When trying to design a mechanical system to last as long as possible, scientists and engineers have to find ways of overcoming friction. While researchers have found many materials that help to reduce friction, conventional lubricants often have chemical limitations. A recent analysis at Argonne National Laboratory has identified the properties of a newer, wear-resistant substance that works in a broader range of environments.
Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have obtained the first direct observations of atomic diffusion inside a bulk material. The research, which could be used to give unprecedented insight into the lifespan and properties of new materials, is published in Physical Review Letters.
A new study by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and other institutions suggests a cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The team's work supports a common theme whereby loss of protein stability leads to disease.
Inexpensive microrobots capable of probing and manipulating individual cells and tissue for biological research and medical applications are closer to reality with the design of a system that senses the minute forces exerted by a robot's tiny probe. Microrobots small enough to interact with cells already exist. However, there is no easy, inexpensive way to measure the small forces applied to cells by the robots, until now.
In 2012, the Mars One project, led by a Dutch nonprofit, announced plans to establish the first human colony on the Red Planet by 2025. The mission would initially send four astronauts on a one-way trip to Mars, where they would spend the rest of their lives building the first permanent human settlement.
In a new experiment, Joint Quantum Institute physicists have performed an experiment using incoherent light, where the light is a jumble of waves, and “stupid” photon detectors that only count to zero. The surprising result from sending this light through a double-slit baffle was a sharp 30-nm-wide interference effect, a new extreme for this type of light detection and a possible new avenue to effective sub-wavelength imaging.
Developing the cloak of invisibility would be wonderful, but sometimes simply making an object appear to be something else will do the trick, according to Penn State Univ. engineers. To do this, they employ what they call "illusion coatings," which are made of a thin flexible substrate with copper patterns designed to create the desired result. The metamaterial coatings can function normally while appearing as something else.
Some people might consider mucus an icky bodily secretion best left wrapped in a tissue, but to a group of researchers in North Carolina, snot is an endlessly fascinating subject. The team has developed a way to use gold nanoparticles and light to measure the stickiness of the slimy substance that lines our airways. The new method could help doctors better monitor and treat lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have created a synthetic molecule that mimics “good” cholesterol and have shown it can reduce plaque buildup in the arteries of animal models. The molecule, taken orally, improved cholesterol in just two weeks.
As befitting life’s blueprint, DNA is surrounded by an elaborate security system that assures crucial information is imparted without error. The security is provided by a double membrane perforated by protein channels that block unwanted material from entering the nucleus and promote entry of key messengers.
Scientists at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) in Singapore have developed a new type of lithium-ion battery in which the traditional graphite used for the anode has been replaced with a new gel material made from titanium dioxide. The new design allows the battery to endure more than 10,000 cycles, vs. about 500 recharge cycles for typical rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
Two research teams working in the same laboratories in Australia have found distinct solutions to a critical challenge that has held back the realization of super powerful quantum computers. The teams created two types of quantum bits, or "qubits", which are the building blocks for quantum computers, that each process quantum data with an accuracy above 99%. They represent parallel pathways for building a quantum computer in silicon.
American electrical utilities do a pretty fantastic job of getting us electricity when we need it. In 2006, the power was out on average for just 0.03% of the year in the U.S. But right now, this system depends on getting most of its power from coal, nuclear and gas plants: big, dependable power plants that can be turned on and off when needed.
Biomedical engineering researchers have developed a drug delivery system consisting of nanoscale “cocoons” made of DNA that target cancer cells and trick the cells into absorbing the cocoon before unleashing anticancer drugs. The new system is DNA-based, which means it is biocompatible and less toxic to patients than systems that use synthetic materials.
A surprising phenomenon has been found in metal nanoparticles: They appear, from the outside, to be liquid droplets, wobbling and readily changing shape, while their interiors retain a perfectly stable crystal configuration. The research team behind the finding says the work could have important implications for the design of components in nanotechnology, such as metal contacts for molecular electronic circuits.
Stanford Univ. engineers have invented a sensor that uses radio waves to detect subtle changes in pressure. Already used to monitor brain pressure in laboratory mice as prelude to possible use with human patients, this pressure-sensing technology relies on a specially designed rubber and could lead to touch-sensitive “skin” for prosthetic devices.
Using a common laboratory filter paper decorated with gold nanoparticles, researchers at Washington Univ. in St. Louis have created a unique platform, known as “plasmonic paper,” for detecting and characterizing even trace amounts of chemicals and biologically important molecules, including explosives, chemical warfare agents, environmental pollutants and disease markers.
By focusing on large, star-forming galaxies in the universe, researchers at Johns Hopkins Univ. were able to measure its radiation leaks in an effort to better understand how the universe evolved as the first stars were formed. The team reports in a paper published online in Science that an indicator used for studying star-forming galaxies that leak radiation, is an effective measurement tool for other scientists to use.
Hepatitis C, an infectious disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), affects 160 million people worldwide. There’s no vaccine for HCV and the few treatments that are available do not work on all variants of the virus. Before scientists can develop potential vaccines and additional therapies they must first thoroughly understand the molecular-level activity that takes place when the virus infects a host cell.
Plant scientists are working to improve important food crops to meet the food needs of a growing world population. However, boosting crop output will require improving more than what can be seen of these plants above the ground. Root systems are essential to gathering water and nutrients, but understanding what’s happening in these unseen parts of the plants has until now depended mostly on lab studies and subjective field measurements.
The amazing ability of sidewinder snakes to quickly climb sandy slopes was once something biologists only vaguely understood and roboticists only dreamed of replicating. By studying the snakes in a unique bed of inclined sand and using a snake-like robot to test ideas spawned by observing the real animals, both biologists and roboticists have now gained long-sought insights, including how sidewinders effectively traverse sandy slopes.
When Illinois researchers set out to investigate a method to control how DNA moves through a tiny sequencing device, they didn’t know they were about to witness a display of molecular gymnastics. Fast, accurate and affordable DNA sequencing is the first step toward personalized medicine.
Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. have unveiled a new method to form tiny 3-D metal nanoparticles in prescribed shapes and dimensions using DNA, nature's building block, as a construction mold. The ability to mold inorganic nanoparticles out of materials such as gold and silver in precisely designed 3-D shapes is a significant breakthrough.
What could the natural diversity and beauty of plant leaves have in common with the violin? Much more than you might imagine. Dan Chitwood of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis is applying “morphometrics”, which statistically tests hypotheses about factors that affect shape, to changes in the shape of violins over time. His work revealed a strong degree of design transmission and imitation.
When a sturdy material becomes soft and spongy, one usually suspects damage. But this is not always the case, especially in biological cells. By looking at microscopic biopolymer networks, researchers in Germany revealed that such materials soften by undergoing a transition from an entangled spaghetti of filaments to aligned layers of bow-shaped filaments that slide past each other. This finding may explain how other filaments flow.