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The Lead

How microbes acquire electricity in making methane

May 18, 2015 10:57 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. scientists have solved a long-standing mystery about methanogens, unique microorganisms that transform electricity and carbon dioxide into methane. In a new study, the Stanford team demonstrates for the first time how methanogens obtain electrons from solid surfaces. The discovery could help scientists design electrodes for microbial "factories" that produce methane gas and other compounds sustainably.

Observed: The moment your mind changes

May 6, 2015 7:48 am | by Janet Rae-Dupree and Tom Abate, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers studying how the brain makes decisions have, for the first time, recorded the moment...

Optical method for producing high-res, 3-D images of nanoscale objects

April 8, 2015 8:07 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford Univ. | Videos | Comments

To design the next generation of optical devices, ranging from efficient solar panels to LEDs to...

Aluminum battery offers safe alternative to conventional batteries

April 6, 2015 11:23 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. scientists have invented the first high-performance aluminum battery that's fast-...

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Manufacturing process could yield better solar cells, faster chips

March 25, 2015 10:57 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | Videos | Comments

Computer chips, solar cells and other electronic devices have traditionally been based on silicon, the most famous of the semiconductors, that special class of materials whose unique electronic properties can be manipulated to turn electricity on and off the way faucets control the flow of water. There are other semiconductors. Gallium arsenide is one such material and it has certain technical advantages over silicon.

Engineers solve mystery of dancing droplets

March 12, 2015 8:17 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | Videos | Comments

A puzzling observation, pursued through hundreds of experiments, has led Stanford Univ. researchers to a simple yet profound discovery: Under certain circumstances, droplets of fluid will move like performers in a dance choreographed by molecular physics.

Scientists discover protein’s role in several types of cancers

February 23, 2015 8:20 am | by Amy Adams, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

A protein found in pancreatic tumors may lead to a new chemotherapy that is effective against many different kinds of cancers, but turning the discovery into a new drug has required a bit of chemistry know-how.

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Engineer produces free Braille-writer app

February 10, 2015 2:42 pm | by Andrew Myers, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Three years ago, Sohan Dharmaraja was a Stanford Univ. engineering doctoral candidate in search of his next project when he visited the Stanford Office of Accessible Education, which helps blind and visually challenged students successfully navigate the world of higher education.

Using ocean waves to monitor offshore oil and gas fields

January 29, 2015 7:54 am | by Ker Than, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

A technology developed by Stanford Univ. scientists for passively probing the seafloor using weak seismic waves generated by the ocean could revolutionize offshore oil and natural gas extraction by providing real-time monitoring of the subsurface while lessening the impact on marine life.

Perovskites provide big boost in silicon solar cells

January 22, 2015 1:04 pm | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stacking perovskites, a crystalline material, onto a conventional silicon solar cell dramatically improves the overall efficiency of the cell, according to a new study led by Stanford Univ. scientists. The researchers describe their novel perovskite-silicon solar cell in Energy & Environmental Science.

Engineers use x-rays to illuminate catalysis, revise theories

January 21, 2015 9:11 am | by Andrew Myers, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Many of today's most promising renewable energy technologies rely upon catalysts to expedite the chemical reactions at the heart of their potential. Catalysts are materials that enhance chemical reactions without being consumed in the process. For over a century, engineers across the world have engaged in a near-continual search for ways to improve catalysts for their devices and processes.

Perovskites provide big boost to silicon solar cells

January 16, 2015 8:05 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stacking perovskites onto a conventional silicon solar cell dramatically improves the overall efficiency of the cell, according to a new study led by Stanford Univ. scientists. The researchers describe their novel perovskite-silicon solar cell in Energy & Environmental Science.

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Artificial intelligence helps predict dangerous solar flares

January 15, 2015 9:32 am | by Leslie Willoughby, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Though scientists don’t completely understand what triggers solar flares, Stanford Univ. solar physicists Monica Bobra and Sebastien Couvidat have automated the analysis of those gigantic explosions. The method could someday provide advance warning to protect power grids and communication satellites.

Estimated social cost of climate change not accurate

January 13, 2015 11:41 am | by Ker Than, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

The economic damage caused by a ton of carbon dioxide emissions could be six times higher than the value that the U.S. now uses to guide current energy regulations, and possibly future mitigation policies, Stanford Univ. scientists say. A recent U.S. government study concluded, based on the results of three widely used economic impact models, an additional ton of carbon dioxide emitted in 2015 would cause $37 worth of economic damages.

A Clear Vision

December 17, 2014 9:29 am | by Paul Livingstone | Articles | Comments

Around 400 BC, Hippocrates was among the first people in recorded history to postulate the brain as the seat of sensation and intelligence. Yet only in the last 100 years have we identified, and closely studied, its key building block: the neuron. A highly specialized cell found in all but the simplest animals, like sponges, the neuron is one of the keys to understanding the brain.

