Nature Middle East | House of Wisdom

NME’s weekly science dose (June 13-20)

Egyptians have access to around 750 cubic metres of water per person per year. That’s significantly less than the water scarcity limit of 1000 cubic metres. The realisation that the Nile cannot continue to sustain Egypt’s growing population has pushed researchers to tackle the possibility of water desalination.

To that end, researchers at the American University in Cairo have come up with a prototype for a hybrid nanocomposite membrane that relies on reverse osmosis to remove salt from seawater. Made of a polymeric material that contains interconnected pores that allow water to pass through while blocking the salt, the prototype may make desalination a far more feasible prospect for Egypt. Read more about it here.

Another membrane making news this week is promising to allow for commercial gas-separation in large-scale operations. By modifying a new class of polymer materials known as polymers of intrinsic microporosity (PIMSs) with ultraviolet irradiation in the presence of oxygen, the membrane allows small gas molecules to pass while blocking larger ones. See more details here.

Finally, genetic variations in the gene BACH2 is known to have a link with a range of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. A team of researchers probed how BACH2 expression can interfere with the normal functioning of the immune system by creating knockout mice missing the BACH2 gene. The mice were found to develop inflamed lungs and guts, with less immune inhibitory regulatory T cells. More details here.

Beyond the hood

3D printing has been causing a lot of hype lately, and perhaps justifiably so. The latest of its potential has come in the form of a 3D printed battery the size of a grain of sand. The tiny device promises to supply electricity to tiny devices, many of which have been sitting in labs waiting for batteries small enough to fit them (think flying insect-like robots, tiny cameras and medical implants).

The microbattery was made by printing precisely interlaced stacks of tiny battery electrodes, each being less than the width of a human hair. Here’s a link to the study.

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