The researchers coated leaf veins with copper, thus transforming them into electrically conductive and optically transparent electrodes. Sven Döring/ Leibniz-IPHT. Leibniz-IPHT

A research team from the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena has built electrodes with outstanding optical and electronic properties from leaves. The researchers have coated leaf veins with copper and thus transformed them into electrically conductive and optically transparent electrodes. Designed on the basis of nature, the leaf-structure electrodes could be used to design novel solar cells, LEDs or displays.

A sample of the electromagnetic shielding material made by Empa – a composite of cellulose nanofibres and silver nanowires. Empa

Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight. 
Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic components or the transmission of signals. High-frequency electromagnetic fields can only be shielded with conductive shells that are closed on all sides. Often thin metal sheets or metallized foils are used for this purpose. However, for many applications such a shield is too heavy or too poorly adaptable to the given geometry. The ideal solution would be a light, flexible and durable material with extremely high shielding effectiveness.

Images of macrophages (red) in which the active substance (green) is distributed. On the left, the active substance heparin is shown, on the right hyaluronic acid. Hala Al Khoury / Uni Halle

New coatings on implants could help make them more compatible. Researchers at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) have developed a new method of applying anti-inflammatory substances to implants in order to inhibit undesirable inflammatory reactions in the body. Their study was recently published in the "International Journal of Molecular Sciences".

Electron density of two hydrogen-terminated (left) and fluorine-terminated (right) diamond surfaces: large fluorine atoms prevent the surfaces from interlocking and thus reduce friction. Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM

Diamond and diamond-like carbon (DLC) are used as extremely durable surface coatings in frictional contacts: from aerospace components to razors. They reduce friction and wear in bearings and valves by means of so-called passivation layers, which prevent other materials from bonding to the coating. Until now, it was unclear how these passivation layers should be designed to achieve minimal friction. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM, MicroTribology Centrum µTC, have now achieved a breakthrough in understanding the relationship between passivation and friction. The unexpected results have been published in the journal "ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces".

During the explosion of an oxygen molecule: the X-ray laser XFEL knocks electrons out of the two atoms of the oxygen molecule and initiates its breakup. During the fragmentation, the X-ray laser releases another electron out of an inner shell from one of the two oxygen atoms that are now charged (ions). The electron has particle and wave characteristics, and the waves are scattered by the other oxygen ion. The diffraction pattern are used to image the breakup of the oxygen molecules and to take snapshots of the fragmentation process (electron diffraction imaging). Credit: Till Jahnke, Goethe University Frankfurt

New experimental technique with Goethe University’s reaction microscope allows “X-ray” of individual molecules.
For more than 200 years, we have been using X-rays to look inside matter, and progressing to ever smaller structures – from crystals to nanoparticles. Now, within the framework of a larger international collaboration on the X-ray laser European XFEL in Schenefeld near Hamburg, physicists at Goethe University have achieved a qualitative leap forward: using a new experimental technique, they have been able to “X-ray” molecules such as oxygen and view their motion in the microcosm for the first time.

Illustration_1: Stroke leads to a reduction of VEGFD levels, loss of dendrites, brain damage, and impaired motor functions. As research on a mouse model has shown, VEGFD-based therapies can prevent structural disintegration, thereby facilitating functional recovery. Heidelberg University

Protecting nerve cells from losing their characteristic extensions, the dendrites, can reduce brain damage after a stroke. Neurobiologists from Heidelberg University have demonstrated this by means of research on a mouse model. The team, led by Prof. Dr Hilmar Bading in cooperation with Junior Professor Dr Daniela Mauceri, is investigating the protection of neuronal architecture to develop new approaches to treating neurodegenerative diseases. The current research findings were published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”.

When graphene nanotriangles are joined, their magnetic moments form a quantum entangled state. EMPA

Graphene triangles with an edge length of only a few atoms behave like peculiar quantum magnets. When two of these nano-triangles are joined, a "quantum entanglement" of their magnetic moments takes place: the structure becomes antiferromagnetic. This could be a breakthrough for future magnetic materials, and another step towards spintronics. An international group led by Empa researchers recently published the results in the journal "Angewandte Chemie".

Smart Luminaire: using tailored light distribution to create intelligent lighting fixtures for 21st-century lighting applications. © Fraunhofer IOF

How can mass production methods be applied to individualized products? One answer is to use a combination of digital manufacturing technologies, for example by integrating digital printing and laser processing into traditional manufacturing processes. This paves the way for in-line product customization. Six Fraunhofer institutes have pooled their expertise to take the new process to the next level.

