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Using electronics to solve common biological problems

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Researchers from multiple disciplines are working together at KAUST to develop bioelectronics that can detect diseases, treat cancers and track marine animals; they may even discover the next generation of computing systems.

Cancer-killing magnets

Jurgen Kosel is an electrical engineer who loves to play with magnets. His research group has developed a technique to fabricate unique magnetic iron-oxide nanowires that can kill cancer cells1.

“Certain kinds of iron-based magnetic nanoparticles were approved many years ago by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use inside the human body. They are regularly used as contrast agents in magnetic resonance imaging and as nutritional supplements for people with iron deficiency,” says Kosel.

The magnetic nanoparticles currently in use are spherical in shape. Kosel and his team developed wire-shaped magnetic nanoparticles that can be rotated like a compass needle, creating a pore in cancer cell membranes that induces natural cell death. These cancer-killing nanowires can be made even more effective when coated with an anti-cancer drug or heated with a laser. They are "eaten" by cancer cells, and once released inside, they can wreak havoc.

Kosel has been working closely with cell biologist Jasmeen Merzaban, and more recently, with organic chemist Niveen Khashab to "functionalize" the surfaces of his magnetic nanowires to ensure the body’s immune system does not treat them as foreign. They are also working on preventing the wires from sticking together and on targeting cancer cells more specifically by coating them with antibodies that recognize specific antigens on their cell membranes.

Kosel has also worked with electrical engineer Muhammad Hussain to use magnets for improving the safety of cardiac catheters. They have developed a flexible magnetic sensor that is sensitive enough to detect the Earth’s magnetic field. When these sensors are placed on the tip of a cardiac catheter, for example, clinicians can detect its orientation inside blood vessels. This enables them to direct it where it is needed in order to insert a stent, for example, to relieve blockage in a heart artery. This reduces the need for prolonged doses of X-rays and contrast dyes during procedures like coronary angioplasty.

Disease detection

“Over the past 50 years, the 500-billion-dollar semiconductor industry has mainly focused on two applications: computing and communications,” says KAUST electrical engineer, Khaled Salama. “But this technology holds a lot of promise for other areas, including medical research, as people are living longer and needing more care. We need a paradigm shift to leverage some of the technologies we’ve developed for use in this area.”

Salama has developed a sensor that can detect "C-reactive proteins," a biomarker of cardiovascular disease2. He’s done this by functionalizing electrodes with nanomaterials and gold nanoparticles to improve their sensitivity. The electrodes give a signal that is proportional to the amount of C-reactive protein in a blood sample. His group developed a unique process that 3D prints the microfluidic channels that deliver samples to the sensor for biological detection.

Elsewhere at KAUST, Sahika Inal is developing a device that can make life easier for diabetics.

Inal comes from a textile manufacturing background, but her studies on the electrical properties of polymers, which are biocompatible, have led her down the route of bioelectronics. 

Her team has developed inkjet-printed, disposable, polymer-based sensors that can measure glucose levels in saliva3. “We inkjet-print conducting polymers. The biological ink contains the enzymes used for glucose sensing, an encapsulation layer that protects the enzymes, a layer that only allows glucose penetration and an insulating layer to protect the electronics,” she explains. “And then you have a paper-based sensor within a few minutes!”

Inal is also developing other biochemical sensors that can generate their own energy from compounds already present in the body to power implantable devices, such as cardiac pacemakers.

“To conduct impactful bioelectronics work, I need to be in an environment where there are biologists, the people who can give me feedback on what I develop,” says Inal.

Bio-inspired computers and animal tracking
Bioelectronics not only encompass electronic devices designed to solve biological problems, they are also electronic solutions inspired by biology.

Khaled Salama is interested in a relatively new type of bio-inspired device called a "memristor"4. These are electrical components inspired by the neural networks and synapses of the brain. Researchers hope they will lead to the next generation of computing systems and that they will be better equipped to very rapidly process huge amounts of data. Salama has developed an approach that improves their computational efficiency while reducing power consumption in these typically energy-intensive devices.

Sensing data in harsh marine environments can be particularly challenging, says Kosel. Researchers have often resorted to electronic tags placed on large marine animals to track their movements. They also use electronic sensors to conduct flow, salinity, pressure and temperature measurements in the sea. Smaller, lighter, less power-hungry tags are needed to resist corrosion, and withstand biofouling, a bacterial crust that forms on almost anything that stays in the sea for too long.

