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The Lead

Antarctic ice shelves rapidly thinning

March 27, 2015 10:08 am | by Mario Aguilera, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

A new study led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the Univ. of California, San Diego, researchers has revealed that the thickness of Antarctica’s floating ice shelves has recently decreased by as much as 18% in certain areas over nearly two decades, providing new insights on how the Antarctic ice sheet is responding to climate change.

MRI based on sugar molecule can tell cancerous from noncancerous cells

March 27, 2015 8:32 am | by Shawna Williams, Johns Hopkins Univ. | News | Comments

Imaging tests like mammograms or CT scans can detect tumors, but figuring out whether a growth...

Big data allows computer engineers to find genetic clues in humans

March 27, 2015 8:26 am | by Washington Univ. in St. Louis | News | Comments

Big data: It's a term we read and hear about often, but is hard to grasp. Computer scientists at...

Do government technology investments pay off?

March 27, 2015 8:08 am | by Greta Guest, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Studies confirm that IT investments in companies improve productivity and efficiency. Univ. of...

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Analysis sees many promising pathways for solar photovoltaic power

March 26, 2015 12:07 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In a broad new assessment of the status and prospects of solar photovoltaic technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers say that it is “one of the few renewable, low-carbon resources with both the scalability and the technological maturity to meet ever-growing global demand for electricity.”

Thousands of atoms entangled with a single photon

March 26, 2015 7:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Physicists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Univ. of Belgrade have developed a new technique that can successfully entangle 3,000 atoms using only a single photon. The results represent the largest number of particles that have ever been mutually entangled experimentally.

Building a nanolaser using a single atomic sheet

March 25, 2015 12:33 pm | by Jennifer Langston, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Univ. of Washington scientists have built a new nanometer-sized laser that is energy efficient, easy to build and compatible with existing electronics. Lasers play essential roles in countless technologies, from medical therapies to metal cutters to electronic gadgets. But to meet modern needs in computation, communications, imaging and sensing, scientists are striving to create ever-smaller laser systems that also consume less energy.

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Manufacturing process could yield better solar cells, faster chips

March 25, 2015 10:57 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | Videos | Comments

Computer chips, solar cells and other electronic devices have traditionally been based on silicon, the most famous of the semiconductors, that special class of materials whose unique electronic properties can be manipulated to turn electricity on and off the way faucets control the flow of water. There are other semiconductors. Gallium arsenide is one such material and it has certain technical advantages over silicon.

Snake robots learn to turn by following real sidewinders’ lead

March 25, 2015 7:59 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon Univ. (CMU) who develop snake-like robots have picked up a few tricks from real sidewinder rattlesnakes on how to make rapid and even sharp turns with their undulating, modular device. Working with colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Zoo Atlanta, they have analyzed the motions of sidewinders and tested their observations on CMU’s snake robots.

“Virtual nose” may reduce simulator sickness in video games

March 25, 2015 7:50 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Virtual reality games often cause simulator sickness, but new research findings point to a potential strategy to ease the affliction. Various physiological systems govern the onset of simulator sickness: a person's overall sense of touch and position, or the somatosensory system; liquid-filled tubes in the ear called the vestibular system; and the oculumotor system, or muscles that control eye movements.

New kind of “tandem” solar cell developed

March 25, 2015 7:41 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford Univ. have developed a new kind of solar cell that combines two different layers of sunlight-absorbing material in order to harvest a broader range of the sun’s energy. The development could lead to photovoltaic cells that are more efficient than those currently used in solar-power installations, the researchers say.

Research suggest solar system may have once harbored super-Earths

March 23, 2015 4:22 pm | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

Long before Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars formed, it seems that the inner solar system may have harbored a number of super-Earths, planets larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. If so, those planets are long gone, broken up and fallen into the sun billions of years ago largely due to a great inward-and-then-outward journey that Jupiter made early in the solar system's history.

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New technique could bring quality-control tool for nanocomposites

March 23, 2015 4:10 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Layered nanocomposites containing tiny structures mixed into a polymer matrix are gaining commercial use, but their complex nature can hide defects that affect performance. Now researchers have developed a system capable of detecting such defects using a "Kelvin probe" scanning method with an atomic force microscope. The ability to look below the surface of nanocomposites represents a potential new quality-control tool for industry. 

Genomewide screen of learning in zebrafish identifies enzyme important in neural circuit

March 23, 2015 11:37 am | by Karen Kreeger, Univ. of Pennsylvania | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Pennsylvania describe the first set of genes important in learning in a zebrafish model in Neuron. Using in-depth analysis of one of the genes, the team has revealed an important signaling pathway. According to the researchers, the proteins in this pathway could provide new insights into the development of novel pharmacological targets.

