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Iran Tops Global Science Growth

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Compiled By: Firouzeh Mirrazavi
Deputy Editor of Iran Review

*Iran Tops Global Science Growth

A report released by UK's Royal Society says Iran is the fastest growing country in terms of numbers of scientific publications in the world.

Released on Monday, the report states that Iran has had the fastest rate of increase in scientific publication in the world and its scientific output rose 18-fold between 1996 and 2008, from 736 published papers to 13,238.

The United States is still the world's scientific leader in authorship of scientific research papers, but its share of global authorship has fallen to 21 percent from 26 percent.

China follows with a share of authorship rising to 10.2 percent from 4.4 percent.
Britain ranks third with a slight decrease in its share from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent.

Turkey dramatically improved its scientific performance, at a close rate to China, with R&D spending increasing nearly six-fold between 1995 and 2007.

Entitled 'Knowledge, Networks and Nations: Global Scientific Collaboration in the 21st Century,' the report says Tunisia has raised the percentage of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spent on research and development (R&D) to 1.25 percent in 2009 from 0.03 percent in 1996, while restructuring national R&D to create 624 research units and 139 research laboratories.

It also shows that China is overtaking 'scientific superpowers,' in the conduct and impact of science, and its ability to tackle global problems.

According to chair of the advisory group for the study Chris Llewellyn Smith, in the years between 2002 and 2007, the international amount of money spent on R&D had risen by almost 45 percent, but in developing countries it had risen by 100 percent.

"The increase in the developing world is mainly driven by China," Reuters quoted Llewellyn Smith as saying. "But there are also others there."

The new data about Iran's scientific proceedings "might surprise many people, especially in the western nations used to leading science," New Scientist magazine said.

According to the report, despite the strained political relations between Iran and the US, the number of collaborative papers between scientists of the two countries rose almost fivefold from 388 to 1831 over the same period.

The report says emerging nations such as Brazil and India are rising above scientific leaders like the United States, Europe and Japan, while Iran, Tunisia and Turkey have entered the league of rapidly emerging scientific nations.

"The landscape of science is changing. Science is increasing and new players are fast appearing," Llewellyn Smith told a briefing.

"Beyond the emergence of China, we see the rise of Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, North African and other nations."

The academy stressed the growing importance of international cooperation in solving global issues such as energy security, climate change and loss of biodiversity.

Llewellyn Smith also pointed out that all countries should collaborate in finding solutions to global challenges.

"No historically dominant nation can afford to rest on its laurels if it wants to retain the competitive economic advantage that being a scientific leader brings," he concluded.

*New Camera Makes Seeing ‘Invisible’ Possible

The science similar to the type used in airport body scanners could soon be used to detect everything from defects in aerospace vehicles or concrete bridges to skin cancer, thanks to researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

The research team, led by Dr. Reza Zoughi, the Schlumberger distinguished professor of electrical engineering at Missouri S&T, has developed a patented handheld camera that uses millimeter and microwave signals to non-intrusively peek inside materials and structures in real time, ScienceDaily reported.

“In the not-so-distant future, the technology may be customized to address many critical inspection needs, including detecting defects in thermal insulating materials that are found in spacecraft heat insulating foam and tiles, space habitat structures, aircraft radomes and composite-strengthened concrete bridge members,” Zoughi says.

The technology could help medical professionals detect and monitor a variety of skin conditions in humans, including cancer and burns. It also has the potential to help Homeland Security Department personnel detect concealed contraband (such as weapons) or reduce the number of passenger pat downs at airports. Even homeowners could see a direct benefit from the technology as it potentially could be used to detect termite damage.

How It Works
The compact system can produce synthetically focused images of objects--at different planes in front of the camera--at speeds of up to 30 images per second. A laptop computer then collects the signal and displays the image in real-time for review.

The entire system, powered by a battery similar to the size used in laptops, can run for several hours. “Unlike X-rays, microwaves are non-ionizing and may only cause some heating effect,” Zoughi says. “However, the high sensitivity and other characteristics of this camera enables it to operate at a low-power level.”

The idea for developing a real-time, portable camera came to Zoughi in 1998 while he was on sabbatical in France. In 2007, Zoughi’s research group completed the first prototype and has spent the past three years decreasing its size, while improving its overall efficiency.

Currently, the camera operates in the transmission mode, meaning objects must pass between a transmitting source and its collector to be reviewed. The team is working on developing a one-sided version of it, which will make it operate in a similar fashion to a video camera.

“Further down the road, we plan to develop a wide-band camera capable of producing real-time 3-D or holographic images,” Zoughi adds.

Iranian Par Excellence
Reza Zoughi received his BS, MS and PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Kansas. He is currently the Schlumberger Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Zoughi is an acknowledged expert in the fields of microwave and millimeter wave NDT, and is the author of Microwave Nondestructive Testing and Evaluation Principles, a graduate-level textbook on the subject. He recently received the 2008 ASNT Research Award for Sustained Excellence.

