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Recycling astronaut urine for energy and drinking water

April 9, 2014 3:09 pm | Comments

On the less glamorous side of space exploration, there’s the more practical problem of waste: in particular, what to do with astronaut pee. But rather than ejecting it into space, scientists are developing a new technique that can turn this waste burden into a boon by converting it into fuel and much-needed drinking water.

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Oak Ridge study pegs fuel economy costs of common practices

April 9, 2014 3:07 pm | Comments

People who pack their cars and drive like Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s “Vacation” pay a steep penalty when it comes to fuel economy, according to a report by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Researchers tested vehicles at a variety of speeds with different configurations of load and tire inflation. While the findings were not unexpected, they serve as a reminder of how drivers can save money by taking simple measures.

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A first principles approach to creating new materials

April 9, 2014 3:02 pm | by Marlene Cimons, National Science Foundation | Comments

Traditionally, scientists discover new materials, and then probe them to understand their properties. Theoretical materials physicist Craig Fennie does it in reverse. He creates new materials by employing a "first principles" approach based on quantum mechanics, in which he builds materials atom by atom, starting with mathematical models, in order to gain the needed physical properties.

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Tiny “step edges” are a big step for surface science

April 9, 2014 2:59 pm | Comments

Recent experiments in Austria have explained the behavior of electrons at tiny step edges on titanium oxide surfaces. The finding, which shows why oxygen atoms attach so well to these edges, is important for solar cell technology and novel, more effective catalysts.

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Japan stem cell researcher says results valid

April 9, 2014 10:20 am | by Elaine Kurtenbach, Associated Press | Comments

The Japanese scientist accused of falsifying data in a widely heralded stem-cell research paper said Wednesday the results are valid despite mistakes in their presentation. Haruko Obokata, 30, struggled to maintain her composure during a televised news conference packed with hundreds of reporters, but insisted she did not tamper with the data to fabricate results.

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2014 R&D 100 Awards entry deadline extended

April 9, 2014 10:16 am | Comments

The editors of R&D Magazine have announced that there is still plenty time to prepare your Entry Form for the 2014 R&D 100 Awards. In addition to a shorter, simpler form this year, the editors have decided to give participants an extra two weeks to prepare their submission. May 2 is the new deadline, so if you have a new product launched in 2013, consider entering!

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No compromises: JILA’s short, flexible, reusable AFM probe

April 9, 2014 10:00 am | Comments

Researchers at JILA in Colorado have engineered a short, flexible, reusable probe for the atomic force microscope (AFM) that enables state-of-the-art precision and stability in picoscale force measurements. Shorter, softer and more agile than standard and recently enhanced AFM probes, the JILA tips will benefit nanotechnology and studies of folding and stretching in biomolecules such as proteins and DNA.

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Study: Creativity and innovation need to talk more

April 9, 2014 9:32 am | by Jeff Falk, Rice Univ. | Comments

Creativity and innovation are not sufficiently integrated in either the business world or academic research, according to a new study from several universities. The study proposes 60 specific research questions for future studies as well as 11 themes that warrant greater attention from researchers. They include the roles of customers, the Internet and social media and leadership style in the creativity-innovation cycle.

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Advanced warning systems increase safety at intersections, study shows

April 9, 2014 9:28 am | Comments

A major factor making driving difficult is hazards that are sudden and hard to predict. The wrong choice in this situation, known as the “dilemma zone,” may lead to crashes. Roadside and in-vehicle display warning systems may help drivers handle these hazards by predicting their occurrence and providing advanced warning to the driver, according to a new study.

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A new twist for better steel

April 9, 2014 9:23 am | Comments

In steel making, two desirable qualities, strength and ductility, tend to be at odds: Stronger steel is less ductile, and more ductile steel is not as strong. Engineers at Brown Univ., three Chinese universities, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have shown that when cylinders of steel are twisted, their strength is improved without sacrificing ductility.

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A new “hope” for preservation of tissue samples for analysis

April 8, 2014 12:12 pm | Comments

Researchers have discovered that the so-called HOPE method allows tissue samples to be treated such that they do not only meet the requirements of clinical histology, but can still be characterized later on by modern methods of proteomics, a technique that analyzes all proteins at once. This differs from the traditional formalin-based approach that cross-links protein molecules.

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Domain walls in nanowires cleverly set in motion

April 8, 2014 12:02 pm | Comments

Using a new trick, researchers in Germany have been able to induce synchronous motion of the domain walls in a ferromagnetic nanowire. This is an important breakthrough for controlled movement of domain walls that allows permanent data to be stored using nanomagnets.  The advance involved applying a pulsed magnetic field that was perpendicular to the plane of the domain walls.

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New strategic partnership brings healthcare cloud tech to labs

April 8, 2014 11:51 am | Comments

Beckman Coulter Diagnostics has announced a strategic partnership with hc1.co of Indianapolis to help laboratories turn large amounts of clinical data into actionable insights. The new technology combines Beckman Coulter’s clinical diagnostic systems with hc1.com’s software-as-a-service product, Healthcare Relationship Cloud.

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Hybrid technology could make Star Trek-style tricorder a reality

April 8, 2014 11:29 am | Comments

In the fictional Star-Trek universe, the tricorder was used to remotely scan patients for a diagnosis. A new device under development in the U.K. could perform that function through the use of chemical sensors on printed circuit boards. This would replace the current conventional diagnostic method, which is lengthy and is limited to single point measurements.

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Even thinner solar cells through use of nanoparticles

April 8, 2014 11:16 am | Comments

New research shows that nanostructures could enable more light to be directed into the active layer of solar cells, increasing their efficiency. Prof. Martina Schmid of Freie Univ. in Berlin has measured how irregularly distributed silver particles influence the absorption of light. Nanoparticles interact with one another via their electromagnetic near-fields, so that local “hot spots” arise where light is concentrated especially strongly.

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