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Self-powered sensors that communicate could warn of bridge, building defects

March 20, 2015 10:28 am | by Tom Oswald, Media Communications, Michigan State Univ. | News | Comments

Imagine a bridge or a dam that could sense a structural defect before it happens, diagnose what the problem will be and alert the authorities before something bad happens. Three Michigan State Univ. researchers are developing a new technology known as substrate computing. This will allow sensing, communication and diagnostic computing, all within the substrate of a structure, using energy harvested from the structure itself.

Bioinformatics tool for metagenome analysis

March 20, 2015 10:07 am | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a new method for DNA analysis of microbial communities such as those found in the ocean, the soil and our own guts. Metagenomics is the study of entire microbial communities using genomics.

Lack of effective timing signals could hamper IoT development

March 20, 2015 8:30 am | by Chad Boutin, NIST | News | Comments

Our fast-approaching future of driverless cars and “smart” electrical grids will depend on billions of linked devices making decisions and communicating with split-second precision to prevent highway collisions and power outages. But a new report released by NIST warns that this future could be stalled by our lack of effective methods to marry computers and networks with timing systems.

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Mapping redox switches in cyanobacteria advances use as biofuel

March 20, 2015 8:19 am | by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

Chemical reactions involving reduction and oxidation, or redox, play a key role in regulating photosynthesis in plants and metabolism in animals and humans, keeping things running on an even keel. Now, in a recently published study, a team of scientists shed light on the role redox plays in cyanobacteria, tiny organisms with the potential to produce a lot of energy.

Theoretical study suggests huge lava tubes could exist on moon

March 20, 2015 7:37 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Lava tubes large enough to house cities could be structurally stable on the moon, according to a theoretical study. The volcanic features are an important target for future human space exploration because they could provide shelter from cosmic radiation, meteorite impacts and temperature extremes.

New transitory form of silica observed

March 20, 2015 7:28 am | by Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

A Carnegie Institute-led team was able to discover five new forms of silica under extreme pressures at room temperature. Silica is one of the most-abundant natural compounds and a major component of the Earth's crust and mantle. It is well-known even to non-scientists in its quartz crystalline form, which is a major component of sand in many places. It is used in the manufacture of microchips, cement, glass and even some toothpaste.

Plasmonic ceramic materials key to advances in nanophotonics

March 19, 2015 3:52 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Progress in developing nanophotonic devices capable of withstanding high temperatures and harsh conditions for applications including data storage, sensing, health care and energy will depend on the research community and industry adopting new "plasmonic ceramic" materials, according to a commentary in Science.

Milky Way’s center unveils supernova “dust factory”

March 19, 2015 3:09 pm | by Blaine Friedlander, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Sifting through the center of the Milky Way galaxy, astronomers have made the first direct observations, using an infrared telescope aboard a modified Boeing 747, of cosmic building-block dust resulting from an ancient supernova.

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Sharper nanoscopy

March 19, 2015 2:16 pm | by Phillip Schewe, Joint Quantum Institute | News | Comments

The 2014 chemistry Nobel Prize recognized important microscopy research that enabled greatly improved spatial resolution. This innovation, resulting in nanometer resolution, was made possible by making the emitter of the illumination quite small and by moving it quite close to the object being imaged. One problem with this approach is in such proximity, the emitter and object can interact with each other, blurring the resulting image.

New way to control light

March 19, 2015 1:30 pm | by Univ. of Central Florida | News | Comments

A device resembling a plastic honeycomb, yet infinitely smaller than a bee’s stinger, can steer light beams around tighter curves than ever before possible, while keeping the integrity and intensity of the beam intact. The work introduces a more effective way to transmit data rapidly on electronic circuit boards by using light.

Study holds great promise for advancing sustainable energy

March 19, 2015 12:56 pm | by Rutgers Univ. | News | Comments

New research published by Rutgers Univ. chemists has documented significant progress confronting one of the main challenges inhibiting widespread utilization of sustainable power: Creating a cost-effective process to store energy so it can be used later.

Researchers use shearing method to create nanofiber “gusher”

March 19, 2015 9:59 am | by Mick Kulikowski, North Carolina State Univ. News Services | News | Comments

Creating large amounts of polymer nanofibers dispersed in liquid is a challenge that has vexed researchers for years. But engineers and researchers at North Carolina State Univ. and one of its startup companies have now reported a method that can produce unprecedented amounts of polymer nanofibers, which have potential applications in filtration, batteries and cell scaffolding.

Rare-earth innovation to improve nylon manufacturing

March 19, 2015 8:56 am | by Laura Millsaps, Ames Laboratory Public Affairs | News | Comments

The Critical Materials Institute has created a new chemical process that makes use of the widely available rare-earth metal cerium to improve the manufacture of nylon. The process uses a cerium-based material made into nanometer-sized particles with a palladium catalyst to produce cyclohexanone, a key ingredient in the production of nylon.

