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SciTech is independently reported and edited through the newsroom of The Charlotte Observer. The underwriter plays no role in the selection of the content.

Biosensor developed for ‘extreme’ athletes

A new biosensor – when applied to the human skin like a temporary tattoo – can alert marathoners, competitive bikers and other “extreme” athletes that they’re about to “bonk” or “hit the wall,” scientists report. The study, in the American Chemical Society’s journal Analytical Chemistry, describes the first human tests of the sensor, which also could help soldiers and others who engage in intense exercise — and their trainers — monitor stamina and fitness.

Joseph Wang and colleagues explain that the sensor monitors lactate, a form of lactic acid released in sweat. Lactate forms when the muscles need more energy than the body can supply from the “aerobic” respiration that suffices during mild exercise. The body shifts to “anaerobic” metabolism, producing lactic acid and lactate.

That helps for a while, but lactate builds up in the body, causing extreme fatigue and the infamous “bonking out” – where an athlete just cannot continue.

Current methods of measuring lactate are cumbersome, require blood samples or do not give instant results. Wang’s team sought to develop a better approach. Eurekalert.org

Love dark chocolate? It affects ice cream’s appeal

To make the inherent bitterness of cocoa in chocolate ice cream more palatable, manufacturers add high levels of fat and sugar. Yet, bitterness is an integral part of the complex flavor of chocolate. In a study published in the August issue of the Journal of Dairy Science, investigators report that consumers who prefer dark chocolate in solid form tolerate twice the amount of bitter ingredients in chocolate ice cream than those who prefer milk chocolate. Elimination of some added sugar and fats in chocolate ice cream may be acceptable, and perhaps preferable, to some consumers.

“Our primary goal was to determine whether rejection thresholds for added bitterness in chocolate ice cream could be predicted by individual preferences for solid milk or dark chocolate,” said senior author John Hayes, assistant professor of food science and director of the Sensory Evaluation Center, College of Agricultural Sciences, at Penn State. Eurekalert.org

Magnetic pen is developed for smartphones

Sungjae Hwang, a doctoral candidate at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, has developed a magnetically driven pen interface that works both on and around mobile devices. The interface, called the MagPen, can be used for any type of smartphones and tablet computer so long as they have magnetometers embedded in them.

Almost all mobile devices today provide location-based services, and magnetometers are incorporated in the integrated circuits of smartphones or tablet PCs, functioning as compasses.

Taking advantage of built-in magnetometers, Hwang’s team came up with a technology that enabled an input tool for mobile devices such as a capacitive stylus pen to interact more sensitively and effectively with the devices’ touch screen. Text and command entered by a stylus pen are expressed better on the screen of mobile devices than those done by human fingers.

The MagPen detects the direction at which a stylus pen is pointing; selects colors by dragging the pen across smartphone bezel; identifies pens with different magnetic properties; recognizes pen-spinning gestures; and estimates the finger pressure applied to the pen. Eurekalert.org

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