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The Lead

Link seen between seizures and migraines in the brain

November 1, 2014 11:59 am | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

Seizures and migraines have always been considered separate physiological events in the brain, but now a team of engineers and neuroscientists looking at the brain from a physics viewpoint discovered a link between these and related phenomena.

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Sensory-tested drug delivery vehicle could limit spread of HIV, AIDS

August 28, 2014 12:33 pm | by Jeff Mulhollem, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

A unique method for delivering compounds that could positively impact the global battle against HIV and AIDS may be possible, thanks to researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. A semi-soft vaginal suppository made from the seaweed-derived food ingredient carrageenan and loaded with the antiviral drug Tenofovir provides a woman-initiated, drug delivery vehicle that can protect against the spread of STIs.

The birth of topological spintronics

July 24, 2014 10:31 am | News | Comments

Research led by Penn State Univ. and Cornell Univ. physicists is studying "spintorque" in devices that combine a standard magnetic material with a new material known as a topological insulator. The new insulator, which is made of bismuth selenide and operates at room temperature, overcomes one of the key challenges to developing a spintronics technology based on spin-orbit coupling.

55-year-old dark side of the moon mystery solved

June 10, 2014 8:09 am | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

The "man in the moon" appeared when meteoroids struck the Earth-facing side of the moon creating large flat seas of basalt that we see as dark areas called maria. But no "face" exists on farside of the moon and now, Penn State Univ. astrophysicists think they know why.

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New “Views” on Biocontainment Facility

June 4, 2014 3:35 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

The genesis of the Eva J. Pell Laboratory was driven by the need for high-containment lab space which, in 2006, was not available at Pennsylvania State Univ. (PSU). Numerous researchers were considering leaving the university as their research needs required a BSL-3 facility; and PSU’s leadership was determined not only to retain PIs who required these facilities, but also to emerge as a regional leader in infectious disease research.

Strongly interacting electrons in wacky oxide synchronize to work like the brain

May 14, 2014 2:01 pm | by Walt Mills, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

Vanadium dioxide is called a "wacky oxide" because it transitions between a conducting metal and an insulating semiconductor and with the addition of heat or electrical current. A device created by Penn State engineers uses a thin film of vanadium oxide on a titanium dioxide substrate to create an oscillating switch that could form the basis of a computational device that uses a fraction of the energy necessary for today’s computers.

Study finds surprising clues about the formation of sun-like star clusters

May 9, 2014 11:15 am | News | Comments

An important advance in understanding how clusters of stars like our sun are formed has been made by a team that includes seven astronomers at Penn State Univ. and two at other universities. Using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and infrared telescopes, the astronomers have shown that earlier theories about the process that creates star clusters in giant clouds of gas and dust cannot be correct.

Sprites form at plasma irregularities in the lower ionosphere

May 7, 2014 9:46 am | News | Comments

Sprites are an optical phenomenon that occur above thunderstorms, about 37 to 56 miles above the Earth. Atmospheric sprites have been known for nearly a century, but their origins were a mystery. Now, a team of researchers has evidence that sprites form at plasma irregularities and may be useful in remote sensing of the lower ionosphere.

Genetic approach helps design broadband metamaterial

May 6, 2014 7:58 am | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

A specially formed material that can provide custom broadband absorption in the infrared can be identified and manufactured using "genetic algorithms," according to Penn State Univ. engineers, who say these metamaterials can shield objects from view by infrared sensors, protect instruments and be manufactured to cover a variety of wavelengths.

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Star discovered to be close neighbor, and the coldest of its kind

April 28, 2014 7:23 am | News | Comments

Brown dwarfs start their lives like stars, as collapsing balls of gas, but they lack the mass to burn nuclear fuel and radiate starlight. A "brown dwarf" star that appears to be the coldest of its kind—as frosty as Earth's North Pole—has been discovered by a Penn State Univ. astronomer to be just 7.2 light-years away, making it the fourth closest system to our Sun. The strange star is as frosty as Earth's North Pole.

Under some LED bulbs whites aren’t “whiter than white”

April 21, 2014 12:03 pm | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look "whiter than white," but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different degrees of whites may all look the same, according to experts in lighting.

Making new materials an atomic layer at a time

April 17, 2014 9:36 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Pennsylvania and Texas have shown the ability to grow high quality, single-layer materials one on top of the other using chemical vapor deposition. This highly scalable technique, often used in the semiconductor industry, can produce materials with unique properties that could be applied to solar cells, ultracapacitors for energy storage, or advanced transistors for energy efficient electronics, among many other applications.

Sunlight generates hydrogen in new porous silicon

April 10, 2014 11:20 am | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

Porous silicon manufactured in a bottom up procedure using solar energy can be used to generate hydrogen from water, according to a team of Penn State Univ. mechanical engineers, who also see applications for batteries, biosensors and optical electronics as outlets for this new material.

