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Team improves solar cell efficiency with new polymer

September 19, 2014 4:49 pm | by Emily Conover, Univ. of Chicago | News | Comments

A collaboration between scientists in the Univ. of Chicago’s chemistry department, the Institute for Molecular Engineering and Argonne National Laboratory has produced the highest-ever recorded efficiency for solar cells made of two types of polymers and fulllerene. Researchers identified a new polymer that improved the efficiency of solar cells and also determined the method by which the polymer improved the cells’ efficiency.

Quick-change materials break the silicon speed limit for computers

September 19, 2014 4:28 pm | by Stephen Elliott , Univ. of Cambridge | News | Comments

Faster, smaller, greener computers, capable of processing information up to 1,000 times faster than currently available models, could be made possible by replacing silicon with materials that can switch back and forth between different electrical states. Recent research in the U.K. show that these phase-change materials have promise in new processors made with chalcogenide glass.

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.

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Breaking “electrode barrier” creates a better low-cost organic solar cell

September 19, 2014 9:02 am | News | Comments

For decades, the power conversion efficiency of organic solar cells was hampered by the drawbacks of commonly used metal electrodes, including their instability and susceptibility to oxidation. Now for the first time, researchers at the Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a more efficient, easily processable and lightweight solar cell that can use virtually any metal for the electrode, effectively breaking the “electrode barrier.”

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 for invasive biopsies in patients suffering kidney damage related to the autoimmune disease lupus. In a new study, researchers developed a math model that can predict the progression from nephritis, or kidney inflammation, to interstitial fibrosis, scarring in the kidney that current treatments cannot reverse. A kidney biopsy is the only existing way to reach a definitive diagnosis.

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 a robot with a novel tactile sensor that lets it grasp a USB cable draped freely over a hook and insert it into a USB port. The sensor is an adaptation of a technology called GelSight, which was developed at MIT, and first described in 2009.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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