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Ultra-Thin Gold Sensor for Direct Use on Skin Without Irritation, Discomfort Developed by Researchers

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According to a recent study, a group of researchers have developed a unique, gold-spun, ultra-thin sensor that can be placed directly on the skin without irritation or discomfort.

The findings of the study were published in the journal Advanced Optical Materials.

The ultrathin sensor can evaluate different biomarkers or substances to perform body chemical analysis. It works using a Raman spectroscopy technique, where laser light aimed at the sensor is changed slightly depending on whatever the chemicals at that point are present on the skin. The sensor can be tuned finely to be extremely sensitive, and it’s robust enough for practical use.

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Wearable technology is nothing new. Perhaps you or someone you know wears a smartwatch.

Many of these can monitor certain health matters such as heart rate, but at present, they cannot measure chemical signatures which could be useful for medical diagnosis. Smartwatches or more specialised medical monitors are also relatively bulky and often quite costly. Prompted by such shortfalls, a team comprising researchers from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Tokyo sought a new way to sense various health conditions and environmental matters in a noninvasive and cost-effective manner.

“A few years ago, I came across a fascinating method for producing robust stretchable electronic components from another research group at the University of Tokyo,” said Limei Liu, a visiting scholar at the time of the study and currently a lecturer at Yangzhou University in China. “These devices are spun from ultrafine threads coated with gold, so can be attached to the skin without issue as gold does not react with or irritate the skin in any way. As sensors, they were limited to detecting motion however, and we were looking for something that could sense chemical signatures, biomarkers and drugs. So we built upon this idea and created a noninvasive sensor that exceeded our expectations and inspired us to explore ways to improve its functionality even further.”

The main component of the sensor is the fine gold mesh, as gold is unreactive, meaning that when it comes into contact with a substance the team wishes to measure — for example a potential disease biomarker present in sweat — it does not chemically alter that substance. But instead, as the gold mesh is so fine, it can provide a surprisingly large surface for that biomarker to bind to, and this is where the other components of the sensor come in. As a low-power laser is pointed at the gold mesh, some of the laser light is absorbed and some is reflected. Of the light reflected, most has the same energy as the incoming light. However, some incoming light loses energy to the biomarker or other measurable substance, and the discrepancy in energy between reflected and incident light is unique to the substance in question. A sensor called a spectrometer can use this unique energy fingerprint to identify the substance. This method of chemical identification is known as Raman spectroscopy.”

Currently, our sensors need to be finely tuned to detect specific substances, and we wish to push both the sensitivity and specificity even further in future,” said Assistant Professor Tinghui Xiao. “With this, we think applications like glucose monitoring, ideal for sufferers of diabetes, or even virus detection, might be possible.” “There is also potential for the sensor to work with other methods of chemical analysis besides Raman spectroscopy, such as electrochemical analysis, but all these ideas require a lot more investigation,” said Professor Keisuke Goda. “In any case, I hope this research can lead to a new generation of low-cost biosensors that can revolutionise health monitoring and reduce the financial burden of health care.”

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NASA’s Curiosity Rover Completes 10 Years of Exploring Mars — Here’s What It Has Found So Far

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It’s been more than 10 years since the US space agency NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on Mars in search of ancient signs of life on the planet. Curiosity is part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission and is the biggest and the most capable rover ever sent to the Red Planet. Having launched on November 26, 2011, and making its descent on the Martian surface on August 5, 2012, Curiosity has so far covered 29 kilometres and ascended 625 metres on the Gale crater, where it landed. During its expedition so far, Curiosity has used its host of instruments and tools to examine if Mars ever had the right environmental conditions to support small life forms such as microbes.

Digging for evidence, the rover analysed 41 rock and soil samples on the planet in the past years. It scanned the skies of the Red Planet and sent intriguing pictures of shining clouds and drifting moons. With its radiation sensors, Curiosity has been capable of measuring the amount of radiation astronauts in future missions would be exposed to on Mars.

In its most significant finding, the rover concluded that the Gale crater had liquid water as well as the chemical building blocks and nutrients required for sustaining life at least tens of millions of years ago. It also determined that the crater had a lake and whose size waxed and waned over time. It explored the foothills of Mount Sharp in the crater where each layer offers signs on more recent era of the Red Planet’s environment.

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Watch this video to know more as Curiosity turns 10:

“We’re seeing evidence of dramatic changes in the ancient Martian climate. The question now is whether the habitable conditions that Curiosity has found up to now persisted through these changes. Did they disappear, never to return, or did they come and go over millions of years?” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist at NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

Considering its abilities and efficiency, NASA recently extended Curiosity’s mission for three more years. Now, the rover is passing through a canyon, a new region that is thought to have formed after the water dried up and left salty minerals called sulfates. Scientists plan to explore this sulfate-rich region for the next few years and target particular sites like the Gediz Vallis channel for their study.


