Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM have developed a new process that can bend sheets of glass to produce angular corners. Unlike conventional processes, this does not impair the optical properties of the glass. Bent glass looks destined to play a key role in future building design, and there are also potential applications in the fields of medical technology and industrial design. Generally speaking, window glass is flat. When constructing the walls of a building, apertures are therefore left for windows to later be inserted. Occasionally, however, smart office blocks and apartment buildings feature windows that wrap around the corners of the structure. To achieve this, window manufacturers join two panes of glass at an angle, using either a metal profile or an adhesive bond. Now, however, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg have developed a spectacular way of bending sheets of glass – to angles of 90°, for example – so that the corner thereby produced is sharp and angular. In other words, they have made the corner an integral part of a single sheet of glass. “We’ve already had lots of positive feedback from architects,” says Tobias Rist, a specialist in glass forming at Fraunhofer IWM and head of the Glass Forming and Machining group.“ A lot of them are now keen to know when this corner glass will be available. But our lab system only processes sheets of glass one square meter in size, so we’re only able to produce prototypes.” The research team is therefore eager to join forces with partners and scale up the process to produce larger formats. Glass with an angular corner of 90° Machinery for bending glass does of course already exist. Current technology, however, is incapable of producing narrow curvatures or a clean-edged bend of 90°. What’s more, conventional processes often impair the optical properties of the glass. In order to bend a sheet of glass, it is placed in a metal mold and then reheated. This renders the glass soft and malleable, so that it can be shaped according to the contours of the mold. This can cause the glass to deform at the contact points with the support. So once the glass has cooled down, faint imprints remain that are visible when inspected at close range. Moreover, the molding process causes corrugations to form on the surface of the glass, with the result that light is no longer reflected uniformly. When passersby look at the curved parts of a building’s glass facade, the reflections of objects such as trees or street signs therefore appear distorted. Similarly, objects viewed from within the building look strangely skewed. Special kiln developed in-house The team from Fraunhofer IWM has circumvented this problem by developing their own kiln. Instead of heating the entire sheet of glass until it becomes soft, only the area of the glass where the actual bending is to take place is heated to that point. This is done by means of a laser and mirrors, which guide the powerful beam along the bend line. The kiln is heated to around 500° Celsius, just below the so-called glass transition temperature, at which point glass becomes soft. “And then the laser only has to heat the glass at the relevant area by a few more degrees until it reaches the glass transition temperature, and we are able to bend it,” Rist explains. In this case, bending is accomplished by means of gravity. In the kiln, the sheet of glass rests on a support that only extends as far as the line of the future bend. Once the laser has heated the glass along this line, the sheet of glass becomes soft and bends purely through the force of gravity. Since only the line of the bend is heated until soft, rather than the entire sheet, there are no imprints created where the sheet rests on the support. In other words, the glass remains perfectly smooth except for where it has been bent. Graduated bend radii for sandwich structures In developing the process, the researchers first constructed sophisticated computer models of the bending process. This showed them how fast the laser has to travel in order to ensure that the glass becomes soft in the required manner and as uniformly as possible. Since glass is a poor thermal conductor, it was also important to calculate how rapidly the heat from the laser penetrates from the surface to within the glass and the extent to which the heat from the laser spreads laterally from the laser point into the sheet of glass. Armed with the knowledge gained from the modeling process, the researchers then set about experimenting. “We now know how to control the laser in order to bend glass of the required thickness to achieve the exact angle – or bend radius – we want,” says Rist. “We’re the first to be able to produce a 90° bend like this. Architects who’ve seen the results are really excited.” Furthermore, the process can also be used to bend a series of glass sheets to specific, graduated radii so as to produce sandwich structures and sheets of laminated, safety and insulating glass. According to Rist, there are potential applications in many other areas apart from architecture as well – including industrial design. For example, this technique could be used to cover household appliances with a continuous sheath of glass, instead of the usual combination of plastic and metal sheets. This glass skin would extend down from the top to the angled front of the appliance, without gaps or joints, and cover a touchscreen control panel. Such a design would be not only highly attractive but also simple to clean on account of the gap-free surface. For reasons of hygiene, glass is also an ideal material for the manufacture of medical equipment. Steel, by contrast, is relatively easy to scratch. High heat or strong disinfectants are then required to eradicate the germs that can accumulate in the scored surface. Equipment with a glass surface is much easier to clean, not least because glass is highly resistant to scratching and is able to withstand aggressive cleaning agents. “Using our process, it would be possible to produce a single glass sheath to cover the top and sides of such equipment,” says Rist. “And this would also avoid any edges or joints where germs could build up.” In fact, there is a whole host of applications where this new glass would prove beneficial, including store fittings such as display cabinets and refrigerated counters. Rist and his team are therefore keen to work with manufacturers from a wide variety of sectors.
