by Erin Cassidy Hendrick

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Rechargeable lithium metal batteries with increased energy density, performance, and safety may be possible with a newly-developed, solid-electrolyte interphase (SEI), according to Penn State researchers.

As the demand for higher-energy-density lithium metal batteries increases — for electric vehicles, smartphones, and drones — stability of the SEI has been a critical issue halting their advancement because a salt layer on the surface of the battery's lithium electrode insulates it and conducts lithium ions.

"This layer is very important and is naturally formed by the reaction between the lithium and the electrolyte in the battery," said Donghai Wang, professor of mechanical and chemical engineering. "But it doesn't behave very well, which causes a lot of problems."

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BOULDER, Colo.—Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have demonstrated a potential new tactic for rapidly determining whether an antibiotic combats a given infection, thus hastening effective medical treatment and limiting the development of drug-resistant bacteria. Their method can quickly sense mechanical fluctuations of bacterial cells and any changes induced by an antibiotic.

Described in Scientific Reports, NIST’s prototype sensor provides results in less than an hour, much faster than conventional antimicrobial tests, which typically require days to grow colonies of bacterial cells. Delayed results from conventional tests allow dangerous infections to progress before effective treatments can be found and provides a time window for bacteria to develop drug resistance.

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The hunt for Earth-like planets, and perhaps extraterrestrial life, just got more precise, thanks to record-setting starlight measurements made possible by a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) “astrocomb.”

NIST’s custom-made frequency comb—which precisely measures frequencies, or colors, of light—ensures the precision of starlight analysis by an instrument called a spectrograph at the Hobby-Eberly Telescope in Texas. The project is a collaboration involving NIST, the University of Colorado Boulder (CU) and Pennsylvania State University, the primary partner in the telescope and spectrograph.

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A new endoscopy tool, created in the Penn State Department of Mechanical Engineering, could one day provide a more effective, minimally invasive treatment for pancreatic tumors.

On average, only about 20 percent of pancreatic cancer patients are eligible for a surgical removal of the tumor, the currently most-effective treatment option. The location of the pancreas in the abdomen and the difficulty to detect the disease make it one of the most difficult to treat.

In an attempt to change that prognosis, Brad Hanks, a doctoral student studying mechanical engineering, created a new type of electrode to be used in endoscopic radiofrequency ablation (RFA) procedures. His work will be presented at the upcoming 2019 Design of Medical Devices Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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by Carolyn Trietsch

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A natural antioxidant found in grain bran could preserve food longer and replace synthetic antioxidants currently used by the food industry, according to researchers at Penn State.

"Currently, there's a big push within the food industry to replace synthetic ingredients with natural alternatives, and this is being driven by consumers," said Andrew S. Elder, doctoral candidate in food science. "Consumers want clean labels — they want synthetic chemical-sounding ingredients removed because of the fact that they don't recognize them, and that some of them (the ingredients) have purported toxicity."

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Micropores in fabricated tissues such as bone and cartilage allow nutrient and oxygen diffusion into the core, and this novel approach may eventually allow lab-grown tissue to contain blood vessels, according to a team of Penn State researchers.

"One of the problems with fabrication of tissues is that we can't make them large in size," said Ibrahim T. Ozbolat, associate professor of engineering science and mechanics. "Cells die if nutrients and oxygen can't get inside."

Inside cells also do not differentiate if the chemical cocktail that triggers stem cells to differentiate does not reach them. A porous structure allows both nutrients and other fluids to circulate.

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