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The Lead

MRI, on a molecular scale

April 21, 2014 | by Peter Reuell, Harvard Univ. | Comments

A team of scientists, led by physicist Amir Yacoby of Harvard Univ., has developed a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system that can produce nanoscale images, and may one day allow researchers to peer into the atomic structure of individual molecules. Though not yet precise enough to capture atomic-scale images of a single molecule, the system already has been used to capture images of single electron spins.

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U.K.’s lead in physics healthy, but insecure

April 23, 2014 11:36 am | Comments

Newly published research shows that, when the quality of the U.K.’s scientific output is compared with that of its leading international competitor nations, the U.K.’s lead in physics comes despite a lack of investment relative to other scientific disciplines, such as the life sciences.

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The science of champagne fizz

April 23, 2014 11:18 am | Comments

The importance of fizz, more technically known as effervescence, in sparkling wines and champagnes is not to be underestimated—it contributes to the complete sensory experience of a glass, or flute, of fine bubbly. A scientist has now closely examined the factors that affect these bubbles, and he has come up with an estimate of just how many are in each glass.

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Halving hydrogen

April 23, 2014 11:13 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | Comments

Like a hungry diner ripping open a dinner roll, a fuel cell catalyst that converts hydrogen into electricity must tear open a hydrogen molecule. Now researchers have captured a view of such a catalyst holding onto the two halves of its hydrogen feast. The view confirms previous hypotheses and provides insight into how to make the catalyst work better for alternative energy uses.

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Call for judges: 2014 R&D 100 Awards

April 23, 2014 8:52 am | Comments

Each year, the editors of R&D receive entries from organizations that have launched a new product in the previous calendar year. We rely on expert judges who volunteer their time and knowledge to help find best of the bunch, 100 in all. Many judges return year after year. If you are interested and have expertise in a science-related discipline, please contact us.

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Like a hall of mirrors, nanostructures trap photons inside ultra-thin solar cells

April 23, 2014 8:13 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | Comments

In the quest to make sun power more competitive, researchers are designing ultra-thin solar cells that cut material costs. At the same time, they’re keeping these thin cells efficient by sculpting their surfaces with photovoltaic nanostructures that behave like a molecular hall of mirrors.

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Rolls-Royce, collaborators study ways to strengthen titanium aircraft parts

April 23, 2014 8:01 am | by Glenn Roberts Jr., SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Comments

Rolls-Royce researchers came to SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory earlier this month as part of a team testing titanium and titanium alloys such as those used in engine parts, landing gear and other aircraft components. While the Rolls-Royce brand is also associated with luxury cars, this separate company, Rolls-Royce PLC, is a major global manufacturer of aircraft engines that power over 30 types of commercial aircraft.

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Study identifies enzymes that help fix cancer-causing DNA defects

April 23, 2014 7:47 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | Comments

Purdue Univ. researchers have identified an important enzyme pathway that helps prevent new cells from receiving too many or too few chromosomes, a condition that has been directly linked to cancer and other diseases. The team found that near the end of cell division, the enzyme Cdc14 activates Yen1, an enzyme that ensures any breaks in DNA are fully repaired before the parent cell distributes copies of the genome to daughter cells.

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Study: New patenting guidelines are needed for biotechnology

April 23, 2014 7:34 am | Comments

Biotechnology scientists must be aware of the broad patent landscape and push for new patent and licensing guidelines, according to a new paper from Rice Univ.’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. The paper is based on the June 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics that naturally occurring genes are unpatentable.

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Michigan man among first in U.S. to get "bionic eye"

April 23, 2014 3:20 am | by Mike Householder - Associated Press - Associated Press | Comments

Diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease as a teenager, Roger Pontz has been almost completely blind for years. Now, thanks to a high-tech procedure that involved the surgical implantation of a "bionic eye," he's regained enough of his eyesight to catch small glimpses of his wife, grandson and cat. The company which made the eye, Second Sight, won an R&D 100 Award in 2009 for its artificial retina device.

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Ion collision physics change drastically for ultra-thin films

April 22, 2014 11:27 am | Comments

A bullet fired through a block of wood will slow down. In a similar way, ions are decelerated when they pass through a solid material: the thicker the material, the larger the energy loss will be. However, as recent experiments in Austria have shown, this picture breaks down in ultra-thin target materials, which only consist of a few layers of atoms.

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Tesla delivers first China cars, plans expansion

April 22, 2014 11:19 am | by Joe McDonald, AP Business Writer | Comments

Tesla Motors Inc. delivered its first eight electric sedans to customers in China on Tuesday and CEO Elon Musk said the company will build a nationwide network of charging stations and service centers as fast as it can. Customers received the first Model S sedans this week at a brief ceremony at Tesla's office in a Beijing industrial park, also the site of its first Chinese charging station.

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Did you know? The first modern computer family won an R&D 100 Award

April 22, 2014 9:33 am | by Paul Livingstone, Senior Editor | Comments

Early mainframe computers operated on custom-written software tailored specifically for the latest hardware. That practice changed when IBM launched the System 360 Computer, which won an R&D 100 Award in 1964. Microcode technology allowed IBM, for the first time, to separate architecture from implementation, giving customers the opportunity to start with a small system and upgrade as their needs increased without changing software.

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Cloaked DNA nanodevices survive pilot mission

April 22, 2014 9:13 am | by Dan Ferber, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Univ. | Comments

It's a familiar trope in science fiction: In enemy territory, activate your cloaking device. And real-world viruses use similar tactics to make themselves invisible to the immune system. Now scientists at Harvard Univ.'s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have mimicked these viral tactics to build the first DNA nanodevices that survive the body's immune defenses.

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Study: People pay more attention to the upper half of field of vision

April 22, 2014 9:02 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | Comments

A new study from North Carolina State Univ. and the Univ. of Toronto finds that people pay more attention to the upper half of their field of vision—a finding which could have ramifications for everything from traffic signs to software interface design.

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Fast way to measure DNA repair

April 22, 2014 8:55 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Comments

Our DNA is under constant attack from many sources. Fortunately, cells have several major DNA repair systems that can fix this damage, which may lead to diseases if not mended. A team of researchers has developed a test that can rapidly assess several DNA repair systems, which could help determine individuals’ risk of developing cancer and help doctors predict how a given patient will respond to chemotherapy drugs.

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