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Unlocking enzyme synthesis of rare sugars to create drugs with fewer side effects

September 29, 2014 8:57 am | by Katie Bethea, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

An Oak Ridge National Laboratory team has unlocked the enzymatic synthesis process of rare sugars, which are useful in developing drugs with low side effects. In a recently published paper, the team reported the pioneering use of neutron and x-ray crystallography and HPC to study how the enzyme D-xylose isomerase, or XI, can cause a biochemical reaction in natural sugar to produce rare sugars.

Green light for clever algae

September 29, 2014 8:46 am | by Meike Drießen, Ruhr Univ. Bochum | News | Comments

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New molecule found in space connotes life origins

September 29, 2014 8:43 am | by Blaine Friedlander, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Hunting from a distance of 27,000 light years, astronomers have discovered an unusual carbon-...

New imaging capability reveals possible key to extending battery lifetime, capacity

September 29, 2014 8:37 am | by Tona Kunz, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

A novel x...

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Pixel-engineered electronics have growth potential

September 29, 2014 8:19 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

A little change in temperature makes a big difference for growing a new generation of hybrid atomic-layer structures, according to scientists. Rice Univ. scientists led the first single-step growth of self-assembled hybrid layers made of two elements that can either be side by side and one-atom thick or stacked atop each other. The structure’s final form can be tuned by changing the growth temperature.

How to make a “perfect” solar absorber

September 29, 2014 8:08 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The key to creating a material that would be ideal for converting solar energy to heat is tuning the material’s spectrum of absorption just right: It should absorb virtually all wavelengths of light that reach Earth’s surface from the sun—but not much of the rest of the spectrum, since that would increase the energy that is reradiated by the material, and thus lost to the conversion process.

Multi-spectra “glasses” aid studies of light elements with SEMs

September 26, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

Scanning electron microscopes can determine chemical compositions with the help of energy dispersive spectrometers. However, lighter elements like carbon emit secondary fluorescence in an energy range insufficiently resolved by these instruments. Physicists have developed a potential solution to this problem by adding reflection zone plate optics to a specialized spectrometer that delivers high resolution from 50 to 1,120 eV.

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Cell sorting method separates 10 billion cells in 30 minutes

September 26, 2014 9:42 am | News | Comments

Almost all of today’s previously existing cell-sorting methods rely on what is called a single-cell analysis platform. A researcher in Hawaii took a different approach, inventing a bulk method that sorts different cell populations by tuning their solubility. Instead of targeting individual features, the  measurement principle sorts cells by differentiating their characteristic surface free energies.

Neutron vision: Going beyond x-rays for advanced imaging in the field

September 26, 2014 9:32 am | News | Comments

Seeking to expand the United States' capability to detect and identify materials that are not easily visualized, DARPA this week released an announcement inviting proposals to develop portable, next-generation imaging tools that combine the complementary benefits of x-rays, which efficiently detect heavier elements, and neutron radiography, which is not as portable as x-ray detectors but can identify liquids and lighter elements.

A prison for photons in a diamond-like photonic crystal

September 26, 2014 9:08 am | News | Comments

Confined photons have many potential applications, such as efficient miniature lasers, on-chip information storage, or tiny sensors on pharmaceuticals. Making a structure that can capture photons is difficult, but scientists in the Netherlands have recently devised a new type of resonant cavity inside a photonic crystal that imprisons light in all three dimensions.

Protein “map” could lead to potent new cancer drugs

September 26, 2014 8:55 am | News | Comments

Chemists in the U.K. have gained fresh insights into how a disease-causing enzyme makes changes to proteins and how it can be stopped. The scientists hope their findings will help them to design drugs that could target the enzyme, known as N-myristoyltransferase (NMT), and potentially lead to new treatments for cancer and inflammatory conditions.

Discovery could pave way for spin-based computing

September 26, 2014 8:48 am | by Joe Miksch, Univ. of Pittsburgh | News | Comments

Electricity and magnetism rule our digital world. Semiconductors process electrical information, while magnetic materials enable long-term data storage. A Univ. of Pittsburgh research team has discovered a way to fuse these two distinct properties in a single material, paving the way for new ultrahigh density storage and computing architectures.

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NASA finds clear skies and water vapor on exoplanet

September 26, 2014 8:42 am | News | Comments

Astronomers using data from NASA's space telescopes Hubble, Spitzer, and Kepler have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapor on a gaseous planet outside our solar system. The planet is about the size of Neptune, making it the smallest planet from which molecules of any kind have been detected.

Researcher works to predict electric power blackouts before they happen

September 26, 2014 8:34 am | by Katie Jones, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

The largest power outage in U.S. history, the 2003 Northeast blackout, began with one power line in Ohio going offline and ended with more than 50 million people without power throughout the Northeast and the Canadian province of Ontario. Despite the apparent failure of the electric grid during such cascading events, blackouts aren’t necessarily grid failures.

The water in your bottle might be older than the sun

September 26, 2014 8:13 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Up to half of the water on Earth is likely older than the solar system itself, Univ. of Michigan astronomers theorize. The researchers' work helps to settle a debate about just how far back in galactic history our planet and our solar system's water formed. Were the molecules in comet ices and terrestrial oceans born with the system itself—in the planet-forming disk of dust and gas that circled the young sun 4.6 billion years ago?

