Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Density


Artificial muscles hold promise for safe and powerful actuation for myriad common machines and robots. However, the design, fabrication, and implementation of artificial muscles are often limited by their material costs, operating principle, scalability, and single-degree-of-freedom contractile actuation motions. Here we propose an architecture for fluid-driven origami-inspired artificial muscles. This concept requires only a compressible skeleton, a flexible skin, and a fluid medium. A mechanical model is developed to explain the interaction of the three components. A fabrication method is introduced to rapidly manufacture low-cost artificial muscles using various materials and at multiple scales. The artificial muscles can be programed to achieve multiaxial motions including contraction, bending, and torsion. These motions can be aggregated into systems with multiple degrees of freedom, which are able to produce controllable motions at different rates. Our artificial muscles can be driven by fluids at negative pressures (relative to ambient). This feature makes actuation safer than most other fluidic artificial muscles that operate with positive pressures. Experiments reveal that these muscles can contract over 90% of their initial lengths, generate stresses of ∼600 kPa, and produce peak power densities over 2 kW/kg-all equal to, or in excess of, natural muscle. This architecture for artificial muscles opens the door to rapid design and low-cost fabrication of actuation systems for numerous applications at multiple scales, ranging from miniature medical devices to wearable robotic exoskeletons to large deployable structures for space exploration.

Concepts: Energy, Density, Fluid dynamics, Muscle, Fluid, Robotics, Space exploration, Exoskeleton


Inspired by natural muscle, a key challenge in soft robotics is to develop self-contained electrically driven soft actuators with high strain density. Various characteristics of existing technologies, such as the high voltages required to trigger electroactive polymers ( > 1KV), low strain ( < 10%) of shape memory alloys and the need for external compressors and pressure-regulating components for hydraulic or pneumatic fluidicelastomer actuators, limit their practicality for untethered applications. Here we show a single self-contained soft robust composite material that combines the elastic properties of a polymeric matrix and the extreme volume change accompanying liquid-vapor transition. The material combines a high strain (up to 900%) and correspondingly high stress (up to 1.3 MPa) with low density (0.84 g cm(-3)). Along with its extremely low cost (about 3 cent per gram), simplicity of fabrication and environment-friendliness, these properties could enable new kinds of electrically driven entirely soft robots.The development of self-contained electrically driven soft actuators with high strain density is difficult. Here the authors show a single self-contained soft robust composite material that combines the elastic properties of a polymeric matrix and the extreme volume change accompanying liquid vapour transition.

Concepts: Density, Water, Polymer, Soft matter, Metallurgy, Pseudoelasticity, Polymers, Electroactive polymers


BACKGROUND: Cycling is considered to be a highly beneficial sport for significantly enhancing cardiovascular fitness in individuals, yet studies show little or no corresponding improvements in bone mass. METHODS: A scientific literature search on studies discussing bone mass and bone metabolism in cyclists was performed to collect all relevant published material up to April 2012. Descriptive, cross-sectional, longitudinal and interventional studies were all reviewed. Inclusion criteria were met by 31 studies. RESULTS: Heterogeneous studies in terms of gender, age, data source, group of comparison, cycling level or modality practiced among others factors showed minor but important differences in results. Despite some controversial results, it has been observed that adult road cyclists participating in regular training have low bone mineral density in key regions (for example, lumbar spine). Conversely, other types of cycling (such as mountain biking), or combination with other sports could reduce this unsafe effect. These results cannot yet be explained by differences in dietary patterns or endocrine factors. CONCLUSIONS: From our comprehensive survey of the current available literature it can be concluded that road cycling does not appear to confer any significant osteogenic benefit. The cause of this may be related to spending long hours in a weight-supported position on the bike in combination with the necessary enforced recovery time that involves a large amount of time sitting or lying supine, especially at the competitive level. See related commentary

Concepts: Osteoporosis, Bone, Bone density, Density, Skeletal system, Lumbar vertebrae, Cycling, Bicycle


Vitamin D insufficiency in children may have long-term skeletal consequences as vitamin D affects calcium absorption, bone mineralization and bone mass attainment.

Concepts: Osteoporosis, Bone, Vitamin D, Bone density, Density, Skeletal system, Calcium, Dietary mineral


A finding of high BMD on routine DXA scanning is not infrequent and most commonly reflects degenerative disease. However, BMD increases may also arise secondary to a range of underlying disorders affecting the skeleton. Although low BMD increases fracture risk, the converse may not hold for high BMD, since elevated BMD may occur in conditions where fracture risk is increased, unaffected or reduced. Here we outline a classification for the causes of raised BMD, based on identification of focal or generalized BMD changes, and discuss an approach to guide appropriate investigation by clinicians after careful interpretation of DXA scan findings within the context of the clinical history. We will also review the mild skeletal dysplasia associated with the currently unexplained high bone mass phenotype and discuss recent advances in osteoporosis therapies arising from improved understanding of rare inherited high BMD disorders.

