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The Lead

In one aspect of vision, computers catch up to primate brain

December 19, 2014 2:13 pm | News | Comments

For decades, neuroscientists have been trying to design computer networks that can mimic visual skills such as recognizing objects, which the human brain does very accurately and quickly.            

New horizons for self - assembling materials

December 19, 2014 1:36 pm | News | Comments

Today’s 3-D printers, in which devices rather like inkjet-printer nozzles deposit materials in...

Switching to spintronics

December 17, 2014 3:18 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

In a development that holds promise for future magnetic memory and logic devices, researchers...

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Lens-free microscope can detect cancer at the cellular level

December 17, 2014 3:07 pm | by Bill Kisliuk, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Los Angeles researchers have developed a lens-free microscope that can be used to detect the presence of cancer or other cell-level abnormalities with the same accuracy as larger and more expensive optical microscopes. The invention could lead to less expensive and more portable technology for performing common examinations of tissue, blood and other biomedical specimens.

New conversion process turns biomass “waste” into lucrative chemical products

December 17, 2014 2:58 pm | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | Videos | Comments

A new catalytic process is able to convert what was once considered biomass waste into lucrative chemical products that can be used in fragrances, flavorings or to create high-octane fuel. A team of researchers from Purdue Univ.'s Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, or C3Bio, has developed a process that uses a chemical catalyst and heat to spur reactions that convert lignin into valuable chemical commodities.

Study shows how breast cancer cells break free to spread in the body

December 17, 2014 2:41 pm | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

More than 90% of cancer-related deaths are caused by the spread of cancer cells from their primary tumor site to other areas of the body. A new study has identified how one important gene helps cancer cells break free from the primary tumor.

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Study: Ancient Earth made its own water

December 17, 2014 10:06 am | by Pam Frost Gorder, Ohio State Univ. | News | Comments

A new study is helping to answer a longstanding question that has recently moved to the forefront of Earth science: Did our planet make its own water through geologic processes, or did water come to us via icy comets from the far reaches of the solar system? The answer is likely both.

A Clear Vision

December 17, 2014 9:29 am | by Paul Livingstone | Articles | Comments

Around 400 BC, Hippocrates was among the first people in recorded history to postulate the brain as the seat of sensation and intelligence. Yet only in the last 100 years have we identified, and closely studied, its key building block: the neuron. A highly specialized cell found in all but the simplest animals, like sponges, the neuron is one of the keys to understanding the brain.

Leading the Bionic Age

December 17, 2014 9:18 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

The bionic age is no longer the workings of a far-fetched sci-fi movie; it’s here, now. We have experienced the first bionic eye and limbs. These technologies merge human capabilities with machines. They transform how we live, and who we are. They are improving quality of life. And there’s perhaps no greater example than R&D Magazine’s Innovator of the Year Prof. Hugh Herr.

Life on an aquaplanet

December 17, 2014 7:43 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Nearly 2,000 planets beyond our solar system have been identified to date. Whether any of these exoplanets are hospitable to life depends on a number of criteria. Among these, scientists have thought, is a planet’s obliquity—the angle of its axis relative to its orbit around a star.

Cells build “cupboards” to store metals

December 16, 2014 3:06 pm | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers in conjunction with collaborators at Univ. of California, Los Angeles have found that some cells build intracellular compartments that allow the cell to store metals and maintain equilibrium. Nearly 40% of all proteins require metal ions such as zinc, copper, manganese or iron for activity.

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New law for superconductors

December 16, 2014 2:47 pm | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have discovered a new mathematical relationship—between material thickness, temperature and electrical resistance—that appears to hold in all superconductors. The result could shed light on the nature of superconductivity and could also lead to better-engineered superconducting circuits for applications like quantum computing and ultra-low-power computing.

New tracers can identify coal ash contamination in water

December 16, 2014 2:20 pm | by Tim Lucas, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Duke Univ. scientists have developed new forensic tracers to identify coal ash contamination in water and distinguish it from contamination coming from other sources. Previous methods to identify coal ash contaminants in the environment were based solely on the contaminants’ chemical variations. The newly developed tracers provide additional forensic fingerprints that give regulators a more accurate and systematic tool.

Researchers generate tunable photon-pair spectrum

December 16, 2014 9:14 am | by Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

A team of researchers have demonstrated a way to emit and control quantum light generated using a chip made from silicon—one of the most widely used materials for modern electronics. The researchers say practical applications of quantum optics will seem more feasible if devices for generating and controlling these photons can be manufactured using conventional materials from the semiconductor industry.

