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Sandia magnetized fusion technique produces significant results

September 23, 2014 | 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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Graphene flaws key to creating hypersensitive “electronic nose”

September 23, 2014 9:45 am | by Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Univ. of Illinois Chicago | Comments

Researchers have discovered a way to create a highly sensitive chemical sensor based on the crystalline flaws in graphene sheets. The imperfections have unique electronic properties that the researchers were able to exploit to increase sensitivity to absorbed gas molecules by 300 times.

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Termites evolved complex bioreactors 30 million years ago

September 23, 2014 9:36 am | 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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Battling superbugs

September 23, 2014 9:13 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT | 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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Engineered proteins stick like glue, even in water

September 22, 2014 1:46 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT | 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 | 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 | 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 | 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 | 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 | 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 | 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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Program predicts placement of chemical tags that control gene activity

September 22, 2014 9:20 am | by Susan Brown, Univ. of California, San Diego | Comments

Biochemists in California have developed a program that predicts the placement of chemical marks that control the activity of genes based on sequences of DNA. By comparing sequences with and without epigenomic modification, the researchers identified DNA patterns associated with the changes. They call this novel analysis pipeline Epigram and have made both the program and the DNA motifs they identified openly available to other scientists.

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Engineers call for national approach to flooding

September 22, 2014 9:07 am | by Geoff Mulvihill, Associated Press | Comments

The American Society of Civil Engineers are urging Congress and the Obama Administration to develop a national strategy for mitigating flood risks, saying the U.S. has not fully heeded lessons from Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. A sustainable way to pay for infrastructure maintenance and updates to help manage floods is needed, they say, and they will release their full recommendations Monday in Philadelphia.

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SpaceX launches space station supplies, first 3-D printer bound for orbit

September 22, 2014 9:01 am | by Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press | Comments

A SpaceX cargo ship rocketed toward the International Space Station on Sunday, carrying more than 5,000 pounds of supplies, including the first 3-D printer for astronauts in orbit. The printer, developed by Made in Space, is sturdier than Earthly models and is a technology demonstrator. . But NASA envisions astronauts one day using one to crank out spare parts as needed.

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Reflected smartphone transmissions enable gesture control

September 22, 2014 8:52 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | Comments

Some smartphones are starting to incorporate 3-D gesture sensing based on cameras, but cameras consume significant battery power and require a clear view of the user’s hands. Univ. of Washington engineers have developed a new form of low-power wireless sensing technology that could soon contribute to gesture control by letting users “train” their smartphones to recognize and respond to specific hand gestures near the phone.

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Team improves solar cell efficiency with new polymer

September 19, 2014 4:49 pm | by Emily Conover, Univ. of Chicago | Comments

A collaboration between scientists in the Univ. of Chicago’s chemistry department, the Institute for Molecular Engineering and Argonne National Laboratory has produced the highest-ever recorded efficiency for solar cells made of two types of polymers and fulllerene. Researchers identified a new polymer that improved the efficiency of solar cells and also determined the method by which the polymer improved the cells’ efficiency.

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