A lung tumor that expresses USP28 (left). On the right, however, tumors are shown in which USP28 has been "cut out" using the gene editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 – they are significantly smaller.  (Images: Markus Diefenbacher)

In squamous cell carcinoma, a protein ensures that unneeded proteins are no longer disposed of. A research team at the University of Würzburg has switched off this protein for the first time. Squamous cell carcinoma is a very unusual type of cancer. They occur in many tissues – for example in the lungs, esophagus, pancreas, throat and pharynx, and on the skin. 

Space Tango CubeLab on board the International Space Station ISS. Space Tango

The University of Zurich has sent adult human stem cells to the International Space Station (ISS). Researchers from UZH Space Hub will explore the production of human tissue in weightlessness. On 6 March at 11:50 PM EST, the International Space Station resupply mission Space X CRS-20 took off from Cape Canaveral (USA). On board: 250 test tubes from the University of Zurich containing adult human stem cells. These stem cells will develop into bone, cartilage and other organs during the month-long stay in space.


At rough areas of a catalyst surface, water is split into hydrogen and oxygen in a more energy efficient way than at smooth areas. MPI-P, License CC-BY-SA

Whether as a fuel or in energy storage: hydrogen is being traded as the energy carrier of the future. To date, existing methodologies have not been able to elucidate how exactly the electrochemical process of water splitting into hydrogen and oxygen takes place at the molecular scale on a catalyst surface. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz have now developed a new method to investigate such processes "live" on the nanometer scale. The new detailed insights into the splitting of water on gold surfaces could aid the design of energy-efficient electro-catalysts.

A team of physicists led by Oriol Romero-Isart at the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences is proposing to cool microparticles with sound waves. Carlos Sánchez Muñoz

Today, most quantum experiments are carried out with the help of light, including those in nanomechanics, where tiny objects are cooled with electromagnetic waves to such an extent that they reveal quantum properties. Now, a team of physicists led by Oriol Romero-Isart at the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences is proposing to cool microparticles with sound waves instead. While quantum physics is usually concerned with the basic building blocks of light and matter, for some time scientists have now been trying to investigate the quantum properties of larger objects, thereby probing the boundary between the quantum world and everyday life.

Schematic representation of the magnetization in an advanced racetrack memory data storage. Skyrmions (blue) and antiskyrmions (red) constitute the '1' and '0' bits, respectively. Börge Göbel/MLU

Magnetic (anti)skyrmions are microscopically small whirls that are found in special classes of magnetic materials. These nano-objects could be used to host digital data by their presence or absence in a sequence along a magnetic stripe. A team of scientists from the Max Planck institutes (MPI) of Microstructure Physics in Halle and for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) has now made the observation that skyrmions and antiskyrmions can coexist bringing about the possibility to expand their capabilities in storage devices. The results were published in the scientific journal "Nature Communications".

Figure: Diagram of membrane production: 1. Synthesis of the custom-made triblock terpolymer; 2. SNIPS: the functional groups of triblock terpolymer (-OH, C5H4N) position themselves precisely in the pores; 3. Post-functionalisation: after treatment with methyl iodide (CH3I) or 1,3-propane sultone ((CH2)3SO3), the nanochannelsare positively or negatively charged and allow organic molecules to pass selectively. [Fig: Zhenzhen Zhang]

A new membrane developed at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht (HZG) separates small dye particles or drug substances not only by size but also by their electrical charge. This additional function enables organic molecules with lateral dimensions of one to two nanometres to be such high-efficiently separated for the first time. HZG’s polymer researcher Zhenzhen Zhang has now presented her results in the journal Advanced Materials.
“Classic Blue” is the trending colour of the year 2020. The textile industry has long since adjusted its dyeing lines accordingly. To prevent dye residue from ending up in the wastewater, membrane technology provides an environmentally friendly way to safely remove harmful substances. 

Researchers were able to shape the electric field of an attosecond pulse. Illustration: Jürgen Oschwald and Carlo Callegari

Chemical reactions are determined at their most fundamental level by their respective electronic structure and dynamics. Steered by a stimulus such as light irradiation, electrons rearrange themselves in liquids or solids. This process takes only a few hundred attoseconds, whereby one attosecond is the billionth part of a billionth of a second. Electrons are sensitive to external fields, so researchers can easily control them by irradiating the electrons with light pulses. As soon as they thus temporally shape the electric field of an attosecond pulse, researchers can control the electronic dynamics in real time.


A team led by Prof. Dr. Giuseppe Sansone from the Institute of Physics at the University of Freiburg shows in the scientific journal Nature how they were able to completely shape the waveform of an attosecond pulse.

Aerospike engine. © Institute of Aerospace Engineering,TU Dresden/Fraunhofer IWS Dresden

Microlaunchers are an alternative to conventional launch vehicles. Able to carry payloads of up to 350 kilograms, these midsized transport systems are designed to launch small satellites into space. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS in Dresden and TU Dresden’s aerospace experts developed an additively manufactured rocket engine with an aerospike nozzle for microlaunchers. The scaled metal prototype is expected to consume 30 percent less fuel than conventional engines. It will feature prominently at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 12 and in the showcase at booth C18 in hall 16 at the Hannover Messe from April 20 through 24, 2020.
The market for small satellites is sure to boom in the years ahead. The United Kingdom aims to build a spaceport in the north of Scotland, the first on European soil. The Federation of German Industries (BDI) has also endorsed the idea of a national space-port. It is to serve as the pad for small-to-midsized launchers that haul research instruments and small satellites into space. These microlaunchers are engineered to carry a payload of up to 350 kilograms. Aerospike engines are an efficient means of powering these microlaunchers. They offer the welcome prospects of far less mass and far lower fuel consumption. A research team from Fraunhofer IWS and TU Dresden's Institute of Aerospace Engineering developed, manufactured and tested an aerospike engine over the past two years.

