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Researchers grow carbon nanofibers using ambient air, without toxic ammonia

March 24, 2014 9:39 am | News | Comments

Vertically aligned carbon nanofibers (VACNFs) are a commonly manufactured material, but conventional techniques for creating them have relied on the use of ammonia gas, which is toxic. Though it not costly, it is also not free, either. Researchers in North Carolina have demonstrated that VACNFs can be manufactured using ambient air, making the manufacturing process safer and less expensive.

Toilet tech fair tackles global sanitation woes

March 24, 2014 9:10 am | by Katy Daigle, AP Environment Writer | News | Comments

Scientists who accepted the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's challenge to reinvent the toilet showcased their inventions in New Delhi on Saturday. The primary goal: to sanitize waste, use minimal water or electricity and produce a usable product at low cost. The World Bank estimates the annual global cost of poor sanitation at $260 billion and India is by far the worst culprit.

A layered nanostructure held together by DNA

March 20, 2014 12:40 pm | by David Lindley, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new strategy for building nanoscale constructs uses the binding properties of complementary strands of DNA to attach nanoparticles to each other. A series of controlled steps builds up a layered thin-film nanostructure. Small-angle x-ray scattering analysis has revealed the precise form that the structures adopted, and points to ways of exercising still greater control over the final arrangement.

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Flexible carbon nanotube circuits are more reliable, power efficient

March 18, 2014 9:57 am | News | Comments

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.

Discovery could yield more efficient plants for biofuels

March 18, 2014 8:16 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Genetically modifying a key protein complex in plants could lead to improved crops for the production of cellulosic biofuels, a Purdue Univ. study says. The researchers generated a mutant Arabidopsis plant whose cell walls can be converted easily into fermentable sugars, but doesn't display the stunted growth patterns of similar mutants.

Brighter inks, without pigment

March 17, 2014 7:57 am | by Manny Morone '14, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at the Harvard Univ. School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are giving man-made materials structural color. Producing structural color is not easy, though; it often requires a material’s molecules to be in a very specific crystalline pattern, like the natural structure of an opal, which reflects a wide array of colors.

Heat-based technique offers new way to count microscopic particles

March 13, 2014 9:09 am | News | Comments

Particle counters are used in a wide variety of industries. Researchers in North Carolina have developed a new thermal technique that counts and measures the size of particles, but is less expensive than light-based techniques. It can also be used on a wider array of materials than electricity-based techniques.

Team discovers unexpected effect of heavy hydrogen in organic solar cells

March 11, 2014 8:47 am | News | Comments

Photovoltaic spray paint could coat the windows and walls of the future if scientists are successful in developing low-cost, flexible solar cells based on organic polymers. Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory recently discovered an unanticipated factor in the performance of polymer-based solar devices that gives new insight on how these materials form and function.

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Sweet smell of sustainability

March 11, 2014 8:34 am | by Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service | News | Comments

Fresh banana, a waft of flowers, blueberry: the scents in Shota Atsumi's laboratory in the Univ. of California, Davis Dept. of Chemistry are a little sweeter than most. That's because Atsumi and his team are engineering bacteria to make esters, molecules widely used as scents and flavorings, and also as basic feedstock for chemical processes from paints to fuels.

Driving down fuel usage

March 10, 2014 10:57 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Despite their potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption, electric and hybrid cars and trucks struggled for years to find a solid customer base. Much of the reason came down to cost and convenience: Electric car batteries are expensive, and charging them requires plug-in infrastructure that’s still sparse in the U.S.

Revamping R&D: The New Laboratory In Your Pocket?

March 10, 2014 9:06 am | by Paul Denny-Gouldson, Vice President, Solution Strategy, IDBS | Articles | Comments

The nature of science shares striking similarities across many industry verticals. Whether it’s biologics, chemicals or new product formulations, they are all performed with a high degree of similarity from company to company. This is exemplified by the fact that R&D informatics platforms such as LIMS, ELNs and SDMS are used, and provide real benefits in all science-related sectors.

Biomolecular tweezers facilitate study of mechanical force effects on cells

March 10, 2014 8:07 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

A new type of biomolecular tweezers could help researchers study how mechanical forces affect the biochemical activity of cells and proteins. The devices use opposing magnetic and electrophoretic forces to precisely stretch the cells and molecules, holding them in position so that the activity of receptors and other biochemical activity can be studied.

Microbial detection array detects plague in ancient human remains

March 6, 2014 10:40 am | by Stephen P Wampler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists who study past pandemics, such as the 14th-century Black Death that devastated much of Europe, might soon be turning to an innovative biological detection technology for some extra help. The apparent first use of this technology, known as a microarray, for studying pathogens from ancient DNA, was reported by a team of scientists in Scientific Reports.

