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Muscle-powered bio-bots walk on command

July 2, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

Engineers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a class of walking “bio-bots” powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical pulses, giving researchers unprecedented command over their function. The design is inspired by the muscle-tendon-bone complex found in nature. They have a backbone of 3-D printed hydrogel, strong enough to give the bio-bot structure but flexible enough to bend like a joint.

Nineteenth-century math tactic gets makeover, speeds answers up to 200 times

July 1, 2014 11:50 am | News | Comments

A relic from long before the age of supercomputers, the 169-year-old math strategy called the Jacobi iterative method is widely dismissed today as too slow to be useful. But thanks to a Johns Hopkins Univ. engineering student and his professor, it may soon get a new lease on life. With just a few modern-day tweaks, the researchers say they’ve made the rarely used Jacobi method work up to 200 times faster.

New method detects infrared energy using a nanoporous photodetector

July 1, 2014 10:09 am | News | Comments

Experiments aimed at devising new types of photodetectors have been triggered by the increasing use of optoelectronic devices. Researchers in China have proposed a new type of infrared photodetector made from zinc oxide and silicon. Its nanoporous nature, synthesized by a simple sol-gel method, allows it to be responsive to infrared wavelengths.

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Engineers envision electronic switch just three atoms thick

July 1, 2014 9:53 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Computer simulation has shown Stanford Univ. engineers how to make a crystal that would toggle like a light switch between conductive and non-conductive structures. This flexible, switchable lattice, just three atoms thick, can be turned on or off by mechanically pushing or pulling, and could lead to flexible electronic materials.

Cellular team players

July 1, 2014 9:41 am | News | Comments

Many enzymes work only with a co-trainer, of sorts. Scientists in Germany have shown what this kind of cooperation looks like in detail using a novel methodology applied to the heat shock protein Hsp90, which controls the proper folding of other proteins. Together with a second molecule, the co-chaperone P23, it splits the energy source ATP to yield the energy it needs to do its work.

Researchers show that bacteria can evolve biological timer to survive antibiotics

June 30, 2014 2:14 pm | News | Comments

Using the quantitative approach of physicists, biologists in Israel have developed experimental tools to measure precisely the bacterial response to antibiotics. Their mathematical model of the process has led them to hypothesize that a daily three-hour dose would enable the bacteria to predict delivery of the drug, and go dormant for that period in order to survive.

More pores for more power

June 30, 2014 2:10 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Germany have produced a new material the size of a sugar cube that has a surface area equivalent to more than seven tennis courts. This novel type of nanofiber has a highly ordered and porous structure gives it an extraordinarily high surface-to-volume ratio and could be a key enabling technology for lithium-sulfur batteries.

The aeroacoustics of jets

June 30, 2014 9:22 am | News | Comments

Aerospace engineers from the Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign are using the National Science Foundation-supported Stampede supercomputer to explore how jets in general, like those on modern aircraft and inside the human body, generate noise. This is important because no simple explanation of how jets generate noise is currently available, and without this understanding making jets quieter is difficult.

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Hawaii board advances $1 billion telescope pending review

June 30, 2014 8:45 am | by Cathy Bussewitz, Associated Press | News | Comments

Hawaii's Board of Land and Natural Resources has approved a sublease for a $1.3 billion telescope that would be one of the world's largest, but the approval is on hold until the board hears objections in a separate review process. The board met Friday to discuss issues raised previously about a plan to build the Thirty Meter Telescope on the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island.

Chemists develop magnetically responsive liquid crystals

June 27, 2014 9:38 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the Univ. of California, Riverside have constructed liquid crystals with optical properties that can be instantly and reversibly controlled by an external magnetic field. Unlike conventional liquid crystals, which rotate and align themselves when an electric field is applied, the new crystals are essentially a liquid dispersion of magnetic nanorods.

Hundreds of sensors packed into a single optical fiber

June 26, 2014 2:37 pm | News | Comments

By fusing together the concepts of active fiber sensors and high-temperature fiber sensors, a team of researchers at the Univ. of Pittsburgh has created an all-optical high-temperature sensor for gas flow measurements that operates at record-setting temperatures above 800 C. The new technology should be ideal for use in deep drilling operations, nuclear reactor cores and outer space.

Young researcher discovers source of disco clams’ light show

June 25, 2014 11:27 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Using high speed video, transmission electron microscopy, spectrometry, energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, and computer modeling, a Univ. of California, Berkeley graduate student has unraveled the mystery of the disco clams flashing “lips”. Most people assumed the glowing mantle was the result of bio-luminescence, but Lindsey Dougherty has found it is caused by something else entirely.

