New material holds promise for future electric cars 

immune cells, drug development, Diabetes, Antibiotic, hydrogen generation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, malaria, photosynthesis, kidney failure, Brain tumours, mental health, blood cancer, cancer, dementia, cancer treatment, antibiotic resistance, blood vessel leakage, quantum simulations, atrial fibrillation, batteries, goiter treatment, terahertz radiation, organic materials , Guild of European Research Intensive Universities, gene copies, social anxiety, blue light screens, ‘Our hope is that these findings will make it possible to discover a way to selectively inhibit the TGF-beta signals that stimulate tumour development without knocking out the signals that inhibit tumour development, and that this can eventually be used in the fight against cancer,’ says Eleftheria Vasilaki, postdoctoral researcher at Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at Uppsala University and lead author of the study. TGF-beta regulates cell growth and specialisation, in particular during foetal development. In the context of tumour development, TGF-beta has a complicated role. Initially, it inhibits tumour formation because it inhibits cell division and stimulates cell death. At a late stage of tumour development, however, TGF-beta stimulates proliferation and metastasis of tumour cells and thereby accelerates tumour formation. TGF-beta’s signalling mechanisms and role in tumour development have been studied at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at Uppsala University for the past 30 years. Recent discoveries at the Institute, now published in the current study in Science Signaling, explain part of the mechanism by which TGF-beta switches from suppressing to enhancing tumour development. Uppsala researchers, in collaboration with a Japanese research team, discovered that TGF-beta along with the oncoprotein Ras, which is often activated in tumours, affects members of the p53 family. The p53 protein plays a key role in regulating tumour development and is often altered – mutated – in tumours. TGF-beta and Ras suppress the effect of mutated p53, thereby enhancing the effect of another member of the p53 family, namely delta-Np63, which in turn stimulates tumour development and metastasis.

If electric cars are to be used in large numbers, the batteries presently available will need to be replaced by cheaper, safer ones. Researchers in Uppsala have now produced a promising new electrolyte material from a class of polymers not previously tried.

Lithium-based batteries have the highest energy content of all rechargeable batteries and are therefore very good as energy sources for electric vehicles. If greater numbers of electric vehicles are to be used, however, cheaper batteries are required. There is also a need to rectify some of the safety issues with lithium batteries.

‘As an example, fairly recently safety problems with the batteries in the Boeing Dreamlinerpassenger jet cost Japanese airlines millions of dollars every day,’ says Daniel Brandell, one of the researchers behind the study.

The liquid electrolyte is the battery component that drives up the cost the most. It is also chemically unstable which makes it a safety risk. It would be better and cheaper to replace it with a solid electrolyte but so far these have only worked well at high temperatures. However, researchers at Uppsala University have now made a breakthrough and produced a new polymer electrolyte material for lithium batteries which also works well at room temperature.

‘By allowing ourselves to be inspired by polymers made of biodegradable organic material, we’ve discovered high levels of conductivity in polymer materials quite unlike the ones normally used in solid electrolytes,’ says Daniel Brandell.

‘These materials are also much easier to work with chemically and may therefore open up a whole new field of materials development leading to better, more sustainable and safer batteries. Our prototype batteries can be charged and discharged in a stable manner for long periods at room temperature. This is unique among solid electrolytes.’

Before the research results can be applied to making commercial batteries, some development work is remains to be done. Among other things, researchers need to ensure that the material is mechanically stable over long periods. It may need some chemical modifications to strengthen it.

‘We’d also very much like to see better movement of ions in order to reach larger segments of the market for lithium batteries. We already know that our electrolytes are not very flammable and therefore safer than the ones currently in use, but more rigorous safety tests still need to be done. The important thing though, is that this category of polymers – polyesters and polycarbonates – has become part of producing battery electrolytes,’ says Daniel Brandell.