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The Lead

New material to produce clean energy

March 3, 2015 3:36 pm | by Jeannie Kever, Univ. of Houston | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Houston have created a new thermoelectric material, intended to generate electric power from waste heat with greater efficiency and higher output power than currently available materials. The material, germanium-doped magnesium stannide, has a peak power factor of 55, with a figure of merit of 1.4.

Providing data for nuclear detectives

March 3, 2015 3:26 pm | by Breanna Bishop, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Fans of the popular TV series “CSI” know that the forensics experts who investigate crime scenes...

Why seashells’ mineral forms differently in seawater

March 3, 2015 3:16 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

For almost a century, scientists have been puzzled by a process that is crucial to much of the...

A clearer view of clouds

March 3, 2015 10:25 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

Meteorologists sometimes struggle to accurately predict the weather here on Earth, but now we...

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Black phosphorous: A new wonder material for improving optical communication

March 3, 2015 9:18 am | by Lacey Nygard, Univ. of Minnesota | News | Comments

Phosphorus, a highly reactive element commonly found in match heads, tracer bullets and fertilizers, can be turned into a stable crystalline form known as black phosphorus. In a new study, researchers from the Univ. of Minnesota used an ultra-thin black phosphorus film, only 20 layers of atoms, to demonstrate high-speed data communication on nanoscale optical circuits.

Pens filled with high-tech inks for DIY sensors

March 3, 2015 9:06 am | by Ioana Patringenaru, Jacobs School of Engineering | Videos | Comments

A new simple tool developed by nanoengineers at the Univ. of California, San Diego, is opening the door to an era when anyone will be able to build sensors, anywhere. The team developed high-tech bio-inks that react with several chemicals, including glucose. They filled off-the-shelf ballpoint pens with the inks and were able to draw sensors to measure glucose directly on the skin and sensors to measure pollution on leaves.

Glass coating for improved battery performance

March 3, 2015 8:57 am | by Sean Nealon, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Lithium-sulfur batteries have been a hot topic in battery research because of their ability to produce up to 10 times more energy than conventional batteries, which means they hold great promise for applications in energy-demanding electric vehicles. However, there have been fundamental road blocks to commercializing these sulfur batteries.

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Giant virus revealed in 3-D using x-ray laser

March 3, 2015 8:31 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

For the first time, researchers have produced a 3-D image revealing part of the inner structure of an intact, infectious virus, using a unique x-ray laser at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The virus, called Mimivirus, is in a curious class of “giant viruses” discovered just over a decade ago.

Research gets to the core of Earth’s formation

March 3, 2015 7:54 am | by Anne M Stark, LLNL | News | Comments

Violent collisions between the growing Earth and other objects in the solar system generated significant amounts of iron vapor, according to a new study by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The results show that iron vaporizes easily during impact events, which forces planetary scientists to change how they think about the growth of planets and evolution of our solar system.

New views of enzyme structures offer insights into metabolism of cholesterol

March 3, 2015 7:39 am | by Ian Demsky, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

With the aid of x-ray crystallography, researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have revealed the structures of two closely related enzymes that play essential roles in the body's ability to metabolize excess lipids, including cholesterol. The findings are an important step toward understanding and being able to therapeutically target disorders and drug side effects that cause lipids, including cholesterol, to build up in the body.

Nanodevice defeats drug resistance

March 3, 2015 7:30 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Chemotherapy often shrinks tumors at first, but as cancer cells become resistant to drug treatment, tumors can grow back. A new nanodevice developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers can help overcome that by first blocking the gene that confers drug resistance, then launching a new chemotherapy attack against the disarmed tumors.

Breakthrough in OLED technology

March 2, 2015 12:27 pm | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), which are made from carbon-containing materials, have the potential to revolutionize future display technologies, making low-power displays so thin they'll wrap or fold around other structures, for instance. Conventional LCD displays must be backlit by either fluorescent light bulbs or conventional LEDs whereas OLEDs don't require back lighting.

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Unlocking the key to immunological memory in bacteria

March 2, 2015 11:41 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A powerful genome editing tool may soon become even more powerful. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have unlocked the key to how bacteria are able to “steal” genetic information from viruses and other foreign invaders for use in their own immunological memory system.

Forbidden quantum leaps possible with high-res spectroscopy

March 2, 2015 11:27 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

A new twist on an old tool lets scientists use light to study and control matter with 1,000 times better resolution and precision than previously possible. Physicists at the Univ. of Michigan have demonstrated "ponderomotive spectroscopy," an advanced form of a technique that was born in the 15th century when Isaac Newton first showed that white light sent through a prism breaks into a rainbow.

Analysis shows ion slowdown in fuel cell material

March 2, 2015 11:01 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Dislocations in oxides such as cerium dioxide, a solid electrolyte for fuel cells, turn out to have a property that is the opposite of what researchers had expected, according to a new analysis. Researchers had thought that a certain kind of strain would speed the transport of oxygen ions through the material, potentially leading to the much faster diffusion that is necessary in high-performance solid-oxide fuel cells.

Supersonic electrons could produce future solar fuel

March 2, 2015 10:38 am | by Lund Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from institutions including Lund Univ. have taken a step closer to producing solar fuel using artificial photosynthesis. In a new study, they have successfully tracked the electrons' rapid transit through a light-converting molecule. The ultimate aim of the present study is to find a way to make fuel from water using sunlight.