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Researchers identify key intermediate steps in artificial photosynthesis reaction

March 6, 2014 9:11 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Artificial photosynthesis, in which we emulate the process used by nature to capture energy from the sun and convert it into electrochemical energy, is expected to be a major asset in any sustainable energy portfolio for the future. Artificial photosynthesis offers the promise of producing liquid fuels that are renewable and can be used without exacerbating global climate change.

New catalyst could lead to cleaner energy

March 6, 2014 8:20 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemists have devised a way to trap carbon dioxide and transform it into useful organic compounds, using a simple metal complex. More work is needed to understand and optimize the reaction, but one day this approach could offer an easy and inexpensive way to recapture some of the carbon dioxide emitted by vehicles and power plants.

Dimer molecules aid study of exoplanet pressure, hunt for life

March 4, 2014 4:07 pm | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Astronomers at the Univ. of Washington have developed a new method of gauging the atmospheric pressure of exoplanets, or worlds beyond the solar system, by looking for a certain type of molecule. And if there is life out in space, scientists may one day use this same technique to detect its biosignature, the telltale chemical signs of its presence, in the atmosphere of an alien world.

Peat soils as gigantic batteries

February 28, 2014 4:02 pm | by Peter Rüegg, ETH Zurch | News | Comments

Researchers from ETH Zurich and the Univ. of Tubingen in Europehave recently described a process that suppresses the formation of methane in soils that are rich in humic substances. The soils act as a battery, releasing to and accepting electrons from soil bacteria depending on the presence of oxygen. The study shows that electron transfer to and from humic substances is an important process with global implications for methane release.

Quirky photons spin out of the Standard Model

February 28, 2014 3:54 pm | News | Comments

Scientists in Switzerland have analyzed data collected at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider that offer a first-time observation of the polarization of the photon emitted in the weak decay of a bottom quark. This finding opens the way to future measurements, which may reveal a reality deeper than the one described by the present theory of elementary particles, the so-called Standard Model.

Researchers discover highly promising new class of nanocatalyst

February 28, 2014 7:23 am | by Lyn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A big step in the development of advanced fuel cells and water-alkali electrolyzers has been achieved with the discovery of a new class of bimetallic nanocatalysts that are an order of magnitude higher in activity than the target set by the U.S. Department of Energy for 2017. The new catalysts feature a 3-D catalytic surface activity that makes them significantly more efficient and far less expensive than the best platinum catalysts.  

Methane leaks from palm oil wastewater are a climate concern

February 27, 2014 2:17 pm | News | Comments

In recent years, palm oil production has come under fire from environmentalists concerned about the deforestation of land in the tropics to make way for new palm plantations. Now there is a new reason to be concerned about palm oil’s environmental impact, according to researchers at the Univ. of Colorado Boulder.

Faster anthrax detection could speed bioterror response

February 27, 2014 12:47 pm | News | Comments

Shortly following the 9/11 terror attack in 2001, letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to news outlets and government buildings killing five people and infecting 17 others. According to a 2012 report, the bioterrorism event cost $3.2 million in cleanup and decontamination. At the time, no testing system was in place that officials could use to screen the letters.

Still-fresh remnants of Exxon Valdez oil protected by boulders

February 27, 2014 11:21 am | News | Comments

Twenty-five years after the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, beaches on the Alaska Peninsula hundreds of kilometers from the incident still harbor small hidden pockets of surprisingly unchanged oil, according to new research being presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Hawaii this week.

Study: New gas-phase compounds form organic particle ingredients

February 27, 2014 10:51 am | News | Comments

So-called extremely low-volatility organic compounds, which are produced by plants, have been detected for the first time during field and laboratory experiments in Finland and Germany. The results may help to explain discrepancies between observations and theories about how volatile organic compounds produced by vegetation are converted into atmospheric aerosol. This in turn should improve existing climate models.

MSU advances algae’s viability as a biofuel

February 26, 2014 10:05 am | News | Comments

Laboratory success doesn’t always translate to real-world success. A team of Michigan State Univ. scientists, however, has invented a new technology that increases the odds of helping algae-based biofuels cross that gap and come closer to reality. The environmental photobioreactor (ePBR) system is the world’s first standard algae growing platform, one that simulates dynamic natural environments.

New special air filter blocks small particles from getting inside cars

February 25, 2014 9:31 am | News | Comments

While taking in the scenery during long road trips, passengers also may be taking in potentially harmful ultrafine particles (UFPs) that come into the car through outdoor air vents. Closing the vents reduces UFPs, but causes exhaled carbon dioxide to build up. Now, scientists have developed a high-efficiency cabin air filter that could reduce UFP exposure by 93% and keep carbon dioxide levels low.

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