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A new assistive technology developed by engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology could help individuals with severe disabilities lead more independent lives.

The novel system allows individuals with disabilities to operate a computer, control a powered wheelchair and interact with their environments simply by moving their tongues. The tongue-operated assistive technology, called the Tongue Drive system, was described on June 29 at the 2008 Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. An article about this system is also scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development. This research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

Dye-sensitized solar cell technology was invented by Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) professor Michael Grätzel at EPFL in the 1990s and always seemed to have great promise as a cheap alternative to expensive silicon solar cells.

Dye-sensitized cells imitate the way that plants and certain algae convert sunlight into energy. The cells are made up of a porous film of tiny (nanometer-sized) white pigment particles made from titanium dioxide. The latter are covered with a layer of dye which is in contact with an electrolyte solution. When solar radiation hits the dye it injects a negative charge in the pigment nanoparticle and a positive charge into the electrolyte resulting in the conversion of sunlight into electrical energy.

The cells are inexpensive, easy to produce and can withstand long exposure to light and heat compared with traditional silicon-based solar cells but even state-of-the-art dye-sensitized cells only have an overall light conversion efficiency greater than 11%, about half that of silicon cell technology.

When lasers illuminate material it usually warms up, so laser beams are used for cutting sheet steel, for welding or even as scalpels. But this effect can also be reversed. When the frequency of the laser beam makes the irradiated material just not absorbing its light and slightly more energy (of the photons, as physicists call the light particles) is needed for that, this photons “take” this missing energy from the oscillation energy of the material’s atoms.

Such oscillation energy (“phonons”) is equivalent to the vibration of atoms which is also called temperature and which is slightly reduced by this: the material is cooled down. A team of scientists from Technische Universität Dortmund and Ruhr-Universität Bochum has just carried out the first detailed experimental study regarding this process (known as “photoluminescence up-conversion”) in semiconductor nanostructures. Based on this, the development of a vibration-free cooling of semiconductors might be possible.

A research team of scientists from Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands has succeeded in further unravelling and manipulating the glycosylation of proteins in plants.

The scientists expect that this knowledge will allow plants to be applied more often in the production of therapeutic proteins, an important type of medicine.

The discovery fits in with technology developed by the Wageningen UR research institute Plant Research International for the production of biopharmaceuticals in plants.

Proteins in plants, animals and people are equipped with various sugar chains in a process known as glycosylation. The sugar chains are of significance to the functioning of many proteins.

Rates of sexually transmitted infections have doubled among the over 45 population in less than a decade, reveals research in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Sexual behavior studies tend to ignore older age groups and focus on young people, say the authors. The period of analysis spanned eight years between 1996 and 2003 inclusive. Researchers monitored the numbers of sexually transmitted infections (STI) diagnosed in 19 sexual health clinics and reported to the Health Protection Agency's Regional Surveillance Unit in the West Midlands.

In total, 4445 STI episodes were identified among people aged 45 and older during that time. Most of these were in straight men and women.

Astronomers recently announced that they have found a novel explanation for a rare type of super-luminous stellar explosion that may have produced a new type of object known as a quark star.

Three exceptionally luminous supernovae explosions have been observed in recent years. One of them was first observed using a robotic telescope at the California Institute of Technology's (Caltech) Palomar Observatory.

Data collected with Palomar's Samuel Oschin Telescope was transmitted from the remote mountain site in southern California to astronomers via the High-Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN), funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Nearby Supernova Factory research group at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory reported the co-discovery of the supernova, known as SN2005gj.