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How we get the nitrogen we need

October 28, 2014 8:42 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | Comments

Nitrogen is an essential component of all living systems, playing important roles in everything from proteins and nucleic acids to vitamins. It is the most abundant element in Earth's atmosphere and is literally all around us, but in its gaseous state, N2, it is inert and useless to most organisms.

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A look back in time at key events in plant evolution

October 28, 2014 8:27 am | by Jim Erickson, University of Michigan | Comments

Scientists from North America, Europe and China published a paper that reveals important details about key transitions in the evolution of plant life on our planet. From strange and exotic algae, trees and flowers growing deep in steamy rainforests to the grains and vegetables we eat and the ornamental plants adorning our homes, all plant life on Earth shares over a billion years of history.

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“Sticky” ends start synthetic collagen growth

October 28, 2014 8:12 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | Comments

Rice Univ. researchers have delivered a scientific one-two punch with a pair of papers that detail how synthetic collagen fibers self-assemble via their sticky ends. Collagen is the most common protein in mammals, a major component of bone and the fibrous tissues that support cells and hold organs together. Discovering its secrets may lead to better synthetic collagen for tissue engineering and cosmetic and reconstructive medicine.

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Shifting to higher octane

October 28, 2014 7:57 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Comments

If the majority of light-duty vehicles in the U.S. ran on higher-octane gasoline, the automotive industry as a whole would reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 35 million tons per year, saving up to $6 billion in fuel costs, according to a new analysis by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers.

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New restrictions for those at high Ebola risk

October 27, 2014 6:30 pm | by Mike Stobbe - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | Comments

U.S. health officials are recommending that people who are at highest risk for coming down with Ebola avoid commercial travel or attending large public gatherings, even if they have no symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the updated advice to state and local officials on Monday.

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Dazzlingly sharp images on curved screens

October 27, 2014 12:54 pm | Comments

Projecting images on curved screens poses a dilemma. The sharper the image, the darker it is, even when using lasers and scanning mirrors. A novel optical approach involving the use of an array of microprojectors now brings brightness and sharpness together for the first time on screens of any curvature. It also allows an increase in projection rates by about 10,000 times.

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A GPS from the chemistry set

October 27, 2014 12:48 pm | Comments

Scientists in Europe have developed a chemical “processor” which reliably shows the fastest way through a city maze. Because the method is basically faster than a satellite navigation system, it could be useful in transport planning and logistics in the future, for instance.

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New evidence for exotic, predicted superconducting state

October 27, 2014 12:35 pm | Comments

A research team led by a Brown Univ. physicist has produced new evidence for an exotic superconducting state, first predicted a half-century ago, that can arise when a superconductor is exposed to a strong magnetic field. This new understanding of what happens when electron spin populations become unequal could have implications beyond superconductivity.

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How microbes build a powerful antibiotic

October 27, 2014 10:32 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | Comments

Researchers report in Nature that they have made a breakthrough in understanding how a powerful antibiotic agent is made in nature. Their discovery solves a decades-old mystery, and opens up new avenues of research into thousands of similar molecules, many of which are likely to be medically useful. 

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Fraunhofer develops economical process for micro energy harvesting

October 27, 2014 9:52 am | Comments

The trend toward energy self-sufficient probes and ever smaller mobile electronics systems continues, and are used to monitor the status of the engines on airplanes, or for medical implants. They gather the energy they need for this from their immediate environment, such as vibrations. Fraunhofer Institute researchers have developed a process for the economical production of piezoelectric materials that supply this type of energy.

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NASA identifies ice cloud above cruising altitude on Titan

October 27, 2014 9:34 am | Comments

Scientists have identified an unexpected high-altitude methane ice cloud on Saturn's moon Titan that is similar to exotic clouds found far above Earth's poles. Now, eight years after spotting this mysterious bit of atmospheric fluff, NASA's Cassini spacecraft, researchers have determined that it contains methane ice, which produces a much denser cloud than the ethane ice previously identified there.

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How to pick a college? Data crunchers hope to help

October 27, 2014 7:54 am | by Anne Flaherty, Associated Press | Comments

For many high school seniors, fall means deciding where to apply for college and maybe visiting a guidance counselor. Data crunchers hope to help. The popularity of social media sites and advancements in the ability to analyze the vast amounts of data we put online give members of the class of 2015 more tools than ever to help chart their next step, even if finding the right college is an inexact science.

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New hope in treating African sleeping sickness

October 27, 2014 7:53 am | by Joe O'Connell, Staff Writer, Northeastern Univ. | Comments

In early drug dis­covery, you need a starting point. In a new research paper pub­lished in PLOS-Neglected Trop­ical Dis­eases, a team of researchers present hun­dreds of such starting points for poten­tially treating Human African try­panoso­mi­asis, or sleeping sick­ness, a deadly dis­ease that affects thou­sands of people annually.

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Google exec sets records with leap from near-space

October 27, 2014 7:49 am | Comments

Google executive Alan Eustace broke the sound barrier and set several skydiving records over the southern New Mexico desert early Friday after taking a big leap from the edge of space. Eustace's supersonic jump was part of a project by Paragon Space Development Corp., which has been working secretly for years to develop a self-contained commercial spacesuit that would allow people to explore some 20 miles above the Earth's surface.

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Turning loss to gain

October 27, 2014 7:42 am | by Steven Schultz, Princeton Univ. | Comments

Lasers are so deeply integrated into modern technology that their basic operations would seem well understood. CD players, medical diagnostics and military surveillance all depend on lasers. Re-examining longstanding beliefs about the physics of these devices, Princeton Univ. engineers have now shown that carefully restricting the delivery of power to certain areas within a laser could boost its output by many orders of magnitude.

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