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Flow Masters

by Michael Keller

Over the last decade, materials scientists have been trying really hard to keep from getting wet. To that end, they’ve made huge strides developing coatings that so thoroughly repel dirt and water, they seem almost magic. Their secret? Recreating the nanoscale structures that some organisms employ to stay clean and dry and to redirect liquid flow. 

Among researchers’ muses from the natural world are the stenocara beetle, lotus and nasturtium leaves, and the wings of butterflies. The National Science Foundation has compiled some compelling visual examples of natural and synthesized superhydrophobic surfaces. See the full video below. 

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A Physician In Every Pocket

txchnologist:

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by Michael Keller

In a subterranean lab at the far corner of Columbia University’s main New York City campus, a couple of men in lab coats and safety glasses discuss a problem in their research. Across the hall, a woman attired similarly is at work in the machine shop. Glassware, chemicals in jugs, tubing and various equipment cover what seems like every corner of bench space.

These people are part of Samuel Sia’s 30-member crack team of chemists, biologists and engineers. Sia, a biomedical engineer, has gathered them together to help foment a medical revolution.

Their idea: to outsource to individuals and family doctors the tests that are now the exclusive domain of centralized labs and hospitals. Their weapons are a new crop of coming diagnostic technologies that are smaller, cheaper and smarter than anything on the market today. Inherent to this change in the business model is the jailbreak of patients’ medical data from healthcare facilities and insurance companies back to the patient and doctor from where it came.

“Whenever we want to know about our own body, we have to go through the healthcare system,” Sia tells Txchnologist. “You shouldn’t have to do that. Are you vitamin deficient? Do you have the flu? Are you trying to get pregnant? What is that new Mediterranean diet doing to your body? You should be able to monitor your own body, but right now it’s out of your hands.”

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