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The Lead

Biofuel Struggles with Economics and the Environment

April 17, 2015 2:31 pm | by Tim Studt | Articles | Comments

Immediately following the passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, much research interest focused on the development of bio-based renewable energy sources (biofuels). EISA mandated increased production and use of biofuels for the long term. There also appeared to be substantial long-term government support for the implementation of a biofuel-based industry.

Science Connect: Positive Energy: Sustaining a Great Lab Environment

April 17, 2015 1:33 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Editor | Videos | Comments

The design of laboratories for sustainable construction and operation has become a major driver...

Science Connect: Next-Generation Engineering Facilities

April 17, 2015 1:29 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Editor | Videos | Comments

In the past decade, the expansion of research focus areas in engineering has undergone a...

New lab technique reveals structure, function of proteins critical in DNA repair

April 17, 2015 12:32 pm | by Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

By combining two highly innovative experimental techniques, scientists at the Univ. of Illinois...

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Beyond the lithium ion

April 17, 2015 11:58 am | by Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago | News | Comments

The race is on around the world as scientists strive to develop a new generation of batteries that can perform beyond the limits of the current lithium-ion based battery. Researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago have taken a significant step toward the development of a battery that could outperform the lithium-ion technology used in electric cars such as the Chevy Volt.

3D-printed blossoms a growing tool for ecology

April 17, 2015 10:36 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

3D printing has been used to make everything from cars to medical implants. Now, Univ. of Washington ecologists are using the technology to make artificial flowers, which they say could revolutionize our understanding of plant-pollinator interactions.

A blueprint for clearing the skies of space debris

April 17, 2015 9:47 am | by RIKEN | News | Comments

An international team of scientists have put forward a blueprint for a purely space-based system to solve the growing problem of space debris. The proposal combines a super-wide field-of-view telescope and a recently developed high-efficiency laser system, the CAN laser that will be used to track space debris and remove it from orbit.

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Improving rechargeable batteries with MoS2 nano “sandwich”

April 17, 2015 9:00 am | by Jennifer Tidball, Kansas State Univ. | News | Comments

The key to better cell phones and other rechargeable electronics may be in tiny "sandwiches" made of nanosheets, according to mechanical engineering research from Kansas State Univ. The research team are improving rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The team has focused on the lithium cycling of molybdenum disulfide, or MoS2, sheets, which Singh describes as a "sandwich" of one molybdenum atom between two sulfur atoms.

Detector at the South Pole explores the mysterious neutrinos

April 17, 2015 8:51 am | by Univ. of Copenhagen | News | Comments

Neutrinos are a type of particle that pass through just about everything in their path from even the most distant regions of the universe. The Earth is constantly bombarded by billions of neutrinos, which zip right through everything. Only very rarely do they react with matter, but the giant IceCube experiment at the South Pole can detect when there is a collision between neutrinos and atoms in the ice using a network of detectors.

How climate affects biodiversity

April 17, 2015 8:22 am | by Uppsala Univ. | News | Comments

How does climate change affect the occurrence and distribution of species? This is a key question in the climate debate, and one that is hard to answer without information about natural variation in species abundance. Now researchers from Uppsala Univ. can, for the first time, give us a detailed picture of natural variation through study published in Current Biology.

Flourishing faster

April 17, 2015 8:16 am | by Univ. of Manchester | News | Comments

Scientists at The Univ. of Manchester have discovered a way to make trees grow bigger and faster, which could increase supplies of renewable resources and help trees cope with the effects of climate change. In the study, published in Current Biology, the team successfully manipulated two genes in poplar trees in order to make them grow larger and more quickly than usual.

Zinc deficiency linked to activation of Hedgehog signaling pathway

April 17, 2015 8:03 am | by Mary Martialay, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute | News | Comments

Zinc deficiency, long associated with numerous diseases like certain cancers, can lead to activation of the Hedgehog signaling pathway, a biomolecular pathway that plays essential roles in developing organisms and in diseases, according to new research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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Instrument prompts researchers to rethink how Mercury formed

April 17, 2015 7:51 am | by Stephen Wampler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

A versatile instrument developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists and riding on the first spacecraft to ever orbit Mercury is causing researchers to rethink their theories on the planet’s formation. Known as the Gamma-Ray Spectrometer, or GRS, the instrument is part of a suite of seven instruments onboard NASA’s Mercury MESSENGER spacecraft.

Thumbnail track pad

April 17, 2015 7:36 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Researchers are developing a new wearable device that turns the user’s thumbnail into a miniature wireless track pad. They envision that the technology could let users control wireless devices when their hands are full: answering the phone while cooking, for instance. It could also augment other interfaces, allowing someone texting on a cellphone, say, to toggle between symbol sets without interrupting his or her typing.

Lab Utilities Help Promote Science

April 16, 2015 3:47 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Editor | Articles | Comments

Compared to industrial and residential construction, labs are expensive as they are highly complex in nature. The end goal to constructing a functional lab is to provide valuable research results. At the heart of a lab is the research conducted and, as a result, lab owners can’t compromise research efforts by overlooking key aspects of the workspace—such as safety, comfort and sustainability.