People who suffer from end stage renal desease frequently undergo dialysis on a fixed schedule. For patients this artificial washing of the blood is a major burden. To remove toxins from the blood, large quantities of dialysis water for clearance are required. Until now there has been no solution so far to recover this dialysate cost-effectively. Therefore a cryo-purification method is being developed by Fraunhofer researchers that clears the water without loosing it. This approach not only reduces costs – it may even pave the way for a wearable artificial kidney by milder long-term dialysis treatment at complete water autonomy. Some 90,000 people in Germany every year have to undergo dialysis three times a week for four to five hours, because their kidneys no longer function properly and cannot eliminate toxins sufficiently. During treatment harmful metabolites are removed from the blood by transferring them outside the body via a semipermeable membrane into a dedicated dialysis fluid called the dialysate. The pores of the membrane are so narrow that only toxins up to a certain size can pass them. Small molecules such as water, electrolytes and uremic toxins – urea, uric acid and creatinine – transit the membrane into the cleaning fluid, while large molecules such as proteins and blood cells are rejected. The entire blood is recirculated and cleared approximately three times per hour. Dialysate can only be used once For a dialysis treatment, approx. 400 liters of dialysate are required. Hospitals and dialysis centers prepare this water using reverse osmosis systems, which consume a lot of energy and are expensive. It is challenging that dialysate can only be utilized once, as it disappears as waste water after the blood purification treatment. To treat 90,000 patients per year this requires more than 5.6 million cubic meters of ultrapure water. In many regions of the world this requirement is not met. According to estimates, over a million people die every year by lacking access to dialysis. “Dialysis water is precious. Germany’s one year dialysis water fills a 175m cube. Up to now there has been no cost-effective method to reclaim dialysate,” says Dr. Rainer Goldau, scientist at the Department of Extracorporeal Immunomodulation at the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI in Rostock, whose research work is focused upon this subject. The body approximately produces 25 grams of urea every day. This molecule – being of nearly the waters molecular size – also passes the filter membrane into the dialysate. The reverse osmosis technique, employed to generate potable water, does not have a sufficient rejection rate for urea, rendering it unsuitable for dialysis water recovery. Although there are elaborate enzymatic techniques capable of clearing dialysate such that it can be reused on patients, the filters and cartridge required for them are very expensive. Regions of significant indigence in combination with water scarceness cannot afford such techniques. Dialysis with patient’s intrinsic water Dr. Goldau is therefore investigating another variant called cryo-purification, which is based on freeze concentration known from beverage industries. The aim is to reclaim more than 90% of the water extracted from patients using this method. The idea is to upconcentrate toxins to only those two or three liters of water per day that are to be eliminated anyway during every dialysis. Patients can refill this water by drinking. The remainder – generally 25 to 30 liters per day – is cleared and fed back to dialysis. “In our experiments the volume of water that has to be discarded is less than 10 percent. This amount is required to filter the toxins. Thus, when it comes to upconcentration our technique is almost as effective as the kidneys themselves,” says Goldau. In this way, the researcher and his team want to establish an adequate dialysis that uses the patient’s own water resources without dehydration. Expensive filters and cartridges would no longer be required. But how does the cryo-purification work? It takes advantage of the ice crystals capability to exclude all previously dissolved contaminations. They are repelled to the surface of the crystal. “The ice crystals formed when water freezes have the ability to simultaneously expel impurities. This permits to separate all the uremic toxins – i.e. metabolic waste products that the body needs to eliminate via the urine,” explains Goldau. This procedure can be implemented within washcolumns that are customary at beverage or chemical industries. For mobile dialysis, a small wash column is sufficient to produce 30 to 40 ml/min of dialysate. To prepare fresh dialysate, only a small amount of energy is required. The electricity could arbitrarily be drawn from mains, a car battery or solar panels. A respective lab demonstrator with a chiller is being constructed and a patent application has been filed for the process. The researchers are currently working on an automated solution, for the development of which they still need support from industrial partners. Wearable kidney for home dialysis “Our form of dialysis can even be designed to be mobile – wearable hemodialysis would be feasible.” In the vision of the Rostock-based researcher the patient is provided with a vascular access via which the blood and the excess water are extracted and returned. This is connected to a vest with a dialysis filter membrane, which contains disposable water chambers of up to 4 liters of volume. Every two or three hours the patient connects the vest to a non-stationary base unit, which flushes the waste dialysate and refills fresh water, both within the same period it takes a healthy individual to visit the toilet. Current dialysis in hospitals puts a huge strain on the body and greatly affects the quality of the patients life. According to studies, only between 20 and 40 percent of patients are still alive after ten years. With long-term dialysis that is tap-water independent and can be performed anytime at home or at work, the morbidity rate and the costs of dialysis could be reduced. In addition it would be available to people within the drought belts worldwide as well. Another advantage is that dialysis centers and hospitals could reduce their water costs. Goldau estimates that his process could save 90 percent of the water – and thus also the waste water – used for dialysis, as it is in a reclamation cycle. “Most of the water is recycled.” The physicist expects that the system can be market-ready within around five to seven years from the start of development.
