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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.


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.

Artificial intelligence helps detect subtle differences in mutant worms

August 20, 2012 4:35 am | News | Comments

Research into the genetic factors behind certain disease mechanisms, illness progression, and response to new drugs is frequently carried out using tiny multicellular animals such as nematodes. Often progress relies on the microscopic visual examination of many individual animals to detect mutants worthy of further study. Now, scientists have demonstrated an automated system that uses artificial intelligence and image processing to examine large numbers of individual Caenorhabditis elegans .

Big Bang theory challenged by big chill

August 20, 2012 4:09 am | News | Comments

The start of the universe should be modeled not as a Big Bang, but more like water freezing into ice, according to a team of theoretical physicists at the University of Melbourne and RMIT University. The have suggested that by investigating the cracks and crevices common to all crystals our understanding of the nature of the universe could be revolutionized.

Patterning defect-free nanocrystal films with nanometer resolution

August 20, 2012 3:33 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Films made of semiconductor nanocrystals are seen as a promising new material for a wide range of applications. The size of a semiconductor nanocrystal determines its electrical and optical properties. But it's hard to control the placement of nanocrystals on a surface in order to make structurally uniform films. Now, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they have found ways of making defect-free patterns of nanocrystal films where the shape and position of the films are controlled with nanoscale resolution.

MASER power comes out of the cold

August 17, 2012 6:10 am | News | Comments

Scientists from the National Physical Laboratory and Imperial College London have demonstrated, for the first time, a solid-state MASER (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation). The device is capable of operating at room temperature, helping to pave the way for its widespread adoption.

Aerospace materials used to build endless green pipeline

August 17, 2012 5:49 am | by Pete Brown, University of Arizona | News | Comments

Mo Ehsani, a University of Arizona professor of civil engineering, has designed a new, lightweight underground pipe he says could transform the pipeline construction industry. Instead of conventional concrete or steel, the new pipe consists of a central layer of lightweight plastic honeycomb, similar to that used in the aerospace industry, sandwiched between layers of resin-saturated carbon fiber fabric.

'Microthrusters' could propel small satellites

August 17, 2012 3:55 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A penny-sized rocket thruster may soon power the smallest satellites in space. The device, designed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, bears little resemblance to today's bulky satellite engines, which are laden with valves, pipes, and heavy propellant tanks. Instead, its design is a flat, compact square covered with 500 microscopic tips that, when stimulated with voltage, emit tiny beams of ions.

New form of carbon observed

August 16, 2012 12:17 pm | News | Comments

A team of scientists led by Carnegie Institution for Science's Lin Wang has observed a new form of very hard carbon clusters, which are unusual in their mix of crystalline and disordered structure. The material is capable of indenting diamond. This finding has potential applications for a range of mechanical, electronic, and electrochemical uses.

Radiation belt probes may help predict space weather

August 16, 2012 9:26 am | News | Comments

Living with a star can be a challenge, especially as Earthlings extend their reach into space. A Rice University scientist is contributing to an effort to make life more comfortable for both the people and satellites sent out there, and provide valuable research for those who remain planet-bound.

Sunflowers inspire more efficient solar power system

August 16, 2012 4:38 am | News | Comments

A field of young sunflowers will slowly rotate from east to west during the course of a sunny day, each leaf seeking out as much sunlight as possible as the sun moves across the sky through an adaptation called heliotropism. It's a clever bit of natural engineering that inspired imitation from a University of Wisconsin-Madison electrical and computer engineer, who has found a way to mimic the passive heliotropism seen in sunflowers for use in the next crop of solar power systems.

Good vibrations

August 15, 2012 10:20 am | News | Comments

Using a unique optical trapping system that provides ensembles of ultracold atoms, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists have recorded the first direct observations of distinctly quantum optical effects—amplification and squeezing—in an optomechanical system. Their findings point the way toward low-power quantum optical devices and enhanced detection of gravitational waves among other possibilities.

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