Tiny power generator runs on saliva

April 3, 2014 1:02 pm | News | Comments

Saliva-powered micro-sized microbial fuel cells can produce minute amounts of energy sufficient to run on-chip applications, according to an international team of engineers.                      

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Microprinting leads to low-cost artificial cells

December 18, 2013 9:12 am | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

Easily manufactured, low-cost artificial cells manufactured using microprinting may one day serve as drug and gene delivery devices, according to engineers at Penn State Univ. who are creating large arrays of artificial cells. Made of lipids and proteins, these uniformly sized cells can either remain attached to the substrate on which they grow, or become separated and used as freely moving vessels.

High-frequency, low-power tunneling transistor could power high-performance devices

December 12, 2013 5:22 pm | News | Comments

Researchers have proved the feasibility of a new type of transistor that could enable fast and low-power computing devices for energy-constrained applications such as smart sensor networks and implantable medical electronics. Called a near broken-gap tunnel field effect transistor, the new device uses the quantum mechanical tunneling of electrons through an ultra-thin energy barrier to provide high current at low voltage.

New tool profiles critical regulatory structures of RNA molecules

December 4, 2013 10:34 am | News | Comments

Scientists at Penn State Univ. have developed a method that enables a more accurate prediction of how ribonucleic acid molecules (RNAs) fold within living cells, shedding new light on how plants, as well as other living organisms, respond to environmental conditions. The advance was made possible by the ability to analyze more than 10,000 RNA molecules in a single cell.

Unusual greenhouse gases may have raised ancient Martian temperature

November 27, 2013 11:36 am | by Anne Danahy, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

The presence of molecular hydrogen, in addition to carbon dioxide and water, could have created a greenhouse effect on Mars 3.8 billion years ago that pushed temperatures high enough to allow for liquid water. This is according to a team of researchers who believe this is the only way for giant canyons like Nanedi Valles could have formed.

Additive may make wine fine for a longer time

November 21, 2013 12:52 pm | by Matthew Swayne, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

Oxygen usually enters wine through the cork and interacts with metals, particularly iron, setting off a chain reaction that changes compounds that add often disagreeable tastes and smells to the drink. Penn State Univ. researchers have added chelation compounds that bind with metals to inhibit oxidation, or oxygen's ability to react with trace metals. These compounds, they found, were effective.

Research grant seeks to reduce crops' fertilizer dependence

October 18, 2013 9:56 am | News | Comments

A research team including a Penn State chemical engineer was recently awarded a $3.9 million National Science Foundation grant to understand how blue-green algae convert nitrogen into oxygen. The objective is to learn how to "transplant" the nitrogen fixing capability of one species to another.

Laser technique enables 3-D analysis, natural color images

October 11, 2013 9:05 am | News | Comments

A new technology invented to automate the laborious process of preparing plant roots for phenotyping has morphed into a powerful tool for exploring the 3-D structure of small objects. Now, two former Penn State Univ. students have formed a startup company targeting agribusiness and horticultural research.

Genome of elastomeric materials creates novel materials

September 10, 2013 7:54 am | News | Comments

A wide range of biologically inspired materials may now be possible by combining protein studies, materials science and RNA sequencing, according to an international team of researchers. The researchers looked at proteins because they are the building blocks of biological materials and also often control sequencing, growth and self-assembly. RNA produced from the DNA in the cells is the template for biological proteins.

Sandy's “freaky” path may be less likely in future

September 3, 2013 8:17 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Global warming may further lessen the likelihood of the freak atmospheric steering currents that last year shoved Superstorm Sandy due west into New Jersey, a new study says. But the study's authors said the once-in-700-years path was only one factor in the $50 billion storm. They say other variables such as sea level rise and stronger storms will worsen with global warming and outweigh changes in steering currents predicted by models.

Chemical engineers' research may lead to inexpensive, flexible solar cells

August 22, 2013 8:46 am | News | Comments

Most solar cells today are inorganic and made of crystalline silicon. These cells tend to be expensive, rigid and relatively inefficient when it comes to converting sunlight into electricity. Work by a team of chemical engineers at Penn State Univ. and Rice Univ. may lead to a new class of inexpensive organic solar cells, one that skips difficult-to-scale fullerene acceptors and relies on molecular self-assembly instead.

Researchers granted patent for system that fuses human, computer intelligence

August 22, 2013 8:17 am | News | Comments

In complex crisis situations teams of experts must often make difficult decisions within a narrow time frame. However, voluminous amounts of information and the complexity of distributed cognition can hamper the quality and timeliness of decision-making by human teams and lead to catastrophic consequences. A Penn State Univ. team has devised a system that merges human and computer intelligence to support decision-making.

Bubbles are the new lenses for nanoscale light beams

August 14, 2013 5:33 pm | by Hannah Y. Cheng | News | Comments

Bending light beams to your whim sounds like a job for a wizard or an a complex array of bulky mirrors, lenses and prisms, but a few tiny liquid bubbles may be all that is necessary to open the doors for next-generation, high-speed circuits and displays, according to Penn State researchers.

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