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Wireless system can power devices inside the body
MIT researchers, working with scientists from Brigham and Women's Hospital, have developed a new way to power and communicate with devices implanted deep within the human body. Such devices could be used to deliver drugs, monitor conditions inside the body, or treat disease by stimulating the brain with electricity or light.
The implants are powered by radio frequency waves, which can safely pass through human tissues. In tests in animals, the researchers showed that the waves can power devices located 10 centimeters deep in tissue, from a distance of 1 meter.
"Even though these tiny implantable devices have no batteries, we can now communicate with them from a distance outside the body. This opens up entirely new types of medical applications," says Fadel Adib, an assistant professor in MIT's Media Lab and a senior author of the paper, which will be presented at the Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Data Communication (SIGCOMM) conference in August.
Because they do not require a battery, the devices can be tiny. In this study, the researchers tested a prototype about the size of a grain of rice, but they anticipate that it could be made even smaller.
"Having the capacity to communicate with these systems without the need for a battery would be a significant advance. These devices could be compatible with sensing conditions as well as aiding in the delivery of a drug," says Giovanni Traverso, an assistant professor at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), Harvard Medical School, a research affiliate at MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and an author of the paper.
Other authors of the paper are Media Lab postdoc Yunfei Ma, Media Lab graduate student Zhihong Luo, and Koch Institute and BWH affiliate postdoc Christoph Steiger.
Medical devices that can be ingested or implanted in the body could offer doctors new ways to diagnose, monitor, and treat many diseases. Traverso's lab is now working on a variety of ingestible systems that can be used to deliver drugs, monitor vital signs, and detect movement of the GI tract.
In the brain, implantable electrodes that deliver an electrical current are used for a technique known as deep brain stimulation, which is often used to treat Parkinson's disease or epilepsy. These electrodes are now controlled by a pacemaker-like device implanted under the skin, which could be eliminated if wireless power is used. Wireless brain implants could also help deliver light to stimulate or inhibit neuron activity through optogenetics, which so far has not been adapted for use in humans but could be useful for treating many neurological disorders.
Currently, implantable medical devices, such as pacemakers, carry their own batteries, which occupy most of the space on the device and offer a limited lifespan. Adib, who envisions much smaller, battery-free devices, has been exploring the possibility of wirelessly powering implantable devices with radio waves emitted by antennas outside the body.
Until now, this has been difficult to achieve because radio waves tend to dissipate as they pass through the body, so they end up being too weak to supply enough power. To overcome that, the researchers devised a system that they call "In Vivo Networking" (IVN). This system relies on an array of antennas that emit radio waves of slightly different frequencies. As the radio waves travel, they overlap and combine in different ways. At certain points, where the high points of the waves overlap, they can provide enough energy to power an implanted sensor.
"We chose frequencies that are slightly different from each other, and in doing so, we know that at some point in time these are going to reach their highs at the same time. When they reach their highs at the same time, they are able to overcome the energy threshold needed to power the device," Adib says.
With the new system, the researchers don't need to know the exact location of the sensors in the body, as the power is transmitted over a large area. This also means that they can power multiple devices at once. At the same time that the sensors receive a burst of power, they also receive a signal telling them to relay information back to the antenna. This signal could also be used to stimulate release of a drug, a burst of electricity, or a pulse of light, the researchers say.
In tests in pigs, the researchers showed they could send power from up to a meter outside the body, to a sensor that was 10 centimeters deep in the body. If the sensors are located very close to the skin's surface, they can be powered from up to 38 meters away.
"There's currently a tradeoff between how deep you can go and how far you can go outside the body," Adib says.
The researchers are now working on making the power delivery more efficient and transferring it over greater distances. This technology also has the potential to improve RFID applications in other areas such as inventory control, retail analytics, and "smart" environments, allowing for longer-distance object tracking and communication, the researchers say.
The research was funded by the Media Lab Consortium and the National Institutes of Health.
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Windows Double as Solar Panels
A tech startup on a mission to make modern commercial and housing estates energy neutral has outfitted the headquarters of a Dutch bank with the world's first commercial, fully transparent solar-power-generating windows.
The windows have solar cells installed in the edges at a specific angle that allows the incoming solar light to be efficiently transformed into electricity.
"Large commercial estates consume a lot of energy," said Ferdinand Grapperhaus, co-founder and CEO of the startup, called Physee. "If you want to make these buildings energy neutral, you never have enough roof surface. Therefore, activating the buildings' facades will significantly contribute to making the buildings energy neutral." [Top 10 Craziest Environmental Ideas]
The windows could generate 8 to 10 watts of power, according to Grapperhaus.
"This enables the user to charge a phone per every square meter [11 square feet] two times a day," he told Live Science.
The first installation of Physee's PowerWindows was unveiled in June in Eindhoven, in the south of the Netherlands. The headquarters of Rabobank, the Netherlands' biggest bank, has been fitted with 323 square feet (30 square m) of the PowerWindows. The bank's employees will be able to plug their smartphones into the windows using USB ports to charge their batteries, according to Physee.
