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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Pound for pound, spider silk is one of the strongest materials known: Research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Markus Buehler has helped explain that this strength arises from silk's unusual hierarchical arrangement of protein building blocks. Now Buehler and his team have synthesized new variants on silk's natural structure, and found a method for making further improvements in the synthetic material.
With a new contribution to probability theory, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, IBM, Northwestern University, and colleagues from the Czech Republic have shown that relatively simple physical systems could yield powerful quantum computers.
The quest to harness a broader spectrum of sunlight's energy to produce electricity has taken a radically new turn. Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers have proposed a "solar energy funnel" that takes advantage of materials under elastic strain. This device provides a new way of harnessing photons for electricity, with the potential for capturing a wider spectrum of solar energy.
Nanofibers have a huge range of possible applications: scaffolds for bioengineered organs, ultrafine air and water filters, and lightweight Kevlar body armor, to name just a few. But so far, the expense of producing them has consigned them to a few high-end, niche applications. Now, a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology has described a new system for spinning nanofibers that should offer significant productivity increases while reducing power consumption.
Gels that can be injected into the body, carrying drugs or cells that regenerate damaged tissue, hold promise for treating many types of disease. However, these injectable gels don't always maintain their solid structure once inside the body. Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineers have now designed an injectable gel that responds to the body's high temperature by forming a reinforcing network that makes the gel much more durable, allowing it to function over a longer period of time.
Thermoelectric devices, which can harness temperature difference to produce electricity, might be made more efficient thanks to new research from Massachusetts Institute of Technology on heat propagation through structures called superlattices. The new findings show, unexpectedly, that heat can travel like waves, rather than particles, through these nanostructures.
Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have fabricated a 3D, lightweight metamaterial lens that focuses radio waves with extreme precision. The concave lens exhibits a property called negative refraction, bending electromagnetic waves in exactly the opposite sense from which a normal concave lens would work.
Scientists have been working on microfluidic devices that can isolate circulating tumor cells, but most of these have two major limitations: It takes too long to process a sufficient amount of blood, and there is no good way to extract cancer cells for analysis after their capture. To help overcome these limitations, a research team has developed a microfluidic device inspired by the tentacles of jellyfish.
Slimy layers of bacterial growth, known as biofilms, pose a significant hazard in industrial and medical settings. Once established, biofilms are very difficult to remove, and a great deal of research has gone into figuring out how to prevent and eradicate them. Results from a recent study suggest a possible new source of protection against biofilm formation: polymers found in mucus.
Deep in the inner ear of mammals is a natural battery—a chamber filled with ions that produces an electrical potential to drive neural signals. A team of researchers has, for the first time, demonstrated that this battery could power implantable electronic devices without impairing hearing.
New tests of nanostructured material developed by scientists at Rice University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology could lead to better armor against everything from gunfire to micrometeorites. The key, they found, was to use composites made of two or more materials whose stiffness and flexibility are structured in very specific ways—such as in alternating layers just a few nanometers thick.
A team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed, for the first time, a way to measure how many loops are present in a given polymer network, an advance they believe is the first step toward creating better materials that don't contain weak spots.
In the event that a giant asteroid is headed toward Earth, you'd better hope that it's blindingly white. A pale asteroid would reflect sunlight—and over time, this bouncing of photons off its surface could create enough of a force to push the asteroid off its course. How might one encourage such a deflection? The answer, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student: with a volley or two of space-launched paintballs.
Much has been made of graphene’s exceptional qualities, particularly its phenomenal strength and impermeability. But the material may not be as impenetrable as scientists have thought. Recent analysis shows that the material bears intrinsic defects, or holes in its atom-sized armor. Experiments demonstrate small molecules like salts can pass easily through a graphene membrane’s tiny pores, while larger molecules were unable to penetrate.