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The Lead

Video games could dramatically streamline education research

September 19, 2014 9:12 am | by C. Brandon Chapman, Washington State Univ. | News | Comments

Washington State Univ. professor Rich Lamb has figured out a dramatically easier and more cost-effective way to do research on science curriculum in the classroom, and it could include playing video games. Called “computational modeling,” it involves a computer “learning” student behavior and then “thinking” as students would. Lamb, who teaches science education, says the process could revolutionize the way educational research is done.

Math model designed to replace invasive kidney biopsy for lupus patients

September 19, 2014 8:34 am | by Emily Caldwell, Ohio State Univ. | News | Comments

Mathematics might be able to reduce the need...

Fingertip sensor gives robot dexterity

September 19, 2014 7:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Northeastern Univ. have equipped...

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Sandia pioneers software for smart, sustainable institutions

September 18, 2014 8:13 am | by Stephanie Holinka, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories’ Institutional Transformation (IX) model helps the federal laboratory reduce its energy consumption and could help other large institutions do the same. The IX model allows planners to experiment with energy conservation measures before making expensive changes. It also models operations-oriented conservation methods.

Team aims to improve plant-based battery with neutrons, simulation

September 18, 2014 8:02 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

When Orlando Rios first started analyzing samples of carbon fibers made from a woody plant polymer known as lignin, he noticed something unusual. The material’s microstructure—a mixture of perfectly spherical nanoscale crystallites distributed within a fibrous matrix—looked almost too good to be true.

New algorithms lets owners swap, recharge battery modules in electric cars

September 17, 2014 1:51 pm | News | Comments

Imagine being able to switch out the batteries in electric cars just like you switch out batteries in a photo camera or flashlight. Engineers in California are trying to accomplish just that, in partnership with a local San Diego engineering company. Rather than swapping out the whole battery, which is cumbersome and requires large, heavy equipment, engineers plan to swap out and recharge smaller units within the battery, known as modules.

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Designing more successful synthetic molecules

September 17, 2014 11:08 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service | News | Comments

Ever since Robert Hooke first described cells in 1665, scientists have been trying to figure out what goes on inside. One of the most exciting modern techniques involves injecting cells with synthetic genetic molecules that can passively report on the cell's behavior. A new computer model could not only improve the sensitivity and success of these synthetic molecules, but also make them easier to design in the first place.

Scientists twist radio beams to send data

September 17, 2014 10:55 am | by Robert Perkins, Univ. of Southern California | News | Comments

Building on previous research that twisted light to send data at unheard-of speeds, scientists at the Univ. of Southern California (USC) have developed a similar technique with radio waves, reaching high speeds without some of the hassles that can go with optical systems. The researchers reached data transmission rates of 32 Gbps across 2.5 m of free space in a basement laboratory at USC.

Toward optical chips

September 17, 2014 9:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Chips that use light, rather than electricity, to move data would consume much less power. Of the three chief components of optical circuits—light emitters, modulators and detectors—emitters are the toughest to build. One promising light source for optical chips is molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), which has excellent optical properties when deposited as a single, atom-thick layer.

For electronics beyond silicon, a new contender emerges

September 17, 2014 8:13 am | by Caroline Perry, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Silicon has few serious competitors as the material of choice in the electronics industry. Yet transistors can’t simply keep shrinking to meet the needs of powerful, compact devices; physical limitations like energy consumption and heat dissipation are too significant. Now, using a quantum material called a correlated oxide, researchers have achieved a reversible change in electrical resistance of eight orders of magnitude.

First water-based nuclear battery can be used to generate electrical energy

September 16, 2014 6:51 pm | News | Comments

Betavoltaics, a battery technology that generates power from radiation, has been studied as an energy source since the 1950s. Now, for the first time using a water-based solution, researchers at the Univ. of Missouri have created a long-lasting and more efficient nuclear battery that could be used for many applications such as a reliable energy source in automobiles and also in complicated applications such as space flight.

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Lockheed Martin conducts flight tests of aircraft laser turret

September 16, 2014 11:35 am | News | Comments

An interdisciplinary development team that includes Lockheed Martin, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Univ. of Notre Dame has demonstrated the airworthiness of a new beam control turret being developed for DARPA to give 360-degree coverage for high-energy laser weapons operating on military aircraft. An aircraft equipped with the laser has already conducted eight test flights in Michigan.

Want to print your own cell phone microscope for pennies?

September 16, 2014 8:01 am | by Susan Bauer, PNNL | Videos | Comments

At one o'clock in the morning, layers of warm plastic are deposited on the platform of the 3-D printer that sits on scientist Rebecca Erikson's desk. A small plastic housing, designed to fit over the end of a cell phone, begins to take shape. Pulling it from the printer, Erikson quickly pops in a tiny glass bead and checks the magnification.

Bound for robotic glory

September 16, 2014 7:56 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

The fastest land animal on Earth, the cheetah, is able to accelerate to 60 mph in just a few seconds. As it ramps up to top speed, a cheetah pumps its legs in tandem, bounding until it reaches a full gallop. Now, researchers have developed an algorithm for bounding that they’ve successfully implemented in a fully functional robotic cheetah.