A Fellow of ASNT (Class of 2005), Zoughi has written over 425 articles for journal publications, conference proceedings and presentations.

He is an associate technical editor of Materials Evaluation and the editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement. The holder of nine US patents in the field of microwave NDT, Zoughi has been honored with awards from universities and professional societies. He has been repeatedly cited for excellence in teaching.

*UN Awards Iranian Demographer

Iran's Mohammad-Jalal Abbasi-Shavazi has won the 2011 United Nations Population Award for his work on population and contributing to the improvement of people's health.

The Iranian demographer, who shared the annual award with the African research institution, L'Institut de Formation et de Recherche Demographique (IFORD), will receive his prize during a ceremony at the United Nations on June 16, 2011.

Abbasi-Shavazi has been the head of the Division of Population Research at the University of Tehran since 2001 and his research is mainly focused on population and development, reproductive health and fertility, and immigration and refugees.

He has also been working as a professor, demographic researcher and advisor and has contributed to the understanding of the dynamics of Iran's fertility decline.

Abbasi-Shavazi's studies showed that improving women's education and status and their access to reproductive health care has led to smaller family sizes in Iran.

The award-winning scholar got his PhD in Demography from the Australian National University and his efforts has promoted the view that social, economic and cultural differences among countries are more important than religion in explaining fertility differentials.

Abbasi-Shavazi has also connected international demographers and Iranian scholars to collaborate in studying the rapid Iranian fertility decline.

Led by Egypt's Ambassador to the United Nations Maged A. Abdelaziz, the Award Committee consisted of 10 United Nations Member States, with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) as its secretariat.

The United Nations Economic and Social Council select countries to the Award Committee for three-year terms.

The current members of the committee are Bangladesh, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Ghana, Guatemala, Jamaica, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Norway and the United Republic of Tanzania.

The United Nations Secretary General and the UNFPA Executive Director are ex-officio members.

*Hydrogels Used to Make Precise New Sensor

Researchers are developing a new type of biological and chemical sensor that has few moving parts, is low-cost and yet highly sensitive, sturdy and long-lasting.

The “diffraction-based” sensors are made of thin stripes of a gelatinous material called a hydrogel, which expands and contracts depending on the acidity of its environment, Manufacturing.net reported.

Recent research findings have demonstrated that the sensor can be used to precisely determine pH--a measure of how acidic or basic a liquid is--revealing information about substances in liquid environments, said Cagri Savran (pronounced Chary Savran), an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University.

The sensor’s simple design could make it more practical than other sensors in development, he said.

“Many sensors being developed today are brilliantly designed but are too expensive to produce, require highly skilled operators and are not robust enough to be practical,” said Savran, whose work is based at Purdue’s Birck Nanotechnology Center in the university’s Discovery Park.

New findings show the technology is highly sensitive and might be used in chemical and biological applications including environmental monitoring in waterways and glucose monitoring in blood.

“As with any novel platform, more development is needed, but the detection principle behind this technology is so simple that it wouldn’t be difficult to commercialize,” said Savran, who is collaborating with another team of researchers led by Babak Ziaie, a Purdue professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering.

The flexible, water-insoluble hydrogel is formed into a series of raised stripes called a “diffraction grating,” which is coated with gold on both the stripe surfaces and the spaces in between.

The stripes expand and contract depending on the pH level of the environment.
Researchers in Ziaie’s lab fabricated the hydrogel, while Savran’s group led work in the design, development and testing of the diffraction-based sensor.

The sensors work by analyzing laser light reflecting off the gold coatings. Reflections from the stripes and spaces in between interfere with each other, creating a “diffraction pattern” that differs depending on the height of the stripes. These diffraction patterns indicate minute changes in the movement of the hydrogel stripes in response to the environment, in effect measuring changes in pH.

“By precise measurement of pH, the diffraction patterns can reveal a lot of information about the sample environment,” said Savran, who by courtesy is an associate professor of biomedical engineering and electrical and computer engineering. “This technology detects very small changes in the swelling of the diffraction grating, which makes them very sensitive.”

The pH of a liquid is recorded on a scale from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic and 14 the most basic. Findings showed the device’s high sensitivity enables it to resolve changes smaller than one-1,000th on the pH scale, measuring swelling of only a few nanometers. A nanometer is about 50,000 times smaller than the finest sand grain.

“We know we can make them even more sensitive,” Savran said. “By using different hydrogels, gratings responsive to stimuli other than pH can also be fabricated.” The work is ongoing. “It’s a good example of collaborations that can blossom when labs focusing on different research are located next to each other,” Savran said. “Professor Ziaie’s lab was already working with hydrogels, and my group was working on diffraction-based sensors. Hearing about the hydrogels work next door, one of my postdoctoral researchers, Chun-Li Chang thought of making a reflective diffraction grating out of hydrogels.”

