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The Lead

More than glitter

July 21, 2014 10:35 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

A special class of tiny gold particles can easily slip through cell membranes, making them good candidates to deliver drugs directly to target cells. A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology materials scientists reveals that these nanoparticles enter cells by taking advantage of a route normally used in vesicle-vesicle fusion, a crucial process that allows signal transmission between neurons. 

All HIV not created equal: Scientists can identify which viruses cause infection

July 21, 2014 8:07 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

HIV-infected people carry many different HIV viruses and all have distinct personalities—some...

Steam from the sun

July 21, 2014 7:55 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A new material structure developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology generates steam by...

Tiny laser sensor heightens bomb detection sensitivity

July 21, 2014 7:45 am | by Sarah Yang, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

New technology under development at the Univ. of California, Berkeley could soon give bomb-...

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Scientists enlist big data to guide conservation efforts

July 18, 2014 12:37 pm | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

“Big data” has yet to make a mark on conservation efforts to preserve the planet’s biodiversity. But that may soon change with a new model developed by Univ. of California, Berkeley, biologist Brent Mishler and his colleagues in Australia. This effort  leverages the growing mass of data to take into account not only the number of species throughout an area, but also the variation among species and their geographic rarity, or endemism.

Future electronics may depend on lasers, not quartz

July 18, 2014 8:09 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Nearly all electronics require devices called oscillators that create precise frequencies. For nearly 100 years, these oscillators have relied upon quartz crystals to provide a frequency reference, much like a tuning fork is used as a reference to tune a piano. However, future high-end navigation systems, radar systems and even possibly tomorrow's consumer electronics will require references beyond the performance of quartz.

Nanocamera takes pictures at distances smaller than light’s wavelength

July 18, 2014 7:55 am | by Rick Kubetz, Engineering Communications Office | Videos | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated that an array of novel gold, pillar-bowtie nanoantennas (pBNAs) can be used like traditional photographic film to record light for distances that are much smaller than the wavelength of light (for example, distances less than ~600 nm for red light). A standard optical microscope acts as a “nanocamera” whereas the pBNAs are the analogous film.

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Getting a grip on robotic grasp

July 18, 2014 7:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Twisting a screwdriver, removing a bottle cap and peeling a banana are just a few simple tasks that are tricky to pull off single handedly. Now a new wrist-mounted robot can provide a helping hand—or rather, fingers. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a robot that enhances the grasping motion of the human hand.

Making a mental match: Pairing a mechanical device with stroke patients

July 17, 2014 9:36 am | by Jason Maderer, Georgia Institute of Technology | Videos | Comments

The repetitive facilitation exercise is one of the most common rehabilitation tactics for stroke patients attempting to regain wrist movement. Stroke hemiparesis individuals are not able to move that part of their body because they cannot create a strong enough neural signal that travels from the brain to the wrist.

Toward ultimate light efficiency on the cheap

July 17, 2014 9:27 am | by Kate McAlpine, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Researchers have taken a major stride toward perfectly efficient lighting that is also relatively inexpensive and simple to make. The same material can also reveal the presence of water by changing color. Incandescent bulbs only turn 5% of the electricity they use into light, while fluorescent LEDs can produce light from up to 25% of the electrons that pass through them. Phosphorescent LEDs can turn every electron into a ray of light.

No-wait data centers

July 17, 2014 7:56 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Big Websites usually maintain their own “data centers,” banks of tens or even hundreds of thousands of servers, all passing data back and forth to field users’ requests. Like any big, decentralized network, data centers are prone to congestion: Packets of data arriving at the same router at the same time are put in a queue, and if the queues get too long, packets can be delayed.

Getting a charge out of water droplets

July 15, 2014 7:53 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Last year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers discovered that when water droplets spontaneously jump away from superhydrophobic surfaces during condensation, they can gain electric charge in the process. Now, the same team has demonstrated that this process can generate small amounts of electricity that might be used to power electronic devices.

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Researchers demonstrate novel, tunable nanoantennas

July 14, 2014 1:39 pm | News | Comments

A research team in Illinois has built a new type of tunable nanoscale antenna that could facilitate optomechanical systems that actuate mechanical motion through plasmonic field enhancements. The team’s fabrication process shows for the first time an innovative way of fabricating plasmonic nanoantenna structures under a scanning electron microscope, which avoids complications from conventional lithography techniques.

Deep within spinach leaves, vibrations enhance efficiency of photosynthesis

July 14, 2014 7:46 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Biophysics researchers have used short pulses of light to peer into the mechanics of photosynthesis and illuminate the role that molecule vibrations play in the energy conversion process that powers life on our planet. The findings could potentially help engineers make more efficient solar cells and energy storage systems.

Phase-changing material could allow robots to switch between hard and soft states

July 14, 2014 7:35 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | Videos | Comments

In the movie “Terminator 2,” the shape-shifting T-1000 robot morphs into a liquid state to squeeze through tight spaces or to repair itself when harmed. Now a phase-changing material built from wax and foam, and capable of switching between hard and soft states, could allow even low-cost robots to perform the same feat.

