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Gizmorama - September 11, 2017

Good Morning,

A new nano-sized device now has superhuman strength. It's small, but mighty!

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

Until Next Time,

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*-- New nano-sized device can lift 165 times its weight --*

Researchers at Rutgers University have developed a tiny machine with superhuman strength. The device can lift 165 times its own weight.

The miniature machine weighs just 1.6 milligrams, but can lift 265 milligrams several hundred times in a row. It's power is derived from the loading and unloading of ions between super thin sheets of molybdenum disulfide.

By converting chemical energy into mechanical energy, the device replicates the actuator power of a muscle.

"We found that by applying a small amount of voltage, the device can lift something that's far heavier than itself," Manish Chhowalla, a professor of material science and engineering at Rutgers, said in a news release. "This is an important finding in the field of electrochemical actuators. The simple restacking of atomically thin sheets of metallic MoS2 leads to actuators that can withstand stresses and strains comparable to or greater than other actuator materials."

The small but powerful actuator could be incorporated into a wide variety of electromechanical technologies, from robots to airplane wings.

Molybdenum disulfide, or MoS2, is an inorganic crystalline mineral compound with a molecular structure similar to graphene. While atoms within a single layer are strongly bonded, the bond between layers is weak, allowing them to be easily separated.

MoS2 nanolayers can be stacked in a solution and dehydrated to form the electrode-like device. The nanolayers expand and contract as ions are added and removed, creating a muscle-like effect and exerting a surface force.

Researchers detailed the technology this week in the journal Nature.

"The next step is to scale up and try to make actuators that can move bigger things," Chhowalla said.

*-- Scientists use CRISPR gene-editing technology to alter flower color --*

Researchers in Japan have reported in a new study they used the gene editing technology CRISPR to alter the color of a Japanese morning glory, a popular garden flower.

The Japanese morning glory is one of two plants already being studied as part of Japan's National BioResource Project, so researchers at the University of Tsukuba had a significant body of genomic data to work with.

The Tsukuba research team was able to identify a single gene, dihydroflavonol-4-reductase-B, responsible for the production of the enzyme anthocyanin biosynthesis, which determines the color of the morning glory's stems, leaves and flowers.

CRISPR technology allows researchers to directly inject an organism with genetic material designed to seek out and rewrite specific portions of DNA coding.

Because dihydroflavonol-4-reductase-B is sandwiched by two similar and related genes, DFR-A and DRF-C, it had to be especially precise with their CRISPR targeting technology.

In CRISPR, an enzyme, Cas9, is programmed to cut the target DNA and delete the code or splice in new code. Guide RNA, or gRNA, helps Cas9 locate the exact DNA target.

Scientists used the plant bacterium Rhizobium to smuggle the CRISPR components into morning glory plant embryos.

When researchers sequenced the genes of the transgenic plants, they found the CRISPR technology had successfully disrupted the DFR-B gene and disabled the enzyme in 75 percent of the plants, yielding flowers with an absence of pigment. The technology turned the morning glories from purple to white.

The analysis also showed the neighboring genes, DFR-A and DFR-C, were undisturbed by the gene-editing technology.

Researchers recounted their success in new paper published this week in the journal Scientific Reports.

The findings are reminder of the power of the CRISPR technology.

"The story of the Japanese morning glory started in the 8th century AD, with the introduction of wild blue-flowered plants into Japan from China," researchers wrote in a press release. "In 1631, the first white-flowered Japanese morning glory was painted in Japan."

What took nature 850 years to accomplish, scientists tackled in less than a year.


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