Small, non-invasive patches worn on the skin can accurately detect the levels of medication in a patient's system, matching the accuracy of current clinical methods. In a small-scale clinical evaluation, researchers at Imperial College London have shown for the first time how microneedle biosensors can be used to monitor the changing concentration of antibiotics. Their findings, published today in The Lancet Digital Health, show the sensors enable real-time monitoring of changes in antibiotic concentration in the body, with similar results to those obtained from blood tests. The team believes the technology could change how patients with serious infections are treated by showing how quickly their bodies 'use up' medications they are given. The researchers add that if future development and testing proves successful and the technology reaches the clinic, it could help to cut costs for the NHS, reduce drug-resistant infections and improve treatment for patients with life-threatening infections and improve the management of less serious ones. They add that biosensors could reduce the need for blood sampling and analysis as well as offer more efficient, personalized drug delivery that could potentially be delivered outside of the hospital setting for outpatients. Dr Timothy Rawson, from Imperial's Department of Infectious Disease and who led the research, said: "Microneedle biosensors hold a great potential for monitoring and treating the sickest of patients. When patients in hospital are treated for severe bacterial infections the only way we have of seeing whether antibiotics we give them are working is to wait and see how they respond, and to take frequent blood samples to analyze levels of the drugs in their system – but this can take time." "Our biosensors could help to change that. By using a simple patch on the skin of the arm, or potentially at the site of infection, it could tell us how much of a drug is being used by the body and provide us with vital medical information, in real time." Microneedle biosensors use a series of microscopic 'teeth' to penetrate the skin and detect changes in the fluid between cells. These teeth act as electrodes to detect changes in pH and can be coated with enzymes which react with a drug of choice, altering the local pH of the surrounding tissue if the drug is present. The technology has been used for continuous monitoring of blood sugar, but the Imperial group has, for the first time, shown its potential for use in monitoring changes to drug concentrations. Professor Alison Holmes, from Imperial's Department of Infectious Disease and director of the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in HCAI and AMR at Imperial and the CAMO, said: "Technological solutions such as our microneedle biosensor could prove crucial in improving how we use and protect the arsenal of life-saving antibiotics we have available to treat patients. Ultimately, these types of collaborative, multidisciplinary solutions could lead to earlier detection and better treatment of infections, helping to save more lives and protect these invaluable medicines for generations to come."
A new way of 3D printing soft materials such as gels and collagens offers a major step forward in the manufacture of artificial medical implants. Developed by researchers at the University of Birmingham, the technique could be used to print soft biomaterials that could be used to repair defects in the body. Printing soft materials using additive manufacturing has been a big challenge for scientists because if they are not supported, they sag and lose their shape. The technique, called Suspended Layer Additive Manufacturing, uses a polymer-based hydrogel in which the particles have been manipulated to create a self-healing gel. Liquids or gels can be injected directly into this medium and built up in layers to create a 3D shape. The method offers an alternative to existing techniques which use gels that have been minced to form a slurry bath into which the printed material is injected. Called Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels (FRESH), these offer many advantages, but frictions within the gel medium can distort the printing. In a study published in Advanced Functional Materials, a team led by Professor Liam Grover, in the School of Chemical Engineering, show how particles in the gel they have developed can be sheared, or twisted so they separate, but still retain some connection between them. This interaction creates the self-healing effect, enabling the gel to support the printed material so objects can be built with precise detail, without leaking or sagging. "The hydrogel we have designed has some really intriguing properties that allow us to print soft materials in really fine detail," explains Professor Grover. "It has huge potential for making replacement biomaterials such as heart valves or blood vessels, or for producing biocompatible plugs, that can be used to treat bone and cartilage damage." SLAM can also be used to create objects made from two or more different materials so could be used to make even more complex soft tissue types, or drug delivery devices, where different rates of release are required.
