Diatoms: Nature’s nanotechnologists

Microscopy images above show two model diatom species: Thalassiosira pseudonana (left) and Phaeodactylum tricornutum (right). If you live in Boston, nanofactories of sophistication well beyond anything the human race has come up with are just a Charles River away. Diatoms (seen in the images above) are unicellular photosynthetic microalgae that can be found in freshwater and marine environments worldwide. These tiny creatures have plastids with … Continue reading Diatoms: Nature’s nanotechnologists

The Potential of Nanotechnology for Diabetes Management

Diabetes is a growing worldwide issue. In the United States alone, there are 25.8 million affected patients []. The annual cost of medical treatment (e.g. management and monitoring) and indirect expenses (such as disability and unemployment benefits) are $174 billion []. While there are several means for patients with diabetes mellitus to manage their condition, none of them are perfect. official pharmacy canada The Biological … Continue reading The Potential of Nanotechnology for Diabetes Management

Black Silicon: Working around the current limits of solar cells

For many years, sunlight has been seen as a potential gold mine of useable energy for our global needs.  Having successfully used the sun to grow food to feed the world, people are now trying to harvest the sun’s energy and convert it into electric energy.  The principle way this has been accomplished is through the use of solar cells, also known as solar photovoltaics … Continue reading Black Silicon: Working around the current limits of solar cells

Custom-Made Body Parts: Advances in Tissue Engineering

— Every organ in our bodies performs a specialized role. So what happens when one of these organs fails or is damaged? Some animals can re-grow or replace lost tissue – newts can regenerate entire lost limbs – but unfortunately human organ regeneration is limited mainly to the liver. For decades, the only solution has been organ transplantation, but the demand for organs far exceeds the number of donors, which causes the waitlists for most transplants to be quite long. Also, transplants are not always successful, and it can be difficult to find a “donor match” which will be compatible with the patient’s body. However, as technology and researchers’ understanding of the human body have advanced, the field of tissue engineering is making some serious breakthroughs, and with this progress comes the promise of custom-made organs that could not only keep pace with demand, but also avoid rejection since they could be made with a patient’s own cells. Continue reading Custom-Made Body Parts: Advances in Tissue Engineering

Silk-Stabilized Vaccines and Antibiotics: Ending the “Cold Chain”

— Most of us have probably received vaccines and antibiotics at some point in our lives, and while they may have seemed to work like magic at the time, medical professionals’ precise understanding of the drugs’ mechanisms of action enables their use as the primary tools for fighting infection. Vaccines are made out of pieces of “dead” viruses or bacteria, and when administered, these particles train the body to recognize and attack similar foreign invaders.[] Medical personnel typically administer vaccines to patients in at-risk populations as preventive measures against viral infections, such as the measles, the mumps, and rubella (recall the dreaded MMR shot). Conversely, medical personnel turn to antibiotics to fight a bacterial infection once it has already begun. Antibiotics are typically composed of much smaller molecules than are vaccines.[] These small molecules directly attack bacteria, interfering with cellular processes the bacteria needs to grow and reproduce (and cause a nasty infection). Continue reading Silk-Stabilized Vaccines and Antibiotics: Ending the “Cold Chain”

The Promise of Organic Solar Cells: Flexible, Cheap, and Printable

— The world is excited about solar cells – and with good reason. Imagine the City of the Future, where every exposed surface has solar cells on it, converting the sun’s energy into electricity. This vision could include solar cells on windows, on top of our cars, on the surface of our cell phones, or on our clothes. Instead of using energy from coal or oil, which pollutes the environment, we would be using the ever-present, pollution-free energy available from the sun. Scientists and engineers must work on improving solar cells if we want to make this futuristic city a reality. Continue reading The Promise of Organic Solar Cells: Flexible, Cheap, and Printable

Harnessing the power of the Sun: How can raspberries and genetically modified viruses help?

If you’ve watched the movie The Day after Tomorrow, you must remember the climate-related natural disasters that ravaged the human civilization. Though the events depicted in the movie are unrealistic, we are still dramatically altering Earth’s environment and climate through our current energy policies and practices. How can we mitigate some of the effects of man-made global warming? One possible solution is to increase our … Continue reading Harnessing the power of the Sun: How can raspberries and genetically modified viruses help?

Graphene: The coolest material that shouldn’t exist

In 2004, Konstantin Novoselov, Andre Geim and their colleagues from Manchester, UK and Chernogolovka, Russia reported the existence of graphene, a two-dimensional sheet of carbon that is 1 atomic layer thick. This discovery took the world by surprise because, almost 70 years earlier, physicists had argued convincingly that materials like graphene would be too thermodynamically unstable to exist. Graphene was immediately hailed as the “next … Continue reading Graphene: The coolest material that shouldn’t exist