JUST ADD WATER: Nicotine patches use small hydrophobic molecules that can be absorbed through the skin. Many drugs though, such as those for treating cancer and autoimmune disorders, have large molecules that won't pass through the skin so can't be delivered through a patch. But researchers at Purdue University think that fermentation may be the answer. They've created a new patch that includes yeast, sugar and water and a small membrane that separates that mix from the drug. Body heat causes the ingredients to ferment, creating CO2 that puts pressure on the membrane and pumps the drug through painless microneedles with a diameter of about 20 microns. The system doesn't need a battery, as body heat supplies the energy. Using the patch would just require adding water and applying the patch to the skin. Nifty. Purdue University has further info.
NO PAIN IS A GAIN: Seoul National University researchers are creating an erbium-doped yttrium aluminium garnet laser injector to deliver drugs precisely and painlessly under the skin. The jet is slightly larger than the width of a human hair and can reach speeds of up to 30 metres per second. At that speed the pressure smoothly and painlessly breaks through the skin to deliver precise doses to the target depth.
SEIZE THE ATOM: Norwegian researchers have developed a new method for growing semiconductor nanowires using Gallium and Arsenic on a base of graphene which is only 1 atom thick. The technique could lead to new electronics and optoelectronics devices, or perhaps new solar cells that are efficient, cheap and flexible. The new hybrid electrode is transparent, flexible and low cost. Norwegian University of Science and Technology explains. Check out the video.
IT'S A STRETCH: If you want to monitor a person's health then you'll probably involve some electronics. But electronics tend to be flat, rigid and rectangular, while human skin is stretchable and bendy. US company MC10 is working on artificial stretchable skin with microelectronics for monitoring health conditions. Gold electrodes and nanowires are added in a serpentine pattern to thin films of silicon wafers, then applied to stretchable polymers. The folded pattern allows the wires to stretch as the patch does. It sounds like they need to talk to the Norwegians. DVICE has more. Watch the video.
MERCURY RISING: With worries about mercury in our water and food we need to be able to test effectively for its presence. Scientists from Switzerland and the US have developed an inexpensive new test for mercury that essentially traps ions of toxic heavy metals between hairy nanoparticles. Hairs of different lengths trap specific pollutants. To gauge the pollution level the scientists measure the voltage across the nanostructure. The more ions there are of a particular heavy metal, the more electricity it conducts. The new test is a fraction the cost of current methods and could allow on-the-spot testing. Perhaps the technique could be adapted to capture and remove heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium too. KurzweilAI elaborates.
Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nzBy Miraz Jordan