Kosel’s solution was to develop graphene sensors fabricated with a single-step laser-printing technique for marine applications. These laser-induced graphene sensors are resistant to corrosion and can survive high temperatures. They are very light and flexible, making them suitable for attaching to smaller marine animals. They also developed a technique5 that involves conducting high-frequency measurements that allow them to withstand the effects of an accumulating biofouling layer.

The group have started a conference, which will be held annually at KAUST. Last year, among the many esteemed attendees was George Malliaras, a Prince Philip Professor of Technology at the University of Cambridge. Malliaras praised the university for its world-class instrumentation, access to excellent collaborations within the campus and mechanisms to collaborate with people abroad. He says, "Taken together, these attributes have made KAUST very successful at addressing some of the most important problems that humanity faces today." 

Tags:  Bioelectronics  George Malliaras  Graphene  Healthcare  Jasmeen Merzaban  Jurgen Kosel  Khaled Salama  King Abdullah University of Science and Technology  Muhammad Hussain  nanoparticles  Niveen Khashab  Sahika Inal  semiconductor  University of Cambridge 

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Smog-eating graphene composite reduces atmospheric pollution

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Graphene Flagship partners the University of Bologna, Politecnico di Milano, CNR, NEST, Italcementi HeidelbergCement Group, the Israel Institute of Technology, Eindhoven University of Technology, and the University of Cambridge have developed a graphene-titania photocatalyst that degrades up to 70% more atmospheric nitrogen oxides (NOx) than standard titania nanoparticles in tests on real pollutants.

Atmospheric pollution is a growing problem, particularly in urban areas and in less developed countries. According to the World Health Organization, one out of every nine deaths can be attributed to diseases caused by air pollution. Organic pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides and volatile compounds, are the main cause of this, and they are mostly emitted by vehicle exhausts and industry.

To address the problem, researchers are continually on the hunt for new ways to remove more pollutants from the atmosphere, and photocatalysts such as titania are a great way to do this. When titania is exposed to sunlight, it degrades nitrogen oxides – which are very harmful to human health – and volatile organic compounds present at the surface, oxidising them into inert or harmless products.

Now, the Graphene Flagship team working on photocatalytic coatings, coordinated by Italcementi, HeidelbergCement Group, Italy, developed a new graphene-titania composite with significantly more powerful photodegradation properties than bare titania. "We answered the Flagship's call and decided to couple graphene to the most-used photocatalyst, titania, to boost the photocatalytic action," comments Marco Goisis, the research coordinator at Italcementi. "Photocatalysis is one of the most powerful ways we have to depollute the environment, because the process does not consume the photocatalysts. It is a reaction activated by solar light," he continues.

By performing liquid-phase exfoliation of graphite – a process that creates graphene – in the presence of titania nanoparticles, using only water and atmospheric pressure, they created a new graphene-titania nanocomposite that can be coated on the surface of materials to passively remove pollutants from the air. If the coating is applied to concrete on the street or on the walls of buildings, the harmless photodegradation products could be washed away by rain or wind, or manually cleaned off.

To measure the photodegradation effects, the team tested the new photocatalyst against NOx and recorded a sound improvement in photocatalytic degradation of nitrogen oxides compared to standard titania. They also used rhodamine B as a model for volatile organic pollutants, as its molecular structure closely resembles those of pollutants emitted by vehicles, industry and agriculture. They found that 40% more rhodamine B was degraded by the graphene-titania composite than by titania alone, in water under UV irradiation. "Coupling graphene to titania gave us excellent results in powder form – and it could be applied to different materials, of which concrete is a good example for the widespread use, helping us to achieve a healthier environment. It is low-maintenance and environmentally friendly, as it just requires the sun's energy and no other input," Goisis says. But there are challenges to be addressed before this can be used on a commercial scale. Cheaper methods to mass-produce graphene are needed. Interactions between the catalyst and the host material need to be deepened as well as studies into the long-term stability of the photocatalyst in the outdoor environment.

Ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy measurements revealed an electron transfer process from titania to the graphene flakes, decreasing the charge recombination rate and increasing the efficiency of reactive species photoproduction – meaning more pollutant molecules could be degraded.

Xinliang Feng, Graphene Flagship Work Package Leader for Functional Foams and Coatings, explains: "Photocatalysis in a cementitious matrix, applied to buildings, could have a large effect to decrease air pollution by reducing NOx and enabling self-cleaning of the surfaces – the so-called "smog-eating" effect. Graphene could help to improve the photocatalytic behaviour of catalysts like titania and enhance the mechanical properties of cement. In this publication, Graphene Flagship partners have prepared a graphene-titania composite via a one-step procedure to widen and improve the ground-breaking invention of "smog-eating" cement. The prepared composite showed enhanced photocatalytic activity, degrading up to 40% more pollutants than pristine titania in the model study, and up to 70% more NOx with a similar procedure. Moreover, the mechanism underlying this improvement was briefly studied using ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy."

