Applied Physics

Want to play the ultimate version of The X-Men's "Wolverine" this Halloween? You'll need self-healing skin after those claws come out. Researchers at the University of Illinois are here to help. They have invented the next generation of self-healing materials, which mimics human skin by healing itself time after time. The new materials rely upon embedded, three-dimensional microvascular networks that emulate biological circulatory systems.

Now they just need to invent that Adamantium exo-skeleton. Copyright Marvel Comics Group


It may not sound like a great thing for your backyard festivities but scientists have figured out how to make the fruit fly live longer. Luckily, humans will get something out of the deal -namely the discovery that a single protein can inhibit aging means we might live longer to be annoyed by insects.

Not this Superfly. A super fruit fly. © Warner Bros.


Genetically modified (GM) crops may contribute to increased productivity in sustainable agriculture, according to a new study which analyzes, for the first time, environmental impact data from field experiments all over the world, involving corn and cotton plants with a Bt gene inserted for its insecticidal properties.

The research was conducted by scientists at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara, The Nature Conservancy, and Santa Clara University. The study is accompanied by a searchable global database for agricultural and environmental scientists studying the effects of genetically engineered crops.

MIT researchers were recently able to light a 60W light bulb from a power source seven feet away; there was no physical connection between the source and the appliance.

The MIT team refers to its concept as “WiTricity” (as in wireless electricity). Various methods of transmitting power wirelessly have been known for centuries and perhaps the best known example is radio waves. While such that sort of electromagnetic radiation is excellent for wireless transmission of information, it is not feasible to use it for power transmission.

Wireless power transfer over two-meter distance, from the coil on the left to the coil on the right, where it powers a 60W light bulb.


While recent advances in neurosurgery have made it possible to precisely target areas in the brain with minimum invasiveness -- using a small hole to insert a probe, needle or catheter -- there remains a disadvantage. The small size of the openings reduces or eliminates direct site visibility and requires greater dexterity, stability and precision by the surgeon.

Prof. Leo Joskowicz


Researchers at the University of Illinois are developing panels of microcavity plasma lamps that may soon brighten people’s lives. The thin, lightweight panels could be used for residential and commercial lighting, and for certain types of biomedical applications.

Cross-sectional diagram of a flat lamp structure based on aluminum foil encapsulated in saphire and a thin glass coating. The lower right portion of the figure presents photographs at two magnifications of an electrode screen with diamond cross-sectional microcavities. The smallest graduation of the scale is 1 millimeter. Credit: University of Illinois


Radical steps to engineer Earth’s climate by blocking sunlight could drastically cool the planet, but could just as easily worsen the situation if these projects fail or are suddenly halted, according to a new computer modeling study.

The experiments, described in the June 4 early online edition of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, look at what might happen if we attempt to slow climate change by “geoengineering” a solar filter instead of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The researchers used a computer model to simulate a decrease in solar radiation across the entire planet, but assumed that that the current trend of increasing global carbon dioxide emissions would continue for the rest of this century.

Discarded crab and lobster shells may be the key to prolonging the life of microbial fuel cells that power sensors beneath the sea, according to a team of Penn State researchers.

To produce energy, microbial fuel cells need organic material for the microbes to consume. However, deep sea sediments can be surprisingly devoid of organic material because living things in the photic zone – the area where light penetrates the water – are continuously recycled and little falls to the ocean floor. An absence of organics limits the lifetime of marine microbial fuel cells.

A team of biomedical engineers has developed a computer model that makes use of more or less predictable “guesstimates” of human muscle movements to explain how the brain draws on both what it recently learned and what it’s known for some time to anticipate what it needs to develop new motor skills.

The engineers exploited the fact that all people show similar “probable” learning patterns and use them to develop and fine tune new movements, whether babies trying to walk or stroke patients re-connecting brain-body muscle links.

You might think it's something from the movie "Total Recall" but instead researchers are using brain "pacemakers" to regulate diseased signals in the brains of Parkinson's disease patients.

These devices are FDA-approved and in use in 30,000 patients but still not well understood.

Biomedical engineers at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering have found that stimulation administered by rapid-fire electrical pulses deep in the brain produces what they call an "informational lesion." By relaying a repetitious and therefore meaningless message, constant pulses overwhelm the erratic bursts of brain activity characteristic of disease.

"Periodic bursts in the brains of people with tremor -- which might follow a pattern such as 'pop-pop-pop, silence, pop-pop-pop, silence' -- propa