Saturday, March 24, 2012
Science Marches On
In Chapter 14 of Spiritual Tsunami, I reported on a number of scientific initiatives currently being worked on. Some have potential for great benefit and others could be subverted to evil purposes.
Scientists around the nation (e.g. Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and University of Texas at Dallas) are working on new technology that has the potential to greatly benefit mankind.
Potential Medicine Delivery Vehicle
The Stanford Daily reported on research being done at Stanford University on a miniature electronic device which can "swim" through a person's bloodstream to deliver medicine, guide catheters, and perform other precise medical operations, using a tiny computer chip. The little microchip measures just 3-by-4 millimeters, receives power and directions wirelessly, and uses electromagnetic induction for locomotion through fluids like human veins and arteries.
The team, led by Stanford electrical engineering professor Ada Poon, had several challenges in developing the chip, which works by integrating some new technologies and building on Poon's previous research. The Stanford University School of Engineering reported:
Poon was not so much in search of a new technology; she was in search of a new math. The antenna on the device Poon demonstrated at the conference yesterday is just two millimeters square; small enough to travel through the bloodstream.
She has developed two types of self-propelled devices. One drives electrical current directly through the fluid to create a directional force that pushes the device forward. This type of device is capable of moving at just over half-a-centimeter per second. The second type switches current back-and-forth in a wire loop to produce swishing motion similar to the motion a kayaker makes to paddle upstream.
“There is considerable room for improvement and much work remains before these devices are ready for medical applications,” said Poon. “But for the first time in decades the possibility seems closer than ever.”
Super-Strong Artificial Muscle Fiber
Inspired by a visit from the Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA), Dr. Ray H. Baughman and his team at the NanoTech Institute at the University of Texas at Dallas have created artificial muscles by spinning carbon nanotubes into yarn that is stronger than steel.
In an interview with EarthSky reported in SmartPlanet, Dr. Baughman said:
A catalyst-contacting carbon nanotube electrode is used as fuel-cell electrode to convert chemical energy to electrical energy as a super-capacitor electrode to store the electrical energy. It is also used as a muscle electrode to transform the electrical energy to mechanical energy. Then, a fuel-powered charge injection in a carbon nanotube electrode produces the changes that are needed for it to function. This is possible due to a combination of quantum mechanical and electrostatic effects present on the nanoscale, Baughman said.
Baughman told Jorge Salazar with EarthSky that a carbon nanotube is a little cylinder of carbon that can be one-thousandth the diameter for a human hair. Further, the individual carbon nanotubes are twisted together until it [reminds one of] some sort of a yarn.
Potential applications “range from robots and morphing air vehicles to dynamic Braille displays and muscles.”
Wirelessly controlled drug-delivery chip
MIT professors Robert Langer and Michael Cima had the idea to develop a programmable, wirelessly controlled microchip that would deliver drugs after implantation in a patient’s body. This week, the MIT researchers and scientists from MicroCHIPS Inc. reported that they have successfully used such a chip to administer daily doses of an osteoporosis drug normally given by injection:
“Compliance is very important in a lot of drug regimens, and it can be very difficult to get patients to accept a drug regimen where they have to give themselves injections,” says Cima, the David H. Koch Professor of Engineering at MIT. “This avoids the compliance issue completely, and points to a future where you have fully automated drug regimens.”