Much of what is known about sensory touch and hearing cells is based on indirect observation. Scientists know that these tiny cells are sensitive to changes in force and pressure. But to truly understand how they function, scientists must be able to manipulate them directly. Now, Stanford Univ. scientists are developing a set of tools that are small enough to stimulate an individual nerve or group of nerves.
When engineers design devices, they must often join together two materials that expand and contract at different rates as temperatures change. Such thermal differences can cause problems if, for instance, a semiconductor chip is plugged into a socket that can’t expand and contract rapidly enough to maintain an unbroken contact over time. The potential for failure at such junctures has intensified as devices have shrunk to the nanoscale.
In April, a bright flash of light burst from near the constellation Leo. Originating billions of light years away, this explosion of light, called a gamma ray burst, has now been confirmed as the brightest gamma ray burst ever observed. Astronomers around the world were able to view the blast in unprecedented detail and observe several aspects of the event. The data could lead to a rewrite of standard theories on how gamma ray bursts work.
A single layer of tin atoms could be the world’s first material to conduct electricity with 100% efficiency at the temperatures that computer chips operate, according to a team of theoretical physicists led by researchers from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford Univ.
Organic solar cells have long been touted as lightweight, low-cost alternatives to rigid solar panels made of silicon. Dramatic improvements in the efficiency of organic photovoltaics have been made in recent years, yet the fundamental question of how these devices convert sunlight into electricity is still hotly debated. Now a Stanford Univ. research team is weighing in on the controversy.
Researchers have made the first battery electrode that heals itself, opening a new and potentially commercially viable path for making the next generation of lithium-ion batteries for electric cars, cell phones and other devices. The secret is a stretchy polymer that coats the electrode, binds it together and spontaneously heals tiny cracks that develop during battery operation.
Stanford Univ. researchers have developed an inexpensive device that uses light to split water into oxygen and clean-burning hydrogen. The goal is to supplement solar cells with hydrogen-powered fuel cells that can generate electricity when the sun isn't shining or demand is high.
Researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to quantify brain tissue volume, a critical measurement of the progression of multiple sclerosis and other diseases.
Making hydrogen easily and cheaply is a dream goal for clean, sustainable energy. Bacteria have been doing exactly that for billions of years, and now chemists at the Univ. of California, Davis and Stanford Univ. are revealing how they do it, and perhaps opening ways to imitate them.
Scientists still know relatively little about the world’s biggest corals, where they are and how long they have lived. Camera-equipped flying robots which have the ability to film these corals from the air promise new insights into climate change effects on important ecosystems.
Scientists have created a heat-resistant thermal emitter that could significantly improve the efficiency of solar cells. The novel component is designed to convert heat from the sun into infrared light, which can then be absorbed by solar cells to make electricity. Unlike earlier prototypes that fell apart at temperatures below 1,200 C, the new thermal emitter remains stable at temperatures as high as 1,400 C.
The same process that allows water to trickle through coffee grinds to create your morning espresso may have played a key role in the formation of the early Earth and influenced its internal organization, according to a new study by scientists at Stanford Univ.'s School of Earth Sciences.
A new technique developed by researchers at the Stanford Univ. School of Medicine could pave the way to an era of personalized epigenomics. The technique could quickly yield huge amounts of useful information about which genes are active in particular cells. The technology involved is cheap, fast and easy to use, and all that would be needed from the patient is a blood sample or needle biopsy.
A team of Stanford Univ. engineers has built a basic computer using carbon nanotubes, a semiconductor material that has the potential to launch a new generation of electronic devices that run faster, while using less energy, than those made from silicon chips. This unprecedented feat culminates years of efforts by scientists around the world to harness this promising but quirky material.
Anyone who’s stuffed a smartphone in their back pocket would appreciate the convenience of electronic devices that could bend. Alas, electronic components are generally made from stiff and brittle metals and inorganic semiconductors. Now, researchers have created the first theoretical framework seeking to understand, predict and improve the conductivity of semiconducting polymers.
When scientists found electrical current flowing where it shouldn't be—at the place where two insulating materials meet—it set off a frenzy of research that turned up more weird properties and the hope of creating a new class of electronics. Now scientists have mapped those currents in microscopic detail and found another surprise: Rather than flowing uniformly, the currents are stronger in some places than others.
DNA is the blueprint for life. Could it also become the template for making a new generation of computer chips based not on silicon, but on an experimental material known as graphene? That’s the theory behind a process that Stanford Univ. chemical engineering prof. Zhenan Bao has revealed.
Induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, are a hot commodity right now in biology. The cells, which are created when non-stem cells are reprogrammed to resemble embryonic stem cells, have many potential uses in therapy and drug development. They're usually created by using a virus to add just four genes to the cell to be reprogrammed. However, a molecular understanding of the transformation process is largely lacking.
Why can’t global leaders agree on a broad, effective climate change pact? More than 20 years after they began, international negotiations based on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change have resulted in only one legally binding treaty. That agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, has not been ratified by the U.S., historically the world’s largest carbon emitter.
When it comes to improving the performance of lithium-ion batteries, no part should be overlooked; not even the glue that binds materials together in the cathode, researchers at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford Univ. have found. Tweaking that material, which binds lithium sulfide and carbon particles together, created a cathode that lasted five times longer than earlier designs.
In an advance that will help scientists design and engineer proteins, a team including researchers from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford Univ. has found a way to identify how protein molecules flex into specific atomic arrangements required to catalyze chemical reactions essential for life.
Scientists have spent decades trying to build flexible plastic solar cells efficient enough to compete with conventional cells made of silicon. To boost performance, research groups have tried creating new plastic materials that enhance the flow of electricity through the solar cell. Recently, scientists discovered that disorder at the molecular level actually improves the polymers' performance.
Researchers have made the first direct images of electrical currents flowing along the edges of a topological insulator. In these strange solid-state materials, currents flow only along the edges of a sample while avoiding the interior. Using an exquisitely sensitive detector they built, the team was able to sense the weak magnetic fields generated by the edge currents and tell exactly where the currents were flowing.
Scientists from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford Univ. have used finely tuned x-rays at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource to pin down the source of a mysterious magnetism that appears when two materials are sandwiched together. Why is this mysterious? Neither material shows a hint of magnetism on its own.
On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 undersea earthquake occurred 43 miles off the shore of Japan. It generated an unexpectedly massive tsunami that washed over eastern Japan roughly 30 minutes later. Scientists at Stanford University have identified key acoustic characteristics of this quake that indicated it would cause a large tsunami.