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Iowa State engineer aids $9 million project to manufacture biobased electronics

Posted By Terrance Barkan, Thursday, October 15, 2020
Researchers will use a new advanced manufacturing grant to develop technologies that use plant-based inks to print low-cost, biodegradable and recyclable electronics for sensors and batteries.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded a five-year, $9.15 million grant to support the project and its team of researchers from the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Illinois at Chicago and Iowa State University.

Leading the effort is Junhong Chen, the Crown Family Professor of Molecular Engineering at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago and the lead water strategist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.

Jonathan Claussen, an Iowa State associate professor of mechanical engineering, will collaborate on the project. He’ll work with a doctoral student to develop techniques and technologies that use biobased graphene inks to print electronics for sensors. The grant will provide about $441,600 over five years to support the Iowa State research.

The project is known as MADE-PUBLIC, “Manufacturing ADvanced Electronics through Printing Using Biobased and Locally Identifiable Compounds.”

The grant is part of a $40 million NSF investment in 24 projects advancing biomanufacturing, cybermanufacturing and ecomanufacturing. 

“Our investment provides industry with manufacturing tools that currently live only in the laboratory, or the imagination,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan in a news release. “Through the convergence of such fields as robotics, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and materials research, future manufacturing will create revolutionary products with unprecedented capabilities, produced sustainably in facilities across the country by a diverse, newly trained workforce.”

Claussen said the grant will support his lab’s development and testing of a variety of printed electrochemical sensors. The sensors could potentially be used to monitor temperature, oxygen and soil nutrients for plants, including those used to produce inks for printed electronics.

“What’s really neat about this is that all of these inks for printed electronics will be biobased,” Claussen said. “We’re looking at biobased substrates to print them on, too. This could circumvent the need for expensive silicon electronics.”

The result could be a low cost way to produce recyclable, biodegradable and carbon-based electronics for a cleaner environment. And that, he said, “is where the future of this industry is heading.”

Tags:  Battery  biomaterials  Electronics  Graphene  Iowa State University  Jonathan Claussen  Junhong Chen  National Science Foundation  Sensors  Sethuraman Panchanathan  University of Chicago  University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 

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Biotech Startup’s Graphene-based Bandage Can Remotely Monitor Wounds

Posted By Graphene Council, Saturday, May 2, 2020
Chronic or hard-to-heal wounds, those that do not heal after six weeks, place a significant economic burden on health systems around the world, costing around $30 billion annually. They lead to half-a-million amputations per year globally. In the US alone, more than 6.5 million people suffer from such wounds.

The costs and incidence of chronic wounds are increasing due to the growing number of older people, among whom pressure ulcers and leg ulcers are more common, and the increase in people with diabetes, who are more prone to foot ulcers.

Faced with this problem and considering that proper assessment of these wounds is not within the reach of caregivers with the relevant expertise, French scientists have developed a new graphene patch that allows them to be monitored remotely.

“The conductivity of the Graphene electrode varies according to the physicochemical changes in the wound, so we have produced films of this material on a polymer (a plastic) and integrated them into a bandage that can record biological parameters by direct contact with the wound bed,” explains Vincent Bouchiat of Grapheal, a spin-off from France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), which is based at Néel Institute, in Grenoble, where this technology was developed.

A smart, connected dressing

The graphene dressing is ultra-flexible, adapts easily to any part of the body, and has tiny wireless electronics (with lightweight, fully flexible electrodes) that transfer the data to a mobile application. Then, using a telemedicine software and medical technologies in the cloud, the information can reach the hospital to be monitored and evaluated by a specialist.

Medical and nursing staff can remotely monitor how wounds are healing with this system, receiving alerts on any infection that may arise, which helps to prevent complications.

“This can improve and individualize the treatment of chronic wounds that require long-term care,” says Bouchiat, who emphasizes: “In particular, it provides an early detection of infections, allowing a hospital solution at home.”

Stimulating healing

The incorporation of graphene into skin patches of these types not only does not interfere with wound healing, but in fact can actually promotes it, actively stimulating this process, as demonstrated by the pre-clinical studies that have already been conducted.

