Sea Snail Teeth Could be the Next Revolutionary High-Strength, Low Weight Material

A team of researchers at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom has found that limpet teeth surpass the strength of any other material known to man, trouncing materials such as titanium, spider silk and Kevlar. Limpets are essentially snails that dwell in the sea. These vegetarian creatures grow to reach about 5cms in diameter, and feature conical shells. The movement of sea limpets is similar to that of garden snails – they usually latch on to a rock and move using a foot beneath their shell.

These snails do not move their bodies when they need to feed themselves – they simply extend an organ called the ‘radula’ that is lined with rows of minute teeth that help scrape food from various surfaces and move the food back to their mouth.

According to the lead researcher of the study, Asa Barber, the fascinating structure of this organism came to the fore after Barber saw its picture in a textbook. A little further research into the subject revealed to her that the teeth are composed of small, extremely closely packed fibers of goethite, a mineral. It then struck Barber that the structure of the limpet’s teeth was almost identical to the structures that are used for aerospace components and parts, except on a much compressed scale.

Barber was aware that such materials exhibit exceptional degrees of strength and lightness of weight, decided to further test the strength of this material against other similar biological materials.

From a tensile strength test that was carried out on limpet teeth, it emerged that about 6.5 gigapascals (GPa) of pressure were required to pull tooth material apart. In comparison, the same figure for spider silk stands at 4.5 GPa whereas for Kevlar it is only 3 to 3.5 GPa.

Now, the team will focus on translating the design principles of limpet teeth to create structures that are not only remarkably strong, but also exceedingly light. This process could take another five to ten years, Barber said.

MIT Researchers Develop New Circuit Design for IoT Sensors That Could Consume Up To 100 Times Less Power

The Internet of Things is a revolution that couldn’t have been possible without the intelligent deployment of sensors of a myriad variety. However, as more and more sensors make their presence felt in the IoT, power consumption spikes. A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have been working on this problem – and have possibly found a solution to the same. MIT researchers have found a way that could be implemented to bring down the level of energy consumed by such sensors.

At the heart of this potentially path breaking idea, is a circuit design that could cause sensors to become more power efficient. Recently, a study by Verizon revealed that currently, there are about 1.2 billion IoT devices in globally. These devices transmit or receive data using wireless technology so as to offer alerts and analysis to users. Verizon projects that the number of IoT devices could soar to about 5.4 billion globally by 2020.

The researchers noted during their study that most sensors that are deployed in the IoT stay idle until the time they are prompted to transmit or receive data. In the idle state, sensors tend to experience energy leakage. But with their new circuit design, researchers have found a way in which transmitters could bring down this energy leakage by about 100 times when in the idle state. This could effectively bring down the battery life of sensors by several months.

A number of wireless technologies are now reaching new efficiency milestones. Despite this positive shift, they still continue to be energy guzzlers. The MIT researchers kept this aspect in mind during the study, and ensured that they did not compromise of the quality or speed of wireless connectivity. The new design can generate enough amounts of power to send and receive data via a Bluetooth device or to the 802.15.4 specification.

Midatech Pharma’s Microencapsulation Technology for Autoimmune Uveitis Gives Positive Results, Company’s Shares Spike Marginally

Midatech Pharma, a nanomedicine specialist announced this week that it has obtained affirmative results from a proof-of-concept (PoC) study that it has undertaken in collaboration with OpsiSporin – a treatment that has been indicated for eye inflammation. The study was undertaken to determine how efficient OpsiSporin would be when injected into the eye. These results were compared against three other methods: an oral dosage of Cyclosporin A, an immunosuppressant, untreated controls, and microsphere suspension vehicle injected directly in the eye. 

The study showed that even with the administration of 4.5µg of OpsiSporin, the severity of the disease reduced significantly, as against the microsphere suspension vehicle. Further, the study showed a marked reduction in the severity of the infection even with a single ocular injection of OpsiSporin measuring 4.5µg as compared to daily oral dosage of 6.7 mg/kg every day of CsA.

Midatech said that the results speak volumes about the potential that OpsiSporin holds in providing autoimmune uveitis patients a much more efficient therapeutic alternative o CsA and steroids. Autoimmune uveitis is an inflammatory eye disease (noninfectious). The new alternative would also reduce the chances of adverse effects among patients, Midatech said.

According to Midatech’s chief executive, Dr Jim Philips, the encouraging results from the PoC study will prove to be a significant step ahead in the formulation of a sustained and effective release treatment for autoimmune uveitis.

The results also reflected that OpsiSporin was just as effective at one thousandth of the dose of CsA that were orally administered. This brings to the fore the immense value that Midatech’s microencapsulation technology can bring, taking the efficacy of existing therapeutic molecules to new levels.

The company now intends to launch clinical development by 2016 so as to take the product to the next stage. 

Series of Papers in Leading Medical Journal Point Finger at Food Industry for Spiraling Obesity Epidemic

Findings published in The Lancet, a leading medical journal, show that children in the United States today consume 200 calories over what their counterparts did in the 1970s. Healthcare and obesity experts have pinned this down to lack of enough government initiatives to curb the obesity trend and food companies not doing enough to promote healthy food trends.

Alarmingly, the study also states that children in the United States today weight about 5kgs more than they did three decades ago. The study also drills down to the key factor leading to a lackadaisical attitude toward healthy eating initiatives – all the extra food consumption reportedly adds about US$20 billion to the US food industry annually. 

