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Researchers engineer light-activated skeletal muscle

August 30, 2012 3:47 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Many robotic designs take nature as their muse: sticking to walls like geckos, swimming through water like tuna, sprinting across terrain like cheetahs. Such designs borrow properties from nature, using engineered materials and hardware to mimic animals' behavior. Now, scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania are taking more than inspiration from nature—they're taking ingredients.

Nano machine shop shapes nanowires, ultrathin films

August 30, 2012 3:30 am | News | Comments

A new nano machine shop that shapes nanowires and ultrathin films could represent a future manufacturing method for tiny structures with potentially revolutionary properties. Purdue University researchers used their technique to stamp nano- and microgears; form tiny circular shapes out of graphene; and change the shape of silver nanowires.

A new use for atomically engineered gold

August 29, 2012 9:09 am | News | Comments

A University of Central Florida assistant professor has developed a new material using nanotechnology, which could help keep pilots and sensitive equipment safe from destructive lasers. Working with gold nanoparticles and studying their properties when they are shrunk into a small size regime called nanoclusters, the team found that nanoclusters developed by adding atoms in a sequential manner could provide interesting optical properties.

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Soaking up the sun

August 29, 2012 8:50 am | News | Comments

Solar panels, like those commonly perched atop house roofs or in sun-drenched fields, quietly harvesting the sun's radiant energy, are one of the standard-bearers of the green energy movement. But could they be better—more efficient, durable, and affordable? That's what engineers from Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania are trying to find out, with the aid of a little nanotechnology and a lot of mathematical modeling.

Building ultralow power wireless networks

August 29, 2012 4:16 am | News | Comments

Engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas have received funding from the National Science Foundation to create distortion-tolerant communications for wireless networks that use very little power. The research will improve wireless sensors deployed in remote areas where these systems must rely on batteries or energy-harvesting devices for power.

Biologists create first predictive computational model of gene networks

August 29, 2012 4:04 am | News | Comments

As an animal develops from an embryo, its cells take diverse paths, eventually forming different body parts. In order for each cell to know what to do during development, it follows a genetic blueprint, which consists of complex webs of interacting genes called gene regulatory networks. Biologists at the California Institute of Technology have spent the last decade or so detailing how these gene networks control development in sea-urchin embryos and, for the first time, have built a computational model of one of these networks.

'Frankenstein' programmers test a cybersecurity monster

August 28, 2012 12:34 pm | News | Comments

To catch a thief, you have to think like one. Computer scientists at The University of Texas at Dallas are trying to stay one step ahead of cyberattackers by creating their own monster. Their monster can cloak itself as it steals and reconfigures information in a computer program. In part because of the potentially destructive nature of their technology, creators have named this software system Frankenstein, after the monster-creating scientist in Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus .

Oil spill cleanup: Smart filter can strain oil out of water

August 28, 2012 11:46 am | News | Comments

A smart filter with a shape-shifting surface, developed by University of Michigan researchers, can separate oil and water using gravity alone, an advancement that could be useful in cleaning up environmental oil spills, among other applications. The researchers created a filter coating that repels oil but attracts water, bucking conventional materials' properties.

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Discovery of plant gene lays groundwork for improved biofuel processing

August 28, 2012 5:43 am | News | Comments

Since 2007, researchers at the BioEnergy Science Center have partnered to figure out how to break down plants so that they easily release the simple sugars that can be processed into biofuels. It's a breakthrough that could make biofuels cost competitive with gasoline. Now, University of Georgia researchers who are part of the team have taken an important step toward that goal by identifying a previously uncharacterized gene that plays a major role in cell wall development of Arabidopsis plants.

New imaging technique homes in on electrocatalysis of nanoparticles

August 28, 2012 5:20 am | News | Comments

By modifying the rate at which chemical reactions take place, nanoparticle catalysts fulfill myriad roles in industry, the biomedical arena, and everyday life. Finding new and more effective nanoparticle catalysts to perform applications in these areas has become vital. Now, a researcher at Arizona State University has found a clever way to measure catalytical reactions of single nanoparticles and multiple particles printed in arrays, which will help to characterize and improve existing nanoparticle catalysts.

New method helps researchers decode genomes

August 28, 2012 3:32 am | by Krishna Ramanujan, Cornell University | News | Comments

Although scientists sequenced the entire human genome more than 10 years ago, much work remains to understand what proteins all those genes code for. Now, a study describes a new approach that allows researchers to decode the genome by understanding where genes begin to encode for polypeptides, long chains of amino acids that make up proteins.

Scientists discover RNA phenomenon that challenges dogma

August 27, 2012 10:50 am | News | Comments

Some RNA molecules spend time in a restful state akin to hibernation rather than automatically carrying out their established job of delivering protein-building instructions in cells. This restful period appears to be a programmed step for RNA produced by certain types of genes. Protein production in cells is not as clear-cut as biology textbooks suggest, scientists say.

