Iranians & Sci-Tech Achievements

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Compiled By: Firouzeh Mirrazavi
Deputy Editor of Iran Review

*Iran's RoboCup Team Tops International Competition in Mexico

Iran’s Mechatronics Research Laboratory (MRL) team dispatched from Islamic Azad University of Qazvin has won the RoboCup Rescue Real Robot League Competitions in Mexico.

The team grabbed the first award in the main section of the competition by defeating the Thai team, which was sponsored by large industrial companies, said Head of Iranian National Committee of RoboCup Morteza Mousa-Khani.

The third award of the competition went to the other Iranian team, Yazd Robotic Association (YRA) from Islamic Azad University of Yazd, Mousa-Khani added.

In the Removal Objects Section, Iran's MRL stood first while the YRA came second, followed by the Mexican team.

RoboCup Rescue competitions have been established to improve Robocup Rescue Simulation, aiming to support research project intended to promote the development of robotic agents for search and rescue.

The project was initiated in reaction to the Great Hanshin earthquake, which hit Hyogo Prefecture in Japan, on 17 January 1995, and led to the death of more than six thousand people.

The 2012 RoboCup Rescue Real Robot League International Competition was held at the World Trade Center in Mexico City from June 18 to 24.

*Cheaper, Better Cellphones Developed

An Iranian scientist’s initiative has led to the development of the world’s most powerful nanoscale microwave oscillators and cheaper cellphones with better signal quality.

Pedram Khalili-Amiri, jointly with a team of UCLA researchers, has created the most powerful high-performance nanoscale microwave oscillators in the world, which has led to cheaper, more energy-efficient mobile communication devices that deliver much better signal quality, ISNA reported.

Today’s cellphones, WiFi-enabled tablets and other electronic gadgets all use microwave oscillators--tiny devices that generate the electrical signals used in communications.

In a cellphone, for example, the transmitter and receiver circuits contain oscillators that produce radio-frequency signals, which are then converted by the phone’s antenna into incoming and outgoing electromagnetic waves.

Current oscillators are silicon-based and use the charge of an electron to create microwaves.

The newly-developed oscillators, however, utilize the spin of an electron, as in the case of magnetism, and carry several orders-of-magnitude advantages over oscillators commonly used today.

UCLA’s electron spin-based oscillators have grown out of research at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

This research focused on STT-RAM, or spin-transfer torque magneto-resistive random access memory, which has great potential over other types of memory in terms of both speed and power efficiency.

The scientists have realized that the layered nanoscale structures that make STT-RAM such a great candidate for memory could also be developed for microwave oscillators.

The structures, called spin-transfer nano-oscillators, or STNOs, are composed of two distinct magnetic layers. One layer has a fixed magnetic polar direction, while the other layer’s magnetic direction can be manipulated to gyrate by passing an electric current through it. This allows the structure to produce very precise oscillating microwaves. Based on a Science Daily report, Khalili-Amiri, the project manager for the UCLA-DARPA research programs in STT-RAM and non-volatile logic, said, “Previously, there had been no demonstration of a spin-transfer oscillator with sufficiently high output power and simultaneously good signal quality, which are the two main metrics of an oscillator--hence preventing practical applications.”

He added, “We have realized both these requirements in a single structure.”

The STNO was tested to show a record-high output of close to 1 microwatt, with a record narrow signal line width of 25 megahertz.
Output power refers to the strength of the signal and 1 microwatt is the desired level for STNOs to be practical for applications.

Also, a narrow signal line width corresponds to a higher quality signal at a given frequency. This means less noise and interference, for a cleaner voice and video signal. It also means more users can be accommodated onto a given frequency band.

In addition, the new nanoscale system is about 10,000 times smaller than the silicon-based oscillators used today. The nano-oscillators can easily be incorporated into existing integrated circuits, as they are compatible with current design and manufacturing standards in the computer and electronic device industries, and the oscillators can be used in both analog (voice) and digital (data) communications, which means smartphones could take full advantage of them.

*Iranian Scientists Create New Medicine for Breast Cancer

Iranian researchers have developed a new radiopharmaceutical medicine suggested to be effective in treating patients suffering from breast cancer.

The newly-developed drug can be used simultaneously in curing, scanning and diagnosing cancerous textures and cells in the breast.

The nanostructure-applied drug was first tested in mice with breast and ovarian cancers and is now going to be tested in the animal phase.

Iran had earlier produced anti-cancer medications made from snake and scorpion venom peptide.

In recent years, the country has also taken several steps in the production and marketing of the newest generation of biotechnological and nanobiotechnological drugs, all of which need a very sophisticated technology.

