It has a been a long year since COVID-19 overtook the world, creating lockdowns, social distancing and resulting in thousands of deaths. Although many places in America are loosening restrictions due to COVID-19 vaccination, a new variant of the coronavirus is on the rise, causing concern for many. Indiana University Northwest Professor of Economics Micah Pollak has been statistically tracking the coronavirus pandemic. He says the Delta variant is potentially twice as contagious as the original virus. Fortunately, Pollak says vaccines such as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines continue to be highly effective at preventing severe illness. However, he says while those vaccinated will be protected from severe outcomes, based on the data he is seeing coming out of countries with higher vaccination rates than the U.S., the vaccine may not be as effective at preventing symptoms or halting the spread the virus. Experts say the Delta variant has more cold-like symptoms like sore throat, runny nose and headache and can cause more severe illness. Pollak says those who are vaccinated should know they are still well protected themselves from this new variant, but there is a greater chance they may unknowingly spread the virus.
In other news, researchers at IUPUI have discovered new nanoparticles that have high-tech applications including energy storage and space travel. They are known as high-entropy nanoparticles, and they join a family of 2D nanomaterials known as MXenes, extremely thin high-performance ceramic nanoparticles with a larger lateral size, much like a sheet of paper. Babak Anasori, who led the study, says right now, MXenes are among the strongest 2D materials ever explored. The newly discovered high-entropy nanoparticles will further increase MXene strength, which already outperform other nanomaterials in many high-tech applications. The high-entropy MXenes may have a variety of uses, including personal and commercial applications and possibly national defense. Due to their ultra-high temperature properties, Anasori said these new nanoparticles may be utilized in the future as building blocks for materials used in space exploration or hypersonic flights that require an ability to withstand extremely high temperatures. And because of their unique electrical and chemical properties, the nanoparticles could be used to develop the materials used in quantum computing or to create better batteries and energy storage materials.