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New algorithms lets owners swap, recharge battery modules in electric cars

September 17, 2014 | Comments

Imagine being able to switch out the batteries in electric cars just like you switch out batteries in a photo camera or flashlight. Engineers in California are trying to accomplish just that, in partnership with a local San Diego engineering company. Rather than swapping out the whole battery, which is cumbersome and requires large, heavy equipment, engineers plan to swap out and recharge smaller units within the battery, known as modules.

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Studies find declines in price of rooftop and utility-scale solar

September 18, 2014 7:51 am | by Allen Chen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Comments

The price of solar energy in the U.S. continues to fall substantially, according to the latest editions of two annual reports produced by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). A third Berkeley Lab report, written in collaboration with researchers at Yale Univ., the Univ. of Texas at Austin and the DOE, shows that local permitting and other regulatory procedures can significantly impact residential photovoltaic prices.

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Boosting global corn yields depends on improving nutrient balance

September 18, 2014 7:40 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | Comments

Ensuring that corn absorbs the right balance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is crucial to increasing global yields, a Purdue and Kansas State Univ. study finds. A review of data from more than 150 studies from the U.S. and other regions showed that high yields were linked to production systems in which corn plants took up key nutrients at specific ratios.

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Shrink-wrapping spacesuits

September 18, 2014 7:32 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Comments

For future astronauts, the process of suiting up may go something like this: Instead of climbing into a conventional, bulky, gas-pressurized suit, an astronaut may don a lightweight, stretchy garment, lined with tiny, muscle-like coils. She would then plug in to a spacecraft’s power supply, triggering the coils to contract and essentially shrink-wrap the garment around her body.

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Designing more successful synthetic molecules

September 17, 2014 11:08 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service | Comments

Ever since Robert Hooke first described cells in 1665, scientists have been trying to figure out what goes on inside. One of the most exciting modern techniques involves injecting cells with synthetic genetic molecules that can passively report on the cell's behavior. A new computer model could not only improve the sensitivity and success of these synthetic molecules, but also make them easier to design in the first place.

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Scientists twist radio beams to send data

September 17, 2014 10:55 am | by Robert Perkins, Univ. of Southern California | Comments

Building on previous research that twisted light to send data at unheard-of speeds, scientists at the Univ. of Southern California (USC) have developed a similar technique with radio waves, reaching high speeds without some of the hassles that can go with optical systems. The researchers reached data transmission rates of 32 Gbps across 2.5 m of free space in a basement laboratory at USC.

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Toward optical chips

September 17, 2014 9:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Comments

Chips that use light, rather than electricity, to move data would consume much less power. Of the three chief components of optical circuits—light emitters, modulators and detectors—emitters are the toughest to build. One promising light source for optical chips is molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), which has excellent optical properties when deposited as a single, atom-thick layer.

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For electronics beyond silicon, a new contender emerges

September 17, 2014 8:13 am | by Caroline Perry, Harvard Univ. | Comments

Silicon has few serious competitors as the material of choice in the electronics industry. Yet transistors can’t simply keep shrinking to meet the needs of powerful, compact devices; physical limitations like energy consumption and heat dissipation are too significant. Now, using a quantum material called a correlated oxide, researchers have achieved a reversible change in electrical resistance of eight orders of magnitude.

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Nanoribbon film keeps glass ice-free

September 17, 2014 7:58 am | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists who created a deicing film for radar domes have now refined the technology to work as a transparent coating for glass. The new work by Rice chemist James Tour and his colleagues could keep glass surfaces from windshields to skyscrapers free of ice and fog while retaining their transparency to radio frequencies (RF).

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Novel capability enables first test of real turbine engine conditions

September 17, 2014 7:46 am | by Tona Kunz, Argonne National Laboratory | Comments

Manufactures of turbine engines for airplanes, automobiles and electric generation plants could expedite the development of more durable, energy-efficient turbine blades thanks to a partnership between Argonne National Laboratory, the German Aerospace Center and the universities of Central Florida and Cleveland State. The ability to operate turbine blades at higher temperatures improves efficiency and reduces energy costs.

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How to hide like an octopus

September 17, 2014 7:33 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Comments

Cephalopods are among nature’s most skillful camouflage artists, able to change both the color and texture of their skin within seconds to blend into their surroundings. Engineers have long struggled to duplicate this in synthetic materials. Now a team of researchers has come closer than ever to achieving that goal, creating a flexible material that can change its color or fluorescence and its texture at the same time.

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Team is first to capture motion of single molecule in real time

September 16, 2014 6:23 pm | Comments

Chemists at the Univ. of California, Irvine, have scored a scientific first: capturing moving images of a single molecule as it vibrates, or “breathes,” and shifts from one quantum state to another. The groundbreaking achievement, led by Ara Apkarian, professor of chemistry, and Eric Potma, associate professor of chemistry, opens a window into the strange realm of quantum mechanics.

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NASA makes selections for astronaut transport to space station

September 16, 2014 6:07 pm | Comments

Groundbreaking contracts worth $6.8 billion were issued Tuesday to Boeing and SpaceX to transport U.S. crews to and from the space station using their CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft, respectively. NASA’s awards to United States spacecraft will meet a goal of ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia in 2017.

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CDC study: Americans' bellies are expanding fast

September 16, 2014 4:37 pm | by Lindsey Tanner - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | Comments

The number of American men and women with big-bellied, apple-shaped figures—the most dangerous kind of obesity—has climbed at a startling rate over the past decade, according to a government study. People whose fat has settled mostly around their waistlines instead of in their hips, thighs, buttocks or all over are known to run a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and other obesity-related ailments.

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Setting a course for genomic islands

September 16, 2014 11:57 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | Comments

Yale Univ. scientists are exploring uncharted genomic islands to study new chemistry between bacteria and their hosts, from invertebrates to humans. One such discovery is published in Chemistry & Biology. The findings describe a biological pathway that contains a hypothetical protein responsible for the formation of a rare, bicyclic sugar.

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Is the U.S. doing enough to fight Ebola?

September 16, 2014 11:46 am | by Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press | Comments

The American strategy on Ebola is two-pronged: step up desperately needed aid to West Africa and, in an unusual step, train U.S. doctors and nurses for volunteer duty in the outbreak zone. At home, the goal is to speed up medical research and put hospitals on alert should an infected traveler arrive.

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