Science & Technology News Bulletin

Every week, we editorially select the best S&T stories released from major news outlets. These stories are then ranked and posted (with appropriate credit and references to the originals) on our Blog by Friday afternoon. Hema Viswanath curates this content and has been doing so for ASDR&E's Office of Net Technical Assessments and Office of Technical Intelligence for over seven years before performing the same work for us. Currently, we are experimenting with distributing this content through a free, advertising-supported model. We intend to continue experimenting using paywalls, direct e-mail subscriptions and donations. Hosting this content is important to us and we would like to retain it on at least a revenue-neutral basis. We are also experimenting with enriching the content to make it more relevant to our Government clients.

Top 10 Science and Technology Inventions for the Week of April 16, 2021

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Top 10 Science and Technology Inventions for the Week of April 9, 2021

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Top 10 Science and Technology Inventions for the Week of April 2, 2021

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Top 10 Science and Technology Inventions for the Week of March 26, 2021

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Top 10 Science and Technology Inventions for the Week of April 16, 2021

And others…

After COVID, are billions in biodefense funds needed to deter US adversaries?

Defense News  April 9, 2021
According to a new report from the Council on Strategic Risks, the U.S. Defense Department should dramatically increase funding for biological defense initiatives to at least $2 billion in the next year followed by increasing it to a range of $6.5 billion to $7 billion annually in the coming years. It will deter other nations from seeking to exploit America’s perceived vulnerability to a medical crisis. Key investment areas should include nucleic-acid based therapeutics, field-and-clinic deployable early-detection technology that can identify any pathogen by reading its genetic material and expanding international cooperation on biodefense issues and launching annual drills for rapid-response capabilities…read more.

All-in-one device uses microwave power for defense, medicine

EurekAlert  April 8, 2021
Researchers at Purdue University used composite based nonlinear transmission lines (NLTLs) as complete high-power microwave systems, encompassing high-voltage pulse and high-power microwave formation. The device combines the elements of traditional NLTLs into a composite-based system and eliminates typical bulky auxiliary equipment. The system is charged using a DC high-voltage supply and discharged using a high-voltage, gas-based switch. It eliminates the need for external pulse generation and is more rugged due to the solid-state construction. NLTLs have proven effective for applications in the defense and biomedical fields. They create directed high-power microwaves that can be used to disrupt or destroy adversary electronic equipment at a distance. The same technology can be used for biomedical devices for sterilization and noninvasive medical treatments…read more.

Anti-reflective films: What high-tech can learn from plants

EurekAlert  April 13, 2021
Rose petals have a matt and at the same time rich color. The outer tissue of its petals, the epidermis, consists of densely packed microstructures, additionally ribbed by nanostructures. With these structures, the rose manages to couple all incident light into the cells – only the colored light escapes again. Researchers in Germany combined micro- and nanostructure to develop an anti-reflective film that replicates the epidermis of rose petals. The film increases the yield of solar modules by up to ten percent. Posters, display panels, traffic signs, furniture, packaging, facades, and many other applications also benefit from the technology. The film provides an anti-reflective coating for all kinds of surfaces and gives them a velvety appearance. The film is mechanically flexible, dirt-repellent and highly resistant to UV light, moisture, temperature fluctuations, and can be applied to all types of materials using standard lamination processes. Cost of production is low. Video …read more.

Solar modules without (left) and with (right; visualized) Phytonics film. The film almost completely suppresses reflection for all wavelengths and angles of incidence of light. Credit: Photos by Andrea Fabry; Editing by Phytonics

Can We Automate Scientific Reviewing?  April 8, 2021
The number of scientific papers generated has skyrocketed. Providing high-quality reviews of this growing number of papers is a significant challenge. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University discuss the possibility of using state-of-the-art natural language processing (NLP) models to generate first-pass peer reviews for scientific papers. They collected a dataset of papers in the machine learning domain, annotated them with different aspects of content covered in each review, and trained targeted summarization models that take in papers to generate reviews. The results showed that system-generated reviews tend to touch upon more aspects of the paper than human-written reviews, but the generated text can suffer from lower constructiveness for all aspects except the explanation of the core ideas of the papers. They summarized eight challenges in the pursuit of a good review generation system and potential solutions, which, hopefully, will inspire more future research on this subject. Data set and codes are available for public use…read more. Open Access TECHNICAL ARTICLE.  Related article : Can science writing be automated, Science Daily April 18, 2019 

