Blender Potion for Graphene

Graphene is quickly rising to become one of the most useful substances on Earth. It is an extremely hard substance, an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, and only 1 atom layer thick. Even better, it is as abundant as graphite, the black substance found in pencil leads, as graphene stuck together in many layers is in fact graphite.

But up until now, there had been a problem with this amazing material: its production. Obtaining some graphene is relatively easy: you get a piece a graphite from any pencil, and using some tape, stick and unstick it to the surface of the graphite continuously. This way, you will end up with a very small of graphene. This surprising method was discovered by two students at the University of Manchester: Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry precisely for this technique.


This is graphene, a layer of atoms made of hexagonal carbon rings

The problem is that although this tape method works perfectly fine to produce some graphene, it’s not an efficient way to manufacture amounts large enough to meet the demand for this product. So scientists have been working non-stop to find a solution to their problem, and indeed they have found a very curious one.

Just as the original technique, its fairly straightforward. You just need some graphite, some water, soap and a blender. Now just add it all into the blender and turn it on. After a few seconds of work, you have produced a decent amount of graphene. The blades manage to cut between the layers of graphene in graphite and produce individual graphene.
The bright side of this process is that it produces 5 grams of graphene an hour, whilst previous methods produced only half a gram an hour. On the downside, however, is the fact that its not really as easy as this, and to get the best results you need to use more sophisticated substances and to get a decent amount the experiment would have to be scaled up.

It is still an enormous improvement compared to the previous methods that will for sure make this outstanding material more approachable, and all the technological revolutions it will bring closer to our reach.

On Z(4430) the Tetraquark

Scientists are always finding new particles or new phenomena that enlarge our existing pool of knowledge. And said pool has just become larger thanks, once again, to the LHC, which now says they have found a new type of matter.

Matter can be found in many forms, from solids in a macroscopic level, to protons, and even further down, to quarks. These last ones are the most primary building blocks in our universe. They make up protons and neutrons, which then form atoms, which then form elements and then everything we see nowadays.
But quarks don’t exist just by themselves. The come together in groups of two, called mesons, or in groups of three, which form protons and neutrons. But now, the LHC has supposedly found a new particle that consists of 4 quarks, forming a tetraquark. This mythical particle is being called Z(4430), due to the current naming system which says all ‘tetraquarks’ need to have names starting with a Z, for organisational purposes.


Graph of results proving the existence of Z(4430)

Up until now, they had only been theorised, never actually proved, since the necessary calculations were far too complicated for even our most modern computers to attempt. But even then, this is not the first time a tetraquark has been presumably found. It has happened only once before, in the Belle Detector in Japan, where they also thought they had detected a tetraquark. In that case, other labs tried to find the particle, but since they were unable to do so, the particle’s existence was severely questioned.
The difference this time is that the LHC has detected Z(4430) for over 4000 times, in over 10 times the amount of data the Belle Detector had, undoubtedly proving this particle something worth studying.

There is, however, a slight problem with this particle. The basic theoretical models, (those that can be carried out without the use of complex computers), predict that tetraquarks should have a decay time of 10 times the decay time of Z(4430). This nagging little obstacle will have to be passed with more research into this particle, to finally unravel the mystery of whether this particle is just another mistake in the history of science, or if it is in fact one of the basic fragments of nature.

Embracing New Organs

There is a wide variety of diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, kidney failure… that can be treated or even cured with an organ transplant. However, a disadvantage of this otherwise great cure is the fact that since the new organ doesn’t really come from you, your immune system might attack it. The current solution to this problem is a mixture of immunosuppressant drugs, which although work in making the body accept foreign organs, they can cause very uncomfortable and serious side effects.

This problem is what lead Allan Kirk, scientist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, to look for possible alternatives. His team and himself eventually managed to create a small group of drugs, only three, to substitute the previous cocktails of medicines. What’s even better is that his drugs can even reset the immune system so that the patient must only take one drug every month instead of daily, as they do now.

Well then let’s meet his three drugs and learn how they work. The first one is alemtuzumab, and has to be given at the same time the organ transplant is happening. What it does is it completely destroys all white blood cells in the patient’s body that might attack the organ. It’s like making the immune system and its army of defenders start from 0.
The following drug is belatacept, and is given to the patient when new white blood cells start to appear. This drug acts in a way that makes the new cells accept the new organ as part of the patient and leave it in peace.
Lastly, a dose of sirolimus is administered. It is a normal, immunosuppressant drug whose function is to prevent any of the white blood cells that survived the original massacre from the alemtuzumab from damaging the organ.
Altogether, most patients would only have to take the initial drugs, and after those, only one injection a month, which is considerably more comfortable than the current treatment.


This cocktail of drugs has been replaced by only 3 drugs

Kirk has been carrying his experiments in a group of 13 people, and a year after they started the treatment none of them have shown signs of rejection. But Kirk has had to ask them if they wanted to stop taking the sirolimus and most did. The ones who chose to keep with it are perfectly fine, and those who got off of it are also fine, but now have to take monthly belatacept injections.

The implications of this revolutionary treatment are incredible. Up until now it has only been tested on a small sample of people, and all with kidney transplants, but Kirk and his team plan on doing larger groups with other organ transplants.