As the installation of photovoltaic solar cells continues to accelerate, scientists are looking for inexpensive materials beyond the traditional silicon that can efficiently convert sunlight into electricity. Theoretically, iron pyrite could do the job, but when it works at all, the conversion efficiency remains frustratingly low. Now, a Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison research team explains why that is.
Scientists disclosed a new method to convert lignin, a biomass waste product, into simple...
Wisconsin is famous for its ice fishers. Less well known are the state’s big-league ice drillers...
Developing invisible implantable medical sensor arrays, a team of Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison...
No matter how many times it’s demonstrated, it’s still hard to envision bacteria as social, communicating creatures. But by using a signaling system called “quorum sensing,” these single-celled organisms radically alter their behavior to suit their population. In short, some bacteria “know” how many of them are present, and act accordingly.
As climate change alters habitats for birds and bees and everything in between, so too does the way humans decide to use land. Researchers have, for the first time, found a way to determine the potential combined impacts of both climate and land-use change on plants, animals and ecosystems across the country.
A multi-institutional team has resolved a long-unanswered question about how two of the world’s most common substances interact. In a paper published recently in Nature Communications, an international team reported fundamental discoveries about how water reacts with metal oxides. The paper opens doors for greater understanding and control of chemical reactions in fields ranging from catalysis to geochemistry and atmospheric chemistry.
Scientists report they can crank up insect aggression simply by interfering with a basic metabolic pathway in the insect brain. Their study, of fruit flies and honey bees, shows a direct, causal link between brain metabolism and aggression. The new research follows up on previous work from the laboratory of Univ. of Illinois entomology professor and Institute for Genomic Biology director Gene Robinson, who also led the new analysis.
In medicine, time isn't just money: it can mean the difference between life and death. Clot-busters must be given in the first hour of arrival in a hectic emergency room. Intravenous medications can spoil, and catheters that overstay their welcome invite infection.
As one of the most widely consumed and commercially important beverages on the planet, one would expect the experts to know everything there is to know about lager beer. But it was just a few years ago that scientists identified the South American yeast that somehow hitched a ride to Bavaria and combined with the domesticated Old World yeast used for millennia to make ale and bread to form the hybrid that makes lager or cold stored beer.
Using more than two million images collected by NASA’s orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope, a team of Wisconsin scientists has stitched together a dramatic 360-degree portrait of the Milky Way, providing new details of our galaxy’s structure and contents.
Capitalizing on the ability of an organism to evolve in response to punishment from a hostile environment, scientists have coaxed the model bacterium Escherichia coli to dramatically resist ionizing radiation and, in the process, reveal the genetic mechanisms that make the feat possible. The study provides evidence that just a handful of genetic mutations give E. coli the capacity to withstand doses of radiation.
Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory are working toward even stronger and more elastic glass types which would fail in a ductile fashion instead of shattering. Researchers there are looking at the initiation of shear-banding events in order to better understand how to control the mechanical properties of these materials.
Generating electricity is not the only way to turn sunlight into energy we can use on demand. The sun can also drive reactions to create chemical fuels, such as hydrogen, that can in turn power cars and trains. The trouble with solar fuel production is the cost of producing the sun-capturing semiconductors and the catalysts to generate fuel.
A multi-university team of engineers has developed what could be a promising solution for charging smartphone batteries on the go, without the need for an electrical cord. Incorporated directly into a cell phone housing, the team's nanogenerator could harvest and convert vibration energy from a surface, such as the passenger seat of a moving vehicle, into power for the phone.
Using a plant-derived chemical, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have developed a process for creating a concentrated stream of sugars that’s ripe with possibility for biofuels. The research team has published its findings in Science, explaining how they use gamma valerolactone, or GVL, to deconstruct plants and produce sugars that can be chemically or biologically upgraded into biofuels.
A team of engineers at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison has created a process to improve the creation of synthetic neural stem cells for use in central nervous system research. The process, outlined in a paper published in Stem Cells, will improve the state of the art in the creation of synthetic neural stem cells for use in central nervous system research.
