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Fingertip sensor gives robot dexterity

September 19, 2014 | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Northeastern Univ. have equipped a robot with a novel tactile sensor that lets it grasp a USB cable draped freely over a hook and insert it into a USB port. The sensor is an adaptation of a technology called GelSight, which was developed at MIT, and first described in 2009.

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Smart-material chinstrap harvests energy from chewing

September 19, 2014 10:10 am | by Institute of Physics | Comments

A chinstrap that can harvest energy from jaw movements has been created by a group of researchers in Canada. It’s hoped that the device will be able to generate electricity from eating, chewing and talking, and power a number of small-scale implantable or wearable electronic devices, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, electronic hearing protectors and communication devices.

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Smartgels are thicker than water

September 19, 2014 10:08 am | by Poncie Rutsch, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology | Comments

Transforming substances from liquids into gels plays an important role across many industries, but the transformation process, called gelation, is expensive and energy demanding. Instead of adding chemical thickeners and heating or cooling the fluids, as is traditional, researchers in Okinawa are experimenting with microfluidic platforms, adding nanoparticles and biomolecules with used pH, chemical and temperature sensing properties.

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Video games could dramatically streamline education research

September 19, 2014 9:12 am | by C. Brandon Chapman, Washington State Univ. | Comments

Washington State Univ. professor Rich Lamb has figured out a dramatically easier and more cost-effective way to do research on science curriculum in the classroom, and it could include playing video games. Called “computational modeling,” it involves a computer “learning” student behavior and then “thinking” as students would. Lamb, who teaches science education, says the process could revolutionize the way educational research is done.

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Math model designed to replace invasive kidney biopsy for lupus patients

September 19, 2014 8:34 am | by Emily Caldwell, Ohio State Univ. | Comments

Mathematics might be able to reduce the need for invasive biopsies in patients suffering kidney damage related to the autoimmune disease lupus. In a new study, researchers developed a math model that can predict the progression from nephritis, or kidney inflammation, to interstitial fibrosis, scarring in the kidney that current treatments cannot reverse. A kidney biopsy is the only existing way to reach a definitive diagnosis.

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Engineer to build “hot” solar cells

September 19, 2014 8:12 am | by Rase McCry, Yale Univ. | Comments

Yale Univ. associate professor of electrical engineering Minjoo Larry Lee has been awarded $2,540,000 to develop dual-junction solar cells that can operate efficiently at extreme temperatures above 750 F. In addition to converting a portion of the sunlight directly into electricity, the solar cells will use the remainder of the light to heat high-temperature fluids that can drive a steam turbine or be stored for later use.

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Researchers study vital on/off switches of deadly bacteria

September 19, 2014 7:50 am | by David Tennebaum, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | Comments

No matter how many times it’s demonstrated, it’s still hard to envision bacteria as social, communicating creatures. But by using a signaling system called “quorum sensing,” these single-celled organisms radically alter their behavior to suit their population. In short, some bacteria “know” how many of them are present, and act accordingly.

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Nanoscience makes your wine better

September 18, 2014 1:13 pm | by Anne-Mette Siem, Aarhus Univ. | Comments

One sip of a perfectly poured glass of wine leads to an explosion of flavors in your mouth. Researchers in Denmark have now developed a nanosensor that can mimic what happens in your mouth when you drink wine. The sensor, which uses gold nanoparticles to act as a “mini-mouth”, measures how you experience the sensation of dryness in the wine.

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Advanced molecular “sieves” could be used for carbon capture

September 18, 2014 12:33 pm | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Cambridge have developed advanced molecular synthetic membranes, or “sieves”, which could be used to filter carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The sieves were made by heating microporous polymers using low levels of oxygen which, produces a tougher and far more selective membrane that is still relatively flexible.

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Sensing neuronal activity with light

September 18, 2014 12:29 pm | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | Comments

For years, neuroscientists have been trying to develop tools that would allow them to clearly view the brain's circuitry in action. To get this complete picture, neuroscientists are working to develop a range of new tools to study the brain. Researchers at Caltech have developed one such tool that provides a new way of mapping neural networks in a living organism.

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Chemists modify antibiotic to vanquish resistant bacteria

September 18, 2014 10:14 am | by The Scripps Research Institute | Comments

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have devised a new antibiotic based on vancomycin that is powerfully effective against vancomycin-resistant strains of MRSA and other disease-causing bacteria. The new vancomycin analog appears to have not one but two distinct mechanisms of anti-microbial action, against which bacteria probably cannot evolve resistance quickly.

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New diagnostic method identifies genetic diseases

September 18, 2014 9:01 am | Comments

Fewer than half of all patients who are suspected of having a genetic disease actually receive a satisfactory diagnosis. To solve this problem, scientists have developed an innovative diagnostic procedure, called PhenIX, that combines the analysis of genetic irregularities with the patient's clinical presentation. The method involves a search for genes that cause disease and its related phenotypes to produce a short, testable list.

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Physicists heat freestanding graphene to control curvature of ripples

September 18, 2014 8:52 am | Comments

While freestanding graphene offers promise as a replacement for silicon and other materials in microprocessors and next-generation energy devices, much remains unknown about its mechanical and thermal properties. An international team of physicists, led by a research group at the Univ. of Arkansas, has recently discovered that heating can be used to control the curvature of ripples in freestanding graphene.

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Sandia pioneers software for smart, sustainable institutions

September 18, 2014 8:13 am | by Stephanie Holinka, Sandia National Laboratories | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories’ Institutional Transformation (IX) model helps the federal laboratory reduce its energy consumption and could help other large institutions do the same. The IX model allows planners to experiment with energy conservation measures before making expensive changes. It also models operations-oriented conservation methods.

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Team aims to improve plant-based battery with neutrons, simulation

September 18, 2014 8:02 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Comments

When Orlando Rios first started analyzing samples of carbon fibers made from a woody plant polymer known as lignin, he noticed something unusual. The material’s microstructure—a mixture of perfectly spherical nanoscale crystallites distributed within a fibrous matrix—looked almost too good to be true.

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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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