Leaf-inspired surface prevents frost formation

Science Daily  March 10, 2020 Based on their fundamental understanding of discontinuous frost patterns found on the leaf vein structure on the scale of millimeters, researchers at Northwestern University elucidated the thermodynamic correlation between the frost-free area and two major surface system parameters—macroscopic surface geometry and ambient humidity. This systematic study on the frost formation mechanism allowed them to demonstrate a ∼50% of frost coverage even for superhydrophilic surfaces and provides a quantitative guideline for further reducing frost coverage. The finding could help decrease the amount of energy needed for de-frosting and could potentially result in fewer canceled flights, which […]

To make ultra-black materials that won’t weigh things down, consider the butterfly

Science Daily  March 10, 2020 Recently, it has been shown that animals such as jumping spiders, birds, and butterflies have evolved ultra-black coloration comparable to the blackest synthetic materials. Researchers at Duke University examined a phylogenetically diverse set of butterflies and found considerable interspecific variation in the geometry of the holes in the structures reduce reflectance up to 16-fold. They produce ultra-black by creating a sparse material with high surface area to increase absorption and minimize surface reflection. They hypothesized that butterflies use ultra-black to increase the contrast of color signals. The findings could help engineers design thinner ultra-black coatings […]

Shining a new light on biomimetic materials

Phys.org  February 25, 2020 Self-trapped light beams hold potential for optical interconnects, applications in image transmission, rerouting light, logic gates for computing and for the next-generation light-guiding-light signal processing. However, self-trapping suffers from either the need for large incident beam power and loss of beam interactions at large distances, or it is slow and irreversible. An international team of researchers (Canada, USA – Harvard University, University of Pittsburgh) has shown that rapidly and repeatably switchable self-trapped laser beams with remote communication capabilities can be elicited at exceptionally small intensities in a pliant, processable hydrogel functionalized with a chromophore. According to […]

What do dragonflies teach us about missile defense?

Science Daily  July 24, 2019 Researchers at Sandia National Laboratory are examining whether dragonfly-inspired computing could improve missile defense systems, which have the similar task of intercepting an object in flight, by making on-board computers smaller without sacrificing speed or accuracy. In recent computer simulations, faux dragonflies in a simplified virtual environment successfully caught their prey using computer algorithms designed to mimic the way a dragonfly processes visual information while hunting. Missile defense systems rely on established intercept techniques that are computation heavy. The dragonfly model could potentially, shrink the size, weight and power needs of onboard computers. It may […]

An Amoeba Just Found an Entirely New Way to Solve a Classic Computing Problem

Science Alert  December 21, 2018 An international team of researchers (China, Japan) used a unicellular plasmodium of Physarum polycephalum to search for a solution to the travelling salesman problem (TSP) by changing its shape to minimize the risk of being exposed to aversive light stimuli. They found that the time taken by plasmodium to find a reasonably high-quality TSP solution grows linearly as the problem size increases from four to eight. The quality of the solution does not degrade despite the explosive expansion of the search space. They formulated a computational model to show that the linear-time solution can be […]

Synthetic gene circuits for the detection, elimination and prevention of disease

Nature Biomedical Engineering  June 11, 2018 In living organisms, naturally evolved sensors that constantly monitor and process environmental cues trigger corrective actions that enable the organisms to cope with changing conditions. This has inspired the biologists to construct synthetic living sensors and signaling pathways, by repurposing naturally occurring proteins and by designing molecular building blocks de novo, for customized diagnostics and therapeutics. In this Review, an international team of researchers (Switzerland, France) describe the biomedical applications of synthetic gene circuits in major disease areas and discuss how the first genetically engineered devices developed based on synthetic-biology principles made the leap from […]

Proof of water wires motivated by a biological water channel

Science Daily  April 26, 2018 Aquaporins are proteins that serve as water channels to regulate the flow of water across biological cell membranes; they remove excess salt and impurities in the body. An international team of researchers (France, USA- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Cornell University) synthesized and studied the dynamics of a ring structure of the imidazole, a nitrogen-based organic compound, embedded in a supported lipid bilayer. They have shown that water exists in the imidazole water channel and the imidazole ring construct induces the water molecules to self-assemble into a highly oriented linear chain structure — dubbed “water wires.” The […]