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Rare earth metals make water-repellent surfaces that last

January 21, 2013 8:01 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Water-shedding surfaces that are robust in harsh environments could have broad applications in many industries. Hydrophobic materials can greatly enhance the efficiency of this process. But these materials have one major problem: Most employ thin polymer coatings that degrade when heated, and can easily be destroyed by wear. Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have now come up with a new class of hydrophobic ceramics that can overcome these problems.

Multiple steps toward the “quantum singularity”

January 18, 2013 7:41 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In early 2011, a pair of theoretical computer scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology proposed an optical experiment that would harness the weird laws of quantum mechanics to perform a computation impossible on conventional computers. The experiment involves generating individual photons—particles of light—and synchronizing their passage through a maze of optical components so that they reach a battery of photon detectors at the same time.

The high value of water

January 14, 2013 7:54 am | by Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office | News | Comments

If you're reading this, odds are you've already used running water in your home today. But you're in a minority: Globally, at least a billion people have no nearby source of water, while of the remaining six billion or so, only 42% have running water in their homes or a tap in the yard, according to the World Health Organization. Now a new field experiment shows just how much access to clean water matters to people.

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How to treat heat like light

January 11, 2013 7:29 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher has developed a technique that provides a new way of manipulating heat, allowing it to be controlled much as light waves can be manipulated by lenses and mirrors. The approach relies on engineered materials consisting of nanostructured semiconductor alloy crystals.

New material harvests energy from water vapor

January 10, 2013 2:50 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers have created a new polymer film that can generate electricity by drawing on a ubiquitous source: water vapor. The new material changes its shape after absorbing tiny amounts of evaporated water, allowing it to repeatedly curl up and down. Harnessing this continuous motion could drive robotic limbs or generate enough electricity to power micro- and nanoelectronic devices, such as environmental sensors.

Chips that can steer light

January 9, 2013 1:18 pm | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a 4,096-emitter array that fits on a single silicon chip. Chips that can steer beams of light could enable a wide range of applications, including cheaper, more efficient, and smaller laser rangefinders; medical-imaging devices that can be threaded through tiny blood vessels; and even holographic televisions that emit different information when seen from different viewing angles.

Stopping leaks the way blood does

January 8, 2013 2:00 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers has analyzed the blood clotting process and found, for the first time, exactly how the different molecular components work together to block the flow of blood from a cut. Now, they are working on applying that knowledge to the development of synthetic materials that could be used to control different kinds of liquid flows, and could lead to a variety of new self-assembling materials.

Tiny tools help advance medical discoveries

January 8, 2013 7:48 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

To understand the progression of complex diseases such as cancer, scientists have had to tease out the interactions between cells at progressively finer scales—from the behavior of a single tumor cell in the body on down to the activity of that cell’s inner machinery. To foster such discoveries, mechanical engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology are designing tools to image and analyze cellular dynamics at the micro- and nanoscale.

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Jumping droplets help heat transfer

January 4, 2013 7:30 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Many industrial plants depend on water vapor condensing on metal plates. The efficiency of such plants depends crucially on how easily droplets of water can form on these metal plates, or condensers, and how easily they fall away, leaving room for more droplets to form. The key to improving the efficiency of such plants is to increase the condensers’ heat-transfer coefficient. A team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology has done just that.

Editing the genome with high precision

January 3, 2013 2:21 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a new technique for precisely altering the genomes of living cells by adding or deleting genes. To create their new genome-editing technique, the researchers modified a set of bacterial proteins that normally defend against viral invaders.

Record-setting p-type transistor demonstrated

January 3, 2013 7:35 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Microsystems Technology Laboratories presented a p-type transistor with the highest "carrier mobility" yet measured. By that standard, the device is twice as fast as previous experimental p-type transistors and almost four times as fast as the best commercial p-type transistors.

Researchers develop acrobatic space rovers to explore moons, asteroids

January 2, 2013 7:48 am | News | Comments

Stanford University researchers, in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have designed a robotic platform that could take space exploration to new heights. The mission proposed for the platform involves a mother spacecraft deploying one or several spiked, roughly spherical rovers to the Martian moon Phobos.

Improving the accuracy of cancer diagnoses

December 26, 2012 8:41 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Tiny calcium deposits can be a telltale sign of breast cancer. However, in the majority of cases these microcalcifications signal a benign condition. A new diagnostic procedure developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Case Western Reserve University could help doctors more accurately distinguish between cancerous and noncancerous cases.

