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Scientists re-create what may be life's first spark

December 9, 2014 11:34 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Scientists in a lab used a powerful laser to re-create what might have been the original spark of life on Earth. The researchers zapped clay and a chemical soup with the laser to simulate the energy of a speeding asteroid smashing into the planet.

DNA double-strand break process visualized for the first time

December 9, 2014 11:17 am | by CNIO | News | Comments

Scientists from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), have developed a method for producing biological crystals that has allowed scientists to observe— for the first time— DNA double chain breaks.           

Storing hydrogen underground could boost transportation, energy security

December 9, 2014 10:55 am | by Sandia Labs | News | Comments

Large-scale storage of low-pressure, gaseous hydrogen in salt caverns and other underground sites for transportation fuel and grid-scale energy applications offers several advantages over above-ground storage, says a recent Sandia National Laboratories study.

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Hunting for dark matter in a gold mine

December 9, 2014 8:24 am | News | Comments

The Homestake Mine, a played-out gold mine in Lead, S.D., that has been converted into a warren of underground chambers housing physics experiments that need to be shielded from cosmic radiation. One of these experiments is the Lux detector, designed to detect WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles). 

Researchers show commonalities in how different glassy materials fail

December 9, 2014 7:59 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have now shown an important commonality that seems to extend through the range of glassy materials. They have demonstrated that the scaling between a glassy material’s stiffness and strength remains unchanged, implying a constant critical strain that these materials can withstand before catastrophic failure.

Germanium comes home to Purdue for semiconductor milestone

December 8, 2014 4:26 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A laboratory at Purdue Univ. provided a critical part of the world's first transistor in 1947—the purified germanium semiconductor—and now researchers here are on the forefront of a new germanium milestone. The team has created the first modern germanium circuit—a complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) device—using germanium as the semiconductor instead of silicon.

Injectable 3-D vaccines could fight cancer, infectious diseases

December 8, 2014 4:13 pm | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | News | Comments

One of the reasons cancer is so deadly is that it can evade attack from the body's immune system, which allows tumors to flourish and spread. Scientists can try to induce the immune system, known as immunotherapy, to go into attack mode to fight cancer and to build long lasting immune resistance to cancer cells. Now, researchers have developed a non–surgical injection of programmable biomaterial to do so.

Solid-state proteins maximize the intensity of fluorescent-protein-based lasers

December 8, 2014 4:03 pm | by Massachusetts General Hospital | News | Comments

The same research team that developed the first laser based on a living cell has shown that use of fluorescent proteins in a solid form rather than in solution greatly increases the intensity of light produced, an accomplishment that takes advantage of natural protein structures surrounding the light-emitting portions of the protein molecules.

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Detecting gases wirelessly, cheaply

December 8, 2014 3:54 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemists have devised a new way to wirelessly detect hazardous gases and environmental pollutants, using a simple sensor that can be read by a smartphone. These inexpensive sensors could be widely deployed, making it easier to monitor public spaces or detect food spoilage in warehouses.

Is natural gas a “bridge” to a hotter future?

December 8, 2014 3:47 pm | by Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

Natural gas power plants produce substantial amounts of gases that lead to global warming. Replacing old coal-fired power plants with new natural gas plants could cause climate damage to increase over the next decades, unless their methane leakage rates are very low and the new power plants are very efficient.

New semiconductor could change face of consumer electronics

December 8, 2014 9:54 am | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

Materials first developed at Oregon State Univ. more than a decade ago with an eye toward making “transparent” transistors may be about to shake up the field of consumer electronics; and the first uses are not even based on the transparent capability of the materials. In the continued work and in collaboration with private industry, certain transparent transistor materials are now gaining some of their first commercial applications.

Study: Early warning signals of abrupt climate change

December 8, 2014 9:47 am | by Univ. of Exeter | News | Comments

A new study by researchers at the Univ. of Exeter has found early warning signals of a reorganization of the Atlantic oceans’ circulation which could have a profound impact on the global climate system. The researchused a simulation from a highly complex model to analyze the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, an important component of the Earth’s climate system.

Rattled atoms mimic high-temperature superconductivity

December 8, 2014 9:29 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

An experiment at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory provided the first fleeting glimpse of the atomic structure of a material as it entered a state resembling room-temperature superconductivity—a long-sought phenomenon in which materials might conduct electricity with 100% efficiency under everyday conditions.