Drones could provide perfect lighting for photography

July 11, 2014 11:48 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT | News | Comments

Lighting is crucial to the art of photography, but they are cumbersome and difficult to use properly. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell Univ. aim to change that by providing photographers with squadrons of small, light-equipped autonomous robots that automatically assume the positions necessary to produce lighting effects specified through a simple, intuitive, camera-mounted interface.

Uncertainty gives scientists new confidence in search for novel materials

July 11, 2014 8:19 am | by Andrew Gordon, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Stanford Univ. and the Dept. of Energy (DOE)’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have found a way to estimate uncertainties in computer calculations that are widely used to speed the search for new materials for industry, electronics, energy, drug design and a host of other applications. The technique, reported in Science, should quickly be adopted in studies that produce some 30,000 scientific papers per year.

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Agile Aperture Antenna tested on aircraft to survey ground emitters

July 11, 2014 8:02 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

The Georgia Tech Research Institute’s software-defined, electronically reconfigurable Agile Aperture Antenna (A3) has now been tested on the land, sea and air. Dept. of Defense representatives were in attendance during a recent event where two of the low-power devices, which can change beam directions in a thousandth of a second, were demonstrated in an aircraft during flight tests held in Virginia during February 2014.

Bacteria: A day in the life

July 11, 2014 7:50 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

We are all creatures of habit, and a new study finds ocean bacteria are no exception. In a paper published in Science, researchers report that microbes in the open ocean follow predictable patterns of biological activity, such as eating, breathing and growing. Certain species are early risers, exhibiting genetic signs of respiration, metabolism and protein synthesis in the morning hours, while others rouse to action later in the day.

2014 R&D 100 Award Winners

July 11, 2014 7:30 am | Award Winners

Introducing R&D Magazine's 2014 R&D 100 Award winners. The 2014 R&D 100 Award Winners are listed below in alphabetical order by the name of the primary developer company.

Study pushes limits of ultra-fast nanodevices

July 10, 2014 9:17 am | by Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

A recent study by researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides new insights on the physical mechanisms governing the interplay of spin and heat at the nanoscale, and addresses the fundamental limits of ultra-fast spintronic devices for data storage and information processing.

New technologies fuel patient participation, data collection in research

July 10, 2014 9:06 am | by Duke Medicine News and Communications | News | Comments

The changing dynamic of health studies driven by “big data” research projects will empower patients to become active participants who provide real-time information such as symptoms, side effects and clinical outcomes, according to researchers at Duke Medicine. The analysislays out a new paradigm for health research, particularly comparative effectiveness studies that are designed to assess which therapies work best in clinical practice.

Technology illuminates colder objects in deep space

July 10, 2014 7:42 am | News | Comments

Too cool and faint, many objects in the universe are impossible to detect with visible light. Now a Northwestern Univ. team has refined a new technology that could make these colder objects more visible, paving the way for enhanced exploration of deep space. The new technology uses a type II superlattice material called indium arsenide/indium arsenide antimonide (InAs/InAsSb).

Study cracks how the brain processes emotions

July 10, 2014 7:35 am | by Melissa Osgood, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Although feelings are personal and subjective, the human brain turns them into a standard code that objectively represents emotions across different senses, situations and even people. A Cornell Univ. team's findings provide insight into how the brain represents our innermost feelings and upend the long-held view that emotion is represented in the brain simply by activation in specialized regions for positive or negative feelings.

Own your own data

July 10, 2014 7:28 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Cell phone metadata has been in the news quite a bit lately, but the National Security Agency isn’t the only organization that collects information about people’s online behavior. Newly downloaded cell phone apps routinely ask to access your location information, your address book or other apps, and of course, Websites like Amazon or Netflix track your browsing history in the interest of making personalized recommendations.

Engineering a more efficient fuel cell

July 9, 2014 10:38 am | by Glen Martin, Stanford New Service | News | Comments

Using high-brilliance x-rays, Stanford Univ. researchers track the process that fuel cells use to produce electricity, knowledge that will help make large-scale alternative energy power systems more practical and reliable. Fuel cells use oxygen and hydrogen as fuel to create electricity; if the process were run in reverse, the fuel cells could be used to store electricity, as well.  

Scientists uncover new compounds that could affect circadian rhythm

July 9, 2014 7:45 am | News | Comments

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have discovered a surprising new role for a pair of compounds—which have the potential to alter circadian rhythm, the complex physiological process that responds to a cycle of light and dark and is present in most living things. At least one of these compounds could be developed as a chemical probe to uncover new therapeutic approaches to a range of disorders, including diabetes and obesity.

Blind lead the way in brave new world of tactile technology

July 2, 2014 9:46 am | by Yasmin Anwar, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

New research at UC Berkeley has found that people are better and faster at navigating tactile technology when using both hands and several fingers. Moreover, blind people in the study outmaneuvered their sighted counterparts, perhaps because they’ve developed superior cognitive strategies for finding their way around. These insights are useful as more media companies are implementing tactile interfaces.

Muscle-powered bio-bots walk on command

July 2, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

Engineers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a class of walking “bio-bots” powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical pulses, giving researchers unprecedented command over their function. The design is inspired by the muscle-tendon-bone complex found in nature. They have a backbone of 3-D printed hydrogel, strong enough to give the bio-bot structure but flexible enough to bend like a joint.

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