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The Lead

What a “Star Wars” laser bullet really looks like

October 22, 2014 2:50 pm | News | Comments

Action-packed science-fiction movies often feature colorful laser bolts. But what would a real laser missile look like during flight, if we could only make it out? How would it illuminate its surroundings? The answers lie in a film made by researchers in Poland who have captured the passage of an ultrashort laser pulse through the air.

Researchers record sight neurons in jumping spider brain

October 22, 2014 2:43 pm | Videos | Comments

Though neurobiologists have tried for half a century to better understand the brains of jumping...

See-through sensors open new window into the brain

October 22, 2014 11:22 am | by Renee Meiller, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Developing invisible implantable medical sensor arrays, a team of Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison...

NASA Webb’s heart survives deep freeze test

October 22, 2014 9:05 am | by Laura Betz, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

After 116 days of being subjected to extremely frigid temperatures like that in space, the heart...

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Special microscope captures defects in nanotubes

October 22, 2014 8:16 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Oregon chemists have devised a way to see the internal structures of electronic waves trapped in carbon nanotubes by external electrostatic charges. Their atomic scale observations provide a detailed view of traps that disrupt energy flow, possibly pointing toward improved charge-carrying devices.

New 3-D printing algorithms speed production, reduce waste

October 22, 2014 7:51 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

New software algorithms have been shown to significantly reduce the time and material needed to produce objects with 3-D printers. Because the printers create objects layer-by-layer from the bottom up, this poses a challenge when printing overhanging or protruding features like a figure's outstretched arms. They must be formed using supporting structures—which are later removed—adding time and material to the process.

Ultra-thin carbon electrodes are powerful tool for studying brain disorders

October 21, 2014 11:34 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Pennsylvania and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have used graphene to fabricate a new type of microelectrode that solves a major problem for investigators looking to understand the intricate circuitry of the brain. The see-through, one-atom-thick electrodes can obtain both high-resolution optical images and electrophysiological data for the first time.

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Researchers take big data approach to estimate range of electric vehicles

October 21, 2014 10:58 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed new software that estimates how much farther electric vehicles can drive before needing to recharge. The new technique requires drivers to plug in their destination and automatically pulls in data on a host of variables to predict energy use for the vehicle.

Physicists build reversible tractor beam

October 21, 2014 9:45 am | News | Comments

Laser physicists in Australia have built a tractor beam that can repel and attract objects, using a hollow laser beam that is bright around the edges and dark in its center. It is the first long-distance optical tractor beam and has moved particles one-fifth of a millimeter in diameter a distance of up to 20 cm, around 100 times further than previous experiments.

Restoring order: A spin Hall effect without the fuss

October 21, 2014 9:09 am | by S. Kelley, Joint Quantum Institute | News | Comments

Joint Quantum Institute scientists have been developing a model for what happens when ultracold atomic spins are trapped in an optical lattice structure with a “double-valley” feature, where the repeating unit resembles the letter “W”. This new theory result opens up a novel path for generating what’s known as the spin Hall effect, an important example of spin-transport.

Supercomputers link proteins to drug side effects

October 21, 2014 8:48 am | by Kenneth Ma, LLNL | News | Comments

New medications created by pharmaceutical companies have helped millions of Americans alleviate pain and suffering from their medical conditions. However, the drug creation process often misses many side effects that kill at least 100,000 patients a year, according to Nature.

World record in data transmission with smart circuits

October 21, 2014 7:39 am | News | Comments

Fewer cords, smaller antennas and quicker video transmission. This may be the result of a new type of microwave circuit that was designed at Chalmers Univ. of Technology. The research team behind the circuits currently holds an attention-grabbing record: 40 Gbps, about twice as fast as the previous record at 140 GHz. The results will be presented at a conference this week in San Diego.

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When emotions control objects

October 20, 2014 11:51 am | by Cécilia Carron, EPFL | Videos | Comments

Sensors developed by SmartCardia, a spin-off from EPFL in Switzerland, use various biological vital signs to transmit data to a host of everyday objects. This data, which includes heart rate, respiration activity, skin conductivity and physical exertion, can be used dim a light, control immersive playing on a computer, and track yoga exercises in real time.

Atomic trigger shatters mystery of how glass deforms

October 20, 2014 11:04 am | News | Comments

Research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has cracked one mystery of glass to shed light on the mechanism that triggers its deformation before shattering. The study improves understanding of glassy deformation and may accelerate broader application of metallic glass, a moldable, wear-resistant, magnetically exploitable material that is thrice as strong as the mightiest steel and ten times as springy.

Energy storage of the future

October 20, 2014 7:55 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

Personal electronics such as cell phones and laptops could get a boost from some of the lightest materials in the world. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have turned to graphene aerogel for enhanced electrical energy storage that eventually could be used to smooth out power fluctuations in the energy grid.

The Jefferson Project at Lake George unveils state-of-the-art data visualization laboratory

October 17, 2014 11:47 am | Videos | Comments

A partnership between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, IBM, and the FUND for Lake George has developed preliminary models of key natural processes within the watershed. A network of 12 sensor platforms including vertical profilers and tributary monitoring stations are now being deployed in Lake George and its tributaries, providing an unprecedented amount of data for researchers that will be interpreted at a new visualization laboratory.

