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           NOVEMBER 2011            

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Dear Subscriber,


We have a great Fifth International Conference on Future Energy coming up and look forward to your continued support. It is important to announce that I have been appointed the Conference Coordinator and Technical and Publications Chairperson for the SPESIF-COFE5 event coming up February 29 to March 2, 2012.  Many of the deadlines now are much more flexible (send in your abstract for energy, propulsion or bioenergetics topic for consideration even up until the end of 2011). It also means that IRI will consider a group of papers, without a physical presence requirement. We are planning to offer Webcasting of the event as well as a Remote Presentation capability for those who cannot make the trip but would like to present over the Internet. This is a vital and important energy conference folks. All of the quality papers from COFE4 that were generously this year are now online.  View ALL of the SPESIF2011 and COFE4 papers and download ANY of them for FREE (pdf): Physics Procedia - ScienceDirect (c) Elsevier B.V.  Elsevier Science has been contracted for COFE4 and COFE5 to replace the American Institute of Physics publisher. We feel that Elsevier is better in many regards and also most importantly, embraces all of the energy topics that we entertain.


Looking at our top story, IRI consulted one of the world's experts in Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) to get his opinion of the Rossi development. It is worthwhile to note that Dr. George Miley has equaled the Rossi performance and is well known in the field for many years.


The Venture Capital article can be a resource guide for those doing research. The article looking on the bright side of solar energy after Solyndra is also very valuable for predicting future energy trends, as well as the last article on recharging a battery in ten minutes.


For those bioenergy fans, who keep asking us for more articles on the topic,  we want to emphasize the significance of the #5 article that announces, "Cancer Craves Killer Free Radicals". If ever there was a reason to boost your electronic antioxidants throughout the day, we believe that this is one of the most convincing. Furthermore, IRI has developed, under Dr. Jacqueline Panting's direction, "Therapeutic Electronics Antioxidant Clothing" (patent pending) which answers the concerned senior citizen's need for daily free radical protection far exceeding pills or potions. This is because electrons are antioxidants. See http://www.inventionhome.com/InvPortfolio/Portfolio/TV013678/virtual/TV013678.html for more details of the solution to the free radical disease and aging threat.  



Thomas Valone, PhD, PE  Editor   










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1) Artificial Photosynthesis to Produce Fuels    

 By Dave Levitan  /  November 2011 IEEE Spectrum   




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Photo: Sun Catalytix 

If every leaf on the planet can do it, maybe we can too. Scientists have long tried to mimic photosynthesis as a way to harness the energy in sunlight and turn it into a usable fuel, just as plants do. There have been big technical challenges for just as long, and though scientists are far from the ultimate goal, two reports published online in the journal Science yesterday describe some solutions to the obstacles.

In one report, a group led by MIT chemistry professor Daniel Nocera found a new way to use light to split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, which could then be stored and used as a fuel. Other groups have had some success with this process before, but there were always stumbling blocks that would make it hard to scale up or commercialize, such as extremely acidic or basic conditions, expensive catalytic materials, or both. However, Nocera's group managed to get artificial photosynthesis to work using benign conditions and cheap, abundant materials as catalysts.


Specifically, the team joined a commercially available triple-junction solar cell to two catalysts: cobalt-borate for splitting the water molecule and a nickel-molybdenum-zinc alloy to form the hydrogen gas. The water-splitting reaction achieved a sunlight-to-fuel conversion of 4.7 percent in one incarnation of the device and 2.5 percent in another. The difference between the two was that the more - efficient device housed the hydrogen-generating alloy on a mesh wired to the solar cell. The less efficient version was wireless, and the alloy was instead deposited onto the stainless-steel back of the solar cell.


It is the wireless possibility, where the entire device is self-contained, that researchers say is most exciting. "Because there are no wires, we are not limited by the size that the light-absorbing material has to be," says Steven Reece, a research scientist with Sun Catalytix (a company cofounded by Nocera) who worked on the discovery. "We can operate on the micro- or even nanoscale...so you can imagine micro- or nanoparticles, similar to the cells we've worked with here, dispersed in a solution." The researchers say they are still deciding what size the final product should be-anywhere from a small, leaf-sized stand-alone system that might be able to power an individual home to a much larger system that could benefit from economies of scale. Whatever size they decide on, the researchers believe such devices could help provide power in poor areas that lack consistent sources of electricity.