Genetics reveals where emperor penguins survived the last ice age

March 2, 2015 9:00 am | by Univ. of Southampton | News | Comments

A study of how climate change has affected emperor penguins over the last 30,000 years found that only three populations may have survived during the last ice age, and that the Ross Sea in Antarctica was likely the refuge for one of these populations.

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High-precision radar for the steel industry

March 2, 2015 8:42 am | by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft | News | Comments

Steel is the most important material in vehicle and machinery construction. Large quantities of offcuts and scraps are left over from rolling and milling crude steel into strip steel. New radar from Fraunhofer researchers measures the width of the strip during fabrication to an accuracy of micrometers and helps to minimize scrap.

Life “not as we know it” possible on Saturn’s moon Titan

March 2, 2015 8:26 am | by Syl Kacapyr, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

A new type of methane-based, oxygen-free life form that can metabolize and reproduce similar to life on Earth has been modeled by a team of Cornell Univ. researchers. Taking a simultaneously imaginative and rigidly scientific view, chemical engineers and astronomers offer a template for life that could thrive in a harsh, cold world: specifically Titan, the giant moon of Saturn.

Innovative wireless sensor technology yields better energy efficiency

March 2, 2015 8:17 am | by Sara Shoemaker, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Regulating comfort in small commercial buildings could become more efficient and less expensive thanks to an innovative low-cost wireless sensor technology being developed by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Buildings are responsible for about 40% of the energy consumed in the U.S. Studies indicate that advanced sensors and controls have the potential to reduce the energy consumption of buildings by 20 to 30%.

First detailed microscopy evidence of bacteria at the lower size limit of life

March 2, 2015 8:08 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have captured the first detailed microscopy images of ultra-small bacteria that are believed to be about as small as life can get. The existence of ultra-small bacteria has been debated for two decades, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive electron microscopy and DNA-based description of the microbes until now.

Aerogel catalyst shows promise for fuel cells

March 2, 2015 7:54 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Graphene nanoribbons formed into a 3-D aerogel and enhanced with boron and nitrogen are excellent catalysts for fuel cells, even in comparison to platinum, according to Rice Univ. researchers. A team led by materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan and chemist James Tour made metal-free aerogels from graphene nanoribbons and various levels of boron and nitrogen to test their electrochemical properties.

Moving molecule writes letters

February 27, 2015 11:55 am | by Andreas Battenberg, TUM | News | Comments

On the search for high-performance materials for applications such as gas storage, thermal insulators or dynamic nanosystems it’s essential to understand the thermal behavior of matter down to the molecular level. Classical thermodynamics average over time and over a large number of molecules. Within a 3-D space single molecules can adopt an almost infinite number of states, making the assessment of individual species nearly impossible.

Sun has more impact on climate in cool periods

February 27, 2015 10:24 am | by Aarhus Univ. | News | Comments

The activity of the sun is an important factor in the complex interaction that controls our climate. New research now shows the impact of the sun isn’t constant over time, but has greater significance when the Earth is cooler. There has been much discussion as to whether variations in the strength of the sun have played a role in triggering climate change in the past.

3-D printed parts to provide low-cost, custom alternatives for lab equipment

February 27, 2015 10:14 am | by Raphael Rosen, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Communications | News | Comments

The 3-D printing scene, a growing favorite of do-it-yourselfers, has spread to the study of plasma physics. With a series of experiments, researchers at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory have found that 3-D printers can be an important tool in laboratory environments.

QR codes engineered into cybersecurity protection

February 27, 2015 10:03 am | by Colin Poitras, UConn | News | Comments

QR, or quick response, codes have been used to convey information about everything from cereals to cars and new homes. But, Univ. of Connecticut researchers think the codes have a greater potential: protecting national security. Using advanced 3-D optical imaging and extremely low light photon counting encryption the team has taken a QR code and transformed it into a high-end cybersecurity application.

New filter could advance terahertz data transmission

February 27, 2015 9:53 am | by Vincent Horiuchi, Univ. of Utah | News | Comments

Univ. of Utah engineers have discovered a new approach for designing filters capable of separating different frequencies in the terahertz spectrum, the next generation of communications bandwidth that could allow cellphone users and Internet surfers to download data a thousand times faster than today. Once the filter is designed, it can be fabricated using an off-the-shelf inkjet printer.

Monster black hole discovered at cosmic dawn

February 27, 2015 8:33 am | by Daniel Stolte, Univ. of Arizona Communications | News | Comments

Scientists have discovered the brightest quasar in the early universe, powered by the most massive black hole yet known at that time. The discovery of this quasar, named SDSS J0100+2802, marks an important step in understanding how quasars, the most powerful objects in the universe, have evolved from the earliest epoch, only 900 million years after the Big Bang, which is thought to have happened 13.7 billion years ago.

Electrochemical “fingers” unlock battery’s inner potential

February 27, 2015 8:18 am | by Justin Eure, Brookhaven National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries unleash electricity as electrochemical reactions spread through active materials. Manipulating this complex process and driving the reactions into the energy-rich heart of each part of these active materials is crucial to optimizing the power output and ultimate energy capacity of these batteries. Now, scientists have mapped these atomic-scale reaction pathways and linked them to the battery’s rate of discharge.

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