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Bending in search of new materials

November 11, 2014 2:15 pm | by Britt Faulstick, Drexel Univ. | News | Comments

Making a paper airplane in school used to mean trouble. Today it signals a promising discovery in materials science research that could help next-generation technology get off the ground. Researchers at Drexel Univ. and Dalian Univ. of Technology in China have chemically engineered a new, electrically conductive nanomaterial that is flexible enough to fold, but strong enough to support many times its own weight.

Archaeologists discover remains of Ice-Age infants

November 11, 2014 11:32 am | by National Science Foundation | News | Comments

The bones and teeth of two—possibly related—Ice-Age infants, who were buried more than 11,000 years ago in central Alaska, constitute the youngest human remains ever found in the North American Arctic, according to a new paper published by National Science Foundation-funded researchers.

Telescope effort reveals asteroid’s size for first time

November 11, 2014 10:49 am | by Joe Fohn, Communications Dept., Southwest Research Institute | News | Comments

When the double asteroid Patroclus-Menoetius passed directly in front of a star on the night of Oct. 20, 2014, a team of volunteer astronomers across the U.S. was waiting. Observing the event, known as an occultation, from multiple sites where each observer recorded the precise time the star was obscured, yielded the first accurate determination of the two objects’ size and shape.

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Creating bright x-ray pulses in the laser laboratory

November 11, 2014 10:17 am | by Vienna Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

X-rays are widely used in medicine and in materials science. To take a picture of a broken bone, it’s enough to create a continuous flux of x-ray photons, but in order to study time-dependent phenomena on very short timescales, short x-ray pulses are required. One possibility to create short hard x-ray pulses is hitting a metal target with laser pulses.

“Antibiogram” use in nursing facilities could improve antibiotic use

November 11, 2014 10:05 am | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

Use of “antibiograms” in skilled nursing facilities could improve antibiotic effectiveness and help address problems with antibiotic resistance. Antibiograms are tools that aid health care practitioners in prescribing antibiotics in local populations. They are based on information from microbiology laboratory tests and provide information on how likely a certain antibiotic is to effectively treat a particular infection.

Climate worsening watery dead zones

November 11, 2014 9:55 am | by Associated Press, Seth Borenstein | News | Comments

Global warming is likely playing a bigger role than previously thought in dead zones in oceans, lakes and rivers around the world and it's only going to get worse, according to a new study. Dead zones occur when fertilizer runoff clogs waterways with nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous. That leads to an explosion of microbes that consumes oxygen and leaves the water depleted of oxygen, harming marine life.

A billion holes can make a battery

November 11, 2014 9:19 am | by Martha Heil, Univ. of Maryland | Videos | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Maryland have invented a single tiny structure that includes all the components of a battery that they say could bring about the ultimate miniaturization of energy storage components. The structure is called a nanopore: a tiny hole in a ceramic sheet that holds electrolyte to carry the electrical charge between nanotube electrodes at either end.

Baby photos of a scaled-up solar system

November 11, 2014 8:46 am | by Daniel Stolte, Univ. Relations - Communications, Univ. of Arizona | News | Comments

Scientists at the Univ. of Arizona have discovered what might be the closest thing to "baby photos" of our solar system. A young star called HD 95086 is found to have two dust belts, analogous to the asteroid and Kuiper belts in the solar system, surrounded by a large dust halo that only young planetary systems have. 

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Researchers take snapshots of potential “kill switch” for cancer

November 11, 2014 8:35 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

A study conducted in part at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has revealed how a key human protein switches from a form that protects cells to a form that kills them—a property that scientists hope to exploit as a “kill switch” for cancer. The protein, called cIAP1, shields cells from programmed cell death, or apoptosis.

Good vibrations rock an insulator to go metallic

November 11, 2014 8:24 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

For more than 50 years, scientists have debated what turns particular oxide insulators, in which electrons barely move, into metals, in which electrons flow freely. Some scientists sided with Nobel Prize–winning physicist Nevill Mott in thinking direct interactions between electrons were the key. Others believed, as did physicist Rudolf Peierls, that atomic vibrations and distortions trumped all.

Heat transfer sets noise floor for ultra-sensitive electronics

November 11, 2014 8:10 am | by Ken Than, Caltech | News | Comments

A team of engineers and scientists has identified a source of electronic noise that could affect the functioning of instruments operating at very low temperatures, such as devices used in radio telescopes and advanced physics experiments. The findingscould have implications for the future design of transistors and other electronic components.

Microbot muscles: Chains of particles assemble and flex

November 11, 2014 7:57 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

In a step toward robots smaller than a grain of sand, Univ. of Michigan researchers have shown how chains of self-assembling particles could serve as electrically activated muscles in the tiny machines. So-called microbots would be handy in many areas. But several challenges lie between current technologies and science fiction possibilities. Two of the big ones are building the bots and making them mobile.

