3D-printed “Marie” could be used in cancer-treatment developments
Meet Marie, the very first life-sized 3D-printed human body made from bioplastic, developed by LSU engineering student Meagan Moore to test real-time radiation exposure and figure out optimal radiation therapy dosing for treating conditions like cancer. According to an LSU press release, Marie is five-foot-one-inch tall and weighs 15 pounds. She also has a detachable head, and a 36-gallon water storage capacity for up to eight hours. Also, Marie is a lovely shade of purple. (“Purple was on sale,” Moore said in a press release.)
Marie is the amalgamation of five full-body scans of women taken at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, per an LSU press release. Then, over the course of 136 hours, LSU’s BigRep industrial 3D printer churned out Marie. But the 3D printer had to produce Marie in four chunks, so Moore used “a combination of soldering, friction stir welding, and sandblasting” to piece her together.
To be clear, Marie isn’t a product of bioprinting, or the process of applying 3D printing technology to create biological tissue. Scientists have used this process to transplant artificial organs into rats, and for years, the US Army has been actively looking into making bioprinted hearts, blood vessels and even skin.
In the future, according to Moore, Marie could potentially be used to create personalized treatments for people with complex forms of cancer. “Children and breast cancer patients have really differing morphology that is usually very difficult to treat,” Moore said in a press release. “I find that the more we learn about anybody, the more complex it’s going to be. We’re still getting medicine wrong on a lot of levels. We have a lot to learn.”
Converting light from glowing metal into electricity
From Popular Mechanics:
One of the biggest practical problems keeping renewable energy from overtaking fossil fuels is the question of how to store it. Making better energy storage systems is a priority for many scientists, including those in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, who have developed a concept for what they call a “sun in a box.”
The system would direct excess energy to tanks of white-hot molten silicon. That white-hot part is important, because the design would take the light from the glowing metal and convert that back into electricity. The scientists estimate this would cost around half as much as the current cheapest form of renewable energy ready to scale out to an entire grid, pumped hydroelectric storage.
“Even if we wanted to run the grid on renewables right now we couldn’t because you’d need fossil-fueled turbines to make up for the fact that the renewable supply cannot be dispatched on demand,” says Asegun Henry, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, in a press statement. “We’re developing a new technology that, if successful, would solve this most important and critical problem in energy and climate change, namely, the storage problem.”
The sun in a box works through what’s called “concentrated solar power.” It’s technology that exists today, by storing molten salt in atmospheric tanks. That molten salt operates much like MIT’s hypothetical system does — the salt is heated at 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit (566⁰C), generating steam that can be converted into energy.
How to make nanoscale versions of #3D objects
It’s difficult to create nanoscale 3D objects. The techniques either tend to be slow (such as stacking layers of 2D etchings) or are limited to specific materials and shapes. MIT researchers might have a better way — they’ve devised a technique for making nanoscale versions of 3D objects using a wide variety of materials and shapes. The team ultimately reversed a process for imaging brain tissue, whittling a relatively large object down to a creation one thousandth its original size.
The scientists’ approach starts by creating a scaffold made of polyacrylate, an absorbent material you find in diapers. They then soak the structure in a solution of fluorescein molecules that attach to the scaffold when exposed to light — creators can use lasers to place most any particle wherever they want, whether it’s genetic material or metal nanoparticles. To shrink the structure down after that point, the team introduces an acid that blocks negative charges in the polyacrylate and forced it to shrink.
There are limits to the existing technology. The resolution of the final product directly correlates to its size. An object that’s 1 cubic millimeter can have a resolution of 50 nanometers, but you’ll need to blow it up to 1 cubic centimeter to achieve a resolution of 500 nanometers.
However, the potential is vast. The researchers suspect this could initially be used for creating specialized optics for science, microscopes and even smartphones, but it could be tremendously useful for nano-sized parts in robots. The main challenge at this point is scale. While the needed equipment is readily available in labs, it might be another matter entirely to mass-produce nanoscale parts.
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