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Study: Underground helium travels to Earth’s surface via aquifers

December 8, 2014 9:14 am | by Louise Lerner, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Before it can put the party in party balloons, helium is carried from deep within the Earth’s crust to the surface via aquifers. Aquifers contain water that has filtered there over hundreds of millennia. Using an atom trap built at Argonne National Laboratory to date the water in a deep South American aquifer, scientists tracked the rate at which helium pooled in the aquifers.

X-ray laser acts as tool to tack life’s chemistry

December 8, 2014 9:03 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

An international research team that includes researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has captured the highest-resolution protein snapshots ever taken with an x-ray laser, revealing how a key protein in a photosynthetic bacterium changes shape when hit by light.

Computers that teach by example

December 8, 2014 8:49 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Computers are good at identifying patterns in huge data sets. Humans, by contrast, are good at inferring patterns from just a few examples. In a recent paper, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers present a new system that bridges these two ways of processing information, so that humans and computers can collaborate to make better decisions.

Uniform nanowire arrays for science, manufacturing

December 8, 2014 8:36 am | by Kris Bertness, NIST | News | Comments

Defect-free nanowires with diameters in the range of 100 nm hold significant promise for numerous in-demand applications. That promise can't be realized, however, unless the wires can be fabricated in large uniform arrays using methods compatible with high-volume manufacture. To date, that has not been possible for arbitrary spacings in ultra-high vacuum growth.

Researchers set world record in solar energy efficiency

December 8, 2014 8:27 am | by Univ. of New South Wales | News | Comments

Univ. of New South Wales' solar researchers have converted over 40% of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity, the highest efficiency ever reported. The world-beating efficiency was achieved in outdoor tests in Sydney, before being independently confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at their outdoor test facility in the U.S.

Technique offers spray-on solar power

December 8, 2014 8:18 am | by Marit Mitchell, Senior Communications Office, Univ. of Toronto | Videos | Comments

Pretty soon, powering your tablet could be as simple as wrapping it in cling wrap. A Univ. of Toronto team has invented a new way to spray solar cells onto flexible surfaces using miniscule light-sensitive materials known as colloidal quantum dots (CQDs)—a major step toward making spray-on solar cells easy and cheap to manufacture.

Resistance and futility

December 8, 2014 8:09 am | by Elizabeth Cooney, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Penicillin, the wonder drug discovered in 1928, works in ways that are still mysterious almost a century later. One of the oldest and most widely used antibiotics, it attacks enzymes that build the bacterial cell wall, a mesh that surrounds the bacterial membrane and gives the cells their integrity and shape. Once that wall is breached, bacteria die, allowing us to recover from infection.

Physics mystery shows path to quantum transistors

December 8, 2014 8:01 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

An odd, iridescent material that's puzzled physicists for decades turns out to be an exotic state of matter that could open a new path to next-generation electronics. Physicists at the Univ. of Michigan have discovered or confirmed several properties of the compound samarium hexaboride that raise hopes for finding the silicon of the quantum era. They say their results also close the case of how to classify the material.

Nanoparticle allows low-cost creation of 3-D nanostructures

December 8, 2014 7:51 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a new lithography technique that uses nanoscale spheres to create 3-D structures with biomedical, electronic and photonic applications. The new technique is significantly less expensive than conventional methods and does not rely on stacking 2-D patterns to create 3-D structures.

Unusual electronic state found in new class of superconductors

December 8, 2014 7:41 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

A team of scientists has discovered an unusual form of electronic order in a new family of unconventional superconductors. The findingestablishes an unexpected connection between this new group of titanium-oxypnictide superconductors and the more familiar cuprates and iron-pnictides, providing scientists with a whole new family of materials from which they can gain deeper insights into the mysteries of high-temperature superconductivity.

How stem cells can be activated to help immune system fight infection

December 5, 2014 10:49 am | by Peter Bracke, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

In a recent study, Univ. of California, Los Angeles scientists have shown that two genes not previously known to be involved with the immune system play a crucial role in how progenitor stem cells are activated to fight infection. This discovery lays the groundwork for a better understanding of the role progenitor cells can play in immune system response and could lead to the development of more effective therapies for diseases.

Big step toward using light instead of wires inside computers

December 5, 2014 10:36 am | by Chris Cesare, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. engineers have designed and built a prism-like device that can split a beam of light into different colors and bend the light at right angles, a development that could eventually lead to computers that use optics, rather than electricity, to carry data.

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