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Gizmorama - March 29, 2017

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Tiny medical devices may be getting an upgrade via new flexible glass that can "snap back into shape" thanks to a movable membrane.

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

Until Next Time,

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*-- New flexible glass to bolster tiny medical devices --*

BYU researchers have developed flexible glass for use in medical devices. The technology could inspire improved lab-on-a-chip devices.

"If you keep the movements to the nanoscale, glass can still snap back into shape," electrical engineering professor Aaron Hawkins said in a news release. "We've created glass membranes that can move up and down and bend. They are the first building blocks of a whole new plumbing system that could move very small volumes of liquid around."

Scientists say a flexible glass membrane will further shrink the scale at which lab-on-a-chip devices operate -- from microscale to nanoscale. At the nanoscale, lab-on-a-chip membranes could trap and analyze proteins, viruses and DNA for diagnostic purposes.

Glass is the preferred material for device membranes because it's sterile, strong and generally nonreactive.

"Glass is clean for sensitive types of samples, like blood samples," said BYU doctoral student John Stout. "Working with this glass device will allow us to look at particles of any size and at any given range. It will also allow us to analyze the particles in the sample without modifying them."

Scientists predict devices using flexible glass will require smaller sample sizes, thereby shrinking the amount of time it takes to run diagnostic tests.

"Instead of shipping a vial of blood to a lab and have it run through all those machines and steps, we are creating devices that can give you an answer on the spot," Hawkins said.

Researchers detailed their breakthrough in the journal Applied Physical Letters.

*-- Scientists aim to create self-propelling liquid, a new kind of matter --*

Researchers at Brandeis University in Massachusetts are inching close to the creation of a new kind of matter -- a self-propelling liquid.

Scientists at Brandeis' Materials Research Science and Engineering Center are trying to develop a new class of materials and machines powered by unique biomechanical properties. They detailed their latest breakthrough -- the discovery of an adaptable cellular nanostructure -- in the journal Science.

Microtubules are hollow cylindrical tubes capable of creating dynamic cellular scaffolding. The nanostructures are infinitely malleable, capable of expanding, shrinking, bending and stretching, transforming cellular structure.

After extracting microtubules from a cow's brain, the researchers infused the polymer with kinesin and adenosine triphosphate, two other types of cellular molecules. The kinesin acts as a link between each microtubule as they align end on end. The ATP serves as a fuel source for the material's self-propulsion.

In lab tests, the kinesin's top and bottom moved in opposite directions, breaking the links between the microtubules. The structure briefly broke down, but new kinesin quickly formed new links before being propelled in a bipolar movement.

The cycle created a whirling motion in the liquid, and researchers were able to encourage the swirls to move in the same direction.

The result of the experiments is a microscopic machine able to self-pump liquid. Scientists say the novel motion is essentially a simplified version of the kinetics found inside a cell.

The research could eventually be used to create an array of new technologies, like oil pipelines that pump themselves.


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