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Process to Synthesize Size Controlled Nanocrystalline Materials for Battery Electrodes

Researchers at UCR have developed a scalable and affordable process for synthesizing nanostructure materials like LiFePO4 (LFP) at low temperatures (150 to 200 oC) with highly reproducible sizes and morphologies. The nanocrystalline structures may be utilized as active elements in battery cathodes or anodes to enhance charging cycle stability or enhance capacitance (including when doped with conductive metals). The process is performed at relatively low temperatures, and uses environmentally friendly solvents.  This results in lower up front and ongoing manufacturing costs in cathode and anode production.  The particle size and shape, as well as crystal orientation of the produced structures can be controlled, not only preventing loss of performance and capacity due to increased stresses and charge de-stabilization, but also improving rate capability.  The nanostructures created with this method will result in increased battery power and energy density. Fig. 1: Reproducible nanoprism crystal morphologies produced via the method described here.   Fig. 2: Reproducible nanobelt crystal morphologies produced via the method described here.

Insect Repellents and Assay

Prof. Anandasankar Ray and his colleagues at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) have developed insect repellants to deter insects from detecting and biting humans. The repellants are comprised of a group of compounds consisting of an aldehyde, mono- or  diketone and an alcohol. Repellants mask the insect’s ability to detect CO2. These repellants can be delivered in a variety of forms and can be used in much smaller concentrations and remain effective for much longer when compared to traditional repellants like DEET. The UCR lab also developed and patented a computational assay to screen and identify mosquito repellents. This assay was used to identify the patented compounds that disrupt CO2 sensing in mosquitos.   Fig. 1 Effect of inhibitory odor, 1-hexanol, on mosquito neuronal CO2 response. The small black bar indicates an 0.5 second exposure to inhibitory odor overlayed with a 3 second response to CO2. The second chart shows how CO2 response is mitigated by the odor   Fig. 2 Effect of pre-exposure to inhibitory odors on long-term reduction to CO2 response. The response to a 0.3% CO2 impulse over 6 minutes was measured every 30 seconds after an initial 3-second exposure to an ‘odor’ mixture (black bars). The odor mixture consisted of 1-hexanolo, pentanal, butanal, and 2,3-butanedione at 10-2 concentration. Paraffin oil (white bars) was used as a control      

Small RNA Extraction Kit with High Yield

Prof. Wenwan Zhong and her lab at UCR have developed a method to recover small RNAs using TiO2 fibers which results in a 200-fold improvement in yield when compared to commercially available SiO2 columns. Fig. 1 Schematic of the steps involved in recovering small RNAs using TiO2 fibers and a unique protocol to wash and elute the small RNA.   Fig. 2 Extracting miRNA from MDA-MB-231 cells with TiO2 fibers and SiO2 PureLink miRNA isolation columns. Higher recoveries of endogenous hsa-miR-21 were found with TiO2 fibers when compared with PureLink columns.

Gene Drive System to Control D. suzukii Flies

Prof. Omar Akbari and his lab at UCR have developed a gene drive system using a synthetic maternal effect dominant embryonic arrest element (Medea) to control D. suzukii.  The engineered Medea element is a maternal toxin coupled to a tightly linked embryonic “antidote”.   Female D. suzukii transformed with the Medea element and antidote deposit a toxin into all oocytes.  Should the embryo inherit a Medea element, it may inhibit the toxin’s lethality by expressing miRNAs as an antidote that targets the toxin.  Embryos without a Medea element are not able to counter the effects of the toxin and do not survive past the embryonic stage.The lab has also tested the transgenic D. suzukii Medea in eight geographically distinct populations and showed that the overall transmission rate of the Medea element in each population was 94.2%.  This suggests that D. suzukii Medea should be able to drive robust population replacement and cause a population crash by spreading Medea through a population and making it infertile.

The Brightest, Red-Shifted Luciferase-Luciferin Bioluminescent Pairs

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, have developed several new luciferase-luciferin pairs that have superior brightness and excellent performance in vitro and in vivo. Through directed evolution of the existing NanoLuc Luciferase and the use of diphenylterazine (DTZ) as a substrate, the emission extensity is more than doubled compared to NanoLuc-furimazine. Moreover, red-shifted emission of teLuc-DTZ makes it an excellent tool for in vivo imaging. teLuc-DTZ streamlines a variety of applications to afford high sensitivity and reproducibility. Furthermore, fusing teLuc to a fluorescent protein creates the Antares2-DTZ pair, with emissions further red-shifted to the > 600 nm range and 65 times more photons emitted above 600 nm than FLuc-D-Luciferin. Fig. 1 shows the relative emission intensity and the range of emitted wavelengths of light  

Magneto-Optic Nanocrystalline Oxides Fabrication

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside developed a fabrication technique that is capable of manufacturing highly transparent Magneto-optic oxides with reduced processing times. Their technique employs CAPAD (current activated, pressure assisted densification). Briefly, rare earth material in powder form is exposed to a specific current, which heats the sample (below melting temp). Pressure is then applied to the powder, compressing it into the desired shape. The processing temperature is optimized in order to achieve sufficient density without causing excessive phase changes that would destroy light transparency. This process produces materials quickly (<20 min), which, combined with high magneto-optical properties, promises less expensive, smaller, more portable magneto-optical devices. Fig. 1 Top image is a schematic cross-section of the CAPAD apparatus. The bottom image displays a Dy2O3 (dysprosium oxide) sample processed using this method. The sample is suspended from a magnet. Lasers of various wavelengths still transmit through the sample This indicates that the desired magnetic/optical properties of the material have been preserved. Fig. 2 Graph of measured average grain size and density of Dy2O3 samples versus processing temperature. The graph shows that an ideal processing temperature is 1100˚C, providing the highest packing density and smallest grain sizes.    

Human Resistin for the Treatment of Sepsis

Prof. Meera Nair and her colleagues at UCR have discovered that human resistin may be used as a therapy to treat sepsis.  Using a transgenic mouse model expressing human resistin, researchers showed that  mice expressing resistin had a 80-100% rate of survival from a sepsis-like infection when compared to wildtype mice with the same infection. The researchers also found that human resistin decreased the number of pro-inflammatory and Th1 cytokines.  Through immunoprecipitation assays, human resistin was found to bind to TLR-4 thus blocking the TLR-4 signaling in immune and inflammatory cells. Fig. 1 shows the survival curves for four different mouse models exposed to a sepsis like infection. The red line represents wild type C57BL/6 mice and none of these mice survived the infection. The black line is the background mouse model without the transgene incorporated into its genome. The Tg+ and Tg2+ are two different transgenic mouse models expressing human resistin. Fig. 2 shows that structural modeling predicts that resistin (green/blue) binds TLR4 (red) and blocks binding LPS co-receptor MD2 (grey)