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The Lead

Optimizing shale gas production from well to wire

June 26, 2015 6:43 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

“Hydraulic fracturing” (or fracking) and “environmentally friendly” often do not appear in the same sentence together. But as the U.S. teeters on the precipice of a shale gas boom, Northwestern professor Fengqi You is exploring ways to make the controversial activity easier on the environment and the wallet.

Catalyst removes cancer-causing benzene in gasoline

June 8, 2015 8:02 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Northwestern Univ. scientists are experimenting with ways to eliminate a cancer-causing agent...

Saving money and the environment with 3D printing

June 3, 2015 7:47 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

A Northwestern Univ. team has confirmed a new way to help the airline industry save dollars...

Printing 3-D graphene structures for tissue engineering

May 20, 2015 8:15 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Ever since single-layer graphene burst onto the science scene in 2004, the possibilities for the...

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Healing plants inspire new compounds for psychiatric drugs

May 12, 2015 8:02 am | by Erin Spain, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Treatments used by traditional healers in Nigeria have inspired scientists at Northwestern Univ. to synthesize four new chemical compounds that could one day lead to better therapies for people with psychiatric disorders. In a recently published paper, the scientists detail how they created these natural compounds by completing the first total syntheses of two indole alkaloids: alstonine and serpentine.

Invisible inks could help foil counterfeiters of all kinds

April 22, 2015 7:33 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Real or counterfeit? Northwestern Univ. scientists have invented sophisticated fluorescent inks that one day could be used as multicolored barcodes for consumers to authenticate products that are often counterfeited. Snap a photo with your smartphone, and it will tell you if the item is real and worth your money.

Computers that mimic the function of the brain

April 7, 2015 8:16 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are always searching for improved technologies, but the most efficient computer possible already exists. It can learn and adapt without needing to be programmed or updated. It has nearly limitless memory, is difficult to crash, and works at extremely fast speeds. It’s not a Mac or a PC; it’s the human brain. And scientists around the world want to mimic its abilities.

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Cancer genes turned off in deadly brain cancer

April 6, 2015 10:55 am | by Marla Paul, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Northwestern Medicine scientists have identified a small RNA molecule called miR-182 that can suppress cancer-causing genes in mice with glioblastoma mulitforme (GBM), a deadly and incurable type of brain tumor. While standard chemotherapy drugs damage DNA to stop cancer cells from reproducing, the new method stops the source that creates those cancer cells: genes that are overexpressing certain proteins.

Solving molybdenum disulfide’s “thin” problem

March 30, 2015 7:55 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

The promising new material molybdenum disulfide has an inherent issue that’s steeped in irony. The material’s greatest asset, its monolayer thickness, is also its biggest challenge. Monolayer molybdenum disulfide’s ultra-thin structure is strong, lightweight and flexible, making it a good candidate for many applications, such as high-performance, flexible electronics.

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 created a new technique that can transform silver into any color of the rainbow. Their simple method is a fast, low-cost alternative to color filters currently used in electronic displays and monitors.

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 cost-effective production of proteins will be essential to revolutionizing the future of health care and energy. For years, scientists have turned to yeast as a quick and inexpensive way to mass-produce proteins for a variety of useful products. Now Northwestern Univ. has found a way to gather more protein without making the yeast produce more.

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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 Rondinelli uses quantum mechanical calculations to predict and design the properties of new materials by working at the atom-level. His group’s latest achievement is the discovery of a novel way to control the electronic band gap in complex oxide materials without changing the material’s overall composition.

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.

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.

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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.

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.  

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.

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