Enrico Borgarello, Global Product Innovation Director at Italcementi, part of the HeidelbergCement Group, one of the world's largest producers of cement, comments: "Integrating graphene into titania to create a new nanocomposite was a success. The nanocomposite showed a strong improvement in the photocatalytic degradation of atmospheric NOx boosting the action of titania. This is a very significant result, and we look forward to the implementation of the photocatalytic nanocomposite for a better quality of air in the near future."

The reasons to incorporate graphene into concrete do not stop here. Italcementi is also working on another product – an electrically conductive graphene concrete composite, which was showcased at Mobile World Congress in February this year. When included as a layer in flooring, it could release heat when an electrical current is passed through it. Goisis comments: "You could heat your room, or the pavement, without using water from a tank or boiler. This opens the door to innovation for the smart cities of the future – particularly to self-sensing concrete," which could detect stress or strain in concrete structures and monitor for structural defects, providing warning signals if the structural integrity is close to failure.

Andrea C. Ferrari, Science and Technology Officer of the Graphene Flagship and Chair of its Management Panel, adds: "An ever-increasing number of companies are now partners, or associate members of the Graphene Flagship, since they recognize the potential for new and improved technologies. In this work, Italcementi, leader in Italy in the field of building materials, demonstrated a clear application of graphene for the degradation of environment pollutants. This can not only have commercial benefits, but, most importantly, benefit of society by resulting in a cleaner and healthier environment"

Tags:  Andrea C. Ferrari  Eindhoven University of Technology  Enrico Borgarello  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  Healthcare  HeidelbergCement Group  Israel Institute of Technology  Italcementi  nanoparticles  University of Bologna  University of Cambridge  Xinliang Feng 

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Science snapshots from Berkeley Lab

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Monday, December 2, 2019
A Matchmaker for Microbiomes

Microbiomes play essential roles in the natural processes that keep the planet and our bodies healthy, so it's not surprising that scientists' investigations into these diverse microbial communities are leading to advances in medicine, sustainable agriculture, cheap water purification methods, and environmental cleanup technology, just to name a few. However, trying to determine which microbes contribute to an important geochemical or physiological reaction is both incredibly challenging and slow-going, because the task involves analyzing enormous datasets of genetic and metabolic information to match the compounds mediating a process to the microbes that produced them.

But now, researchers have devised a new way to sort through the information overload.

Writing in Nature Methods, a team led by UC San Diego describes a neural network-based approach called microbe-metabolite vectors (mmvec), which uses probabilities to identify the most likely relationship of co-occurring microbes and metabolites. The team demonstrates how mmvec can outperform traditional correlation-based approaches by applying mmvec to datasets from two well-studied microbiomes types - those found in desert soils and cystic fibrosis patients' lungs - and gives a taste of how the approach could be used in the future by revealing relationships between microbially-produced metabolites and inflammatory bowel disease.

"Previous statistical tools used to estimate microbe-metabolite correlations performed comparably to random chance," said Marc Van Goethem, a postdoctoral researcher who is one of three study authors from Berkeley Lab. "Their poor performance led to the detection of spurious relationships and missed many true relationships. Mmvec is a powerful new tool that accurately links metabolite and microbial abundances to solve this problem. There could be wide-ranging applications from clinical trials to environmental engineering. Ultimately, mmvec will allow us to begin moving away from simple pattern recognition towards unravelling mechanisms."

When Solids and Liquids Meet: In Nanoscale Detail

How a liquid interacts with the surface of a solid is important in batteries and fuel cells, chemical production, corrosion phenomena, and many biological processes.

To better understand this solid-liquid interface, researchers at Berkeley Lab developed a platform to explore these interactions under real conditions ("in situ") at the nanoscale using a technique that combines infrared light with an atomic force microscopy (AFM) probe. The results were published in the journal Nano Letters.

The team explored the interaction of graphene with several liquids, including water and a common battery electrolyte fluid. Graphene is an atomically thin form of carbon. Its single-layer atomic structure gives the material some unique properties, including incredible mechanical strength and high electrical conductivity.

Researchers used a beam of infrared light produced at Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source and they focused it at the tip of an AFM probe that scanned across a section of graphene in contact with the liquids. The infrared technique provides a nondestructive way to explore the active nanoscale chemistry of the solid-liquid interface.

