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New analytical technology reveals nanomechanical surface traits

August 27, 2014 | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | Comments

Researchers have discussed the merits of surface-stress influence on mechanical properties for decades. Now, a new research platform, called nanomechanical Raman spectroscopy and developed at Purdue Univ., uses a laser to measure the "nanomechanical" properties of tiny structures undergoing stress and heating.

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New DARPA program aimed at developing customized therapies

August 28, 2014 9:11 am | Comments

DARPA’s new Electrical Prescriptions (ElectRx) program was among the initiatives the White House highlighted this week as President Barack Obama addressed the need for new and more effective strategies for improving the health of service members, veterans and others. ElectRx goes beyond medication, aiming to explore neuromodulation of organ functions to help the human body heal itself.

Encyclopedia of how genomes function gets much bigger

August 28, 2014 9:07 am | Comments

A big step in understanding the human genome has been unveiled in the form of three analyses that provide the most detailed comparison yet of how the genomes of the fruit fly, roundworm, and human function. The research compares how the information encoded in the three species’ genomes is “read out,” and how their DNA and proteins are organized into chromosomes. The results add billions of entries to the archive of functional genomic data.

Scientists learn to control reactions with rare-earth catalyst

August 28, 2014 9:06 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Comments

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have discovered they can control chemical reactions in a new way by creating different shapes of cerium oxide, a rare-earth-based catalyst. Their finding holds potential for refining fuels, decreasing vehicle emissions, producing commodity chemicals and advancing fuel cells and chemical sensors.

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Nanodiamonds are forever

August 28, 2014 9:03 am | by Julie Cohen, UC Santa Barbara | Comments

An international group of scientists posit that a comet collision with Earth played a major role in the extinction of most of North America’s megafauna close to 13,000 years ago. In a new study, they have focused on the character and distribution of nanodiamonds, which are produced during such an extraterrestrial collision. The researchers found an abundance of these tiny diamonds distributed over 50 million km2 in the Northern Hemisphere.

Water “thermostat” could help engineer drought-resistant crops

August 28, 2014 8:58 am | Comments

Duke Univ. researchers have identified a gene that could help scientists engineer drought-resistant crops. The gene, called OSCA1, encodes a protein in the cell membrane of plants that senses changes in water availability and adjusts the plant’s water conservation machinery accordingly. The effect is similar to a thermostat.

Cool roofs in China can save energy, reduce emissions

August 28, 2014 8:49 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Comments

Working with Chinese researchers, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has conducted the first comprehensive study of cool roofs in China and concluded that they would be effective in substantially reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in climate zones with hot summers.

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Leading scientists call for a stop to non-essential use of fluorochemicals

August 28, 2014 8:27 am | Comments

A number of leading international researchers, among others from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, have recommended that fluorochemicals should only be used where absolutely essential, until better methods exist to measure the chemicals and more is known about their potentially harmful effects.

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Neuroscientists reverse memories’ emotional associations

August 28, 2014 8:27 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Comments

Most memories have some kind of emotion associated with them. A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists reveals the brain circuit that controls how memories become linked with positive or negative emotions. Furthermore, the researchers found that they could reverse the emotional association of specific memories by manipulating brain cells with optogenetics.

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Experiments explain why some liquids are fragile and others are strong

August 27, 2014 4:37 pm | by Diana Lutz, Washington Univ. in St. Louis | Comments

Only recently has it become possible to accurately “see” the structure of a liquid. Using x-rays and a high-tech apparatus that holds liquids without a container, a professor at Washington Univ. in St. Louis was able to compare the behavior of glass-forming liquids as they approach the glass transition.

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Rubber meets the road with ORNL carbon, battery technologies

August 27, 2014 3:22 pm | by Ron Walli, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Communications | Comments

Recycled tires could see new life in lithium-ion batteries that provide power to plug-in electric vehicles and store energy produced by wind and solar, say researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. By modifying the microstructural characteristics of carbon black, a substance recovered from discarded tires, a team of researchers is developing a better anode for lithium-ion batteries.

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Snowfall in a warmer world

August 27, 2014 2:26 pm | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Comments

If ever there were a silver lining to global warming, it might be the prospect of milder winters. After all, it stands to reason that a warmer climate would generate less snow. But a new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study suggests that you shouldn’t put your shovels away just yet.

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Yellowstone super-eruption would send ash across North America

August 27, 2014 12:22 pm | Comments

According to a new study, in the unlikely event of a volcanic super-eruption at Yellowstone National Park, the northern Rocky Mountains would be blanketed in meters of ash, and millimeters would be deposited as far away as New York City, Los Angeles and Miami. An improved computer model finds that the hypothetical, large eruption would create a distinctive kind of ash cloud known as an umbrella, which expands evenly in all directions.

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Pebble-sized particles may jump-start planet formation

August 27, 2014 12:10 pm | Comments

Astronomers using the Green Bank Telescope have discovered that filaments of star-forming gas near the Orion Nebula may be brimming with pebble-size particles: planetary building blocks 100 to 1,000 times larger than the dust grains typically found around protostars. If confirmed, these dense ribbons of rocky material may well represent a new, mid-size class of interstellar particles that could help jump-start planet formation.

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Controlling a NASA robot on the Web

August 27, 2014 12:10 pm | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | Comments

A group of computer scientists from Brown Univ. were at the Johnson Space Center in Houston for a marathon of intensive coding to build new software for the Robonaut 2. Chad Jenkins’ laboratory builds user interfaces that can control robots of all kinds with an off-the-shelf Web browser. The system can be adapted for even the most complex robots, and NASA wants the team to adapt the interface for the humanoid robot, Robonaut 2—“R2.”

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DARPA project aims to make nanoscale benefits life-sized

August 27, 2014 11:55 am | Comments

Many common materials exhibit different and potentially useful characteristics when fabricated at extremely small scales. But lack of knowledge of how to retain nanoscale properties in materials at larger scales and lack of assembly capabilities for items have prevented us from taking advantage of these nanoscale characteristics. DARPA has created the Atoms to Product (A2P) program to help overcome these challenges.

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