Nuclear battery developed


Long-lasting, water-based nuclear battery developed

Long-lasting, water-based nuclear battery developed

Researchers working at the University of Missouri (MU) claim to have produced a prototype of a nuclear-powered, water-based battery that is said to be both longer-lasting and more efficient than current battery technologies and may eventually be used as a dependable power supply in vehicles, spacecraft, and other applications where longevity, reliability, and efficiency are paramount.

“Betavoltaics, a battery technology that generates power from radiation, has been studied as an energy source since the 1950s,” said associate professor Jae W. Kwon, of the College of Engineering at MU. “Controlled nuclear technologies are not inherently dangerous. We already have many commercial uses of nuclear technologies in our lives including fire detectors in bedrooms and emergency exit signs in buildings.”

Utilizing the radioactive isotope strontium-90 to enhance the electrochemical energy produced in a water-based solution, the researchers have incorporated a nanostructured titanium dioxide electrode acting as a catalyst for water decomposition. That is, the catalyst assists the breakdown of water in conjunction with the applied radiation into assorted oxygen compounds.

As a result, when high-energy beta radiation passes through the platinum and the nanoporous titanium dioxide, electron-hole pairs are produced within the titanium dioxide, creating an electron flow and a resultant electric current.

“Water acts as a buffer and surface plasmons created in the device turned out to be very useful in increasing its efficiency,” Kwon said. “The ionic solution is not easily frozen at very low temperatures and could work in a wide variety of applications including car batteries and, if packaged properly, perhaps spacecraft.”

By no means the first-ever nuclear battery – the NanoTritium device from City Labs being one recent notable example – this is the first nuclear battery that has been produced to exploit the inherent advantages of radiolysis (water-splitting with radiation) to produce an electric current, at higher energy levels and lower temperatures than previously possible. And at much greater claimed efficiencies than other water-splitting energy production techniques.

This is because, unlike other forms of photocatalytic methods of water-splitting to produce energy, the high-energy beta radiation in the MU device produces free radicals in water such that the kinetic energy is recombined or trapped in water molecules so that the radiation can be converted into electricity – using the platinum/titanium dioxide electrode previously described – to achieve water splitting efficiently and at room temperature.

As a result, whilst solar cells use a similar mechanism for the transference of energy via hole-electron pairs, very few free radicals are produced because the photon energies are principally in the visible spectrum and subsequently at lower levels of energy.

Beta radiation produced by the strontium source, on the other hand, with its ability to enhance the chemical reactions involving free radicals at greater electron energy levels, is a much more efficient way to produce extremely long-lasting and reliable energy. So much so, that the water-based nuclear battery may well offer a viable alternative to the solar cell as a sustainable, low-pollution energy source.



Bone marrow created on a chip

Scientists create “bone marrow on a chip”:


Scientists create "bone marrow on a chip"

Scientists create “bone marrow on a chip”

The trend of growing organs and tissues in a lab is picking up speed. The newest lab-grown breakthrough is Harvard’s “bone-marrow-on-a-chip.” The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard recently published their experiment news in the journal Nature Methods.

The researchers said the invention will enable scientists to analyze the effects of drugs and certain agents on whole bone marrow without animal testing. It also allows scientists to determine how radiation hurts bone marrow and other alternatives that could help. Initial testing showed bone marrow withers under radiation unless a drug that specifically fights off radiation poisoning is involved. The chip could also serve as a temporary “home” for a cancer patient’s bone marrow while they undergo radiation treatment. Bone marrow produces all blood cell types, and the Harvard chips allow the bone marrow to perform these essential functions while “in vitro.”

This chip is one of many that the Wyss Institute team has developed, alongside lung, heart, kidney, and gut chips. To build it, the team put dried bone powder into an open circular mold the size of a coin battery. This mold was then implanted under the skin on the back of a mouse. Eight weeks later, scientists removed the mold and examined it under a microscope to find a honeycomb structure filled in the middle of the mold, looking just like natural trabecular bone. The marrow of this looked identical to normal marrow as well. It was filled with red blood cells, mimicking the marrow of the mouse. When sorting and organizing the different bone marrow blood cells, the team found the types and numbers were the same as that in a mouse thighbone. The engineered bone marrow was then placed in a microfluidic device and received a steady supply of nutrients and waste removal to imitate circulation the tissue would normally be exposed to in the body. The marrow-on-a-chip lasted in the lab for one week, long enough to test it with radiation.

