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The Lead

Steam from the sun

July 21, 2014 | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A new material structure developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology generates steam by soaking up the sun. The structure—a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam—is a porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material’s pores, where it evaporates as steam.

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Chemists eye improved thin films with metal substitution

July 21, 2014 1:46 pm | News | Comments

The yield so far is small, but chemists at the Univ. of Oregon have developed a low-energy, solution-based mineral substitution process to make a precursor to transparent thin films. The inorganic process is a new approach to transmetalation, in which individual atoms of one metal complex are individually substituted in water. The innovation could find use in electronics and alternative energy devices.

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Magnetic Technology for Bioseparations

July 21, 2014 11:29 am | Product Releases | Comments

AMSBIO has introduced MagSi-Direct, a technology that brings the power, simplicity and convenience of magnetic separation to researchers involved in cell biology, protein chemistry, flow cytometry, diagnostics development and other fields. MagSi-Direct provides a way to attach any biomolecule to nanoscopic paramagnetic beads.

High-specification, Ultra-safe Pressure Reactor

July 21, 2014 11:25 am | Product Releases | Comments

Asynt has introduced PressureSyn, a 125-mL working volume high-pressure reactor that combines high performance, ease of use and a high level of operational safety for users. Designed by chemists and engineers at the Univ. of Nottingham, PressureSyn reactors provide a suitable tool for stirred, or non-stirred, high-pressure applications including hydrogenations, carbonylations, catalyst screening and polymerizations.

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Carbyne morphs when stretched

July 21, 2014 10:45 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Applying just the right amount of tension to a chain of carbon atoms can turn it from a metallic conductor to an insulator, according to Rice Univ. scientists. Stretching the material known as carbyne by just 3% can begin to change its properties in ways that engineers might find useful for mechanically activated nanoscale electronics and optics.

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More than glitter

July 21, 2014 10:35 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

A special class of tiny gold particles can easily slip through cell membranes, making them good candidates to deliver drugs directly to target cells. A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology materials scientists reveals that these nanoparticles enter cells by taking advantage of a route normally used in vesicle-vesicle fusion, a crucial process that allows signal transmission between neurons. 

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Scientists map one of the most important proteins in life—and cancer

July 21, 2014 9:26 am | News | Comments

In the U.K., researchers have revealed the structure of one of the most important and complicated proteins in cell division, the anaphase-promoting complex. Electron microscopy and software has produced images of the gigantic protein in unprecedented detail and could transform scientists' understanding of exactly how cells copy their chromosomes and divide. It could also reveal binding sites for future cancer drugs.

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Research shows oceans vital for alien life

July 21, 2014 9:01 am | News | Comments

Until now, computer simulations of habitable climates on Earth-like planets have focused on their atmospheres. Mathematicians and earth sciences experts in the U.K. have recently taken the next step, creating a computer-simulated pattern of ocean circulation on a hypothetical ocean-covered Earth-like planet. They hope to learn how different planetary rotation rates would impact heat transport with the presence of oceans taken into account.

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New method for extracting radioactive elements from air, water

July 21, 2014 8:21 am | by Univ. of Liverpool Univ. News | News | Comments

Scientists have successfully tested a material that can extract atoms of rare or dangerous elements such as radon from the air. Gases such as radon, xenon and krypton all occur naturally in the air but in minute quantities—typically less than one part per million. As a result they are expensive to extract for use in industries such as lighting or medicine and, in the case of radon, the gas can accumulate in buildings.

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All HIV not created equal: Scientists can identify which viruses cause infection

July 21, 2014 8:07 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

HIV-infected people carry many different HIV viruses and all have distinct personalities—some much more vengeful and infectious than others. Yet, despite the breadth of infectivity, roughly 76% of HIV infections arise from a single virus. Now, scientists believe they can identify the culprit with very specific measurements of the quantities of a key protein in the HIV virus.

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HIV diagnosis rate fell by third in U.S. over decade

July 19, 2014 11:17 am | by Mike Stobbe - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The rate of HIV infections diagnosed in the U.S. each year fell by one-third over the past decade, a government study finds. Experts celebrated it as hopeful news that the AIDS epidemic may be slowing in the U.S. The reasons for the drop aren't clear. It might mean fewer new infections are occurring. Or that most infected people already have been diagnosed so more testing won't necessarily find many more cases.

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Medical marijuana researcher fired by university

July 18, 2014 9:21 pm | by Astrid Galvan - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Veterans, medical marijuana activists and scientists welcomed the first federally approved research into pot as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. But their hopes for the research were dashed when the Univ. of Arizona fired researcher Suzanne Sisley, who undertook the study after clearing four years of bureaucratic hurdles.

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Scientists enlist big data to guide conservation efforts

July 18, 2014 12:37 pm | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

“Big data” has yet to make a mark on conservation efforts to preserve the planet’s biodiversity. But that may soon change with a new model developed by Univ. of California, Berkeley, biologist Brent Mishler and his colleagues in Australia. This effort  leverages the growing mass of data to take into account not only the number of species throughout an area, but also the variation among species and their geographic rarity, or endemism.

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Researchers create new method to draw molecules from live cells

July 18, 2014 12:30 pm | by Jeannie Kever, Univ. of Houston | News | Comments

Most current methods of identifying intracellular information result in the death of the individual cells, making it impossible to continue to gain information and assess change over time. Using magnetized carbon nanotubes, scientists in Texas have devised a new method for extracting molecules from live cells without disrupting cell development.

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Nature’s strongest glue comes unstuck

July 18, 2014 11:23 am | News | Comments

Barnacle glue, or cement, sticks to any surface, under any conditions. And it’s still far better than anything we have been able to develop synthetically. Now, over 150 years since it was first described by Charles Darwin, scientists are finally uncovering the secrets behind the super strength of barnacle glue.

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Mats made from shrimp chitin attract uranium like a magnet

July 18, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

A Univ. of Alabama start-up company, 525 Solutions, has received about $1.5 million from the federal government to refine an invention to extract uranium from the ocean for use as fuel. It is an adsorbent, biodegradable material made from the compound chitin, which is found in crustaceans and insects. The researchers have developed transparent sheets, or mats, comprised of tiny chitin fibers, which pull uranium from the water.

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