*DNA Sequencing Analyses Expedited

Up to today, researchers have been limited to running just a few DNA samples at a time, at a cost of SEK100,000 (USD16,000) per run. Now researchers at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm have hit upon a new method that allows 5,000 samples to be run at the same time and at the same price.

This cuts the cost per sample result considerably and constitutes a world record for the number of tests run in a single DNA sequencing analysis, Biomedme reported.

“We were virtually forced to invent a method for running numerous DNA tests at once. Otherwise, our analyses would have taken an incredibly long time and would have cost enormous sums of money,” says Peter Savolainen, a researcher in biology at KTH.

He, his research colleague Afshin Ahmadian and the then doctoral candidate Marten Neiman jointly invented the new method, which means that DNA sequencing analyses can be performed both in record time and at an improbably low cost.

“Today the great majority of samples are run ten at a time. This yields a cost of SEK 10,000 (USD1,600) per sample. We have run 5,000 samples at the same time at the same cost, that is, SEK100,000. This computes to SEK20 (USD3) per sample,” says Peter Savolainen.

He points out several areas where he and his colleagues’ new method can have a great impact. One of them is cancer research where there is a great need to scan numerous cell samples from many individuals. This is to see which cells and genes are involved in the cancer.

“Another field where our method can be of huge importance is in organ transplants. Many DNA analyses are needed to create a database for matching organ donors with transplant recipients. This will be of major importance to DNA research,” says Peter Savolainen.

He adds that now, even before the method is official, there are several projects at the Science for Life Laboratory (where KTH is involved) in line to use this mode of analysis. What’s more, it is possible to scale up the method so that even more samples can be tested simultaneously.

“Simply put, we mark each sample in an ingenious way with an ID, so each test result can be distinguished,” says Peter Savolainen.

*Iranians Reduce Cholesterol in Eggs

Studies by researchers of Agricultural College of Instructors Training University reveal that the addition of selenium to the feed of hens results in enrichment of their eggs.

The research also showed that the addition of vitamin E and selenium in the food of hens reduces cholesterol in egg yolk, ISNA reported.

A senior expert on poultry breeding, Fatemeh Assadi, conducted research on examining the effects organic and mineral selenium as well as vitamin E on the quality and shelf-life of eggs.

She carried out an experiment for eight weeks by using 81 hens under the guidance of Farid Shariatmadari and Mohammad Amir Karimi Torshizi, faculty members of Instructors Training University.

Some of the eggs collected at the end of the eighth week were kept in the refrigerator (4 degrees centigrade) for 14 days and others were kept at room temperature (23-27 degrees centigrade).

Assadi referred to the results of her tests and said the use of organic selenium is a more effective mode of enriching the quality of eggs than mineral selenium.

Cholesterol is not a fat. It is a waxy fat-like substance produced by all mammals, including man and animals. It is necessary for many bodily functions and serves to insulate nerve fibers, maintain cell walls, produce vitamin D, various hormones and digestive juices.

There is little doubt that elevated blood cholesterol levels increase heart attack risk.
Cholesterol in chicken egg has recently received far more attention than before due to the rise in cardiovascular diseases in humans, arthrosclerosis and hypertension.

Egg yolk is considered one of the richest sources of cholesterol in human diet. The cholesterol content in eggs (about 200-250 mg) and blood (around 150 mg) in chickens vary considerably.

Various researches are presently underway to lower the cholesterol content of chicken egg and meat either through the use of additives, dietary fiber and polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation.

*Iranians Build RDS Modulator

Researchers of Khajeh Nassireddin Tousi University have succeeded in building the Radio Data System (RDS) modulator that can transfer digital and audio signals in radio transmitters with FM band.

Mahmoud Molaei Qareh-Hajlou implemented this project in cooperation with Massoud Haqshenas and Massoud Garshasbi.

Speaking to ISNA, Molaei said that to transfer digital information via radio transmitters with FM band, RDS protocol was standardized in 1998.

“Through this protocol, information related to the network…can be sent on FM frequency band. Since additional information is transmitted via Radio FM, RDS is of high importance,” he said.

He noted that the RDS modulator modulates digital information on the frequency of 57 kilohertz in the form of a combined signal for the output port. The intended output enters the FM transmitter and integrates with the main signal (audio) and is delivered to the FM modulator section.

Molaei emphasized that his device is capable of sending all information required by its audience.

“The name of network, replacement frequencies, activating other networks, traffic warning, time and free information are among other features of this device,” he said,
adding that the most important feature of the device is sending information in Persian, which is not possible through foreign specimens.

He said that when you use this device while leaving Tehran for another destination, the FM frequency you have set will not change.

“This is while when you do not use this device, the FM frequency that has been set for a particular channel changes when you move from one location to another,” he said.

Molaei noted that so far 25 such devices have been sold to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).

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