Leti sensors used in future bio-artificial liver
The EU FP7 d-LIVER project aims to develop a bio-artificial liver (BAL) support system for patients suffering from liver failure or awaiting a transplant. The project, launched in 2011, brings together a dozen partners, including CEA-Leti, which is supplying sensors for the real-time monitoring of ammonium ions.
Leti’s sensors are currently accurate to within 8% to 10%, and the goal is to bring that margin of error down to 3% or 4%. At their present stage of development, the components offer the same level of manufacturability as commercially-available devices. In five rounds of testing at Berlin, Germany’s Charité Hospital, including one last month, the device performed well. The measurements taken remained valid after three weeks—the lifespan of the liver cell culture used to make the BAL work.
The final steps in assembling the sensors is completed by hand by hospital staff—a particularly notable detail given the sensors’ stellar performance. Because the sensors cannot be sterilized in one go without damaging them, the parts must be sterilized individually and hand-assembled at a sterile lab bench. CEA-Leti researchers personally trained hospital staff in Berlin in both the assembly and measurement tracking processes.
The project partners will now run tests on pathological human serum to demonstrate the BAL’s capacity to effectively remove toxins from human blood. If the technology works, it could wind up in hospitals, where it would be used just like today’s dialysis machines.
Gallium nitride nanowires could have bright future in LEDs
Researchers from INAC and ESRF have teamed up with peers in Madrid to study the correlation between the chemical composition of a gallium nitride (GaN) nanowire and the temporal resolution of the wire’s optical response. To do so, they used new synchrotron instrumentation for fluorescence, diffraction, and photoluminescence.
The new equipment offers spatial resolution of under 100 nm and temporal resolution of less than 50 ps. GaN nanowires “sheathed” in InGaN/GaN quantum wells emit blue light when exposed to a flash of X-ray radiation. The light can then be correlated to the wells’ indium composition and the position of the probe on the wire.
This advanced characterization technique could, for example, be used by start-ups that produce this type of nanowire for LEDs.
The research was published in Advanced Materials under ID code: DOI: 10.1002/adma.201304345.
Dr. Alim-Louis Benabid takes home Lasker Award
Dr. Alim-Louis Benabid, who founded Clinatec (the Edmond J. Safra Biomedical Research Center) along with Jean Therme, has won the 2014 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. Dr. Benabid and Mahlon DeLong, MD, received the award at a ceremony held in New York City on September 19 in recognition of the deep brain stimulation (DBS) technique they invented.
DBS involves implanting electrodes in a patient’s subthalamic nucleus to attenuate the tremors characteristic of Parkinson’s and help restore the patient’s motor function. The technique is now used to treat sufferers of the disease around the world, improving the lives of more than 100,000 people each year.
The Lasker Award, considered one of the most prestigious international scientific awards, brings Dr. Benabid further recognition of his groundbreaking work.
Revolutionary micropump performance just over the horizon
The micropump, a type of drug delivery system, is well-known to diabetics, many of whom use the devices for their daily insulin injections. Although micropumps are both practical and reliable, they do have their drawbacks: First, with a price tag in the thousands of euros, they are costly. Second, the drug volumes delivered are limited to one microliter per minute. But R&D partners IMEP-LAHC, Leti, Eveon, and Cedrat Technologies have just unveiled a revolutionary new MEMS-based micropump capable of overcoming these hurdles.
The new pump can deliver up to several milliliters per minute, making it possible to administer biodrugs from one to three times per day—particularly useful in treating diseases like cancer, myopathy, and cystic fibrosis. And that’s just the beginning. With an injection that lasts just 30 seconds, patient comfort is significantly enhanced. Plus, the dosage delivered is fine-tuned by an extremely sensitive MEMS flow sensor and dedicated electronics for increased patient safety—not to mention savings on drugs that can cost up to several hundred euros per microliter.
The partners developed the innovation under the three-year FluMIn3 collaborative R&D project, which was certified by Minalogic. IMEP-LAHC designed the silicon-based micropump, characterized it, and completed the early demonstrators. Leti then stepped in to fabricate the device on the institute’s 200 mm line in order to determine industrial-scale production costs and technical feasibility. Cedrat Technologies designed the pump’s electromagnetic actuator. And, ultimately, Eveon will market the pump.
