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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.

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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.

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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.

Getting sharp images from dull detectors

October 13, 2014 11:14 am | News | Comments

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.

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Ultra-fast charging batteries last 20 years, charge to 70% in 2 min

October 13, 2014 9:02 am | News | Comments

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.

Teams set new records for silicon quantum computing

October 13, 2014 8:55 am | Videos | Comments

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.

Millions of voiceprints quietly being harvested

October 13, 2014 8:44 am | by Raphael Satter, Associated Press | News | Comments

Over the telephone, in jail and online, a new digital bounty is being harvested: the human voice. Businesses and governments around the world increasingly are turning to voice biometrics, or voiceprints, to pay pensions, collect taxes, track criminals and replace passwords. Those companies have helped enter more than 65 million voiceprints into corporate and government databases.

New sensor uses radio waves to detect subtle changes in pressure

October 10, 2014 2:09 pm | Videos | Comments

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.

Satellite sees hot spot of methane in U.S. Southwest

October 10, 2014 9:14 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

A surprising hot spot of the potent global-warming gas methane hovers over part of the southwestern U.S., according to satellite data. That result hints that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies considerably underestimate leaks of methane, also called natural gas. While methane isn't the most plentiful heat-trapping gas, scientists worry about its increasing amounts and have had difficulties tracking emissions.

Automated imaging system looks underground to improve crops

October 10, 2014 8:22 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

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.

Plant scientist discovers basis of evolution in violins

October 9, 2014 11:34 am | News | Comments

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.

Light frequencies sniff out deadly materials from a distance

October 9, 2014 10:56 am | News | Comments

Spectroscopic chemical sensing has great promise, but current technologies lack sensitivity and broad spectral coverage. DARPA’s Spectral Combs from UV to THz (SCOUT) program aims to overcome these limitations. The goal is to develop chip-sized, optical frequency combs that accurately identify even tiny traces of dangerous biological and chemical substances several football fields away, DARPA is now soliciting proposals for a solution.

Electrically conductive plastics promising for batteries, solar cells

October 9, 2014 10:46 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

An emerging class of electrically conductive plastics called "radical polymers” may bring low-cost, transparent solar cells, flexible and lightweight batteries, and ultrathin antistatic coatings for consumer electronics and aircraft. Researchers have established the solid-state electrical properties of one such polymer, called PTMA, which is about 10 times more electrically conductive than common semiconducting polymers.

NIST quantum probe enhances electric field measurements

October 9, 2014 8:37 am | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST and the Univ. of Michigan have demonstrated a technique based on the quantum properties of atoms that directly links measurements of electric field strength to the International System of Units. The new method could improve the sensitivity, precision and ease of tests and calibrations of antennas, sensors, and biomedical and nano-electronic systems and facilitate the design of novel devices.

IBM opens new Watson headquarters

October 8, 2014 2:39 pm | by Mae Anderson - AP Technology Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

IBM revealed details about new projects for its Watson cognitive computing software as it opened its New York headquarters. The company has been developing business uses for Watson with clients since it announced in January it was investing more than $1 billion in the technology, including about $100 million in startup companies working on Watson projects.

Technology that controls brain cells with radio waves earns early BRAIN grant

October 8, 2014 12:30 pm | News | Comments

A proposal to develop a new way to remotely control brain cells from Sarah Stanley, a research associate in Rockefeller Univ.’s Laboratory of Molecular Genetics is among the first to receive funding from President Barack Obama’s BRAIN initiative. The project will make use of a technique called radiogenetics that combines the use of radio waves or magnetic fields with nanoparticles to turn neurons on or off.

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