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Gizmorama - June 11, 2018

Good Morning,

Mars Curiosity rover is ready to go to work! The testing labs built within the rover are back on-line to test rock samples collected on the Red Planet.

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

Until Next Time,

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* Mars Curiosity rover's labs are working, testing samples again *

The mini testing labs built into the core of NASA's Curiosity rover are back up and running, testing rock samples collected by its newly functional drill.

According to NASA, one of the rover's onboard labs analyzed a drilled rock sample for the first time in more than a year.

"This was no small feat. It represents months and months of work by our team to pull this off," Jim Erickson, project manager of the Mars Science Laboratory mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a news release.

The Curiosity mission is part of the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

In 2016, the rover's drill encountered a crippling mechanical problem. Engineers at NASA spent more than a year developing a workaround drilling technique called Feed Extended Drilling, or FED, which uses the rover's robotic arm to direct and push the drill into the ground as the drill bit spins. Once FED proved successful, Curiosity engineers added percussion, or a hammering rhythm.

Late last month, the rover used it's newly function drill to collect rock samples for the first time in nearly two years.

This week, those rock samples were successfully delivered to and processed by the rover's mineralogy lab. Later this week, scientists hope to have Curiosity deliver rock samples to its chemistry lab.

Because the rover's drilling arm is now permanently extended to accommodate its new drilling technique, Curiosity can't use all of its components to ensure the proper amount of powdered rock is delivered to the labs. Too much powder can clog instrumentation, while too little powder will fail to yield meaningful results.

But as they did for the drill, researchers back on Earth developed and tested a workaround sample delivery strategy. Early indications suggest their solution was successful. NASA engineers plan to continue tweaking the sample delivery method in the months ahead.

"The science team was confident that the engineers would deliver -- so confident that we drove back to a site that we missed drilling before. The gambit paid off, and we now have a key sample we might have never gotten," said Ashwin Vasavada of JPL, the mission's project scientist. "It's quite remarkable to have a moment like this, five years into the mission. It means we can resume studying Mount Sharp, which Curiosity is climbing, with our full range of scientific tools."

*-- Method devised for wirelessly powering, controlling devices inside body --*

A prototype device about the size of a grain of rice -- that can receive power and communicate wirelessly from inside the body -- for drug delivery, disease treatment or just health monitoring has been developed by researchers.

MIT researchers and scientists from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston have developed the tiny implants -- they expect they can be made even smaller than a grain of rice -- that are powered by radio frequency waves and can safely pass through human tissues.

The research on development of the devices will be presented at the Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Data Communication conference Aug. 20-25 in Budapest, Hungary.

"Even though these tiny implantable devices have no batteries, we can now communicate with them from a distance outside the body," senior paper Dr. Fadel Adib, an assistant professor in MIT's Media Lab, said in a press release. "This opens up entirely new types of medical applications."

Researchers envision this process could be used to deliver drugs via smart pills, monitor vital signs and detect movement in the GI tract. They even propose that, inside the brain, the implantable electrodes could deliver an electrical current -- known as deep brain stimulation -- to treat Parkinson's disease or epilepsy.

Researchers said the device could be made even smaller than a grain of rice, as tested in an animal model, because it doesn't require a battery.

"Having the capacity to communicate with these systems without the need for a battery would be a significant advance," said Dr. Giovanni Traverso, an assistant professor at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

In pigs, they were able to send power from about 39 inches outside the body to a sensor just under 4 inches deep in the animal's body. They can be powered from up to 125 feet away if the sensors are close to the skin's surface.

Implantable medical devices, such as pacemakers, currently require their own batteries and have a limited lifespan. But MIT researchers envision implantable devices powered wirelessly with radio waves emitted by antennas.

In the past, scientists were unable to use radio waves because they dissipate as they pass through the body.

The Boston researchers devised a system called "In Vivo Networking," which relies on antennas that emit radio waves of slightly different frequencies. These radio waves overlap and combine in different ways, combining enough energy to power an implanted sensor.

"We chose frequencies that are slightly different from each other, and in doing so, we know that at some point in time these are going to reach their highs at the same time," Adib said.

Because power is transmitted over a large area, the exact location of the sensors in the body doesn't need to be known. This also means multiple devices can be powered simultaneously at once.

The researchers are further developing the devices, making them more efficient and able to operate over greater distances.


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