what's the buzz

what's the buzz

Modified graphene for flexible electronics

Researchers have come a step closer in creating faster, thinner, flexible electronics with the development of a new method for chemically altering graphene.
Highly desired for its many promising attributes, graphene is a one-atom thick, honeycomb-shaped lattice of carbon atoms with exceptional strength and conductivity.

Among graphene’s many possible applications is electronics: Many experts believe it could rival silicon, transforming integrated circuits and leading to ultra-fast computers, cellphones and related portable electronic devices.

But first, researchers must learn how to tune the electronic properties of graphene —not an easy feat, given a major challenge intrinsic to the material. Unlike semiconductors such as silicon, pure graphene is a zero band-gap material, making it difficult to electrically “turn off” the flow of current through it. To overcome this problem and make graphene more functional, researchers around the world are investigating methods for chemically altering the material. The most prevalent strategy is the “Hummers method,” a process developed in the 1940s that oxidizes graphene, but that method relies upon harsh acids that irreversibly damage the fabric of the graphene lattice.

Next, researchers will explore other means of chemically modifying graphene to develop a wider variety of materials, much like scientists did for plastics in the last century.

Ants remember their enemy’s smell

 Ants retain memories of their enemies’ odours, which help them in protecting their colonies from intruders, say scientists.

According to the team of scientists from the University of Melbourne in Australia, when one ant fights with an intruder from another colony it retains that enemy's odour and passes it on to the rest of the colony. This enables any of its nest-mates to identify an ant from the offending colony. For many ant species, chemicals are key to functioning as a society. Insects identify their nest-mates by the specific “chemical signature” that coats the body of every member of that nest.
The insects are also able to sniff out any intruder that might be attempting to invade.

The researchers set out to discover if ants were able to retain memories of the odours they encounter. They studied the tropical weaver ant (Oecophylla smaragdina), which builds is home in trees; one nest can contain up to 500,000 workers.

The team set up a “familiarisation test” to allow ants from one nest to encounter intruders from another.

Mums with migraine likely to have colicky babies

 Mothers who suffer migraine headaches are more than twice as likely to have babies with colic than mothers without a history of migraines.

This is the result of a study of mothers and their young babies by neurologists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

The work raises the question of whether colic, or excessive crying in an otherwise healthy infant, may be an early symptom of migraine and therefore whether reducing stimulation may help just as reducing light and noise can alleviate migraine pain.

That is significant because excessive crying is one of the most common triggers for shaken baby syndrome, which can cause death, brain damage and severe disability.

“If we can understand what is making the babies cry, we may be able to protect them from this very dangerous outcome,” said Amy Gelfand, MD, a child neurologist with the Headache Center at UCSF.