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Stanford Researchers Develop Flexible Nanowire Material

Stanford University researchers have developed a new method for creating flexible nanowire structures. Conventional nanowire arrays are rigid and brittle, which poses problems with incorporating technology into objects such as wearable electronics. The researchers coated the silicon wafer’s surface with a thin layer of nickel prior to making the circuits.  When the structure is exposed to water at room temperature, the nickel and the electronics detach from the wafer in seconds. The wafer can be reused. After this, the nickel layer is applied to an ultra-thin polymer layer, which is also flexible. It is this layer of material that lets them attach the electronics to almost any surface, regardless of the shape or material. The polymer layer is also an insulator. The technology could be used to make wearable electronics, high-efficiency solar cells, and ultrasensitive biosensors. ( Letters)(Stanford University)

Tennessee Blue Cross Completes Million-Dollar Data Encryption Project

BlueCross BlueShield (BCBS) of Tennessee announced that it has completed an extensive data encryption project designed to protect all its “at-rest” data in the enterprise. The US$6 million-plus, 5,000 man-hour-project was spurred by the theft of 57 hard drives that were stolen from a leased facility in Chattanooga in 2009. More than 885TB of at-rest data has been encrypted. The company says it also adopted strict policies and procedures for its data storage. Much of the data is related to customer service and includes 25,000 voice call recordings per day. “The lessons we learned from the theft led us to go above and beyond current industry standards, and our team has worked tirelessly to put new safeguards in place and encrypt all our at-rest data,” said Nick Coussoule, senior vice president and chief information officer for BlueCross in a news release. The organization didn’t specify the type of encryption used. (SlashDot)(Computerworld)(BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee)

Algorithm Detects Gender Bending Twitter Posts

Researchers have developed an algorithm that can predict the gender of someone posting on Twitter based solely on linguistic cues. They contend men and women use language differently from each other, even when given only 140 characters. Women reportedly use emoticons, abbreviations, repeated letters, and expressions of affection more often than men. There have been instances of men posing as women on the social networking platform, including someone who purported to be a lesbian mother who was ultimately outed as a 58-year-old straight man. The algorithm, even with a single posting, can correctly identify gender 65.9 percent of the time. The algorithm could be used for ad-targeting or for socio-linguistic research. (SlashDot)(The Atlantic)(“Discriminating Gender on Twitter,” Burger et al., The MITRE Corp.)

Artificial Cilia Could Unlock Information for Creating Micromovement

Cilia are tiny hair-like structures in the body that perform  key functions through their coordinated movement, the resulting pattern of which some researchers equate to a stadium filled with people doing “the wave” repeatedly. How the cilia move is being documented using artificial cilia-like structures created by Brandeis University researchers. Using microtubule filaments, motor proteins called kinesin, and an agent that triggers the filaments to assemble into bundles, the researchers created a simple microscopic system that self-organizes and mimics the cilia’s beating patterns. The researchers say the recreation of this function could help those working in nanotechnology design an object capable of swimming independently. The full findings were published in the journal Science. ( University)(Science)

Canadian Researchers Announce Lab-on-a-Chip for Genetics Analysis

University of British Columbia researchers have developed a lab-on-a-chip technology that they say is more sensitive for individual cell analysis. The device is faster and more cost-effectively than conventional technologies.  The lab-on-a-chip is about the size of a nine-volt battery and can simultaneously analyze 300 cells individually by routing the fluid containing the cells through microscopic tubes and valves into separate chambers. Once separated, the cells’ RNA can be extracted and further analyzed; however, they can also be analyzed on the chip using chemical reagents. This type of single cell analysis is key for genetic researchers studying cancer. Typically, tissue samples might contain a mixture of healthy cells as well as cancer cells, which can be difficult to distinguish from the healthy cells. “It’s like trying to trying to understand what makes a strawberry different from a raspberry by studying a blended fruit smoothie,” says Carl Hansen, an assistant professor at the university who led the team that developed the device. The full work is described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ( of British Columbia)

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