Science Briefs

June 23, 2013 

3-D printing creates tiny batteries

3-D printing can now be used to print lithium-ion microbatteries the size of a grain of sand.

The printed microbatteries could supply electricity to tiny devices in fields from medicine to communications, including many that have lingered on lab benches for lack of a battery small enough to fit the device, yet provide enough stored energy to power them.

To make the microbatteries, a team based at Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign printed precisely interlaced stacks of tiny battery electrodes, each less than the width of a human hair.

The results were published last week in the online edition of Advanced Materials. In recent years engineers have invented many miniaturized devices, including medical implants, flying insect-like robots, and tiny cameras and microphones that fit on a pair of glasses.

But often the batteries that power them are as large or larger than the devices themselves – which defeats the purpose. WYSS.HARVARD.EDU

Body benefits by creating its own ‘rotten egg’ gas

A new study confirms directly what scientists previously knew only indirectly: The poisonous “rotten egg” gas hydrogen sulfide is generated by our body’s growing cells.

Hydrogen sulfide is normally toxic, but in small amounts it plays a role in cardiovascular health. Along with nitric oxide, carbon monoxide and others in this emerging class of gaseous signaling molecules, it assists the body’s large proteins. Large proteins do much of the functional work in the body, such as digesting the food we eat and harnessing the energy in the oxygen we breathe.

In the study – described online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – chemists developed a chemical probe that reacts and lights up when live human cells generate hydrogen sulfide, said chemist Alexander Lippert of Southern Methodist University, in Dallas. The probe allows researchers to observe the process through a microscope, and provides new insights that can help scientists attack diseases by starving the nutrient supply to a tumor, Lippert said.

“When tumors grow they need a lot of blood support because they need the nutrients to support their rapid growth. If you can stop blood vessel formation you could starve the tumor and the tumor will die. So inhibiting (hydrogen sulfide) formation might be a way to treat cancer using this method.” SMU.EDU

Fruit flies live longer with extract

The herbal extract of a yellow-flowered mountain plant long used for stress relief was found to increase the lifespan of fruit fly populations by an average of 24 percent, according to University of California at Irvine researchers.

Not only did Rhodiola improve lifespan an average of 24 percent in both sexes and multiple strains of flies, but it also delayed the loss of physical performance in flies as they aged and even extended the lives of old flies.

Rhodiola has already shown possible health benefits in humans, such as decreasing fatigue, anxiety and depression; boosting mood, memory and stamina; and preventing altitude sickness.

Grown in cold climates at high elevations, the herb has been used for centuries by Scandinavians and Russians to reduce stress. It’s also thought to have antioxidant properties. NEWS.UCI.EDU

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