CEA holds onto position as one of France’s top three patent filers
France’s National Industrial Property Institute (INPI) published its 2013 patent ranking in April. The CEA ranked third with 625 patent applications (up from 566 in 2012), coming in behind PSA Peugeot Citroën (1,378 applications) and Safran (645 applications).
The 2013 ranking is fairly similar to the previous year’s ranking. Changes worth noting: Safran pulled ahead of the CEA in 2013, and the total number of patent applications filed increased by 1.5% from 2012 to 2013.
On the international front the CEA is gaining traction, moving up in the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) ranking (at 39th with filings made through the Patent Cooperation Treaty procedure) and in the EPO (European Patent Office) ranking (at 33rd).
Dark matter found at MINATEC?
A group of researchers at INAC studying Josephson junctions back in 2004 may have unwittingly stumbled upon axions—the hypothetical elementary particles thought to make up dark matter.
When applying a low voltage, the researchers noted a detectable electrical signal, but they were unsure of where it came from. At the time, they chalked it up to a measurement error, barely giving their “discovery” a brief mention in the article François Lefloch and his team published about their research.
But last September, theoretical physicist Christian Beck at Queen Mary University of London got in touch with Lefloch to let him know about his plans to submit an article to the journal Physical Review Letters—an article in which he announced that the mysterious signals observed in 2004 could very well have been produced by axions. Beck posits that—with a reasonable estimation of the other relevant parameters—the signals appear at a voltage consistent with his axion theory.
Beck’s article, published in November, has created quite a stir. Lefloch has been bombarded by calls from reporters and has bounced Beck’s theory off of several esteemed colleagues, all of whom found the idea plausible. So, Lefloch could very well try to reproduce his 2004 experiment.
However, dark matter is notoriously elusive, and skeptics question how likely it is that a coincidence that occurred during a simple lab experiment could reveal what much more ambitious research programs have long searched for in vain. Perhaps the only way to find out is to try again!
Clinatec tests lower-extremity exoskeleton
Clinatec now has a lower-extremity exoskeleton for paraplegia. The Rex Rehab is capable of providing the balance necessary for walking on its own. It was designed by a New Zealand-based firm and funded by the CEA-Grenoble Disability Commission. It is the first device of its kind to be tested in Europe. Three Grenoble patients suffering from paraplegia have already tried it out.
The Rex Rehab should provide Clinatec researchers with valuable feedback they can then use for their ambitious brain-computer interface (BCI) project to develop a four-limbed exoskeleton for quadriplegic patients.
Clinatec plans to set up partnerships with several rehabilitation centers, which could use the exoskeleton, evaluate it on their patients, and provide further information for the BCI project.
Quantum simulation sheds new light on physics of advanced transistors
Researchers at INAC and Leti recently developed a quantum simulation code that is providing groundbreaking insights into the physics of advanced FD-SOI and Tri-gate transistors.
What makes the researchers’ work so significant is that semi-traditional simulation models do not factor in the quantum effects that play an increasing role as transistor sizes trend towards the 10-nm mark. For example, as electron confinement increases, the number of bands of energy available to carry electricity decreases.
To address this challenge, INAC, Leti, and STMicroelectronics partnered up under a French National Research Agency project titled Quasanova to develop TB_Sim, a quantum simulation code suitable for massively parallel computation. They used the code to model STMicroelectronics’ latest FD-SOI transistor and Leti’s next-generation Tri-gate technologies.
New electron-diffusion mechanisms
The researchers’ work resulted in a better understanding of the role played by charges trapped in oxides and confirmed their theory of how FD-SOI transistors’ backside electrode affects charge carriers. But perhaps the most important breakthrough was the identification of new electron-diffusion mechanisms.
Quantum simulation is not quite ready to replace semi-traditional methods—the calculation times required are still much too long. However, the technique does have a bright future. Transistor researchers have been trying to overcome several basic physics hurdles for a decade, and quantum simulation could help.
The Quasanova project, completed in 2013, was granted an additional round of financing through 2016.