Other buildings in the Netherlands are already lined up to receive the innovative solar technology, which has won Physee a place on the World Economic Forum's Technology Pioneers 2017 list.
At the end of June, the headquarters of the Amsterdam-based charity the Postcode Lottery were fitted with the PowerWindows. After that, Physee will move forward with its first large-scale project: a 19,000-square-foot (1,800 square m) installation in a large, newly built residential complex in Amsterdam, the Bold tower.
"I believe that every new type of glass needs power," Grapperhaus said. "Either for the glass to be tinted electrically or heated or inside windows there are these solar blinds, which are electrical and can go up and down but also more and more you can see video glass."
Grapperhaus said that the cost of the wiring that brings power from the grid to such windows is considerable in large commercial estates, and investing in power-generating windows would therefore make commercial sense.
Physee is already working on the next-generation technology that would triple the efficiency of the PowerWindows. The surface of the second generation of PowerWindows will be coated with a special material that transforms oncoming visible light into near-infrared light, which is then transported toward the solar cells in the edges of the windows.
"It works similarly to a [glow-in-the-dark star]," Grapperhaus said. "The difference is that the glow star emits the green wavelength, but the coating on our windows emits light in near-infrared wavelength."
The coating is based on the rare-earth metal thulium. Grapperhaus, together with his friend Willem Kesteloo, discovered the ability of thulium to transform a broad spectrum of light into near-infrared light in 2014, during their studies at the Delft University of Technology.
"Over time, our efficiency will improve further due to the development of better solar cells but also because of the economies of scale," Grapperhaus said. "Right now, we are looking for iconic projects all over the world to show that a large glass building can be made energy neutral in an aesthetic way."
Physee was among 30 early stage technology pioneers highlighted for 2017 and selected by the World Economic Forum for their potential to change the world. The list, announced June 14, consisted of firms developing various technologies, including artificial intelligence, cybersecurity solutions and biotechnology.
Physee's presence on the list shows that the world is starting to take climate change seriously, Grapperhaus said.
"Ten years ago, sustainability was something that wasn't taken very seriously — not by venture capitalists, not by many governments and neither by large corporations," Grapperhaus said. "What I have seen over the last three years is that corporations are becoming more and more responsible, governments are becoming more and more supportive, and venture capitalists are becoming more and more interested" in sustainability.
Stephen William Hawking CH CBE FRS FRSA (8 January 1942 – 14 March 2018) was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author, and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge. His scientific works included a collaboration with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity and the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, often called Hawking radiation. Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. He was a vigorous supporter of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.
Hawking was an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. In 2002, Hawking was ranked number 25 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. He was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge between 1979 and 2009 and achieved commercial success with works of popular science in which he discusses his own theories and cosmology in general. His book A Brief History of Time appeared on the British Sunday Times best-seller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks.
Hawking had a rare early-onset slow-progressing form of motor neurone disease (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis "ALS" or Lou Gehrig's disease) that gradually paralysed him over the decades. Even after the loss of his speech, he was still able to communicate through a speech-generating device, initially through use of a hand-held switch, and eventually by using a single cheek muscle. He died on 14 March 2018 at the age of 76
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Typically, engineers are thought of as builders and inventors—not as life savers. That distinction has traditionally been reserved for doctors, nurses, fire rescue professionals, and police officers. However, as technology increasingly becomes part of life-saving tools, procedures, medication, and equipment, engineers responsible for their development are seen as heroes in their own right.
Here are three ways engineers save lives:
#1 Biomedical Engineering
Some engineers, such as renowned MIT professor and IEEE Member Robert Langer, work on delivering large molecular drugs to targeted areas in the body to treat diseases, including cancer. Such materials science and chemical engineering is credited with improving upwards of 2 billion lives. Nanotechnology is a major focus area for Langer and others who are creating nanoparticles to target diseases. By manipulating polymer, lipid, and polymer-lipid hybrid nanocarriers, drug delivery is improved. Engineers are also working on controlled delivery systems for genetically engineered therapeutic proteins, DNA, and RNA. Additionally, engineers are working to develop replacement tissues and organs for transplantation.
According to the World Water Council, one in six people—that’s about 1.1 billion—don’t have access to clean drinking water. Contaminated water supplies are responsible for the vast majority (up to 80 percent) of all illness and disease. Furthermore, dirty water leads to the death of more people annually than all forms of violence combined. The World Health Organization reports that diarrhea, which is often caused by poor sanitation, is the third largest cause of death among children globally.
Preventing such unsanitary conditions by maintaining and improving water and sanitation infrastructure falls under the purview of civil engineers who design water and waste treatment plants. Environmental engineers have been instrumental in reducing lead contamination in the water supply. In addition, pharmaceuticals can disrupt the environment; through research, engineers are developing creative approaches to prevent such adversity.
It's no wonder, then, that many underdeveloped countries are searching for engineers, rather than doctors, to protect their population. Prevention of illness is more desirable than curing it, not only to save lives but also as a cost-savings measure. According to the United Nations, worldwide clean water access could be attained by spending US $30 billion dollars annually, which is roughly the amount the United States spends on bottled water every year.