By measuring the infrared light scattered from the probe's tip, researchers collected details about the chemical compounds and the concentration of charged particles along the solid-liquid interface. The same technique, which revealed hidden features at this interface that were not seen using conventional methods, can be used to explore a range of materials and liquids.

Researchers from the Lab's Materials Sciences Division, Molecular Foundry, and Energy Storage and Distributed Resources Division participated in the study. The Molecular Foundry and Advanced Light Source are DOE Office of Science user facilities.

Underwater telecom cables make superb seismic network

Fiber-optic cables that constitute a global undersea telecommunications network could one day help scientists study offshore earthquakes and the geologic structures hidden deep beneath the ocean surface.

In a recent paper in the journal Science, researchers UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), and Rice University describe an experiment that turned 20 kilometers of undersea fiber-optic cable into the equivalent of 10,000 seismic stations along the ocean floor. During their four-day experiment in Monterey Bay, they recorded a 3.5 magnitude quake and seismic scattering from underwater fault zones.

Their technique, which they had previously tested with fiber-optic cables on land, could provide much-needed data on quakes that occur under the sea, where few seismic stations exist, leaving 70% of Earth's surface without earthquake detectors.

"This is really a study on the frontier of seismology, the first time anyone has used offshore fiber-optic cables for looking at these types of oceanographic signals or for imaging fault structures," said Jonathan Ajo-Franklin, a geophysics professor at Rice University in Houston and a faculty scientist at Berkeley Lab. "One of the blank spots in the seismographic network worldwide is in the oceans."

Tags:  atomic force microscopy  Berkeley Lab  disease  fuel cells  Graphene  Healthcare  Jonathan Ajo-Franklin  journal Science  Marc Van Goethem  microbiomes  Molecular Foundry  Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute  Nano Letters  nanoscale  Rice University  UC San Diego 

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Graphene activates immune cells helping bone regeneration in mice

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Thursday, November 28, 2019
Graphene has been used for many years in the aeronautics and automotive industries and is even used to create new composites. However, it still has a long way to go to offer the consumer the revolutionary applications promised since Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. A team of researchers from several Italian universities within the Graphene Flagship Consortium intends to change this and apply it to regenerative medicine therapies.

Publications about the biomedical applications of graphene-based materials have increased in recent years. So says the researcher from Graphene Flagship partner University of Padua (Italy) Lucia Gemma Delogu, who considers that this is due to its "incredible" physicochemical properties, a long list that ranges from its high flexibility and resistance to its good conductivity, both electrical and thermal.

Delogu and her team have worked to take advantage of the material in the field of biomedicine. Their study, published this year in Nanoscale, shows how the immune properties of graphene allow bone tissue to regenerate in mice. This is possible through nano-tools that can activate or deactivate the immune response, an approach that is of great interest for cancer therapies and tissue engineering.

"Graphene-based materials can improve bone regeneration, a complex process that requires interaction between immune and skeletal cells," Delogu explains to Sinc. In the study, the researchers combined a type of graphene oxide with calcium phosphate, a substance capable of activating this regeneration.

"The injection of the graphene-based material into the tibia of mice showed an improvement in the bone mass in the area and in bone formation, suggesting that the combination is capable of activating monocytes to induce osteogenesis," continues the researcher.

How does the body respond to graphene?

Delogu is also the coordinator of the G-Immunomics project, whose objective is to analyse the impact of graphene on the health of living beings, with a view to its possible biomedical applications. G-Immunomics is one of the Partnering Projects of the Graphene Flagship, a European consortium of more than 150 research centres and companies, with a budget of 1,000 million euros and the goal of taking graphene and related materials towards application.

"The use of graphene in biomedicine may revolutionize medical protocols with new theranostic approaches," a concept that merges the terms "therapy" and "diagnosis" in the context of personalized medicine. "If we learn how graphene interacts with our immune system, we will be able to explore much more specific therapies for the treatment of diseases," she says.

The researcher explains that these interactions are complex, so it is still "an image that lacks several colours." By injecting a material, it comes into contact with the immune cells in the blood, which means that studying the impact of graphene on the immune response is "fundamental".

For this reason, Delogu's team is also studying how graphene can stimulate or suppress the immune response. "Our research wants to show a broad picture of the interaction of immune cells in blood with layered materials such as those based on graphene," with the ultimate goal of their possible to apply in biomedicine efficiently but also safely.