"As the inputs are light and water, and the output is fuel, one can certainly see the applicability of something like that to the developing world," says Thomas Jarvi, chief technology officer at Sun Catalytix.IRI website QR Code


Jarvi says the company expects to be able to bring the device to the point where a kilogram of hydrogen could be produced for about US $3. Given that a gallon of gasoline contains about the same amount of energy as 1 kg of hydrogen, as long as gas prices stay north of $3 per gallon, this would make a cost-effective fuel source.


Daniel Gamelin, a professor of chemistry at the University of Washington who works on related topics but was not involved with the new study, says the MIT and Sun Catalytix work represents an "impressive accomplishment." However, he says, it remains to be seen whether silicon is really the most desirable material to use, noting that something less susceptible to degrading by oxygen may be a better option.


"For these specific devices, there remain open questions about their long-term stability," Gamelin says. "And their efficiencies would still need to be increased substantially to be commercially viable. But there is obviously potential for improvement on both fronts. In the bigger scheme, [this research] marks important progress toward the development of truly practical solar hydrogen technologies."


The other report, published simultaneously with the hydrogen producer, demonstrated a different type of advance-a step toward using sunlight to recycle carbon dioxide. In the natural world, the sun's energy extracts electrons from a water molecule, which then reduce CO2 into fuel (in plants, the fuel takes the form of carbohydrates). University of Illinois graduate student Brian Rosen and other scientists were able to invent a device that electroreduced CO2 to carbon monoxide at a lower voltage than previously achieved. The high voltages usually required have been a primary stumbling block in CO2 electroreduction in the past. Rosen's group brought the voltage down by using a combination of a silver cathode and an ionic liquid electrolyte that presumably stabilized the CO2 anion. And according to Rich Masel, who led the research and is CEO of Dioxide Materials, a company working on CO2 electroreduction with the University of Illinois, this piece of the photosynthetic process could eventually lead to a way to turn captured CO2 into "syngas"-a mixture used in the petrochemical industry to make gasoline and other fuels.


The experiment "shows that one can make syngas efficiently from any source of electricity," Masel says. However, large-scale versions of the device probably won't be demonstrated until 2018. "Presently we have demonstrated the process on the 1-centimeter-squared scale. We need to go to the million cm2 to make significant amounts of gasoline."


Work on artificial photosynthesis has ramped up considerably in recent years. In July 2010, the DOE began funding a Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis to the tune of $122 million over five years as part of its Energy Innovation Hubs program; it is led by Caltech professor of chemistry Nate Lewis. The center, with close to 200 members in universities and national laboratories across California, aims to build on nature's photosynthetic design, bridging all the disciplines required, from chemical engineering to applied physics.

In an interview earlier this year, Lewis told Spectrum that progress is certainly being made, but it isn't clear yet if the right combination of catalysts and light absorbers and everything else that goes into practical artificial photosynthetic devices has been found.


"We're seeing light in the tunnel," he said. "We don't know where the end of the tunnel is. It's a curved tunnel."


Dave Levitan is a science journalist who contributes regularly to IEEE Spectrum's Energywise blog. He recently wrote about how biology is inspiring more efficient wind power.





2) PolyPlus Lithium/Water Battery Could Be "Game Changer"   

EV World NewsWire, March 3, 2011, http://evworld.com/news.cfm?newsid=25321 


Ed. Note: This PolyPlus invention was also voted one of the "Best 50 Inventions" of the year in Time magazine. - TV

Batteries made of lithium and seawater (or just plain tap water for that matter) could be on their way to a marine market near you. That's courtesy of a technology made by a 11-year-old company called PolyPlus and various partnerships, which hails out of Lawrence Berkeley Labs and has a grant from the Department of Energy's high risk, early-stage ARPA-E program. At the annual ARPA-E Summit this week, PolyPlus was highlighted as a potential game-changer by ARPA-E Director Arun Majumdar, and I got a chance to sit down with PolyPlus CTO Steven Visco on Monday.

The chemistry almost sounds like that of science fiction, but Visco told me in an interview that he thinks the company's water battery could get to market in two years time, and says the company is just starting the process of producing a water battery pilot production line now. The water battery isn't even the end goal for PolyPlus; the company is developing a non-rechargeable lithium-air and a rechargeable lithium-air battery, which is the most difficult of the three to manufacture and for which it received the ARPA-E grant.