#3 Earthquake Protection
An estimated 10,000 people die annually as a result of earthquakes, according to a study done by Florida International University, in Miami. Seismic engineering can help design and create buildings that can withstand even high-magnitude earthquakes. Unfortunately, many structures—particularly those in developing countries—aren’t constructed with that kind of planning. Haiti is an example of the devastating consequences that occur when engineers are not involved from the blueprint stage. In 2010, Haiti was hit by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that killed more than 100,000 people, largely because of collapsed buildings.
Engineers are using a variety of different bearings and dampers; rubber bearings, in particular, are among the most promising. Newly constructed buildings benefit from the advancements in building materials, but so do retrofitted buildings, such as San Francisco City Hall, which was completed in 1915. Rubber bearings, in conjunction with base-isolation technology, are inexpensive techniques engineers can employ to help prevent building collapse during or in the aftermath of an earthquake.
Engineers have left an indelible mark on world history. Innovative engineers have built stronger buildings, safer skyways and healthier environments. Their designs have helped people live longer and be more productive. Engineers manage to isolate the problems that need to be addressed, create solutions, and, along the way, change and even save lives.
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How to Use Garbage to Create Electricity
Waste is a huge problem in the world, but new endeavors are formulating plans to use garbage as a useful resource. One of these is to convert waste into electricity.
There are many items around us that can generate heat, and surprisingly waste products are one of these. Heat generated from waste to create electric power is a great benefit to the earth because it can eliminate materials that ruin the ozone layer. Molecular thermoelectric devices can help harvest energy directly from the sun and reduce the need for photovoltaic cells that are used in solar panels.
There is so much garbage on the planet that many countries wind up dumping their waste in lesser developed countries. This garbage, however, could be used to generate power so it is a resource that is being considered useful. Biofuel can be made from processed garbage, which would replace gasoline and decrease global carbon emissions by 80 per cent. Biofuels can be produced from living organisms or metabolic by-products (that is, organic or food waste products). For fuel to be regarded as a biofuel it must have over 80 per cent renewable materials.
The Benefits of Biogas
Biogas is a gas that is produced from organic matter. It is created by being broken down biologically to create electricity. It is a commonly used form of renewable energy, mainly used in domestic and industrial spheres. Biogas is a blend of carbon dioxide and methane, and it’s created by plant as well as animal waste. In the home, biogas is mainly used for cooking. It creates less pollution than traditional cooking gas.
The EGG Machine
You can get in on the action of turning your garbage into power by making an EGG – Electricity from Garbage Generator. This machine can produce electricity without harming the environment. It is easy to make and the bonus is that you can recycle your garbage instead of throwing it away. Make sure you only use organic materials from your trash, however.
What You’ll Need
A container. This will be used as the digester and it’s the place where your trash will be stored.
A second, larger container. This is where you will put the reservoir and water.
A bucket. This is your reservoir and it must therefore be smaller than the second container because it will be placed inside it.
Steam engine or cooker.
Hose. This will go from the reservoir to the steam engine or cooker.
Small stick. This is used to secure the hose in the reservoir.
Wire and ropes
Tap – this will control the exit of biogas from the reservoir.
Using a pencil, draw a circle on the top of the digester (the smaller container) that fits the diameter of the hose. Take the knife and make a hole on the circle you’ve drawn.
Cut the hose into two pieces, with one piece being longer than the other. The long piece will be used later to transfer the biogas from the reservoir to the boiler or cooker. The second piece will transfer the biogas from the digester to the reservoir.
Push about seven inches of the short piece of hose into the digester through the hole you have made and seal the hole with the silicone to prevent the biogas from escaping.
You can see a diagram for these steps here.
Fill the big container with water.
Fasten the hose from the digester and the longer piece of hose to a small stick. You can do this with the use of wire or rope. Remember not to make the fastening too tight as you want the biogas to move through the hoses.
Make two holes on the the side of the bucket by using the hammer and nail.
Secure the stick and two pieces of hose to the bucket using wires (you can loop the wire through the holes you made in step 6. Be sure that the stick and hoses are near the base of the bucket.
You can see diagrams for the above steps here.
Place the bucket upside down inside the large container that is filled with water. Push it to the base of the container so that you get rid of any air. Make sure that it is surrounded by water completely.
Put a tap in the end of the long hose that will transfer the biogas from the reservoir to the boiler. This will control how much gas can exit.
Put the digester on a stand so that it is higher than the reservoir. You can place trash in the digester with the use of a cone
Place organic trash into the digester and wait for it to be consumed by bacteria. This is where the biogas is produced. It’s important to remember that this gas is flammable! Biogas produces CO2, however it creates 50 per cent more energy for the same amount of CO2 production when compared to gasoline, so it is not as much of an environmental pollutant.
Once the biogas is produced, it is collected in the hose and stored in the reservoir.
The hose will transmit the biogas over to the boiler in order to make electricity that can be used for various purposes, such as to heat water or cook.
To make electricity, you will require a boiler and steam engine. The biogas will warm up the water to be boiled and then the steam will be transferred to the steam engine
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