“Squid skin” metamaterials project yields vivid color display

September 16, 2014 7:41 am | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

The quest to create artificial “squid skin”—camouflaging metamaterials that can “see” colors and automatically blend into the background—is one step closer to reality, thanks to a breakthrough color-display technology unveiled by Rice Univ. The new full-color display technology uses aluminum nanoparticles to create the vivid red, blue and green hues found in today’s top-of-the-line LCD televisions and monitors.

Moving silicon atoms in graphene with atomic precision

September 15, 2014 10:34 am | Videos | Comments

In recent years, it has become possible to see directly individual atoms using electron microscopy, especially in graphene. Using electron microscopy and computer simulations, an international team has recently shown how an electron beam can move silicon atoms through the graphene lattice without causing damage.

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The shadow of a disease

September 15, 2014 8:45 am | News | Comments

Researchers have developed an optical method that makes individual proteins, such as the proteins characteristic of some cancers, visible. Other methods that achieve this only work if the target biomolecules have first been labeled with fluorescent tags, but this approach is very difficult. By contrast, the new method allows scientists to directly detect the scattered light of individual proteins via their shadows.

Apple's smartwatch: Timely idea or clocked out?

September 12, 2014 9:24 am | by Mae Anderson, AP Technology Writer | News | Comments

A habitual party crasher, Apple has a history of arriving late and making a big splash in various gadget categories. But can it continue with the Apple Watch? Smartwatches have been around for a few years, but makers such as Samsung and Sony have failed to make them a runaway hit. Apple's Watch won't go on sale until early 2015 and raises questions: Can the company work its magic as it has in the past?

The sound of an atom has been captured

September 11, 2014 4:46 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Sweden have shown how to use sound to communicate with an artificial atom, in this case an electric circuit that obeys quantum laws. By coupling acoustic waves to the atom, they can demonstrate phenomena from quantum physics with sound taking on the role of light.

World’s first 3-D printed car being assembled at IMTS

September 10, 2014 6:15 pm | Videos | Comments

During the six-day IMTS manufacturing technology show in Chicago this week, the “Strati” will be the first vehicle printed in one piece using direct digital manufacturing. The process will take more than 44 hours of print time. A team including Local Motors, Cincinnati Inc. and Oak Ridge National Laboratory will then rapidly assemble it for a historic first set for Saturday.

Optical circuit uses record low energy to operate

September 10, 2014 6:07 pm | by Nik Papageorgiou, EPFL | News | Comments

Optical circuits use light instead of electricity, making them faster and more energy-efficient than electrical systems. Scientists in Switzerland have now developed a silicon-based photonic crystal nanocavity to be used as a first building-block for photonic “transistors”. The new device requires record low energy to operate.

Nanotechnology aids in cooling electrons without external sources

September 10, 2014 1:23 pm | News | Comments

A team of researchers has discovered a way to cool electrons to -228 C without external means and at room temperature, an advancement that could enable electronic devices to function with very little energy. The process involves passing electrons through a quantum well to cool them and keep them from heating.

“Electronic skin” could improve early breast cancer detection

September 10, 2014 1:09 pm | News | Comments

For detecting cancer, manual breast exams seem low-tech compared to other methods such as MRI. But scientists are now developing an “electronic skin” that “feels” and images small lumps that fingers can miss. Knowing the size and shape of a lump could allow for earlier identification of breast cancer, which could save lives.

Where to grab space debris

September 10, 2014 10:10 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Objects in space tend to spin—and spin in a way that’s totally different from the way they spin on earth. Understanding how objects are spinning, where their centers of mass are, and how their mass is distributed is crucial to any number of actual or potential space missions, from cleaning up debris in the geosynchronous orbit favored by communications satellites to landing a demolition crew on a comet.

New digital map reveals stunning hidden archaeology of Stonehenge

September 10, 2014 10:03 am | Videos | Comments

A high-tech survey reveals that there is more to Stonehenge than meets the eye, finding previously unknown monuments. Researchers have produced digital maps of what's beneath the World Heritage Site, using ground-penetrating radar, high-resolution magnetometers and other techniques to peer deep into the soil. And they have found some surprises.

Apple pushes digital wallet with Apple Pay

September 10, 2014 8:47 am | by Mae Anderson, AP Technology Writer | News | Comments

Apple is betting that people want to pay with a tap of the phone rather than a swipe of the card. The technology company on Tuesday introduced a new digital wallet service called Apple Pay that is integrated with its Passbook credential-storage app and its fingerprint ID security system. The announcement came as Apple introduced several new products including a new, larger iPhone 6 and a watch.

Wireless experts tap unused TV spectrum

September 10, 2014 8:30 am | News | Comments

Rice Univ. wireless researchers have found a way to make the most of the unused UHF TV spectrum by serving up fat streams of data over wireless hotspots that could stretch for miles. In a presentation today at the Association for Computing Machinery's MobiCom 2014 conference, researchers will unveil a multiuser, multiantenna transmission scheme for UHF, a portion of the radio spectrum that is usually reserved for television broadcasts.

Engineer aims to connect the world with ant-sized radios

September 10, 2014 7:57 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | Videos | Comments

A Stanford Univ. engineering team has built a radio the size of an ant, a device so energy efficient that it gathers all the power it needs from the same electromagnetic waves that carry signals to its receiving antenna. Designed to compute, execute and relay commands, this tiny wireless chip costs pennies to fabricate.

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