Concepts: Osteoporosis, Bone, Bone density, Density, Skeletal system, Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, Human skeleton, Skeleton


BACKGROUND: The anti-JC virus (JCV) antibody status has been introduced to stratify patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) for higher or lower risk of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). OBJECTIVE: To assess the potential utility of anti-JCV antibody levels for earlier diagnosis or prediction of PML. METHODS: An analytically validated antibody assay was used to determine serological status, normalised optical density values, and dilution titres for anti-JCV antibodies. The method was applied to stored sera of 1157 patients with MS including five cases of PML, all enrolled in the Swedish pharmacovigilance study for natalizumab (NAT). Anticytomegalovirus (CMV) and antivaricella-zoster (VZV) antibody levels served as controls. RESULTS: Prior to treatment with NAT, anti-JCV antibody levels were stable in the anti-JCV positive patients. During therapy, a slight decrease in anti-JCV and anti-VZV antibody levels, but not anti-CMV antibody levels, was observed. All five patients who developed PML showed a mild to moderate increase in anti-JCV antibody levels at time of PML diagnosis; pre-PML samples suggested that this increase might start already prior to diagnosis of PML. CONCLUSIONS: Treatment initiation with NAT may lead to a slight decrease in anti-JCV and anti-VZV antibody levels, suggestive of a mild suppressive effect of NAT on antibody levels. Our findings in five cases of PML demonstrate that the onset of PML can be accompanied by increasing anti-JCV antibodies in serum. Monitoring of anti-JCV antibody levels could potentially be used as a tool for prediction or earlier diagnosis of PML during NAT treatment for MS. Further studies are warranted.

Concepts: Antibody, Density, Multiple sclerosis, ELISA, Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, JC virus, Serology, Natalizumab


Recent advances in three-dimensional (3D) graphene assembly have shown how we can make solid porous materials that are lighter than air. It is plausible that these solid materials can be mechanically strong enough for applications under extreme conditions, such as being a substitute for helium in filling up an unpowered flight balloon. However, knowledge of the elastic modulus and strength of the porous graphene assembly as functions of its structure has not been available, preventing evaluation of its feasibility. We combine bottom-up computational modeling with experiments based on 3D-printed models to investigate the mechanics of porous 3D graphene materials, resulting in new designs of carbon materials. Our study reveals that although the 3D graphene assembly has an exceptionally high strength at relatively high density (given the fact that it has a density of 4.6% that of mild steel and is 10 times as strong as mild steel), its mechanical properties decrease with density much faster than those of polymer foams. Our results provide critical densities below which the 3D graphene assembly starts to lose its mechanical advantage over most polymeric cellular materials.

Concepts: Density, Mechanical engineering, Mechanical, Lighter than air


Until now, few sp carbon materials simultaneously exhibit superior performance for specific surface area (SSA) and electrical conductivity at bulk state. Thus, it is extremely important to make such materials at bulk scale with those two outstanding properties combined together. Here, we present a simple and green but very efficient approach using two standard and simple industry steps to make such three-dimensional graphene-based porous materials at the bulk scale, with ultrahigh SSA (3523 m/g) and excellent bulk conductivity. We conclude that these materials consist of mainly defected/wrinkled single layer graphene sheets in the dimensional size of a few nanometers, with at least some covalent bond between each other. The outstanding properties of these materials are demonstrated by their superior supercapacitor performance in ionic liquid with specific capacitance and energy density of 231 F/g and 98 Wh/kg, respectively, so far the best reported capacitance performance for all bulk carbon materials.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Density, Water, Chemical bond, Physical quantities, Ionic bond, Specific surface area, Porous media


Savannas once constituted the range of many species that human encroachment has now reduced to a fraction of their former distribution. Many survive only in protected areas. Poaching reduces the savanna elephant, even where protected, likely to the detriment of savanna ecosystems. While resources go into estimating elephant populations, an ecological benchmark by which to assess counts is lacking. Knowing how many elephants there are and how many poachers kill is important, but on their own, such data lack context. We collated savanna elephant count data from 73 protected areas across the continent estimated to hold ~50% of Africa’s elephants and extracted densities from 18 broadly stable population time series. We modeled these densities using primary productivity, water availability, and an index of poaching as predictors. We then used the model to predict stable densities given current conditions and poaching for all 73 populations. Next, to generate ecological benchmarks, we predicted such densities for a scenario of zero poaching. Where historical data are available, they corroborate or exceed benchmarks. According to recent counts, collectively, the 73 savanna elephant populations are at 75% of the size predicted based on current conditions and poaching levels. However, populations are at <25% of ecological benchmarks given a scenario of zero poaching (~967,000)-a total deficit of ~730,000 elephants. Populations in 30% of the 73 protected areas were <5% of their benchmarks, and the median current density as a percentage of ecological benchmark across protected areas was just 13%. The ecological context provided by these benchmark values, in conjunction with ongoing census projects, allow efficient targeting of conservation efforts.

Concepts: Density, Prediction, Ecosystem, Population density, Hunting, Elephant, Elephants, Savanna


Wettability is the affinity of a liquid for a solid surface. For energetic reasons, macroscopic drops of liquid form nearly spherical caps. The degree of wettability is then captured by the contact angle where the liquid-vapor interface meets the solid-liquid interface. As droplet volumes shrink to the scale of attoliters, however, surface interactions become significant, and droplets assume distorted shapes. In this regime, the contact angle becomes ambiguous, and a scalable metric for quantifying wettability is needed, especially given the emergence of technologies exploiting liquid-solid interactions at the nanoscale. Here we combine nanoscale experiments with molecular-level simulation to study the breakdown of spherical droplet shapes at small length scales. We demonstrate how measured droplet topographies increasingly reveal non-spherical features as volumes shrink. Ultimately, the nanoscale droplets flatten out to form layer-like molecular assemblies at the solid surface. For the lack of an identifiable contact angle at small scales, we introduce a droplet’s adsorption energy density as a new metric for a liquid’s affinity for a surface. We discover that extrapolating the macroscopic idealization of a drop to the nanoscale, though it does not geometrically resemble a realistic droplet, can nonetheless recover its adsorption energy if line tension is included.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Density, Adsorption, Liquid, Wetting, Surface tension, Drop, Angle