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R&D Chat: Sustainability Built In

March 27, 2014 11:34 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Videos | Comments

What research lab doesn’t care about a good return on investment for their spending? The last five years has marked an increase in the level of scrutiny applied to projects to assure maximum ROI. The early design process demands greater economic analysis of lifecycle costs to reduce operating and energy costs and optimize environmental performance.

Engineered bacteria produce biofuel alternative for high-energy rocket fuel

March 27, 2014 8:17 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers have engineered a bacterium to synthesize pinene, a hydrocarbon produced by trees that could potentially replace high-energy fuels, such as JP-10, in missiles and other aerospace applications. With improvements in process efficiency, the biofuel could supplement limited supplies of petroleum-based JP-10, and might also facilitate development of a new generation of more powerful engines.

Engineer builds instrument to study effects of genes, environment on plant traits

March 26, 2014 8:16 am | by Mike Krapfl, News Service, Iowa State Univ. | News | Comments

Let’s say plant scientists want to develop new lines of corn that will better tolerate long stretches of hot, dry weather. How can they precisely assess the performance of those new plants in different environmental conditions? Field tests can provide some answers. Greenhouse tests can provide some more. But how can plant scientists get a true picture of a plant’s growth and traits under a variety of controlled environmental conditions?

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Scientists track 3-D nanoscale changes in rechargeable battery material during operation

March 26, 2014 8:03 am | News | Comments

Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have made the first 3-D observations of how the structure of a lithium-ion battery anode evolves at the nanoscale in a real battery cell as it discharges and recharges. The details of this research, described in a paper published in Angewandte Chemie, could point to new ways to engineer battery materials to increase the capacity and lifetime of rechargeable batteries.

New technique for identifying gene-enhancers

March 25, 2014 11:28 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

An international team led by researchers has developed a new technique for identifying gene enhancers in the genomes of humans and other mammals. Called SIF-seq, for site-specific integration fluorescence-activated cell sorting followed by sequencing, this new technique complements existing genomic tools, such as ChIP-seq (chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by sequencing), and offers some additional benefits.

Robot builds on insights into Atlantic razor clam dynamics

March 25, 2014 11:10 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

The Atlantic razor clam uses very little energy to burrow into undersea soil at high speed. Now a detailed insight into how the animal digs has led to the development of a robotic clam that can perform the same trick. The device, known as “RoboClam,” could be used to dig itself into the ground to bury anchors or destroy underwater mines.

Lessons offered by emerging carbon trading markets

March 21, 2014 10:31 am | News | Comments

Although markets for trading carbon emission credits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have stalled in U.S. federal policy-making, carbon markets are emerging at the state level within the U.S. and around the world, teaching us more about what does and doesn't work.

Key link between tumors and healthy tissue identified

March 21, 2014 8:43 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

The delicate balance between development of normal tissue and tumors depends in part upon a key molecular switch within cells, Yale School of Medicine researchers report in Science. Their findings reveal a potential mechanism used by cancer cells to recruit healthy cells to promote tumor growth and suggest new strategies to generate healthy tissue.

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Study: Wind farms can provide a surplus of reliable clean energy to society

March 21, 2014 8:33 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

The demand for solar and wind power continues to skyrocket. Since 2009, global solar photovoltaic installations have increased about 40% a year on average, and the installed capacity of wind turbines has doubled. The dramatic growth of the wind and solar industries has led utilities to begin testing large-scale technologies capable of storing surplus clean electricity and delivering it on demand when sunlight and wind are in short supply.

Dramatic new portrait helps define Milky Way’s shape, contents

March 21, 2014 8:22 am | by Terry Devitt, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Using more than two million images collected by NASA’s orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope, a team of Wisconsin scientists has stitched together a dramatic 360-degree portrait of the Milky Way, providing new details of our galaxy’s structure and contents.

Researchers model spent nuclear fuels for potential energy

March 21, 2014 8:11 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists have modeled actinide-based alloys, such as spent nuclear fuel, in an effort to predict the impact of evolving fuel chemistry on material performance. This work could have direct implications for the use of spent nuclear fuel as another source of energy.

New semiconductor holds promise for 2-D physics, electronics

March 21, 2014 7:54 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

From super-lubricants, to solar cells, to the fledgling technology of valleytronics, there is much to be excited about with the discovery of a unique new 2-D semiconductor, rhenium disulfide, by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Molecular Foundry. Rhenium disulfide, unlike molybdenum disulfide and other dichalcogenides, behaves electronically as if it were a 2-D monolayer even as a 3-D bulk material.