3D imaging of the blood vessels of a mouse head using X-ray computer tomography and the newly developed contrast agent "XlinCA". Willy Kuo, University of Zurich

Researchers at the University of Zurich have developed a new X-ray contrast agent. The contrast agent is easier to use and distributes into all blood vessels more reliably, increasing the precision of vascular imaging. This reduces the number of animals required in research experiments. 
Various diseases in humans and animals – such as tumors, strokes or chronic kidney disease – damage the blood vessels. Capillaries, the smallest blood vessels in the body, are particularly affected. The large surface area of the capillary network enables oxygen to be exchanged between the blood and the surrounding tissue, such as the muscles when we exercise or the brain when we think.

Light microscope image of nimodipine fibres. Johanna Zech

The drug nimodipine could prevent nerve cells from dying after brain surgery. Pharmacists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), in cooperation with neurosurgeons at University Hospital Halle (Saale) (UKH), have developed a new method that enables the drug to be administered directly in the brain with fewer side effects. Their findings were published in the “European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics”.

A microropbot rolls deep into the body. Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS)

Scientists took a leukocyte as the blueprint and developed a microrobot that has the size, shape and moving capabilities of a white blood cell. Simulating a blood vessel in a laboratory setting, they succeeded in magnetically navigating the ball-shaped microroller through this dynamic and dense environment. The drug-delivery vehicle withstood the simulated blood flow, pushing the developments in targeted drug delivery a step further: inside the body, there is no better access route to all tissues and organs than the circulatory system. A robot that could actually travel through this finely woven web would revolutionize the minimally-invasive treatment of illnesses.

The interlayer makes the battery cell much more stable, and therefore able to withstand much higher current density. It is also very easy to apply the soft mass onto the lithium metal anode in the battery - like speading butter on a sandwich.​​​​​​​ ​Illustration: Yen Strandqvist

Solid state batteries are of great interest to the electric vehicle industry. Scientists at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, and Xi’an Jiaotong University, China now present a new way of taking this promising concept closer to large-scale application. An interlayer, made of a spreadable, ‘butter-like’ material helps improve the current density tenfold, while also increasing performance and safety.

Virtual Reality environments and robots can help surgeons prepare for challenging operations. Viktoria Stoiser

The insertion of hip implants places high demands on surgeons. To help young doctors practice this operation under realistic conditions, scientists from the University of Bremen and Chemnitz University of Technology are developing a dynamic hip implant simulator. Users see the scene in virtual reality and operate surgical instruments connected to a robot.
Joint press release from the University of Bremen and Chemnitz University of Technology
The growing number of older people worldwide is leading to an increase in hip implants and other joint replacement operations. This also increases the need for highly qualified orthopedic surgeons, but the practical training of these operations is very difficult to carry out.

The reliability and accuracy of tattoo electrodes has been successfully tested under real clinical conditions. Francesco Greco

TU Graz researcher Francesco Greco has developed ultra-light tattoo electrodes that are hardly noticeable on the skin and make long-term measurements of brain activity cheaper and easier.
In 2015 Francesco Greco, head of the Laboratory of Applied Materials for Printed and Soft electronics (LAMPSe, http://lampselab.com/) at the Institute of Solid State Physics at Graz University of Technology, developed so-called "tattoo electrodes" together with Italian scientists. These are conductive polymers that are printed using an inkjet printer on standard tattoo paper and then stuck to the skin like transfers to measure heart or muscle activity.

Figure: Dynamically moving hard boundaries confine mobile magnetic particles into reprogrammable 2D self-assembled patterns. Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart aim to understand the underlying process of self-assembly. Their findings not only provide valuable insights into fundamental physics, but could enable the design of functional materials or self-assembled miniature robots.

Stuttgart – Self-assembly is an autonomous process where complex and functional structures are created in a bottom-up manner by the organization of a large set of components. Each component locally interacts with the others to create patterns, often with an unknown outcome: in the end, the patterns do not necessarily have a pre-conceived design.

Prof. Mascha Binder, her team and other partners investigate why every person reacts differently to an infection with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. University Hospital Halle

Why does every person react differently to an infection with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2? Why do some people have no symptoms or only mild symptoms of COVID-19, the disease which it causes? And why do some people become so severely ill that they require ventilators or even die?

These questions are being investigated by Professor Mascha Binder, director of the Department of Internal Medicine IV at University Hospital Halle (Saale), together with her team and other partners from University Hospital Halle (UKH) and the Hanover Medical School.