Sound-powered chip to serve as medical device

October 17, 2014 9:18 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Medical researchers would like to plant tiny electronic devices deep inside our bodies to monitor biological processes and deliver pinpoint therapies to treat illness or relieve pain. But so far engineers have been unable to make such devices small and useful enough. Providing electric power to medical implants has been one stumbling block. Using wires or batteries to deliver power tends to make implants too big, too clumsy—or both.

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Dispelling a misconception about Mg-ion batteries

October 17, 2014 8:01 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries are popular, but have limitations in energy density, lifetime and safety. One alternative is Mg-ion batteries. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory ran a series of computer simulations that suggest that performance bottlenecks experienced with Mg-ion batteries to date may not be so much related to the electrolyte itself, but to what happens at the interface between the electrolyte and electrodes.

Superconducting circuits, simplified

October 17, 2014 7:49 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Computer chips with superconducting circuits would be 50 to 100 times as energy efficient as today’s chips, an attractive trait given the increasing power consumption of the massive data centers that power Internet sites. Superconducting chips also promise greater processing power: Superconducting circuits that use so-called Josephson junctions have been clocked at 770 GHz, or 500 times the speed of the chip in the iPhone 6.

Computing with magnetic “tornadoes”

October 16, 2014 10:27 am | News | Comments

Magnetic materials store the vast majority of the 2.7 zettabytes of data that are currently held worldwide. In the interest of efficiency, scientists have begun to investigate whether magnetic materials can also be used to perform calculations. In a recent paper, researchers in the U.K. detail their plan to harness swirling “tornadoes” of magnetization in nanowires to perform logic functions. They plan to soon build prototypes.

Project to detect possible damages in aircraft parts early in process

October 16, 2014 9:21 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Texas at Arlington engineering professors have received an Air Force grant to examine the material surface at the micro- and nano-scale level that will provide clues for predicting fatigue in aircraft parts. The new approach will rely on a scanning whitelight interferometric surface profiler integrated with a compact mechanical tester and an electron backscatter diffraction module to deliver in-situ 3-D surface profiling.

A brighter design emerges for low-cost, “greener” LED light bulbs

October 15, 2014 2:52 pm | News | Comments

The phase-out of traditional incandescent bulbs in the U.S. and elsewhere, as well as a growing interest in energy efficiency, has given LED lighting a sales boost. That trend could be short-lived as key materials known as rare earth elements become more expensive. Scientists at Rutgers Univ., however, have now designed new materials for making household LED bulbs without using these ingredients.

Researchers develop world’s thinnest electric generator

October 15, 2014 2:47 pm | News | Comments

Scientists report that they have made the first experimental observation of piezoelectricity and the piezotronic effect in an atomically thin material, molybdenum disulfide. This finding has resulted in a unique electric generator and could point the way to mechanosensation devices that are optically transparent, extremely light, and very bendable and stretchable.

Spacecraft to attempt comet landing next month

October 15, 2014 11:56 am | News | Comments

The European Space Agency has confirmed the time and place it will attempt to land the first spacecraft on a comet. The unmanned probe Rosetta will release a 100-kg (220-lb) lander on Nov. 12 in a maneuver that will take about seven hours.

Can it be real? Augmented reality melds work, play

October 15, 2014 9:12 am | by Salim Essaid, Associated Press Writer | News | Comments

Mark Skwarek has raised over $30,000 on the group fundraising site Kickstarter to launch Semblance Augmented Reality (AR). His company aims to liberate video games from the TV and turn them into physical experiences, such as battling militants in New York’s Central Park. He's poised to release Semblance AR's first app for iOS and Android phones.

Serendipitous holography reveals hidden cracks in shocked targets

October 15, 2014 8:35 am | by Breanna Bishop, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

In a recent article published in the Review of Scientific Instruments, a research team led by scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory describe a technique for 3-D image processing of a high-speed photograph of a target, "freezing" its motion and revealing hidden secrets. This technique is particularly applicable in targets that are "shocked."

Revving up fluorescence for superfast LEDs

October 14, 2014 9:17 am | News | Comments

Duke Univ. researchers have made fluorescent molecules emit photons of light 1,000 times faster than normal, setting a speed record and making an important step toward realizing superfast light emitting diodes (LEDs) and quantum cryptography. This finding could help make LED technology, which earned a Nobel Prize this year, suitable for use as a light source in light-based telecommunications.

Rediscovering Venus to find faraway Earths

October 14, 2014 9:12 am | News | Comments

Astronomers Chih-Hao Li and David Phillips of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics want to rediscover Venus. They plan to “find” the second planet again using a powerful new optical device installed on the Italian National Telescope that will measure Venus' precise gravitational pull on the sun. If they succeed, their first-of-its-kind demonstration will be later used for finding Earth-like exoplanets orbiting distant stars.

Force-sensing microrobots to probe cells

October 14, 2014 7:56 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

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.

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