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How to make a “perfect” solar absorber

September 29, 2014 8:08 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Comments

The key to creating a material that would be ideal for converting solar energy to heat is tuning the material’s spectrum of absorption just right: It should absorb virtually all wavelengths of light that reach Earth’s surface from the sun—but not much of the rest of the spectrum, since that would increase the energy that is reradiated by the material, and thus lost to the conversion process.

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Goodyear aims to use rice husk byproduct in tires

September 28, 2014 10:36 am | by Mark Gillispie - Associated Press - Associated Press | Comments

One of the world's biggest tire manufacturers is taking another step toward more environmentally friendly production by incorporating a byproduct created by the burning of rice husks into a material used in high-end tires. Akron-based Goodyear is embracing a technology that converts the ash that remains from burned rice husks into silica, which has been used in tire production for two decades.

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Multi-spectra “glasses” aid studies of light elements with SEMs

September 26, 2014 11:16 am | Comments

Scanning electron microscopes can determine chemical compositions with the help of energy dispersive spectrometers. However, lighter elements like carbon emit secondary fluorescence in an energy range insufficiently resolved by these instruments. Physicists have developed a potential solution to this problem by adding reflection zone plate optics to a specialized spectrometer that delivers high resolution from 50 to 1,120 eV.

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Thomson Reuters predicts 2014 Nobel laureates

September 26, 2014 10:38 am | Comments

Having accurately forecast 35 Nobel Prize winners since its inception in 2002, the annual Thomson Reuters Citation Laureates study mines scientific research citations to identify the most influential researchers in the fields of chemistry, physics, medicine and economics. This year’s forecast includes scientists who discovered the organic light-emitting diode, advanced pain management, and uncovered genetic predisposition to disease.

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Cell sorting method separates 10 billion cells in 30 minutes

September 26, 2014 9:42 am | Comments

Almost all of today’s previously existing cell-sorting methods rely on what is called a single-cell analysis platform. A researcher in Hawaii took a different approach, inventing a bulk method that sorts different cell populations by tuning their solubility. Instead of targeting individual features, the  measurement principle sorts cells by differentiating their characteristic surface free energies.

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Neutron vision: Going beyond x-rays for advanced imaging in the field

September 26, 2014 9:32 am | Comments

Seeking to expand the United States' capability to detect and identify materials that are not easily visualized, DARPA this week released an announcement inviting proposals to develop portable, next-generation imaging tools that combine the complementary benefits of x-rays, which efficiently detect heavier elements, and neutron radiography, which is not as portable as x-ray detectors but can identify liquids and lighter elements.

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NIST awards contract to MITRE to support cybersecurity center

September 26, 2014 9:26 am | Comments

In support of the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, NIST has awarded a contract its first Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC). The contract, which includes three initial tasks totaling about $29 million, was awarded to The MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit organization that operates six other FFRDCs.

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A prison for photons in a diamond-like photonic crystal

September 26, 2014 9:08 am | Comments

Confined photons have many potential applications, such as efficient miniature lasers, on-chip information storage, or tiny sensors on pharmaceuticals. Making a structure that can capture photons is difficult, but scientists in the Netherlands have recently devised a new type of resonant cavity inside a photonic crystal that imprisons light in all three dimensions.

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Protein “map” could lead to potent new cancer drugs

September 26, 2014 8:55 am | Comments

Chemists in the U.K. have gained fresh insights into how a disease-causing enzyme makes changes to proteins and how it can be stopped. The scientists hope their findings will help them to design drugs that could target the enzyme, known as N-myristoyltransferase (NMT), and potentially lead to new treatments for cancer and inflammatory conditions.

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Discovery could pave way for spin-based computing

September 26, 2014 8:48 am | by Joe Miksch, Univ. of Pittsburgh | Comments

Electricity and magnetism rule our digital world. Semiconductors process electrical information, while magnetic materials enable long-term data storage. A Univ. of Pittsburgh research team has discovered a way to fuse these two distinct properties in a single material, paving the way for new ultrahigh density storage and computing architectures.

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NASA finds clear skies and water vapor on exoplanet

September 26, 2014 8:42 am | Comments

Astronomers using data from NASA's space telescopes Hubble, Spitzer, and Kepler have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapor on a gaseous planet outside our solar system. The planet is about the size of Neptune, making it the smallest planet from which molecules of any kind have been detected.

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Researcher works to predict electric power blackouts before they happen

September 26, 2014 8:34 am | by Katie Jones, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Comments

The largest power outage in U.S. history, the 2003 Northeast blackout, began with one power line in Ohio going offline and ended with more than 50 million people without power throughout the Northeast and the Canadian province of Ontario. Despite the apparent failure of the electric grid during such cascading events, blackouts aren’t necessarily grid failures.

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Technology tracks tiniest pollutants in real time

September 26, 2014 8:23 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | Comments

Researchers may soon have a better idea of how tiny particles of pollution are formed in the atmosphere. These particles, called aerosols, are hazardous to human health and contribute to climate change, but researchers know little about how their properties are shaped by chemical reactions in the atmosphere. Unraveling this chemistry could someday lead to more effective policies to protect human health and the Earth’s climate.

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The water in your bottle might be older than the sun

September 26, 2014 8:13 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | Comments

Up to half of the water on Earth is likely older than the solar system itself, Univ. of Michigan astronomers theorize. The researchers' work helps to settle a debate about just how far back in galactic history our planet and our solar system's water formed. Were the molecules in comet ices and terrestrial oceans born with the system itself—in the planet-forming disk of dust and gas that circled the young sun 4.6 billion years ago?

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On the road to artificial photosynthesis

September 26, 2014 8:04 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Comments

The excessive atmospheric carbon dioxide that is driving global climate change could be harnessed into a renewable energy technology that would be a win for both the environment and the economy. That is the lure of artificial photosynthesis in which the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide is used to produce clean, green and sustainable fuels. 

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