The missing piece of the climate puzzle

November 11, 2014 7:49 am | by Genevieve Wanucha | Program in Atmospheres Oceans and Climate | MIT | News | Comments

In classrooms and everyday conversation, explanations of global warming hinge on the greenhouse gas effect. In short, climate depends on the balance between two different kinds of radiation: The Earth absorbs incoming visible light from the sun, called “shortwave radiation,” and emits infrared light, or “longwave radiation,” into space.

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Medicare proposes covering lung cancer screening

November 10, 2014 5:58 pm | by Lauran Neergaard - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Medicare may soon begin paying for yearly scans to detect lung cancer in certain current or former heavy smokers. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Monday issued a long-awaited proposal to begin covering the screening for high-risk beneficiaries if their doctors agree they meet the criteria.

Catalyst-where-you-want-it method expands possibilities for new drug development

November 10, 2014 11:13 am | by The Scripps Research Institute | News | Comments

Chemists at The Scripps Research Institute and the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry have described a method for creating and modifying organic compounds that overcomes a major limitation of previous methods. The advance opens up a large number of novel chemical structures for synthesis and evaluation, for example, as candidate pharmaceuticals.

Biochemistry detective work: Algae at night

November 10, 2014 11:05 am | by Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

Photosynthesis is probably the most well-known aspect of plant biochemistry. It enables plants, algae and select bacteria to transform the energy from sunlight during the daytime into chemical energy in the form of sugars and starches (as well as oils and proteins), and it involves taking in carbon dioxide from the air and releasing oxygen derived from water molecules.

First look at atom-thin boundaries

November 10, 2014 10:55 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have made the first direct observations of a 1-D boundary separating two different, atom-thin materials, enabling studies of long-theorized phenomena at these interfaces. Theorists have predicted the existence of intriguing properties at 1-D boundaries between two crystalline components, but experimental verification has eluded researchers.

Underperforming? Energy efficiency of HVAC equipment suffers due to poor installation

November 10, 2014 10:45 am | by NIST | News | Comments

The push for more efficient air conditioners and heat pumps aims to trim the 30% share of residential electrical energy use devoted to cooling and heating. But the benefits of improved energy-efficiency ratings can go for naught if the equipment is not installed properly, as verified in a recent study from NIST.

New materials yield record efficiency polymer solar cells

November 10, 2014 10:20 am | by Tracey Peake, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. and Hong Kong Univ. of Science and Technology have found that temperature-controlled aggregation in a family of new semiconducting polymers is the key to creating highly efficient organic solar cells that can be mass produced more cheaply. Their findings also open the door to experimentation with different chemical mixtures that comprise the active layers of the cells.

Synthetic biology for space exploration

November 10, 2014 9:27 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Does synthetic biology hold the key to manned space exploration of the moon and Mars? Berkeley Lab researchers have used synthetic biology to produce an inexpensive and reliable microbial-based alternative to the world’s most effective anti-malaria drug, and to develop clean, green and sustainable alternatives to gasoline, diesel and jet fuels. In the future, synthetic biology could also be used to make manned space missions more practical.

Milestone hit in accelerating particles with plasma

November 10, 2014 9:09 am | by Andrew Gordon, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Scientists from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the Univ. of California, Los Angeles have shown that a promising technique for accelerating electrons on waves of plasma is efficient enough to power a new generation of shorter, more economical accelerators. This could greatly expand their use in areas such as medicine, national security, industry and high-energy physics research.

How human cells become immortal

November 10, 2014 8:35 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Every day, some of your cells stop dividing, and that’s a good thing. Cells that proliferate indefinitely are immortal, an essential early step in the development of most malignant tumors. Despite its importance in cancer, the process of cell immortalization is poorly understood. That’s because scientists have lacked a good way to study immortalization in human cells as it occurs during cancer progression.

Unexpected findings change the picture of sulfur on early Earth

November 10, 2014 8:20 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

Scientists believe that until about 2.4 billion years ago there was little oxygen in the atmosphere. Evidence in support of this hypothesis comes from studies of sulfur isotopes preserved in the rock record. But the sulfur isotope story has been uncertain because of the lack of key information that has now been provided by a new analytical technique developed by a team of Caltech geologists and geochemists.

Dynamic graph analytics tackle social media, other big data

November 10, 2014 8:08 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Today, petabytes of digital information are generated daily by such sources as social media, Internet activity, surveillance sensors and advanced research instruments. The results are often referred to as “big data”—accumulations so huge that highly sophisticated computer techniques are required to identify useful information hidden within. Graph analysis is a prime tool for finding the needle in the data haystack.

First peek at how neurons multitask

November 10, 2014 8:01 am | by Laura Williams, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have shown how a single neuron can perform multiple functions in a model organism, illuminating for the first time this fundamental biological mechanism and shedding light on the human brain. Investigators found that a neuron in C. elegans regulates both the speed and direction in which the worm moves.

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