The first human trials are about to begin.  This medical device has been classified as class II-b (such as condoms or insulin pens, for example) and requires the European mark of conformity. Its launch is planned for 2023.

The creators of the patch had intended to present it in February, along with other projects of the major European initiative known as the Graphene Flagship, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which was cancelled to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In this context, the researchers point out that this new graphene device will be able to help monitor the chronic wounds of isolated people, such as those who have now been forced into this situation by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tags:  Biomaterials  Grapheal  Graphene  Healthcare  Sensors  Vincent Bouchiat 

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Success in specific detection of molecules using deformation of a single graphene sheet

Posted By Graphene Council, Thursday, April 30, 2020

Associate Prof. Kazuhiro Takahashi and Shin Kidane of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Information Engineering at Toyohashi University of Technology and others developed a test chip using graphene, a sheet material with a thickness of one carbon atom (Nanoscale Advances, "A suspended graphene-based optical interferometric surface stress sensor for selective biomolecular detection").

The chip has a trampoline structure with a narrow gap of 1 micrometer or less formed under a monoatomic graphene film, and can specifically trap a biomarker, a protein included in bodily fluids such as blood, urine or saliva which is derived from a disease, on graphene.

The biomarker adsorbed by the graphene generates force which deforms the graphene into a dome shape. The group thus succeeded in detecting the amount of deformation as changes in color using the interference properties of light. It is expected that viruses and diseases will be able to be simply and quickly examined using the developed test chip.

A measuring device to simply and quickly examine a disease is extremely important for accurate diagnosis, verification of therapeutic effects, and investigation of recurrence and metastasis. If diseases can be examined using a very minute amount of body fluid such as blood or urine, physical condition can be simply, quickly and cheaply controlled.

A test technique for determining the presence or absence of a disease by specifically trapping a biomarker on a flexibly deformable thin film formed using semiconductor micromachining techniques, has been investigated. The research group has developed a sensor technique for detecting film deformation caused when a marker molecule is adsorbed as changes in color. As the thickness of the film to adsorb the biomarker decreases, the sensitivity of this sensor element can be increased.

It is thus expected that the sensitivity of the sensor will be improved by 1000 times or more using a material called graphene, a material with a thickness of 1 nanometer or less, formed from a single atomic layer.

In a previous report using suspended graphene in a bridge shape, however, changes at the time of physical adsorption of a molecule to suspended graphene were measured, and it was difficult to specifically detect the molecule to be measured.

As for the reason for this, it is thought that since modification using an antibody to recognize and specifically bind a molecule is commonly carried out in a solution, the suspended structure of graphene was destroyed during the solution treatment.

The research team, therefore, made a trampoline structure in which the unevenness of the substrate was covered with a graphene sheet, as a suspended structure of graphene which could withstand the solution treatment, and were able to modify graphene with an antibody molecule.

The surface of the graphene was functionalized with an antibody molecule to provide the ability to recognize a molecule, and an ultrasensitive biosensor which could specifically detect a biomarker was able to be produced. A light detection technique unique to the research team was used as a technique for detecting a biomarker bound to the surface of the graphene.

In a gap of 1 micrometer or less between the suspended graphene and the semiconductor substrate, color is changed depending on the length of the gap by the interference action of light. Using this effect, the appearance of a molecule adsorbed to suspended graphene in a test solution was revealed by changes in color.

According to the biosensing technique developed this time, it is expected that sensitivity per unit area will be improved to 2000 times that of conventional sensors.

In addition to blood tests, the research team has also investigated a chemical sensor to detect odors and chemical substances, and feels that the sensor can be applied to a novel compact sensor device contributing to IoT society. The sensor can be applied to the detection of various biomarkers and also to the detection of viruses by changing the probe molecules modifying the surface of the graphene.

Tags:  Biomaterials  Graphene  Healthcare  Kazuhiro Takahashi  Sensor  Shin Kidane  Toyohashi University of Technology 

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3D printed tissue-like vascular structures investigated on Larmor

Posted By Graphene Council, Friday, April 24, 2020
An international team of scientists have discovered a new material that can be 3D printed to create tissue-like vascular structures.

