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Solar fuels as generated by nature

August 25, 2014 7:39 am | News | Comments

A research team investigating an important cofactor in photosynthesis, a manganese-calcium complex which uses solar energy to split water into molecular oxygen, have determined the exact structure of this complex at a crucial stage in the chemical reaction. The new insights into how molecular oxygen is formed at this metal complex may provide a blueprint for synthetic systems that could store sunlight energy in chemical energy carriers.

Sunlight controls the fate of carbon released from thawing Arctic permafrost

August 22, 2014 9:20 am | by Bernie DeGroat, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Just how much Arctic permafrost will thaw in the future and how fast heat-trapping carbon dioxide will be released from those warming soils is a topic of lively debate among climate scientists. To answer those questions, scientists need to understand the mechanisms that control the conversion of organic soil carbon into carbon dioxide gas. Until now, researchers believed that bacteria were largely responsible.

Team finds first evidence of spin symmetry in atoms

August 22, 2014 9:07 am | by Laura Ost, NIST | News | Comments

Just as diamonds with perfect symmetry may be unusually brilliant jewels, the quantum world has a symmetrical splendor of high scientific value. Confirming this exotic quantum physics theory, JILA physicists have observed the first direct evidence of symmetry in the magnetic properties—or nuclear “spins”—of atoms.

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Shaping the future of nanocrystals

August 22, 2014 8:55 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

The first direct observations of how facets form and develop on platinum nanocubes point the way towards more sophisticated and effective nanocrystal design and reveal that a nearly 150 year-old scientific law describing crystal growth breaks down at the nanoscale.

Sunblock poses potential hazard to sea life

August 22, 2014 8:24 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

The sweet and salty aroma of sunscreen and seawater signals a relaxing trip to the shore. But scientists are now reporting that the idyllic beach vacation comes with an environmental hitch. When certain sunblock ingredients wash off skin and into the sea, they can become toxic to some of the ocean’s tiniest inhabitants, which are the main course for many other marine animals.

Electric sparks may alter evolution of lunar soil

August 22, 2014 8:18 am | by David Sims, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, Univ. of New Hampshire | News | Comments

The moon appears to be a tranquil place, but modeling done by Univ. of New Hampshire and NASA scientists suggests that, over the eons, periodic storms of solar energetic particles may have significantly altered the properties of the soil in the moon’s coldest craters through the process of sparking—a finding that could change our understanding of the evolution of planetary surfaces in the solar system.

Laser device may end pin pricks for diabetics

August 22, 2014 8:07 am | by John Sullivan, Office of Engineering Communications, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Princeton Univ. researchers have developed a way to use a laser to measure people's blood sugar, and, with more work to shrink the laser system to a portable size, the technique could allow diabetics to check their condition without pricking themselves to draw blood.

Clues uncovered to role of magnetism in iron-based superconductors

August 22, 2014 7:57 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

New measurements of atomic-scale magnetic behavior in iron-based superconductors by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Vanderbilt Univ. are challenging conventional wisdom about superconductivity and magnetism. The study provides experimental evidence that local magnetic fluctuations can influence the performance of iron-based superconductors, which transmit electric current without resistance at relatively high temperatures.

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Researchers map quantum vortices inside superfluid helium nanodroplets

August 22, 2014 7:41 am | by Kate Greene, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have, for the first time, characterized so-called quantum vortices that swirl within tiny droplets of liquid helium. The research, led by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Univ. of Southern California and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, confirms that helium nanodroplets are in fact the smallest possible superfluidic objects and opens new avenues for studying quantum rotation.

Scientists develop water splitter that runs on ordinary AAA battery

August 22, 2014 7:27 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | Videos | Comments

In 2015, American consumers will finally be able to purchase fuel cell cars from Toyota and other manufacturers. Although touted as zero-emissions vehicles, most of the cars will run on hydrogen made from natural gas, a fossil fuel that contributes to global warming. Now scientists at Stanford Univ. have developed a low-cost, emissions-free device that uses an ordinary AAA battery to produce hydrogen by water electrolysis.

Researchers use 3-D printers to create custom medical implants

August 21, 2014 10:18 am | by Dave Guerin, Louisiana Tech Univ. | News | Comments

A team of researchers at Louisiana Tech Univ. has developed an innovative method for using affordable, consumer-grade 3-D printers and materials to fabricate custom medical implants that can contain antibacterial and chemotherapeutic compounds for targeted drug delivery.

Yale’s cool molecules are a hot item

August 21, 2014 10:03 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

It’s official. Yale Univ. physicists have chilled the world’s coolest molecules. The tiny titans in question are bits of strontium monofluoride, dropped to 2.5 thousandths of a degree above absolute zero through a laser cooling and isolating process called magneto-optical trapping. They are the coldest molecules ever achieved through direct cooling, and they represent a physics milestone.

