Complex 3D DNA Structures Created Tags: mad scientist syndrome

Complex 3D DNA Structures Created


It's Officially Time to Freak Out, Now.

Alexandra Bruce
December 8, 2014

When I first heard of nanothechnology some 20+ years, ago, I instinctively knew that a main focus of this would be genetics, because the most significant and highly-functioning items in the material universe, at the nano-scale are DNA & RNA molecules.

Well, as of this MIT report, it's officially time to freak out, now. The "Grey Goo" proposed by some and feared by many about F'ing with Mother Natuer may, I daresay be upon us, soon...

MIT biological engineers have created a new computer model that allows them to design the most complex three-dimensional DNA shapes ever produced, including rings, bowls, and geometric structures such as icosahedrons that resemble viral particles.

Call me a Luddite...but Pandora's Box of "fun" awaits.


Video produced and edited by Melanie Gonick, MIT News
Computer renderings courtesy of Dr. Keyao Pan (LCBB)/Nature Communications

3D structural predictions were generated using CanDo by Dr. Stavros Gaitanaros (LCBB) based on sequence designs provided by Fei Zhang (Hao Tan Lab at Arizona State University).


Want solar panels? Just give your roof a spray: Scientists discover way of applying light-sensitive material to surfaces Tags: solar energy technology spray light sensitivity
  • Scientists from University of Toronto hope to make breakthrough soon
  • Solar-sensitive spray printed on flexible film could coat all kinds of objects
  • Surface of car roof could produce enough power for three 100-Watt bulbs


Rather than blighting rooftops as at present, future solar panels could be sprayed onto tiles by a Ghostbuster-style team.

Scientists from the University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering invented a new way to spray solar cells onto flexible surfaces using miniscule light-sensitive materials known as colloidal quantum dots (CQDs).

Illan Kramer at the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering said: 'My dream is that one day you'll have two technicians with Ghostbusters backpacks come to your house and spray your roof.'

Illan Kramer (pictured) from the University of Toronto's Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering is one of the driving forces behind the developement

Illan Kramer (pictured) from the University of Toronto's Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering is one of the driving forces behind the developement

Solar-sensitive CQDs printed onto a flexible film could be used to coat all kinds of objects from laptops to aircraft wings.

The surface of a car roof would produce enough power for three 100-Watt light bulbs or 24 compact fluorescents.

And the breakthrough could send prices of solar panels crashing.


The system sprayLD is a play on the manufacturing process called ALD, short for atomic layer deposition, in which materials are laid down on a surface one atom-thickness at a time.

Until now, it was only possible to incorporate light-sensitive CQDs onto surfaces through batch processing - an inefficient, slow and expensive assembly-line approach to chemical coating.

SprayLD blasts a liquid containing CQDs directly onto flexible surfaces, such as film or plastic, like printing a newspaper by applying ink onto a roll of paper.

Potential breakthrough: Rather than blighting rooftops as at present, future solar panels could be sprayed onto tiles by a Ghostbuster-style team

Potential breakthrough: Rather than blighting rooftops as at present, future solar panels could be sprayed onto tiles by a Ghostbuster-style team


Link to Video:


This roll-to-roll coating method makes incorporating solar cells into existing manufacturing processes much simpler.

Two papers published in the journals Advanced Materials and Applied Physics Letters showed that the sprayLD method can be used on flexible materials without any major loss in solar-cell efficiency.

And the system is easily built using a spray nozzle used in steel mills to cool steel with a fine mist of water and a few regular air brushes from an art store.

He added: 'This is something you can build in a Junkyard Wars fashion, which is basically how we did it. We think of this as a no-compromise solution for shifting from batch processing to roll-to-roll.'

Professor Ted Sargent said: 'As quantum dot solar technology advances rapidly in performance, it's important to determine how to scale them and make this new class of solar technologies manufacturable

'We were thrilled when this attractively manufacturable spray-coating process also led to superior performance devices showing improved control and purity.'