A carbon fiber preform drilled using a USP laser beam with a star-shaped cut-out and a perfectly proportioned metal insert. © Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen, Germany.

Carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) components are usually assembled using fasteners. These are typically glued into the CFRP component once it has been cured and drilled. The consortium behind the CarboLase project came up with a new method, using an ultrashort pulsed laser to drill the holes for the fasteners in the textile preform with micrometer-scale accuracy. Integrating the fasteners in these high-precision cut-outs before the CFRP component is cured saves time by shortening the production process. In 2019, the project team’s efforts were rewarded with the prestigious CAMX Award in the “Combined Strength” category.


For the first time, super magnets are be made with the help of laser-based 3D printing technology. © IMAT – TU Graz

Magnetic materials play important roles in electrical products. These materials are usually manufactured by means of established production techniques and use of rare earth metals. Several research teams at TU Graz are working on alternative, more environmentally friendly production methods. From wind turbines and electric motors to sensors and magnetic switching systems: permanent magnets are used in many different electrical applications. The production of these magnets usually involves sintering or injection moulding. But due to the increasing miniaturisation of electronics and the more exacting requirements, this places on magnetic components in terms of geometry, these conventional manufacturing methods are frequently coming up short.

Frankfurt researchers followed the movements of this tiny molecule – just two-thousandths of the thickness of a piece of paper. The RNA aptamer changes its structure when it binds hypoxanthine. Goethe University

FRANKFURT. Even more detailed insights into the cell will be possible in future with the help of a new development in which Goethe University was involved: Together with scientists from Israel, the research group led by Professor Harald Schwalbe has succeeded in accelerating a hundred thousand-fold the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) method for investigating RNA. In the same way that a single piece of a puzzle fits into the whole, the molecule hypoxanthine binds to a ribonucleic acid (RNA) chain, which then changes its three-dimensional shape within a second and in so doing triggers new processes in the cell. Thanks to an improved method, researchers are now able to follow almost inconceivably tiny structural changes in cells as they progress – both in terms of time as well as space. The research group led by Professor Harald Schwalbe from the Center for Biomolecular Magnetic Resonance (BMRZ) at Goethe University has succeeded, together with researchers from Israel, in accelerating a hundred thousand-fold the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) method for investigating RNA.

The aim of the SimConDrill project is to build a cyclone filter that can efficiently remove tiny plastic particles from large quantities of water. © KLASS-Filter GmbH, Türkenfeld, Germany.

Microplastics enter our wastewater and the environment on a daily basis. Yet wastewater treatment plants struggle to filter out enough of these tiny plastic particles. Fortunately, help is on hand in the form of the SimConDrill research project, which the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has been funding since 2019. Combining the expertise of five partners from industry and research, the aim of the project is to jointly develop a filter featuring tiny, laser-drilled holes that can remove plastic particles as small as 10 micrometers from wastewater. This remarkable innovation has now been nominated for the prestigious Green Award.

Flexible electronic skin equipped with an array of giant magneto resistance sensors and complex electronics circuit designed and developed for sensing distribution of magnetic field. Photo: Masaya Kondo

Researchers from Dresden and Osaka present the first fully integrated flexible electronics made of magnetic sensors and organic circuits which opens the path towards the development of electronic skin. Human skin is a fascinating and multifunctional organ with unique properties originating from its flexible and compliant nature. It allows for interfacing with external physical environment through numerous receptors interconnected with the nervous system. Scientists have been trying to transfer these features to artificial skin for a long time, aiming at robotic applications.

Synthetic cells with compartments. Magenta shows the lipid membrane, cyan shows the fluorescently tagged membrane-free sub-compartments. Love et al. / MPI-CBG

Dresden researchers engineer a minimal synthetic cellular system to study basic cell function. Cells are the basic unit of life. They provide an environment for the fundamental molecules of life to interact, for reactions to take place and sustain life. However, the biological cell is very complicated, making it difficult to understand what takes place inside it. One way to tackle this biological problem is to design a synthetic minimal cell as a simpler system compared to biological cells. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden and the Max-Planck-Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (MPICI) in Potsdam accomplished such an engineering challenge by building a synthetic cell that can encapsulate fundamental biochemical reactions.

The measuring device can help automotive manufacturers reduce vehicle emissions by developing new combustion engines or by exhaust after-treatment. © Bainschab

Together with international partners, researchers at Graz University of Technology have developed a measurement method that measures particles below 10 nanometres for the first time and will contribute to the implementation of future, stricter emission standards. A few days ago, the European Commission presented its Green Deal, which aims to make the EU climate neutral by 2050 in order to protect the environment and improve people's health and quality of life. One of the planned measures is the introduction of stricter exhaust regulations. The limit values for pollutant emissions from vehicles have already been laid down by law.

The newly developed material conducts heat well along the layers, while at the same time providing thermal insulation vertically. © MPI-P, Lizenz CC-BY-SA

Styrofoam or copper - both materials have very different properties with regard to their ability to conduct heat. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz and the University of Bayreuth have now jointly developed and characterized a novel, extremely thin and transparent material that has different thermal conduction properties depending on the direction. While it can conduct heat extremely well in one direction, it shows good thermal insulation in the other direction. 
Thermal insulation and thermal conduction play a crucial role in our everyday lives - from computer processors, where it is important to dissipate heat as quickly as possible, to houses, where good insulation is essential for energy costs. Often extremely light, porous materials such as polystyrene are used for insulation, while heavy materials such as metals are used for heat dissipation. A newly developed material, which scientists at the MPI-P have jointly developed and characterized with the University of Bayreuth, can now combine both properties.