With a record of over 400 medical research facilities and 76 medical magazines in the country, Iran is estimated to be one of the world's top 10 countries in medical research.

*Iranian Student Helps Advance Quantum Computers

Iranian grad student Kamyar Saeedi, together with Professor Mike Thewalt of Simon Fraser University (SFU), Canada, have taken a fresh step in advancing quantum computers through the distinctive properties of highly enriched and purified silicon.

Quantum computers are mainly considered as futuristic machines as they currently exist in physicists’ concepts and theoretical studies. The computers will be able to function much faster than today’s fastest super computers.

Quantum computers could connect the powers of atoms and sub-atomic particles (ions, photons, electrons) to carry out processing tasks, due to their extraordinary sub-atomic properties.

Saeedi, the Iranian PhD candidate at the SFU in Canada, has been on the quantum computers’ designing team led by physicist Thewalt. The team has found that their unique silicon allows processes to occur and be monitored in a solid state that researchers formerly thought needed a near-perfect vacuum.

Thewalt regarded the achievement a record in solid-state systems, which appeared to be impossible a few years ago.

“It opens new ways of using solid-state semi-conductors such as silicon as a base for quantum computing,” Thewalt said.

“You can start to do things that people thought you could only do in a vacuum. What we have found, and what wasn’t anticipated, are the sharp spectral lines (optical qualities) in the 28Silicon we have been testing. It’s so pure, and so perfect. There’s no other material like it,” he added.

*Iran Produces 6 New Medicines with High Technology

Iranian researchers have succeeded to produce six new drugs, including several medications for breast cancer and Factor VIII deficiency.

The newly developed medications would be unveiled by September, 2012, said the Deputy Head of Iranian Ministry of Health for Research and Technology Mostafa Qanei.

He went on to say that the new drugs are as effective as the foreign versions of the medication but are less pricey.

In recent years, Iran has taken several steps in production and marketing of the newest generation of biotechnological medicines and nano drugs which need a very sophisticated technology.

With a record of over 400 medical research facilities and 76 medical magazine indexes in the country, Iran is estimated to be one of the world's top 10 countries in medical research.

*Iran Produces Tuberculosis Vaccine

The director of the Pasteur Institute says Iran has succeeded to produce high quality tuberculosis vaccine in a modern way.

“Tuberculosis vaccine or BCG (Bacille Calmette Guerin) has been produced by the Pasteur Institute in a modern way and is now being sold in the domestic market,” Dr. Mostafa Qanei told the Far news agency.

The production of the vaccine is currently 5 to 6 million doses and the domestic need is 5 to 6 million doses in a year which is used for vaccination of babies, he explained.

“The production of the vaccine and its endorsement by the World Health Organization is an indication of Iran’s capability in producing high quality vaccines in the world,” he noted.

Qanei said with a permission of WHO Iran is ready to raise its production to 20 million doses for export to regional countries from the next Iranian year, which begins on March 21, 2013.

He said every country needs the permission of WHO for export of vaccines and Iran has delivered documents to the international body for receiving the license for export of BCG.

BCG is the only vaccine available today for protection against tuberculosis. It is most effective in protecting children from the disease.

*Iranians Develop Invisible Photo Detector

Two Iranian researchers from the Universities of Pennsylvania and Stanford jointly with a university research team succeeded in developing an invisible photo detector by using plasmonics.

Nader Engheta, professor of electrical and systems engineering, and of bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with doctoral candidate Farzaneh Afshinmanesh from Stanford university and other university researchers developed an invisible, light-detecting device that can see without being seen, ISNA reported.

By adjusting the ratio of metal to silicon, a technique which the engineers refer to as tuning the geometrics, researchers could capitalize on nanoscale physics, in which reflected light from the two materials cancel each other to make the device invisible.

Light detection is well known and simple. Silicon generates electrical current when illuminated and is common in solar panels and light sensors today.

The newly-developed device for the first time uses a relatively new concept known as plasmonic cloaking to make the device invisible.

The field of plasmonics studies how light interacts with metal nanostructures and induces tiny oscillating electrical currents along the surfaces of the metal and semiconductor. These currents, in turn, produce scattered light waves.

By carefully designing their device, researchers have created a plasmonic cloak in which scattered light from the metal and semiconductor cancel each other perfectly through a phenomenon known as destructive interference.

The rippling light waves in the metal and semiconductor create a separation of positive and negative charges in materials called dipole moment.