Thing of the past? Traditional solar panels may no longer be the best way to harness the sun's energy

Thing of the past? Traditional solar panels may no longer be the best way to harness the sun's energy

Read more: 

NASA's Van Allen Probes Spot an Impenetrable Barrier in Space Tags: Earth Earth's Invisible Shield Force Field Invisible Shield Protects Earth nasa science space star trek

NASA's Van Allen Probes Spot an Impenetrable Barrier in Space

NASA November 26 2014 ShortURL

A cloud of cold, charged gas around Earth, called the plasmasphere and seen here in purple, interacts with the particles in Earth's radiation belts — shown in grey— to create an impenetrable barrier that blocks the fastest electrons from moving in closer to our planet.
Image Credit: NASA/Goddard


The Van Allen belts are a collection of charged particles, gathered in place by Earth’s magnetic field. They can wax and wane in response to incoming energy from the sun, sometimes swelling up enough to expose satellites in low-Earth orbit to damaging radiation. The discovery of the drain that acts as a barrier within the belts was made using NASA's Van Allen Probes, launched in August 2012 to study the region. A paper on these results appeared in the Nov. 27, 2014, issue of Nature magazine.

“This barrier for the ultra-fast electrons is a remarkable feature of the belts," said Dan Baker, a space scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder and first author of the paper. "We're able to study it for the first time, because we never had such accurate measurements of these high-energy electrons before."

Understanding what gives the radiation belts their shape and what can affect the way they swell or shrink helps scientists predict the onset of those changes. Such predictions can help scientists protect satellites in the area from the radiation.

The Van Allen belts were the first discovery of the space age, measured with the launch of a US satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958. In the decades since, scientists have learned that the size of the two belts can change – or merge, or even separate into three belts occasionally. But generally the inner belt stretches from 400 to 6,000 miles above Earth's surface and the outer belt stretches from 8,400 to 36,000 miles above Earth's surface.

A slot of fairly empty space typically separates the belts. But, what keeps them separate? Why is there a region in between the belts with no electrons? 

Enter the newly discovered barrier. The Van Allen Probes data show that the inner edge of the outer belt is, in fact, highly pronounced. For the fastest, highest-energy electrons, this edge is a sharp boundary that, under normal circumstances, the electrons simply cannot penetrate.

"When you look at really energetic electrons, they can only come to within a certain distance from Earth," said Shri Kanekal, the deputy mission scientist for the Van Allen Probes at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and a co-author on the Nature paper. "This is completely new. We certainly didn't expect that."

The team looked at possible causes. They determined that human-generated transmissions were not the cause of the barrier. They also looked at physical causes. Could the very shape of the magnetic field surrounding Earth cause the boundary? Scientists studied but eliminated that possibility. What about the presence of other space particles? This appears to be a more likely cause.

This animated gif shows how particles move through Earth’s radiation belts, the large donuts around Earth. The sphere in the middle shows a cloud of colder material called the plasmasphere. New research shows that the plasmasphere helps keep fast electrons from the radiation belts away from Earth.

Image Credit: 
NASA/Goddard/Scientific Visualization Studio

The radiation belts are not the only particle structures surrounding Earth. A giant cloud of relatively cool, charged particles called the plasmasphere fills the outermost region of Earth's atmosphere, beginning at about 600 miles up and extending partially into the outer Van Allen belt. The particles at the outer boundary of the plasmasphere cause particles in the outer radiation belt to scatter, removing them from the belt.


This scattering effect is fairly weak and might not be enough to keep the electrons at the boundary in place, except for a quirk of geometry: The radiation belt electrons move incredibly quickly, but not toward Earth. Instead, they move in giant loops around Earth. The Van Allen Probes data show that in the direction toward Earth, the most energetic electrons have very little motion at all – just a gentle, slow drift that occurs over the course of months. This is a movement so slow and weak that it can be rebuffed by the scattering caused by the plasmasphere.

This also helps explain why – under extreme conditions, when an especially strong solar wind or a giant solar eruption such as a coronal mass ejection sends clouds of material into near-Earth space – the electrons from the outer belt can be pushed into the usually-empty slot region between the belts.

"The scattering due to the plasmapause is strong enough to create a wall at the inner edge of the outer Van Allen Belt," said Baker. "But a strong solar wind event causes the plasmasphere boundary to move inward."

A massive inflow of matter from the sun can erode the outer plasmasphere, moving its boundaries inward and allowing electrons from the radiation belts the room to move further inward too.

The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, built and operates the Van Allen Probes for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The mission is the second in NASA's Living With a Star program, managed by Goddard.

For more information about the Van Allen Probe, visit:


Karen C. Fox
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.


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