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The 5 latest technologies in September you cannot missed

September 28, 2021

New turboprop engine will elevate the aviation market to new heights, plant-based flu and COVID-19 vaccines, a synchronized camera-projector system that can turn an ordinary tabletop into a touch-screen-like interface – This week’s coolest things turn over a whole new leaf.

A way that opens new design options for plane-makers

Image: GE Aviation

What is it? Corkery and a team of 400 aviation engineers are developing a new turboprop engine. They believe the engine — the first such new engine design for the general aviation turboprop market in 50 years — will elevate the aviation market to new heights.’

Why does it matter? Their turboprop engine, called the GE Catalyst, combines technology and know-how from GE’s large commercial jet engines with digital engine controls consists of two fully redundant computers that listen to a slew of data from sensors about speed, air temperature and density, altitude and many more factors, and allows the pilot to fly the plane in an optimal way. It is expected to radically change how pilots fly turboprops and aims to deliver fuel savings and cut CO2 emissions by up to 20% compared with engines currently on the market. The engine will be able to run on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), sometimes referred to as biofuel, and it could also power new types of unmanned aerial vehicles and hybrid aircraft.

How does it work? To achieve these gains, Corkery’s team turned to advanced technologies that had not been tried in turboprops. Take the variable geometry in the Catalyst engine’s turbine — a feature originally developed by GE and aviation legend Gerhard Neumann for supersonic engines. Neumann figured out how to turn the vanes on the engine’s stator during flight, change the pressure inside the turbine and make planes fly faster. Deploying it in the Catalyst turboprop engine allowed the engineers to increase the pressure and temperature inside the engine, burn fuel more efficiently and give it more power and speed at altitude. “More power enables the aircraft maker to design a bigger, more comfortable cabin and build a plane that can fly fast at high altitude,” Corkery says. “But not only can I fly fast, I burn less fuel and emit less CO2. We know how to do it because we’ve done all of that on the big engines.”

Be-Leaf In Vaccines

Part of the process. Photo: Daily Mail

What is it? A resurgence in “molecular farming” has led scientists to see if they can develop entirely plant-based vaccines for influenza and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Why does it matter? Unlike the bacteria, egg or animal cell cultures used to produce many vaccines, plants require only light, water and nutrients. Greenhouses are less costly and easier to scale than biomanufacturing facilities. And with a development cycle around three weeks from start to finish, plant-based vaccines could provide a powerful tool against new pathogens and variants, as well as a boost for personalized medicine, including cancer immunotherapy, according to an article published in the journal Science.

How does it work? The plant-based flu and COVID-19 vaccines currently in development (which could be administered orally as well as intravenously) are expected to be the first produced from whole plants. They are created through a process called transient expression, which allows researchers to modulate the plant cells’ gene expression without modifying its DNA. The virus-like particles (VLPs) produced in plant-made vaccines also contain naturally occurring adjuvants, “helper” components that increase the effectiveness of the vaccine’s main ingredient.

Don’t Fear The Water

Top and above images: Purdue graduate researchers Taylor Allred and Nicholas Stovall-Kurtz of the U.S. Naval Academy observe boiling from a war-repellent surface (in detail in top image). Image credit: Purdue University/Jared Pike.

What is it? A research team in Florida created a “superhydrophobic,” or water-repellent, gel that can keep surfaces dry underwater for hours.

Why does it matter? Being able to repel water is more than just a convenient feature for camping gear and suede shoes. It’s important for many high-tech applications in energy and advanced electronics. “For example, the new gel makes splitting electrocatalysis easier, which could lead to more efficient fuel cells,” said Debashis Chanda, a professor at the University of Central Florida who led the research team. “The same gel can lead to better electron acceptors, which are key in developing highly sensitive detectors and sensors for toxic gasses. There is a lot of potential.”

How does it work? The team has built bundles of 60 to 70 carbon atoms each, which formed cage-like structures called fullerenes, then stacked these cages into crystal-like nanostructures called fullerites. A drop of the fullerite gel triggered “a super water-repellent state” on the treated surface, while the open-cage structure allowed the treated material to retain its original properties. “Because these superhydrophobic surfaces are created in a very facile and easy process using pure carbon fullerenes, we anticipate they can be exploited in many experiments and real-life applications,” said Rinku Saran, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab that developed the gel.

Lay It All On The Table

Researchers in Japan found that intersecting planes of light from a synchronized projector and camera can produce a touch interface on any flat surface. Image credit: Nara Institute of Science and Technology.

What is it? Scientists at Japan’s Nara Institute of Science and Technology created a synchronized camera-projector system that can turn an ordinary tabletop into a touch-screen-like interface.

Why does it matter? You can produce a touch interface without a screen, but it requires a complex system of multiple projectors, cameras, sensors and light sources. “Typical cameras observe a three-dimensional situation as a two-dimensional plane. Thus, even if the position of a fingertip can be detected, it is difficult to know whether it is touching the surface or hovering above it,” said Yasuhiro Mukaigawa, senior author of a paper on the new system published in the journal IEEE Access. Researchers say this method can produce a touch display on any flat surface. “In the future, we will hope to expand to include touchless operations or even add gesture recognition,” Mukaigawa said.

How does it work? To solve this problem, the team used a laser projector to scan a table surface and a “rolling shutter” camera to precisely map its picture. The projector emitted one horizontal plane of light and the camera received another; synchronizing the devices caused the planes to intersect. This calculated a precise depth that the team used to calibrate the system and program a dedicated image-processing algorithm, improving accuracy.

AI in Small Radiology Centers

What is it? Clinicians who once performed a handful of virtual visits per week now handle hundreds. Lockdowns pressured care teams to develop remote clinical plans without sacrificing care quality. GE Healthcare cooperated with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide clinicians with the cloud-enabled applications and services that help to provide the best odds of success as healthcare increasingly goes virtual.

Why does it matter? GE introduced Edison TruePACSTM, Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS),[1] a transformative radiology solution available on a healthcare facility’s premise (“on prem”) or in the cloud. PACS technology is essential for visualizing, storing, analyzing, and sharing imaging. TruePACS combines GE Healthcare’s substantial experience in radiology with AWS’s unrivaled cloud computing infrastructure to create a more collaborative, accessible, and secure PACS platform. With the option of either on-prem and cloud-based deployment, TruePACS enables remote and virtual archival of images, reads and reporting.

How does it work? Clinicians who choose a cloud-based or on-prem PACS have access to AI-enabled imaging applications, allowing them to quickly analyze MR, CT, and other images outside of the clinic. That capability opens new avenues to help provide care more efficiently and in a manner that meets the needs of clinicians and patients.