Cells on Ice

Engineering team prepares for the day when stem cells win public acceptance

3 min read

Picture a world in which stem cell research is uncontroversial and regenerative medicine is ubiquitous. Many millions of people will want to store cell specimens, for use in all manner of contingencies. This may sound far-fetched under current circumstances, but it’s the vision of the future motivating a group of German ­researchers who are developing an automated industrial-scale cell archive, in which millions of cell specimens can be frozen for decades, waiting to be reanimated when needed.

The challenges facing Günter Fuhr’s team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering, in St. Ingbert, are to create a robust and secure data system that operates under supercold conditions, to design a compact storage area for the cell samples themselves, and to figure out how to securely and precisely automate the handling of these precious specimens. The scientists have some advanced technology and the natural logic of industrialization on their side, but they face an uncertain marketplace and persistent public controversy.

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The Ultimate Transistor Timeline

The transistor’s amazing evolution from point contacts to quantum tunnels

1 min read
A chart showing the timeline of when a transistor was invented and when it was commercialized.

Even as the initial sales receipts for the first transistors to hit the market were being tallied up in 1948, the next generation of transistors had already been invented (see “The First Transistor and How it Worked.”) Since then, engineers have reinvented the transistor over and over again, raiding condensed-matter physics for anything that might offer even the possibility of turning a small signal into a larger one.

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