Many viruses infect humans through mucosal surfaces. To help fight these viruses, scientists are working on vaccines that can establish a defense at mucosal surfaces. Vaccines can be delivered to the lungs via an aerosol spray, but are often cleared away before they can provoke an immune response. To overcome that, engineers have developed a new type of nanoparticle that protects the vaccine long enough to generate a strong immune response.
The U.S. economy retains myriad sources of innovative capacity; but not enough of the innovations occurring in America today reach the marketplace, according to a major two-year Massachusetts Institute of Technology study. The report found that potentially valuable innovations occur throughout the advanced manufacturing sector and in companies of all sizes, from multinational conglomerates to specialized “Main Street” firms.
Using low-frequency laser pulses, a team of researchers has carried out the first measurements that reveal the detailed characteristics of a unique kind of magnetism found in a mineral called herbertsmithite. In this material, the magnetic elements constantly fluctuate, leading to an exotic state of fluid magnetism called a “quantum spin liquid.”
Cancer cells metastasize in several stages—first by invading surrounding tissue, then by infiltrating and spreading via the circulatory system. Some circulating cells work their way out of the vascular network, eventually forming a secondary tumor. Now researchers have developed a microfluidic device that mimics the flow of cancer cells through a system of blood vessels. High-resolution time-lapse imaging captures the moment of metastasis.
Steam condensation is key to the worldwide production of electricity and clean water: It is part of the power cycle that drives 85% of all electricity-generating plants and about half of all desalination plants globally. So anything that improves the efficiency of this process could have enormous impact on global energy use. Now, a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology says they have found a way to do just that.
Is your cable television on the fritz? One explanation, scientists suspect, may be the weather. The weather in space, that is. Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers are investigating the effects of space weather on geostationary satellites, which provide much of the world’s access to cable television, Internet services and global communications.
Researchers have found a new family of materials that provides the best-ever performance in a reaction called oxygen evolution, a key requirement for energy storage and delivery systems. The materials, called double perovskites, are a variant of a mineral that exists in abundance in the Earth’s crust. Their remarkable ability to promote oxygen evolution in a water-splitting reaction is detailed in a paper appearing in Nature Communications.
Graphene is the new wonder material: Flexible, lightweight and incredibly conductive electrically, it’s also the strongest material known to man. In Nature Photonics, researchers describe a promising new application of graphene in photodetectors that would convert optical signals to electrical signals in integrated optoelectronic computer chips.
Siri and Watson may seem brainy in certain situations, but to build truly smart, world-changing machines, researchers must understand how human intelligence emerges from brain activity. To help encourage progress in this field, the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded $25 million to establish a Center for Brains, Minds and Machines at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
It’s widely believed that China is the world’s dominant manufacturer of solar panels because of its low labor costs and strong government support. But a new study by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that other factors are actually more significant, suggesting that the U.S. could once again become cost-competitive in photovoltaic manufacturing.
The future of satellite technology is getting small. CubeSats, and other small satellites, are making space exploration cheaper and more accessible. But with such small packages come big limitations: namely, a satellite’s communication range. Now researchers have developed a design that may significantly increase the communication range of small satellites.
In May 2009, the Mars rover Spirit cracked through a crusty layer of Martian topsoil, sinking into softer underlying sand. The unexpected sand trap permanently mired the vehicle. The mission mishap may have been prevented by a better understanding of terramechanics, which describes the interaction between vehicles and deformable terrain.
In all the centuries that humans have studied chemical reactions, just 36 basic types of reactions have been found. Now, thanks to the work of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Univ. of Minnesota, a 37th type of reaction can be added to the list. The newly explained reaction is an important part of atmospheric reactions that lead to the formation of climate-affecting aerosols.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have shown that they can turn genes on or off inside yeast and human cells by controlling when DNA is copied into messenger RNA; an advance that could allow scientists to better understand the function of those genes. The technique could also make it easier to engineer cells that can monitor their environment, produce a drug or detect disease.
In some of this planet’s driest regions, where rainfall is rare or even nonexistent, a few specialized plants and insects have devised ingenious strategies to provide themselves with the water necessary for life: They pull it right out of the air, from fog that drifts in from warm oceans nearby. Now researchers are seeking to mimic that trick on a much larger scale, potentially supplying significant quantities of clean, potable water.
Structured Knowledge Space (SKS), developed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory, is an end-to-end software system developed to answer a question that has frustrated national security decision makers: “How do we take advantage of the enormous amounts of information communicated daily through a wide variety of reporting venues?”
In current practice, explosives screening is conducted manually, visually, by swabbing, and through x-ray inspections. These non-covert approaches can be time-consuming, and they are often unable to cover all individuals and objects in large public. MIT Lincoln Laboratory has developed a promising new technology that remotely detects trace explosives material from significant standoff distances (100 m).
All living things must obey the laws of physics, including the second law of thermodynamics. Highly ordered cells and organisms appear to contradict this principle, but they actually do conform because they generate heat that increases the universe’s overall entropy. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist mathematically modeled the replication of E. coli bacteria and found that the process is nearly as efficient as possible.
Cells are very good at protecting their precious contents. As a result, it’s very difficult to penetrate their membrane walls without damaging or destroying the cell. One effective way of doing so, discovered in 2008, is to use nanoparticles of pure gold, coated with a thin layer of a special polymer. But nobody knew exactly why this combination worked so well, or how it made it through the cell wall, until now.
Anxiety disorders affect 40 million American adults in a given year. Currently available treatments, such as antianxiety drugs, are not always effective and have unwanted side effects. To develop better treatments, a more specific understanding of the brain circuits that produce anxiety is necessary. Researchers have now discovered a communication pathway between the amygdala and the ventral hippocampus that appears to control anxiety.
Traditionally, dentists have made dental impressions by having patients bite down on a moldable silicone material. Such impressions, however, can be uncomfortable and inaccurate. In the early 2000s, a group of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Univ. began working to commercialize a novel handheld scanner that could digitally capture 3-D images of the inside of a patient’s mouth.
Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a way to detect early-stage malarial infection of blood cells by measuring changes in the infected cells’ electrical properties. The team has built an experimental microfluidic device that takes a drop of blood and streams it across an electrode that measures a signal differentiating infected cells from uninfected cells.
In the time it takes you to complete a single workday, or get a full night’s sleep, a small fireball of a planet 700 light-years away has already completed an entire year. Researchers have discovered an Earth-sized exoplanet named Kepler 78b that whips around its host star in a mere 8.5 hours, one of the shortest orbital periods ever detected.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have engineered a new rechargeable flow battery that doesn’t rely on expensive membranes to generate and store electricity. The device, they say, may one day enable cheaper, large-scale energy storage. The palm-sized prototype generates three times as much power per square centimeter as other membraneless systems.
For 65 years, most information-theoretic analyses of cryptographic systems have made a mathematical assumption that turns out to be wrong. A team of researchers has shown that, as a consequence, the wireless card readers used in many keyless-entry systems may not be as secure as previously thought.