Posts Tagged ‘dna’

Viruses Might Help Make Better Batteries

How can you make tiny, flexible materials that conduct electricity more efficiently than today’s batteries? You can engineer expensive, high-density carbon nanotubes. Or you can use the original nanobots, made by nature itself: viruses.

An MIT group recently described an advance that brings us closer to the day when freaky, half-alive nanomachines assemble batteries you could wear.

The research comes out of Angela Belcher’s Biomolecular Materials Group at MIT, which has been working on this project since 1994. They use bacteriophages to build — really, evolve — hyperdense materials from ionic particles, the same way bone, shells, chalk, and glass were made in the Cambrian period.

This week Mark Allen, a postdoc in the group, outlined the use of a new cathode made with iron flouride. Allen also described some of the potential applications of this technology. The high flexibility of the nanostructured material means you can weave it into any fabric or pour it into any shape, including:

  • Wearable battery packs for soliders, first responders, and civilians;
  • Tiny rechargable batteries for portable electronics including smart phones, laptops, and GPS;
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles, which require lightweight, long-lasting power sources.

In 2008, the group published an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlining how this would work. Viruses create a template, assembling nanowires out of cobalt oxide. These are built on top of a synthetic electrolytic polymer, called a polyelectrolyte. (Natural polyelectrolytes include protein polypeptides and DNA.) Stamp this electrode onto a platinum current collector, and:

The resulting electrode arrays exhibit full electrochemical functionality. This versatile approach for fabricating and positioning electrodes may provide greater flexibility for implementing advanced battery designs such as those with interdigitated microelectrodes or 3D architectures.

A UAV is going to provide the first real-world test of the scaled-up batteries in action. Other applications we’ve seen touted for wearable electronics include wearable solar cells and electronic devices that stand up to repeat laundering. So much to look forward to.

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Want To Keep The Peace At Home? You’d Best Avoid Bro-Jitsu

Daniel H. Wilson is the type of author we love at GeekDad. He has a PhD in robotics and has written books on surviving a robot uprising, the science of science fiction and hosted the show, Works, on the History Channel. So when his publisher sent me a copy of his latest book, I was pretty excited.

Unfortunately, Bro-Jitsu: The Martial Art of Sibling Smackdown is not a book we can recommend to our readers. Detailed in its 142 pages are description after description as to how to hurt friends and family. It’s an instruction manual that’s a potential powder keg in the hands of a twelve-year-old boy, the target audience for this book, according to the book’s publisher.

Before I get called too many names or criticized for my parenting techniques, let me say this: as a kid I fought a lot with my brother – we visited the emergency room more than once. What’s more, I think it’s OK for kids to occasionally settle their problems physically. How can kids understand boundaries – and their consequences – if they aren’t allowed to explore them? As siblings, fighting is so ingrained in our DNA, it is nearly impossible to avoid.

However, I think kids do just fine without step-by-step instructions for de-pantsing for maximum humiliation, creating a poo wand from a stick and dog crap or any of the other 124 techniques described in the book. Yes, there are practical jokes and harmless activities detailed, but they are far outweighed by moves and techniques designed to hurt, embarrass and disgust. Granted, Wilson has said he tried to avoid anything that would injure or scar someone permanently, but done incorrectly, many of the exercises in his book could lead to real harm.

Had this book been positioned a little differently, aimed as nostalgia for adults or used some other tact, my reaction most likely would have been different. But with all the anti-bullying laws and regulations being passed, can a pre-teen kid really understand the limits for what he reads in a book like this? I’m not so sure. Nevertheless, Nickelodeon bought the movie rights to Bro-Jitsu, so there may be no avoiding this silly idea.

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Crowds Embrace DIY Spirit at Fifth Annual Maker Faire

Maker Faire

Is do-it-yourself culture going mainstream?

Just ask the tens of thousands of people who are expected to cram into the San Mateo County fairgrounds this weekend for the fifth annual Maker Faire Bay Area. They’ll munch on corndogs and funnel cakes, swill $8 plastic cups of beer, and watch as artists, hobbyists and tinkerers show off their creations of steel, electronics, fabric and fire.

makerfaireMaker Faire — sort of a combination science fair / county fair, with a hefty dose of Burning Man thrown in — has been happening once a year in this suburb on the outskirts of Silicon Valley since 2006. The first Faire drew about 20,000 attendees and 200 exhibits, and both of those figures doubled the following year. Now, with 70,000 attendees expected and exactly 600 exhibits, the Maker Faire is starting to feel a little, well, crowded.

In the past several years it’s expanded to other locations, too. Regional Maker Faires will be held in Detroit July 31 to August 1 of this year and in New York September 25 to 26.

Dale Dougherty, the executive director of Maker Faire and the founder and publisher of Make magazine, says that, far from watering down its DIY ethos, the fair’s growth is a good thing.

“We’re able to reach more people. We’re able to include more diverse styles of making, coming from different communities,” Dougherty says. “I wouldn’t say this is mainstream, but people don’t think of it as quite the oddity it may have been in its first year.”

