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Nature’s chem lab: How microorganisms manufacture drugs

June 19, 2014 8:25 am | by Jim Erickson, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have obtained the first 3-D snapshots of the "assembly line" within microorganisms that naturally produces antibiotics and other drugs. Understanding the complete structure and movement within the molecular factory gives investigators a solid blueprint for redesigning the microbial assembly line to produce novel drugs of high medicinal value.

Sharper imaging using x-rays

June 18, 2014 4:51 pm | News | Comments

Physicists in Germany have developed a process to generate improved lenses for x-ray microscopy that provide both better resolution and higher throughput. To accomplish this, they have 3-D x-ray optics for volume diffraction that consist of on-chip stacked Fresnel zone plates. These nanostructures focus the incident x-rays much more efficiently and enable improved spatial resolution below 10 nm.

Taking pictures with protons

June 18, 2014 8:27 am | by Kevin Roark, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new facility for using protons to take microscopic images has been commissioned at the ring accelerator of the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt, Germany. Protons, like neutrons, are the building blocks of atomic nuclei. Similar to x-rays, they can be used to radiograph objects, generating images of them. Protons are able to penetrate hot dense matter that can't be examined with light or x-rays.

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Crowdsourcing the phase problem

June 17, 2014 4:26 pm | News | Comments

The term “crowdsourcing” was coined in 2006 and since then has seen its definition broadened to a wide range of activities involving a network of people. A challenging problem that might benefit from crowdsourcing, according to recently published research, is the phase problem in x-ray crystallography. Retrieving the phase information has plagued many scientists for decades when trying to determine the crystal structure of a sample.

Nano-imaging probes molecular disorder

June 13, 2014 10:59 am | News | Comments

In semiconductor-based components, high mobility of charge-carrying particles is important. In organic materials, however, it is uncertain to what degree the molecular order within the thin films affects the mobility and transport of charge carriers. Using a new imaging method, researchers have shown that thin-film organic semiconductors contain regions of structural disorder that could inhibit the transport of charge and limit efficiency.

Sixteen nanometers in 3-D

June 11, 2014 3:27 pm | by Paul Piwnicki, Paul Scherrer Institute | News | Comments

Tomography enables the interior of a vast range of objects to be depicted in 3-D. Until now, relevant details on a scale of a few nanometers were only visible with tomography methods that required very thin samples. With the aid of a special prototype light source in Switzerland, researchers have now achieved a 3-D resolution of 16 nm on a nanoporous glass test sample, a feat that is unmatched for x-ray tomography.  

Music under the microscope

June 11, 2014 9:01 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Germany have converted the frequencies of droplets flowing through thin channels into musical notes. This is more than just a gimmick: The fact that droplets can be controlled so precisely that they become musical instruments means they are also of interest with regard to medical diagnostics applications.

Evolution of a bimetallic nanocatalyst

June 9, 2014 7:58 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Atomic-scale snapshots of a bimetallic nanoparticle catalyst in action have provided insights that could help improve the industrial process by which fuels and chemicals are synthesized from natural gas, coal or plant biomass. A multinational laboratory collaboration has taken the most detailed look ever at the evolution of platinum/cobalt bimetallic nanoparticles during reactions in oxygen and hydrogen gases.

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Seeing how a lithium-ion battery works

June 9, 2014 7:44 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

New observations by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have revealed the inner workings of a type of electrode widely used in lithium-ion batteries. The new findings explain the unexpectedly high power and long cycle life of such batteries, the researchers say.

Short nanotubes target pancreatic cancer

June 6, 2014 10:45 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Short, customized carbon nanotubes have the potential to deliver drugs to pancreatic cancer cells and destroy them from within, according to researchers at Rice Univ. and the Univ. of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Pristine nanotubes produced through a new process developed at Rice can be modified to carry drugs to tumors through gaps in blood-vessel walls that larger particles cannot fit through.

Style Meets Substance

June 4, 2014 2:45 pm | by Paul Livingstone | Articles | Comments

The electron microscopy market is dominated by the scanning electron microscope (SEM), which is widely used in both materials and biological analysis as one of the few ways to reliably image spatial features in the nanoscale realm. As the user base for SEMs expands, even specialized varieties of electron microscopes are undergoing substantial technical transformations.

Lasers and night-vision technology help improve imaging of hidden lymphatic system

June 3, 2014 11:14 am | News | Comments

The human lymphatic system is a poorly understood circulatory system consisting of tiny vessels spread throughout the body. These vessels are filled with lymph, a clear liquid that lacks the natural contrast needed to show up on CT scanners or MRIs. A new technology developed in Texas can non-invasively image the human lymphatic system using a fluorescent dye, commercial laser dioded, and military-grade night vision devices.

