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Gizmorama - July 25, 2016

Good Morning,

One of today's stories will have you in stitches, maybe. Our first story is about the development of "smart" stitches. They're stitches that gather a patient's diagnostic data and communicates it in real time. How amazing is that?

In our second story learn about what scientists are using to derive hydrogen from grass. It's a rather bright idea, if you ask me.

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

Until Next Time,

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* New 'smart' thread collects diagnostic data from human tissue *

BOSTON - The next time you have surgery, you may get sewn up with "smart" stitches.

Researchers at Tufts University have developed a new type of surgical thread capable of gathering diagnostic data and communicating it wirelessly in real time.

The development process allows scientists to integrate nano-scale sensors, electronics and microfluidics into a range of thread types -- something as basic as cotton or as complex as synthetics.

Once dipped in a series of sensory chemicals, the threads can measure the pressure, stress, strain and temperature inside a region of tissue. The smart threads can also measure pH and glucose levels. Such data can help doctors keep tabs on the healing process and alert caretakers to the early signs of infection.

The thread could be sewn into organs, wounds or orthopedic implants. The thread has yet to be tested in human patients, but it has revealed its potential in lab rats and test tube experiments.

Still, more research is needed to ensure the threads' biocompatibility.

"The ability to suture a thread-based diagnostic device intimately in a tissue or organ environment in three dimensions adds a unique feature that is not available with other flexible diagnostic platforms," researcher Sameer Sonkusale, director of the interdisciplinary Nano Lab at Tufts' School of Engineering, said in a news release. "We think thread-based devices could potentially be used as smart sutures for surgical implants, smart bandages to monitor wound healing, or integrated with textile or fabric as personalized health monitors and point-of-care diagnostics."

Researchers detailed their diagnostic thread technology in a new paper published this week in the journal Microsystems and Nanoengineering.

*-- Sunlight helps scientists derive hydrogen from grass --*

CARDIFF, Wales - Scientists in Wales see gas in the grass. The green stuff growing in your yard might be an inexpensive source of renewable energy.

With just sunlight and the help of a cheap catalyst, researchers at Cardiff University have found a way to derive hydrogen gas from fescue grass.

"Hydrogen is seen as an important future energy carrier as the world moves from fossil fuels to renewable feedstocks, and our research has shown that even garden grass could be a good way of getting hold of it," Michael Bowker, a professor at the Cardiff Catalysis Institute, said in a news release.

Hydrogen is plentiful on Earth, but it's not easy to unlock from its geological and biological sources. Many of the current synthesis strategies are expensive and energy-intensive, negating hydrogen's environmental benefits.

But scientists at Cardiff recently documented the promise of a new strategy called photoreforming, or photocatalysis. During photoreforming, sunlight triggers a catalyst, setting in motion a chemical reaction that converts cellulose and water into hydrogen.

Researchers tested three relatively cheap metal-based catalysts -- palladium, gold and nickel -- and found success with all three.

"Our results show that significant amounts of hydrogen can be produced using this method with the help of a bit of sunlight and a cheap catalyst," Bowker said.

The researchers shared their findings in a new paper, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

Researchers believe it's the first time lawn grass has been used to turn cellulose into hydrogen.

"This is significant as it avoids the need to separate and purify cellulose from a sample, which can be both arduous and costly," Bowker concluded.


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