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Surgeons have used metal screws to re-assemble broken bones for years, but there are drawbacks: if the metal corrodes, they have to come out. Biodegradable screws aren’t as strong and can cause inflammation. So a team of Harvard and Tufts scientists came up with screws and plates that are as tough as metal, but biodegradable. The trick? They’re made out of silk.
When you’re working with tiny nanoparticles, you need extremely delicate tools. Like, say, tweezers that can manipulate particles 1,\000 times thinner than a human hair without physically touching them. That’s exactly what researchers at the Institute of Photonic Sciences have come up with: optical nanotweezers that use light to move tiny particles in three dimensions. It’s not sci-fi anymore.
Because solar panels are designed to accumulate as much light from the sun as possible, they’re typically very dark in colour. It makes them more efficient, but also kind of an eyesore, minimising their adoption. So researchers at the University of Michigan have developed what they believe to be the world’s first semi-transparent, coloured solar panels.
Wouldn’t it be cool if you could skip to the next track without taking your phone out of your pocket — or without touching anything at all? Or if you could adjust the thermostat with the flick of a wrist? You may soon be able to thanks to new gesture-recognition technology. It doesn’t even require batteries!
To get a super-detailed X-ray view inside a cell — right down to the individual molecules — scientists dunk the cell they’re looking at in preservative chemicals. That not only kills the cell, it changes its internal structure ever so slightly, meaning researchers aren’t getting an exact look at the cell’s natural state. Now, scientists at Germany’s DESY Research Center have found a way around that, with a technique that’s produced the world’s first X-ray of an individual living cell.
Last week, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics published the most exact value ever observed for the weight of a single electron — a value 13 times more accurate than the previous estimate. And the Penning trap, the kooky looking device shown above, was crucial in obtaining this measurement.
Giving a robot a chainsaw sounds like just about the most unsafest thing mankind could ever do. But in this case, ironically, it’s actually making things safer for humans since this robot is designed to autonomously climb and prune very tall trees.
Synthetic muscles are generally expensive, weak, and not very durable — not exactly a welcome replacement for natural muscle. Thankfully, a research team led by University of Texas at Dallas Professor Ray Baughman just turned all of that around, making wickedly strong artificial muscle fibres from nothing more than fishing wire.