Observing the random diffusion of missing atoms in graphene

May 30, 2014 10:58 am | News | Comments

Imperfections in the regular atomic arrangements in crystals determine many of the properties of a material, and their diffusion is behind many microstructural changes in solids. However, imaging non-repeating atomic arrangements is difficult in conventional materials. Now, researchers in Austria have directly imaged the diffusion of a butterfly-shaped atomic defect in graphene.

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Scientists control rapid rewiring of brain circuits using patterned visual stimulation

May 29, 2014 11:33 am | News | Comments

In a new study, researchers show for the first time how the brain rewires and fine-tunes its connections differently depending on the relative timing of sensory stimuli. This marks the first time that direct, real-time evidence from watching brain cells in an intact animal has been used to support a 65-year-old model of how nerve circuits refine their connectivity.

Scientists pinpoint the creeping nanocrystals behind lithium-ion battery degradation

May 29, 2014 8:20 am | by Justin Eure, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Batteries don’t age gracefully. The lithium ions that power portable electronics cause lingering structural damage with each cycle of charge and discharge, making devices from smartphones to tablets tick toward zero faster and faster over time. To stop or slow this steady degradation, scientists must track and tweak the imperfect chemistry of lithium-ion batteries with nanoscale precision.

Microscopy charges ahead

May 29, 2014 8:05 am | by Jared Sagoff, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

In order to see the true polarization of ferroelectric materials quickly and efficiently, researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have developed a new technique called charge gradient microscopy. Charge gradient microscopy uses the tip of a conventional atomic force microscope to scrape and collect the surface screen charges.

Direct observations offer a new solution to desorption calculations

May 28, 2014 11:41 am | News | Comments

In recent research in Germany, the desorption of oxygen molecules from a silver surface was successfully visualized for the first time using low-energy electron microscopy. The effects account for the shortcomings of conventional models of desorption, which often deliver rates that do not agree with experimentally determined values.

Compact and extremely small-scale incubator microscope to examine cells in time lapse

May 23, 2014 12:38 pm | News | Comments

Biologists and doctors rely heavily on incubators and microscopes. Researchers have invented a new type of microscope that combines the functions of both these tools in a compact system. The incubator microscope is ideally suited for time-lapse examination over a number of weeks and for automatic observation of cell cultures. No bigger than a soda can, it costs 30 times less than buying an incubator and a microscope separately.

AFM systems take a tip from nanowires

May 23, 2014 12:32 pm | News | Comments

In response to requests from the semiconductor industry, a team of researchers at the Physical Measurement Laboratory has demonstrated that atomic force microscope probe tips made from its near-perfect gallium nitride nanowires are superior in many respects to standard silicon or platinum tips. They also found a way to use the tips as LEDs to illuminate sample regions while scanning.

How the anticancer drug Taxol works

May 23, 2014 8:08 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A pathway to the design of even more effective versions of the powerful anticancer drug Taxol has been opened with the most detailed look ever at the assembly and disassembly of microtubules, tiny fibers of tubulin protein that form the cytoskeletons of living cells and play a crucial role in mitosis.

Study finds crowding has big effects on biomolecules

May 22, 2014 1:58 pm | News | Comments

Crowding has notoriously negative effects at large size scales, blamed for everything from human disease and depression to community resource shortages. But relatively little is known about the influence of crowding at the cellular level. A new JILA study shows that a crowded environment has dramatic effects on individual biomolecules.

Illuminating neuron activity in 3-D

May 19, 2014 10:34 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Univ. of Vienna have created an imaging system that reveals neural activity throughout the brains of living animals. This technique, the first that can generate 3-D movies of entire brains at the millisecond timescale, could help scientists discover how neuronal networks process sensory information and generate behavior.

Watching HIV bud from cells

May 19, 2014 8:09 am | by Lee J. Siegel, Science News Specialist, Univ. of Utah | Videos | Comments

Univ. of Utah researchers devised a way to watch newly forming AIDS virus particles emerging or “budding” from infected human cells without interfering with the process. The method shows a protein named ALIX gets involved during the final stages of virus replication, not earlier, as was believed previously.

DNA double helix measurements

May 15, 2014 12:40 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at the National Physical Laboratory and the London Centre for Nanotechnology have determined the structure of DNA from measurements on a single molecule using atomic force microscopy (AFM), and found significant variations in the well-known double helix.

All in the rotation

May 12, 2014 3:10 pm | News | Comments

In new work, a research team has shed light on a type of molecular motor used to package the DNA of a number of viruses, including such human pathogens as herpes and the adenoviruses. The scientists found that this viral packaging motor exerts torque to rotate DNA and adapts to changing conditions in order to coordinate its mechano-chemical activity.

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