Researchers are hoping this will eventually lead to growing human bone marrow in mice, as well as using the blood cells produced on these chips to help other organs grown on chips in the lab.



New chip incorporating ultra-low consumption

New chip consumes 50 million times less than a conventional light bulb:

New chip consumes 50 million times less than a conventional light bulb:

New chip consumes 50 million times less than a conventional light bulb:



Low consumption means the device can be powered by reducing energy collected from the environment ( light, vibrations , temperature variations , etc. . ) Thus, energy independence is achieved , as no batteries are required for operation .

The research , authored by Antonio López- Martín and Iñigo Cenoz -Villanueva , was awarded the prize for the best presentation at the 7th International Conference on Sensor Technology (ICTS ) . This is a major international forum in the field of sensor technology and applications; 188 works from 38 countries were submitted in this latest edition.

The winning paper was the result of the thesis project of telecommunication engineering student Cenoz – Iñigo Villanueva. His project was supervised by Antonio Lopez – Martin, Professor, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Deputy Director of the School of Industrial Engineering and Telecommunications .

Wireless sensor networks are the main application of the developed device. These networks are composed of two main elements: the sensor nodes that detect the parameters of the individual or the surroundings (temperature , humidity , heart rate , presence, etc. ) , and the actuators that trigger actions ( to switch devices on or outside , through the generation of neurological stimuli, etc. . ) Sensors and actuators communicate with each other and with other networks such as the Internet via radio waves without wires. It is the technology that in recent years it has boomed because of its many applications .

This research group Communications and Microwave Signal NUP / UPNA ‘ s was recognized again in 2012 to mark the 12th Talgo Award for Technological Innovation . On that occasion the winning project was aimed at providing an ecosystem of railroad with intelligence through wireless sensor networks for ultra low power consumption whenever possible driven by the available environmental energy in railway wagons themselves.

Engineering babies is a moral obligation

Genetically screening our offspring to make them better people is just ‘responsible parenting’, claims an eminent Oxford academic:

 engineering 'ethical' babies is a moral obligation

engineering ‘ethical’ babies is a moral obligation

Professor Julian Savulescu said that creating so-called designer babies could be considered a “moral obligation” as it makes them grow up into “ethically better children”. The expert in practical ethics said that we should actively give parents the choice to screen out personality flaws in their children as it meant they were then less likely to “harm themselves and others”. The academic, who is also editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medical Ethics, made his comments in an article in the latest edition of Reader’s Digest. He explained that we are now in the middle of a genetic revolution and that although screening, for all but a few conditions, remained illegal it should be welcomed. He said that science is increasingly discovering that genes have a significant influence on personality – with certain genetic markers in embryo suggesting future characteristics. By screening in and screening out certain genes in the embryos, it should be possible to influence how a child turns out. In the end, he said that “rational design” would help lead to a better, more intelligent and less violent society in the future. “Surely trying to ensure that your children have the best, or a good enough, opportunity for a great life is responsible parenting?” wrote Prof Savulescu, the Uehiro Professor in practical ethics. “So where genetic selection aims to bring out a trait that clearly benefits an individual and society, we should allow parents the choice. “To do otherwise is to consign those who come after us to the ball and chain of our squeamishness and irrationality. “Indeed, when it comes to screening out personality flaws, such as potential alcoholism, psychopathy and disposition to violence, you could argue that people have a moral obligation to select ethically better children. “They are, after all, less likely to harm themselves and others.” “If we have the power to intervene in the nature of our offspring, rather than consigning them to the natural lottery, then we should.” He said that we already routinely screen embryos and foetuses for conditions such as cystic fibrosis and Down’s syndrome and couples can test embryos for inherited bowel and breast cancer genes. Rational design is just a natural extension of this, he said. He said that unlike the eugenics movements, which fell out of favour when it was adopted by the Nazis, the system would be voluntary and allow parents to choose the characteristics of their children. “We’re routinely screening embryos and foetuses for conditions such as cystic fibrosis and Down’s syndrome, and there’s little public outcry,” he said. “What’s more, few people protested at the decisions in the mid- 2000s to allow couples to test embryos for inherited bowel and breast cancer genes, and this pushes us a lot close to creating designer humans.” “Whether we like it or not, the future of humanity is in our hands now. Rather than fearing genetics, we should embrace it. We can do better than chance.”