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Researchers create fast-growing trees that are easier to turn into fuel

March 19, 2015 7:50 am | by James Hataway, Univ. of Georgia | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Georgia have discovered that manipulation of a specific gene in a hardwood tree species not only makes it easier to break down the wood into fuel, but also significantly increases tree growth. In a paper, the researchers describe how decreasing the expression of a gene called GAUT12.1 leads to a reduction in xylan and pectin.

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More than a million stars are forming in a mysterious dusty gas cloud

March 18, 2015 4:22 pm | by Stuart Wolpert, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | Comments

More than a million young stars are forming in a hot, dusty cloud of molecular gases in a tiny galaxy near our own, an international team of astronomers has discovered. The star cluster is buried within a supernebula in a dwarf galaxy known as NGC 5253, in the constellation Centaurus. The cluster has one billion times the luminosity of our sun, but is invisible in ordinary light, hidden by its own hot gases.

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Buckyballs become bucky-bombs

March 18, 2015 4:15 pm | by Robert Perkins, Univ. of Southern California | Comments

In 1996, a trio of scientists won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their discovery of Buckminsterfullerene: soccer-ball-shaped spheres of 60 joined carbon atoms that exhibit special physical properties. Now, 20 years later, scientists have figured out how to turn them into Buckybombs.

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Improved understanding of protein complex offers insight into DNA replication

March 18, 2015 4:07 pm | by Angela Hardin, Argonne National Laboratory | Comments

A clearer understanding of the origin recognition complex (ORC), a protein complex that directs DNA replication, through its crystal structure offers new insight into fundamental mechanisms of DNA replication initiation. This will also provide insight into how ORC may be compromised in a subset of patients with Meier-Gorlin syndrome, a form of dwarfism in humans.

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In climatic tug of war, carbon released from thawing permafrost wins handily

March 18, 2015 3:55 pm | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Comments

There’s a carbon showdown brewing in the Arctic as Earth’s climate changes. On one side, thawing permafrost could release enormous amounts of long-frozen carbon into the atmosphere. On the opposing side, as high-latitude regions warm, plants will grow more quickly, which means they’ll take in more carbon from the atmosphere. Whichever side wins will have a big impact on the carbon cycle and the planet’s climate.

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Researchers fine-tune quantum dots from coal

March 18, 2015 1:54 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | Comments

Graphene quantum dots made from coal, introduced in 2013 by the Rice Univ. laboratory of chemist James Tour, can be engineered for specific semiconducting properties in either of two single-step processes. In a new study, Tour and colleagues demonstrated fine control over the graphene-oxide dots’ size-dependent band gap, the property that makes them semiconductors.

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Many plastics labeled “biodegradable” don’t break down as expected

March 18, 2015 1:43 pm | by American Chemical Society | Comments

Plastic products advertised as biodegradable have recently emerged, but they sound almost too good to be true. Scientists have now found out that, at least for now, consumers have good reason to doubt these claims. In a new study appearing in Environmental Science & Technology, plastics designed to degrade didn’t break down any faster than their more conventional counterparts.

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New optical materials break digital connectivity barriers

March 18, 2015 12:03 pm | by George Hunka, Tel Aviv Univ. | Comments

From computers, tablets and smartphones to cars, homes and public transportation, our world is more digitally connected every day. The technology required to support the exchange of massive quantities of data is critical. That's why scientists and engineers are intent on developing faster computing units capable of supporting much larger amounts of data transfer and data processing.

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Improved method for coating gold nanorods

March 18, 2015 11:55 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | Comments

Researchers have fine-tuned a technique for coating gold nanorods with silica shells, allowing engineers to create large quantities of the nanorods and giving them more control over the thickness of the shell. Gold nanorods are being investigated for use in a wide variety of biomedical applications, and this advance paves the way for more stable gold nanorods and for chemically functionalizing the surface of the shells.

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Superradiant matter: A new paradigm to explore dynamic phase transitions

March 18, 2015 10:32 am | by Univ. of Hamburg | Comments

If you put water in the freezer to make ice, you trigger a dynamic phase transition. Physicists gave that fancy name to a process which takes a system across a phase transition in a realistic time, to distinguish it from the hypothetical process which goes across the transition infinitely slow. This latter, hypothetical case is discussed in any college textbook.

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Malaria test for ancient human remains

March 18, 2015 10:21 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | Comments

Ancient malaria patients, the anthropologist will see you now. A Yale Univ. scientist has developed a promising new method to identify malaria in the bone marrow of ancient human remains. It is the first time researchers have been able to establish a diagnostic, human skeletal profile for the disease, which is transmitted by mosquitoes and continues to infect millions of people a year.

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Understanding proteins involved in fertility could help boost IVF success

March 18, 2015 10:06 am | by American Chemical Society | Comments

Women who have difficulty getting pregnant often turn to in-vitro fertilization (IVF), but it doesn’t always work. Now scientists are taking a new approach to improve the technique by studying the proteins that could help ready a uterus for an embryo to implant in its wall. Their report could help researchers develop a new treatment that could potentially increase the success rate of IVF.

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Extent of moon’s giant volcanic eruption is revealed

March 18, 2015 9:59 am | by Leighton Kitson, Durham Univ. | Comments

Scientists have produced a new map of the moon’s most unusual volcano showing that its explosive eruption spread debris over an area much greater than previously thought. A team of astronomers and geologists, led by experts at Durham Univ., U.K., studied an area of the lunar surface in the Compton-Belkovich Volcanic Complex.

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Iron rain fell on early Earth

March 18, 2015 8:17 am | by Neal Singer, Sandia National Laboratories | Comments

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories’ Z machine have helped untangle a long-standing mystery of astrophysics: Why iron is found spattered throughout Earth’s mantle, the roughly 2,000-mile thick region between Earth’s core and its crust.

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Cool process to make better graphene

March 18, 2015 8:05 am | by Ker Than, Caltech | Comments

A new technique invented at Caltech to produce graphene at room temperature could help pave the way for commercially feasible graphene-based solar cells and LEDs, large-panel displays and flexible electronics. With the new technique, researchers can grow large sheets of electronic-grade graphene in much less time and at much lower temperatures.

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