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Flexible, light solar cells could provide new opportunities

December 26, 2012 8:29 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have produced a new kind of photovoltaic cell based on sheets of flexible graphene coated with a layer of nanowires. The approach could lead to low-cost, transparent, and flexible solar cells that could be deployed on windows, roofs, or other surfaces.

Cell phone data helps pinpoint source of traffic tie-ups

December 20, 2012 11:36 am | by Denise Brehm, Civil and Environmental Engineering | News | Comments

Researchers tracked traffic in Boston and San Francisco with cell tower and GPS data and analyzed bottlenecks. Their computer analysis suggested a possible strategy for relieving traffic tie-ups: Instead of asking all drivers to reduce their driving during commute hours, target those communities whose drivers contribute most to congestion.

Researchers discover a new kind of magnetism

December 20, 2012 7:39 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Following up on earlier theoretical predictions, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have now demonstrated experimentally the existence of a fundamentally new kind of magnetic behavior, adding to the two previously known states of magnetism.

Controlled Success

December 14, 2012 11:42 am | by Paul Livingstone | Articles | Comments

From an early age, the 2012 Scientist of the Year knew that his knowledge of chemistry could make a difference in medicine. He’s still exploring just how much impact that can be.

Multimode waveguides bring light around corners for photonic chips

December 13, 2012 4:32 pm | by Bill Steele, Cornell University | News | Comments

Light isn’t always cooperative, and one it’s least favorite things to go around corners. In photonics chips, direction changes are crucial for manipulating light for the purpose of carrying information. Researchers recently have devised a solution—an irregularly-shaped waveguide— that tricks light into thinking it’s going in a straight line.

Inspiration from a porcupine’s quills

December 10, 2012 5:46 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Anyone unfortunate enough to encounter a porcupine’s quills knows that once they go in, they are extremely difficult to remove. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women’s Hospital now hope to exploit the porcupine quill’s unique properties to develop new types of adhesives, needles and other medical devices.

Tiny compound semiconductor transistor could challenge silicon's dominance

December 10, 2012 7:23 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

Silicon's crown is under threat: The semiconductor's days as the king of microchips for computers and smart devices could be numbered, thanks to the development of the smallest transistor ever to be built from a rival material, indium gallium arsenide. The compound transistor, built by a team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, performs well despite being just 22 nm in length.

When the first stars blinked on

December 6, 2012 7:53 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

As far back in time as astronomers have been able to see, the universe has had some trace of heavy elements, such as carbon and oxygen. These elements, originally churned from the explosion of massive stars, formed the building blocks for planetary bodies, and eventually for life on Earth. Now, researchers have peered far back in time, to the era of the first stars and galaxies, and found matter with no discernible trace of heavy elements.

How "transparent" is graphene?

December 4, 2012 8:07 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The amazing electrical, optical, and strength properties of graphene have been extensively researched over the last decade. Recently, the material has been studied as a coating that might confer electrical conductivity while maintaining other properties of the underlying material. But the "transparency" of such a graphene coating to wetting is not as absolute as some researchers had thought.

The robotic equivalent of a Swiss army knife

December 3, 2012 9:23 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The device doesn't look like much: a caterpillar-sized assembly of metal rings and strips resembling something you might find buried in a home-workshop drawer. But the technology behind it, and the long-range possibilities it represents, are quite remarkable. The little device is called a milli-motein, a name melding its millimeter-sized components and a motorized design inspired by proteins, which naturally fold themselves into complex shapes. The robot may be a harbinger of future devices that could fold themselves up into almost any shape imaginable.

The precise engineering of 3D brain tissues

November 30, 2012 9:54 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Borrowing from microfabrication techniques used in the semiconductor industry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University engineers have developed a simple and inexpensive way to create 3D brain tissues in a laboratory dish. The new technique yields tissue constructs that closely mimic the cellular composition of those in the living brain, allowing scientists to study how neurons form connections and to predict how cells from individual patients might respond to different drugs.

Scientists discover water ice on Mercury

November 29, 2012 4:21 pm | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Mercury, the smallest and innermost planet in our solar system, revolves around the sun in a mere 88 days, making a tight orbit that keeps the planet incredibly toasty. Surface temperatures on Mercury can reach a blistering 800 F—hot enough to liquefy lead. Now researchers have discovered evidence that the scorching planet may harbor pockets of water ice, along with organic material, in several permanently shadowed craters near Mercury's north pole.

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