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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.

Researchers reveal behaviors of the tiniest water droplets

August 15, 2012 9:58 am | News | Comments

A new study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego and Emory University has uncovered fundamental details about the hexamer structures that make up the tiniest droplets of water, the key component of life–and one that scientists still don’t fully understand.

Recreating a slice of the universe

August 15, 2012 9:07 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and their colleagues at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies have invented a new computational approach that can accurately follow the birth and evolution of thousands of galaxies over billions of years.

Future increases in U.S. natural gas exports not as large as thought

August 15, 2012 8:42 am | News | Comments

Amid policy debate over potential liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from the United States, a new paper from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy predicts the long-term volume of exports from the U.S. will not likely be very large. The paper also argues that the impact on U.S. domestic natural gas prices will not be large if exports are allowed by the U.S government.

Success of engineered tissue depends on where it's grown

August 15, 2012 4:57 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Tissue implants made of cells grown on a sponge-like scaffold have been shown in clinical trials to help heal arteries scarred by atherosclerosis and other vascular diseases. However, it has been unclear why some implants work better than others. Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have now shown that implanted cells' therapeutic properties depend on their shape, which is determined by the type of scaffold on which they are grown.

Georgia Tech advances potential commercial space flight system

August 15, 2012 3:32 am | News | Comments

Last spring private industry successfully sent a spacecraft carrying cargo to the International Space Station. Now the race is on to see which company will be the first to make commercial human spaceflight a reality. Sierra Nevada Corporation will receive hundreds of millions of dollars to further develop its commercial human spacecraft system, NASA announced earlier this month; and they are now turning to Georgia Tech for help.

New design tool nixes mouse

August 14, 2012 11:31 am | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a design tool that enables people to create 3D objects with their bare hands by using a depth-sensing camera and advanced software algorithms to interpret hand movements and gestures.

Impulsive micromanagers help plants to adapt, survive

August 14, 2012 10:02 am | News | Comments

Soil microbes are impulsive. So much so that they help plants face the challenges of a rapidly changing climate. Michigan State University biologists studied how plants and microbes work together to help plants survive the effects of global changes, such as increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, warmer temperatures, and altered precipitation patterns.

Photos reflect light like 3D objects with novel printing technology

August 14, 2012 4:48 am | News | Comments

A novel printing method yields photos that respond to different angles of light the same way a 3D object does. The technique, which uses specially designed "reflectance paper" covered with thousands of tiny dimples, was developed by a team of researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz; Hewlett-Packard Laboratories; and 3M.

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