Graphene against osteoporosis
Diseases related to bone loss, such as osteoporosis, are a problem for millions of people worldwide. The World Health Organisation estimates that, in Europe alone, 22 million women and 5.5 million men aged 50-84 suffer from osteoporosis.

"Our preclinical research reveals that functionalized graphene may offer a medical opportunity to fight these bone-related diseases," says Delogu. "By promoting bone regeneration, they could also be used to improve the healing of bone wounds and shorten their duration."

Even, she says, "to combat bone loss suffered by astronauts due to lack of gravity". In this área, Delogu is involved in the project WHISKIES recently funded by the European Space Agency.

For all these reasons, she is confident that graphene can a have a future in biomedicine "We are at an early stage, but we hope that the work will open the door to real clinical applications for graphene-based materials," she says. Her dream is to explore the immunological potential of graphene in other fields of regenerative medicine.

Tags:  Andre Geim  Graphene  Healthcare  Konstantin Novoselov  Lucia Gemma Delogu  Medical  University of Padua 

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Global Graphene Group Joins EU REACH Consortium

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Monday, November 18, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, November 20, 2019
Global Graphene Group (G3) continues its leadership in the graphene industry by joining the European Union’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) graphene consortium. A member of G3’s executive team represented the company in Frankfurt, Germany, at the November 14 REACH consortium meeting.

G3 is one of only three companies actively engaged with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to participate in studies on potential exposure sources and recommendations for improved safety practices when dealing with graphene.

REACH focuses on how chemicals in products are handled, and their potential impact on the environment and human health. It works with companies that manufacture products in or import products to Europe to address chemicals that could have a negative effect.

“Global Graphene Group does business with European customers,” said John Davis, G3 COO. “It is vital to our continued success in the EU region to be REACH certified. Joining the REACH consortium allows G3 to take an active role in how graphene solutions are handled in Europe, and help shape the trajectory of the graphene industry.”

Tags:  Global Graphene Group  Graphene  Healthcare  John Davis  NIOSH 

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From the classroom to the lab and back again

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Monday, October 28, 2019
Updated: Monday, October 28, 2019
Adithya Sriram has always had an interest in physics. But after learning about Penn’s Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER), he decided that the chance to study both physics and chemical engineering was one he couldn’t turn down. “I wasn’t going to do engineering, but the fact that I got into this program afforded me the opportunity,” says the senior from Columbus, Ohio. 

A joint initiative between the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science, VIPER enables students to earn degrees from both schools while also conducting summer research projects. For Sriram, that has entailed working in the experimental nanoscale physics lab of Charlie Johnson since the summer following his freshman year, developing graphene field effect transistors to detect biological molecules such as proteins or DNA in biological samples. And to top things off, he and a group of Penn students travel to Paul Robeson High School each Friday to teach physics to 10th graders. 

Transistors are found everywhere in modern electronics, enabling the creation of small, inexpensive devices from radios to clocks to computers. Using a voltage signal, the transistor can control the flow of electrons, switching between an “on” and “off” state. 

To broaden the application of transistors to disease diagnosis, the Johnson lab focuses attention on transistors’ transitional state, between “on” and “off,” where the device is extremely sensitive and the flow of electrons can be precisely measured.

Using atomically-thin graphene as a starting point, the transistors can be customized to detect a wide range of targets based on the biological molecule that the researchers attach to the graphene. In a typical week, Sriram spends his time synthesizing new devices, testing the sensor’s response against known concentrations of biomarkers, and figuring out what changes can be made to the structure of the material to improve its sensitivity. 

The goal is to use these devices to detect disease biomarkers, biological molecules that can help diagnose diseases before symptoms appear. To make progress, Sriram spearheaded a collaboration with Kelvin Luk at the Center For Neurodegenerative Disease Research to add aptamers, small chains of DNA that work as sensors for a wide array of biological molecules, onto graphene devices. “He went and found a collaborator at Penn—only one other student has ever done that before. Understanding that there’s a connection and realizing that it’s a real opportunity are terrific things.”

Sriram also helped generate preliminary data that was part of a recently funded NIH grant with engineer David Issadore for developing a filtration process that will make it easier to measure small amounts of biological materials in complex samples like blood or cerebral spinal fluids, work that could help transforms the Johnson lab’s transistors into compact, handheld devices. “There’s still basic science that we need to look at, there’s still applied science that we’re doing, and Adithya has done a great job embracing that challenge,” says Johnson, adding that their group has only recently started to look more closely at direct applications. 