However, the message that is being conveyed through a series of research papers in The Lancet is this: Food companies are largely to be blamed for the increasing incidence of obesity in the United States. The authors of these studies state that the ‘special interest’ of food companies in targeting children can largely be held responsible for the massive scale of the obesity wave. 

The authors claimed that with children repeatedly being exposed to processed foods and sweetened and carbonated drinks from a very young age, strong taste preferences are being built. This also builds brand loyalty, which in turn leads to higher profits, the authors of the study claimed.

Estimates show that in 2015, the global processed foods market is likely to reach US$19 billion as compared to 2007 figures of US$13.7 billion. However, obesity experts rue the fact that very few countries have made a move towards implementing health food regulations to shield children from the obesity epidemic.

Dr Christina Roberto, one of the researchers on the team, states that it is vital to reframe the very understanding of obesity in order to stop and reverse the wave of obesity, using techniques such as ‘smart food policies’ and better coordination between governments and the industry.

After Hepatitis A Scare from China-Imported Berries, Australian Government Awaits Laboratory Tests to Determine Further Actions

A spate of hepatitis A infections being observed in Australia are being linked to batches of imported frozen berries that could possibly have been contaminated. Following this health scare, calls for more stringent food import inspections and labeling have become stronger, forcing the Australian PM Tony Abbot to respond with definite actions.

However, a primary round of studies now states that such loopholes could possibly be a result of non-compliance on the suppliers’ part, and there is not much that government action could have done to prevent the contaminated berries from reaching consumers. 

Currently, detailed scientific results are awaited from laboratory tests. This will help ascertain if the frozen raspberries were contaminated and whether the fault lies with the Chinese supplier of berries. Currently, reports in the media speculate that the fault could lie with failure in protocol pertaining to personal hygiene. These lapses could have potentially occurred at the processing or even harvesting stage.

Experts opine on the matter that government intervention would work best when it comes to matters such as chemical residues and systemic issues pertaining to routine inspections. China on its part, has a number of regulatory mandates to detect food contamination, with a different set of rules for exported food. Chinese export standards are much more stringent than their current standards. Food exports are under the charge of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), which is a ministry-level body. The regulations laid down by this body mandate that exporters have to follow both domestic and export requirements. 

Separately, in Australia, results from ongoing laboratory tests will help ascertain the actual reason for the slip up that led to the Hepatitis scare. It is only then that the government will be able to respond to specific calls about deploying more stringent import regulations.

ThyssenKrupp Aerospace Views India as Lucrative Hub for Business Services for Aerospace Materials

ThyssenKrupp Aerospace, a company that works under the aegis of German conglomerate ThyssenKrupp, will be making India a critical hub for its business services related to aerospace materials. Though the company has established a presence in the Indian market for about 160 years, it is now going bullish on the aerospace materials and logistics market in the country. The company is optimistic about lucrative opportunities pouring in from both commerce and defense aviation sectors in India. 

Speaking to Indian media, president of ThyssenKrupp Aerospace, Jurgen Funke, said that in India, defense and commercial aviation are poised to boom in the years ahead. While demand in this segment was earlier dominated to a great degree by developed markets, the scenario is changing with many other countries witnessing an amplified demand for commercial aerospace materials, services and logistics.

Globally, the collective manufacturers’ build rate for commercial aircrafts stands at 1,000 units. Funke said that the future of this sector remains bright, and in India like in many other booming markets, it would be critical to create more value at the production stage.

In India, the company aims to focus mainly on the production of parts and components as well as the first-stage processing of materials used in aerospace.

ThyssenKrupp Aerospace has also recently launched its first production facility in Bangalore in a bid to cater to the rising demand from the domestic aerospace industry. The sprawling 3,300 square meter facility will have 30 technicians working on stock materials such as titanium, aluminum, and steel in various forms, informed the MD of ThyssenKrupp Aerospace India, Gopi Hanumanthappa.

From the global standpoint, this marks the company’s 41st materials facility but is its first such facility in India. 

Fujairah in the UAE Bans Cafes and Restaurants from Serving Hot Beverages in Foam Cups

Many health experts have expressed concerns about the ubiquitous polystyrene foam cup being detrimental to health, potentially even causing cancer. But hundreds of millions of cafes and restaurants continue to serve up hot beverages in foam cups, ignoring these health warnings simply because foam cups offer more cost-savings and convenience over other forms of cups. But that’s about to change, at least in Fujairah, in the United Arab Emirates.

The emirates’ Higher Committee for Consumer Protection (HCCP), which works under the aegis of the Ministry of Economy has now imposed a ban on the use of styrofoam cups, which are used for serving hot beverages such as tea, coffee and hot chocolate, as well as sour beverages like grape juice and orange juice. This ban comes after the committee took serious note of a number of studies that proved how drinking hot and sour drinks out of styrofoam cups could prove extremely harmful to human health.

The HCCP called upon competent bodies such as the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) and municipalities to impose heavy penalties on violators. As part of these new rules, the committee has said that cafes and restaurants that serve hot beverages will be placed under the scanner and penalties will be imposed on those establishments that flout the rules. According to the new rules, fines of up to Dh 100,000 will be levied on establishments going against the rules, and those that repeat the offence will even face closure.

According to a recent survey by the National Research Centre, which is affiliated to the federal government of the United States, Styrofoam food containers and foam cups contain a carcinogenic substance called Styrene. When heated, this substance could lead to cancer.

After reading about the international study, local bodies in Fujairah undertook similar studies as well to gain a better understanding of the effects of plastic and Styrofoam on human health. Earlier, the committee had also imposed a ban on the use of plastic cups for serving up hot beverages.

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