As the Maker Faire has grown, it has created business opportunities for the do-it-yourselfers who are its core. Burning Man crews like the kid- and crowd-pleasing Electric Giraffe Project show off their creations while selling bumper stickers to help defray their costs. Makers display their electronic creations and sell kits so you can make the same gadgets at home — or sell you the finished product outright. Companies like Rentalic and Sparkfun that cater to do-it-yourselfers hawk their services and kits at the fair.

“If people can make money at Maker Faire by selling their stuff, that’s a great validation of the value of making,” says Mark Frauenfelder, the editor-in-chief of Make magazine.

“It hasn’t become more refined or more commercial,” Frauenfelder says. “It’s always had that kind of homemade — in the best sense of the word — feel.”

But it’s not all buying and selling. Maker Faire is also a chance to connect with other hobbyists, get inspiration about projects you might want to take on, or get advice on the projects you already have underway.

Here’s a taste of what you can see at Maker Faire this year: Do-it-yourself DNA testing, pedal-powered vehicles, flamethrowing robot dragons, an extra-large recreation of the “Mousetrap” game, and lots and lots of LEDs.

Kyle Wiens, CEO of gadget-repair site iFixit, says his company will be there, with about 30 volunteers helping teach people how to fix their gadgets.

“Making and repair are yin and yang,” says Wiens.

Some go because they want their children to see the creative possibilities of making everything from robots and LED toys to sewing projects and crafts.

“I take my daughters because they are interested and find creation fascinating,” says Scott Cleaveland.

And others go just because they enjoy connecting with other makers. For instance, Rick Washburn, a “muffin car” maker who lives in Redwood City, California, says he spent his childhood assembling inventions out of discarded gadgets left out on big trash day.

“The Maker Fair is like a big class reunion of grown-up kids who did the same thing,” says Washburn. “We bring our creations to the Maker Faire so we can show off and enjoy our creations together.”

What to Do at Maker Faire

With more than 600 exhibits and dozens of presentations, performances and events, it’s hard to know what to do at Maker Faire. Check the Maker Faire event schedule for a full rundown, and see below for some highlights of the two-day event.

Expect crowds: Parking lots will fill up early, so take public transit or bike, if you can (the Faire is offering free valet parking for up to 2,000 bicycles).

Here are some highlights you won’t want to miss.

Makerbot Industries will show off its inexpensive 3-D fabrication machine, the Makerbot, at 11:30 and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Mythbusters co-host Adam Savage will be speaking at 2 p.m. on Saturday. He’s a dynamic presenter, and a folk hero to the DIY crowd, so this should be a fun event.

Remember that Diet Coke and Mentos fountain video from a couple of years ago? The guys that created the video, Eepybird, will be recreating their show at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, and at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Ford is using Maker Faire to announce their latest automotive technology platform and talk about how your gadgets can interface with it. Ford R&D engineering executive K. Venkatesh Prasad will be talking about “Automakers 2.0″ at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Pop band OK Go will give a performance on Sunday evening. The group’s amazing Rube Goldberg video debuted earlier this year, and their show will probably involve some gadgety, DIY surprises from exhibitors at the show.

Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson will talk about building autonomous drones at 5 p.m. Saturday and 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

Wired contributor Ken Denmead will be speaking at 3 p.m. Saturday, talking about GeekDads and GeekMoms and “how to bring out the geek in your children.”

Photo: Pip R. Lagenta/Flickr

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Crowds Embrace DIY Spirit at Fifth Annual Maker Faire

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DNA used to build nanoscale assembly line, Arto Lindsay unavailable for comment

This is what they call in the blog biz a “DNA Two-fer.” Earlier today we heard about self-assembling DNA circuits, and now what do we have? NYU chemistry professor Nadrian Seeman and his colleagues have developed what they call “DNA robot factories.” Featuring a DNA track (like an assembly line), molecular forklifts for delivering parts, and a DNA “walker” that CNET describes as moving “like a car on an assembly line,” the invention is currently being used to construct various types of gold nanoparticle chemical species (whatever that means), although it could eventually be used in processors or for buiding on the cellular level. Hit up the source link to see the Nature article for all the in-depth details of this nanoscale assembly line.

Continue reading DNA used to build nanoscale assembly line, Arto Lindsay unavailable for comment

DNA used to build nanoscale assembly line, Arto Lindsay unavailable for comment originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 15 May 2010 05:19:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Self-assembling DNA circuits could power your next computer

Self-assembling DNA circuits could power your next computerSick of silicon? It is getting a bit played, so maybe it’s time to shift some paradigms, and Duke University engineer Chris Dwyer thinks that pure proteins are where it’s at. He’s demonstrated a way to force DNA to create shapes all by itself, a process he likens to a puzzle that puts itself together:

It’s like taking pieces of a puzzle, throwing them in a box and as you shake the box, the pieces gradually find their neighbors to form the puzzle. What we did was to take billions of these puzzle pieces, throwing them together, to form billions of copies of the same puzzle.

Right now the waffle-shaped structures he can form aren’t particularly useful, but going forward the hope is that nearly any type of circuitry could be made to build itself in massive quantities at next to no cost. It sounds exciting, promising, almost utopian — exactly the kind of research that we usually never hear of again.

Self-assembling DNA circuits could power your next computer originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 14 May 2010 09:41:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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