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£13m for new surgical technology centre

University College London (UCL) has been awarded over £13m from Wellcome and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop a special centre focussed on the development of new surgical technologies. The Wellcome/EPSRC Centre for Surgical and Interventional Sciences at UCL will bring together a wide team of engineering and clinical experts working to develop a range of new technologies. It will have a particular focus on intraoperative imaging and sensing, data fusion and extraction, human-technology interfaces, tissue modelling, interventional instrumentation and surgical navigation. It’s hoped that advances in these areas will help create an intuitive and highly personalised surgical platform that enables more precise, less invasive procedures. Great

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OC Robotics leads team in world first laser-cutting project

A team led by OC Robotics has achieved a world first by using remote laser-cutting technology to dismantle redundant equipment inside a nuclear facility. The project’s success has been acknowledged with a Nuclear Decommissioning Agency Estate Supply Chain Award for Technology/Innovation implementation. In August 2016 the project successfully cut up a large steel dissolver vessel at the Sellafield site using a laser integrated with a highly flexible remotely-controlled robot arm. The operation proved the value of laser-cutting technology, combined with robotics, for handling decommissioning tasks in hazardous, confined spaces more quickly and effectively than previously possible. After a feasibility study in 2011, the technology has been developed over the past four years

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Pressure-tolerant batteries promise improved performance for deep-dive underwater vehicles

A consortium led by UK industrial computing specialist Steatite has announced the successful completion of the first phase of a 24-month project to develop a pressure-tolerant lithium sulphur (Li-S) battery pack. The firm claims that the technology could help to improve the endurance and speed of ‘deep-dive’ autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). The project, which is due for completion in October 2017, aims to exploit the potential of Li-S cell technology to surpass conventional lithium-ion (Li-ion) solutions, and will enhance the capabilities of the scientific and defence vehicles used in applications across the marine and maritime community, including subsea structures, ROVs, profilers, buoys and submersible systems.AUVs are energy-limited, which constrains their operational e

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Carnivorous plant inspires coating that fights biofouling on medical implants

A coating inspired by the Nepenthes pitcher plant has prevented bacteria from attaching to surfaces treated with it, a development that could mitigate against biofouling on implanted medical devices. In a report published in Biomaterials, a team of scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Harvard University has demonstrated that the innovative, ultra-low adhesive coating reduced bacterial adhesion by more than 98 per cent in laboratory tests. “Device related infections remain a significant problem in medicine, burdening society with millions of dollars in health care costs,” said Elliot Chaikof, MD, PhD, chair of the Roberta and

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Mobile phone camera used for complex 3D modelling

Large spaces can be reconstructed with photo-like accuracy using just the camera on a mobile phone, thanks to a three dimensional modelling system developed at Oxford University. The system, known as InfiniTAM, could allow a handheld camera to scan a complex environment and instantly build a 3D model. It could be used in virtual reality or augmented reality games such as Pokemon Go, or for industrial applications such as surveying buildings, processing plants or oil rigs. Existing systems designed to carry out 3D reconstruction on mobile devices have tended to have poor accuracy, according to Dr Victor Prisacariu, principal investigator in the Active Vision Lab at Oxford University. “This [system] opens up the ability to reconstruct large spaces very quickly on your mobile devic

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UK blood salvage tech gets financial boost

NHS spin-out SwabTech has received a £0.5m funding injection from Catapult Ventures for its automated Surgical Swab-Washer, which assists in the process of recycling patients’ blood. Up to 50 per cent of blood in surgery is soaked up by swabs. Some hospitals today use Intraoperative Cell Salvage (ICS) systems where recovered blood from these swabs is re-infused back into the patient during or after surgery. However, many of these systems rely on manual washing of the swabs in a saline solution. According to SwabTech, this manual washing can be labour-intensive and distracting for a scrub nurse, and often delivers inconsistent blood recovery rates. It also can’t be performed during orthopaedic procedures due to potential contamination from bone fragments. But the Manchester-b

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Car industry turns to simulators to combat motion sickness

The arrival of the autonomous car is set to pose a lot of technical challenges, but one that has been largely overlooked until now is car sickness. A recent study by the University of Michigan concluded that 22 per cent of adults are likely to experience some degree of motion sickness in an autonomous car. However, Norfolk-based simulator specialist Ansible Motion is now working with a number of car makers to investigate how this could be mitigated. Motion sickness stems from other sensory inputs – usually vision – apparently contradicting the movement felt by the body’s vestibular system. It’s particularly common while reading or watching video footage, which the UM study concluded were some of the most likely activities for passengers inside a fully autonomous vehicle. P

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Carbon nanotube transistors outperform silicon

A new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison has demonstrated for the first time that transistors made using carbon nanotubes can outperform current chips that use silicon and gallium arsenide. (Credit: Stephanie Precourt)There is a pressing demand to improve the performance of the computer chips that underpin virtually all electronic devices today. However, it is generally accepted that we are approaching the limits of traditional materials used in their manufacture, such as silicon. The superconductivity of carbon nanotubes has meant they have long been seen as a potential alternative, but creating transistors with the one-atom-thick material has proved difficult. Published in the journal Science Advances, this latest study presents a solution that could lead to a dramati

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Compact microscope for early sepsis diagnosis

Researchers from The Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) in Barcelona have developed a portable microscope that could dramatically reduce the time for identifying sepsis. (Credit: Geralt via Pixabay) Commonly referred to as ‘blood poisoning’, sepsis kills over 20,000 people per day worldwide, making it more deadly than prostate cancer, breast cancer and HIV/AIDS combined. Current techniques to test for the disease can take up to a day. However, using a combination of photonics technology, microfluidics and molecular biology, the new method can produce a result in just 30 minutes, with the test costing as little as €50 per patient.The microscope sends polarised beams of light through birefringent crystals, a cartridge containing a blood drop, and an array of receptors. The dev

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Nanobeads used to create microscope superlens

Scientists from Bangor University in Wales have used nanobeads to create a microscope superlens, enabling magnification of objects on a scale not previously possible. The titanium dioxide nanoparticles are applied to the material or object to be viewed, rather than being fixed to the microscope. Droplet-like lens structures formed of millions of nanobeads break up light, refracting it to illuminate objects with tiny individual beams. According to the study, published in the journal Science Advances, the superlens adds 5x magnification to existing microscopes. Nanoparticles splitting single incident beam into multiple beams which provides optical super-resolution in imaging. (Credit: Bangor University/Fudan University)“We’ve used high-index titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles

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