Carbon-trapping “sponges” can cut greenhouse gases

December 16, 2014 8:56 am | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

In the fight against global warming, carbon capture is gaining momentum, but standard methods are plagued by toxicity, corrosiveness and inefficiency. Using a bag of chemistry tricks, Cornell Univ. materials scientists have invented low-toxicity, highly effective carbon-trapping “sponges” that could lead to increased use of the technology.

Proteins drive cancer cells to change states

December 16, 2014 7:50 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology implicates a family of RNA-binding proteins in the regulation of cancer, particularly in a subtype of breast cancer. These proteins, known as Musashi proteins, can force cells into a state associated with increased proliferation.

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Past global warming similar to today’s, but in two pulses

December 15, 2014 1:54 pm | by Jim Erickson, University of Michigan | News | Comments

The rate at which carbon emissions warmed Earth's climate almost 56 million years ago resembles modern, human-caused global warming much more than previously believed but involved two pulses of carbon to the atmosphere, researchers at the Univ. of Utah, the Univ. of Michigan and three other universities found.

New findings could point the way to “valleytronics”

December 15, 2014 1:41 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

New findings could provide a pathway toward a kind of 2-D microchip that would make use of a characteristic of electrons other than their electrical charge, as in conventional electronics. The new approach is dubbed “valleytronics,” because it makes use of properties of an electron that can be depicted as a pair of deep valleys on a graph of their traits.

How climate change could leave cities in the dark

December 15, 2014 11:30 am | by Jill Rosen, Johns Hopkins Univ. | News | Comments

Cities like Miami are all too familiar with hurricane-related power outages. But a Johns Hopkins Univ. analysis finds climate change will give other major metro areas a lot to worry about in the future. Johns Hopkins engineers created a computer model to predict the increasing vulnerability of power grids in major coastal cities during hurricanes.

Squid supplies blueprint for printable thermoplastics

December 15, 2014 10:37 am | by Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

Squid, what is it good for? You can eat it and you can make ink or dye from it, and now a Penn State Univ. team of researchers is using it to make a thermoplastic that can be used in 3-D printing. The team looked at the protein complex that exists in the squid ring teeth (SRT). The naturally made material is a thermoplastic, but obtaining it requires a large amount of effort and many squid.

Fish use chemical camouflage from diet to hide from predators

December 15, 2014 8:43 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

A species of small fish uses a homemade coral-scented cologne to hide from predators, a new study has shown, providing the first evidence of chemical camouflage from diet in fish. Filefish evade predators by feeding on their home corals and emitting an odor that makes them invisible to the noses of predators, the study found.

New method helps map species’ genetic heritage

December 15, 2014 8:20 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Where did the songbird get its song? What branch of the bird family tree is closer to the flamingo: the heron or the sparrow? These questions seem simple, but are actually difficult for geneticists to answer. A new, sophisticated statistical technique developed by researchers can help researchers construct more accurate species trees detailing the lineage of genes and the relationships between species.

Team combines logic, memory to build “high-rise” chip

December 15, 2014 7:49 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

For decades, the mantra of electronics has been smaller, faster, cheaper. Today, Stanford Univ. engineers add a fourth word: taller. A Stanford team revealed how to build high-rise chips that could leapfrog the performance of the single-story logic and memory chips on today's circuit cards.

Seed grants awarded for innovative energy research

December 12, 2014 10:37 am | by Mark Shwartz and Mark Golden, Stanford University | News | Comments

Stanford University's Precourt Institute for Energy, Precourt Energy Efficiency Center and TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy have awarded eight seed grants totaling about $1.5 million for promising new research in clean technology and energy efficiency.

New way to turn genes on

December 10, 2014 2:37 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT | News | Comments

Using a gene-editing system originally developed to delete specific genes, MIT researchers have now shown that they can reliably turn on any gene of their choosing in living cells.                    

Molecules for the masses

December 10, 2014 2:28 pm | by Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois | Videos | Comments

Scientists have created an app that brings molecules to life in a handheld device. Through the app, people can use up to eleven fingers to examine in great detail more than 350 molecules.                  

Organic electronics could lead to cheap, wearable medical sensors

December 10, 2014 2:19 pm | by Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Future fitness trackers could soon add blood-oxygen levels to the list of vital signs measured with new technology developed by engineers.                               

Germanium comes home to Purdue for semiconductor milestone

December 8, 2014 4:26 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A laboratory at Purdue Univ. provided a critical part of the world's first transistor in 1947—the purified germanium semiconductor—and now researchers here are on the forefront of a new germanium milestone. The team has created the first modern germanium circuit—a complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) device—using germanium as the semiconductor instead of silicon.

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