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Dwarf Galaxies of Earth’s Second Closest Galaxy Cluster Devoid of Dark Matter Halos

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When you ask an astronomer about dark matter, they will always mention about how the cosmos is filled with this enigmatic, unseen stuff. It is specifically found in the halos that encircle the majority of galaxies. The galaxy itself, as well as other galaxies nearby, are strongly gravitationally influenced by the mass of the halo. That has been the accepted theory on dark matter and how it affects galaxies. The concept of such halos is not without flaws, though. Evidently, there are certain weirdly shaped dwarf galaxies that appear to lack halos.

How is that feasible, then? Do they present a challenge to the observed dark matter halo hypotheses that are currently held?

Galaxies are shielded by dark matter halos or shells from the gravitational pull of their close galactic neighbours according to the so-called “standard model” of cosmology. This view is now being challenged in a study led by the University of Bonn and the University of Saint Andrews (Scotland).

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The results suggest that these dark matter halos are absent from the dwarf galaxies in the Fornax Cluster, the second closest galaxy cluster to Earth. The findings were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Elena Asencio, a PhD candidate at the University of Bonn and the principal author of the study, said, “We introduce an innovative way of testing the standard model based on how much dwarf galaxies are disturbed by gravitational tides’ from nearby larger galaxies.”

Small, faint galaxies known as dwarfs are generally located in or close proximity to larger galaxies or galaxy clusters. They might therefore be affected by the gravitational effects of their larger neighbours. Recent research reveals that some of these dwarfs have distorted appearances, as though the cluster environment has disturbed them.

The Standard Model does not predict “such perturbations in the Fornax dwarfs,” said Pavel Kroupa, Professor at the University of Bonn and Charles University in Prague, and added that it’s because dark matter halos of these dwarfs should partially protect them from tides brought on by the cluster, according to the Standard Model.

Based on internal characteristics and distance from the gravitationally strong cluster centre, the authors calculated the expected level of disturbance of the dwarfs.

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According to Asencio, the comparison revealed “if one wants to explain the observations in the standard model, the Fornax dwarfs should already be destroyed by gravity from the cluster centre even when the tides it raises on a dwarf are 64 times weaker than the dwarf’s own self-gravity.”

This goes against the findings of earlier research that the amount of force required to perturb a dwarf galaxy is roughly equal to the dwarf’s own gravity.

The authors deduced from this that the observed morphologies of the Fornax dwarfs cannot be self-consistently explained by the mainstream paradigm. Dr Hongsheng Zhao from the University of St Andrews said that their findings have significant ramifications for fundamental physics, and that they expect to find additional perturbed dwarfs in other clusters.


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ISRO’s Faces SSLV-D1 Data Loss at Terminal Phase of the Mission, Placed in Wrong Orbit

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The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Sunday said its Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV-D1) placed satellites into elliptical orbit instead of a circular orbit. Sharing the updates of its satellite launch, ISRO said “SSLV-D1 placed the satellites into 356kx76km elliptical orbit instead of 356km circular orbit. Satellites are no longer usable. The issue is reasonably identified. Failure of a logic to identify a sensor failure and go for a salvage action caused the deviation. A committee would analyse and recommend. With the implementation of the recommendations, ISRO will come back soon with SSLV-D2.”

Earlier in the day, ISRO launched its first new rocket the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV-D1) carrying Earth Observation Satellite (EOS-02) and a student-made satellite-AzaadiSAT from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota.

To mark the country’s celebrations of “Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav”, the SSLV, co-passenger satellite called “AzaadiSAT” comprising 75 payloads built by 750 students from 75 rural government schools across India was launched.

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ISRO Chairman S Somanath on Sunday said that both Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV-D1) carrying Earth Observation Satellite (EOS-02) were injected but the “orbit achieved was less than expected which makes it unstable.”

“All stages performed normal. Both satellites were injected. But the orbit achieved was less than expected which makes it unstable,” the ISRO chief said.

He further said that the SSLV-D1 suffered data loss at the terminal phase of the mission.

“In the terminal phase of the mission, some data loss is occurring. We are analysing the data to conclude the final outcome of the mission with respect to achieving a stable orbit,” Somanath added.

Girls who designed the satellite also witnessed the SSLV-D1 launch. The general public also witnessed the launch from the viewing gallery of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota.


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