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Gizmorama - October 24, 2016

Good Morning,

It looks like scientists are developing smartphones to be become a hand-held cancer-detecting laboratory. That sounds amazing!

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

Until Next Time,

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*-- Scientists develop cancer-detecting smartphone laboratory --*

PULLMAN, Wash. - Washington State University researchers have developed a cancer-detecting smartphone spectrometer they say will greatly speed up diagnosis.

The low-cost smartphone was designed to be completely portable while producing lab-quality results. A paper on the product and its potential applications was published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

The product's developers say their new device works by measuring levels of interleukin-6, a biomarker associated with prostate, liver, breast and epithelial cancers. The phone comes equipped with a spectrometer that analyzes the amount and type of chemicals by examining the light spectrum. The research team says their new device will be able to generate instant diagnoses anywhere, including emergency rooms, an ambulance or a physician's office.

WSU investigators note that, while portable spectrometers already exist, their smartphone's 8-channel infrastructure can measure up to 8 samples at a time.

"The spectrometer would be especially useful in clinics and hospitals that have a large number of samples without on-site labs, or for doctors who practice abroad or in remote areas," lead researcher Lei Li said in a press release. "They can't carry a whole lab with them. They need a portable and efficient device."

The current design works with an iPhone 5, and was recorded to be 99 percent accurate. The research team is now using the device in real world situations. An adjustable design able to connect with any smartphone is currently being developed.

* Scientists hope to split water with quantum dots and nanowires *

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Photocatalytic water splitting holds tremendous promise for the hydrogen economy and the use of hydrogen as a eco-friendly alternative fuel.

Scientists at the University of Buffalo are working to develop new materials capable of powering more efficient photocatalytic water-splitting technologies.

"Hydrogen is seen as an important source of green energy because it generates water as the only byproduct when it's burned," Buffalo chemist David Watson said in a news release. "The hybrid materials we're developing have the potential to support the cheap and efficient production of hydrogen gas."

A variety of vehicles have been built to run on hydrogen, but synthesizing hydrogen fuel isn't yet cheap enough to rival the dominance of fossil fuels. Simpler and more efficient water-splitting technologies are promising to change that.

Photocatalytic water splitting uses special water-suspended materials to harness the power of the sun and trigger photosynthesis, which works to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The new materials being developed by Watson and his colleagues are made of tiny wires composed of vanadium oxide and various metal ions. The hybrid nanowires are coated with semiconductor quantum dots.

When exposed to sunlight, the coated nanowires generate two key components for the photocatalytic reaction: a free-floating electron and an electron hole.

While scientists have yet to use the electron and electron hole to split water, they are hopeful the new materials will provide the breakthrough proponents of the hydrogen economy have been looking for.

The materials used to create the coated nanowires are readily available, and the nanowires and quantum dots can be produced in large quantities. What's more, the materials in the nanowires and the size of the quantum dots can be manipulated to augment their electronic properties.

"It's a very flexible approach -- a versatile platform for converting sunlight and water into fuel," Watson said.

Researchers are now working on a way to incorporate their materials into a working photocatalytic water-splitting process.


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