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Lasercom Facilitates Space Data

August 19, 2014 11:24 am | Award Winners

Despite major advances in radio frequency (RF) systems, users will soon require higher data rates than radio can achieve. The use of optical frequencies, on the other hand, has the potential to achieve perhaps 100 or even 1,000 times the data rates of the best RF systems because of its huge unregulated spectrum and shorter wavelengths. Several so-called near-Earth lasercom systems have been demonstrated, but they have not scaled to practical use. MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s Lunar Laser Communication System (LLCS) combines several technologies to permit high-data-rate lasercom between distant platforms.

Driver’s Ed for Self-driving Vehicles

August 19, 2014 11:19 am | Award Winners

Self-driving vehicles may soon become commonplace on our roads as rapidly advancing sensing technologies converge with the prospect of better passenger safety and traffic efficiency. Through companies such as Google have made great strides in this area of research, current autonomous ground vehicles lack some capabilities, including the inability to sense vehicle position in adverse conditions. Localizing Ground Penetrating Radar (LGPR), introduced by MIT Lincoln Laboratory, can provide this capability using a new class of ground-penetrating radar technology to map underground features that are inherently stable over time.

RF Switching, No Sticking

August 19, 2014 11:17 am | Award Winners

In demand for portable applications because of their light weight and compact size, traditional microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technologies suffer from a major problem: sticking. This is caused by the charged dielectric, which also suffers from deformation failure and contact welding. A new design engineered by MIT Lincoln Laboratory and implemented in a fabrication setting by Innovative Micro Technology solves these problems by allowing the electrode assembly to “curve”.

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Range-independent Radar

August 19, 2014 11:15 am | Award Winners

The space environment directly above the Earth is crowded with orbiting objects and debris. Accurate, fast imaging is necessary to protect assets operating within this debris zone, namely the International Space Station, low-Earth orbit satellites and other science missions. The Haystack Ultrawideband Satellite Imaging Radar (HUSIR) constructed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory was engineered for this task.

Our connection to content

August 19, 2014 9:34 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

It’s often said that humans are wired to connect: The neural wiring that helps us read the emotions and actions of other people may be a foundation for human empathy. But for the past eight years, MIT Media Lab spinout Innerscope Research has been using neuroscience technologies that gauge subconscious emotions by monitoring brain and body activity to show just how powerfully we also connect to media and marketing communications.

Engineering new bone growth

August 19, 2014 7:56 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineers have devised a new implantable tissue scaffold coated with bone growth factors that are released slowly over a few weeks. When applied to bone injuries or defects, this coated scaffold induces the body to rapidly form new bone that looks and behaves just like the original tissue.

Recycling old batteries into solar cells

August 18, 2014 7:38 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

This could be a classic win-win solution: A system proposed by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology recycles materials from discarded car batteries—a potential source of lead pollution—into new, long-lasting solar panels that provide emissions-free power. The system is based on a recent development in solar cells that makes use of a compound called perovskite.

Visual control of big data

August 15, 2014 7:55 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In the age of big data, visualization tools are vital. With a single glance at a graphic display, a human being can recognize patterns that a computer might fail to find even after hours of analysis. But what if there are aberrations in the patterns? Or what if there’s just a suggestion of a visual pattern that’s not distinct enough to justify any strong inferences? Or what if the pattern is clear, but not what was to be expected?

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Finding a piece of the proton-spin puzzle

August 14, 2014 8:11 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

What causes a proton to spin? This fundamental question has been a longstanding mystery in particle physics, although it was once thought that the answer would be fairly straightforward: The spin of a proton’s three subatomic particles, called quarks, would simply add up to produce its total spin.

New analysis reveals tumor weaknesses

August 13, 2014 7:40 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Scientists have known for decades that cancer can be caused by genetic mutations, but more recently they have discovered that chemical modifications of a gene can also contribute to cancer. These alterations, known as epigenetic modifications, control whether a gene is turned on or off. Analyzing these modifications can provide important clues to the type of tumor a patient has, and how it will respond to different drugs.

Rise of the dinosaurs

August 12, 2014 7:45 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The Jurassic and Cretaceous periods were the golden age of dinosaurs, during which the prehistoric giants roamed the Earth for nearly 135 million years. Paleontologists have unearthed numerous fossils from these periods, suggesting that dinosaurs were abundant throughout the world. But where and when dinosaurs first came into existence has been difficult to ascertain.

An easier way to manipulate malaria genes

August 11, 2014 10:35 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria, has proven notoriously resistant to scientists’ efforts to study its genetics. It can take up to a year to determine the function of a single gene, which has slowed efforts to develop new, more targeted drugs and vaccines. Biological engineers have now demonstrated a new genome-editing technique that can disrupt a single parasite gene in a matter of weeks.