Counting single photons at unprecedented rates  April 13, 2021
Researchers at NIST have demonstrated a method that allows a high-efficiency single-photon-avalanche diode (SPAD) with a thick absorption region to count single photons at rates significantly higher than previously demonstrated. They applied large (>30 V) AC bias gates to the SPAD at 1 GHz and detected minute avalanches by means of radio frequency interferometry. They measured a reduction by a factor of ≈500 in the average charge per avalanche when compared to operation in its traditional active-quenching module and a relative increase in >19% in detection efficiency at 850 nm. The reduction in charge strongly suppresses self-heating effects in the diode that can degrade performance at high avalanche rates. They showed that the single-photon detection system maintains high efficiency at count rates exceeding 108 s−1…read more. Open Access TECHNICAL ARTICLE 

The electron and hole are accelerated by the applied bias voltage. Credit: Sean Kelley/NIST


Discovery could help lengthen lifespan of electronic devices

Science Daily  April 9, 2021
Ferroelectric materials are subjected to repeated mechanical and electrical loading, leading to a progressive decrease in their functionality, ultimately resulting in failure. An international team of researchers (Australia, China, USA – Pacific Northwest National Laboratory) observed ferroelectric fatigue as it occurred using in-situ biasing transmission electron microscopy. They discovered that charge accumulation at domain walls is the main reason of the formation of c domains, which are less responsive to the applied electric field. The rapid growth of the frozen c domains leads to the ferroelectric degradation. This finding gives insights into the nature of ferroelectric degradation in nanodevices and reveals the role of the injected charges in polarization reversal…read more. Open Access TECHNICAL ARTICLE 

In-situ biasing TEM setup and determination of initial a1/a2 90° domains. Credit: Nature Communications volume 12, Article number: 2095 (2021) 

Duke University Develops Portable Diagnostic to Detect Early Biomarkers of Ebola Virus

Global Biodefense  April 7, 2021
Ebola virus (EBOV) hemorrhagic fever outbreaks have been challenging to deter due to the lack of health care infrastructure in disease-endemic countries and a corresponding inability to diagnose and contain the disease at an early stage. EBOV vaccines and therapies have improved disease outcomes, but the advent of an affordable, easily accessed, mass-produced rapid diagnostic test (RDT) that matches the performance of more resource-intensive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays would be invaluable in containing future outbreaks. A team of researchers in the US (Duke University, UT Galveston) has developed and demonstrated the performance of a new ultrasensitive point-of-care immunoassay, the EBOV D4 assay, which targets the secreted glycoprotein of EBOV. The EBOV D4 assay is 1000-fold more sensitive than the U.S. DA approved RDTs and detected EBOV infection earlier than PCR in a standard nonhuman primate model. The EBOV D4 assay is suitable for low-resource settings and may facilitate earlier detection, containment, and treatment during outbreaks of the disease…read more. Open Access TECHNICAL ARTICLE 

sGP as a diagnostic target and selection of capture and detection Abs for the EBOV D4 assay. Credit: Science Translational Medicine 07 Apr 2021: Vol. 13, Issue 588, eabd9696 








New laser to help clear the sky of space debris  April 12, 2021
The laser beams used for tracking space junk use infrared light and are not visible. The new guide star laser, which is mounted on a telescope, developed by an international team of researchers (from Australia, Japan, USA) propagates a visible orange beam into the night sky to create an artificial star that can be used to accurately measure light distortion between Earth and space. This guiding orange light enables adaptive optics to sharpen images of space debris. It can also guide a second, more powerful infra-red laser beam through the atmosphere to precisely track space debris or even safely move them out of orbit to avoid collisions with other debris and eventually burn up in the atmosphere. The new guide star laser technology could also be incorporated in tool kits to enable high-bandwidth ground to space satellite communications…read more.

Ocean bacteria release carbon into the atmosphere

Science Daily  April 12, 2021
A team of researchers in the US (University of Minnesota Twin-Cities, Boston University, Harvard University) discovered that deep-sea bacteria dissolve carbon-containing rocks, releasing excess carbon into the ocean and atmosphere. They studied sulfur-oxidizing bacteria — a group of microbes that use sulfur as an energy source — in methane seeps on the ocean floor. The seeps contain collections of limestone that trap large amounts of carbon. The sulfur-oxidizing microbes live on top of these rocks, in the process of oxidizing sulfur, the bacteria create an acidic reaction that dissolves the rocks. This releases the carbon that was trapped inside the limestone. The researchers plan to test out this effect on different mineral types. The findings will allow scientists to better estimate the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere, a main driver of global warming…read more. Open Access TECHNICAL ARTICLE 

Mass loss of aragonite coupons in inoculated sulfidic and heterotrophic bioreactors, as well as uninoculated control bioreactors. Credit: The ISME Journal (2021)