ZELTWANGER Automation GmbH, part of the ZELTWANGER Holding group, has secured itself a coveted market position thanks to its custom-built and adaptable modular assembly and inspection systems. The company mainly specializes in manually interlinked one-piece-flow production line concepts and ergonomic standalone workstation systems. It also offers fully automated workpiece carrier- and robot-based assembly systems to suit customer-specific requirements. ZELTWANGER's portfolio also features leak testing systems, modular assembly installations, pin placement systems and polishing machines for ceramic substrates. With its recently launched X-CELL WB, the technology pioneer is particularly eager to take automated machine tool loading to a whole new level. The Industry 4.0-capable X-CELL WB handling cell from ZELTWANGER is an intelligent, modular system that can be flexibly adapted to workpieces of various sizes and is designed for ease of use, too. As an added bonus, the entire solution fits into a stylish and, more importantly, compact housing. Optimum capacity utilization on CNC machinery, shorter setup times, reduced payback periods and cost-effective, efficient and reliable machining of jobs - according to its makers, the new X-CELL WB combines all these strengths with previously unimaginable flexibility and simplicity.
With its KUKA wafer handling solution , Augsburg-based robot manufacturer KUKA has developed a mobile, fully automated transfer solution for the semiconductor industry that combines KUKA’s lightweight robot LBR iiwa with an automated guided vehicle (AGV) and specially adapted software that facilitates connection to a Manufacturing Execution System and integrates a fleet manager for automating and controlling transfer orders. Designed for use in the clean room environment of silicon wafer processing, the robot moves autonomously and omnidirectionally. Its patented, newly developed gripper system is designed to enable the vibration-free transfer of wafer cassettes. The solution thereby meets the semiconductor industry’s growing requirement for new automation options to satisfy the demand for semiconductors, which is set to increase in the future.
The term 'PUVA' stands for 'psoralen' and 'UV-A radiation'. Psoralens are natural plant-based compounds that can be extracted from umbelliferous plants such as giant hogweeds. Plant extracts containing psoralens were already used in Ancient Egypt for the treatment of skin diseases. Modern medical use began in the 1950s. From then on, they were applied for light-dependent treatment of skin diseases such as psoriasis and vitiligo. From the 1970s onwards, PUVA therapy was used to treat a type of skin cancer known as cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Psoralens insert between the crucial building blocks (bases) of DNA, the hereditary molecule. When subjected to UV radiation, they bind to thymine -- a specific DNA base -- and thus cause irreversible damage to the hereditary molecule. This in turn triggers programmed cell death, ultimately destroying the diseased cell. Researchers working with Prof. Dr. Peter Gilch from HHU's Institute of Physical Chemistry have now collaborated with Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Zinth's work group from LMU Munich to analyse the precise mechanism of this binding reaction. They used time-resolved laser spectroscopy for this purpose. They found that -- after the psoralen molecule has absorbed UV light -- the reaction takes place in two stages. First, a single bond between the psoralen molecule and thymine forms. A second bond formation then yields a four-membered ring (cyclobutane) permanently connecting the two moieties. The researchers in Düsseldorf and Munich were also able to demonstrate that the first stage takes place within a microsecond, while the second needs around 50 microseconds. They compared this process with the damaging of the 'naked' DNA by UV light. That process also frequently results in cyclobutane rings, but the process takes place considerably faster than when psoralens are present. Prof. Gilch explains the background to the research: "If we can understand how the reactions take place in detail, we can change the psoralens chemically in a targeted way to make PUVA therapy even more effective." Together with his colleague in organic chemistry, Prof. Dr. Thomas Müller, he wants to develop these high-performance psoralen molecules at HHU within the scope of a DFG project.
