July 21, 2019

Week In STEM – 16th April

World’s first device lets paralysed man move his hand with his mind

A 24-year-old quadriplegic man has regained his ability to pick up objects, stir liquids, swipe a credit card, and yep, play Guitar Hero, thanks to a new brain implant that allows him to control the muscle movement in his arms, hands, and fingers with just his thoughts.

The world-first device, called NeuroLife, allows the brain to communicate directly with muscles in paralysed limbs – effectively bypassing the damaged spinal cord altogether. And as you can see in the video below, the results are pretty freaking cool.

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This new smart scalpel can automatically locate cancerous tumours in the brain

There’s little room for error when it comes to removing brain tumours, which is why a new ‘smart scalpel’ developed by a researcher in Belgium is looking so promising: it enables surgeons to distinguish between cancerous and healthy tissue in the brain in a matter of seconds.

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The first direct proof of stable carbyne – the world’s strongest material

Elemental carbon is extremely versatile, and scientists have long been able to create new carbon allotropes that make for super durable and multi-functioning materials – such as everyone’s favourite material, graphene.

The ‘carbon family’ is one very resourceful family. But even with all these developments, carbyne remained elusive. In fact, it is the only form of carbon that has not been synthesised, even though researchers have been studying its properties for over 50 years.

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New male contraception to stop sperm form swimming to egg

Researchers studying strategies to develop a non-hormonal approach to male contraception have reached an important milestone in their work: discovering a way to produce a key enzyme, found only in sperm, in sufficient quantities that they can begin designing drugs to stop the sperm from swimming to the egg.

The discovery represents a meaningful step toward a birth control drug for men that the researchers hope will be – unlike the pill for women – free of side-effects typical of hormonal contraception.

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Clean energy generated using bacteria-powered solar panel

For the first time ever, researchers have connected nine biological-solar (bio-solar) cells into a bio-solar panel. Then they continuously produced electricity from the panel and generated the most wattage of any existing small-scale bio-solar cells – 5.59 microwatts.

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Higher levels of vitamin D correspond to lower cancer risk

Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report that higher levels of vitamin D – specifically serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D – are associated with a correspondingly reduced risk of cancer of many types including, cancer of the breast, lung, colon and bladder.

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Fresh fruit associated with lower risk of heart attack and stroke

People who eat fresh fruit on most days are at lower risk of heart attack and stroke than people who rarely eat fresh fruit, according to new research. The findings come from a seven-year study of half a million adults in China, where fresh fruit consumption is much lower than in countries like the UK or US

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WiFi capacity doubled at less than half the size

An engineer has integrated a non-reciprocal circulator and a full-duplex radio on a nanoscale silicon chip for the first time. This breakthrough technology needs only one antenna, thus enabling an even smaller overall system than one he developed last yea. It could, he says, revolutionize the field of telecommunications.

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Mice with genetic defect for human stuttering

Mice that vocalize in a repetitive, halting pattern similar to human stuttering may provide insight into a condition that has perplexed scientists for centuries, according to a new study. These mice, which carry a mutation in a gene associated with stuttering in humans, may help scientists understand the biological basis of the disorder, and potentially lead to treatments.

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Physicists build engine consisting of one atom

A team of researchers led by Professor Kilian Singer, head of the project at Mainz University and now Professor at the University of Kassel, used a Paul trap to capture a single electrically charged calcium atom. This atom can be heated with the help of electrically-generated noise and cooled by using a laser beam. As a result, the atom is subjected to a thermodynamic cycle. This means that the particle moves back and forth within the trap, thus replicating the stroke of a typical engine. The atom not only acts in the same way as an engine but also stores the energy.

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