Stanford researchers discover the 'anternet'

August 27, 2012 4:27 am | News | Comments

A collaboration between a Stanford University ant biologist and a computer scientist has revealed that the behavior of harvester ant as they forage for food mirrors the protocols that control traffic on the Internet.

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Weighing molecules one at a time

August 27, 2012 3:51 am | News | Comments

A team led by scientists at the California Institute of Technology have made the first-ever mechanical device that can measure the mass of individual molecules one at a time. This new technology, the researchers say, will eventually help doctors diagnose diseases, enable biologists to study viruses and probe the molecular machinery of cells, and even allow scientists to better measure nanoparticles and air pollution.

Merging tissue and electronics

August 27, 2012 3:33 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

To control the 3D shape of engineered tissue, researchers grow cells on tiny, sponge-like scaffolds. These devices can be implanted into patients or used in the laboratory to study tissue responses to potential drugs. A team of researchers has now added a new element to tissue scaffolds: electronic sensors. These sensors could be used to monitor electrical activity in the tissue surrounding the scaffold, control drug release, or screen drug candidates for their effects on the beating of heart tissue.

Microwave ovens may help produce lower-cost solar energy technology

August 24, 2012 10:31 am | News | Comments

The same type of microwave oven technology that most people use to heat up leftover food has found an important application in the solar energy industry, providing a new way to make thin-film photovoltaic products with less energy. Engineers at Oregon State University have, for the first time, developed a way to use microwave heating in the synthesis of copper zinc tin sulfide, a promising solar cell compound.

Researchers develop simplified approach for high-power, single-mode lasers

August 24, 2012 10:12 am | News | Comments

When it comes to applications like standoff sensing the laser's strength is of the utmost importance. A stronger and purer beam means devices can sense danger more accurately from a greater distance, which translates into safer workers, soldiers, and police officers. Northwestern University researchers have developed a new resonator that creates the purest, brightest, and most powerful single-mode quantum cascade lasers yet at the 8 to 12 micron range.

Flat lens offers a perfect image

August 24, 2012 5:55 am | News | Comments

Applied physicists at Harvard University have created an ultrathin, flat lens that focuses light without imparting the distortions of conventional lenses. At a mere 60 nm thick, the flat lens is essentially two-dimensional, yet its focusing power approaches the ultimate physical limit set by the laws of diffraction.

Glass offers improved means of storing U.K.'s nuclear waste

August 24, 2012 4:56 am | News | Comments

University of Sheffield researchers have shown, for the first time, that a method of storing nuclear waste normally used only for high level waste (HLW), could provide a safer, more efficient, and potentially cheaper, solution for the storage and ultimate disposal of intermediate level waste (ILW).

Nanoparticles reboot blood flow in brain

August 24, 2012 4:05 am | News | Comments

A nanoparticle developed at Rice University and tested in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine may bring great benefits to the emergency treatment of brain-injury victims, even those with mild injuries. Combined polyethylene glycol-hydrophilic carbon clusters (PEG-HCC), already being tested to enhance cancer treatment, are also adept antioxidants. In animal studies, injections of PEG-HCC during initial treatment after an injury helped restore balance to the brain's vascular system.

Engineers achieve longlasting goal of stable nanocrystalline metals

August 23, 2012 12:50 pm | News | Comments

Most metals are made of crystals. In many cases the material is made of tiny crystals packed closely together, rather than one large crystal. Indeed, for many purposes, making the crystals as small as possible provides significant advantages in performance, but such materials are often unstable. Now, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have found a way to avoid that problem.

Origami inspires research into materials that self-assemble when exposed to light

August 23, 2012 10:20 am | News | Comments

A multi-university research team led by North Carolina State University will be developing methods to create 2D materials capable of folding themselves into 3D objects when exposed to light. The effort, which is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, is inspired by origami and has a broad range of potential applications.

Scientists produce hydrogen for fuel cells using inexpensive catalyst

August 23, 2012 7:01 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have produced hydrogen, a renewable energy source, from water using an inexpensive catalyst under industrially relevant conditions—using pH neutral water, surrounded by atmospheric oxygen, and at room temperature.

How to feed data-hungry mobile devices

August 23, 2012 6:13 am | News | Comments

Researchers from Rice University unveiled a new multi-antenna technology that could help wireless providers keep pace with the voracious demands of data-hungry smartphones and tablets. The technology aims to dramatically increase network capacity by allowing cell towers to simultaneously beam signals to more than a dozen customers on the same frequency.

Engineers examine water-based methods for electricity generation

August 23, 2012 5:40 am | News | Comments

As the world's energy demands increase, Yale University researchers are examining alternative and sustainable power generation techniques. The researchers have published extensively on using engineered osmosis to address the growing demand for energy, and a recent paper in Nature examines three water-based methods for electricity generation and the challenges that must be met before they can be used for widespread application.

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