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Research determines best arrangement of tidal sails device

September 17, 2013 1:09 pm | News | Comments

Just as wind turbines tap into the energy of flowing air to generate electricity, hydrokinetic devices produce power from moving masses of water. Engineers in Spain have performed a computer simulation to determine the optimal configuration of a system produced by a Norwegian company to enable it to extract the maximum amount of energy from any given current.

Computer model to help design flexible touchscreens

September 4, 2013 7:33 am | News | Comments

Electronic devices with touchscreens rely on transparent conductors made of indium tin oxide, or ITO. But cost and the physical limitations of this material are limiting progress in developing flexible touchscreens. A research collaboration between the Univ. of Pennsylvania and Duke Univ. is exploring the use of nanowires to replace ITO, and are using simulation tools to determine how they might work.

Study reveals true raw material footprint of nations

September 3, 2013 10:37 am | News | Comments

The amount of raw materials needed to sustain the economies of developed countries is significantly greater than present indicators suggest, a new Australian study has revealed. Using a new modeling tool and more comprehensive indicators, researchers Australia were able to map the flow of raw materials across the world economy with unprecedented accuracy to determine the true “material footprint” of 186 countries over a two-decade period.

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Sandy's “freaky” path may be less likely in future

September 3, 2013 8:17 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Global warming may further lessen the likelihood of the freak atmospheric steering currents that last year shoved Superstorm Sandy due west into New Jersey, a new study says. But the study's authors said the once-in-700-years path was only one factor in the $50 billion storm. They say other variables such as sea level rise and stronger storms will worsen with global warming and outweigh changes in steering currents predicted by models.

Electrons jostling in a traffic jam

August 29, 2013 1:58 pm | News | Comments

Quantum point contacts in electrical circuits are narrow constrictions that can impede the passage of electrons in unexpected ways. Using a combination of experimental measurements and numerical modeling, physicists have recently provided the first detailed microscopic explanation of the associated conductance anomalies.

Wildfires projected to worsen with climate change

August 29, 2013 11:55 am | News | Comments

Research by Harvard Univ. environmental scientists brings bad news to the western U.S., where firefighters are currently battling dozens of fires in at least 11 states. A new model predicts wildfire seasons by 2050 will be three weeks longer, up to twice as smoky and will burn a wider area in the western U.S.

Scientists develop model of “near-optimal” genetic code

August 28, 2013 2:54 pm | News | Comments

Since the genetic code’s discovery in the 1960s, researchers have wondered: How is it that a near-optimal code became so universal? To address this question, the researchers created a model of genetic code evolution in which multiple “translating” RNAs and “genomic” RNAs competed for survival. The approach revealed phenomena that offers new insights into how RNA signaling likely developed into the modern genetic code.

Researchers aim to use light to restore healthy heartbeats

August 28, 2013 2:48 pm | News | Comments

When a beating heart slips into an irregular, life-threatening rhythm, the treatment is well known: deliver a burst of electric current from a pacemaker or defibrillator. But because the electricity itself can cause pain, tissue damage and other serious side-effects, a Johns Hopkins-led research team wants to use laboratory data and an intricate computer model replace these jolts with a kinder, gentler remedy: light.

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New energy model offers transparency to let others replicate findings

August 27, 2013 8:34 am | News | Comments

Computer models are used to inform policy decisions about energy, but existing models are generally “black boxes” that don’t show how they work, making it impossible for anyone to replicate their findings. Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a new open-source model and are sharing the data they put into it, to allow anyone to check their work.

How quickly can a bacterium grow?

August 27, 2013 8:02 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

All living things must obey the laws of physics, including the second law of thermodynamics. Highly ordered cells and organisms appear to contradict this principle, but they actually do conform because they generate heat that increases the universe’s overall entropy. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist mathematically modeled the replication of E. coli bacteria and found that the process is nearly as efficient as possible.

Physicists offer explanation for strange magnetic behavior at semiconductor interfaces

August 26, 2013 7:57 am | News | Comments

They're not exactly the peanut butter and jelly of semiconductors, but when you put them together, something magical happens. Alone, neither lanthanum aluminate nor strontium titanate exhibit any particularly notable properties. But when they are layered together, they become not only conductive, but also magnetic.

Team will dive deep into cell structures

August 26, 2013 7:49 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Rice Univ. and the Univ. of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have received a $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to create processes that will look more deeply than ever into the protein networks that drive cells. The four-year grant will enable a collaboration on new ways to see and evaluate the mechanisms that give cells their shapes and prompt them to change and move.

3-D Earth model accurately pinpoints source of earthquakes, explosions

August 22, 2013 7:58 am | News | Comments

During the Cold War, U.S. and international monitoring agencies could spot nuclear tests and focused on measuring their sizes. Today, they’re looking around the globe to pinpoint much smaller explosives tests. Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory have partnered to develop a 3-D model of the Earth’s mantle and crust called SALSA3D, with the purpose to assist in locating explosions.

