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The Lead

They know the drill: UW leads the league in boring through ice sheets

October 31, 2014 10:10 am | by David Tenenbaum, Univ. of Wisconsin | News | Comments

Wisconsin is famous for its ice fishers. Less well known are the state’s big-league ice drillers. Hollow coring drills designed and managed by the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison have been instrumental to new research published this week documenting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere between 23,000 and 9,000 years ago, based on data from an 11,000-foot hole in Antarctica.

Making lab-grown tissues stronger

October 31, 2014 8:54 am | by Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service | News | Comments

Lab-grown tissues could one day provide new treatments for injuries and damage to the joints,...

Self-driving vehicles generate enthusiasm, concerns worldwide

October 31, 2014 8:22 am | by Bernie DeGroat, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Despite safety concerns about equipment failure, a majority of drivers on three continents have...

Climate change beliefs more influenced by long-term temperature fluctuations

October 31, 2014 8:14 am | by Phil Ciciora, Business & Law Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

In spite of the broad scientific consensus about its existence, global warming remains a...

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Raising cryptography’s standards

October 31, 2014 8:07 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Most modern cryptographic schemes rely on computational complexity for their security. In principle, they can be cracked, but that would take a prohibitively long time, even with enormous computational resources. There is, however, another notion of security—information-theoretic security—which means that even an adversary with unbounded computational power could extract no useful information from an encrypted message.

Heart’s own immune cells can help it heal

October 30, 2014 2:55 pm | by Julia Evangelou Strait, Washington Univ. in St. Louis | News | Comments

The heart holds its own pool of immune cells capable of helping it heal after injury, according to new research in mice at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. When the heart is injured, beneficial immune cells are often supplanted by bone marrow cells, which cause damaging inflammation. In a mouse model, researchers showed that blocking the bone marrow’s macrophages protects the organ’s beneficial pool of macrophages.

Sculpting solar systems: Magnetic fields seen for first time

October 30, 2014 7:50 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Astronomers have caught their first glimpse of the invisible magnetic fields that sculpt solar systems. Looking at a bright, nearby baby star and the dust swirling in its cradle, astronomers from the Univ. of Illinois and six collaborating institutions were able to make out the shape of the magnetic field surrounding the star.

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Harnessing error-prone chips

October 30, 2014 7:40 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

As transistors get smaller, they also grow less reliable. Increasing their operating voltage can help, but that means a corresponding increase in power consumption. With information technology consuming a steadily growing fraction of the world’s energy supplies, some researchers and hardware manufacturers are exploring the possibility of simply letting chips botch the occasional computation.

Projecting a robot’s intentions

October 29, 2014 1:27 pm | by Jennifer Chu, MIT | Videos | Comments

Inside Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Building 41, a small, Roomba-like robot is trying to decided where to go. As the robot considers its options, its “thoughts” are projected on the ground in the form of different colored dots and lines. This new visualization system, called “measurable virtual reality”, combines projectors with motion-capture technology and animation software to project a robot’s intentions in real time.

With phased-array radar, electrical engineers aim to make car travel safer

October 29, 2014 12:55 pm | News | Comments

Electrical engineers from the Univ. of California, San Diego have developed hardware for a new generation of automotive radar systems designed to keep drivers, and the pedestrians around them they may not see, safe. Their project is part of an initiative led by Toyota Technical Center that won a 2014 R&D 100 Award for its “Automotive Phased Array Radar.”

Scientists discover exact receptor for DEET that repels mosquitoes

October 29, 2014 9:24 am | News | Comments

DEET has been the gold standard of insect repellents for more than six decades, and now researchers led by a Univ. of California, Davis, scientist have discovered the exact odorant receptor that repels them. They also have identified a plant defensive compound that might mimic DEET, a discovery that could pave the way for better and more affordable insect repellents.

Self-assembled membranes hint at biomedical applications

October 28, 2014 11:36 am | by David Lindley, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Techniques for self-assembling of molecules have grown increasingly sophisticated, but biological structures remain a challenge. Recently, scientists have used self-assembly under controlled conditions to create a membrane consisting of layers with distinctly different structures. At the Advanced Photon Source, the team has studied the structures and how they form, paving the way for hierarchical structures with biomedical applications.

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How we get the nitrogen we need

October 28, 2014 8:42 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

Nitrogen is an essential component of all living systems, playing important roles in everything from proteins and nucleic acids to vitamins. It is the most abundant element in Earth's atmosphere and is literally all around us, but in its gaseous state, N2, it is inert and useless to most organisms.

A look back in time at key events in plant evolution

October 28, 2014 8:27 am | by Jim Erickson, University of Michigan | News | Comments

Scientists from North America, Europe and China published a paper that reveals important details about key transitions in the evolution of plant life on our planet. From strange and exotic algae, trees and flowers growing deep in steamy rainforests to the grains and vegetables we eat and the ornamental plants adorning our homes, all plant life on Earth shares over a billion years of history.

Shifting to higher octane

October 28, 2014 7:57 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

If the majority of light-duty vehicles in the U.S. ran on higher-octane gasoline, the automotive industry as a whole would reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 35 million tons per year, saving up to $6 billion in fuel costs, according to a new analysis by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers.