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Watching quantum dots “breathe” in response to stress

March 19, 2015 8:44 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory watched nanoscale semiconductor crystals expand and shrink in response to powerful pulses of laser light. This ultrafast “breathing” provides new insight about how such tiny structures change shape as they start to melt: information that can help guide researchers in tailoring their use for a range of applications.

Green tea could improve MRIs

March 19, 2015 8:29 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Green tea’s popularity has grown quickly in recent years. Its fans can drink it, enjoy its flavor in their ice cream and slather it on their skin with lotions infused with it. Now, the tea could have a new, unexpected role—to improve the image quality of MRIs. Scientists report in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces that they successfully used compounds from green tea to help image cancer tumors in mice.

Model captures new dynamics of corrosion damage

March 19, 2015 8:13 am | by Scott Schrage, Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln Communications | News | Comments

Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln engineers have become the first to develop a model that literally looks beyond the surface of corrosion to better predict its spread. The model's unique capabilities could allow engineers to more precisely forecast catastrophic structural failures and design materials less susceptible to the widespread issue, the researchers reported.

Modeling how cells move together could inspire self-healing materials

March 19, 2015 8:02 am | by Louise Lerner, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

A paper published in Scientific Reports by a team led by physicist Igor Aronson of the Argonne National Laboratory modeled the motion of cells moving together. This may help scientists design new technologies inspired by nature, such as self-healing materials in batteries and other devices. Scientists have been borrowing ideas from the natural world for hundreds of years.

Researchers create fast-growing trees that are easier to turn into fuel

March 19, 2015 7:50 am | by James Hataway, Univ. of Georgia | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Georgia have discovered that manipulation of a specific gene in a hardwood tree species not only makes it easier to break down the wood into fuel, but also significantly increases tree growth. In a paper, the researchers describe how decreasing the expression of a gene called GAUT12.1 leads to a reduction in xylan and pectin.

More than a million stars are forming in a mysterious dusty gas cloud

March 18, 2015 4:22 pm | by Stuart Wolpert, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

More than a million young stars are forming in a hot, dusty cloud of molecular gases in a tiny galaxy near our own, an international team of astronomers has discovered. The star cluster is buried within a supernebula in a dwarf galaxy known as NGC 5253, in the constellation Centaurus. The cluster has one billion times the luminosity of our sun, but is invisible in ordinary light, hidden by its own hot gases.

Buckyballs become bucky-bombs

March 18, 2015 4:15 pm | by Robert Perkins, Univ. of Southern California | News | Comments

In 1996, a trio of scientists won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their discovery of Buckminsterfullerene: soccer-ball-shaped spheres of 60 joined carbon atoms that exhibit special physical properties. Now, 20 years later, scientists have figured out how to turn them into Buckybombs.

Improved understanding of protein complex offers insight into DNA replication

March 18, 2015 4:07 pm | by Angela Hardin, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

A clearer understanding of the origin recognition complex (ORC), a protein complex that directs DNA replication, through its crystal structure offers new insight into fundamental mechanisms of DNA replication initiation. This will also provide insight into how ORC may be compromised in a subset of patients with Meier-Gorlin syndrome, a form of dwarfism in humans.

Researchers fine-tune quantum dots from coal

March 18, 2015 1:54 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Graphene quantum dots made from coal, introduced in 2013 by the Rice Univ. laboratory of chemist James Tour, can be engineered for specific semiconducting properties in either of two single-step processes. In a new study, Tour and colleagues demonstrated fine control over the graphene-oxide dots’ size-dependent band gap, the property that makes them semiconductors.

New optical materials break digital connectivity barriers

March 18, 2015 12:03 pm | by George Hunka, Tel Aviv Univ. | News | Comments

From computers, tablets and smartphones to cars, homes and public transportation, our world is more digitally connected every day. The technology required to support the exchange of massive quantities of data is critical. That's why scientists and engineers are intent on developing faster computing units capable of supporting much larger amounts of data transfer and data processing.

Improved method for coating gold nanorods

March 18, 2015 11:55 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have fine-tuned a technique for coating gold nanorods with silica shells, allowing engineers to create large quantities of the nanorods and giving them more control over the thickness of the shell. Gold nanorods are being investigated for use in a wide variety of biomedical applications, and this advance paves the way for more stable gold nanorods and for chemically functionalizing the surface of the shells.

Superradiant matter: A new paradigm to explore dynamic phase transitions

March 18, 2015 10:32 am | by Univ. of Hamburg | News | Comments

If you put water in the freezer to make ice, you trigger a dynamic phase transition. Physicists gave that fancy name to a process which takes a system across a phase transition in a realistic time, to distinguish it from the hypothetical process which goes across the transition infinitely slow. This latter, hypothetical case is discussed in any college textbook.

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