Smart Surface Could Build Nanostructures

A smart material that can be switched back and forth between glassy and rubbery could be used to assemble tiny structures placed on its surface.

Researchers at Iowa State University in Ames, led by principal investigators Vladimir Tsukruk and Eugene Zubarev, have shown that the material can be switched back and forth on a scale of just a few molecules.

They say that it could be used for directed assembly of inorganic nanoparticles and nanotubes, as well as to precisely control liquids flowing through microfluidic devices that hold promise for biomedical research and medical diagnostics.

Y-shaped molecules

The material comprises a layer of Y-shaped molecules that are attached at the base of the Y.

One of the upright arms is a polymer that is hydrophilic-attracted to water-while the other arm is a polymer that is hydrophobic-repelled by water.

When exposed to water, the molecules collapse into mounds about eight nanometers wide with the hydrophilic arms shielding the hydrophobic arms.

When exposed to an organic solvent such as toluene, the molecules flip so that the hydrophobic arms are on top.

Ordered patterns

The properties of the two states, such as their stickiness, are dramatically different.

While the arms currently collapse in a random scatter, the researchers are aiming to create ordered patterns that will allow them to make novel surfaces with controllable properties.

A good night of sleep can improve memory and learning

A new study physically shows that a good night’s sleep improves a person’s memory and learning. Using an advanced microscope, a research team split between China and the US was able to see the formation of synapses, or the connection among brain cells.

The study showed that the benefits of sleep cannot be reaped in other ways. Even intense training can not make up for lost sleep.

sleep memory learning

Scientists have know for years that memory and learning had a direct link to the amount of sleep people get a night. However, researchers never had figured out how they actually link up. Until now, that is.

Researchers New York University School of Medicine and Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School were able to train mice to to walk on top of a rotating rod. Afterwards, they looked into the living brains of the mice with a microscope to see the differences between mice who got sleep and mice who were sleep deprived.

They noticed that mice that get enough sleep have a significantly larger number of new connections formed between neurons than the mice who were sleep deprived. The study went on to note that they disrupted the stages of sleep. This lead to the realization that deep sleep or slow wave sleep better helps with memory and learning than other stages of sleep.

“Finding out sleep promotes news connections between neurons is new and nobody knew about this before. This is just the latest piece of science to highlight the heavy importance of a good night’s sleep,” said Professor Wen-Bio Gan, from New York University.

In a study done in 2013, it was also found that sleep can wash away waste toxins that are accumulated over the day. On top of that, getting a good night’s sleep can help prevent the body from getting numerous medical problems, like diabetes, cancer, or heart disease.

Although sleep is so important, many experts are worried that people do not get nearly enough sleep. With life’s many distractions, like smartphones, tablets, and constant lights being shone in through windows, people might not be getting they need.

Rape Drug Detection Made Possible With a New Nail Polish From NCSU Students

Four students from North Carolina State University have invented a nail polish that detects rape drugs added to a drink.

Called Undercover Colors, it can help check whether a drink has been tampered with, as it is able to react if exposed to rape drugs Rohypnol and GHB. To test for safety, it’s enough to stir the drink with a finger.

The nail polish’s developers, Tyler Confrey-Maloney, Stephen Gray, Ankesh Madan and Tasso Von Windheim, met while studying the same Materials Science & Engineering major.

“All of us have been close to someone who has been through the terrible experience, and we began to focus on preventive solutions, especially those that could be integrated into products that women already use,” they said. “And so the idea of creating a nail polish that detects date rape drugs was born.”

To produce the nail polish, they have used lab space through the College of Veterinary Medicine. The lab is one of the only locations in North Carolina allowing scientists to test DEA Schedule 3 and Schedule 1 drugs.

Their technical advisor throughout the process has been Dr. Nathaniel Finney from the NCSU Chemistry Department, a world-renowned expert on indicator development.

The young inventors are raising money to improve the prototype through a crowdfunding campaign.

A recent Washington Post analysis revealed that there were more than 3,900 allegations of forcible sex offenses on college campuses nationwide in 2012, a 50-percent growth over three years.

Cell-friendly Particles Promise Safer Gene Therapy

A product claimed to be the world’s first biodegradable gene carrier has hit the market, promising wider and safer treatment of genetic diseases.

Developed by Oceanside, California-based Nitto Denko Group, a maker of biopolymer-based biomaterials, the carrier could be used for gene therapy.

Gene therapy involves the correction of defective genes responsible for disease. By replacing absent or faulty genes with working ones, it can allow the body to make normal rather than disease-causing proteins.

Seeking safer transportation

Typically, therapeutic genes are delivered by a carrier molecule called a vector. Vectors are usually either viruses or polymer materials.

Viruses, however, are known to have problems such as injecting their genetic payload incorrectly. It is believed that this led to the recent development of leukemia in children receiving gene therapy for severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome.

Polymer particles have been of interest as an alternative, but until now they have been less effective at transferring genes and more toxic to cells.

Efficient and nontoxic

Toxicity appears to be caused by polymer particles accumulating in cells.

Nitto Denko’s polymer particles, however, biodegrade into small, nontoxic molecules that actually promote cell survival and health.

The polymer delivery system has proven safe and highly efficient, transferring genes at up to 95% efficiency with less than 5% toxicity.

It is currently being sold for research purposes through Carlsbad, California-based Qbiogene under the product name CytoPure.

Nitto Denko hopes to develop applications for the animal experiment and human gene therapy market.

Virginia tops “State of the Internet” Alaska claims slowest Internet speed

The latest “State of the Internet” study crowned Virginia with the speediest Internet access, while Alaska was ranked the slowest in the United States.

The report was conducted and published by Akamai Technologies. Surprisingly, California was not stamped as one of the states offering the fastest Internet services.

All criteria used in ranking the fastest and the slowest Internet services in U.S. include the exact location of the house where the service is being used, the health of your computer, the broadband provider, the quantity of computer memory, the programs that are running, add-on programs, spyware and viruses.

Apparently, Akamai Technologies is the leading provider of cloud services. In administering the study, the latter pointed out the average Internet speed of every state in the U.S.

Next to Virginia is Delaware and Massachusetts, with 13.1 Mbps. Rhode Island followed at 12.9 Mbps; Washington, D.C., 12.8 Mbps; Washington, 12.5 Mbps; New Hampshire, 12.3 Mbps; Utah, 12.1 Mbps; Michigan, 11.8 Mbps; and Connecticut with 11.7 Mbps.

Sadly, California, despite being the birthplace of high tech industry, ranked No. 20 in the “State of the Internet” report. Its average Internet speed was 10.9 Mbps. This was due to the many rural areas found in that state that decreased their average state speed.

Landing in the bottom 10 with the slowest Internet services are Idaho, Louisiana and Missouri with 7.7 Mbps; New Mexico and Mississippi, 7.6 Mbps; West Virginia, 7.5 Mbps; Montana, Kentucky and Arkansas, 7.3 Mbps; and Alaska, 7.0 Mbps.

South Korea’s whopping average Internet speed of 23.6 Mbps surely shocked the United States. It was not even close with that of Virginia’s.