is to be an enabler as well as a 360degree engagement and learning hotspot for fintech entrepreneurs.

Start-ups also benefit from BOLT’s location in Singapore – renowned globally as an international financial center with a pro-business environment that attracts businesses and start-ups from all over the world. The resultant pool of a highly skilled and cosmopolitan populace provides the perfect environment for cross-pollination of ideas and innovations.

BOLT provides other key components that most first-time entrepreneurs lack. These fundamental enablers of early-stage start-ups include resourcing and skillsets on UI / UX training, fundraising, and capital structuring as well as advise on the vast ocean of technologies available to enable quick time deployment.

BOLT enables start-ups scale-up rapidly by providing a ready platform for all the essential tools a Fintech start-up needs to grow rapidly. These include a ‘tinker-ready’ sand-box, API docs, easy connection to a range of its platform APIs and co-location alongside the NIUM workspace ecosystem.

Prajit said, “As an entrepreneur, I have journeyed through successes, failures, and complexities of setting up a successful Fintech company. InstaReM, the first product of NIUM, took five years to establish its network which now spans over 100 countries. With BOLT, entrepreneurs can now focus on their innovative products and solutions alone.”

“We believe in optimizing business processes and shortening the timeframe between ideation and execution,” he added.

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IEEE Spectrum

World’s First Classical Chinese Programming Language

The world’s first programming language based on classical Chinese is only about a month old, and volunteers have already written dozens of programs with it, such as one based on an ancient Chinese fortune-telling algorithm.

The new language’s developer, Lingdong Huang, previously designed an infinite computer-generated Chinese landscape painting. He also helped create the first and so far only AI-generated Chinese opera. He graduated with a degree in computer science and art from Carnegie Mellon University in December.

After coming up with the idea for the new language, wenyan-lang, roughly a year ago, Huang finished the core of the language during his last month at school. It includes a renderer that can display a program in a manner that resembles pages from ancient Chinese texts.

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DCED

Governor Wolf Announces 1700 New Jobs with UPS Expansion Across Pennsylvania – PA Department of Community & Economic Development

Harrisburg, PA – Today, Governor Tom Wolf announced that United Parcel Service (UPS), the world’s largest package delivery company and a provider of supply chain management solutions, will expand its operations in the commonwealth, supporting the creation of 1,721 new, full-time jobs and the retention of 6,458 full-time jobs.

“With a foundation of longevity and rich history, UPS is a company that is still growing at a rapid rate, serving the needs of people in all corners of the commonwealth on a daily basis,” said Gov. Wolf. “Our investment in this global company will not only ensure that customers across Pennsylvania will continue to receive the service they expect, but also local communities will benefit from the combined creation and retention of thousands of good-paying, full-time jobs.”

The company will expand its operations to four locations in Pennsylvania—Cumberland, Dauphin, Northumberland, and Philadelphia counties—and will invest in building renovations, equipment, and infrastructure improvements at each of the locations. The company has committed to investing at least $1.4 billion in the project.

“UPS is grateful for the strong relationship we continue to build with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We are excited to bring new jobs to Pennsylvania and we are committed to engaging in the communities where we are expanding our operations.” said Juan Perez, UPS Chief Information and Engineering Officer. “From small business owners growing their customer base to manufacturers moving parts and products, and e-tailers looking for efficient and fast order fulfillment, companies of all sizes throughout the Northeast will benefit from UPS’s latest global network transformation initiative.”

UPS received a funding proposal from the Department of Community and Economic Development for $2.7 million in Job Creation Tax Credits to be distributed following the creation of the new jobs, $5.6 million in Infrastructure and Facilities Improvement Program funding, and $659,400 in grants for workforce training and development. The project was coordinated by the Governor’s Action Team, an experienced group of economic development professionals who report directly to the governor and work with businesses that are considering locating or expanding in Pennsylvania.

Founded in 1907 as a messenger company in the United States, UPS has grown into a multi-billion-dollar corporation by clearly focusing on the goal of enabling commerce around the globe. Today, UPS is a global company with one of the most recognized and admired brands in the world. The world’s largest package delivery company and a leading global provider of specialized transportation and logistics services, UPS manages the flow of goods, funds, and information in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.

