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Drying instead cryonics

In the "Extreme Biology" laboratory, Kazan Federal University scientists do research on chironomids, able to survive in drought conditions due to dehydration of the organism. In the course of research supported by the Federal Target Program "Research and development in priority areas of Russian scientific and technological complex for 2014-2020" some results have been obtained that can be an alternative to cryonics technology.


The object of the study were African larvae chironomids (Polypedilum vanderplanki - African insect having an ability to adapt to adverse temperature conditions). At the same time it is not just about adaptation, but about an almost complete dehydration. In the body of mosquitoes drying the water is replaced by molecules of trehalose upon drying (glucose-based disaccharide) and a number of other biomolecules, which make living tissues "canned"while drying.

For the first time Polymedium Vanderplanki was discovered by a Japanese scientist Takashi Hakudo in 1951, but only in the 2000s, there began a great interest to his studies.

- By itself, the adult insect cannot dehydrate in unfavorable conditions, since during lifetime of 2-3 days perion there is no need in, said the head of the laboratory "Experimental Biology" Oleg Gusev. - In contrast to the adult insect, the mosquito larvae, which on average live about a month, may well "dry up", and thus "preserve" itself. Receiving a signal of dehydration, maggots "expel" water from their bodies and replaced it by sugar (trehalose). In nature, this process is slow, but by conducting an experiment in the laboratory, two full days is enough. The larvae organism pushes water through the cuticle and then sugar is very quickly synthesized. So, over time, safe and sound larva becomes like a deflated balloon.

Laboratory studies have shown that even at drying extent of 99% the insect continues to exist, however, in the form of lifeless cell. Upon immersion in the aqueous medium the sample is again "alive".

Scientists believe this is the only insect that can thus fully restore its body.

For a comparative approach in a laboratory two insect specimens were taken from the usual mosquito and from chironomids. After comparing their genomes it was shown that chironomid has a large number of genes involved in oxidative processes (the reason for this is withdrawal of water from the body and thus the formation of reactive oxygen species).

Any insect body has proteins that protect it from destruction, but they are different in performance and Polymedium Vanderplanki individuals has it more than all others species. For example, on "drying" mosquitoes LEA-proteins appear that have long been considered to be produced in plants solely - they are found in the seeds.

- They were supposed to protect the seeds from all adverse effects (dehydration, preservation of other proteins, which are needed during the germination of seeds, the formation of capsules to protect other proteins), - says Oleg Gusev. - However, studies have shown that the same proteins are present in chironomids, being located in different regions of the genome, which is not observed in other insects.

Thus, separating the LEA-proteins and introducing them into a variety of organisms, maybe in the future we will learn how to expose these organisms to dehydration, which is something like canning.

Chironomidae bodies contain many other proteins, those which protect against aging. The presence of these proteins is typical for organisms that live relatively long life (in comparison with similar species). Conventional mosquitoes has 1-2 of them, chironomid mosquitoes has 15, though it is difficult to draw conclusions about the function of these proteins. Perhaps, as trehalose and they help to keep insects’ "immortality" when dried.

Perovskite cheap solar elements

A group of scientists NRTU "MISIS", led by Professor Anwar Zahidov has introduced technology to create thin-film solar cell based on a perovskite hybrid metal-organic compounds. They allow one to convert solar energy into electricity with an efficiency of above 15% and the planned indicators are more than 20%.

Alternative energy engineering of «solar power» type has been developing for a long time successfully due to silicon solar cells. However, a significant disadvantage of technology is high cost due to the high-tech, energy-intensive and toxic silicon production, which is characterized by low flexibility, fragility and high weight of panels, which greatly restricts the range of applications.

A team, consisting of employees of Center for Energy Efficiency, Department of Semiconductor Electronics and Semiconductor Physics in  NRTU "MISIS", together with the University of Texas colleagues in Dallas (University of Texas at Dallas) for the first time in Russia created a prototype of a device that can combine subcell of perovskite (lead iodide salts and methyl ammonium iodine based) with traditional silicon solar cells to convert the entire spectrum of visible sunlight radiation into electricity. This was done for the first time in Russia.

"Now scientists are testing the resulting prototype device and plan to go to an industrial solar cell testing in 2017", - Alevtina Chernikov the rector of the University, said.

The main advantage of the perovskite technology, that pushes photovoltaics to a new level is that the active layers of the solar cell can be applied from liquid solutions on thin and flexible substrates. The so-called technology «Roll to roll» allows one to place solar cells on the surfaces of any curvature. This can be translucent window "energy-curtains" of houses and cars, facades and roofs of buildings, consumer electronics, electronic gadgets, etc.

Thus, the range of application of such "charging by the Sun," as compared to traditional silicon solar panels, expands very much.  Wearable electronics, automotive, consumer electronics, "smart home" technology, providing electricity of residential houses and premises are potential application.

To date, the estimated cost per square meter of perovskite solar panels is less than 100 US dollars, while the square meter of the top silicon costs US $ 300. In mass production, the difference will be 4-6-fold. Cheap production of a new class of devices will significantly reduce the use of conventional energy by clean and affordable photovoltaics.


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