The key is to create a dipole in gold, which is equal in strength but opposite in sign to the dipole in silicon. When equally strong positive and negative dipoles meet, they cancel each other and the system becomes invisible.

Researchers have shown that plasmonic cloaking is effective across much of the visible spectrum of light and that the effect works regardless of the angle of incoming light or the shape and placement of the metal-covered nanowires in the device.

They likewise demonstrate that other metals commonly used in computer chips, like aluminum and copper, work just as well as gold.
To produce invisibility, what matters above all is the tuning of metal and semiconductor.

In future, the engineers foresee application for such tunable, metal-semiconductor devices in many relevant areas, including solar cells, sensors, solid-state lighting and chip-scale lasers.

In digital cameras and advanced imaging systems, for instance, plasmonically cloaked pixels might reduce the disruptive cross-talk between neighboring pixels that produces blur. It could lead to sharper, more accurate photos and medical images.

*Iranian Wins Glushko Prize

Iranian student Nazbanou Nozari has won the 2012 Robert J. Glushko Dissertation/Thesis Prize in Cognitive Science.

The Glushko prize is given by the Cognitive Science Society of Indiana University in the US; 2012 is the inaugural year of this annual prize, ISNA reported.

Prize-winning dissertations/theses are expected to transcend any one of the individual fields comprising cognitive science. They should centrally address issues of interest to multiple fields that comprise cognitive science, including psychology, computer science, philosophy, linguistics, anthropology, neuroscience and education.

Up to five new PhDs from across the world received the annual award and the Iranian researcher was among those five PhD students.
Each prize is accompanied by a certificate and a $10,000 award to be used by the recipient without any constraints.

Nozari finished her 2011 PhD thesis titled, “Is Comprehension Necessary for Error Detection? A Conflict-Based Account of Monitoring in Speech Production” in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois.

The thesis also won the Aphasia Academy’s prize in 2009. Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the mind and its processes. It examines what cognition is, what it does and how it works. It includes research on intelligence and behavior, especially focusing on how information is represented, processed and transformed (in faculties such as perception, language, memory, reasoning and emotion) in nervous systems (human or other animal) and machines (e.g. comptuers).

It spans many levels of analysis, from low-level learning and decision mechanisms to high-level logic and planning, as well as from neural circuitry to modular brain organization.

*Iranians Build Ultrasound Therapy System 

Iranian researchers at Amir Kabir University have designed a system that uses High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) to treat tumors. 

Mahdiyeh Meqsiyeh, a researcher working on the project, referred to expansion of therapeutic uses of ultrasound waves in curing different kind of cancers and the satisfactory results obtained and said the plan aims to make the technology indigenous, ISNA reported. 

All mechanical components of the system were simulated by computers and the optimized model can take photo and offer treatment at the same time. 

Meqsiyeh noted that if the simulation is carried out scientifically, its time and accuracy will increase. 

In recent years, HIFU has been used as a noninvasive treatment to treat malignant tumors by physicists and doctors. 

Ultrasound rays, which are safe and non-ionizing, are used to destroy tumors. The method has the least side-effects. 

In this research, one of the main components of HIFU device named ‘transducer’, which is used in curing prostate cancer, has been simulated. 

Simulations showed that conditions of the texture around the tumor can be little changed at the time of ultrasonic irradiation, so that the textures would be least damaged. 

Ultrasound waves destroy the tumor using the maximum pressure and heat at the center of the tumor. 

*Iranian Device Keeps Acid Reflux at Bay

An Iranian researcher from Wisconsin Medical College has developed a device that could provide relief to patients suffering from severe acid reflux.

Reza Shaker, a college gastroenterologist, is testing the device that uses pressure to keep stomach acid from rising into the throat, ISNA reported.

Patients wear the adjustable band around their necks at night. A small pad in front applies a slight amount of pressure just below the Adam’s apple to keep stomach contents down.

Somna Therapeutics LLC expects to announce in the next few weeks that it has raised more than $1 million, with local investors Tom Shannon and Jeff Harris leading the fundraising.

“Reza Shaker’s idea isn’t only good, it also has a large market, no competition, clear regulatory pathway and intellectual property protection applied for,” said Shannon, who formerly led Prodesse Inc., a Waukesha biotech company.

“Matching inventors with investors represents a new push for the medical college, which is putting more emphasis on developing and commercializing technology,” said Joe Hill, director of the college’s Technology Development Office.
The college took an equity stake in the company.

In two small medical college studies, the device helped 28 patients with a severe type of acid reflux called extra-esophageal reflux disease, or EERD.