Material platforms that exploit the functionalities of both proteins and graphene oxide offer exciting possibilities for the engineering of advanced materials. This study introduces a method to 3D print graphene oxide with a protein that can organise into tubular structures that replicate some properties of vascular tissue.

Self-assembly is the process by which multiple components can organise into larger well-defined structures. Biological systems rely on this process to controllably assemble molecular building-blocks into complex and functional materials exhibiting remarkable properties such as the capacity to grow, replicate, and perform robust functions.

Including graphene as a building-block could lead to the design of new biomaterials that benefit from its distinctive electronic, thermal, and mechanical properties. Graphene oxide is also gaining significant interest as a starting material; being used instead of graphene because its rich oxygen-containing functional groups can facilitate specific interactions with different molecules.

In this study, published in Nature Communications, a new biomaterial is made by the self-assembly of a protein with graphene oxide. The mechanism of assembly enables the flexible (disordered) regions of the protein to order and conform to the graphene oxide, generating a strong interaction between them. By controlling the way in which the two components are mixed, it is possible to guide their assembly at multiple size scales in the presence of cells and into complex robust structures.

"This work offers opportunities in biofabrication by enabling simultaneous top-down 3D bioprinting and bottom-up self-assembly of synthetic and biological components in an orderly manner from the nanoscale," explains researcher Professor Alvaro Mata; “Here, we are biofabricating micro-scale capillary-like fluidic structures that are compatible with cells, exhibit physiologically relevant properties, and have the capacity to withstand flow. This could enable the recreation of vasculature in the lab and have implications in the development of safer and more efficient drugs, meaning treatments could potentially reach patients much more quickly."

By using Small Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) on Larmor alongside simulations and other experimental techniques, the group was able to describe the key steps of the underlying molecular mechanism. In particular, SANS facilitated the understanding of the unique protein-graphene oxide organization and establishment of the rules for turning these interactions into a supramolecular fabrication process.

The system they produced showed remarkable stability, robust assembly, biocompatibility, and bioactivity. These properties enable its integration with rapid-prototyping techniques to bio-fabricate functional microfluidic devices by directed self-assembly, opening new opportunities for engineering more complex and biologically relevant tissue engineered scaffolds, microfluidic systems, or organ-on-a-chip devices.

Tags:  3D Printing  Alvaro Mata  Biomaterials  Graphene  graphene oxide  Healthcare 

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Biomaterial discovery enables 3D printing of tissue-like vascular structures

Posted By Graphene Council, Saturday, March 7, 2020
An international team of scientists have discovered a new material that can be 3D printed to create tissue-like vascular structures.

In a new study published today in Nature Communications, led by Professor Alvaro Mata at the University of Nottingham and Queen Mary University London, researchers have developed a way to 3D print graphene oxide with a protein which can organise into tubular structures that replicate some properties of vascular tissue.

Professor Mata said: “This work offers opportunities in biofabrication by enabling simulatenous top-down 3D bioprinting and bottom-up self-assembly of synthetic and biological components in an orderly manner from the nanoscale. Here, we are biofabricating micro-scale capillary-like fluidic structures that are compatible with cells, exhibit physiologically relevant properties, and have the capacity to withstand flow."

This could enable the recreation of vasculature in the lab and have implications in the development of safer and more efficient drugs, meaning treatments could potentially reach patients much more quickly, Professor Alvaro Mata.

Material with remarkable properties

Self-assembly is the process by which multiple components can organise into larger well-defined structures. Biological systems rely on this process to controllably assemble molecular building-blocks into complex and functional materials exhibiting remarkable properties such as the capacity to grow, replicate, and perform robust functions. 

The new biomaterial is made by the self-assembly of a protein with graphene oxide. The mechanism of assembly enables the flexible (disordered) regions of the protein to order and conform to the graphene oxide, generating a strong interaction between them. By controlling the way in which the two components are mixed, it is possible to guide their assembly at multiple size scales in the presence of cells and into complex robust structures.

The material can then be used as a 3D printing bioink to print structures with intricate geometries and resolutions down to 10 mm. The research team have demonstrated the capacity to build vascular-like structures in the presence of cells and exhibiting biologically relevant chemical and mechanical properties.