Running on waste heat

August 11, 2014 7:36 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

It’s estimated that more than half of U.S. energy is wasted as heat. Mostly, this waste heat simply escapes into the air. But that’s beginning to change, thanks to thermoelectric innovators such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Gang Chen. Thermoelectric materials convert temperature differences into electric voltage.

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A new way to model cancer

August 7, 2014 7:45 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Sequencing the genomes of tumor cells has revealed thousands of mutations associated with cancer. One way to discover the role of these mutations is to breed a strain of mice that carry the genetic flaw—but breeding such mice is an expensive, time-consuming process. Now, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have found an alternative.

New material structures bend like microscopic hair

August 6, 2014 10:31 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

MIT engineers have fabricated a new elastic material coated with microscopic, hairlike structures that tilt in response to a magnetic field. Depending on the field’s orientation, the microhairs can tilt to form a path through which fluid can flow; the material can even direct water upward, against gravity. Researchers say structures may be used in windows to wick away moisture.

Model of viral lifecycle could help find cure for hepatitis B

August 5, 2014 4:36 pm | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

A new technique for studying the lifecycle of the hepatitis B virus could help researchers develop a cure for the disease. A recently published paper describes using microfabricated cell cultures to sustain hepatitis B virus in human liver cells, allowing them to study immune responses and drug treatments.

Advanced thin-film technique could deliver long-lasting medication

August 5, 2014 7:57 am | by Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office | News | Comments

About one in four older adults suffers from chronic pain. Many of those people take medication, usually as pills. But this is not an ideal way of treating pain: Patients must take medicine frequently, and can suffer side effects, since the contents of pills spread through the bloodstream to the whole body. Now researchers have refined a technique that could enable pain medication to be released directly to specific parts of the body.

Extracting audio from visual information

August 4, 2014 12:17 pm | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Researchers at MIT, Microsoft, and Adobe have developed an algorithm that can reconstruct an audio signal by analyzing minute vibrations of objects depicted in video. In one set of experiments, they were able to recover intelligible speech from the vibrations of a potato-chip bag photographed from 15 feet away through soundproof glass.

NASA to test making rocket fuel on Mars

August 4, 2014 8:16 am | News | Comments

Taking fuel to Mars for return flights is heavy and expensive. The $1.9 billion Mars 2020 rover that NASA announced on Friday will include an experiment that will turn carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere into oxygen. It could then be used to make rocket fuel and for future astronauts to breathe. The device, named MOXIE, will make about three-quarters of an ounce of oxygen an hour.

Light pulses control graphene’s electrical behavior

August 4, 2014 8:10 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Graphene has become a focus of research on a variety of potential uses. Now researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a way to control how the material conducts electricity by using extremely short light pulses, which could enable its use as a broadband light detector.

A new way to make microstructured surfaces

July 29, 2014 12:49 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A team of researchers has created a new way of manufacturing microstructured surfaces that have novel 3-D textures. These surfaces, made by self-assembly of carbon nanotubes, could exhibit a variety of useful properties—including controllable mechanical stiffness and strength, or the ability to repel water in a certain direction.

Forced mutations doom HIV

July 29, 2014 8:16 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Fifteen years ago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor John Essigmann and colleagues from the Univ. of Washington had a novel idea for an HIV drug. They thought if they could induce the virus to mutate uncontrollably, they could force it to weaken and eventually die out—a strategy that our immune system uses against many viruses.

Climate change, air pollution will combine to curb food supplies

July 28, 2014 9:18 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Many studies have shown the potential for global climate change to cut food supplies. But these studies have, for the most part, ignored the interactions between increasing temperature and air pollution. A new study shows that these interactions can be quite significant, suggesting that policymakers need to take both warming and air pollution into account in addressing food security.

Magnets may act as wireless cooling agents

July 28, 2014 7:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The magnets cluttering the face of your refrigerator may one day be used as cooling agents, according to a new theory. The theory describes the motion of magnons. In addition to magnetic moments, magnons also conduct heat; from their equations, the researchers found that when exposed to a magnetic field gradient, magnons may be driven to move from one end of a magnet to another, carrying heat with them and producing a cooling effect.

Collecting just the right data

July 25, 2014 7:56 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Much artificial intelligence research addresses the problem of making predictions based on large data sets. An obvious example is the recommendation engines at retail sites like Amazon and Netflix. But some types of data are harder to collect than online click histories. And in other applications there may just not be enough time to crunch all the available data.

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