Team combines logic, memory to build “high-rise” chip

December 15, 2014 7:49 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

For decades, the mantra of electronics has been smaller, faster, cheaper. Today, Stanford Univ. engineers add a fourth word: taller. A Stanford team revealed how to build high-rise chips that could leapfrog the performance of the single-story logic and memory chips on today's circuit cards.

Seed grants awarded for innovative energy research

December 12, 2014 10:37 am | by Mark Shwartz and Mark Golden, Stanford University | News | Comments

Stanford University's Precourt Institute for Energy, Precourt Energy Efficiency Center and TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy have awarded eight seed grants totaling about $1.5 million for promising new research in clean technology and energy efficiency.

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Big step toward using light instead of wires inside computers

December 5, 2014 10:36 am | by Chris Cesare, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. engineers have designed and built a prism-like device that can split a beam of light into different colors and bend the light at right angles, a development that could eventually lead to computers that use optics, rather than electricity, to carry data.

High-tech mirror to beam heat away from buildings into space

December 1, 2014 10:24 am | by Chris Cesare, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. engineers have invented a revolutionary coating material that can help cool buildings, even on sunny days, by radiating heat away from the buildings and sending it directly into space. The heart of the invention is an ultra-thin, multi-layered material that deals with light, both invisible and visible, in a new way.

Engineers climb walls using gecko-inspired climbing device

November 25, 2014 8:54 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service | Videos | Comments

If you spot someone stuck to the sheer glass side of a building on the Stanford Univ. campus, it's probably Elliot Hawkes testing his dissertation work. Hawkes, a mechanical engineering graduate student, works with a team of engineers who are developing controllable, reusable adhesive materials that, like the gecko toes that inspire the work, can form a strong bond with smooth surfaces but also release with minimal effort.

Petrochemical industry technique helps store solar energy

November 6, 2014 2:46 pm | by Dan Stober, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Chemical engineers have designed a catalyst that could help produce vast quantities of pure hydrogen through electrolysis – the process of passing electricity through water to break hydrogen loose from oxygen in H2O.         

Sound-powered chip to serve as medical device

October 17, 2014 9:18 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Medical researchers would like to plant tiny electronic devices deep inside our bodies to monitor biological processes and deliver pinpoint therapies to treat illness or relieve pain. But so far engineers have been unable to make such devices small and useful enough. Providing electric power to medical implants has been one stumbling block. Using wires or batteries to deliver power tends to make implants too big, too clumsy—or both.

New sensor uses radio waves to detect subtle changes in pressure

October 10, 2014 2:09 pm | Videos | Comments

Stanford Univ. engineers have invented a sensor that uses radio waves to detect subtle changes in pressure. Already used to monitor brain pressure in laboratory mice as prelude to possible use with human patients, this pressure-sensing technology relies on a specially designed rubber and could lead to touch-sensitive “skin” for prosthetic devices.

California drought linked to climate change

September 30, 2014 9:42 am | by Ker Than, Stanford Univ. | Videos | Comments

The atmospheric conditions associated with the unprecedented drought currently afflicting California are "very likely" linked to human-caused climate change, according to Stanford Univ. scientists. The team used a combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure hovering over the Pacific Ocean was likely to form from modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

Clues to how people bounce back from surgery

September 25, 2014 10:48 am | News | Comments

One of the big frustrations of surgery is that little indicates whether the patient is a fast or slow healer, someone who feels normal in a week or is out of work for a month with lingering pain and fatigue. Now Stanford Univ. researchers have discovered that right after surgery, patients' blood harbors clues about how fast they'll bounce back. And it has to do with the activity of certain immune cells that play a key role in healing.

Bioengineers develop a toolkit for designing better synthetic molecules

September 23, 2014 9:10 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Synthetic molecules hold great potential for revealing key processes that occur in cells, but the trial-and-error approach to their design has limited their effectiveness. Christina Smolke at Stanford Univ. has introduced a new computer model that could provide better blueprints for building synthetic genetic tools.

Designing more successful synthetic molecules

September 17, 2014 11:08 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service | News | Comments

Ever since Robert Hooke first described cells in 1665, scientists have been trying to figure out what goes on inside. One of the most exciting modern techniques involves injecting cells with synthetic genetic molecules that can passively report on the cell's behavior. A new computer model could not only improve the sensitivity and success of these synthetic molecules, but also make them easier to design in the first place.

X-rays unlock a protein’s SWEET side

September 15, 2014 8:41 am | by Justin Breaux, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Sugar is a vital source of energy. Understanding just how sugar makes its way into the cell could lead to the design of better drugs for diabetes patients and an increase in the amount of fruits and vegetables farmers are able to grow. Stanford Univ. researchers have recently uncovered one of these "pathways” into the cell by piecing together proteins slightly wider than the diameter of a strand of spider silk.

Study sheds new light on why batteries go bad

September 15, 2014 7:34 am | by Andrew Gordon, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Videos | Comments

A comprehensive look at how tiny particles in a lithium-ion battery electrode behave shows that rapid-charging the battery and using it to do high-power, rapidly draining work may not be as damaging as researchers had thought—and that the benefits of slow draining and charging may have been overestimated.

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