Plus: Diagnostic Quantum Dots Found Safe for Ingestion and a Robotic Fish Heads Out to Sea.
The Diagnostic Test of the Future
In a significant leap forward in diagnostics, scientists have found that quantum dots may be safe for use in human clinical treatments. As a result, rather than taking a blood sample or conducting a barrage of tests, a doctor may someday have a patient swallow a spoonful of tiny electronics to identify and treat ailments.
“Quantum dots are ultra-tiny chunks of superconducting crystal, whose electronic properties can be fine-tuned depending on just how tiny they are,” science and sci-fi blog io9 explains. “They’re used in a variety of applications, including medical imaging. If you gobble down a bunch of quantum dots, or if a doctor injects you with them, they can enter your cells or cling to one shred of protein.”
According to a paper published in the journal Nature, Chinese researchers have found that quantum dots may be safe for humans to ingest. Their nano-scale size allows quantum dots to travel almost anywhere in the body, and can help in detecting tumors or identifying potentially harmful microbes before they do any damage.
“In the study, four rhesus monkeys were injected with cadmium-selenide quantum dots. They remained in normal health for more than 90 days – their blood and biomarkers were tested and their organs developed no abnormalities, nor did the animals lose weight,” Wired U.K. notes. “Two monkeys were then observed for an additional year and also showed no signs of illness. Previous studies had only tested the dots in mice and rats.”
Quantum dots are currently being explored for potential applications in image-guided surgery, light activated therapies and sensitive diagnostic tests. The cadmium-selenide dots used in the recent experiment also have potential beyond medicine, and can serve as components in solar cells, quantum computers and LEDs.
Robot Fish Heads to Sea
An unusual fish is being tracked off the coast of Spain. Rather than scales and flesh, the creature is composed of metal and carbon fiber. This artificial fish is part of an innovative new effort to monitor and clean aquatic pollution.
Developed by SHOAL, a European initiative for deploying autonomous machines to monitor harbor conditions, the robotic fish is 5 feet long and equipped with sensors to pick up pollutants leaked from ships or underwater pipelines. It is capable of performing analysis in real time, rather than the previous method of using divers to collect samples and return to shore, effectively cutting down detection time from weeks to seconds.
“The rationale behind making the robots look like fish is not just so they will look way cooler than non-fish-mimicking equipment but to take advantage of the hydrodynamic shape perfected over millions of years, and also because using a fin instead of a propeller for propulsion should make it easier for the robot to operate in coastal environments that are thick with weeds,” Discovery News explains.
The robot weighs less than 80 pounds, features a jointed tail and relies on an oscillatory fish-like motion to move through the water. The developers are also planning to introduce more robot fish to function as a shoal, so that when one detects a pollutant it can transmit the information to the others and they can work together to pinpoint the source. The robots communicate through low-frequency sound waves, which can penetrate the water more easily than radio waves.
Here’s a video showcasing one of SHOAL’s robot fish and its remarkable ability to mimic real fish motions:
The 3-D Modeled Supercarrier
A new class of aircraft supercarriers will soon replace the existing carrier fleet in the United States military, led by the Gerald R. Ford, the first carrier to be entirely designed using 3-D modeling software.
Currently under construction by Hunter Ingalls Industries, the Gerald R. Ford will feature a flight deck layout and structure that will handle aircraft more efficiently, and includes four electromagnetic aircraft launching system catapults.
“Every piece part is created in a 3-D model at full scale which includes structure, various equipments, piping systems, machinery, electrical, wireways, gauges, pumps, berths, medical and galleys,” Hunter Ingalls explains. “At any given day, hundreds of designers, engineers, planners and construction representatives were in the model designing, creating and planning every feature of the ship.”
The following video shows the 3-D modeling process used in the supercarrier’s design and projects how the finished vessel will look:
Have a great weekend, folks.