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How do you find out who are the sharpest, most creative designers in the world? With a good, old-fashioned, graphic design battle, of course.  The 2009 Cut & Paste Digital Design Tournament pitted the best graphic designers against one another in a competition like no other.  Armed with state-of-the art computers, designers squared off on the stage of the Congress Theater on Saturday to determine who would represent Chicago in the global finals to be held in June in New York.

This story was first published on the Medill Reports website on 4/7/2009.  Republished here for my own archives.

MIT Professor Angela Belcher and the prototype battery she and her team created using a genetically engineered virus.  Photo credit: Donna Coveney, courtesy of MIT

MIT Professor Angela Belcher and the prototype battery she and her team created using a genetically engineered virus. Photo credit: Donna Coveney, courtesy of MIT

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have successfully demonstrated a technique for fabricating a better battery using a genetically engineered virus.

They announced their technique for the battery earlier this month, maintaining that it allows them to use a much wider variety of materials for potentially higher-capacity, rechargeable batteries.

The interdisciplinary team of MIT scientists combined research in biology, chemistry, engineering and advanced nanotechnology to fabricate the battery.

Dr. Chad Mirkin, professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern University, said he is glad to see demonstrations of practical applications of nanotechnology. This represents one of the latest applications of the ongoing advances in nanotechnology using genetically modified viruses.

“There are many examples of using genetically engineered viruses to manufacture nanomaterials,” Mirkin said. “It’s a merger of molecular biology and material science.” He said that research in this area has been almost exclusively focused on batteries.

Applications of this type of virus battery may one day include powering personal electronics and even electric vehicles. The manufacturing process requires no organic solvents and can occur at and below room temperature. The process is described as “environmentally benign,” because it requires fewer toxic components, according to MIT.

To manufacture the battery, the researchers used a genetically modified strain of the common M13 bacteriophage, a virus that consumes bacteria but which is harmless to humans. By altering the virus’s DNA, the researchers were able to fabricate a battery cathode.

To do so, they altered the viruses to bond with iron phosphate on one end of their structure, and then to attach themselves to single-walled carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are used by scientists as a kind of super-small scaffolding to build nano-scale structures, and for their electric properties.

A small change in the virus’s DNA produced an affinity for molecules of iron phosphate, and these molecules were built up by the virus into a structure known as nanowires. The researchers then experimented with ways of combining the nanowires with carbon nanotubes, which are excellent conductors of electricity.

They applied the idea of modifying the virus a second time to produce an affinity for bonding with carbon nanotubes. When the researchers incubated the viral iron phosphate nanowires in a suspension of carbon nanotubes, the viruses were drawn to the nanotubes, and they produced a highly conductive network in which electrons “percolate” through the carbon nanotubes on their way to the iron phosphate.

The researchers used this network as the cathode portion of their battery, and packaged the battery in a standard coin shape. The prototype was used in a simple circuit to light a green LED, and was demonstrated last month at a White House press briefing by Susan Hockfield, president of MIT.

The prototype maintained power after being charged and discharged at least 100 times in lab tests. While this falls short of current-generation lithium ion batteries, MIT Professor Angela Belcher stated she expects to improve  performance with further research. Belcher, lead researcher for the battery project, is an expert in the fields of material science, engineering and biological engineering.

“We expect them to be able to go much longer,” said Belcher in a press release.

Note: This article was first published on the Medill Reports site, on 4/9/2009.  Reprinted here for my own archival purposes.

At a certain time of day, specifically, a little bit before 9 AM, if you exit onto the street at the Monroe stop on the Red Line in the Loop, you’ll see that the light reflected off the shiny glass building on the west side of the street illuminating the buildings on the east side of the street.

To me, it looks like glowing sunlight bones.



Famous philosopher David Chalmers has announced the public availability of Philpapers.org, a huge online repository of philosophical journals and resources from all over the web.  New issues of more than 200 journals, on a huge variety of subjects.

Browse around through their categories and see what I mean!

Found via PhilosophyNow, via monochrom.

Ok, after just about EVERYBODY I know pestered me about Twitter, I finally broke down and joined, mostly to follow people that might give me tips for stories.

If you follow me, I’ll follow you.  @ian_monroe

Protesters oppose the idea that Chicago should host the 2016 Olympics.

Protesters oppose the idea that Chicago should host the 2016 Olympics.

Taken this evening at about 5:30 p.m., here.

Wow, this is awesome.  Some folks in England invented a robot that does science — from hypothesis, to testing, to conclusion — and it actually generated new knowledge autonomously!  Outstanding.

“The scientists at Aberystwyth University and the University of Cambridge designed Adam to carry out each stage of the scientific process automatically without the need for further human intervention. The robot has discovered simple but new scientific knowledge about the genomics of the baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, an organism that scientists use to model more complex life systems. The researchers have used separate manual experiments to confirm that Adam’s hypotheses were both novel and correct.”

The study will be published in tomorrow’s edition of Science.

For DJs that like to kick it old-school

For DJs that like to kick it old-school

Check out this beautiful gallery of obsolete gadgets and tech from DarkRoastedBlend.com

I particularly love the mad scientist cold-war era Russian stuff.

Found via BoingBoing Gadgets.