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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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Probing the sound of a quantum dot

April 24, 2014 8:23 am | by Verity Leatherdale, Univ. of Sydney | Comments

Physicists at the Univ. of Sydney have discovered a method of using microwaves to probe the sounds of a quantum dot, a promising platform for building a quantum computer. A quantum dot consists of a small number of electrons trapped in zero dimensions inside a solid.

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New ultrasound device may add in detecting risk for heart attack, stroke

April 24, 2014 8:16 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | Comments

Researchers have developed an ultrasound device that could help identify arterial plaque that is at high risk of breaking off and causing heart attack or stroke. At issue is the plaque that builds up in arteries as we age. Some types of plaque are deemed “vulnerable,” meaning that they are more likely to detach from the artery wall and cause heart attack or stroke.

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Chameleon crystals could make active camouflage possible

April 24, 2014 8:04 am | by Kate McAlpine, Univ. of Michigan | Comments

The ability to control crystals with light and chemistry could lead to chameleon-style color-changing camouflage for vehicle bodies and other surfaces. Univ. of Michigan researchers discovered a template-free method for growing shaped crystals that allows for changeable structures that could appear as different colors and patterns.

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Atomic switcheroo explains origins of thin-film solar cell mystery

April 24, 2014 7:55 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Comments

Treating cadmium-telluride (CdTe) solar cell materials with cadmium-chloride improves their efficiency, but researchers have not fully understood why. Now, an atomic-scale examination of the thin-film solar cells led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory has answered this decades-long debate about the materials’ photovoltaic efficiency increase after treatment.

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Superconducting qubit array points the way to quantum computers

April 24, 2014 7:46 am | by Julie Cohen, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara | Comments

A fully functional quantum computer is one of the holy grails of physics. Unlike conventional computers, the quantum version uses qubits (quantum bits), which make direct use of the multiple states of quantum phenomena. When realized, a quantum computer will be millions of times more powerful at certain computations than today’s supercomputers.

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Study: Gene therapy may boost cochlear implants

April 24, 2014 7:45 am | by Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer | Comments

Australian researchers are trying a novel way to boost the power of cochlear implants: They used the technology to beam gene therapy into the ears of deaf animals and found the combination improved hearing. The approach reported Wednesday isn't ready for human testing, but it's part of growing research into ways to let users of cochlear implants experience richer, more normal sound.

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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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Gold nanoparticles help target, quantify breast cancer gene segments in a living cell

April 23, 2014 8:59 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | Comments

A team at Purdue Univ. has used gold nanoparticles to target and bind to fragments of genetic material known as BRCA1 messenger RNA splice variants, which can indicate the presence and stage of breast cancer. The number of these synthetic DNA “tails” in a cell can be determined in a living cell by examining the specific signal that light produces when it interacts with the gold nanoparticles.

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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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