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Here's how the water battery works: An encapsulant encloses the lithium, completely separating it from the water, but still enabling a charge. That's crucial because lithium and water react rather shockingly (Visco showed me videos of lithium essentially dissolving in water).

Visco says it was a Eureka moment when he realized the battery worked, using a membrane from a third party in Japan and the company's own three-layer system, and was stable in 2003. "Cycling lithium and water was absolutely unheard of," and after that, the company went "dead silent," says Visco, and turned to filing patent after patent.


A water battery can achieve awe-inspiring energy densities (the amount of energy that can be stored in a battery of a given size) of 1,300 wh/kg (for small batches), and potentially 1,500 wh/kg at larger scale production. For comparison, standard lithium-ion batteries have closer to 200 wh/kg to 400 wh/kg. That means a water battery can last a very long time. Picture a battery used for a device on the outside of a ship, or an underwater unmanned vessel that needs power (hello, DOD), that can just keep going and going


The water battery also doesn't have to carry the positive electrode, or the water, inside it. PolyPlus' water battery has an open system where the water of the surroundings connects with the lithium. That means the battery could be more simple and lower cost to produce.

All in all, Visco thinks the marine battery market could be half a billion dollars. That could be overambitious, as many of the applications we discussed are early-stage themselves. But a battery expert source I talked to about PolyPlus' water battery thought the device was well on its way and could be a big hit for the company.


The rechargeable lithium-air battery, for which it received the ARPA-E grant, could be considerable harder. Though the dream is even bigger: a battery that one day could make electric vehicles with ranges from 300 to 500 miles. If PolyPlus gets there, it will be at least five years away, and perhaps two decades before car markers start using these types of batteries for EVs. It took an innovative car company like Tesla that long to put standardized lithium-ion batteries into EVs.

Still, you have to wonder why PolyPlus hasn't moved into manufacturing before this. Visco told me the company doesn't want to be just a licensing company, but wants to be manufacturer and is in the process of raising funds from VCs and strategic investors right now. When the funding round are closed, hopefully, the water battery will be on its way.




New Battery Technology Could Provide Large-Scale Energy Storage for the Grid


Dexter Johnson  /  Fri, November 25, 2011 IEEE Spectrum 




I, like many others, have been following the work being done by Yi Cui at Stanford University in improving battery technology.

Cui's work has often aimed at improving Li-ion battery technology, much in the same way researchers at Northwestern University recently have done in getting a silicon-graphene sandwich to act as a more effective anode.


But in his most recent research he has abandoned the use of lithium ions and replaced them with either sodium or potassium ions for his new battery technology.


The result is a battery that Cui and his colleagues claim is able to retain 83% of its charge after 40,000 cycles, which compares more than favorably to Li-ion batteries of 1,000 cycles.

The researchers have been able to develop a cathode material that they can essentially mix in a flask by combining iron with cyanide and then replacing half of the iron with copper then making crystalline nanoparticles from the compound.


There is a weight penalty with this battery technology, which means that it will not be likely powering any laptops or electric vehicles. However, it may be the perfect fit for large-scale energy storage on the electrical grid.


"At a rate of several cycles per day, this electrode would have a good 30 years of useful life on the electrical grid," said Colin Wessells, a graduate student in materials science and engineering who is the lead author of a paper describing the research, published this week in Nature Communications.   


"That is a breakthrough in performance - a battery that will keep running for tens of thousands of cycles and never fail," said Cui, who in this case is Wessell's adviser and a coauthor of the paper.

But all is not resolved as of yet. While the researchers have developed this 'new chemistry' for the battery, they only have the high-power cathode at this point, so they still need to develop an anode.

Nonetheless the researchers are confident they will develop a material for the anode. If they manage to get that sorted, they may have developed an economical battery for storing energy from solar and wind power so as to avoid sharp drop offs in electricity in the grid.



Ben Bajarin TIME.com




When walking through an airport, have you ever tried to find an outlet for your computer or to charge your phone only to realize that every last outlet is being used? I have this experience often since I travel for business quite a bit. The same is true of my house. There never seems to be enough plugs to charge all my gadgets. Then again, I have too many gadgets.


Whenever I have this experience, I am reminded of the sad state of battery technology for our mobile devices. The constant need to charge our gadgets is about as irritating to me as having to put gas in my car. Charging, like having to get gas, is an irritating task. It makes me feel like somehow my freedom is restricted-and in a way, it is.

