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Seven tiny grains captured by Stardust likely visitors from intersteller space

August 15, 2014 | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley | Comments

Since 2006, when NASA’s Stardust spacecraft delivered its aerogel and aluminum foil dust collectors back to Earth, a team of scientists has combed through them. They now report finding seven dust motes that probably came from outside our solar system, perhaps created in a supernova explosion and altered by eons of exposure to the extremes of space. They would be the first confirmed samples of contemporary interstellar dust.

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U.S. wants cars to talk to each other

August 19, 2014 10:34 am | by Associated Press, Joan Lowy | Comments

The Obama administration has said it is taking a first step toward requiring that future cars and light trucks be equipped with technology that enables them to warn each other of potential danger in time to avoid collisions. A research report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the technology could eventually prevent 592,000 left-turn and intersection crashes a year, saving 1,083 lives.

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500-million-year reset for the immune system

August 19, 2014 10:22 am | Comments

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics re-activated expression of an ancient gene, which is not normally expressed in the mammalian immune system, and found that the animals developed a fish-like thymus. To the researchers' surprise, while the mammalian thymus is utilized exclusively for T cell maturation, the reset thymus produced not only T cells, but also served as a maturation site for B cells.

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First indirect evidence of so-far undetected strange baryons

August 19, 2014 10:06 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | Comments

New supercomputing calculations provide the first evidence that particles predicted by the theory of quark-gluon interactions but never before observed are being produced in heavy-ion collisions at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, a facility that is dedicated to studying nuclear physics. These heavy strange baryons, containing at least one strange quark, still cannot be observed directly.

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Supermaterials: Five reasons to embrace synthetic diamond

August 19, 2014 9:48 am | by Element Six | Comments

Synthetic diamond’s molecular structure makes it the world’s most versatile supermaterial. With greater hardness than all other materials, its strength is ideal for cutters used in oil and gas drilling, where it enables longer tool lifetime by minimizing wear, reduces downtime and drives down operating costs and carbon footprints.

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Study: Price of wind energy in U.S. at all-time low

August 19, 2014 9:42 am | by Allen Chen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Comments

Wind energy pricing is at an all-time low, according to a new report released by the U.S. Dept. of Energy and prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The prices offered by wind projects to utility purchasers averaged just $25/MWh for projects negotiating contracts in 2013, spurring demand for wind energy.

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Our connection to content

August 19, 2014 9:34 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | Comments

It’s often said that humans are wired to connect: The neural wiring that helps us read the emotions and actions of other people may be a foundation for human empathy. But for the past eight years, MIT Media Lab spinout Innerscope Research has been using neuroscience technologies that gauge subconscious emotions by monitoring brain and body activity to show just how powerfully we also connect to media and marketing communications.

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Laser “lightning rods” channel electricity through thin air

August 19, 2014 8:49 am | Comments

By zapping the air with a pair of powerful laser bursts, researchers at the Univ. of Arizona have created highly focused pathways that can channel electricity through the atmosphere. The new technique can potentially direct an electrical discharge up to 10 m away or more, shattering previous distance records for transmitting electricity through air. It also raises the intriguing possibility of one day channeling lightning with laser power.

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Shale oil dividend could pay for smaller carbon footprint

August 19, 2014 8:16 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | Comments

Unanticipated economic benefits from the shale oil and gas boom could help offset the costs of substantially reducing the U.S.'s carbon footprint, Purdue Univ. agricultural economists say. Wally Tyner and Farzad Taheripour estimate that shale technologies annually provide an extra $302 billion to the U.S. economy relative to 2007, a yearly "dividend" that could continue for at least the next two decades, Tyner said.

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Worm virus details come to light

August 19, 2014 8:10 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have won a race to find the crystal structure of the first virus known to infect the most abundant animal on Earth. The Rice laboratories of structural biologist Yizhi Jane Tao and geneticist Weiwei Zhong, with help from researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Washington Univ., analyzed the Orsay virus that naturally infects a certain type of nematode, the worms that make up 80% of the living animal population.

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Engineering new bone growth

August 19, 2014 7:56 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineers have devised a new implantable tissue scaffold coated with bone growth factors that are released slowly over a few weeks. When applied to bone injuries or defects, this coated scaffold induces the body to rapidly form new bone that looks and behaves just like the original tissue.

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Bionic liquids from lignin

August 19, 2014 7:44 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Comments

While the powerful solvents known as ionic liquids show great promise for liberating fermentable sugars from lignocellulose and improving the economics of advanced biofuels, an even more promising candidate is on the horizon—bionic liquids. Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute have developed “bionic liquids” from lignin and hemicellulose, two by-products of biofuel production from biorefineries.

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No one-size-fits-all approach in a changing climate, land

August 19, 2014 7:31 am | by Kelly April Tyrrell, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | Comments

As climate change alters habitats for birds and bees and everything in between, so too does the way humans decide to use land. Researchers have, for the first time, found a way to determine the potential combined impacts of both climate and land-use change on plants, animals and ecosystems across the country.

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Microchip reveals how tumor cells transition to invasion

August 18, 2014 11:06 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | Comments

Using a microengineered device that acts as an obstacle course for cells, researchers have shed new light on a cellular metamorphosis thought to play a role in tumor cell invasion throughout the body. The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a process in which epithelial cells, which tend to stick together within a tissue, change into mesenchymal cells, which can disperse and migrate individually.

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Artificial cells act like the real thing

August 18, 2014 10:55 am | Comments

Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery, but mimicking the intricate networks and dynamic interactions that are inherent to living cells is difficult to achieve outside the cell. Now, as published in Science, Weizmann Institute scientists have created an artificial, network-like cell system that is capable of reproducing the dynamic behavior of protein synthesis.

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Why the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle rollout may new succeed

August 18, 2014 10:42 am | by Kat Kerlin, UC Davis News Service | Comments

A convergence of factors is propelling a market rollout of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, according to a new study. A key to hydrogen’s potential success is a new smart solution that clusters hydrogen fuel infrastructure in urban or regional networks, limiting initial costs and enabling an early market for the technology before committing to a full national deployment.

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