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Gizmorama - November 7, 2016

Good Morning,

They've done it again! Scientists have triggered superconductivity in non-superconductive materials. That's super, right?

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

Until Next Time,

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*-- Scientists trigger superconductivity in non-superconductive materials --*

HOUSTON - In the 1970s, physicists proposed a theory that superconductivity could be induced at the point where two different non-superconductive materials are enjoined, the interface.

Several decades later, scientists have for the first time successfully demonstrated the concept. The breakthrough promises to propel the commercial viability of superconductors.

"Superconductivity is used in many things, of which MRI, magnetic resonance imaging, is perhaps the best known," Paul C.W. Chu, chief scientist at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston, said in a news release.

Superconductors, unlike semiconductors, carry electricity without resistance. But superconductors must be super-cooled, which requires a lot of energy and makes the technology quite expensive.

The latest research proves it is possible to raise the "critical temperature" at which non-superconducting materials become a superconductor. Researchers were able to induce superconductivity in the non-superconducting compound calcium iron arsenide.

As researchers explained in a new paper on the breakthrough -- published in the journal PNAS -- the key to inducing superconductivity is to "take advantage of artificially or naturally assembled interfaces."

Superconductivity at a higher critical temperature can be "induced by antiferromagnetic/metallic layer stacking," researchers wrote.

In experiments aimed at validating a decades-old theory, researchers exposed undoped calcium iron arsenide compounds to temperatures of negative 350 degrees Centigrade. The process, called annealing, causes the material to form two phases -- one "converted" and one "annealed," each featuring its own uniquely augmented internal structure.

Researchers confirmed superconductivity at the interface where the two phases coexist.

Negative 350 degrees Centigrade is still pretty low, researchers admit, but it is a step -- a promising one -- in the right direction.

*-- New coating is too slippery for bacteria to grow on --*

BOSTON - It's hard for biofilm to develop on the surface of an object if bacteria can't latch on to it. Scientists believe a new, ultra-low adhesive coating could thwart bacterial growth before it starts by making medical implants and other devices extra slippery.

The new coating material is called SLIPS, short for "slippery liquid-infused porous surfaces." In tests, the coating reduced bacterial adhesion by more than 98 percent.

"Device related infections remain a significant problem in medicine, burdening society with millions of dollars in health care costs," Dr. Elliot Chaikof, surgeon-in-chief at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said in a news release. "Antibiotics alone will not solve this problem. We need to use new approaches to minimize the risk of infection, and this strategy is a very important step in that direction."

SLIPS coatings were developed by Joanna Aizenberg, a researcher and faculty member at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Aizenberg has engineered coatings to reject a variety of substances and for a range of environmental conditions.

"We are developing SLIPS recipes for a variety of medical applications by working with different medical-grade materials, ensuring the stability of the coating, and carefully pairing the non-fouling properties of the SLIPS materials to specific contaminates, environments and performance requirements," said Aizenberg. "Here we have extended our repertoire and applied the SLIPS concept very convincingly to medical-grade lubricants, demonstrating its enormous potential in implanted devices prone to bacterial fouling and infection."

Researchers also tested the anti-adhesion ability of SLIPS coatings while being exposed to conditions designed to replicate a mammal's insides. The efficacy was the same.

Scientists also tested an actual medical implant, medical mesh coated with SLIPS. The mesh was implanted into a mouse model. The model was then injected with Staphylococcus aureus. After three days, there was little to evidence of an infect on the mesh, while control implants featured an infection rate of more than 90 percent.

Researchers detailed the coating technology in a new paper published this week in the journal BioMaterials.


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