Google to show off smart home gadgets, wearables

June 25, 2014 8:14 am | by Barbara Ortutay, AP Technology Writer | News | Comments

An Android update, wearable gadgets, and so-called smart home devices are just some of the innovations Google is likely to show off at its two-day developer conference, which begins today in San Francisco. In recent years, the conference has focused on smartphones and tablets, but this year Google's Android operating system is expected to stretch into cars, homes, and smartwatches.

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Metal particles in solids aren’t as fixed as they seem

June 25, 2014 8:04 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

In work that unmasks some of the magic behind memristors and "resistive random access memory," or RRAM, researchers have shown that the metal particles in memristors don't stay put as previously thought. The findings have broad implications for the semiconductor industry and beyond. They show, for the first time, exactly how some memristors remember.

Using femtosecond lasers to administer drugs

June 25, 2014 7:59 am | by Kathleen Estes, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology | News | Comments

A team of scientists in Japan and New Zealand have combined lasers, nanotechnology, and neuroscience to develop a new, versatile drug delivery system. The precise timing of a femtosecond laser is used to release dopamine, a neurochemical, that is dysfunctional in Parkinson’s Disease in a controlled and repeatable manner that mimics the natural dynamic release mechanism.

Collaborative learning for robots

June 25, 2014 7:54 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Machine learning, in which computers learn new skills by looking for patterns in training data, is the basis of most recent advances in artificial intelligence, from voice-recognition systems to self-parking cars. It’s also the technique that autonomous robots typically use to build models of their environments. That type of model-building gets complicated, however, in cases in which clusters of robots work as teams.

Terahertz tech gets a major push

June 25, 2014 7:45 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have received a grant to develop terahertz-based technology that could enable a dramatic advance in wireless communications and other disciplines. The $1 million grant by the W.M. Keck Foundation will let them tackle some of the knotty problems barring them from using the largely untapped terahertz region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Rice will supplement the grant with a $1.5 million commitment.

Researchers use FEI Titan to link plasmonics with molecular electronics

June 24, 2014 11:44 am | News | Comments

Plasmon tunneling is a quantum-mechanical effect where electrons rapidly oscillate across very closely-spaced metal structures. Using a Titan scanning/transmission electron microscope developed and made by FEI Company, the scientists were able to not only observe this new phenomenon directly, but also control the frequency of the tunneling currents by placing single layers of different molecules between the closely-spaced metal particles.

Study shows puzzle games can improve mental flexibility

June 24, 2014 10:26 am | News | Comments

Executive functions in your brain are important for making decisions in everyday life when you have to deal with sudden changes in your environment. A recent study by scientists in Singapore showed that adults who played the physics-based puzzle video game Cut the Rope regularly, for as little as an hour a day, had improved executive functions. This marks the first time video games have been shown to deliver such broad improvements.

Oak Ridge National Lab launches imaging institute

June 24, 2014 10:06 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has launched the Institute for Functional Imaging of Materials to accelerate discovery, design and deployment of new materials. The institute will meld world-class capabilities in imaging, high-performance computing, materials science and other scientific disciplines to probe materials.

Wearable computing gloves can teach Braille

June 24, 2014 8:12 am | by Jason Maderer, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Several years ago, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers created a technology-enhanced glove that can teach beginners how to play piano melodies in 45 min. Now they’ve advanced the same wearable computing technology to help people learn how to read and write Braille. The twist is that people wearing the glove don’t have to pay attention. They learn while doing something else.

Measuring the mass of “massless” electrons

June 23, 2014 2:57 pm | News | Comments

The electrons in graphene behave as “massless” particles, yet these electrons also seem to have dual personalities. Phenomena observed in the field of graphene plasmonics suggest that when the electrons move collectively, they must exhibit mass. After two years of effort, researchers at Harvard Univ. have successfully measured the collective mass of “massless” electrons in motion in graphene.

Study shows greater potential for solar power

June 23, 2014 9:43 am | News | Comments

Concentrating solar power (CSP) could supply a large fraction of the power supply in a decarbonized energy system, according to a new study of the technology and its potential practical application. For this research, scientists simulated the construction and operation of CSP systems in four regions around the world, taking into account weather variations, plant locations, electricity demand, and costs.

Researchers unveil experimental 36-core chip

June 23, 2014 7:38 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The more cores a computer chip has, the bigger the problem of communication between cores becomes. For years, Li-Shiuan Peh, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has argued that the massively multicore chips of the future will need to resemble little Internets, where each core has an associated router, and data travels between cores in packets of fixed size.

Supreme Court tosses out software patent

June 19, 2014 11:22 am | by Sam Hananel - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The Supreme Court on Thursday tossed out an Australian company's patent for business software in a closely watched case that clarifies standards for awarding patents. The justices ruled unanimously that the government should not have issued a patent to Alice Corp. in the 1990s because the company simply took an abstract idea that has been around for years and programmed it to run through a computer.

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