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Alternative Energy, Cancer, Diabetes Discoveries

Released: 29-Nov-2012 12:00 PM EST
Source Newsroom: Michigan Technological University
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Newswise — Researchers at Michigan Technological University are tackling some of the toughest research challenges facing society today. Alternative energy and biofuels, new therapies for cancer and diabetes and cyber security are among the fields where Michigan Tech researchers are breaking new ground.

Here are some tips about the latest in Michigan Tech research, with contact information and links to more about the work.

Cyber Security
The power grid is a high-voltage target for America’s adversaries in this era of cyberwarfare. In partnership with Waterfall Security Solutions, Michigan Tech’s Chee-Wooi Ten wants to better protect it so utility companies can fully engage in the information age. He is working to develop a secure framework for electric substations.


Fighting Cancer
Most of their natural lives, red blood cells hide safely under the radar of the body’s immune system, thanks to a cloak of “don’t eat me” protein called CD47. At Michigan Tech, Ching-An Peng wants to co-opt that clever trick to fight cancer by using
CD47 to camouflage cancer-fighting drugs and avoid the immune response.


Rechargeable Batteries
Michigan Tech’s Reza Shahbazian-Yassar thinks sodium might be the next big thing in rechargeable batteries. Currently, the gold standard is the lithium ion battery, which can be recharged hundreds of times and works really well. But lithium is not cheap. It could get even more expensive if more electric vehicles powered with lithium ion batteries hit the road. Sodium may be a good alternative. It’s effective, cheap and abundant; seawater is full of it.

A Genetic Weapon Against Diabetes
Work by Michigan Tech biologist Xiaoqing Tang is yielding new insights into how a tiny snippet of genetic material can promote healthy insulin production in mice.
Her work may eventually lead to new therapies for the treatment of diabetes, a disease that affects nearly 26 million Americans and causes myriad health problems, including heart disease, kidney failure and stroke. The genetic material is a microRNA molecule called miR-30d, which is the same in mice and people. MicroRNAattaches to long RNA molecules and prevents them from making proteins.


Growing Better Biofuel Trees
It took mankind millennia of painstaking trial and error to breed hardier, healthier food crops, but Michigan Tech plant geneticist Victor Busov says we can’t wait that long to develop better crops for biofuels. So he is working with Oak Ridge National laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on a Departments of Energy and Agriculture-funded study to find the genes whose activation changes the growth and properties of plants such as poplar trees, whose woody biomass can be made into biofuel.


Smaller, Better Solar Panels
A Michigan Tech materials scientist has made a solar cell that brings more to the rooftop: it’s good at making electricity, and it’s great at capturing heat to warm your home and your water. Solar photovoltaic thermal energy systems, or PVTs generate both heat and electricity, but they haven’t been very good at the heat-generating part because they operate at low temperatures to cool crystalline silicon solar cells. Joshua Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, has devised a solution in the form of a better PVT made with a different kind of silicon.

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