Thomas R. O'Donnell

Archive for the ‘Industry Research’ Category

ISU prof’s microfluidics machine promises nearly instant wine

In Industry Research, University research on August 29, 2016 at 11:55 am
A former military tunnel in Taiwan, now converted to a cave to age rice wine in clay jars.

The opposite of instant wine: a former military tunnel in Taiwan, now used to age rice wine in clay jars. It’s not really related to microfluidics and Switzerland, but it’s cool. Click to enlarge. Photo credit: Cave #88 via photopin (license).

For centuries, winemaking has been a messy, time-consuming operation, taking weeks just to ferment and sometimes years to mellow grape juice into something you’d actually drink.

Now an Iowa State University professor is raising the hopes of oenophiles around the world by short-circuiting the process, producing wine in just minutes.

There are, of course, a few catches. And just as importantly, the technology, revealed earlier this summer, is more a feat of engineering than oenology.

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Roundup: Ebola shots, big computer plans and a sunny outcome for ISU

In Industry Research, University research on August 2, 2015 at 7:12 pm
A colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) image of an  Ebola virus virion, created by CDC microbiologist Cynthia Goldsmith. Credit: CDC global Flickr stream.

A colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) image of an Ebola virus virion, created by U.S. Centers for Disease Control microbiologist Cynthia Goldsmith. Credit: CDC global Flickr stream.

Iowans and Iowa institutions have played roles in nationally and internationally significant science and technology developments in the last week, but sometimes you have to know the background to understand their involvement.

For instance, there was big news on Friday when the British medical journal The Lancet published results from an Ebola vaccine trial. The medicine appears highly effective – 100 percent, statistically – against the deadly disease. An Iowa company had a hand in it.

Just the day before, President Barack Obama signed an executive order putting the United States on course to build the most powerful computer ever. What few have noticed is the work a top University of Iowa official put in to helped set the stage for the program.

Meanwhile, Iowa State University students in Texas were celebrating after winning a race of sun-powered cars. And they not only won – they dominated, taking home the trophy for the first time since the team began racing 25 years ago.

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Roundup, with video: Glycerin glue, prairie STRIPS and crop-generated CO2

In Industry Research, University research on December 15, 2014 at 6:49 am
A NASA video of a computer carbon dioxide model colors the gas as it's released and circulated around the planet.

A screenshot from a NASA video visualizing a simulation of a year’s worth of carbon dioxide emissions. Image from NASA at http://www.nasa.gov/press/goddard/2014/november/nasa-computer-model-provides-a-new-portrait-of-carbon-dioxide/

For most of the Midwest, the crops are in, whether corn, soybeans, oats or other commodities. Perhaps it’s a good time for a harvest of recent agriculture-related research developments to round out the year.

One has to do with new uses for crops and the byproducts of converting them into fuels. It could mean an inexpensive new adhesive.

Meanwhile, Iowa-based technology to make mass-scale commodity production more sustainable is getting national attention and praise.

And finally, there’s research showing that widespread crop production is having an out-sized influence on the carbon cycle.

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Researchers accuse Iowa company of delaying Ebola vaccine safety trial

In Industry Research on October 27, 2014 at 2:34 pm
Liberian sign promoting hand-washing as a means to avoid spreading the Ebola virus. It also lists symptoms and precautions.

Advice to avoid Ebola; also good advice for avoiding flu, food poisoning, etc. Credit: CDC Global Health via photopin cc

Ebola is making millions of Americans sick.

No, they’re not contracting the virus, which has killed thousands of Africans in the worst outbreak in history.

I’m saying people are sick of the breathless reports and fear-mongering pronouncements from politicians, cable news outlets and talk radio hosts.

The fact is that in a country of 300 million people, only two have actually become infected here in the United States (due to poor protocols at a Dallas hospital). Two others (one of whom died) developed symptoms here after visits to West Africa.

A few other patients were brought here for treatment after developing symptoms overseas. At the Omaha, Atlanta and Maryland hospitals where those patients were treated (and where the two Dallas healthcare workers have been hospitalized), no healthcare workers have contracted Ebola. The government built special units at these hospitals to handle contagious patients in a post-9/11 effort to prepare for possible biological attacks.

Also: No one the Dallas patient was with before he was hospitalized has become ill. That says something about how hard it is to spread this virus – unlike, say, influenza.

Meanwhile (here comes the Iowa angle), an Ames company has been in the headlines for its work on an Ebola vaccine. Iowa press coverage of NewLink Genetics has largely tracked the company’s plans to get the vaccine into human trials. It’s rarely gone beyond a single source: NewLink.

Reports outside the state, however, have been more critical. NewLink denies it, but some say the company has purposely delayed the trials while Ebola spreads in Africa and people die.

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