(MORE: TV Needs to Be Reinvented)


On Twitter this week, Bill Gates put out a call for the creation of new and better renewable energy sources. He also shared a stat I thought was interesting: All the batteries on Earth store just 10 minutes worth of world electricity needs.


Unfortunately, battery technology is a limited science. We don't have the luxury of having our battery technology follow the pace of innovation or technological advancements like we do with other technologies. This is going to be a limiting factor for the foreseeable future, too.


Technology innovation is not bad, of course. It's good and encouraging. But having said that, our issues with short battery life are partially our fault. The market's desire for thinner PCs, smartphones, and tablets with brighter screens and faster processors all require making tradeoffs that impact battery life. Innovation isn't bad, as I said, but the reality is that our desire for innovative electronics is hampered by the limited science of our current battery technology.

So what can be done about it? Is there hope, or are we doomed to need to recharge all our gadgets on a daily basis? There are several things happening that I want to highlight, along with emphasizing that more still needs to be done.


The first is advancements in microprocessors. The brains that power our electronics have come a long way. Every company making microprocessors for PCs, tablets, smartphones and any other mobile technology we dream up is working on creating more power efficient processors. The goal is to create processors that are still powerful, but don't require more power themselves, which drains battery life. This is important because as we demand more processing power in our devices to do things like run our apps, play media-rich games and browse multimedia-filled web pages, we need faster CPUs.

(MORE: Do Windows 8 Tablets Stand a Chance?)


If you follow the technology industry, you're familiar with a term called "Moore's Law." One of Intel's founders, Gordon E. Moore stated that the number of transistors which could be placed on a single chip would double every 18 months. Note that this does not mean processing performance necessarily doubles every 18 months-only the number of transistors.


There is a key observation, however, for Moore's Law and mobile devices. Moore's Law not only makes it possible to double transistors every 18 months, but it also paves the way for chips to become smaller and, in turn, require less power. This is why companies like Intel and AMD are racing to create new processor architectures on an annual cadence. With each new generation, we can have roughly the same computing power, but with smaller processors which require less power. Key advancements by all players in the silicon space are happening in a way that, over time, will see significant computing power that requires less battery power to achieve.


The second thing that is happening is experimentation around battery technology itself. As I stated previously, lithium-ion battery technology is a limited science. People have been trying to achieve breakthroughs with this technology for some time with little success. However, Northwestern University recently released a report and white paper stating that researchers there had created created an electrode for lithium-ion batteries that allows the batteries to hold a charge up to 10 times greater than current technology and can charge 10 times faster than current batteries.


As with all early research, it takes time and money to see if these new technologies could be sustained and produced commercially for the mass market. This new research out of Northwestern is encouraging, and I'm hearing of work in other technology labs that are also trying to create breakthroughs with lithium-ion batteries.

Unfortunately, making technological advancements in microprocessors, lithium-ion batteries, and perhaps some new energy source simply takes time. The important thing is that key work is being done to address our battery life issues with our devices. So for the foreseeable future we will still have to fight for outlets at the airport and charge our smartphones at least once each day. But that's the reality of today; hopefully not the reality of tomorrow.


(MORE: In the Future, We Will All Talk to Computers)


Ben Bajarin is the Director of Consumer Technology Analysis and Research at Creative Strategies, Inc, a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm located in Silicon Valley.





3)Advance Could Challenge China's Solar Dominance 

Technology Review, November 21, 2011  By Kevin Bullis



Chinese solar-panel manufacturers dominate the industry, but a new way of making an exotic type of crystalline silicon might benefit solar companies outside of China that have designs that take advantage of the material.


GT Advanced Technologies, one of world's biggest suppliers of furnaces for turning silicon into large crystalline cubes that can then be sliced to make wafers for solar cells, recently announced two advanced technologies for making crystalline silicon. The new approaches significantly lower the cost of making high-end crystalline silicon for highly efficient solar cells.

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The first technology, which GT calls Monocast, can be applied as a retrofit to existing furnaces, making it possible to produce monocrystalline silicon using the same equipment now used to make lower quality multicrystalline silicon. It will be available early next year. Several other manufacturers are developing similar technology.