Exploring 3-D printing to make organs for transplants

August 21, 2014 9:46 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Printing whole new organs for transplants sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but the real-life budding technology could one day make actual kidneys, livers, hearts and other organs for patients who desperately need them. In Langmuir, scientists are reporting new understanding about the dynamics of 3-D bioprinting that takes them a step closer to realizing their goal of making working tissues and organs on-demand.

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Delivery by drone

August 21, 2014 9:16 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In the near future, the package that you ordered online may be deposited at your doorstep by a drone: Last December, online retailer Amazon announced plans to explore drone-based delivery, suggesting that fleets of flying robots might serve as autonomous messengers that shuttle packages to customers within 30 mins of an order.

Researchers develop models to study polyelectrolytes

August 21, 2014 9:04 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | Videos | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a novel and versatile modeling strategy to simulate polyelectrolyte systems. The model has applications for creating new materials as well as for studying polyelectrolytes, including DNA and RNA. Polyelectrolytes are chains of molecules that are positively or negatively charged when placed in water.

Univ. of Washington project becomes focal point in hunt for dark matter

August 21, 2014 8:47 am | by Vince Stricherz, News and Information, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Three major experiments aimed at detecting elusive dark matter particles believed to make up most of the matter in the universe have gotten a financial shot in the arm. Two of the projects are at large national laboratories; the other is at the Univ. of Washington (UW). The selection will bring greater intensity to the UW research, with more equipment and scientists involved in the work.

New framework would facilitate use of new Android security modules

August 21, 2014 8:35 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Computer security researchers have developed a modification to the core Android operating system that allows developers and users to plug in new security enhancements. The new Android Security Modules (ASM) framework aims to eliminate the bottleneck that prevents developers and users from taking advantage of new security tools.

Programmed to fold: RNA origami

August 21, 2014 8:27 am | by Katie Neith, California Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers from Aarhus Univ. and Caltech have developed a new method for organizing molecules on the nanoscale. Inspired by techniques used for folding DNA origami, the team fabricated complicated shapes from DNA's close chemical cousin, RNA. Unlike DNA origami, whose components are chemically synthesized and then folded in an artificial heating and cooling process, RNA origami are enzymatically synthesized.

Nuclear reactor reliability: Fast test proves viable

August 21, 2014 8:12 am | by Kate McAlpine, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

A speedy way to mimic the aging of materials inside nuclear reactors has matched all aspects of the damage sustained by a real reactor component for the first time. The method could help the U.S. and other countries stay ahead of potential problems in reactors that run for 40 years or more and also test materials for building advanced reactors.

Treating pain by blocking the chili-pepper receptor

August 21, 2014 8:00 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

As anyone who has bitten into a chili pepper knows, its burning spiciness—though irresistible to some—is intolerable to others. Scientists exploring the chili pepper’s effect are using their findings to develop a new drug candidate for many kinds of pain, which can be caused by inflammation or other problems. They reported their progress on the compound, which is being tested in clinical trials, in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Water leads to chemical that gunks up biofuels production

August 21, 2014 7:53 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Trying to understand the chemistry that turns plant material into the same energy-rich gasoline and diesel we put in our vehicles, researchers have discovered that water in the conversion process helps form an impurity which, in turn, slows down key chemical reactions. The study, which was reported online at the Journal of the American Chemical Society, can help improve processes that produce biofuels from plants.

Unlocking the potential of simulation software

August 21, 2014 7:44 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

With a method known as finite element analysis (FEA), engineers can generate 3-D digital models of large structures to simulate how they’ll fare under stress, vibrations, heat and other real-world conditions. Used for mapping out large-scale structures, these simulations require intensive computation done by powerful computers over many hours, costing engineering firms much time and money.

New Playing Field for Localization Microscopy

August 20, 2014 3:58 pm | Carl Zeiss | Award Winners

Prior to the introduction of the ELYRA P.1 with 3D PALM by Carl Zeiss Microscopy LLC, commercially available 3-D localization techniques resulted in images where the resolution was not uniform throughout a small capture volume due to location dependent localization precision. The utilization of these techniques would not allow researchers to model biological structures in a fast and reliable manner over large capture volumes.

Pocket Microscope

August 20, 2014 3:28 pm | Award Winners

Most microscopes are expensive, built with high-quality metals, optics and electronics to perform with high accuracy. However, not all useful microscopes need to be built this way, and Stanford Univ. has taken this premise to the extreme with a microscope that is made with parts that cost less than $1. A frugal, origami-based solution, the Foldscope can be assembled from 2-D media in less than 10 min, yet can provide more than 2,000X magnification, which is submicrometer resolution.

Lifting Limits on Thermal AFM

August 20, 2014 3:18 pm | Award Winners

With the introduction of the VertiSense Scanning Thermal Microscopy Module, Applied NanoStructures Inc. has brought a new level of flexibility to thermal imaging using an atomic force microscope (AFM). The probe module’s sensor design provides, for the first time, absolute and nanoscale temperature measurement during the application of scanning thermal microscopy (SThM), which captures both topographical and thermal images.

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