Last summer, MIT researchers published a paper describing an algorithm that can recover intelligible speech from the analysis of the minute vibrations of objects in video captured through soundproof glass. In June, researchers from the same groups will describe how the technique can be adapted to infer material properties of physical objects, such as stiffness and weight, from video.
Graphene is a material with a host of potential applications, including in flexible light sources, solar panels that could be integrated into windows and membranes to desalinate and purify water. But all these possible uses face the same big hurdle: the need for a scalable and cost-effective method for continuous manufacturing of graphene films.
Researchers have found a way to couple the properties of different 2-D materials to provide an exceptional degree of control over light waves. They say this has the potential to lead to new kinds of light detection, thermal management systems and high-resolution imaging devices.
Biomedical devices that can be implanted in the body for drug delivery, tissue engineering or sensing can help improve treatment for many diseases. However, such devices are often susceptible to attack by the immune system, which can render them useless. A team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers has come up with a way to reduce that immune-system rejection.
Scientists at MIT have developed a systematic approach to research its structure, blending computational modeling and mechanical analysis to 3D-print synthetic spider webs. These models offer insight into how spiders optimize their own webs.
A new target for drug development in the fight against the deadly disease malaria has been discovered by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In a recently published paper, the researchers describe how they identified the drug target while studying the way in which the parasites Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis, and Plasmodium, which causes malaria, access vital nutrients from their host cells.
Fermions are the building blocks of matter, interacting in a multitude of permutations to give rise to the elements of the periodic table. Without fermions, the physical world would not exist. Examples of fermions are electrons, protons, neutrons, quarks and atoms consisting of an odd number of these elementary particles. Because of their fermionic nature, electrons and nuclear matter are difficult to understand theoretically.
A new technique invented at Massachusetts Institute of Technology can measure the relative positions of tiny particles as they flow through a fluidic channel, potentially offering an easy way to monitor the assembly of nanoparticles, or to study how mass is distributed within a cell. With further advancements, this technology has the potential to resolve the shape of objects in flow as small as viruses, the researchers say.
It’s hard to take a photo through a window without picking up reflections of the objects behind you. To solve that problem, professional photographers sometimes wrap their camera lenses in dark cloths affixed to windows by tape or suction cups. But that’s not a terribly attractive option for a traveler using a point-and-shoot camera to capture the view from a hotel room or a seat in a train.
For faster, longer-lasting water filters, some scientists are looking to graphene to serve as ultra-thin membranes, filtering out contaminants to quickly purify high volumes of water. Graphene’s unique properties make it a potentially ideal membrane for water filtration or desalination. But there’s been one main drawback to its wider use.
Researchers have succeeded in creating a new “whispering gallery” effect for electrons in a sheet of graphene, making it possible to precisely control a region that reflects electrons within the material. They say the accomplishment could provide a basic building block for new kinds of electronic lenses, as well as quantum-based devices that combine electronics and optics.
For the last decade, scientists have deployed increasingly capable underwater robots to map and monitor pockets of the ocean to track the health of fisheries, and survey marine habitats and species. In general, such robots are effective at carrying out low-level tasks, specifically assigned to them by human engineers, a tedious and time-consuming process for the engineers.
Bombardier beetles, which exist on every continent except Antarctica, have a pretty easy life. Virtually no other animals prey on them, because of one particularly effective defense mechanism: When disturbed or attacked, the beetles produce an internal chemical explosion in their abdomen and then expel a jet of boiling, irritating liquid toward their attackers.
It’s often said that no two human fingerprints are exactly alike. For that reason, police often use them as evidence to link suspects to crime scenes. The same goes for silicon chips: Manufacturing processes cause microscopic variations in chips that are unpredictable, permanent, and effectively impossible to clone.
To the naked eye, buildings and bridges appear fixed in place, unmoved by forces like wind and rain. But in fact, these large structures do experience imperceptibly small vibrations that, depending on their frequency, may indicate instability or structural damage. Researchers have now developed a technique to “see” vibrations that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye, combining high-speed video with computer vision techniques.
Drizzling honey on toast can produce mesmerizing, meandering patterns, as the syrupy fluid ripples and coils in a sticky, golden thread. Dribbling paint on canvas can produce similarly serpentine loops and waves. The patterns created by such viscous fluids can be reproduced experimentally in a setup known as a “fluid mechanical sewing machine,” in which an overhead nozzle deposits a thick fluid onto a moving conveyor belt.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicists have developed a new tabletop particle detector that is able to identify single electrons in a radioactive gas. As the gas decays and gives off electrons, the detector uses a magnet to trap them in a magnetic bottle. A radio antenna then picks up very weak signals emitted by the electrons, which can be used to map the electrons’ precise activity over several milliseconds.
Researchers are developing a new wearable device that turns the user’s thumbnail into a miniature wireless track pad. They envision that the technology could let users control wireless devices when their hands are full: answering the phone while cooking, for instance. It could also augment other interfaces, allowing someone texting on a cellphone, say, to toggle between symbol sets without interrupting his or her typing.
How fast is online learning evolving? Are wind turbines a promising investment? And how long before a cheap hoverboard makes it to market? Attempting to answer such questions requires knowing something about the rate at which a technology is improving. Now engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have devised a formula for estimating how fast a technology is advancing, based on information gleaned from relevant patents.
A newly developed spectroscopy method is helping to clarify the poorly understood molecular process by which an anti-HIV drug induces lethal mutations in the virus’ genetic material. The findings from the Univ. of Chicago and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could bolster efforts to develop the next generation of anti-viral treatments.
The human immune system is poised to spring into action at the first sign of a foreign invader, but it often fails to eliminate tumors that arise from the body’s own cells. Cancer biologists hope to harness that untapped power using an approach known as cancer immunotherapy. Orchestrating a successful immune attack against tumors has proven difficult so far, until now.
Composite materials used in aircraft wings and fuselages are typically manufactured in large, industrial-sized ovens: Multiple polymer layers are blasted with temperatures up to 750 F, and solidified to form a solid, resilient material. Using this approach, considerable energy is required first to heat the oven, then the gas around it, and finally the actual composite.
Most recent advances in artificial intelligence are the result of machine learning, in which computers are turned loose on huge data sets to look for patterns. To make machine-learning applications easier to build, computer scientists have begun developing so-called probabilistic programming languages, which let researchers mix and match machine-learning techniques that have worked well in other contexts.
Biologists have discovered a vulnerability of brain cancer cells that could be exploited to develop more-effective drugs against brain tumors. The study found that a subset of glioblastoma tumor cells is dependent on a particular enzyme that breaks down the amino acid glycine. Without this enzyme, toxic metabolic byproducts build up inside the tumor cells, and they die.
When MIT senior Emma Nelson was teaching engineering classes in China in 2013, a male student remarked of her as an instructor, “I thought we were supposed to meet engineers, not women.” As she stared out at the 100 college students before her, Nelson noticed there was just one female face looking back at her.