Outside of courses and lab work, Sriram and senior Alex Zhou from Yorktown, Virginia, serve as teaching assistants for an academically-based community service (ABCS) course for Penn students. With guidance from physics professors Philip Nelson and Masao Sako, Sriram and Zhou develop the curriculum for an introductory physics course that Penn students implement in hands-on and inquiry-based physics labs for high schoolers, with ABCS support provided by the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships. Every Friday, the Penn students and Nelson travel to Paul Robeson High School—not far from Penn’s campus—and lead three hours of teaching and demonstrations for a group of 20 tenth graders based on the newly developed curriculum. 

The goal of the course is to provide Penn students with high school teaching experience while giving science-minded tenth graders a chance to see physics in action. “We’re trying to give some authentic science experience,” says Nelson, adding that Sriram and Zhou have taken the lead and reinvented this community service course from scratch.

Sriram has a strong interest in science outreach, something he hopes to continue doing in the next stage of his career. It’s a challenging endeavor that Nelson says Sriram has embraced extremely well. “Adithya and Alex have had to reach back into their past, to things that confused them at first. It takes an element of empathy that goes beyond just knowing the science.”

Now busy with his final year of courses and his senior capstone project, Sriram is actively applying for graduate schools. He says that being in the VIPER program was a great opportunity to learn about a number of different topics, including biology courses and advanced graduate-level electives. “As of now I’m more interested in pursuing fundamental physics, though later I might consider trying to get into policy,” he says. “If I do, I foresee knowledge of the energy industry and chemical engineering to be useful.”

With perspectives from physics and engineering, a solid grounding in fundamental research, and his time spent teaching, Sriram is bound to make an impact regardless of where he lands. “He has a plan, and a goal, and a lot of energy,” says Nelson. “What makes my job exciting and rewarding is that I see students that fill me with hope about the future.”

Johnson adds that the Roy and Diana Vagelos endowed programs, including the Life Sciences and Management and the Molecular Life Sciences programs, have positively impacted Penn while providing students with a strong grounding in fundamental science. “Science is about phenomena, discovering new things, but solving a problem is another layer. Engineers get told that they can solve problems, and I think if you can combine that attitude with a really deep understanding of the basic science, that’s a real combo.”

Tags:  Adithya Sriram  David Issadore  Graphene  Healthcare  Penn State University  transistor 

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Smart Insole Can Double As Lifesaving Technology For Diabetic Patients

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Monday, October 14, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Stevens Institute of Technology has signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Bonbouton, giving the cutting-edge health and technology company the right to use and further develop a graphene sensing system that detects early signs of foot ulcers before they form so people living with diabetes can access preventative healthcare and confidently manage their health.

The smart insole, Bonbouton’s first product, can be inserted into a sneaker or dress shoe to passively monitor the foot health of a person living with diabetes. The data are then sent to a companion app which can be accessed by the patient and shared with their healthcare provider, who can determine if intervention or treatment is needed.

“I was inspired by two things—a desire to help those with diabetes and a desire to commercialize the technology,” said Bonbouton Founder and CEO Linh Le, who developed and patented the core graphene technology while pursuing a doctorate in chemical engineering at Stevens. Le came up with the idea to create an insole that could help prevent diabetic ulcers after several personal incidents lead him to pursue preventative healthcare.

Complications from diabetes can make it difficult for patients to monitor their foot heath. Chronically high levels of blood glucose can impair blood vessels and cause nerve damage. Patients can experience a lot of pain, but can also lose feeling in their feet. Diabetes-related damage to blood vessels and nerves can lead to hard-to-treat infections such as ulcers. Ulcers that don’t heal can cause severe damage to tissues and bone and may require amputation of a toe, foot or part of a leg.

Bonbouton’s smart insoles sense the skin’s temperature, pressure and other foot health-related data, which can alert a patient and his or her healthcare provider when an infection is about to take hold. This simplifies patient self-monitoring and reduces the frequency of doctor visits, which can ultimately lead to a higher quality of life.

Bonbouton, which is based in New York City, is currently partnering with global insurance company MetLife to determine how its smart insoles will be able to reduce healthcare costs for diabetic foot amputations. In 2018, Bonbouton also announced its technical development agreement with Gore, a company well known for revolutionizing the outerwear industry with GORE-TEX® fabric, to explore ways to integrate Bonbouton’s graphene sensors in comfortable, wearable fabric for digital health applications, including disease management, athletic performance and everyday use.

