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Termites evolved complex bioreactors 30 million years ago

September 23, 2014 9:36 am | News | Comments

Achieving complete breakdown of plant biomass for energy conversion in industrialized bioreactors remains a complex challenge, but new research shows that termite fungus farmers solved this problem more than 30 million years ago. The new insight reveals that the great success of termite farmers as plant decomposers is due to division of labor.

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Sandia magnetized fusion technique produces significant results

September 23, 2014 9:34 am | News | Comments

Inertial confinement fusion creates nanosecond bursts of neutrons, ideal for creating data to plug into supercomputer codes that test the U.S. nuclear stockpile. Down the road, it could be useful as a source of energy. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories’ Z machine have produced a significant output of fusion neutrons, using a method fully functioning for only little more than a year.

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A molecule in an optical whispering gallery

September 23, 2014 9:19 am | News | Comments

Using an optical microstructure and gold nanoparticles, scientists have amplified the interaction of light with DNA to the extent that they can now track interactions between individual DNA molecule segments. In doing so, they have approached the limits of what is physically possible. This optical biosensor for single unlabelled molecules could also be a breakthrough in the development of biochips:

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Battling superbugs

September 23, 2014 9:13 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT | News | Comments

Each year, new strains of bacteria emerge that resist even the most powerful antibiotics, but scientists have discovered very few new classes of antibiotics in the past decade. Engineers have now turned a powerful new weapon on these superbugs. Using a gene-editing system that can disable any target gene, they have shown that they can selectively kill bacteria carrying harmful genes that confer antibiotic resistance or cause disease.

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Bioengineers develop a toolkit for designing better synthetic molecules

September 23, 2014 9:10 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Synthetic molecules hold great potential for revealing key processes that occur in cells, but the trial-and-error approach to their design has limited their effectiveness. Christina Smolke at Stanford Univ. has introduced a new computer model that could provide better blueprints for building synthetic genetic tools.

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Smallest possible “diamonds” help form ultra-thin nanothreads

September 22, 2014 2:52 pm | Videos | Comments

For the first time, scientists led by John V. Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State Univ., have discovered how to produce ultra-thin "diamond nanothreads" that promise extraordinary properties, including strength and stiffness greater than that of today's strongest nanotubes and polymers. The core of the nanothreads is a long, thin strand of carbon atoms arranged just like the fundamental unit of a diamond's structure.

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Wireless UART Data Transceiver

September 22, 2014 2:39 pm | Product Releases | Comments

Designed with low cost in mind, Linx Technologies has released the new HumDT Series Transceiver. At 11.5 mm by 14.0 mm, the HumDT uses advanced system on chip technology to minimize the footprint and the number of components. The transceiver has built-in networking with encryption and each module can act as one of three components in the wireless network.

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Battery-free RFID Humidity, Temperature Sensor

September 22, 2014 2:34 pm | Product Releases | Comments

The Hygro-Fenix-H221 from Farsens S.L. is a battery free RFID sensor tag capable of transmitting a unique identifier and the associated relative humidity and temperature measurement data to a commercial EPC C1G2 reader without the need of a battery on the sensor tag.

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Engineered proteins stick like glue, even in water

September 22, 2014 1:46 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT | News | Comments

Shellfish such as mussels and barnacles secrete very sticky proteins that help them cling to rocks or ship hulls, even underwater. Inspired by these natural adhesives, a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers has designed new materials that could be used to repair ships or help heal wounds and surgical incisions.

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Uncovering the forbidden side of molecules

September 22, 2014 1:45 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Switzerland have succeeded in observing the “forbidden” infrared spectrum of a charged molecule for the first time. These extremely weak spectra offer perspectives for extremely precise measurements of molecular properties and may also contribute to the development of molecular clocks and quantum technology.

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Siemens to acquire Dresser-Rand for $7.6 billion

September 22, 2014 12:39 pm | News | Comments

German electronics and engineering company Siemens AG has reached a deal to acquire oilfield equipment maker Dresser-Rand for $7.6 billion. Dresser-Rand, based in Houston and Paris, has annual revenue of around $3 billion and employs about 8,100 people. Its portfolio of compressors, steam and gas turbines and engines is expected to complement Siemens' existing offerings in the gas, oil and power generation businesses.

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German Merck to buy Sigma-Aldrich for $17 billion

September 22, 2014 12:35 pm | by David McHugh, AP Business Writer | News | Comments

German drug company Merck says it has agreed to buy St. Louis-based chemical firm Sigma-Aldrich Corp. for $17 billion in a deal Merck says will strengthen its business in chemicals and laboratory equipment. Sigma-Aldrich has over 9,000 employees in 40 countries and supplies chemicals and laboratory equipment to government and commercial facilities. Its board of directors has unanimously approved the deal.

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NASA's Maven spacecraft enters Mars orbit

September 22, 2014 10:26 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

The robotic explorer Maven successfully slipped into orbit around Mars late Sunday night. Now the real work begins for the $671 million mission, the first dedicated to studying the Martian upper atmosphere and the latest step in NASA's bid to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s. Researchers hope to learn where all the red planet's water went, along with the carbon dioxide that once comprised an atmosphere thick enough to hold moist clouds.

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Scientists discover an on/off switch for aging cells

September 22, 2014 10:20 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Salk Institute have discovered an on-and-off “switch” in cells that may hold the key to healthy aging. This switch, which involves the enzyme telomerase, points to a way to encourage healthy cells to keep dividing and generating, for example, new lung or liver tissue, even in old age.

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China, U.S., India push world carbon emissions up

September 22, 2014 9:42 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Spurred chiefly by China, the United States and India, the world spewed far more carbon pollution into the air last year than ever before. The world pumped an estimated 39.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air last year by burning coal, oil and gas. That is 778 million tons or 2.3% more than the previous year. World leaders gather this week to discuss how to reduce heat-trapping gases. 

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