Spectrum: Could Termites Help with Biofuel Production?

Also check out doodling in 3-D and the FDA-approved bionic eye.

by / April 1, 2013


Doodle in 3-D

Have you ever wished you could lift your pen off the paper and see your drawing become a real three-dimensional object? This is the premise behind  3Doodler, a 3-D pen that works by extruding heated plastic, which quickly cools and solidifies into a strong, stable structure, according to WobbleWorks LLC, which is working to bring the product to market.  


Bionic Eye

Sci-fi once again becomes reality. The first bionic eye approved for U.S. patients will soon hit the market. The FDA has approved the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System for patients with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that damages the retina.  

Argus II, developed with support from the National Science Foundation, wirelessly transmits images from an eye-glass-mounted camera to a microelectrode array implanted on a damaged retina. The array sends electrical signals via the optic nerve, and the brain interprets a visual image.  Source/image: National Science Foundation


Termites ‘Gut’ It

A termite has more than 4,500 species of bacteria (protists) in its stomach. This breeding ground is chock full of genetic information that could help with biofuel production. A university scientist studied 10,000 gene sequences of termites and protists and found that termites have an enzyme that helps break down lignin, a rigid material in plant cell walls that isn’t easily broken down when making biofuels. This discovery may help scientists to process biomass and extract sugars during biofuel production.  Source: Purdue University


On Point

Looking at needles puts fear in many people — if they’re not afraid to admit it. Maybe it’s because 20 to 25 percent of needles miss the vein on the first try. Or maybe it’s because 2 million needle-stick injuries are reported each year. 

To boost the accuracy rate of blood drawing and IV placement, as well as health safety for practitioners, a California start-up created Veebot, a robotic machine that helps practitioners stay on point. The automated venipuncture system gives practitioners a real-time viewing system, showing accurate insertion points on a patient’s forearm for transfusions, intravenous fluids or injections. Source/image: Veebot.com

Karen Stewartson

Karen Stewartson served as the managing editor of Government Technology for many years. She also contributed to Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.