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The Lead

Building a more versatile frequency comb

February 17, 2015 7:25 pm | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Frequency combs are the rulers of light. By counting a wavelength's many oscillations, they measure distance and time with extraordinary precision and speed. Since the discovery of optical frequency combs in the 1990s, many applications in metrology, spectroscopy and frequency synthesis have emerged.

Silver-glass sandwich structure acts as inexpensive color filter

February 13, 2015 10:37 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

The engineering world just became even more colorful. Northwestern Univ. researchers have...

Getting yeast to pump up the protein production

February 3, 2015 11:43 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

From manufacturing life-saving biopharmaceuticals to producing energy-efficient biofuels, the...

Method allows for greater variation in band gap tenability

January 30, 2015 4:10 pm | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

If you can’t find the ideal material, then design a new one. Northwestern Univ.’s James...

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Building trustworthy big data algorithms

January 30, 2015 8:41 am | by Emily Ayshford, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Much of our reams of data sit in large databases of unstructured text. Finding insights among emails, text documents and Websites is extremely difficult unless we can search, characterize and classify their text data in a meaningful way. One of the leading big data algorithms for finding related topics within unstructured text (an area called topic modeling) is latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA).

Why upper motor neurons degenerate in ALS

January 29, 2015 8:44 am | by Marla Paul, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

For the first time, scientists have revealed a mechanism underlying the cellular degeneration of upper motor neurons, a small group of neurons in the brain recently shown to play a major role in ALS pathology. ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a fatal neuromuscular disorder marked by the degeneration of motor neurons, which causes muscle weakness and impaired speaking, swallowing and breathing that leads to paralysis and death.

Infrared imaging technique operates at high temperatures

January 23, 2015 4:19 pm | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

From aerial surveillance to cancer detection, mid-wavelength infrared (MWIR) radiation has a wide range of applications. And as the uses for high-sensitivity, high-resolution imaging continue to expand, MWIR sources are becoming more attractive. Currently, commercial technologies for MWIR detection can only operate at cryogenic temperatures in order to reduce thermal and electrical noise.

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Silver nanowires demonstrate unexpected self-healing mechanism

January 23, 2015 1:56 pm | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

With its high electrical conductivity and optical transparency, indium tin oxide is one of the most widely used materials for touchscreens, plasma displays and flexible electronics. But its rapidly escalating price has forced the electronics industry to search for other alternatives. One potential and more cost-effective alternative is a film made with silver nanowires embedded in flexible polymers.

Device allows manipulation of differentiating stem cells

January 14, 2015 8:20 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Electroporation is a powerful technique in molecular biology. By using an electrical pulse to create a temporary nanopore in a cell membrane, researchers can deliver chemicals, drugs and DNA directly into a single cell. But existing electroporation methods require high electric field strengths and for cells to be suspended in solution, which disrupts cellular pathways and creates a harsh environment for sensitive primary cells.

Freshman-level chemistry solves the solubility mystery of graphene oxide films

January 5, 2015 3:21 pm | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

A Northwestern Univ.-led team recently found the answer to a mysterious question that has puzzled the materials science community for years—and it came in the form of some surprisingly basic chemistry. Like many scientists, Jiaxing Huang didn't understand why graphene oxide films were highly stable in water.

Nanotech used to engineer ACL replacements

January 2, 2015 7:50 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Lindsey Vonn. Derrick Rose. Tom Brady. Mickey Mantle. They have all fallen victim to the dreaded pop of the knee. Connecting the femur to the tibia, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture is one of the most devastating injuries in sports. No other injury has sidelined more athletes for a season or even the rest of a career.

Terahertz device could strengthen security

November 24, 2014 11:12 am | by Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

We are all familiar with the hassles that accompany air travel. We shuffle through long lines, remove our shoes, and carry liquids in regulation-sized tubes. And even after all the effort, we still wonder if these procedures are making us any safer. Now a new type of security detection that uses terahertz radiation is looking to prove its promise.

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New process isolates promising material

November 13, 2014 11:11 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

After graphene was first produced in the laboratory in 2004, thousands of laboratories began developing graphene products worldwide. Researchers were amazed by its lightweight and ultra-strong properties. Ten years later, scientists now search for other materials that have the same level of potential.

Self-assembled membranes hint at biomedical applications

October 28, 2014 11:36 am | by David Lindley, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Techniques for self-assembling of molecules have grown increasingly sophisticated, but biological structures remain a challenge. Recently, scientists have used self-assembly under controlled conditions to create a membrane consisting of layers with distinctly different structures. At the Advanced Photon Source, the team has studied the structures and how they form, paving the way for hierarchical structures with biomedical applications.

Skin-like device monitors cardiovascular, skin health

September 25, 2014 9:09 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

A new wearable medical device can quickly alert a person if they are having cardiovascular trouble or if it’s simply time to put on some skin moisturizer, reports a Northwestern Univ. and Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign study. The small device, approximately five centimeters square, can be placed directly on the skin and worn 24/7 for around-the-clock health monitoring.

