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The birth of topological spintronics

July 24, 2014 10:31 am | News | Comments

Research led by Penn State Univ. and Cornell Univ. physicists is studying "spintorque" in devices that combine a standard magnetic material with a new material known as a topological insulator. The new insulator, which is made of bismuth selenide and operates at room temperature, overcomes one of the key challenges to developing a spintronics technology based on spin-orbit coupling.

Highest-precision measurement made of water on an exoplanet

July 24, 2014 10:02 am | News | Comments

The discovery of water vapor in the atmospheres of...

Junk DNA not as worthless as once thought

July 24, 2014 9:50 am | News | Comments

Around 75% of the supposed functionless DNA in the...

Urban heat’s effect on the environment

July 24, 2014 9:36 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

New research from North Carolina State Univ. shows that urban “heat islands” are slowly killing...

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Discovery is key to metal wear in sliding parts

July 24, 2014 9:24 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have discovered a previously unknown mechanism for wear in metals: a swirling, fluid-like microscopic behavior in a solid piece of metal sliding over another. The findings could be used to improve the durability of metal parts in numerous applications.

Quenching the world's water and energy crises, one tiny droplet at a time

July 24, 2014 8:40 am | by Sarah Bates, National Science Foundation | Videos | Comments

More than a decade ago, news of a Namibian desert beetle’s efficient water collection system inspired engineers to try and reproduce these surfaces in the laboratory. Small-scale advances in fluid physics, materials engineering and nanoscience since that time have brought them close to succeeding. And their work could have impact on a wide range of industries at the macroscale.

Audit: NASA doesn't have the money for big rockets

July 24, 2014 8:14 am | News | Comments

The Government Accountability Office issued a report Wednesday saying NASA's Space Launch System is at "high risk of missing" its planned December 2017 initial test flight. The agency doesn't have enough money to get its new, $12 billion rocket system, the largest ever built, off the ground.

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Diseases of another kind

July 24, 2014 8:10 am | by Julie Cohen, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara | News | Comments

The drought that has the entire country in its grip is affecting more than the color of people’s lawns. It may also be responsible for the proliferation of a heat-loving amoeba commonly found in warm freshwater bodies, such as lakes, rivers and hot springs, which the drought has made warmer than usual this year.

“Comb-on-a-chip” powers new atomic clock design

July 24, 2014 7:52 am | News | Comments

Researchers from NIST and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have demonstrated a new design for an atomic clock that is based on a chip-scale frequency comb, or a microcomb. The microcomb clock, featured in Optica, is the first demonstration of all-optical control of the microcomb, and its accurate conversion of optical frequencies to lower microwave frequencies.

Study: Forward osmosis desalination not energy efficient

July 24, 2014 7:37 am | by Alissa Mallinson | MIT Dept. of Mechanical Engineering | News | Comments

In a recent study published in the Journal of Membrane Science, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology team reported that, contrary to popular support, forward osmosis desalination of seawater is significantly less energy efficient, compared to reverse osmosis. In forward osmosis, water is drawn from the seawater into a concentrated salt solution, known as a draw solution.

Spinach could lead to alternative energy more powerful than Popeye

July 23, 2014 4:07 pm | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Spinach gave Popeye super strength, but it also holds the promise of a different power for a group of scientists: the ability to convert sunlight into a clean, efficient alternative fuel. Purdue Univ. physicists are part of an international group using spinach to study the proteins involved in photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert the sun’s energy into carbohydrates used to power cellular processes.

A new approach in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence: Targeting alien polluters

July 23, 2014 11:09 am | by David A. Aguilar, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics | News | Comments

Humanity is on the threshold of being able to detect signs of alien life on other worlds. By studying exoplanet atmospheres, we can look for gases like oxygen and methane that only coexist if replenished by life. But those gases come from simple life forms like microbes. What about advanced civilizations? Would they leave any detectable signs?

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Bringing high-energy x-rays into better focus

July 23, 2014 10:15 am | News | Comments

Scientists at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have invented a customizable chemical etching process that can be used to manufacture high-performance focusing devices for the brightest x-ray sources on the planet, as well as to make other nanoscale structures such as biosensors and battery electrodes.

Researchers pioneer a Google street view of galaxies

July 23, 2014 9:55 am | by Verity Leatherdale, Univ. of Sydney | News | Comments

A new home-grown instrument based on bundles of optical fibers is giving Australian astronomers the first “Google street view” of the cosmos—incredibly detailed views of huge numbers of galaxies. Developed by researchers at the Univ. of Sydney and the Australian Astronomical Observatory, the optical-fiber bundles can sample the light from up to 60 parts of a galaxy, for a dozen galaxies at a time.

First direct-diode laser bright enough to cut, weld metal

July 23, 2014 9:43 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

MIT Lincoln Laboratory spinout TeraDiode is commercializing a multi-kilowatt diode laser system that’s bright enough to cut and weld through a half-inch of steel, and at greater efficiencies than today’s industrial lasers. The new system is based on a wavelength beam-combining laser diode design that won an R&D 100 Award in 2012. It combines multiple beams into a single output ray, allowing for a power boost without efficiency loss.