Even scientists are fond of thinking of the human brain as a computer, following sets of rules. But if the brain is like a computer, why do brains make mistakes that computers don't? Recent research shows that our brains stumble on even the simplest rule-based calculations, because humans get caught up in contextual information, even when the rules are as clear-cut as separating even numbers from odd.
Scientists have long known that phosphorus fuels growth of algae in lakes and streams. Wisconsin Sea Grant researchers have found that nitrogen levels are a factor in whether or not these algae—specifically, blue-green algae—produce toxins. The findings, published in PLOS ONE have parts of the scientific community buzzing.
In a pair of studies that exploit the genetic sequencing of the “missing link” cold virus, rhinovirus C, scientists at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison have constructed a 3-D model of the pathogen that shows why there is no cure yet for the common cold. The new cold virus model was built in silico, drawing on advanced bioinformatics and the genetic sequences of 500 rhinovirus C genomes, which provided 3-D coordinates of the viral capsid.
In a 3-m-dia hollow aluminum sphere, Cary Forest, a Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison physics prof., is stirring and heating plasmas to 500,000 F to experimentally mimic the magnetic field-inducing cosmic dynamos at the heart of planets, stars and other celestial bodies. Ninety-three million miles away, the sun's magnetic field is churning and undulating as the star experiences the height of the so-called solar maximum.
Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison researchers working at the intersection of basic and applied science focus on key factors like cost, environmental impacts and sometimes, color. Take, for example, asst. chemistry prof. Trisha Andrew: Researchers in her laboratory are developing next-generation solar cells using chromophores or, in lay terms, dyes.
For astrophysicists, the interplay of hydrogen and the clouds of dust that fill the voids of interstellar space has been an intractable puzzle of stellar evolution. The dust, astronomers believe, is a key phase in the lifecycle of stars, which are formed in dusty nurseries throughout the cosmos. But how the dust interacts with hydrogen and is oriented by the magnetic fields in deep space has proved a theoretical challenge. Until now.
Chemists' efforts to study the inner workings of dirhodium metal complex reactions have been hindered by their extreme efficiency and speed, reacting at about 300 times per second. Now, a team of scientists report an advance that freezes one step of the process, rhodium catalysis, long enough to offer researchers a glimpse into the finer mechanism.
In an era of widespread genetic sequencing, the ability to edit and alter an organism's DNA is a powerful way to explore the information within and how it guides biological function. A paper from the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison takes genome editing to a new level in fruit flies, demonstrating a remarkable level of fine control and, importantly, the transmission of those engineered genetic changes across generations.
By any measure, tuberculosis (TB) is a wildly successful pathogen. It infects as many as two billion people in every corner of the world, with a new infection of a human host estimated to occur every second. Now, thanks to a new analysis of dozens of tuberculosis genomes gathered from around the world, scientists are getting a more detailed picture of why TB is so prevalent and how it evolves to resist countermeasures.
There are a lot of small molecules people would like to convert to something useful. The current process for reducing nitrogen to ammonia is done under extreme conditions, and there is an enormous barrier to overcome to get a final product. Breaching that barrier more efficiently and reducing the huge amounts of energy used to convert nitrogen to ammonia has been a grail for the agricultural chemical industry, until now.
In an effort to sort out why some viruses such as influenza, Ebola and West Nile are so lethal, a team of U.S. researchers plans a comprehensive effort to model how humans respond to these viral pathogens. The study will be led by a Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison professor. Teams from Washington Univ. in St. Louis and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, also will play key roles in the study.
The potential energy available via solar power might seem limitless on a sunny summer day, but all that energy has to be stored for it to be truly useful. If you see a solar panel on a rooftop, a bulky battery or supercapacitor is hidden just out of sight, receiving energy from the panel through power lines. However, that's a storage method that doesn't scale well for solar-powered devices with no space for a battery pack.
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