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Global Air Pollution Drop, Electronic Skin and Brain Machines

Global Air Pollution Drop, Electronic Skin and Brain Machines

A month’s worth of cool science stories, summed up

Global Air Pollution Drop, Electronic Skin and Brain Machines

Thursday, April 30, 2020 - 15:30

Alistair Jennings, Contributor

(Inside Science) -- In this monthly science recap, Alistair Jennings from Inside Science sums up some of the most interesting recent science topics. This month, scientists are seeing a massive drop in global air pollution. Satellite maps show the concentration of nitrogen dioxide before and after regions issued orders for residents to stay at home. So, shutting down travel and other activity around the world isn’t just slowing the spread of the virus -- it’s also giving our locked-down lungs a welcome break from poisonous air.

Also, this month brought a proof of concept of a new kind of electronic skin: It’s a soft polymer patch that can sense various chemicals in sweat, like acidity and glucose level, as well skin temperature, then transmits that information via Bluetooth to a computer. What’s so exciting is it’s powered by our sweat.

And finally, scientists recorded the neural responses of monkeys listening to some unpleasant noise tones. They used a wafer-thin sheet of electrodes, a sheet smaller than a grain of sand, implanted on the brain’s surface one year ago. Long-term recording from the brain like this is very hard to do -- not only is the brain extremely sensitive to foreign objects, but it’s also a deeply unforgiving environment for electronics: The ions, currents and chemicals swirling around in there tend to corrode and destroy most sensors.

 

References:

NASA air pollution images

Covid & Air pollution 1

Covid & Air pollution 2

American lung association state of the air report

Electronic skin

Contact lenses

Brain Machine interface 

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Author Bio & Story Archive

Alistair Jennings headshot, lab.

Ali Jennings has his PhD in neuroscience from University College London.