Innovation and Technology Weekly – No. 23, 2017

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Issue 23, 2017

This week's headlines:

DNA robots transport molecular cargo using 'arms' and 'feet'
September 15, 2017

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have designed a group of DNA robots with 'bodies', 'hands', 'arms', and 'feet'. The robots can work together to find and collect fluorescent molecules.

DNA is composed of the nucleotides adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C) and guanine (G). While these nucleotides can be strung together as a genetic blueprint for living organisms, researchers can also manipulate them to build nanostructures, including DNA robots.

Because the robots are made entirely of DNA, they can walk around on structures that are also made of DNA — so long as the sequences of A, T, C and G nucleotides on their 'feet' pair up with complementary sequences below their 'feet'. The team created a testing ground for their DNA robots that included a series of 'pegs' with a complementary code for the robots to step along.

The researchers dispersed fluorescent cargo molecules across a nanostructure testing ground, and put one of their DNA robots to work. They then added more DNA robots to the testing ground to see if they could work together.

The DNA robots function on this miniature scale in the same way regular-sized robots might work inside a mailroom. The amount of cargo molecules that were actually correctly delivered to the desired locations increased to very close to 100%, the researchers found.

Full story: ABC News / Science Back to top

Belfast scientists design flexible organic battery
September 13, 2017

Scientists from Queen's University in Belfast have designed a new flexible organic battery that could revolutionise how medical implants are powered.

The charge in the batteries is set to last three times as long as in their conventional counterparts. As it is decomposable, the organic battery is expected to have environmental benefits. The device is non-flammable and has no leakage issues.

The technology could also have a non medical application in foldable phones or laptops of the future, the designs of which are currently constrained by rigid batteries.

While current batteries contain toxic materials that are complicated to recycle, organic batteries would simply decompose over time. But there is no danger of the organic batteries decomposing in the human body as they only start to break down at temperatures above 270C.

Full story: BBC News Back to top

Shoe sensor will protect your back from heavy lifting
September 11, 2017

Forget health and safety videos – this algorithm could do a better job of making sure people lift with their knees bent and back straight. Sensors that automatically detect whether you’re about to give yourself a back injury at work could be easily slipped into the bottom of a shoe.

People often don’t realise that they’re not adopting the right posture when lifting heavy items. So researchers from the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi in Canada created a pair of wearable sensors that can detect when someone isn’t using the right posture while they’re lifting or carrying something heavy.

The team had a volunteer put on the hat and shoes and lift some boxes in three different ways. Half of the time the volunteer used best practice, but the other half, they deliberately lifted while making the most common lifting mistakes. The researchers then ran the sensor data through a deep learning algorithm to teach the system to tell the difference between correct and incorrect postures. After that it could correctly classify the person’s posture 95% of the time.

The plan is to test the technology with more people and eventually with real workers.

New Scientist / Sensors

Full story: New Scientist Back to top

Australian scientists are building an artificial reef
September 09, 2017

Researchers from the University of Technology Sydney are looking to build an artificial reef in Sydney Harbour next to the city's Opera House, to try to enhance biodiversity of the marine area.

The team says that Sydney Harbour has a huge proportion of built environment, such as seawalls to protect the area from storms and erosion.

The researchers have been investigating the current marine diversity around the area for over two years, and the results could be better.

The design itself is going to be fairly subtle, with various levels of complexity, and sizes for the creatures. Although the designs haven't been finalised, the artificial reefs are likely to be in cubic or spherical type shapes, and each about a metre long.

Full story: Science Alert Back to top

Photographer settles 'monkey selfie' legal fight
September 11, 2017

A photographer has settled a two-year legal fight against an animal rights group over a 'monkey selfie' picture.

Naruto the macaque monkey took the image in the Indonesian jungle in 2011 when it picked up a camera owned by David Slater from Monmouthshire. US judges had said copyright protection could not be applied to the monkey but Peta said the animal should benefit. Peta's appeal on the 'monkey's behalf' was dismissed but Slater has agreed to donate 25% of any future revenue.

In a joint statement from Peta and Slater, it said the photographer will give a quarter of the funds he receives from selling the monkey selfies to registered charities dedicated to protecting the welfare or habitat of Naruto.

Full story: BBC News Back to top