“We are interested in developing smart clothing for preventative health, and embrace the possibilities of how our graphene technology can be used in other industries,” said Le. “I am excited to realize the full potential of Bonbouton, taking a technology that I developed as a graduate student at Stevens and growing it into a product that will bring seamless preventative care to patients and save billions of dollars in healthcare costs.”

Tags:  Bonbouton  Graphene  Healthcare  Linh Le  Sensors  Stevens Institute of Technology 

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Graphene is wonderful – The Graphene Flagship project presents innovations in Brussels

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Thursday, September 26, 2019
European Commission funded research project, the Graphene Flagship, will demonstrate a selection of the project’s most exciting innovations at the Science is Wonderful exhibition in Brussels, Belgium, on 25 and 26 September 2019. The free exhibition, held at Tour & Taxis, a redeveloped industrial space in Brussels, is part of the European Research and Innovation Days and aims to bring a world of science and technology to the general public.

Demonstrations from the Graphene Flagship include technology that has been developed for human health and wellbeing. For example, a graphene-based brain implant that could be used to provide information on the onset of seizures. The new technology, which has been developed by Graphene Flagship partners the Microelectronic Institute of Barcelona (IMB-CNM, CSIC), the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2) and ICFO, demonstrates a major step in understanding the functions of the human brain.

The exhibition will also showcase examples of graphene dispersions and graphite electrodes manufactured by Graphene Flagship partner Talga. As a high-tech materials company and a leader in bulk graphene and graphite supply, Talga will demonstrate how graphene can easily be exfoliated from graphite, illustrating the journey from material exfoliation, right through to commercialisation.

Other demonstrations at Science is Wonderful include a newly developed virtual reality (VR) system which can be used to construct, manipulate and build graphene and other layered material structures. Developed by Graphene Flagship partner the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), the VR system demonstrates clearly how graphene can be modified and manipulated, with the ability to edit molecules and perform calculations on their electronic properties in real-time.

The VR system gives students and other citizens an unforgettable, low-barrier to entry for the complex machinery of atomic-scale materials and technology. However, it can also provide even experienced researchers with a unique sandbox for scientific problem solving, quantitative analysis, idea generation and discovery.

“The Graphene Flagship’s presence at Science is Wonderful will bolster its efforts to promote the use of graphene in commercial products,” explained Jari Kinaret, director of the Graphene Flagship. “During the first five years of our ambitious Graphene Flagship project, we managed to bring together academic researchers and industrial business leaders to create and commercialise technologies that are already improving European society — the demonstrations at Science is Wonderful will showcase some beautiful examples.”

Tags:  CSIC  Graphene  Graphene Flagship  Healthcare  ICFO  ICN2  Jari Kinaret  Technical University of Denmark 

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New health monitors are flexible, transparent and graphene enabled

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Wednesday, September 18, 2019

New technological devices are prioritizing non-invasive tracking of vital signs not only for fitness monitoring, but also for the prevention of common health problems such as heart failure, hypertension, and stress related complications, among others. Wearables based on optical detection mechanisms are proving an invaluable approach for reporting on our bodies inner workings and have experienced a large penetration into the consumer market in recent years.

Current wearable technologies, based on non-flexible components, do not deliver the desired accuracy and can only monitor a limited number of vital signs. To tackle this problem, conformable non-invasive optical-based sensors that can measure a broader set of vital signs are at the top of the end-users’ wish list.

In a recent study published in Science Advances ("Flexible graphene photodetectors for wearable fitness monitoring"), ICFO researchers have demonstrated a new class of flexible and transparent wearable devices that are conformable to the skin and can provide continuous and accurate measurements of multiple human vital signs. These devices can measure heart rate, respiration rate and blood pulse oxygenation, as well as exposure to UV radiation from the sun.

While the device measures the different parameters, the read-out is visualized and stored on a mobile phone interface connected to the wearable via Bluetooth. In addition, the device can operate battery-free since it is charged wirelessly through the phone.

“It was very important for us to demonstrate the wide range of potential applications for our advanced light sensing technology through the creation of various prototypes, including the flexible and transparent bracelet, the health patch integrated on a mobile phone and the UV monitoring patch for sun exposure. They have shown to be versatile and efficient due to these unique features”, reports Dr. Emre Ozan Polat, first author of this publication.

The bracelet was fabricated in such a way that it adapts to the skin surface and provides continuous measurement during activity (see Figure 1). The bracelet incorporates a flexible light sensor that can optically record the change in volume of blood vessels, due to the cardiac cycle, and then extract different vital signs such as heart rate, respiration rate and blood pulse oxygenation.