Even at a molecular level, taking it slow helps to cope with stress

March 23, 2015 10:08 am | by Sarah Yang, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley, scientists have identified a new molecular pathway critical to aging, and confirmed that the process can be manipulated to help make old blood like new again. The researchers found that blood stem cells’ ability to repair damage caused by inappropriate protein folding in the mitochondria, a cell’s energy station, is critical to their survival and regenerative capacity.

Satellite imagery can aid development projects

March 23, 2015 8:52 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Projects that target aid toward villages and rural areas in the developing world often face time-consuming challenges, even at the most basic level of figuring out where the most appropriate sites are for pilot programs or deployment of new systems such as solar-power for regions that have no access to electricity. Often, even the sizes and locations of villages are poorly mapped, so time-consuming field studies are needed.

Processing tech converts packing peanuts to battery components

March 23, 2015 7:53 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have shown how to convert waste packing peanuts into high-performance carbon electrodes for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that outperform conventional graphite electrodes, representing an environmentally friendly approach to reuse the waste.

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Theoretical study suggests huge lava tubes could exist on moon

March 20, 2015 7:37 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Lava tubes large enough to house cities could be structurally stable on the moon, according to a theoretical study. The volcanic features are an important target for future human space exploration because they could provide shelter from cosmic radiation, meteorite impacts and temperature extremes.

Plasmonic ceramic materials key to advances in nanophotonics

March 19, 2015 3:52 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Progress in developing nanophotonic devices capable of withstanding high temperatures and harsh conditions for applications including data storage, sensing, health care and energy will depend on the research community and industry adopting new "plasmonic ceramic" materials, according to a commentary in Science.

Milky Way’s center unveils supernova “dust factory”

March 19, 2015 3:09 pm | by Blaine Friedlander, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Sifting through the center of the Milky Way galaxy, astronomers have made the first direct observations, using an infrared telescope aboard a modified Boeing 747, of cosmic building-block dust resulting from an ancient supernova.

Sense of smell may reveal weight bias

March 19, 2015 2:46 pm | by Rebecca Kendall, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

Could our reaction to an image of an overweight or obese person affect how we perceive odor? A trio of researchers, including two from the Univ. of California, Los Angeles, says yes. The researchers discovered that visual cues associated with overweight or obese people can influence one’s sense of smell, and that the perceiver’s body mass index matters, too.

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 | News | 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.

Cool process to make better graphene

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

Prices of cancer drugs have soared since 1995

March 18, 2015 7:37 am | by Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The prices of leading cancer drugs have risen at rates far outstripping inflation over the last two decades, according to a new study co-authored by an Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist. But the exact reasons for the cost increases are unclear. Since 1995, a group of 58 leading cancer drugs has increased in price by 10% annually, even when adjusted for inflation and incremental health benefits, the study finds.

Data structures influence speed of quantum search in unexpected ways

March 17, 2015 3:25 pm | by Susan Brown, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

Using the quantum property of superposition, quantum computers will be able to find target items within large piles of data far faster than conventional computers ever could. But the speed of the search will likely depend on the structure of the data. Such a search would proceed as a quantum particle jumps from one node of a connected set of data to another. Intuition says that the search would be fastest in a highly connected database.

“Smart bandage” detects bed sores before they are visible

March 17, 2015 2:23 pm | by Sarah Yang, Univ. of California, Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Engineers at the Univ. of California, Berkeley, are developing a new type of bandage that does far more than stanch the bleeding from a paper cut or scraped knee. Thanks to advances in flexible electronics, the researchers have created a new “smart bandage” that uses electrical currents to detect early tissue damage from pressure ulcers, or bedsores, before they can be seen by human eyes, and while recovery is still possible.

Graphene membrane could lead to better fuel cells, water filters

March 17, 2015 12:32 pm | by Walt Miss, Penn State Univ. | Videos | Comments

An atomically thin membrane with microscopically small holes may prove to be the basis for future hydrogen fuel cells, water filtering and desalination membranes, according to a group of 15 theorists and experimentalists. The team tested the possibility of using graphene as a separation membrane in water and found that naturally occurring defects allowed hydrogen protons to cross the barrier at unprecedented speeds.

New trigger of cellular self-destruction identified

March 17, 2015 8:03 am | by Elizabeth Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have identified a bacterial protein that triggers a self-inflicted cell death pathway in immune system cells and could lead to a better understanding of an important cellular structure. The protein initiates a cascade of events that leads the lysosome to open holes in its membrane and release enzymes that destroy the cell.

Second minor planet may possess Saturn-like rings

March 17, 2015 7:43 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

There are only five bodies in our solar system that are known to bear rings. The most obvious is the planet Saturn; to a lesser extent, rings of gas and dust also encircle Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune. The fifth member of this haloed group is Chariklo, one of a class of minor planets called centaurs: small, rocky bodies that possess qualities of both asteroids and comets.

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