Insatiable curiosity drives the advanced research.
Iwate University is working for the future of the region and tackling challenges on a global scale. The advanced research was born from the integration of the Science and the Faculty of Engineering. The findings of the Faculty opens the path to the creation of new knowledge with great power. The driving force behind these findings is the insatiable curiosity of the students and the excellent researchers. The challenge on new research theme through daily studies makes it possible to create knowledge unique to Iwate University.
1.Design special function materials from the experiment under the extreme environments
Did you know that the properties of the substance in the world are determined by the atoms or molecules of them? And did you know that electrons, which are one of the elementary particles, play an important role in characterizing the properties? The physical properties of substances are determined by the state of the electrons in them. Electrons are essential to our daily lives in items such as electronic devices. However, electrons almost never show us their real state in the environment where we live in. The only place where electrons can exist for long periods is in vacuums and inside of solids. Electrons only show their real state in extreme environments where we humans cannot live in. We artificially make these special environments in our laboratory and observe the quantum phenomena expressed as the collective states of electrons (superconductivity, magnetism, heavy fermion, quantum criticality). And we try to construct new laws and new physics from the observed data. The discovery and the clarification of new physical phenomena lead to the design of special function materials with brand-new physical properties. Science’s research (mission) ends here. Next, the baton is passed to engineering research to apply and utilize these results.
One recent result of our research is regard to the material which contains the rare earth element Europium (Eu). By cooling it to the temperature of liquid helium (4.2K: -269°C), it becomes soft, like plastic or tofu. In extreme environments, such as extremely low temperatures, we often able to taste an “extraordinary phenomena” that we cannot experience in our daily life. Why don’t you try to go beyond the “limits of curiosity” with us?
2.Wireless communication research to respond the needs of the society
MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output) is a technology which uses multiple transmission antennas and multiple receiving antennas. Conventionally, high data rate in the wireless link has required a wide frequency (bandwidth). Someday, the supply of the bandwidth will be run out. MIMO was suggested as a key technology which provides significantly higher data-rate with limited frequency resource.
The MIMO technology involves an interference of the radio wave among multiple antennas. In addition, the movement of the human bodies seriously degrades the measurement of the propagation characteristics. Only a pedestrian around the antennas easily affects the propagation of the radio wave.
Our new idea is exploiting this phenomenon. The microwave bio-sensing, which is enhanced the sensitivity significantly by the MIMO technology, was born from the reverse thinking.
Currently, we also research on the measurement of the human heartbeat by using microwaves. It is a kind of monitoring sensor, and this will be used for monitoring elder people living alone. For example, it could notify caretakers when it detects a heart attack on elder people.
We hope to realize a human-friendly wireless communication system which suits the social demand by using three key technologies – space-time signal processing, electromagnetic analysis and antenna engineering.
3.Developing a treatment to restore visual function
Generally, more than 80% of information come from eyesight. At present, once eyesight has been lost there is no treatment to restore visual function.
Information from external images is focused and adjusted by the cornea (the surface of the eyeball) and the lens and then projected onto the retina. The retina includes cells which receive light from outside, analyze light information and convert that information into electrical signals (ganglion cells). Finally, the information is sent to the brain via the optic nerve as an electrical signal and then the image is created. When the light-receiving cells among in the retina die, sight is lost. This is the top-ranked cause of adventitious blindness. We believe that sight can be restored if the remaining cells are added the ability to receive light.
We focused on a unique photoreceptive protein in a kind of green algae called chlamydomonas. This single protein has the ability to receive light and can transmit positive ions inside the cells when it receives light. “The ability to transmit positive ions inside the cells” is what we needed.
By injecting the protein in chlamydomonas into the retina’s ganglion cells, we can change them into cells that receive light and produce electric signals. The ganglion cells will be able to receive light and transmit light information to the brain by themselves.
Experiments on rats with a virus has proofed that this protein worked for the restoration of sight. Although there are still various hurdles to be cleared, in the near future it will be possible to realize this dreamy treatment of restoring sight simply by injecting a synthetic gene we’ve developed.