Secondly, the researchers report on the integration of a graphene health patch onto a mobile phone screen, which instantly measures and displays vital signs in real time when a user places one finger on the screen (see Figure 2). A unique feature of this prototype is that the device uses ambient light to operate, promoting low-power-consumption in these integrated wearables and thus, allowing a continuous monitoring of health markers over long periods of time.

ICFO’s advanced light sensing technology has implemented two types of nanomaterials: graphene, a highly flexible and transparent material made of one-atom thick layer of carbon atoms, together with a light absorbing layer made of quantum dots. The demonstrated technology brings a new form factor and design freedom to the wearables’ field, making graphene-quantum-dots-based devices a strong platform for product developers.

 

Dr. Antonios Oikonomou, business developer at ICFO emphasized this by stating that “The booming wearables industry is eagerly looking to increase fidelity and functionality of its offerings. Our graphene-based technology platform answers this challenge with a unique proposition: a scalable, low-power system capable of measuring multiple parameters while allowing the translation of new form factors into products.”

Dr. Stijn Goossens, co-supervisor of the study, also comments that “we have made a breakthrough by showing a flexible, wearable sensing system based on graphene light sensing components. Key was to pick the best of the rigid and flexible worlds. We used the unique benefits of flexible components for vital sign sensing and combined that with the high performance and miniaturization of conventional rigid electronic components.”

Finally, the researchers have been able to demonstrate a broad wavelength detection range with the technology, extending the functionality of the prototypes beyond the visible range. By using the same core technology, they have fabricated a flexible UV patch prototype (see Figure 3) capable of wirelessly transferring both power and data, and operating battery-free to sense the environmental UV-index. continuous monitoring of health markers over long periods of time.

The patch operates with a low power consumption and has a highly efficient UV detection system that can be attached to clothing or skin, and used for monitoring radiation intake from the sun, alerting the wearer of any possible over-exposure.

“We are excited about the prospects for this technology, pointing to a scalable route for the integration of graphene-quantum-dots into fully flexible wearable circuits to enhance form, feel, durability, and performance”, remarks Prof. Frank Koppens, leader of the Quantum Nano-Optoelectronics group at ICFO. “Such results show that this flexible wearable platform is compatible with scalable fabrication processes, proving mass-production of low-cost devices is within reach in the near future.”

Tags:  Antonios Oikonomou  Emre Ozan Polat  Frank Koppens  Graphene  Healthcare  ICFO  nanomaterials  quantum dots  Sensors  Stijn Goossens 

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Graphene and silk make self-healable electronic tattoos

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Researchers have designed graphene-based e-tattoos designed to act as biosensors. The sensors can collect data relate to human health, such as skin reactions to medication or to assess the degree of exposure to ultraviolet light.

Considerable research has gone into electronic tattoos (or e-tattoos), as part of the emerging field of or epidermal electronics. These are a thin form of wearable electronics, designed to be fitted to the skin. The aim of these lightweight sensors is to collect physiological data through sensors.

The types of applications of the sensors, from Tsinghua University, include assessing exposure to ultraviolet light to the skin (where the e-tattoos function as dosimeters) and for the collection of ‘vital signs’ to assess overall health or reaction to a particular medication (biosensors).

The use of graphene aids the collection of electric signals and it also imparts material properties to the sensors, allowing them to be bent, pressed, and twisted without any loss to sensors functionality.

The new sensors, developed in China, have shown – via as series of tests – good sensitivity to external stimuli like strain, humidity, and temperature. The basis of the sensor is a material matrix composed of a graphene and silk fibroin combination.

The highly flexible e‐tattoos are manufactured by printing a suspension of graphene, calcium ions and silk fibroin. Through this process the graphene flakes distributed in the matrix form an electrically conductive path. The path is highly responsive to environmental changes and it can detect multi-stimuli.

The e‐tattoo is also capable of self-healing. The tests showed how the tattoo heals after damage by water. This occurs due to the reformation of hydrogen and coordination bonds at the point of any fracture. The healing efficiency was demonstrated to be 100 percent and it take place in less than one second.

The researchers are of the view that the e-tattoos can be used as electrocardiograms, for assessing breathing, and for monitoring temperature changes. This means that the e‐tattoo model could be the basis for a new generation of epidermal electronics.

Commenting on the research, chief scientist Yingying Zhang said: “Based on the superior capabilities of our e-tattoos, we believe that such skin-like devices hold great promise for manufacturing cost-effective artificial skins and wearable electronics.”

Tags:  biosensors  Electronics  Graphene  Healthcare  Tsinghua University  Yingying Zhang 

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