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Indian origin engineer says traditional homes are more sustainable

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Washington: An Indian-origin engineer said that while the trend might be of the houses like Europe and North America but the traditional homes can be more sustainable.

Industrial building materials are often scarce and expensive and alternative, locally sourced, sustainable materials are often a better choice, said Khanjan Mehta, assistant professor of engineering design at the Pennsylvania State University.

“People want to build a good house, everyone wants to have a good house. But what makes a good house? Is it wood, steel, concrete or bamboo? It all depends on the context,” Mehta said.

“In some places steel and concrete are perfect, while straw bales and bamboo are optimal in other places. We should be evaluating what is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable at the necessary scale in a given location,” he said.

Cutting down forests to plant bamboo as a building material is not the answer, according to Mehta.

Individuals can use locally available but scarce materials to build their individual homes, but that strategy will not build all the houses in a city or village because it cannot be scaled up to meet the demand.

“Can we grow mushrooms and process them into a strong packaging material or fiberboard for construction?” said Mehta.

“We need cross pollination from different areas to come up with acceptable choices to meet these challenges,” Mehta noted.

“People see western stuff as better, more modern and therefore they think it is good,” said Mehta.

“Traditional homes can be just as cool, and maybe more sustainable,” he said.

Mehta shared his thoughts at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC on Friday.(IANS)

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Scientists Produce Complex Glass From 3D Printing

The researchers can change various parameters in each layer, including pore size.

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3D printing or additive manufacturing
3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. Pixabay

Creating glass objects using 3D printing is not easy but a groups of researchers including one of Indian-origin has now used a better technique to produce complex glass objects with addictive manufacturing.

Researchers from ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich) used the method based on stereolithography, one of the first 3D printing techniques developed during the 1980s.

David Moore, Lorenzo Barbera and Kunal Masania in the Complex Materials group led by ETH processor Andre Studart developed a special resin that contains a plastic and organic molecules to which glass precursors are bonded.

The resin can be processed using commercially available ‘Digital Light Processing’ technology.

This involves irradiating the resin with UV light patterns. Wherever the light strikes the resin, it hardens because the light sensitive components of the polymer resin cross link at the exposed points.

3D Printing of molecules in hand
This image shows molecules in hand. The molecular model appears on the computer screen, tumbling and turning in real time as the person holding the object manipulates it. Pixabay

The plastic monomers combine to form a labyrinth like structure, creating the polymer. The ceramic-bearing molecules fill the interstices of this labyrinth, said the team in a paper published in the journal Natural Materials.

An object can thus be built up layer by layer. The researchers can change various parameters in each layer, including pore size.

“We discovered that by accident, but we can use this to directly influence the pore size of the printed object,” said Masania.

These 3D-printed glass objects are still no bigger than a die. Large glass objects, such as bottles, drinking glasses or window panes, cannot be produced in this way “which was not actually the goal of the project,” emphasised Masania.

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The aim was rather to prove the feasibility of producing glass objects of complex geometry using a 3D printing process. However, the new technology is not just a gimmick.

The researchers applied for a patent and are currently negotiating with a major Swiss glassware dealer who wants to use the technology in his company. (IANS)

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Researchers Engineer Pancreatic Beta Cells that can Enhance Production of Insulin for Diabetes

"It's a backwards analogy, but we are actually using light to turn on and off a biological switch," said Emmanuel Tzanakakis, Professor at Tufts University

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Researchers, Engineer, Pancreatic
The researchers found that transplanting the engineered pancreatic beta cells under the skin of diabetic mice led to improved tolerance and regulation of glucose, reduced hyperglycemia, and higher levels of plasma insulin. Pixabay

Researchers have found a way to engineer pancreatic beta cells that can enhance production of insulin in response to glucose levels when these cells are “switched on” by light.

The study, published in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology, shows that glucose levels can be controlled in a mouse model of diabetes without pharmacological intervention.

The researchers found that transplanting the engineered pancreatic beta cells under the skin of diabetic mice led to improved tolerance and regulation of glucose, reduced hyperglycemia, and higher levels of plasma insulin when subjected to illumination with blue light.

“It’s a backwards analogy, but we are actually using light to turn on and off a biological switch,” said Emmanuel Tzanakakis, Professor at Tufts University in the US and corresponding author of the study.

Researchers, Engineer, Pancreatic
The study, published in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology, shows that glucose levels can be controlled in a mouse model of diabetes without pharmacological intervention. Pixabay

“In this way, we can help in a diabetic context to better control and maintain appropriate levels of glucose without pharmacological intervention. The cells do the work of insulin production naturally and the regulatory circuits within them work the same.”

The blue light simply flips the switch from normal to boost mode. Such approaches utilising light-activitable proteins for modulating the function of cells are being explored in many biological systems and have fuelled efforts toward the development of a new genre of treatments.

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“There are several advantages to using light to control treatment,” said Fan Zhang, graduate student in Tzanakakis’ lab at Tufts and first author of the study. (IANS)

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Facebook’s Blockchain Division Has a New Director of Engineering

Blockchain, a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies are recorded, is the next big thing

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Facebook
Facebook testing 'LOL' app to woo kids, experts wary. Pixabay

Facebook has promoted one of its senior engineers Evan Cheng as the Director of Engineering at its recently launched Blockchain division, signalling the importance of the project, the media reported.

Cheng is also listed as an advisor to blockchain startups and projects Zilliqa and ChainLink, the TechCrunch reported.

Earlier in May, Facebook had set up a group within the company to explore blockchain technology and its potential use for the platform, headed by long time Messenger chief David Marcus.

However, the latest executive reshuffle appears to point to the social networking giant getting more serious about developing on top of blockchain technology.

Besides Cheng, the tech giant has also promoted Kevin Weil, former vice president of product at Instagram, as the vice president of product at their Blockchain division, the report said.

Facebook mobile app
Facebook mobile app. Pixabay

“It means it’s not just an exploratory project”, is how one source who tracks the blockchain space speculatively, described Cheng’s move to Facebook’s blockchain team, the report said.

Recruiting Cheng to the blockchain group signals the importance of the project, the source said.

According to his LinkedIn page, Cheng has been employed at Facebook since November 2015 and has been working at their Programming Languages and Runtimes, a position he held for nearly three years.

He also worked at Apple for over 10 years and is credited as one of the inventors of LLVM — a compiler that generates the low-level machine code for Apple devices.

Also Read: Facebook Shuts Down Three of its Apps

Blockchain, a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies are recorded, is the next big thing.

Although Facebook has not announced any plans about how they would use blockchain technology on their platform, it is clear they are pursuing this technology with interest. In the light of the data crises faced by Facebook, it is going to be interesting to see how they utilize this technology to improve their services, the CCN reported. (IANS)