The future IoT will put much higher demands on data rates, reliability and latency of wireless connections. If many future IoT devices communicate in a small space, the need for transmission frequencies will increase much faster than previously thought. With LiFi, ELIoT introduces a new, networked wireless communication technology that works in the previously unused spectrum of light, in addition to WiFi and mobile radio. LiFi allows many applications for commercial, industrial or outdoor applications. It could be used successfully in environments where radio frequencies can not or should not be used. For outdoor use, it could enable high-bandwidth, direct-from-roof to roof-to-roof connections, between street lights or to consumers' homes in the next-generation network. Higher demands on wireless networks are likely to be due to software-controlled production (Industry 4.0), virtual and augmented reality, and autonomous driving. Also for LiFi could be used. ELIoT started in 2019 as part of the EU's largest research and innovation program, Horizon 2020. This program is designed to deliver groundbreaking results by bringing good ideas from the lab to market. ELIoT receives EUR 6 million in funding from the public-private partnership "Photonics21". Partners include Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Nokia, MaxLinear, Deutsche Telekom, KPN, Weidmüller, LightBee, Oxford University, Eindhoven University of Technology and the two Fraunhofer Institutes Heinrich Hertz Institute HHI and FOKUS. Other companies will soon follow as associated partners. "With ELIoT, we have established an extremely efficient consortium of companies and organizations in the European lighting and communications industries. ELIoT is building a closed value chain with partners working with research facilities on components, chipsets, systems, and applications to make LiFi technology commercially viable for the IoT of the future, "says Project Coordinator Dr. Ing. Volker Jungnickel (Fraunhofer HHI). Prof. Jean-Paul Linnartz, co-initiator of ELIoT and head of LiFi research at Signify, highlights the potential of ELIoT: "LiFi offers interference-free high-speed, high-reliability communication. The available bandwidth can be fully reused in each room. The lighting infrastructure provides a great way to wirelessly network the rapidly growing number of devices. "
Measurement technology is currently not capable of efficiently and fully measuring the temperatures in an electric motor – the necessary sensors and their installation are simply too expensive. Temperatures in the rotating parts are particularly difficult to measure. The problem, however, is not only the lack of measuring instruments, but also the deviations that can occur during mass production. That is why manufacturers must provide for additional safety reserves, which in turn reduce the efficiency of the motors. As part of a project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), scientists from the Department of Power Electronics and Electrical Drive Technology at the University of Paderborn now aim to develop software capable of estimating the temperatures at certain points. In doing so, they are paying special attention to the sensitive and expensive permanent magnets. The researchers are looking for the solution in data-driven approaches. They are making use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to find new models for estimating the temperature in drives and other power engineering applications. This involves training their software with black-box approaches and experimental test-bench measurements in order to obtain the most precise temperature estimates possible.
Damaged DNA inside cells can lead to the development of cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and many other diseases. To fix the problem, organisms have evolved to rapidly tag a number of ‘repair proteins’ near the site of damage with chemical flags. This process, known as ADP-ribosylation (ADPr), acts like an alarm system to identify the place where help is needed. So fundamental is ADPr to understanding how cells deal with DNA damage that some chemotherapy drugs, which have been designed to prevent key enzymes involved in the process from working, are already being used to treat certain types of breast, ovarian and prostate cancers. Yet the underlying molecular mechanisms of ADPr are still poorly understood – something that is limiting our ability to develop new, more effective treatments. It was already known that ADPr flags attach to particular sites on proteins within damaged cells, but it was unclear exactly where. More recent studies have shown that ADPr flags attach to a number of amino acids – the building blocks of proteins. The original aim of the EU-funded INVIVO_DDR_ADPR project was to map all the amino acid sites for ADPr flags in the worm Caenorhabditis elegans – an undertaking that promised to fully reveal the molecular mechanisms for repairing damaged DNA. But after the first set of experiments, the researchers discovered that ADPr flags can also attach to the amino acid serine. Overlooked for 50 years, this is an incredibly important aspect of the DNA repair process; if scientists can understand the regulatory networks that underlie this complex biological process, it will provide new insights for improved treatment of diseases that relate to DNA damage, including cancer. ‘It may seem like a small detail, but in the cell “factory” this is an important mechanism,’ says researcher Juan José Bonfiglio, from the INVIVO_DDR_ADPR research group co-ordinated by Ivan Matic at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Germany. ‘It’s like discovering a new letter in an alphabet you thought you knew – namely the alphabet the cell uses for sending vital internal messages.’ Improving DNA repair to treat disease? Because this finding was so unexpected, the team altered some of the project’s specific aims to focus on this new discovery. They went on to work out the molecular mechanism by which the ADPr signal is ‘written’ on to the amino acid serine and how it is then erased again. Their work has also shown that the flagging of serine plays a very important role in the cell’s response to DNA damage. The team’s work has the potential to provide important insights for the improved treatment of diseases such as cancer, by opening up new possibilities to improve and increase the efficiency of the DNA repair machinery. New tools for science ‘Our discovery revealed how important discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”,’ says Bonfiglio, who received funding through the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship programme for this project. The need to progress their research also forced the team to come up with novel tools, which have led to two patent applications. These include a new, first-instance approach to generating antibodies that are site-specific and enable detection of specific ADPr sites. ‘We’re convinced that these tools will be useful not only for our own projects but for the scientific community in general,’ says Bonfiglio.