System Bits: Nov. 10

Silver nanowires; 3D printed organs; auto 2D to 3D conversion.

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Wrapping silver nanowires
While they hold promise for applications including flexible displays and solar cells, silver nanowires are also susceptible to damage from highly energetic UV radiation and harsh environmental conditions has limited their commercialization, according to Purdue University researchers.

However, new research suggests wrapping the nanowires with an ultrathin layer of carbon called graphene protects the structures from damage and could represent a key to realizing their commercial potential. The team showed that even if there was a one-atom-thickness material, it could protect from an enormous amount of UV radiation damage.

New research shows wrapping silver nanowires, which are promising for applications such as flexible displays and solar cells, with an ultrathin layer of carbon called graphene protects the structures from damage and could represent a key to realizing their commercial potential. The lower images depict how graphene sheathing protects nanowires even while being subjected to 2.5 megawatts of energy intensity per square centimeter from a high-energy laser, an intensity that vaporizes the unwrapped wires. The upper images depict how the unwrapped wires are damaged with an energy intensity as little as .8 megawatts per square centimeter. (Source: Purdue University)

New research shows wrapping silver nanowires, which are promising for applications such as flexible displays and solar cells, with an ultrathin layer of carbon called graphene protects the structures from damage and could represent a key to realizing their commercial potential. The lower images depict how graphene sheathing protects nanowires even while being subjected to 2.5 megawatts of energy intensity per square centimeter from a high-energy laser, an intensity that vaporizes the unwrapped wires. The upper images depict how the unwrapped wires are damaged with an energy intensity as little as .8 megawatts per square centimeter. (Source: Purdue University)

Devices made from silver nanowires and graphene could find uses in solar cells, flexible displays for computers and consumer electronics, and future optoelectronic circuits for sensors and information processing because the material is flexible and transparent, yet electrically conductive. As such, it is a potential replacement for indium tin oxide, which is relatively expensive due to limited abundance of indium; is inflexible and degrades over time, becoming brittle and hindering performance.

Another limiting factor for commercial applications of silver nanowires is their susceptibility to harsh environments and electromagnetic waves, but the researchers found that if they are wrapped with graphene, this problem can be overcome given that the coating appears to extract and spread thermal energy away from the nanowires, as well as prevent moisture damage.

3D printed replacement organs
A team of bioengineers at Rice University and surgeons at the University of Pennsylvania have created an implant with an intricate network of blood vessels that points toward a future of growing replacement tissues and organs for transplantation using sugar, silicone and a 3D printer.

The team believes the research may provide a method to overcome one of the biggest challenges in regenerative medicine: How to deliver oxygen and nutrients to all cells in an artificial organ or tissue implant that takes days or weeks to grow in the lab prior to surgery.

Using an open-source 3D printer that lays down individual filaments of sugar glass one layer at a time, the researchers "printed" a lattice of would-be blood vessels. (Source: Rice University)

Using an open-source 3D printer that lays down individual filaments of sugar glass one layer at a time, the researchers “printed” a lattice of would-be blood vessels. (Source: Rice University)

The research showed that blood flowed normally through test constructs that were surgically connected to native blood vessels.

Automatically converting 2D video to 3D
By exploiting the graphics-rendering software that powers sports video games, researchers at MIT and the Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) have developed a system that automatically converts 2D video of soccer games into 3D.

The converted video can be played back over any 3D device — a commercial 3D TV, Google’s new Cardboard system, which turns smartphones into 3D displays, or special-purpose displays such as Oculus Rift.