There is an exciting development in the works regarding materials science, one that will have a huge impact on product design. Developing new materials has traditionally taken an extremely long time. For example, in 1991, SONY and Asahi Kasei launched the first commercial lithium-ion battery, which is now the most popular battery powering our portable electronics today. The process to get this thing right was long and chock full of failure, requiring thousands of researchers working over a 20-year span of fruitful moments and many more dead ends. This is, unfortunately, how materials science works. Researchers have hunches, leading to ideas, followed by years of testing with various compounds, new synthesis of molecules, experimental chemistry—it winds up being just a lot of frustrating trial and error. Meanwhile, companies invest billions in new materials design and the wins are rare.
Last week, I attended SPIE Medical Imaging in San Diego, where I presented a poster detailing our recent collaboration with NanoX Japan on a novel X-ray detector concept. SAPHIRE (scintillator avalanche photoconductor with high resolution emitter readout) optically couples a scintillator to an amorphous selenium HARP (high/gain avalanche rushing photoconductor) layer biased with sufficiently high electric field to induce avalanche gain, allowing for very low-dose performance. High resolution electron-beam readout is achieved by a field emitter array.
A handy utility for designing with color-blind viewers in mind. Useful for designing scientific posters.
Ken Lutchen, Dean of the College of Engineering, on Boston University’s commitment to shaping the Societal Engineer who is equipped with both the technical tools and societal insights to develop the high-impact technologies of tomorrow.
For the past five years, Lutchen has equipped his engineering students with extra tools, such as economic and communications acumen, global awareness, and an understanding of public policy and its impact on innovation. Taken together, this translates to social consciousness, he says. “If you don’t understand that, you haven’t invented a product that impacts society, you’ve just come up with a clever idea.”
Today marks the first annual International Day of Medical Physics, recognizing the work of medical physicists worldwide in ensuring and improving the safety and quality of radiation in medicine. Medical physics is broadly divided in three categories: diagnostic radiology, radiation oncology, and nuclear medicine physics. In each discipline, medical physicists are responsible for developing and implementing new technologies to improve the diagnosis/treatment of patients while minimizing the exposure to ionizing radiation. Medical physicists are actively engaged in research and development, as well as clinical work to ensure the safety of patients and clinicians.
Marie Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize in both Physics and Chemistry for her pioneering theory of radioactivity and discovery of Radium and Polonium, and remains the only person to ever be awarded Nobel Prizes in multiple disciplines. Celebrated on the anniversary of her birth, the International Day of Medical Physics draws attention to her legacy and the future of radiation in medicine.
Cervical-cancer screening is one of the 20th century’s true public health successes. The incidence of a disease that once caused more deaths among American women than any other form of cancer has decreased dramatically since the introduction of routine Pap smears in the 1970s. In the modern era, most deaths due to cervical cancer occur among women who have never been screened or who have gone decades without screening. One of the main factors in helping to conquer this once-dreaded disease has been the availability of a cheap, effective screening test that can detect disease early, while it’s still very treatable. Yet increasingly, in my roles as the chief medical officer of a community health center and as a family doctor seeing patients in that system, I hear from women who are choosing to skip their screenings because of skyrocketing costs.
A lack of funding to labs is likely to mean an early death for thousands of mice used in research.
But looking beyond the questions of the moment and the political fight that’s holding America’s finances hostage, it’s already clear that the most severe consequences of the shutdown will be felt by those government agencies specializing in science, technology, health, and the environment.