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New theory points to “zombie vortices” as key step in star formation

August 21, 2013 7:47 am | News | Comments

A new theory by fluid dynamics experts at the Univ. of California, Berkeley, shows how “zombie vortices” help lead to the birth of a new star. In a recent report, a UC Berkeley-led team shows how variations in gas density lead to instability, which then generates the whirlpool-like vortices needed for stars to form.

Magma can survive in upper crust for hundreds of millennia

August 20, 2013 12:33 am | by Vince Stricherz, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Reservoirs of silica-rich magma can persist in Earth’s upper crust for hundreds of thousands of years without triggering an eruption, according to new modeling research. That means an area known to have experienced a massive volcanic eruption in the past, such as Yellowstone National Park, could have a large pool of magma festering beneath it and still not be close to going off as it did 600,000 years ago.

Researchers examine dynamics of nanoscale liquid metal particles

August 15, 2013 2:31 pm | News | Comments

The evolution of fluid drops deposited on solid substrates has been a focus of large research effort for decades, and most recently it has focused on nanoscale properties. Two New Jersey Institute of Technology researchers are the first to demonstrate that simulations based on continuum fluid mechanics can explain the nanoscale dynamics of liquid metal particles on a substrate.

Low-temperature combustion enables cleaner, more efficient engines

August 14, 2013 8:45 am | News | Comments

As demand climbs for more fuel-efficient vehicles, knowledge compiled over several years about diesel engines and a new strategy known as “low-temperature combustion” (LTC) might soon lead auto manufacturers and consumers to broader use of cleaner diesel engines in the U.S.

Climate benefit for cutting soot, methane smaller than previous estimates

August 13, 2013 8:23 am | News | Comments

Cutting the amount of short-lived, climate-warming emissions such as soot and methane in our skies won't limit global warming as much as previous studies have suggested, a new analysis shows. The study also found a comprehensive climate policy (including methane) would produce more climate benefits by 2050 than if soot and methane were reduced alone.

Science is harnessing shock waves to create new materials

August 12, 2013 1:42 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at Purdue Univ. are part of a national effort to develop new materials having super strength and other properties by using shock waves similar to those generated by meteorites striking the Earth. A new center has been established specifically for this type of investigation, and its primary mission is to predict shock conditions under which new materials can be synthesized.

Computer simulations reveal universal increase in electrical conductivity

August 12, 2013 9:16 am | News | Comments

A recent study in the U.K. investigated the electrical conductivity of a solid electrolyte, a system of positive and negative atoms on a crystal lattice. Computer simulations performed using this model have revealed how the electrical conductivity of many materials increases with a strong electrical field in a universal way. The discovery could significant implications for future materials and chemistry research.

Virtual control room helps nuclear operators, industry

August 8, 2013 11:37 am | News | Comments

A new facility at Idaho National Laboratory is helping nuclear power plant operators like Duke Energy embark on an upgrade projects for their control rooms. The new Human System Simulation Laboratory (HSSL) is a full-scale virtual nuclear control room that can test the safety and reliability of proposed technology replacements before they are implemented in commercial nuclear control rooms.

Eye contact

August 8, 2013 7:30 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The human brain has 100 billion neurons, connected to each other in networks that allow us to interpret the world around us, plan for the future and control our actions and movements. Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientist Sebastian Seung wants to map those networks, creating a wiring diagram of the brain that could help scientists learn how we each become our unique selves.

Simulating Sensors and Detectors

August 5, 2013 12:53 pm | by Tim Studt | Articles | Comments

One of the major driving forces for developing new sensors and detectors is in medical applications. This includes the integration of fiber optic sensors, smart sensors, silicon micromachined sensors and thin-film devices. Smart sensors are devices that incorporate electronic logic, control or signal processing functions and therefore offer enhanced measurement capabilities, information quality and functional performance.

Solar energy could supply one-third of power in U.S. West

August 1, 2013 4:13 pm | News | Comments

Low-cost solar power could supply more than a third of all energy needs in the western U.S., if the nation can hit its targets for reducing the cost of solar energy, according to a new study by researchers at the Univ. of California, Berkeley. The researchers used a detailed computer model they developed of the west’s electric power grid to predict what will happen if the U.S. Dept. of Energy succeeds with its SunShot Initiative.

Engineers gain insight into turbulence formation and evolution in fluids

July 31, 2013 5:19 pm | by Katie Neith, Caltech | News | Comments

Wall turbulence develops when fluids—liquid or gas—flow past solid surfaces at anything but the slowest flow rates. Progress in understanding and controlling wall turbulence has been somewhat incremental because of the massive range of scales of motion involved, but recently engineers in the U.S. and the U.K. have developed a new and improved way of looking at the composition of turbulence near walls.

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