Controlling Vibration

April 16, 2015 3:10 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Editor | Articles | Comments

Much equipment used in nanotech, physical and biological sciences can’t function properly if subjected to vibrations that exceed small threshold values. As a result, lab designers are faced with the challenge of developing designs where vibration disturbances are within acceptable limits to further science.

Solidifying Image Acquisition

April 16, 2015 2:53 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Editor | Articles | Comments

Image analysis is of growing importance in science, and trends are observed for different layers of image acquisition. Quantifiable and reproducible data is a prerequisite for scientific publications. And, today, it isn’t sufficient to just acquire aesthetically pleasing images with a microscope. To get powerful scientific results, scientists must get as much information as they can from an image.

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DMMs Just Got Easier to Use

April 16, 2015 2:31 pm | by Tim Studt | Articles | Comments

At my home workstation, I have an old Fluke handheld digital multimeter (DMM) in its classic orange case, along with a very old analog voltage ohm-meter (VOM) in its similarly classic boxy black plastic case. Both of these instruments sit on a shelf below my laser printer and see constant temperatures and environments all year long.

3D-Printed Optic Breakthroughs

April 16, 2015 2:20 pm | by Tim Studt | Articles | Comments

Just a few years ago, many researchers working in alternative manufacturing methods believed the basic layering technologies integral to 3D printing limited the capability of this technique to build quality optical devices and lenses. But, as rapidly evolving as these techniques are, and as broad ranging as the applications it’s infiltrating, this limitation has been surmounted by a number of research groups around the world.

Major advance in artificial photosynthesis poses win-win for the environment

April 16, 2015 12:43 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A potentially game-changing breakthrough in artificial photosynthesis has been achieved with the development of a system that can capture carbon dioxide emissions before they are vented into the atmosphere and then, powered by solar energy, convert that carbon dioxide into valuable chemical products, including biodegradable plastics, pharmaceutical drugs and even liquid fuels.

Tracing dust samples using fungal DNA

April 16, 2015 12:33 pm | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. and the Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, have developed a statistical model that allows them to tell where a dust sample came from within the continental U.S. based on the DNA of fungi found in the sample.

Patents forecast technological change

April 16, 2015 12:20 pm | by MIT News Office | News | Comments

How fast is online learning evolving? Are wind turbines a promising investment? And how long before a cheap hoverboard makes it to market? Attempting to answer such questions requires knowing something about the rate at which a technology is improving. Now engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have devised a formula for estimating how fast a technology is advancing, based on information gleaned from relevant patents.

Kimchi-based preservative used in cosmetics isn’t so natural

April 16, 2015 11:25 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Some consumer groups concerned about the safety of synthetic preservatives such as parabens have pushed for natural alternatives. Industry has responded with a slew of options, including preservatives from kimchi, a popular Korean staple made out of fermented cabbage and radish. But scientists are now reporting that at least one commercial, kimchi-based preservative marketed as “all-natural” contains synthetic ingredients.

Electrolyte genome could be battery game-changer

April 16, 2015 8:27 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new breakthrough battery, one that has significantly higher energy, lasts longer and is cheaper and safer, will likely be impossible without a new material discovery. And a new material discovery could take years, if not decades, since trial and error has been the best available approach.

Inhibitor for abnormal protein points way to more selective cancer drugs

April 16, 2015 8:20 am | by Dave Zobel, Caltech | News | Comments

Nowhere is the adage "form follows function" more true than in the folded chain of amino acids that makes up a single protein macromolecule. But proteins are very sensitive to errors in their genetic blueprints. One single-letter DNA "misspelling" (called a point mutation) can alter a protein's structure or electric charge distribution enough to render it ineffective or even deleterious.

Novel nanoparticles could save soldiers’ lives after explosions

April 16, 2015 8:11 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Soldiers who suffer internal trauma from explosions might one day benefit from a new treatment now under development. Researchers report in ACS Macro Letters that injecting a certain type of nanoparticle helped reduce lung damage in rats experiencing such trauma. The potential treatment, which could be given at the most critical moment immediately after a blast, could save lives.

BPA exposure in pregnant mice affects fertility in three generations

April 16, 2015 8:03 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

When scientists exposed pregnant mice to levels of bisphenol A (BPA) equivalent to those considered safe in humans, three generations of female mouse offspring experienced significant reproductive problems, including declines in fertility, sexual maturity and pregnancy success, the scientists report in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology.

Cobalt film a clean-fuel find

April 16, 2015 7:51 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

A cobalt-based thin film serves double duty as a new catalyst that produces both hydrogen and oxygen from water to feed fuel cells, according to scientists at Rice Univ. The inexpensive, highly porous material may have advantages as a catalyst for the production of hydrogen via water electrolysis. A single film far thinner than a hair can be used as both the anode and cathode in an electrolysis device.

Packing heat: New fluid makes untapped geothermal energy cleaner

April 16, 2015 7:43 am | by Frances White, PNNL | Videos | Comments

More American homes could be powered by the Earth's natural underground heat with a new, nontoxic and potentially recyclable liquid that is expected to use half as much water as other fluids used to tap into otherwise unreachable geothermal hot spots. The fluid might be a boon to a new approach to geothermal power called enhanced geothermal systems.

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