Newsletter, July 2014

    MIT Materials News that Matters

    July 2014
    Materials Processing Center at MIT MIT Dome
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    MPC Office Moves 
    Materials Processing Center headquarters
    Photo: Maria E. Aglietti
    Materials Processing Center offices moved this summer to make way for the MIT.nano building. We are now located in building 24, fifth floor. All offices in building 12, including MPC, were moved to other locations across the MIT campus. 

    MPC's suite includes offices for staff and visiting scientists as well as an updated conference room with full videoconferencing capability. We welcome you to visit and take a tour of the new MPC office headquarters in 24-517.
    Faculty Highlight: Polina Anikeeva
    Pioneering Bioelectronic Interfaces: Flexible polymer probes and magnetic nanoparticles promise breakthroughs for treating paralysis and brain disease. 

    Polina Anikeeva, AMAX Assistant Professor in Materials Science and Engineering at MIT. Photo, Denis Paiste
     Polina Anikeeva, AMAX Assistant Professor in  Materials Science and Engineering, in the MIT lab  where her group studies magnetic nanoparticles    for non-invasive neural stimulation.
    Photo: Denis  Paiste

    Better control of prosthetic limbs and better treatment of diseases like Parkinson's motivates Polina Anikeeva, AMAX Assistant Professor in Materials Science and Engineering, to develop both flexible electronic devices and safe chemical methods to manipulate nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.Recent developments in Anikeeva's Bioelectronics Group include:* Polymer-based fiber probes that can optically stimulate nerves in vivo and record their neural activity.* Magnetic nanoparticles that can be injected into the brain in vivo and activated non-invasively by externally applying an alternating magnetic field.

    "We are hoping to use our devices to record a pattern of neural activity coming from the brain and translate it across the injury site into a pattern of stimulation. We can do it optically, and that's why we try to incorporate electronic and optical features within these flexible polymer probes," Anikeeva explains.  

    Read more. 

    Stimulating Nerves with Light   
    MIT graduate student Chi (Alice) Lu designs a flexible polymer probe to trigger neurons with light and record that activity in the spinal cord of laboratory mice.  

    MIT graduate student Chi (Alice) Lu in the laser lab where she tests her flexible polymer probe. Photo: Denis Paiste, Materials Processing Center
    MIT graduate student Chi (Alice) Lu in the laser lab where she tests her flexible polymer probe.
    Photo: Denis Paiste
    Optical stimulation of neurons in the spine is much harder than in the brain, says MIT Program in Polymer Science and Technology graduate student Chi (Alice) Lu, who is carrying out laboratory experiments with genetically altered mice. Although optogenetics, a method that makes mammalian nerve cells sensitive to light via genetic modification, has been applied extensively in investigation of brain function over the past decade, spinal cord research has lagged, says Lu, who developed a flexible neural probe made entirely of polymers that can simultaneously optically stimulate and record neural activity. "Working in a spinal cord is significantly more difficult than in the brain because it experiences more movements. The radius of the mouse spinal cord is about 1 millimeter, and it's very soft, so it took me some time to figure out how to do the surgery and perform the stimulation and recording without damaging that tissue," she explains.

    The researchers conducted experiments with their neural probe in mice that express the light-sensitive protein channelrhodopsin 2 (ChR2) that makes their neurons respond to blue light.   

    Read more. 

    Magnetic Neural Control with Nanoparticles  
    Customized arrays of iron oxide nanoparticles are possible based on their differing responses to alternating magnetic fields, MIT researchers report.

    Michael Christiansen
     MIT graduate student Michael G. Christiansen with a  magnetometry coil used to confirm heat output from  magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles.
    Photo: Denis  Paiste
    Magnetic nanoparticles don't have to be one size fits all. Instead, individual magnetic nanoparticles can be tailored in an array of differing sizes and compositions to allow for heating them separately by varying the frequency and amplitude of an external alternating magnetic field, MIT graduate student Michael G. Christiansen and colleagues report.The new strategy, which they call magnetothermal multiplexing, has potential for stimulating nerve and brain cells and targeted drug delivery.

    "The novelty of our approach is to recognize that particles with sufficiently distinct magnetic properties heat up best in quite different alternating magnetic field conditions. So different, in fact, that it allows us to imagine a situation in which we can selectively heat up one type of particle without heating another type, even though they are both being exposed to the same field," Christiansen explains.
    Dr. Takao Abe Receives Gatos Prize

    Dr. Takao Abe delivers the 2014 Gatos Lecture. Photo, Maria Aglietti
    Dr. Takao Abe delivers the 2014 Gatos Lecture. Photo: Maria E. Aglietti
    Dr. Takao Abe, fellow advisor of Japanese silicon wafer manufacturer Shin-Etsu Handotai Co. Ltd., was honored with the 2014 Harry C. Gatos Prize at MIT on July 24, 2014.  
    "Abe-san has laid the foundations of high-volume manufacturing of perfect monocrystalline silicon," Professor Lionel Kimerling, said in introducing Dr. Abe, citing one of several hundred emails received congratulating Dr. Abe. "For this achievement he certainly deserves the honor of the Gatos Prize, if not the Nobel Prize." Speaking to Dr. Abe's humility, Kimerling said, "He credits the silicon material itself for its success rather than all of the work that many of us put into that." 
    From its beginnings in 1968, silicon semiconductor manufacturing grew based on trial and error with operator intuition making up for lack of full scientific understanding. Operators could recognize defect free silicon crystal from its brilliant sheen. 
    Refrigerator Magnets
    New theory predicts magnets may act as wireless cooling agents
    New theory predicts magnets may act as wireless cooling agents. Illustration, Jose-Luis Olivares, MIT
     Illustration, Jose-Luis Olivares, MIT
    The magnets cluttering the face of your refrigerator may one day be used as cooling agents, according to a new theory formulated by MIT researchers.

    "You can envision wireless cooling where you apply a magnetic field to a magnet one or two meters away to, say, cool your laptop," says Bolin Liao, a graduate student in MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering. Read more. 

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    The goals of the Materials Processing Center are to unite the materials research community at MIT and to enhance Institute-industry interactions. Collaboration on research ventures, technology transfer, continuing education of industry personnel, and communication among industrial and governmental entities are our priorities. The MPC 
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