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New research uses graphene oxide to fight bacteria

Scientists at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome are studying graphene oxide in the hopes of creating bacteria-killing catheters and medical devices. Coating surgical tools with this carbon-based compound could kill bacteria, reducing the need for antibiotics, decreasing the rates of post-operative infections, and speeding recovery times. "We want to make materials that will help patients and medical professionals," said Valentina Palmieri, a biotechnologist at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. Graphene oxide, a form of graphene with molecular oxygen incorporated into it, protects against infection by destroying bacteria before it gets inside the body. The graphene oxide wraps around the bacteria, puncturing its membrane. A broken membrane prevents the bacteria from growing and often kills it. "The bacteria lose their complex structure and die," Palmieri added. "And since graphene is just carbon (a building block of life) its cytotoxicity against human cells is much lower compared to any drug-based antimicrobial therapy."  Researchers decided to use graphene oxide because it is very stable in a water solution, making it safe to interact with human cells. Graphene specifically attacks bacterial cells, while sparing human cells, and the mechanism behind this specificity is still unclear, Palmieri said. Current theories include that the material interacts more favorably with the bacterial cell wall or that mammalian cells have evolved multiple repair mechanisms to survive the chemical oxidation damage that graphene induces.  Graphene is also more eco-friendly. Traditional methods of preventing infection include antibiotic therapy and tools coated with silver, both of which are toxic to the environment, Palmieri said.

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Wartime medical device is saving lives at home

A patient at the University of California Davis Medical Center was losing blood from multiple gunshot wounds, and doctors feared he was not going to survive long enough for them to operate. The newly approved REBOA catheter was used to restore blood flow to his critical organs so they could save his life.  "Air Force research conducted at the CIF directly contributed to saving the life of this 28-year-old father of six," said Air Force Maj. Timothy Williams, 60th SGCS vascular surgeon. "I have done trauma surgery all of my professional life, including work at three civilian level I trauma centers and three deployments. I can, without reservation, state that REBOA saved his life." The CIF is the Clinical Investigation Facility located at David Grant USAF Medical Center, one of seven Air Force medical facilities with formal clinical investigation programs and resources.  Approved by the FDA in January, the REBOA (resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta) catheter was developed by researchers to slow bleeding, without damaging vital organs, so a patient can receive life-saving care. This device is inserted into a hemorrhaging vessel and stops or slows the blood flow to that injury while allowing blood flow to continue to vital organs and other body parts.   The idea originated at the 59th Medical Wing at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, the main hub for autopsies performed on combat casualties. Air Force Maj. Lucas Neff, 60th SGCS vascular surgeon, explained: "The autopsies showed that the No. 1 cause of potentially survivable deaths by service members is noncompressible hemorrhaging in the chest and core. We have worked on techniques (with the REBOA) that allow us to control the amount of blood flow that can pass while using the catheter. It's like a faucet, where you can turn the flow down in areas where there is bleeding without turning it completely off, allowing blood to flow to other important areas."  Williams and Neff were deployed together to Afghanistan in 2014. "I don't know if I would've gone down this road of research if it wasn't for that deployment," Williams said. "Having actually been there and seen the casualties firsthand brought me to this research."

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'Smart' Paper Responds to Gestures

Researchers from the University of Washington, Disney Research, and Carnegie Mellon University have added sensing capabilities  to a piece of paper. Small radio frequency (RFID) tags are placed, printed, or drawn onto the "PaperID" technology to create interactive, lightweight interfaces.

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NASA Selects Eight Aerospace Technology Proposals for Investment

NASA has selected eight technology proposals for investment. The ideas have the potential to transform future aerospace missions, introduce new capabilities, and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.

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Unexpected Discovery Leads to a Better Battery

An unexpected discovery has led to a rechargeable battery that's as inexpensive as conventional car batteries, but has a much higher energy density. The new battery could become a cost-effective, environmentally friendly alternative for storing renewable energy and supporting the power grid. The Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) identified this energy storage gem after realizing the new battery works in a different way than they had assumed.

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Researchers Turn Urine into Power Source for Electronic Devices

A microbial fuel cell uses natural biological processes of ‘electric’ bacteria to turn organic matter, such as urine, into electricity. These fuel cells are efficient and relatively cheap to run, and produce nearly zero waste compared to other methods of electricity generation. Urine passes through the microbial fuel cell for the reaction to happen. From here, electricity is generated by the bacteria, and can then be stored or used to directly power electrical devices.

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Graphene Layer Lets Solar Cells Generate Power When it Rains

Chinese researchers have introduced a new approach for making an all-weather solar cell that is triggered by both sunlight and raindrops. To convert solar energy to electricity, the team developed a highly efficient dye-sensitized solar cell. In order to allow rain to produce electricity as well, they coated this cell with a whisper-thin film of graphene.

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