How microbes build a powerful antibiotic

October 27, 2014 10:32 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers report in Nature that they have made a breakthrough in understanding how a powerful antibiotic agent is made in nature. Their discovery solves a decades-old mystery, and opens up new avenues of research into thousands of similar molecules, many of which are likely to be medically useful. 

Army collaboration produces new test station for missile warning system

October 23, 2014 8:51 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

The AN/AAR-57 Common Missile Warning System (CMWS) helps protect Army aircraft from attack by shoulder-launched missiles and other threats. To keep this defensive system operating at maximum effectiveness, the Army periodically updates the software on the more than 1,000 AN/AAR-57 units in use around the world.

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Strengthening thin-film bonds with ultra-fast data collection

October 23, 2014 8:29 am | by Michael Baum, NIST | News | Comments

When studying extremely fast reactions in ultra-thin materials, two measurements are better than one. A new research tool invented by researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Johns Hopkins Univ. and NIST captures information about both temperature and crystal structure during extremely fast reactions in thin-film materials.

Microscopic “walkers” find their way across cell surfaces

October 23, 2014 8:14 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Nature has developed a wide variety of methods for guiding particular cells, enzymes and molecules to specific structures inside the body: White blood cells can find their way to the site of an infection, while scar-forming cells migrate to the site of a wound. But finding ways of guiding artificial materials within the body has proven more difficult.

See-through sensors open new window into the brain

October 22, 2014 11:22 am | by Renee Meiller, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Developing invisible implantable medical sensor arrays, a team of Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison engineers has overcome a major technological hurdle in researchers’ efforts to understand the brain. The team described its technology, which has applications in fields ranging from neuroscience to cardiac care and even contact lenses, in Nature Communications.

New 3-D printing algorithms speed production, reduce waste

October 22, 2014 7:51 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

New software algorithms have been shown to significantly reduce the time and material needed to produce objects with 3-D printers. Because the printers create objects layer-by-layer from the bottom up, this poses a challenge when printing overhanging or protruding features like a figure's outstretched arms. They must be formed using supporting structures—which are later removed—adding time and material to the process.

Big black holes can block new stars

October 21, 2014 10:46 am | by Dennis O'Shea, Johns Hopkins Univ. | News | Comments

Massive black holes spewing out radio frequency-emitting particles at near-light speed can block formation of new stars in aging galaxies, a study has found. The research provides crucial new evidence that it is these jets of radio frequency feedback streaming from mature galaxies’ central black holes that prevent hot free gas from cooling and collapsing into baby stars.

Sweeping air devices for greener planes

October 21, 2014 8:36 am | News | Comments

The large amount of jet fuel required to fly an airplane from point A to point B can have negative impacts on the environment and a traveler's wallet. With funding from NASA and the Boeing Company, engineers from Caltech and the Univ. of Arizona have developed a device that lets planes fly with much smaller tails, reducing the planes' overall size and weight, thus increasing fuel efficiency.

Starfish shell-mimicking crystals could advance 3-D printing pills

October 21, 2014 8:19 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

In a design that mimics a hard-to-duplicate texture of starfish shells, Univ. of Michigan engineers have made rounded crystals that have no facets. The team calls the crystals "nanolobes". The nanolobes' shape and the way they're made have promising applications. The geometry could potentially be useful to guide light in advanced LEDs, solar cells and non-reflective surfaces.

Getting the salt out

October 21, 2014 7:54 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The boom in oil and gas produced through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is seen as a boon for meeting U.S. energy needs. But one byproduct of the process is millions of gallons of water that’s much saltier than seawater, after leaching salts from rocks deep below the surface. Now researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in Saudi Arabia say they have found an economical solution for removing the salt from this water.

Study: Odors, chemicals above health standards caused by “green building” plumbing

October 20, 2014 11:27 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Several types of plastic pipes in eco-friendly green buildings in the U.S. have been found to leach chemicals into drinking water that can cause odors and sometimes exist at levels that may exceed health standards. Purdue Univ. engineering professor Andrew Whelton will detail these findings during the 2014 U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild International Conference & Exposition on Oct. 24 in New Orleans.

Scientist invent new method for fabricating graphene nanoribbons

October 17, 2014 9:23 am | by Shaun Mason, UCLA | News | Comments

Graphene’s exotic properties can be tailored by cutting large sheets down to ribbons of specific lengths and edge configurations. But this “top-down” fabrication approach is not yet practical, because current lithographic techniques always produce defects. Now, scientists from the U.S. and Japan have discovered a new “bottom-up” self-assembly method for producing defect-free graphene nanoribbons with periodic zigzag-edge regions.

Sound-powered chip to serve as medical device

October 17, 2014 9:18 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Medical researchers would like to plant tiny electronic devices deep inside our bodies to monitor biological processes and deliver pinpoint therapies to treat illness or relieve pain. But so far engineers have been unable to make such devices small and useful enough. Providing electric power to medical implants has been one stumbling block. Using wires or batteries to deliver power tends to make implants too big, too clumsy—or both.

LLNL, UC Davis partner to personalize cancer medications

October 17, 2014 8:27 am | by Stephen P Wampler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Buoyed by several dramatic advances, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists think they can tackle biological science in a way that couldn't be done before. Over the past two years, LLNL researchers have expedited accelerator mass spectrometer sample preparation and analysis time from days to minutes and moved a complex scientific process requiring accelerator physicists into routine laboratory usage.

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