In 2015, American consumers will finally be able to purchase fuel cell cars from Toyota and other manufacturers. Although touted as zero-emissions vehicles, most of the cars will run on hydrogen made from natural gas, a fossil fuel that contributes to global warming. Now scientists at Stanford Univ. have developed a low-cost, emissions-free device that uses an ordinary AAA battery to produce hydrogen by water electrolysis.
Most microscopes are expensive, built with high-quality metals, optics and electronics to perform with high accuracy. However, not all useful microscopes need to be built this way, and Stanford Univ. has taken this premise to the extreme with a microscope that is made with parts that cost less than $1. A frugal, origami-based solution, the Foldscope can be assembled from 2-D media in less than 10 min, yet can provide more than 2,000X magnification, which is submicrometer resolution.
Some of the most damaging brain diseases can be traced to irregular blood delivery in the brain. Now, Stanford Univ. chemists have employed lasers and carbon nanotubes to capture an unprecedented look at blood flowing through a living brain. The technique was developed for mice but could one day be applied to humans, potentially providing vital information in the study of stroke and migraines.
To help them further the study of cell function, a team of Stanford Univ. bioengineers has designed a suite of protein motors that can be controlled remotely by light. Splicing together DNA from different organisms such as pig, slime mold and oat, which has a light-detecting module, the team created DNA codes for each of their protein motors. When exposed to light, the new protein motors change direction or speed.
In a recent paper, a team at Stanford Univ. which includes materials science expert Yi Cui and 2011 R&D Magazine Scientist of the Year Steven Chu report that they have taken a big step toward accomplishing what battery designers have been trying to do for decades: design a pure lithium anode.
More than 42 million years of natural selection have turned hummingbirds into some of the world's most energetically efficient flyers, particularly when it comes to hovering in place. Humans, however, are gaining ground quickly. A new study led by David Lentink, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford, reveals that the spinning blades of micro-helicopters are about as efficient at hovering as the average hummingbird.
New Stanford Univ. research outlines the path to a possible future for California in which renewable energy creates a healthier environment, generates jobs and stabilizes energy prices. Among other metrics, the plan calculates the number of new devices and jobs created, land and ocean areas required, and policies needed for infrastructure changes.
Scientists at Stanford Univ. and the Dept. of Energy (DOE)’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have found a way to estimate uncertainties in computer calculations that are widely used to speed the search for new materials for industry, electronics, energy, drug design and a host of other applications. The technique, reported in Science, should quickly be adopted in studies that produce some 30,000 scientific papers per year.
Using high-brilliance x-rays, Stanford Univ. researchers track the process that fuel cells use to produce electricity, knowledge that will help make large-scale alternative energy power systems more practical and reliable. Fuel cells use oxygen and hydrogen as fuel to create electricity; if the process were run in reverse, the fuel cells could be used to store electricity, as well.
Computer simulation has shown Stanford Univ. engineers how to make a crystal that would toggle like a light switch between conductive and non-conductive structures. This flexible, switchable lattice, just three atoms thick, can be turned on or off by mechanically pushing or pulling, and could lead to flexible electronic materials.
Think of the human body as an intricate machine whose working parts are proteins: molecules that change shape to enable our organs and tissues to perform tasks such as breathing, eating or thinking. Of the millions of proteins, 500 in the kinase family are particularly important to drug discovery. Kinases are messengers: They deliver signals that regulate and orchestrate the actions of other proteins.
Superman isn't the only one who can see through solid surfaces. In a development that could revolutionize the management of precious groundwater around the world, Stanford Univ. researchers have pioneered the use of satellites to accurately measure levels of water stored hundreds of feet below ground.
Scientists have discovered a material that has the same extraordinary electronic properties as 2-D graphene, but in a sturdy 3-D form that should be much easier to shape into electronic devices such as very fast transistors, sensors and transparent electrodes. The material, cadmium arsenide, is being explored independently by three groups.
A new study reveals how T cells, the immune system’s foot soldiers, respond to an enormous number of potential health threats. X-ray studies at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, combined with Stanford Univ. biological studies and computational analysis, revealed remarkable similarities in the structure of binding sites which allow a given T cell to recognize many different invaders that provoke an immune response.
A Stanford Univ. electrical engineer has invented a way to wirelessly transfer power deep inside the body, and then use this power to run tiny electronic medical gadgets such as pacemakers, nerve stimulators or new sensors and devices yet to be developed. The discoveriesculminate years of efforts to eliminate the bulky batteries and clumsy recharging systems that prevent medical devices from being more widely used.
Vast amounts of excess heat are generated by industrial processes and by electric power plants; researchers around the world have spent decades seeking ways to harness some of this wasted energy. Most such efforts have focused on thermoelectric devices, solid-state materials that can produce electricity from a temperature gradient, but the efficiency of such devices is limited by the availability of materials.
For a century biologists have thought they understood how the gooey growth that occurs inside cells causes their protective outer walls to expand. Now, Stanford Univ. researchers have captured the visual evidence to prove the prevailing wisdom wrong. The finding may lead to new strategies for fighting bacterial diseases.
Don't let their cute names fool you: The Mearns' pouch mouse and the delicate mouse can be dangerous. These and other rodents commonly harbor pathogens that can be deadly to humans. According to new research by Stanford Univ. scientists, populations of pathogen-carrying rodents can explode when larger animals die off in an ecosystem, leading to a doubling in the risk of potentially fatal diseases spreading to humans.
Stanford Univ. bioengineers have developed faster, more energy-efficient microchips based on the human brain—9,000 times faster and using significantly less power than a typical PC. This offers greater possibilities for advances in robotics and a new way of understanding the brain. For instance, a chip as fast and efficient as the human brain could drive prosthetic limbs with the speed and complexity of our own actions.
In the quest to make sun power more competitive, researchers are designing ultra-thin solar cells that cut material costs. At the same time, they’re keeping these thin cells efficient by sculpting their surfaces with photovoltaic nanostructures that behave like a molecular hall of mirrors.
Stanford Univ. scientists have found a new, highly efficient way to produce liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide gas. This promising discovery could provide an eco-friendly alternative to conventional ethanol production from corn and other crops, say the scientists. Their results are published online in Nature.
Sometimes, a dozen ravenous zombies just aren't exciting enough to hold a video gamer's interest. The next step in interactive gaming, however, could come in the form of a handheld game controller that gauges the player's brain activity and throws more zombies on the screen when it senses the player is bored.
The demand for solar and wind power continues to skyrocket. Since 2009, global solar photovoltaic installations have increased about 40% a year on average, and the installed capacity of wind turbines has doubled. The dramatic growth of the wind and solar industries has led utilities to begin testing large-scale technologies capable of storing surplus clean electricity and delivering it on demand when sunlight and wind are in short supply.
Neuroscientists and bioengineers at Stanford Univ. are working together to solve a mystery: How does nature construct the different types of synapses that connect neurons—the brain cells that monitor nerve impulses, control muscles and form thoughts.
Engineers would love to create flexible electronic devices, such as e-readers that could be folded to fit into a pocket. One approach they are trying involves designing circuits based on electronic fibers, known as carbon nanotubes, instead of rigid silicon chips. But reliability is essential.