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Gizmorama - August 1, 2016

Good Morning,

I just don't know what to think. Here's the first line from today's first story... "Scientists have found a way to film crystal structures morphing in real time." What?! Crystal structures morph? What are crystal structures? And why do they morph?

If you have asked any of the many questions that I just did, please read the first story and then enjoy the second which is just as interesting, maybe even more so.

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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* New nano-movies show crystal structures changing in real time *

PULLMAN, Wash. - Scientists have found a way to film crystal structures morphing in real time.

"We're making movies," Yogendra Gupta, a researcher at Washington State University, said in a news release. "We're watching them in real time. We're making nanosecond movies."

Gupta is the director of Washington State's Institute of Shock Physics, where researchers have been perfecting an imaging technique that uses shock waves to visualize the molecular structure of various materials.

The latest technological breakthrough allows researchers to document structural transformation under pressure, a task that until now relied exclusively on computer modeling.

"For the first time, we can determine the structure," Gupta said. "We've been assuming some things but we had never measured it."

In the lab, Gupta and his colleagues exposed silicon to intense pressure and recorded its transformation from a cubic diamond structure to a hexagonal structure. They did so by subjecting the silicon to high-brilliance X-ray beams produced by the Advanced Photon Source synchrotron -- a device at the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.

The X-rays create diffraction patterns as they pass through the morphing material. The patterns are sensed and transcribed in 5-billionths of a second, revealing the transforming structure in real time.

"People haven't used X-rays like this before," said researcher Stefan Turneaure. "Getting these multiple snapshots in a single impact experiment is new."

Turneaure is the lead author of a new paper detailing the experiments, published this week in the journal Physical Review Letters.

"What I'm very excited about is we are showing how the crystal lattice, how this diamond structure that silicon starts out with, is related to this ending structure, this hexagonal structure," said Gupta. "We were able to show how the two structures are linked in real time."

* New genetic sequencing technology enables 'DNA tasting' *

NOTTINGHAM, England - Researchers at the University of Nottingham announced they've found a way to selectively sequence DNA fragments in real time.

The method relies on a traditional technique called nanopore sequencing, but allows users to target and sequence fragments containing specific pre-selected coding.

Researchers are working to fuse their method with a new portable DNA sequencing technology designed by biotech group Oxford Nanopore Technologies. NASA recently used the pocket-sized device, dubbed MinION, to try to sequence DNA in microgravity.

"This is the first time that direct selection of specific DNA molecules has been shown on any device," Nottingham researcher Matt Loose said in a news release. "We hope that it will enable many future novel applications, especially for portable sequencing."

"This makes sequencing as efficient as possible and will provide a viable, informatics based alternative to traditional wet lab enrichment techniques," Loose added. "The application of this approach to a wide number of problems from pathogen detection to sequencing targeted regions of the human genome is now within reach."

The technology utilizes a series of nanopores in a membrane to selectively sequence fragments of DNA samples. A current running through the membrane's nanopores is augmented by the DNA fragments. Cloud computing allows the shifting current signatures to be translated into DNA code in real time. The processing happens fast enough that the nanopores can pick up a targeted code -- or a lack of one -- before the segment is finished being sequenced.

If a targeted code is recognized, the fragment can be fully sequenced. Or the nanopore can be instructed to ignore a fragment and move on.

Researchers say the new method can cut down on the time it takes to sequence DNA and could also help identify specific DNA in a biological sample potentially contaminated with other DNA.

Some researchers have dubbed the real-time selective sequencing method "DNA tasting."

The technology was detailed in a new paper, soon to be published in the journal Nature Methods.


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