People with the disease suffer from chronic cough, hoarse voices, asthma, throat irritation, difficulty swallowing and postnasal drip.
“They are more prone to bronchitis and pneumonia, and can be at increased risk for bone fractures because of prolonged use of acid-reducing pills that can affect nutrient absorption,” said Nick Maris, Somna’s chief executive officer.

“Your throat is made for air. It’s not made for last night’s pepperoni pizza.”

Maris said the band won’t stop acid from rising into the esophagus, but it could help some 15 million people in the US who have regurgitation into their throat.

Doctors recommend diet changes, prescription acid reducers, and a host of wedge pillows, bed raisers and even sleeping in recliners to keep stomach content down.

The band “will either be a nice addition to the tool kit physicians use to manage this disease, or it will become the standard of care for EERD,” Maris said. “And if that’s the case, it’s a very, very big deal.” “The beauty of this device is, when it works, you will know the next morning because you’re not coughing and hacking and wheezing,” Shaker said.

The band was developed with help from partners in the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, a collaboration of eight area institutions including the Medical College. Shaker is the institute’s director.

Among the challenges to developing the device were finding the best way to fit the band to each patient, and deciding how much pressure to apply, Shaker said.

Somna hopes to have the band on the market by mid-2013, said Maris, who previously was chief operating officer for a division of Serigraph Inc. and spent 15 years in the medical device industry. “There’s a decent shot at it becoming a very large-revenue company very quickly,” Maris said.

*Iranian Helps Implement Fusion Energy Project 

ITER researchers working to help bring fusion power to the commercial market completed a critical step, successfully testing their technology that serves to insulate and provide structural integrity to the central solenoid of the tokamak reactor. 

Imagining a world without manmade climate change, energy crunches or reliance on foreign oil may sound like a dream world, but University of Tennessee (UT), Knoxville, engineers along with Iranian scientist Masood Parang have taken a giant step toward making this scenario a reality, ISNA reported. 

ITER (originally an acronym of International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is an international nuclear fusion research and engineering project, which is currently building the world’s largest and most advanced experimental tokamak nuclear fusion reactor at the Cadarache facility in the south of France. The fusion reactor will produce ten times the amount of energy that it uses when it begins operations in 2020. 

The University of Tennessee researchers have successfully developed a key technology in developing an experimental reactor that can demonstrate the feasibility of fusion energy for the power grid. Nuclear fusion promises to supply more energy than the nuclear fission used today but with far fewer risks. 

The UT researchers completed a critical step this for the project by successfully testing their technology this week that will insulate and stabilize the central solenoid--the reactor’s backbone. 

Unlike today’s nuclear fission reactors, fusion uses a similar process as that which powers the sun. Since 2008, the UT engineering professors and about 15 students have worked inside UT’s Magnet Development Laboratory (MDL) located off Pellissippi Parkway to develop technology that serves to insulate and provide structural integrity to the more than 1,000-ton central solenoid. 

Researchers and staff at UT’s Magnet Development Laboratory prepare the central solenoid mockup for the vacuum pressure impregnation process. 

A tokamak reactor uses magnetic fields to confine the plasma--a hot, electrically charged gas that serves as the reactor fuel--into the shape of a torus. The central solenoid, which consists of six giant coils stacked on top of one another, plays the starring role by both igniting and steering the plasma current. 

The key to unlocking the technology was finding the right material--a glass fiber and epoxy chemical mixture that is liquid at high temperatures and turns hard when cured--and the right process of inserting this material into all of the necessary spaces inside the central solenoid. The special mixture provides electrical insulation and strength to the heavy structure. 

The impregnation process moves the material at the right pace, factoring in temperature, pressure, vacuum and the material’s flow rate. 

This week, the UT team tested the technology inside its mockup of the central solenoid conductor. It took two years to develop the technology, more than two days to impregnate the central solenoid mockup and multiple pairs of watchful eyes to ensure everything went according to plan.

This summer, the team’s technology will be transferred to US ITER industry partner General Atomics in San Diego, which will build the central solenoid and ship it to France.

The ITER project aims to make the long-awaited transition from experimental studies of plasma physics to full-scale electricity-producing fusion power plants. The project is funded and run by seven member entities, namely the European Union (EU), India, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea and the United States. The EU, as host of the ITER complex, is contributing 45 percent of the cost, with the other six parties contributing 9 percent each.

ITER--designed to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion power--will be the world’s largest tokamak. As an ITER member, the US receives full access to all ITER-developed technology and scientific data, but bears less than 10 percent of the construction cost, which is shared among partner nations. US ITER is a Department of Energy Office of Science project managed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. 

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