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The Lead

Analysis sees many promising pathways for solar photovoltaic power

March 26, 2015 12:07 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In a broad new assessment of the status and prospects of solar photovoltaic technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers say that it is “one of the few renewable, low-carbon resources with both the scalability and the technological maturity to meet ever-growing global demand for electricity.”

FDA to scrutinize unproven alternative remedies

March 26, 2015 12:05 pm | by Matthew Perrone, AP Health Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

Federal officials plan to review the safety and evidence behind alternative remedies like Zicam...

Ancient Martian lake system records two water-related events

March 26, 2015 11:37 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from Brown Univ. have completed a new analysis of an ancient Martian lake system in...

Quantum compute this

March 26, 2015 11:05 am | by Washington State Univ. | News | Comments

Washington State Univ. mathematicians have designed an encryption code capable of fending off...

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Agricultural waste could be used as biofuel

March 26, 2015 10:55 am | by Univ. of East Anglia | News | Comments

Straw-powered cars could be a thing of the future thanks to new research from the Univ. of East Anglia. A new study pinpoints five strains of yeast capable of turning agricultural by-products, such as straw, sawdust and corncobs, into bioethanol. It is estimated that more than 400 billion litres of bioethanol could be produced each year from crop wastage.

Protein shake-up

March 26, 2015 10:47 am | by Chris Samoray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

For living organisms proteins are an essential part of their body system and are needed to thrive. In recent years, a certain class of proteins has challenged researchers’ conventional notion that proteins have a static and well-defined structure. It’s thought that mutations in these proteins, known as intrinsically disordered proteins, are associated with neurodegenerative changes, cardiovascular disorders and diseases like cancer.

New spin on Saturn’s peculiar rotation

March 26, 2015 8:41 am | by Tel Aviv Univ. | News | Comments

Tracking the rotation speed of solid planets, like the Earth and Mars, is a relatively simple task: Just measure the time it takes for a surface feature to roll into view again. But giant gas planets Jupiter and Saturn are more problematic for planetary scientists, as they both lack measurable solid surfaces and are covered by thick layers of clouds, foiling direct visual measurements by space probes.

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Black-hole wind linked to galactic gush of star-forming gas

March 26, 2015 8:33 am | by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | Videos | Comments

By combining observations from the Japan-led Suzaku x-ray satellite and the European Space Agency's infrared Herschel Space Observatory, scientists have connected a fierce "wind" produced near a galaxy's monster black hole to an outward torrent of cold gas a thousand light-years across. The finding validates a long-suspected feedback mechanism enabling a supermassive black hole to influence the evolution of its host galaxy.

A new kind of light bulb

March 26, 2015 8:25 am | by Univ. of Southern California | News | Comments

How many researchers does it take to change a light bulb? And how many lives could they save by changing it? The answer to both questions is larger than you might expect. In the developing world, light bulbs might as well be insect magnets. The light they emit, particularly the blue wavelengths of LED lights, is attractive to a range of insects, drawing them out from the night and straight to people's homes.

Novel plastic could spur new green energy applications, artificial muscles

March 26, 2015 8:11 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

A plastic used in filters and tubing has an unusual trait: It can produce electricity when pulled or pressed. This ability has been used in small ways, but now researchers are coaxing fibers of the material to make even more electricity for a wider range of applications from green energy to "artificial muscles."

Copper atoms bring a potential new battery material to life

March 26, 2015 8:03 am | by Laura Mgrdichian, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries are an important component of modern technology, powering phones, laptops, tablets and other portable devices when they are not plugged in. They even power electric vehicles. But to make batteries that last longer, provide more power, and are more energy efficient, scientists must find battery materials that perform better than those currently in use.

Desalination with nanoporous graphene membrane

March 26, 2015 7:53 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Less than 1% of Earth’s water is drinkable. Removing salt and other minerals from our biggest available source of water, seawater, may help satisfy a growing global population thirsty for fresh water for drinking, farming, transportation, heating, cooling and industry. But desalination is an energy-intensive process, which concerns those wanting to expand its application.

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Thousands of atoms entangled with a single photon

March 26, 2015 7:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Physicists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Univ. of Belgrade have developed a new technique that can successfully entangle 3,000 atoms using only a single photon. The results represent the largest number of particles that have ever been mutually entangled experimentally.

New pox discovered in Eastern Europe, but not deadly

March 25, 2015 6:06 pm | by Mike Stobbe, AP Medical Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

Health officials have discovered a new germ in Eastern Europe that is related to the dreaded smallpox and monkeypox viruses but so far seems far less threatening. The germ caused two cattle herders to suffer fever, swollen lymph nodes and painful boils on their hands and arms in 2013.

Building a nanolaser using a single atomic sheet

March 25, 2015 12:33 pm | by Jennifer Langston, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Univ. of Washington scientists have built a new nanometer-sized laser that is energy efficient, easy to build and compatible with existing electronics. Lasers play essential roles in countless technologies, from medical therapies to metal cutters to electronic gadgets. But to meet modern needs in computation, communications, imaging and sensing, scientists are striving to create ever-smaller laser systems that also consume less energy.