It's the second technology, which the company calls HiCz, that could have a bigger long-term impact. It cuts the cost of making a type of monocrystalline silicon that is leavened with trace amounts of phosphorous, which further boosts a panel's efficiency. This type of silicon is currently used in only 10 percent of solar panels because of its high cost, but could gain a bigger share of the market as a result of the cost savings (up to 40 percent) from GT's technology. The technology will be available next year.


A standard solar panel, made of multicrystalline silicon, might generate 230 watts in full sunlight. A panel the same size made of monocrystalline silicon could generate 245 watts. But phosphorous-doped monocrystalline silicon (also called n-type monocrystalline) enables a type of solar panel that generates 320 watts, a huge leap in performance.   


Most Chinese solar manufacturers have focused on multicrystalline silicon solar panels. Companies such as U.S.-based Sunpower have focused on the advanced monocrystalline panels, and have designed cells to exploit its properties. Such companies will benefit as the HiCz technique developed by GT Advanced Technologies becomes more common.


"There's a potential shift in the market," says Vikram Singh, general manager for the photovoltaic division at GT Advanced Technologies. He says some western companies could become more competitive because they have technologies to take advantage of the materials.


Several other companies are developing technologies similar to Monocast, including solar-panel makers in China, such as Suntech and the Dutch equipment maker ALD.


The HiCz technology can be considered the next step on the way to higher-efficiency solar cells. It can be used to make monocrystalline silicon, even the phosphorous-doped type, for about the same cost as the Monocast technology. HiCz could allow a leap from cells that convert 16 to 18 percent of the energy in sunlight into electricity to ones that can convert 22 to 24 percent, thus decreasing the cost per watt of solar power. But it can't be retrofitted to existing equipment, which could slow its adoption.


The conventional way to make monocrystalline silicon is to introduce a seed crystal into a pool of molten silicon and slowly draw it out-as you do, it forms a large tube-shaped chunk of silicon called a boule, in which all of the atoms are lined up in the same orientation. This is usually done in a batch process, but the HiCz process makes it possible to continuously feed in raw silicon to the melt, along with whatever trace elements are needed to give it the desired electronic properties. The continuous process is more productive, which means fewer machines are needed, reducing costs. It also produces high yields when introducing materials including trace elements such as gallium and phosphorous. GT estimates the process can reduce the costs of making monocrystalline solar by between 20 and 40 percent.       





US Eyes Deal Outside WTO on China's Green Subsidies - Solar Panels


Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest 2 November 2011 Vol. 15 No. 37 , Inter Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, http://ictsd.org/i/news/bridgesweekly/117357/


The US will take advantage of several high-level meetings in Asia this month to address barriers to trade in environmental goods and services (EGS). Tensions between Washington and Beijing have been high in recent months as US lawmakers and manufacturers have increasingly sought action against China's green subsidies.  


US Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk told a business group last week that he would push for a voluntary tariff binding of five percent on a "basket of issues" relating to green technologies, facilitating trade between a number of nations competing for a stake in the new energy sector.

The US will raise the issue with China and other Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) partners at a meeting of the regional body in Honolulu next week. The US will also have the opportunity to discuss the arrangement one-on-one with China shortly after the APEC summit at the US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, and in meetings on the sidelines of APEC with eight additional members that are involved in the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership talks.  


While Kirk says he has the support of Australia, New Zealand and others, a trade diplomat told Reuters that China prefers to leave the matter to the WTO. Keeping the negotiations in Geneva would allow China to cut a tariff deal in exchange for trade concessions from other WTO members, while also preventing the deal from moving forward on a voluntary basis. If the tariff bindings are to become WTO-enforceable, observers suggest that EGS negotiations could become far more complex. 



4) Small Nukes Get Boost

By Kevin Bullis  http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/38897/?nlid=nlenrg&nld=2011-10-24 


The large engineering and construction firm Fluor has taken a majority stake in NuScale Power, a startup that has been developing small, modular nuclear reactors. The investment effectively rescues NuScale, which had been near financial collapse after its biggest investor was indicted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for violating regulations.


The deal with Fluor will allow NuScale to continue its efforts to license its power plant design with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with the goal of having the first one up and running by 2020. Fluor's engineers will help with the certification work, and the company eventually plans to engineer and build NuScale's power plants.  