Genetic mapping triggers new hope on schizophrenia

July 23, 2014 9:27 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

More than 100 researchers from around the world have collaborated in the biggest-ever genomic mapping of schizophrenia, for which scientists had previously uncovered only about a couple of dozen risk-related genes. Since this research began, scientists have linked more than 100 spots in our DNA to the risk of developing schizophrenia, casting light on the mystery of what makes the disease tick.

NASA’s Fermi space telescope finds a “transformer” pulsar

July 23, 2014 9:19 am | Videos | Comments

In late June 2013, an exceptional binary containing a rapidly spinning neutron star underwent a dramatic change in behavior never before observed. The pulsar's radio beacon vanished, while at the same time the system brightened fivefold in gamma rays, the most powerful form of light, according to measurements by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. It was as if someone flipped a switch on the pulsar.

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Dancing electrons at the heart of a laser breakthrough

July 23, 2014 8:19 am | by Joseph Blumberg, Dartmouth | News | Comments

A team of Dartmouth scientists and their colleagues have devised a breakthrough laser that uses a single artificial atom to generate and emit particles of light—and may play a crucial role in the development of quantum computers, which are predicted to eventually outperform even today’s most powerful supercomputers.

Instrument enables high-speed chemical imaging of tissues

July 23, 2014 8:06 am | News | Comments

A research team from NIST, working with the Cleveland Clinic, has demonstrated a dramatically improved technique for analyzing biological cells and tissues based on characteristic molecular vibration "signatures." The new NIST technique is an advanced form of the widely used spontaneous Raman spectroscopy, but one that delivers signals that are 10,000 times stronger than obtained from spontaneous Raman scattering.

Southwest Research Institute to lead joint industry project for separation tech

July 23, 2014 8:03 am | News | Comments

The launch of a multi-million dollar joint industry project this week by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) aims to better understand oil and gas separation technology. The Separation Technology Research Program (STAR Program) is a three-year effort open to operating companies, contractors and equipment manufacturers, and will combine industry knowledge and resources to advance research.

RFID tags on honey bees reveal hive dynamics

July 23, 2014 7:56 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Scientists attached radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to hundreds of individual honey bees and tracked them for several weeks. The effort yielded two discoveries: Some foraging bees are much busier than others; and if those busy bees disappear, others will take their place.

Building up bamboo

July 23, 2014 7:46 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Bamboo construction has traditionally been rather straightforward: Entire stalks are used to create latticed edifices, or woven in strips to form wall-sized screens. The effect can be stunning, and also practical in parts of the world where bamboo thrives. But there are limitations to building with bamboo.

Technique simplifies the creation of high-tech crystals

July 22, 2014 2:29 pm | News | Comments

Highly purified crystals that split light with precision are valued in specialized optics. But photonic crystals are difficult to make with current techniques, namely electron beam etching. Researchers at Princeton and Columbia universities have proposed a new method derived from colloidal suspensions that could allow scientists to customize and grow optimal crystals with relative ease.

NIST develops prototype meter test for hydrogen refueling stations

July 22, 2014 2:20 pm | News | Comments

Three automakers plan to begin selling hydrogen-fueled vehicles to consumers in 2015. To support the fair sale of gaseous hydrogen as a vehicle fuel, researchers at NIST have developed a prototype field test standard to test the accuracy of hydrogen fuel dispensers. Once the standard is field tested, it will serve as a model for constructing similar devices for state weights and measures inspectors to use.

Students to design, build, fly experiment to test green propellant

July 22, 2014 1:43 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

The Zero-Gravity Flight Experiment course at Purdue Univ. will see its creation soar to the upper atmosphere to study a new green propellant. The students are partnering with Aerojet Rocketdyne to demonstrate that the propellant can replace the traditional but highly toxic hydrazine fuel. They will design and build their experiment at Purdue, then NASA will launch it on a commercial suborbital rocket flight for weightless experiment time.

Boosting the force of empty space

July 22, 2014 1:33 pm | News | Comments

Empty space is a bubbling soup of various virtual particles popping in and out of existence. Theorists from Austria and Vienna have recently proposed a way to amplify the force of these counter-intuitive phenomena called “vacuum fluctuations” by several orders of magnitude using a transmission line, channelling virtual photons. The strategy could have profound implications for understanding Casimir and Van der Waals forces.

Simple, low cost laser technique improves nanomaterials

July 22, 2014 1:28 pm | News | Comments

By “drawing” micropatterns on nanomaterials using a focused laser beam, scientists in Singapore have modifed properties of nanomaterials for effective photonic and optoelectronic applications. Their method increased electrical conductivity and photoconductivity of the modified molybdenum disulfide material by more than 10 times and about five times respectively.

Optomechanical crystal helps study photon-phonon interactions

July 22, 2014 8:48 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Spain have announced their successful effort to build a silicon 1-D optomechanical crystal so that it allows both phonons and photons to localize in a stable way. This marks an opportunity to study the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and mechanical vibrations of matter with a new level of precision.

Bacteria swim with bodies and flagella

July 22, 2014 8:43 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

When it comes to swimming, the bodies of some bacteria are more than just dead weight, according to new research from Brown Univ. Many bacteria swim using flagella, corkscrew-like appendages that push or pull bacterial cells like tiny propellers. It's long been assumed that the flagella do all the work during swimming, while the rest of the cell body is just along for the ride.

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