Cells get ready for their close-up

March 21, 2014 7:45 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In 2007, Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists developed a type of microscopy that allowed them to detail the interior of a living cell in 3-D, without adding any fluorescent markers or other labels. This technique also revealed key properties, such as the cells’ density. Now the researchers have adapted that method so they can image cells as they flow through a tiny microfluidic channel.

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Past HIV vaccine trials reveal new path to success

March 20, 2014 8:05 am | News | Comments

A multinational research team led by Duke Medicine scientists has identified a subclass of antibodies associated with an effective immune response to an HIV vaccine. The finding helps explain why a combination of two vaccines was able to show some effect, when one vaccine alone did not. The study also provides key insights that could aid development of new vaccines.

Study: Industry-sponsored academic inventions spur increased innovation

March 20, 2014 7:57 am | by Bobbie Mixon, NSF | News | Comments

Industry-sponsored academic research leads to innovative patents and licenses, says a new analysis led by Brian Wright, Univ. of California, Berkeley prof. of agricultural and resource economics. The finding calls into question assumptions that corporate support skews science toward inventions that are less accessible and less useful to others than those funded by the government or non-profit organizations.

Tiny transistors for extreme environs

March 20, 2014 7:47 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Utah electrical engineers fabricated the smallest plasma transistors that can withstand high temperatures and ionizing radiation found in a nuclear reactor. Such transistors someday might enable smartphones that take and collect medical x-rays on a battlefield, and devices to measure air quality in real time.

R&D Chat: Collaborative Laboratory Space

March 20, 2014 7:27 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Videos | Comments

Not all outcomes of the recession were negative. As the North American market shrank, the AEC industry saw a significant increase in the number of national and global institutional and private collaborations and people getting creative about funding and seeking partnerships to pool resources.

IBM's Watson to help in brain cancer research

March 19, 2014 3:20 pm | by Bree Fowler - AP Technology Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

IBM is teaming up with the New York Genome Center to help fight brain cancer. The company said Wednesday that its Watson cloud computing system will be used in partnership with a New York-based genetic research center to help develop treatments for glioblastoma, the most common type of brain cancer in U.S. adults.

Researchers survey protein family that helps brain form synapses

March 19, 2014 8:35 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Neuroscientists and bioengineers at Stanford Univ. are working together to solve a mystery: How does nature construct the different types of synapses that connect neurons—the brain cells that monitor nerve impulses, control muscles and form thoughts.

New technique makes LEDs brighter, more resilient

March 19, 2014 8:24 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a new processing technique that makes light-emitting diodes (LEDs) brighter and more resilient by coating the semiconductor material gallium nitride (GaN) with a layer of phosphorus-derived acid.

Smartphone to become smarter with “deep learning” innovation

March 19, 2014 8:01 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are working to enable smartphones and other mobile devices to understand and immediately identify objects in a camera's field of view, overlaying lines of text that describe items in the environment. The innovation could find applications in "augmented reality" technologies like Google Glass, facial recognition systems and robotic cars that drive themselves.

Superconductivity in LEDs: Shedding new light on quantum physics

March 19, 2014 7:51 am | by Kim Luke, Univ. of Toronto | News | Comments

A team of Univ. of Toronto physicists led by Alex Hayat has proposed a novel and efficient way to leverage the strange quantum physics phenomenon known as entanglement.  The approach would involve combining light-emitting diodes (LEDs) with a superconductor to generate entangled photons and could open up a rich spectrum of new physics as well as devices for quantum technologies, including quantum computers and quantum communication.

New lens design improves kidney stone treatment

March 18, 2014 10:53 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Duke Univ. engineers have devised a way to improve the efficiency of lithotripsy—the demolition of kidney stones using focused shock waves. After decades of research, all it took was cutting a groove near the perimeter of the shock wave-focusing lens and changing its curvature.

Flexible carbon nanotube circuits are more reliable, power efficient

March 18, 2014 9:57 am | News | Comments

Engineers would love to create flexible electronic devices, such as e-readers that could be folded to fit into a pocket. One approach they are trying involves designing circuits based on electronic fibers, known as carbon nanotubes, instead of rigid silicon chips. But reliability is essential.

Researchers devise stretchable antenna for wearable health monitoring

March 18, 2014 9:13 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a new, stretchable antenna that can be incorporated into wearable technologies, such as health monitoring devices. The researchers wanted to develop an antenna that could be stretched, rolled or twisted and always return to its original shape, because wearable systems can be subject to a variety of stresses as patients move around.

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