The investment by Fluor is a vote of confidence in small modular nuclear reactors. These reactors generate 300 megawatts or less, about a third of what conventional nuclear reactors generate, and are designed to be safer and easier to manufacture. The technology has been gaining attention in recent years as high costs and safety concerns, such as those kindled by the nuclear accident at Fukushima, have hurt the prospects of large, conventional nuclear power plants. At the same time, organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency are anticipating a large market for small nuclear reactors in poor countries and in rural areas that don't have the infrastructure or demand to accommodate conventional large reactors.

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Other major engineering and construction companies in the nuclear industry have recently shown support for small modular reactors, including Bechtel and Babcock & Wilcox, which this summer announced a partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority to work toward building six of Babcock and Wilcox's small mPower reactors. Worldwide, dozens of designs being developed, including efforts in Japan, Korea, China, Russia, and Argentina.  U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has made development and licensing of small modular reactors a focus for the U.S.Dept of Energy

The NuScale reactor design is based on technology developed by the DOE and Oregon State University, which was involved in the design and certification of the new Westinghouse AP1000 power plants that are being built now in China and at two locations in the United States. The reactor is a type of light water reactor, one of the most common types of reactors in use today. NuScale has completed a detailed preliminary design, and intends to submit a design certification application to the NRC next year.

NuScale's reactors are designed to generate 40 megawatts each, compared to over 1,000 megawatts for conventional reactors. They can be linked together on site to generate larger amounts of electricity. Traditionally, nuclear power plants have been built large to take advantage of economies of scale. But the large size of the projects leads to long construction times, and delays and cost overruns are common, heightening the risk for investors and increasing financing costs.      


Smaller reactors, which can be built in factories rather than assembled on site, could be faster to build, lowering financing costs. The designs can also be simpler, and thus cheaper than conventional nuclear power plants, since the smaller reactors require lower pressures, for example, and their small size makes it practical to combine multiple elements into one containment vessel. Some experts have calculated that costs per megawatt could be comparable to large nuclear reactors, but no one really knows because no small, modular commercial nuclear power plants have been built yet.   


Even if costs per megawatt prove higher than with conventional plants, their small size might make them attractive in areas that lack the power lines and other infrastructure needed to distribute power from a large reactor, and that may not immediately have demand for the full power output of a large reactor. The modular design could allow utilities to gradually add more reactors as demand increases. Several rural electric cooperatives in the United States have expressed interest in using NuScale's small nuclear reactors to replace aging coal plants-the small size of the plants would eliminate the need to upgrade existing transmission lines. Critics of small nuclear reactors, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, say that large numbers of small reactors could be more difficult to manage during an accident, and could pose greater risk of nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists or rogue states.





5) Red Laser and Green Tea Attack Alzheimer's  

New Scientist, November 2011

IT MAY sound like a strange brew, but green tea and red light could provide a novel treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Together, the two can destroy the rogue "plaques" that crowd the brains of people with the disease. The light makes it easier for the green-tea extract to get to work on the plaques.

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Brain showing Alzheimer's disease. Photo courtesy Science Daily 

Andrei Sommer at the University of Ulm in Germany, and colleagues, have previously used red light with a wavelength of 670 nanometres to transport cancer drugs into cells. The laser light pushes water out of the cells and when the laser is switched off, the cells "suck in" water and any other molecules, including drugs, from their surroundings.


Now, Sommer's team have found that the same technique can be used to destroy the beta-amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's. These plaques consist of abnormally folded peptides, and are thought to disrupt communication between nerve cells, leading to loss of memory and other symptoms.  


The team bathed brain cells containing beta-amyloid in epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) - a green-tea extract known to have beta-amyloid inhibiting properties - at the same time as stimulating the cells with red light. Beta-amyloid in the cells reduced by around 60 per cent. Shining the laser light alone onto cells reduced beta-amyloid by around 20 per cent (Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, DOI: 10.1089/pho.2011.3073).


It can be difficult getting drugs into the brain, but animal experiments show that the green-tea extract can penetrate the so-called blood-brain barrier when given orally together with red light. The light, which can penetrate tissue and bone, stimulates cell mitochondria to kick-start a process that increases the barrier's permeability, says Sommer.


There is no reason why other drugs that attack beta-amyloid could not be delivered to the brain in the same way, he adds.


"This important research could form the basis of a potential treatment for Alzheimer's, with or without complementary drug treatment," says Mario Trelles, medical director of the Vilafortuny Medical Institute in Cambrils, Spain.


"The technique described could help to regulate and even stop the appearance of this disease," he adds.




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