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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.

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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.

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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.

Superconductor 'flaws' could be key to its abilities

August 23, 2012 4:04 am | News | Comments

Physicists who study superconductivity strive to create a clean, perfect sample. But a Purdue University team that has mapped seemingly random, four-atom-wide dark lines of electrons on the surface of copper-oxygen based superconducting crystals has discovered that they exist throughout the crystal. The findings suggest the lines, which are “flaws”, could play a role in the material's superconductivity at much higher temperatures than others.

One-molecule-thick material has big advantages

August 23, 2012 3:44 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Graphene has been heralded for its strength and other novel characteristics, but one property in particular—its 2D nature—suggests that graphene its just the start of a wave of new 2D materials. The latest one, molybdenum disulfide, was first described just a year ago by researchers in Switzerland. In that year, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which struggled unsuccessfully to build circuits from graphene, succeeded in making a variety of electronic components from molybdenum disulfide. They say the material could help usher in radically new products.

Elusive metal discovered

August 22, 2012 11:57 am | News | Comments

Carnegie Institution for Science scientists are the first to discover the conditions under which nickel oxide can turn into an electricity-conducting metal. Nickel oxide is one of the first compounds to be studied for its electronic properties, but until now, scientists have not been able to induce a metallic state.

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Engineering students build U.K.'s first hydrogen-powered locomotive

August 22, 2012 5:06 am | News | Comments

Engineering students and staff at the University of Birmingham have designed and built a prototype hydrogen-powered locomotive, the first of its kind to operate in the U.K. The narrow gauge locomotive is a hybrid design, combining a hydrogen fuel cell and lead acid batteries similar to the ones used in cars.

'Electronic nose' prototype developed

August 22, 2012 4:01 am | News | Comments

Research by Nosang Myung, a professor at the University of California, Riverside has enabled Riverside, Calif.-based Nano Engineered Applications Inc. to develop an "electronic nose" prototype that can detect small quantities of harmful airborne substances.

Self-charging power cell converts, stores energy in single unit

August 22, 2012 3:39 am | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a self-charging power cell that directly converts mechanical energy to chemical energy, storing the power until it is released as electrical current. By eliminating the need to convert mechanical energy to electrical energy for charging a battery, the new hybrid generator-storage cell uses mechanical energy more efficiently than systems using separate generators and batteries.

Sensor detects glucose in saliva, tears for diabetes testing

August 21, 2012 10:42 am | News | Comments

Researchers have created a new type of biosensor that can detect minute concentrations of glucose in saliva, tears, and urine, and might be manufactured at low cost because it does not require many processing steps to produce.

Scientists move toward rational design of artificial proteins

August 21, 2012 9:38 am | News | Comments

Past efforts to predict the structure of proteins have met with limited success. But now a scientific team in collaboration with investigators from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have demonstrated that a computer modeling approach similar to one used to predict protein structures can accurately predict peptoid conformation as well.

Catalyst could improve production of glass alternatives

August 21, 2012 3:30 am | News | Comments

University of Oregon chemists have identified a catalyst that could dramatically reduce the amount of waste made in the production of methyl methacrylate, a monomer used in the large-scale manufacturing of lightweight, shatter-resistant alternatives to glass such as Plexiglas.

Teaching a microbe to make fuel

August 21, 2012 3:23 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A humble soil bacterium called Ralstonia eutropha has a natural tendency, whenever it is stressed, to stop growing and put all its energy into making complex carbon compounds. Now scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have taught this microbe a new trick: They've tinkered with its genes to persuade it to make fuel—specifically, a kind of alcohol called isobutanol that can be directly substituted for, or blended with, gasoline.

Scientists develop new way to study inner-workings of algae cells

August 20, 2012 9:14 am | News | Comments

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists have developed a way to send molecules and proteins across the cell wall of algae, a feat that opens the door for a new way to study and manipulate these tiny organisms. The research could advance the advance the development of algae-based biofuels, pharmaceuticals, and other useful compounds.

Genetically engineered algae for biofuel pose potential risks

August 20, 2012 8:53 am | News | Comments

Algae are high on the genetic engineering agenda as a potential source for biofuel, and they should be subjected to independent studies of any environmental risks that could be linked to cultivating algae for this purpose, two prominent researchers say. The researchers argue that ecology experts should be among scientists given independent authority and adequate funding to explore any potential unintended consequences of this technological pursuit.

New public-private partnership aims to help revitalize manufacturing

August 20, 2012 7:49 am | News | Comments

Penn State University will be part of a new public-private partnership aimed at revitalizing American manufacturing and encouraging companies to invest in the United States. The new partnership, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII), is a consortium of research universities, community colleges, and nonprofit organizations from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, and manufacturing firms nationwide.

NASA awards Caltech five-year JPL contract

August 20, 2012 7:40 am | News | Comments

NASA has awarded the California Institute of Technology a new five-year contract to manage the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The contractor's primary mission is to support NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in carrying out specific objectives identified in the SMD Science Plan. The contract is for $8.5 billion.

Brain wave-reading robot might help stroke patients

August 20, 2012 7:28 am | News | Comments

What comes naturally to most people—to think and then do—is difficult for stroke patients who have lost the full use of their limbs. New research by Rice University, the University of Houston, and TIRR Memorial Hermann aims to help victims recover that ability to the fullest extent possible with a $1.17 million grant from the National Institutes of Health and the President's National Robotics Initiative.

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