Disposable biotech sensors won’t let you diagnose your own diseases quite yet, but we’ve taken the first step — a research team spanning three universities has successfully prototyped a lab-on-a-chip. Called the Self-powered Integrated Microfluidic Blood Analysis System (or SIMBAS for short, thankfully), the device takes a single drop of blood and separates the cells from the plasma. There’s no electricity, mechanics or chemical reactions needed here, just the work of gravity to pull the fluid through the tiny trenches and grooves, and it can take as little as ten minutes to produce a useful result. It’s just the first of a projected series of devices to make malady detection fast, affordable and portable. Diagram after the break!
The SOLAQUA by designer Jason Lam is a concept for a passive way to purify water using both heat and UV rays (so, in other words, leaving water out in the sun). Each petal that extends from the main unit — which folds up as to be easy to carry — contains several 10 liter, clear tubes of water that’ll have the water inside entirely and thoroughly bombarded by the sun. Filling the tubes up is easy, as SOLAQUA automatically funnels it down into them, rather than making someone fill the bottles one by one.
Boiling water is one of the easiest methods of disinfecting the liquid, though a filter needs to be used to get out any solid pollutants — which is why the SOLAQUA includes a built-in filter of sari cloth — but the water doesn’t even have to be all that hot if it’s going to sit out for a while. Boiling just speeds things up. UV rays, as well, are popular for purifying, and the petals of the SOLAQUA would direct them straight through the bottles.
Check out the pictures below for more of the SOLAQUA.
Trains are the most efficient way to move lots of big stuff over land, but the rail lines don’t always go to where the goods need to be. With a special combination wheel design that can quickly convert from rail to road use, the Chiron transporter looks like something Optimus Prime would use when moving house. But by eliminating the need to shift the container over to a truck for the final leg of its journey, the Chiron is designed to save a lot of time and energy. Continuing the green theme, the Chiron’s power is supposedly generated by an ‘algae fuel cell’, although no further information about how this wondrous power plant actually works is given. From the picture, it looks like the Chiron also works on good old fashioned electrified lines.
While I could come up with a host of practical problems including a lack of rear access for loading the container, you’ve got to admit that it looks pretty cool.
You know what’s hard to find these days? Consistency and reliability — in anything, really. But we’ve learned that when MIT touches something, it not only gets done, but it gets done right. Thus, we’re absolutely elated to hear that a few of its students have dreamed up a fully autonomous greenhouse, utilizing real plants, sensors and gardening robots to ensure the greenest, most healthy crop possible. In fairness, we’ve already seen oodles of robotic plant tending apparatuses, but this is just something special. Thus far, gurus have used “re-imagined versions of iRobot‘s Roomba” in order to tell what a plant needs and then respond accordingly, and apparently, things have been going quite well early on. Check out a demonstration vid just past the break.
A team at MIT and Harvard Medical School has worked out how to cast bricks of artificial tissue into different shapes, and then get them to assemble automatically. The “living Lego bricks” are cast of polyethylene glycol—a biocompatible polymer—and solidified with light exposure. The self-assembling part happens when the bricks absorb water and are then agitated in a bath of mineral oil: The oil/water mix means the bricks move around and can be fixed when they’re in the right place with more light (as shown in the picture here, rod-shaped bricks in red stuck to a central green-stained piece).
By repeating the process, and varying the agitation rates and the shape and size of the tissue bricks, structures like branches and cubes can be built up. The team has also built very complex structures that resemble blood vessels running through tissue, and know that yet more complex and “realistic” structures are possible.
While this is a technology in its infancy, it has advantages over current tissue-engineering techniques (which rely on a sort of “top-down” system, tying cells to a polymer mould) in that it has the potential to emulate natural repeating units in organs like the liver, pancreas, heart-muscle and so on. There are plenty of challenges before we can, for example, grow artificial pancreatic tissue, but this is a pretty amazing start. The results are published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.