Science, patients driving rare disease drug research surge

March 25, 2015 12:10 pm | by Linda A. Johnson, AP Business Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

The global pharmaceutical industry is pouring billions of dollars into developing treatments for rare diseases, which once drew little interest from major drugmakers but now point the way toward a new era of innovative therapies and big profits. The investments come as researchers harness recent scientific advances.

Algae from clogged waterways could serve as biofuels, fertilizer

March 25, 2015 11:31 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Water-borne algal blooms from farm fertilizer runoff can destroy aquatic life and clog rivers and lakes, but scientists will report today that they are working on a way to clean up these environmental scourges and turn them into useful products. The algae could serve as a feedstock for biofuels, and the feedstock leftovers could be recycled back into farm soil nutrients.

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Metals used in high-tech products face future supply risks

March 25, 2015 11:08 am | by Kevin Dennehy, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

In a new paper, a team of Yale Univ. researchers assesses the “criticality” of all 62 metals on the Periodic Table of Elements, providing key insights into which materials might become more difficult to find in the coming decades, which ones will exact the highest environmental costs and which ones simply cannot be replaced as components of vital technologies.

Manufacturing process could yield better solar cells, faster chips

March 25, 2015 10:57 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | Videos | Comments

Computer chips, solar cells and other electronic devices have traditionally been based on silicon, the most famous of the semiconductors, that special class of materials whose unique electronic properties can be manipulated to turn electricity on and off the way faucets control the flow of water. There are other semiconductors. Gallium arsenide is one such material and it has certain technical advantages over silicon.

Researchers find promising new biomarkers for concussion

March 25, 2015 10:50 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

By looking at the molecular aftermath of concussion in an unusual way, a team of researchers at Brown Univ. and the Lifespan health system has developed a candidate panel of blood biomarkers that can accurately signal mild traumatic brain injury within hours using standard, widely available lab arrays. The results appear in the Journal of Neurotrauma.

Carbon nanotube fibers make superior links to brain

March 25, 2015 10:33 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Carbon nanotube fibers invented at Rice Univ. may provide a way to communicate directly with the brain. The fibers have proven superior to metal electrodes for deep brain stimulation and to read signals from a neuronal network. Because they provide a two-way connection, they show promise for treating patients with neurological disorders while monitoring the real-time response of neural circuits in areas that control movement and mood.

Food additive could serve as safer antifreeze

March 25, 2015 8:36 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

The sweet taste and smell of antifreeze tempts children and animals to drink the poisonous substance, resulting in thousands of accidental poisonings in the U.S. every year. But today researchers will describe a new, nontoxic product based on a common food additive that could address this health issue and help the environment at the same time.

Best look yet at “warm dense matter” at cores of giant planets

March 25, 2015 8:30 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Videos | Comments

In an experiment at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists precisely measured the temperature and structure of aluminum as it transitions into a superhot, highly compressed concoction known as “warm dense matter.” Warm dense matter is the stuff believed to be at the cores of giant gas planets in our solar system and some of the newly observed “exoplanets” that orbit distant suns.

Computer simulation improves offshore drill rig safety

March 25, 2015 8:23 am | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

Los Alamos National Laboratory mechanical and thermal engineering researchers’ efforts to solve the complex problem of how ocean currents affect the infrastructure of floating oilrigs and their computational fluid dynamics numerical simulations received recognition from ANSYS Inc.

Battery boost

March 25, 2015 8:14 am | by Christopher R. Samoray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are commonly found in portable electronics such as cell phones and notebook PCs. They’re also gaining popularity in electric vehicles, where their compact, lightweight build and high-energy storage potential offers a more efficient and environmentally safe alternative to nickel metal hydride and lead-acid batteries traditionally used in vehicles.

Turn the light on

March 25, 2015 8:06 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

In the on-going search for a better understanding of how the brain and central nervous system develop, a potentially powerful new tool could soon be available. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have discovered a light-sensitive opsin protein that plays a surprising and possibly critical role in neuron maturation and circuit formation.

Snake robots learn to turn by following real sidewinders’ lead

March 25, 2015 7:59 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon Univ. (CMU) who develop snake-like robots have picked up a few tricks from real sidewinder rattlesnakes on how to make rapid and even sharp turns with their undulating, modular device. Working with colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Zoo Atlanta, they have analyzed the motions of sidewinders and tested their observations on CMU’s snake robots.

“Virtual nose” may reduce simulator sickness in video games

March 25, 2015 7:50 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Virtual reality games often cause simulator sickness, but new research findings point to a potential strategy to ease the affliction. Various physiological systems govern the onset of simulator sickness: a person's overall sense of touch and position, or the somatosensory system; liquid-filled tubes in the ear called the vestibular system; and the oculumotor system, or muscles that control eye movements.

New kind of “tandem” solar cell developed

March 25, 2015 7:41 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford Univ. have developed a new kind of solar cell that combines two different layers of sunlight-absorbing material in order to harvest a broader range of the sun’s energy. The development could lead to photovoltaic cells that are more efficient than those currently used in solar-power installations, the researchers say.

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