New glaucoma cause discovered

September 15, 2014 10:57 am | by Marla Paul, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered a novel cause of glaucoma in an animal model, and related to their findings, are now developing an eye drop aimed at curing the disease. They believe their findings will be important to human glaucoma. A cure for glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the U.S., has been elusive because the basis of the disease is poorly understood.

Breakthrough for carbon nanotube solar cells

September 3, 2014 11:47 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Lighter, more flexible and cheaper than conventional solar-cell materials, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have long shown promise for photovoltaics. But research stalled when CNTs proved to be inefficient, converting far less sunlight into power than other methods. Now a research team has created a new type of CNT solar cell that is twice as efficient as its predecessors.  

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Single laser stops molecular tumbling motion instantly

September 2, 2014 8:26 am | News | Comments

In the quantum world, making the simple atom behave is one thing, but making the more complex molecule behave is another story. Now Northwestern Univ. scientists have figured out an elegant way to stop a molecule from tumbling so that its potential for new applications can be harnessed: shine a single laser on a trapped molecule and it instantly cools to the temperature of outer space, stopping the rotation of the molecule.

Biomarker in aggressive breast cancer identified

August 20, 2014 7:53 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Two Northwestern Univ. scientists have identified a biomarker strongly associated with basal-like breast cancer, a highly aggressive carcinoma that is resistant to many types of chemotherapy. The biomarker, a protein called STAT3, provides a smart target for new therapeutics designed to treat this often deadly cancer.

Antioxidant biomaterial promotes healing

July 25, 2014 6:55 am | News | Comments

When a foreign material like a medical device or surgical implant is put inside the human body, the body usually reacts negatively. For the first time ever, researchers at Northwestern Univ. have created a biodegradable biomaterial that is inherently antioxidant. The material can be used to create elastomers, liquids that turn into gels, or solids for building devices that are more compatible with cells and tissues.

Technology illuminates colder objects in deep space

July 10, 2014 7:42 am | News | Comments

Too cool and faint, many objects in the universe are impossible to detect with visible light. Now a Northwestern Univ. team has refined a new technology that could make these colder objects more visible, paving the way for enhanced exploration of deep space. The new technology uses a type II superlattice material called indium arsenide/indium arsenide antimonide (InAs/InAsSb).

New evidence for oceans deep in the Earth

June 13, 2014 7:59 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers report evidence for an oceans worth of water deep beneath the U.S. Though not in the familiar liquid form—the ingredients for water are bound up in rock deep in the Earth’s mantle—the discovery may represent the planet’s largest water reservoir. The presence of liquid water on the surface is what makes our “blue planet” habitable, and scientists have tried to figure out just how much water may be cycling between Earth’s surface.

Designing ion “highway systems” for batteries

June 10, 2014 2:19 pm | News | Comments

Since the early 1970s, lithium has been the most popular element for batteries because of it’s low weight and good electrochemical potential. But it is also highly flammable. Researchers have recently married two traditional theories in materials science that can explain how the charge dictates the structure of the material. And using this they may be able to move to other materials, such as block copolymers, for use in batteries.

Team demonstrates continuous terahertz sources at room temperature

June 5, 2014 11:47 am | News | Comments

The potential of terahertz waves has yet to be reached because they are difficult to generate and manipulate. Current sources are large devices that require complex vacuum, lasers and cooling systems. A Northwestern Univ. team is the first to produce terahertz radiation in a simplified system. Their room-temperature, compact, continuous terahertz radiation source is six times more efficient than previous systems.

Taking the lead out of a promising solar cell

May 6, 2014 7:32 am | News | Comments

Northwestern Univ. researchers are the first to develop a new solar cell with good efficiency that uses tin instead of lead perovskite as the harvester of light. The low-cost, environmentally friendly solar cell can be made easily using "bench" chemistry, with no fancy equipment or hazardous materials.

Experimental drug prolongs life span in mice

May 2, 2014 11:30 am | by Marla Paul, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Northwestern Medicine scientists have newly identified a protein’s key role in cell and physiological aging and have developed—in collaboration with Tohoku Univ. in Japan—an experimental drug that inhibits the protein’s effect and prolonged the lifespan in a mouse model of accelerated aging. The rapidly aging mice fed the experimental drug lived more than four times longer than a control group.

Ozone levels drop 20% with switch from ethanol to gasoline

April 29, 2014 9:35 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

A Northwestern Univ. study by an economist and a chemist reports that when fuel prices drove residents of São Paulo, Brazil, to mostly switch from ethanol to gasoline in their flexible-fuel vehicles, local ozone levels dropped 20%. At the same time, nitric oxide and carbon monoxide concentrations tended to go up.

Surprising material could play role in saving energy

April 18, 2014 7:56 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

One strategy for addressing the world’s energy crisis is to stop wasting so much energy when producing and using it, which can happen in coal-fired power plants or transportation. Nearly two-thirds of energy input is lost as waste heat. Now Northwestern Univ. scientists have discovered a surprising material that is the best in the world at converting waste heat to useful electricity.

Expanding particles to engineer defects

April 8, 2014 10:41 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Materials scientists have long known that introducing defects into 3-D materials can improve their mechanical and electronic properties. Now a new Northwestern Univ. study finds how defects affect 2-D crystalline structures, and the results hold information for designing new materials.

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