On the road to artificial photosynthesis

September 26, 2014 8:04 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

The excessive atmospheric carbon dioxide that is driving global climate change could be harnessed into a renewable energy technology that would be a win for both the environment and the economy. That is the lure of artificial photosynthesis in which the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide is used to produce clean, green and sustainable fuels. 

Hard facts lead to “green” concrete

September 26, 2014 7:53 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Concrete can be better and more environmentally friendly by paying attention to its atomic structure, according to researchers at Rice Univ., the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Marseille Univ. The international team of scientists has created computational models to help concrete manufacturers fine-tune mixes for general applications.

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Underwater robot for port security

September 26, 2014 7:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers unveiled an oval-shaped submersible robot, a little smaller than a football, with a flattened panel on one side that can slide along an underwater surface to perform ultrasound scans. Originally designed to look for cracks in nuclear reactors’ water tanks, the robot could also inspect ships for the false hulls and propeller shafts that smugglers frequently use to hide contraband.

Clues to how people bounce back from surgery

September 25, 2014 10:48 am | News | Comments

One of the big frustrations of surgery is that little indicates whether the patient is a fast or slow healer, someone who feels normal in a week or is out of work for a month with lingering pain and fatigue. Now Stanford Univ. researchers have discovered that right after surgery, patients' blood harbors clues about how fast they'll bounce back. And it has to do with the activity of certain immune cells that play a key role in healing.

How LIMS is Essential in the Biofuels Industry

September 25, 2014 10:26 am | by Colin Thurston, Director of Product Strategy, Thermo Fisher Scientific | Thermo Fisher Scientific | Articles | Comments

As U.S. energy imports dramatically drop it would appear that renewables investment is in jeopardy, including the biofuels market. There’s some evidence to support this; but if declining or stalled investment is predicated on the limited potential of existing technology, much of which still relies on biomass, the biofuels industry may, in fact, be undergoing a natural transition instead of a decline.

Building the framework for the future of biofuels

September 25, 2014 9:47 am | by Joe Kullman, Arizona State Univ. | News | Comments

For more than five years, Amy Landis, an engineering professor at Arizona State Univ.,  has led research that is revealing the potential rewards of developing large-scale biofuels production, as well as the potential drawbacks we would face in the effort. According to Landis, lands damaged by industrial waste or other pollutants could be restored sufficiently to support agriculture for growing bioenergy crops.

World’s smallest reference material is a big plus for nanotechnology

September 25, 2014 9:44 am | News | Comments

If it's true that good things come in small packages, then NIST can now make anyone working with nanoparticles very happy. The institute recently issued Reference Material (RM) 8027, the smallest known reference material ever created for validating measurements of man-made, ultrafine particles between 1 and 100 nm in size.

Skin-like device monitors cardiovascular, skin health

September 25, 2014 9:09 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

A new wearable medical device can quickly alert a person if they are having cardiovascular trouble or if it’s simply time to put on some skin moisturizer, reports a Northwestern Univ. and Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign study. The small device, approximately five centimeters square, can be placed directly on the skin and worn 24/7 for around-the-clock health monitoring.

Research pinpoints role of “helper” atoms in oxygen release

September 25, 2014 8:59 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Experiments at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory solve a long-standing mystery in the role calcium atoms serve in a chemical reaction that releases oxygen into the air we breathe. The results offer new clues about atomic-scale processes that drive the life-sustaining cycle of photosynthesis and could help forge a foundation for producing cleaner energy sources by synthesizing nature's handiwork.

Solar explosions inside a computer

September 25, 2014 8:44 am | News | Comments

Strong solar flares can bring down communications and power grids on Earth. Physicists in Switzerland have examined the processes that take place when explosions occur on the Sun’s surface and have accurately reconstructed the statistical size distribution and temporal succession of the solar flares with a computer model. This has allowed them to make several new observations about the how these flares occur and behave.

Report quantifies financial impacts of customer-sited photovoltaics on electric utilities

September 25, 2014 8:39 am | by Allan Chen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new report prepared by analysts from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory examines the potential impacts of customer-sited solar photovoltaics on electric utility profitability and rates. The report shows that these impacts can vary greatly depending upon the specific circumstances of the utility and may be reduced through a variety of regulatory and ratemaking measures.

Live long and phosphor: Blue LED breakthrough for efficient electronics

September 25, 2014 8:36 am | News | Comments

Blue organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are one of a trio of colors used in OLED displays such as smartphone screens and high-end TVs. In a step that could lead to longer battery life in smartphones and lower power consumption for large-screen televisions, researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have extended the lifetime of blue organic light emitting diodes by a factor of 10.

Platelets modulate clotting behavior by “feeling” their surroundings

September 25, 2014 8:31 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Platelets, the tiny cell fragments whose job it is to stop bleeding, are very simple. They don’t have a cell nucleus. But they can “feel” the physical environment around them, researchers at Emory Univ. and Georgia Tech have discovered. Platelets respond to surfaces with greater stiffness by increasing their stickiness, the degree to which they “turn on” other platelets and other components of the clotting system, the researchers found.

Search for better biofuels microbes leads to the human gut

September 25, 2014 8:14 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Scientists have scoured cow rumens and termite guts for microbes that can efficiently break down plant cell walls for the production of next-generation biofuels, but some of the best microbial candidates actually may reside in the human lower intestine, researchers report. Their studyis the first to use biochemical approaches to confirm the hypothesis that microbes in the human gut can digest fiber.

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