Synthetic Nervous System Allows Paralyzed Man to Move Again

Injuries to the spinal cord that are severe enough to result in paralysis rob their victims of many of the abilities that we take for granted in our daily lives as the built-in biological wiring we rely on to make use of our limbs becomes damaged or broken. For those affected, this often means a lifetime of special care in order to continue to live out their lives even without use of their own bodies. It is a problem that researchers have been tackling for many years with basic mind-controlled robotic limbs already a reality. This research has now gone one step further than ever before as a paralyzed man has been able to control his own hand, not a robotic replacement, using just his mind.

The details of this “neural bypass” technology were published on Wednesday in the journal Nature. The technology is able to reconnect a patient’s mind with the functional muscles in their limbs, which serves as a sort of synthetic nervous system bridging gaps left by spinal damage. The patient who tried out the technology, Ian Burkhart, is a 24 year old man, who was left quadriplegic ever since a road accident six years ago was able to make use of his hand once again. During the study, it showed that he was capable of performing a number of actions using his hand, from basic finger movement, grasp objects of varying sizes, swipe a credit card and, amazingly, play a game of Guitar Hero.

Burkhart believed that the technology was capable of changing lives, stating in a press conference that “if or when I can use this system outside of the clinical setting, it will really increase my quality of life and my independence, and decrease the amount of assistance I need from other people.” Getting this far wasn’t easy either, as getting just this far required Burkhart to attend 3 weekly sessions for 15 months. During this time, he developed the ability to pull off six hand and wrist movements and was eventually able to even move his fingers individually, exceeding the expectations of the researchers at Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. His mastery continued to develop over time and he was able to perform more complex and coordinated tasks like putting a cup to his mouth and playing Guitar Hero.

This “neural bypass” works by making use of a microelectrode array implanted in the brain. This allows certain brain activity to be picked up which researchers had identified prior to the implant using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify hand-controlling areas of the brain as Burkhart thought about using his hand. The neural bypassing system takes the data from the electrode array and uses machine learning algorithms to translate the input to a flexible arm sleeve containing 130 muscle-stimulating electrodes.

There is still a long road ahead for the technology, with the biggest leap being able to make it function just as well outside of the clinical setting as well as developing applications of the system for patients with other types of paralysis. Regardless, Burkhart is very optimistic about the research as only a few years after the technology gave him the basic ability to move his hand, things have continued to develop at a rapid rate and could be usable sooner than anyone expects.

Cherry MX RGB Nature White Switches Announced!

Mechanical keyboards come in all shapes and sizes, with customisable key caps, various lighting options and you can even choose the type of switch to suit your own taste. There are a few switch manufacturers out there, but the most famous on is Cherry, with their Cherry MX series of switches that offers up MX Blue, Brown, Green, Black and Red.

With Cherry MX Silent and RGB switches now being available, it’s time for Cherry to expand their range once again with the new Cherry MX RGB Nature White switches. The new linear switch is designed to sit between the popular MX Black and MX Red switches, with a defined force of 55 grams.

“This new switch offers a special transparent casing optimized for uniform illumination and allows a high luminosity of all 16,7 million colours of the RGB spectrum.” said Cherry.

Thanks to Cherry’s exceptional build quality and the use of their Gold Crosspoint Technology, the switches are rated for over 50-million keystrokes, while the transparent housing of the switch makes them perfect for RGB keyboard designs. The Nature White branding of this switch is no doubt to differentiate from the long discontinued MX White switches.

Good news for Ducky fans too, as the manufacturer has secured the Nature White as a launch partner. This means you can expect to see MX RGB Nature White switches in the Ducky Shine-5 keyboard very soon.

 

Solar Cell Hits High efficiency, Can Power Remote Locations

Another day towards greener future has passed and researchers over Aalto University with Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya has managed to boost the efficiency of solar cell by 4 percentages on nanostructured silicon solar cells. These solar cells are also referred as ‘Black Silicon’. These solar cells can convert solar energy to usable energy (electrical) with an efficiency of 22.1%. The Black silicon is far better at collecting light from the sun at low angles and thus can be used in northern regions where it is common.

This is an advantage particularly in the north, where the sun shines from a low angle for a large part of the year. We have demonstrated that in winter Helsinki, black cells generate considerably more electricity than traditional cells even though both cells have identical efficiency values, Professor Hele Savin said. In the near future, the goal of the team is to apply the technology to other cell structures – in particular, thin and multi-crystalline cells.

The new Black Silicon is expected to be cheap and good for mass production. It can replace the current solar cell and should reach the end market soon. It is going to be a very useful tool to produce electricity in remote locations where power supply via grid is not yet possible. We currently do not have any more information on any release date, but we will keep you up to date as soon as we do.

Thank you Nature for providing us with this information.

Rose Petals Inspire New Generation of Stretchable Circuits

Researchers have always turned to nature in order to find solutions to the most complex problems. This time, they turn to rose petals in order to get inspiration for a new generation of stretchable circuitry.

The race to find a way to make circuits stretch as much as possible has been on the back of the mind of researchers all over the world. Imagine the possibilities of rollable tablets or smartphones that could bend in your pocket without having to worry about them breaking.

Though we have had screens which can bend for some time now, they are no good without the circuitry to go with it. Electronic circuits nowadays are made out of silicon substances, which break if bent beyond their limits. Numerous attempts of making the substance elastic have been made, but scientists were faced with headaches when creating the right circuitry to go with the elastic compound.

However, a team of researchers from Hong Kong Polytechnic University have taken a more ‘natural’ approach, having rose petals as inspiration for their work in this field. The team is said to have used the surface topology of the rose petal in order to create a material that allows standard printed circuits to flex without breaking.

“[W]hen conducting materials such as metal thin films are deposited on top, the sharp ridges can effectively stop the propagation of microcracks in the conducting layer formed under large strains. As a consequence, the electrical resistance of the conducting layer shows remarkable stability in large-strain deformation.”

It is said that the electrical properties of the material were consistent when stretched to lengths 40% greater than their original size and continued to function until reaching a value of 90%.

Thank you Gizmodo for providing us with this information

Scientist Working On Nature Inspired Millimeter-Sized Drones

Drones are apparently not only becoming more common, but a lot smarter and smaller it seems. According to latest news, some research teams are currently looking into nature for answers in order to tackle the problems when designing new and improved drones.

From flying through narrow spaces to picking up objects, drones have plenty to learn from birds and other animals in the wild. However, the precision when looking at a flying drone depends entirely on its flight control. And where to get a better tutor than a which is born with the ability to fly.

This is the aim of some US-based groups scattered around the country. One of these groups is based in Harvard and is looking into creating a millimeter-sized drone which can manoeuvre in small, narrow and hard to reach areas. The drone at hand is reportedly inspired by flies or other winged insects, hovering in the air for extended periods of time. The team tasked with this project is hoping to gain a more detailed insight into insect population and even help in areas such as pollinating plants in the future.

Other groups such as the ones based in UNC Chapel Hill, Johns Hopkins University, or the University of California, are tasked with finding a way to create drones which can handle and perceive the elements of hot and cold or rain and heavy gusts of wind. The main objective for the latter teams is to come up with a wind-proof drone, having the hawk moth as the primary source of inspiration.

Thank you Daily Digest News for providing us with this information
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