Computer chip made with carbon nanotubes + Robotic thread slips thru brain pathways

A chip made with carbon nanotubes, not silicon, marks a computing milestone

INTRO: “Silicon Valley” may soon be a misnomer. Inside a new microprocessor, the transistors — tiny electronic switches that collectively perform computations — are made with carbon nanotubes, rather than silicon. By devising techniques to overcome the nanoscale defects that often undermine individual nanotube transistors, researchers have created the first computer chip that uses thousands of these switches to run programs.

The prototype, described in the Aug. 29 Nature, is not yet as speedy or as small as commercial silicon devices. But carbon nanotube computer chips may ultimately give rise to a new generation of faster, more energy-efficient electronics. This is “a very important milestone in the development of this technology,” says Qing Cao, a materials scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign not involved in the work. (MORE)

Robotic thread is designed to slip through the brain’s blood vessels

INTRO: MIT engineers have developed a magnetically steerable, thread-like robot that can actively glide through narrow, winding pathways, such as the labrynthine vasculature of the brain. In the future, this robotic thread may be paired with existing endovascular technologies, enabling doctors to remotely guide the robot through a patient’s brain vessels to quickly treat blockages and lesions, such as those that occur in aneurysms and stroke.

“Stroke is the number five cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. If acute stroke can be treated within the first 90 minutes or so, patients’ survival rates could increase significantly,” says Xuanhe Zhao, associate professor of mechanical engineering and of civil and environmental engineering at MIT. “If we could design a device to reverse blood vessel blockage within this ‘golden hour,’ we could potentially avoid permanent brain damage. That’s our hope.”

Zhao and his team, including lead author Yoonho Kim, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, describe their soft robotic design today in the journal Science Robotics. The paper’s other co-authors are MIT graduate student German Alberto Parada and visiting student Shengduo Liu. (MORE)

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