For more information about the Governor’s Action Team or DCED, visit the DCED website, and be sure to stay up-to-date with all of our agency news on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

J.J. Abbott, Governor’s Office, 717.783.1116

Casey Smith, DCED, 717.783.1132

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ScienceDaily

‘Cold Neptune’ and two temperate super-Earths found orbiting nearby stars

A “cold Neptune” and two potentially habitable worlds are part of a cache of five newly discovered exoplanets and eight exoplanet candidates found orbiting nearby red dwarf stars, which are reported in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series by a team led by Carnegie’s Fabo Feng and Paul Butler.

The two potentially habitable planets are orbiting GJ180 and GJ229A, which are among the nearest stars to our own Sun, making them prime targets for observations by next-generation space- and land-based telescopes. They are both super-Earths with at least 7.5 and 7.9 times our planet’s mass and orbital periods of 106 and 122 days respectively.

The Neptune-mass planet — found orbiting GJ433 at a distance at which surface water is likely to be frozen — is probably the first of its kind that is a realistic candidate for future direct imaging.

“GJ 433 d is the nearest, widest, and coldest Neptune-like planet ever detected,” Feng added.

The newfound worlds were discovered using the radial velocity method for finding planets, which takes advantage of the fact that not only does a star’s gravity influence the planet orbiting it, but the planet’s gravity also affects the star in turn. This creates tiny wobbles in the star’s orbit that can be detected using advanced instruments. Due to their lower mass, red dwarfs are the primary class of stars around which terrestrial mass planets can be found using this technique.

Cooler and smaller than our Sun, red dwarfs — also called M dwarfs — are the most common stars in the galaxy and the primary class of stars known to host terrestrial planets. What’s more, compared to other types of stars, red dwarfs can host planets at the right temperature to have liquid water on their surfaces on much closer orbits than those found in this so-called “habitable zone” around other types of stars.

“Many planets that orbit red dwarfs in the habitable zone are tidally locked, meaning that the period at which they spin around their axes is the same as the period at which they orbit their host star. This is similar to how our Moon is tidally locked to Earth, meaning that we only ever see one side of it from here. As a result, these exoplanets are a very cold permanent night on one side and very hot permanent day on the other — not good for habitability,” explained lead author Feng. “GJ180d is the nearest temperate super-Earth to us that is not tidally locked to its star, which probably boosts its likelihood of being able to host and sustain life.”

The other potentially habitable planet, GJ229Ac is the nearest temperate super-Earth to us located in a system in which the host star has a brown dwarf companion. Sometimes called failed stars, brown dwarfs are not able to sustain hydrogen fusion. The brown dwarf in this system, GJ229B, was one of the first brown dwarfs to be imaged. It is not known if they can host exoplanets on their own, but this planetary system is a perfect case study for how exoplanets form and evolve in a star-brown dwarf binary system.

“Our discovery adds to the list of planets that can potentially be directly imaged by the next generation of telescopes,” Feng said. “Ultimately, we are working toward the goal of being able to determine if planets orbiting nearby stars host life.”

“We eventually want to build a map of all of the planets orbiting the nearest stars to our own Solar System, especially those that are potentially habitable,” added Carnegie co-author Jeff Crane.

This research effort — which also included Carnegie’s Steve Shectman, John Chambers, Sharon Wang, Johanna Teske, Matías Díaz, and Ian Thompson, as well as Steve Vogt of U.C. Santa Cruz, Hugh Jones of University of Hertfordshire and Jennifer Burt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory — culled and reanalyzed data from the European Southern Observatory’s Ultraviolet and Visual Echelle Spectrograph survey of 33 nearby red dwarf stars, which operated from 2000 to 2007 and was released in 2009.

“We have been led to this result by antique data,” joked Butler.

Once targets were discovered in the UVES archives, the researchers used observations from three planet-hunting instruments to increase the precision of the data. The Carnegie Planet Finder Spectrograph (PFS) at our Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, ESO’s High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) at La Silla Observatory, and the High Resolution Echelle Spectrometer (HIRES) at the Keck Observatory were all crucial to this effort.

“Combining the data from multiple telescopes increases the number of observations and the time baseline, and minimizes instrumental biases,” Butler explained.

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3D Printing Industry

The first homes have been built in New Story’s 3D printed community for low-income families in Mexico

New Story, a non-profit organization fighting homelessness, has announced that construction of the ‘world’s first’ 3D printed community is officially underway. As part of a collaborative project with ICON, a Texas-based construction technologies company, the first set of homes have already been 3D printed in Tabasco, Mexico. They feature final construction build-out by ÉCHALE, New […]

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Author: Anas Essop