Using Ammonia to generate power without emitting CO2, speeding up vaccine production and effectiveness with mRNA, a prosthetic retina improves clarity and color for people with impaired vision… Here are some of June’s latest and coolest technologies.

Generating power across Asia using Ammonia

GE and IHI Corporation (IHI), a heavy industry manufacturer based in Japan, today announced that a Memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been signed for collaborative development of gas turbine business roadmap (Ammonia Roadmap), supporting the use of ammonia as a carbon-free fuel to lower carbon emissions in both existing and new gas turbines. Both companies will conduct advanced research on the marketplace volume of ammonia as well as feasibility studies for ammonia as feedstock for gas turbine power plant installations in Japan and across Asia.

Ammonia is utilized today as a fertilizer, chemical raw material and used recently, as a fuel, effectively produced in industrial applications. In addition, when used as a carrier for hydrogen, ammonia enables an efficient, lower-cost transport and storage, it also does not emit carbon dioxide when burned and may therefore enhance the power sector’s efforts in reducing carbon emissions.

GE Researchers Successfully Test Subscale 3D Printed Heat Exchanger at Temperatures 400°F Higher than Conventional Devices

The subscale 3D printed heat exchanger prototype

GE Research’s interdisciplinary team, led by Lana Osusky, working with top experts from University of Maryland and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, have built and tested a subscale 3D printed heat exchanger at temperatures meeting the project’s goal of 900°C (1652°F) and achieving close to half the 250 bar (3626 psi) target pressure. This far exceeds today’s state-of-the-art devices by more than 200°C, or close to 400°F.

Lana Osusky, a Lead Engineer at GE Research, credits the new material and design breakthroughs enabled by additive manufacturing for raising the bar, stating, “The design freedom afforded by 3D printing processes and design tools is allowing us to more rapidly develop, build and test new heat exchanger designs that were previously not possible.”

GE Research expects the heat exchanger would enable cleaner, more efficient power generation in both existing and next generation power plant and jet engine platforms.

Send In The Messengers

Image Credit: Getty Images.

What is it? Pharma researchers are exploring messenger RNA (mRNA), the technology behind approved and effective COVID-19 vaccines, in early vaccine trials for HIV, seasonal flu and other viruses.

Why does it matter? mRNA vaccines are a relatively new breakthrough that shot into the global spotlight as a weapon against COVID-19. Compared to traditional vaccines, they can be faster and easier to produce. Researchers can more readily adapt them to new virus variants. And mRNA is a promising approach to combination vaccines, which can protect against multiple strains of a virus. In some cases, they’ve also been shown to stimulate a stronger immune response than traditionally produced vaccines.

How does it work? A virus is made up of a genetic core (DNA or RNA) coated in a protein shell. The core genes produce mRNA, also unique to the specific virus, which in turn produces the proteins. Scientists study and replicate the exact structure of a virus’ mRNA, then inject the copy of a virus fragment to act as a vaccine. Inside the body, immune cells feast on the mRNA and begin to produce the viral proteins, stimulating an immune response. If and when a vaccinated person encounters the virus, the body is primed and ready to fight it.

Seeing Is Believing

Image Credit: Getty Images.

What is it? There are other ways to help people with impaired vision. An advanced computer model could improve clarity, detail and color vision function in retinal prosthesis, or bionic eyes.

Why does it matter? A prosthesis already in use, called the Argus II, can reproduce a few basic functions of the retina, helping some users recognize movement and shapes. “Our goal now is to develop systems that truly mimic the complexity of the retina,” said Gianluca Lazzi, a professor at the University of Southern California and an author of a new study in the journal Scientific Reports.

How does it work? Researchers reproduced “the shapes and positions of millions of nerve cells in the eye” by creating an advanced computer model of ganglion cells, which deliver information to the brain via long strands called axons. They found a way to target ganglion cells with electrical pulses more precisely, while avoiding the axons, whose stimulation can distort the retina’s signals if triggered accidentally. “Things that we couldn’t even see before, we can now model,” Lazzi said.

This News Is Magnetic

Image Credit: General Atomics

What is it? After a decade of work, California-based General Atomics has completed the first of six modules of the Central Solenoid, the world’s most powerful magnet.

Why does it matter? The magnet will become a central component of ITER, a fusion reactor seeking to produce copious amounts of energy from hydrogen, just like the sun.

How does it work? Each 125-ton module requires more than three miles of superconducting cable, made of steel, niobium and tin and wound into pancake-like layers. Five additional units, including one spare, will eventually ship to France, forming the core of the 1-million-component experimental machine.