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Chemotherapy timing is key to success

May 8, 2014 4:00 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have devised a novel cancer treatment that destroys tumor cells by first disarming their defenses, then hitting them with a lethal dose of DNA damage. In studies with mice, the research team showed that this one-two punch, which relies on a nanoparticle that carries two drugs and releases them at different times, dramatically shrinks lung and breast tumors.

Getting more electricity out of solar cells

May 8, 2014 8:00 am | by Nancy W. Stauffer, MIT Energy Initiative | News | Comments

When sunlight shines on today’s solar cells, much of the incoming energy is given off as waste heat rather than electrical current. In a few materials, however, extra energy produces extra electrons—behavior that could significantly increase solar-cell efficiency. A team has now identified the mechanism by which that phenomenon happens, yielding new design guidelines for using those special materials to make high-efficiency solar cells.

Terahertz imaging on the cheap

May 5, 2014 7:33 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Terahertz imaging, which is already familiar from airport security checkpoints, has a number of other promising applications. Like sonar or radar, terahertz imaging produces an image by comparing measurements across an array of sensors. Those arrays have to be very dense, since the distance between sensors is proportional to wavelength.

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Delving deep into the brain

May 2, 2014 8:03 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Launched in 2013, the national BRAIN Initiative aims to revolutionize our understanding of cognition by mapping the activity of every neuron in the human brain, revealing how brain circuits interact to create memories, learn new skills and interpret the world around us. Before that can happen, neuroscientists need new tools that will let them probe the brain more deeply and in greater detail.

Dwarf fossil galaxy reveals new facts about early universe

May 1, 2014 8:04 am | by Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Out on the edge of the universe, 75,000 light-years from us, a galaxy known as Segue 1 has some unusual properties: It’s the faintest galaxy ever detected. It’s very small, containing only about 1,000 stars. And it has a rare chemical composition, with vanishingly small amounts of metallic elements present.

Solving a mystery of thermoelectrics

April 30, 2014 10:16 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Materials that can be used for thermoelectric devices have been known for decades. But, until now, there has been no good explanation for why just a few materials work well for these applications, while most others do not. Now researchers say they have finally found a theoretical explanation for the differences, which could lead to the discovery of new, improved thermoelectric materials.

New material for flat semiconductors

April 30, 2014 7:49 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers around the world have been working to harness the unusual properties of graphene, a 2-D sheet of carbon atoms. But graphene lacks one important characteristic that would make it even more useful: a property called a bandgap, which is essential for making devices such as computer chips and solar cells.

New MIT building to be a hub for nanoscale research

April 29, 2014 11:27 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Starting in 2018, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology will have access to a new building dedicated to nanoscale research at the heart of the Cambridge campus. The 200,000-ft2 building, called “MIT.nano,” will be built at the heart of the Cambridge campus and will house cleanroom, imaging and prototyping facilites. An estimated 2,000 MIT researchers may ultimately make use of the building.

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How to count methane emissions

April 28, 2014 7:29 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In formulating policies to address greenhouse gas emissions, or evaluating the potential impact of different energy technologies on global climate change, one of the thorniest issues is how to account for the very distinctive characteristics of various different gases. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, as well as a significant byproduct of using natural gas. But a direct comparison between methane and carbon dioxide is complicated.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

April 25, 2014 7:46 am | by Denise Brehm, Civil and Environmental Engineering MIT | News | Comments

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion upon billion of the single-cell creatures live in the oceans, forming the base of the marine food chain and occupying a range of ecological niches based on temperature, light and chemical preferences, and interactions with other species.

Fast way to measure DNA repair

April 22, 2014 8:55 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Our DNA is under constant attack from many sources. Fortunately, cells have several major DNA repair systems that can fix this damage, which may lead to diseases if not mended. A team of researchers has developed a test that can rapidly assess several DNA repair systems, which could help determine individuals’ risk of developing cancer and help doctors predict how a given patient will respond to chemotherapy drugs.

Tracking oxygen in the body

April 22, 2014 7:34 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Unlike healthy cells, cancer cells thrive when deprived of oxygen. Tumors in low-oxygen environments tend to be more resistant to therapy and spread more aggressively to other parts of the body. Measuring tumors’ oxygen levels could help doctors make decisions about treatments, but there’s currently no way to make such measurements. However, a new sensor developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology could change that.