Dr. Yuanhao Wu is the lead researcher on the project, she said: “There is a great interest to develop materials and fabrication processes that emulate those from nature. However, the ability to build robust functional materials and devices through the self-assembly of molecular components has until now been limited. This research introduces a new method to integrate proteins with graphene oxide by self-assembly in a way that can be easily integrated with additive manufacturing to easily fabricate biofluidic devices that allow us replicate key parts of human tissues and organs in the lab.”

Close-up of a tubular structure made by simultaneous printing and self-assembling between graphene oxide and a protein.

Cross-section of a bioprinted tubular structure with endothelial cells (green) on and embedded within the wall.

Confocal microscopy image depicting junctions between endothelial cells (green) growing within the printed tubular structures.

Scanning electron microscopy image depicting endothelial cells growing on the surface of the printed tubular structures.

Tags:  3D Printing  Alvaro Mata  biofabricating  biomaterials  Graphene  Graphene Oxide  Queen Mary University London  University of Nottingham  Yuanhao Wu 

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Blue sky inking: How nanomaterials could lower retail waste and speed up the stock take

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Thursday, February 6, 2020
As part of the new £8 million ESRC investment in Digital Futures at Work Research Centre, University of Sussex academics and an innovative SME have teamed up with the world's largest retail company to understand how quantum digital technology could revolutionise employment in the retail sector and significantly reduce metal waste.

University academics and Advanced Material Development (AMD) are working with Quantum Physics researchers, sociologists at the University of Sussex Business School digit centre and Walmart to understand how more environmentally-friendly radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags are developed, implemented and affect employment in the retail sector.

Materials scientist Professor Alan Dalton and his team have created an alternative to metal tags on clothing and food by developing antennas based on graphene inks which can be printed onto paper creating a sustainable solution to an essential part of the retail supply chain.

As part of the project, social sciences and management studies academics from the Digit Centre at the University of Sussex Business School will examine the learning process from product development to implementation and its impact on labour requirements and productivity.

Professor Alan Dalton from the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex said: "The nanotech ink we create in our lab has loads of important, sustainable applications.

"We're excited that our world-leading research has paved the way for Walmart and other retailers to bin metal-dependent tags and replace them with our much more eco-friendly answer.

"There's no need now for the old fashioned supermarket tags of the past to populate landfill sites." The global RFID market was estimated to be worth US$11bn in 2018, and is predicted to increase to US$13.4bn by 2022.

Graphene-based nanomaterial inks, where the individual components are invisible to the human eye, have been developed as coatings which could replace metals in RFID systems and which can be applied to a range of surfaces using commercial printing techniques such as ink-jet, screen and flexographic.

The capability of the inks are also being expanded through the application of a quantum microscope - developed and constructed by the Sussex Programme for Quantum Research.

John Lee, CEO of AMD, said: "Our work at Sussex in the field of highly conductive inks has partly been driven by demands from the retail industry searching for a sustainable solution in the replacement of metal content in RFID antennas.

"We are continuing to improve our technology for our partners in this space, with a possible large scale print trial this year, and the opportunity to work with a company with the global impact and sustainability reputation of Walmart is a substantial boost and support of the need for us."

AMD has recently announced a £1.5m equity funding round as the company further extends its nanomaterial research and development operations. It will also support its government and industry partnerships in Europe and the US.

Professor Jackie O'Reilly, Co-Director for the new Digital Futures at Work Research Centre at the University of Sussex Business School, said: "The potential for this technology is huge.

"Implementation of RFID systems can transform supply chain efficiencies for large companies with complex supplier bases and can significantly reduce inventory count time from hundreds to a handful of hours.

"While this is hugely beneficial for companies, there is clearly the potential for huge consequences on employment rates, worker satisfaction and wellbeing that need to be adequately investigated.

"This is a unique opportunity to work with brilliant physics researchers to understand their world and what they create; to understand how these hard core science ideas are exported into the business world; and to understand how these?decisions?affect the way work is constructed and what kinds of jobs people get as a result of major companies adopting these new technologies."

Tags:  Advanced Material Development  Alan Dalton  biomaterials  Graphene  John Lee  nanomaterials  RFID  University of Sussex 

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