Using exotic particles called quantum dots as the basis for a photovoltaic cell is not a new idea, but attempts to make such devices have not yet achieved sufficiently high efficiency in converting sunlight to power. A new wrinkle added by a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology—embedding the quantum dots within a forest of nanowires—promises to provide a significant boost.
It’s not entirely clear what caused the end-Triassic extinction, although most scientists agree on a likely scenario: Over a relatively short period of time, massive volcanic eruptions from a large region known as the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP) spewed forth huge amounts of lava and gas, including carbon dioxide, sulfur and methane. Now, a research team has determined that these eruptions occurred precisely when the extinction began, providing strong evidence that volcanic activity did indeed trigger the end-Triassic extinction.
When a robot is moving one of its limbs through free space, its behavior is well described by a few simple equations. But as soon as it strikes something solid, those equations break down. Roboticists typically use ad hoc control strategies to negotiate collisions and then revert to their rigorous mathematical models when the robot begins to move again. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology are hoping to change that, with a new mathematical framework that unifies the analysis of both collisions and movement through free space.
Atomic collapse, a phenomenon first predicted in the 1930s based on quantum mechanics and relativistic physics but never before observed, has now been seen for the first time in an “artificial nucleus” simulated on a sheet of graphene. The observation not only provides confirmation of long-held theoretical predictions, but could also pave the way for new kinds of graphene-based electronic devices, and for further research on basic physics.
For many companies, moving their Web-application servers to the cloud is an attractive option, since cloud-computing services can offer economies of scale, extensive technical support, and easy accommodation of demand fluctuations. But for applications that depend heavily on database queries, cloud hosting can pose as many problems as it solves. Researchers are developing a new system that could help solve these problems.
A 70-pound “cheetah” robot designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers may soon outpace its animal counterparts in running efficiency: In treadmill tests, the researchers have found that the robot, which is about the size and weight of an actual cheetah, wastes very little energy as it trots continuously for up to an hour and a half at 5 mph. The key to the robot’s streamlined stride can be found in the shoulders.
New work from the Broad Institute and partnering organizations has expanded the understanding of how one type of immune cell—known as a T helper 17 or Th17 cell—develops, and how its growth influences the development of immune responses. By figuring out how these cells are “wired,” the researchers make a surprising connection between autoimmunity and salt consumption.
Bringing the concept of an “artificial leaf” closer to reality, a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has published a detailed analysis of all the factors that could limit the efficiency of such a system. The new analysis lays out a roadmap for a research program to improve the efficiency of these systems, and could quickly lead to the production of a practical, inexpensive and commercially viable prototype.
Until recently, there has been no systematic way of evaluating how different anti-fog coatings perform under real-world conditions. A team of MIT researchers has developed such a testing method, and used it to find a coating that outperforms others not only in preventing foggy buildups, but also in maintaining good optical properties without distortion.
President Barack Obama announced today that he intends to nominate Ernest J. Moniz to head the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Moniz is the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as the director of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) and the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment. At MIT, Moniz has also served previously as head of the Department of Physics and as director of the Bates Linear Accelerator Center.
Inspired by a chemical that fungi secrete to defend their territory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemists have synthesized and tested several dozen compounds that may hold promise as potential cancer drugs.
Using sunlight, researchers and students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology are trying to change how medical equipment is sterilized in remote clinics—and a pilot project in Nicaragua has begun to show promising results.
Pinning down one of the possible explanations for the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductors—fleeting fluctuations called charge-density waves (CDWs)—could help pave the way for technological advances. Researchers report that they have combined two state-of-the-art experimental techniques to study those electron waves with unprecedented precision in two-dimensional, custom-grown materials.
Many commercial robotic arms perform what roboticists call "pick-and-place" tasks: The arm picks up an object in one location and places it in another. Usually, the objects are positioned so that the arm can easily grasp them; the appendage that does the grasping may even be tailored to the objects' shape. General-purpose household robots, however, would have to be able to manipulate objects of any shape, left in any location. And today, commercially available robots don't have anything like the dexterity of the human hand. Until now.
While the phenomenon of superconductivity has been known for more than a century, the temperature at which it occur has remained too low for any practical applications. The discovery of high-temperature superconductors in the 1980s led to speculation that a surge of new discoveries might quickly lead to room-temperature superconductors. Despite intense research, these materials have remained poorly understood. Until now.
What kinds of industrial production can bring innovation to the American economy? An intensive, long-term study by a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology scholars suggests that a renewed commitment to research and development in manufacturing, sometimes through creative new forms of collaboration, can spur innovation and growth in the United States as a whole.
"The sounds uttered by birds offer in several respects the nearest analogy to language," Charles Darwin wrote in "The Descent of Man" (1871), while contemplating how humans learned to speak. Language, he speculated, might have had its origins in singing, which "might have given rise to words expressive of various complex emotions." Now researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, along with a scholar from the University of Tokyo, say that Darwin was on the right path.
By analyzing Mercury's rocky surface, scientists have been able to partially reconstruct the planet's history over billions of years. Now, drawing upon the chemical composition of rock features on the planet's surface, scientists have proposed that Mercury may have harbored a large, roiling ocean of magma very early in its history, shortly after its formation about 4.5 billion years ago.
Understanding exactly how droplets and bubbles stick to surfaces is a 100-year-old problem that has eluded experimental answers. Furthermore, it's a question with implications for everything from how to improve power plant efficiency to how to reduce fogging on windshields. Now, thanks to the help of a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a scanning electron microscope, this longstanding problem has finally been licked.
Your smartphone snapshots could be instantly converted into professional-looking photographs with just the touch of a button, thanks to a processor chip developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The chip can perform tasks such as creating more realistic or enhanced lighting in a shot without destroying the scene's ambience, in just a fraction of a second. The technology could be integrated with any smartphone, tablet computer, or digital camera.
In the search for renewable alternatives to gasoline, heavy alcohols such as isobutanol are promising candidates. Not only do they contain more energy than ethanol, but they are also more compatible with existing gasoline-based infrastructure. For isobutanol to become practical, however, scientists need a way to reliably produce huge quantities of it from renewable sources. Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineers and biologists have now devised a way to dramatically boost isobutanol production in yeast, which naturally make it in small amounts.
Silicon requires a surface coating before use in its given applications. The coating "passivates" the material, tying up loose atomic bonds to prevent oxidation that would ruin its electrical properties. But this passivation process consumes a lot of heat and energy, making it costly and limiting the kinds of materials that can be added to the devices. Now a team of researchers has found a way to passivate silicon at room temperature, which could be a significant boon to solar cell production and other silicon-based technologies.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers have created genetic circuits in bacterial cells that not only perform logic functions, but also remember the results, which are encoded in the cell’s DNA and passed on for dozens of generations.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have pioneered a new method for producing polymer gels with tailored mechanical properties. The approach, which depends on the use of ultraviolet to break chemical bonds and prime them for new connections, could be used to make new materials that physically grow towards a light source in order to optimize their properties.
Thermoelectric efficiency has improved enough to enable limited commercial use, but lack of better materials has prevented widespread adoption. New development work at Massachusetts Institute of Technology could help reduce thermal conductivity while keeping electrical conductivity high. In addition to computer modeling, the researchers draw upon methods developed by optics researchers who have been attempting to create invisibility cloaks—ways of making objects invisible to certain radio waves or light waves using nanostructured materials that bend light.