Bionic ankle “emulates nature”

April 17, 2014 7:41 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

These days, Hugh Herr, an assoc. prof. of media arts and sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, gets about 100 emails daily from people across the world interested in his bionic limbs. Messages pour in from amputees seeking prostheses and from media outlets pursuing interviews. Then there are students looking to join Herr’s research group.

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Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

April 16, 2014 11:08 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects—specifically, the lack of cooling for the reactor cores, due to a shutdown of all power at the station—that caused most of the harm. A new design for nuclear plants built on floating platforms could help avoid such consequences in the future.

Excitons observed in action

April 16, 2014 7:52 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A quasiparticle called an exciton has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within materials has never been directly observed. Now scientists have achieved that feat, imaging excitons’ motions directly. This could enable research leading to significant advances in electronics, they say, as well as a better understanding of natural energy-transfer processes, such as photosynthesis.

An Arctic ozone hole? Not quite

April 15, 2014 11:06 am | by Audrey Resutek, MIT | News | Comments

Since the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole, scientists, policymakers and the public have wondered whether we might someday see a similarly extreme depletion of ozone over the Arctic. But a new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study finds some cause for optimism: Ozone levels in the Arctic haven’t yet sunk to the extreme lows seen in Antarctica, because international efforts to limit ozone-depleting chemicals have been successful.

Targeting cancer with a triple threat

April 15, 2014 7:38 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Delivering chemotherapy drugs in nanoparticle form could help reduce side effects by targeting the drugs directly to the tumors. In recent years, scientists have developed nanoparticles that deliver one or two chemotherapy drugs, but it has been difficult to design particles that can carry any more than that in a precise ratio. Now Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemists have devised a new way to build such nanoparticles.

A molecular approach to solar power

April 14, 2014 7:38 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

It’s an obvious truism, but one that may soon be outdated: The problem with solar power is that sometimes the sun doesn’t shine. Now a team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Univ. has come up with an ingenious workaround: a material that can absorb the sun’s heat and store that energy in chemical form, ready to be released again on demand.

How the brain pays attention

April 11, 2014 7:43 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Picking out a face in the crowd is a complicated task: Your brain has to retrieve the memory of the face you’re seeking, then hold it in place while scanning the crowd, paying special attention to finding a match. A new study reveals how the brain achieves this type of focused attention on faces or other objects.

Tiny particles may pose big risk

April 10, 2014 11:05 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Thousands of consumer products contain nanoparticles added by manufacturers to improve texture, kill microbes or enhance shelf life, among other purposes. However, several studies have shown that some of these engineered nanoparticles can be toxic to cells. A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that certain nanoparticles can also harm DNA.

New “switch” could power quantum computing

April 10, 2014 7:54 am | by Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Using a laser to place individual rubidium atoms near the surface of a lattice of light, scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Univ. have developed a new method for connecting particles—one that could help in the development of powerful quantum computing systems.

How coughs and sneezes float farther than you think

April 8, 2014 7:42 am | by Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The next time you feel a sneeze coming on, raise your elbow to cover up that multiphase turbulent buoyant cloud you’re about to expel. That’s right: A novel study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers shows that coughs and sneezes have associated gas clouds that keep their potentially infectious droplets aloft over much greater distances than previously realized.

Algorithm can help robots determine orientation of objects

April 4, 2014 3:27 pm | News | Comments

Researchers are working on a new algorithm that could make re-identification much easier for computers by identifying the major orientations in 3-D scenes. The same algorithm could also simplify the problem of scene understanding, one of the central challenges in computer vision research.  

One currency, one price?

April 1, 2014 4:43 pm | by Peter Dizikes, MIT | News | Comments

Economics has a “law of one price,” which states that identical goods should, in theory, sell for identical prices or else markets will even out the differences. Empirical work on the topic, however, has produced little evidence in support of this “law”. Now, a newly published paper presents evidence of a strong convergence of prices within the Eurozone, the region of European countries sharing a common currency.

Ancient whodunit may be solved: The microbes did it!

April 1, 2014 8:41 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT | News | Comments

Fossil remains show that sometime around 252 million years ago, about 90% of all species on Earth were suddenly wiped out in what was the largest of this planet’s five known mass extinctions. But pinpointing the culprit has been difficult, and controversial. Now, a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers may have found enough evidence to convict the guilty parties, but you’ll need a microscope to see the killers.

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