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Gizmorama - August 9, 2017

Good Morning,

Scientists now have the ability to capture and carry single cells thanks to magnetic microbots. I didn't know I wanted it, but thanks!

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

Until Next Time,

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*-- New magnetic microbots can capture and carry single cells --*

Scientists have designed a tiny robot made of microscopic cubes capable of changing shape when triggered by a magnetic field. Once initiated, the microbot can derive energy from the surrounding environment.

The technology, called microbot origami, can be used to capture and carry single cells.

"This research is about a topic of current interest -- active particles which take energy from their environment and convert it into directional movement," Orlin Velev, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at North Carolina State University, said in a news release.

The mini robot is made of polymer cubes, each with a single magnetic side. They can be compelled to assemble into a variety of unique structures.

The nanoparticles making up the cubes can be compelled to form Pac-Man-like clusters, opening and closing as magnetic force is applied and removed.

"You can open them by applying a magnetic field and then let them close by turning the magnetic field off," Velev said. "They close because they are releasing the stored magnetic energy."

In recent tests, scientists successfully used the microbots to surround and capture a single yeast cell. Researchers were able to transport and later release the captured cell.

"We've shown here a prototype of self-folding microbot, that can be used as a microtool to probe the response of specific types of cells, like cancer cells, for instance," Velev said.

Scientists say the folding particle clusters and cubic structures mimic the shape and behavior of proteins and amino acids.

"The sequence of amino acids in a protein will determine how it folds, just as the sequence of cubes in our microbot will determine how it folds," said Wyatt Shields, a postdoctoral researcher at Duke University.

Researchers detailed the new technology in the journal Science Advances.

*-- Scientists improve ability to measure rock stress --*

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a more accurate method for measuring rock stress. Their research could improve scientists ability to predict the severity of earthquake damage or risk of a mine shaft collapse.

"Rock stress -- the amount of pressure experienced by underground layers of rock -- can only be measured indirectly because you can't see the forces that cause it," Hiroki Sone, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and geological engineering at Madison, said in a news release. "But instruments for estimating rock stress are difficult to use at great depths, where the temperature and pressure increase tremendously."

Scientists used the anelastic strain recovery method to measure the stress of rock samples collected from a well bore in northwest China's Tarim Basin. Their measurements proved consistent with visual analysis of borehole wall images.

Though accurate, visual analysis requires the use of expensive and sensitive scanning technologies under harsh conditions.

The anelastic strain recovery method allows scientists to estimate rock stress by observing the sample's physical transformation after its brought from extreme underground depths up to the surface.

"It estimates stress indirectly by measuring how much the rock sample expands in different directions after it has been recovered," Sone said.

The latest proof-of-concept tests show the anelastic strain recovery method can be used to measure rock stress at extreme depths -- as deep as 4.3 miles.

"These new results give us confidence that we can use the anelastic strain recovery method at greater depths than we thought possible," Sone said. "As long as the rock deforms the same amount in vertical and horizontal directions, this method is much easier to apply when very high temperatures and pressures in the Earth's crust challenge the other options in our toolbox."

Researchers described their rock stress tests this week in the journal Scientific Reports.


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