- 2014 â€“ April â€“ Week 1
Stick-on electronic patches for health monitoring
Engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University have demonstrated thin, soft stick-on patches that stretch and move with the skin and incorporate commercial, off-the-shelf chip-based electronics for sophisticated wireless health monitoring.
The patches stick to the skin like a temporary tattoo and incorporate a unique microfluidic construction with wires folded like origami to allow the patch to bend and flex without being constrained by the rigid electronics components. The patches could be used for everyday health tracking â€“ wirelessly sending updates to your cellphone or computer â€“ and could revolutionize clinical monitoring such as EKG and EEG testing â€“ no bulky wires, pads or tape needed.
Quantum photon properties revealed in another particleâ€”the plasmon
Since plasmons are not exactly like photons, they cannot be used in mirrored optical beam splitters. Therefore, to test for quantum interference in plasmons, Fakonas and his colleagues made two waveguide paths for the plasmons on the surface of a tiny silicon chip. Because plasmons are very lossyâ€”that is, easily absorbed into materials that surround themâ€”the path is kept short, contained within a 10-micron-square chip, which reduces absorption along the way.
The waveguides, which together form a device called a directional coupler, act as a functional equivalent to a 50/50 beam splitter, directing the paths of the two plasmons to interfere with one another. The plasmons can exit the waveguides at one of two output paths that are each observed by a detector; if both plasmons exit the directional coupler togetherâ€”meaning that quantum interference is observedâ€”the pair of plasmons will only set off one of the two detectors.
Indeed, the experiment confirmed that two indistinguishable photons can be converted into two indistinguishable surface plasmons that, like photons, display quantum interference.
Scientists smash barrier to growing organs from stem cells
Scientists at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have overcome one of the greatest challenges in biology and taken a major step toward being able to grow whole organs and tissues from stem cells. By manipulating the appropriate signaling, the U.Va. researchers have turned embryonic stem cells into a fish embryo, essentially controlling embryonic development.
The research will have dramatic impact on the future use of stem cells to better the human condition, providing a framework for future studies in the field of regenerative medicine aimed at constructing tissues and organs from populations of cultured pluripotent cells.
In accomplishing this, U.Va. scientists Bernard and Chris Thisse have overcome the most massive of biological barriers. “We have generated an animal by just instructing embryonic cells the right way,” said Chris Thisse of the School of Medicine’s Department of Cell Biology.
Power plants put at risk by security bugs
The discovery of bugs in software used to run oil rigs, refineries and power plants has prompted a global push to patch the widely used control system.
The bugs were found by security researchers and, if exploited, could give attackers remote access to control systems for the installations.
The US Department of Homeland Security said an attacker with “low skill” would be able to exploit the bugs.
About 7,600 plants around the world are using the vulnerable software.
“We went from zero to total compromise,” said Juan Vazquez, a researcher at security firm Rapid7 who, with colleague Julian Diaz, found several holes in Yokogawa’s Centum CS 3000 software.