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Fat molecules influence form, function of key photosynthesis protein

September 30, 2014 7:48 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A mysterious space within a protein critical to photosynthesis is filled with fat molecules that influence both the protein’s architecture and electrical properties, according to two recent studies. Researchers studied the atomic structure of, and electrical interactions within, the cytochrome bf complex, a protein complex central to the transport of electrons within membranes of a plant cell, a critical step in photosynthesis.

High-speed drug screen

September 30, 2014 7:37 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers have devised a way to rapidly test hundreds of different drug-delivery vehicles in living animals, making it easier to discover promising new ways to deliver a class of drugs called biologics, which includes antibodies, peptides, RNA and DNA, to human patients.

Biologists find early sign of cancer

September 29, 2014 11:10 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Years before they show any other signs of disease, pancreatic cancer patients have very high levels of certain amino acids in their bloodstream, according to a new study. This finding, which suggests that muscle tissue is broken down in the disease’s earliest stages, could offer new insights into developing early diagnostics for pancreatic cancer, which kills about 40,000 Americans every year.

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Pixel-engineered electronics have growth potential

September 29, 2014 8:19 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

A little change in temperature makes a big difference for growing a new generation of hybrid atomic-layer structures, according to scientists. Rice Univ. scientists led the first single-step growth of self-assembled hybrid layers made of two elements that can either be side by side and one-atom thick or stacked atop each other. The structure’s final form can be tuned by changing the growth temperature.

How to make a “perfect” solar absorber

September 29, 2014 8:08 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The key to creating a material that would be ideal for converting solar energy to heat is tuning the material’s spectrum of absorption just right: It should absorb virtually all wavelengths of light that reach Earth’s surface from the sun—but not much of the rest of the spectrum, since that would increase the energy that is reradiated by the material, and thus lost to the conversion process.

Multi-spectra “glasses” aid studies of light elements with SEMs

September 26, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

Scanning electron microscopes can determine chemical compositions with the help of energy dispersive spectrometers. However, lighter elements like carbon emit secondary fluorescence in an energy range insufficiently resolved by these instruments. Physicists have developed a potential solution to this problem by adding reflection zone plate optics to a specialized spectrometer that delivers high resolution from 50 to 1,120 eV.

Cell sorting method separates 10 billion cells in 30 minutes

September 26, 2014 9:42 am | News | Comments

Almost all of today’s previously existing cell-sorting methods rely on what is called a single-cell analysis platform. A researcher in Hawaii took a different approach, inventing a bulk method that sorts different cell populations by tuning their solubility. Instead of targeting individual features, the  measurement principle sorts cells by differentiating their characteristic surface free energies.

The water in your bottle might be older than the sun

September 26, 2014 8:13 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Up to half of the water on Earth is likely older than the solar system itself, Univ. of Michigan astronomers theorize. The researchers' work helps to settle a debate about just how far back in galactic history our planet and our solar system's water formed. Were the molecules in comet ices and terrestrial oceans born with the system itself—in the planet-forming disk of dust and gas that circled the young sun 4.6 billion years ago?

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On the road to artificial photosynthesis

September 26, 2014 8:04 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

The excessive atmospheric carbon dioxide that is driving global climate change could be harnessed into a renewable energy technology that would be a win for both the environment and the economy. That is the lure of artificial photosynthesis in which the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide is used to produce clean, green and sustainable fuels. 

Hard facts lead to “green” concrete

September 26, 2014 7:53 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Concrete can be better and more environmentally friendly by paying attention to its atomic structure, according to researchers at Rice Univ., the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Marseille Univ. The international team of scientists has created computational models to help concrete manufacturers fine-tune mixes for general applications.

Underwater robot for port security

September 26, 2014 7:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers unveiled an oval-shaped submersible robot, a little smaller than a football, with a flattened panel on one side that can slide along an underwater surface to perform ultrasound scans. Originally designed to look for cracks in nuclear reactors’ water tanks, the robot could also inspect ships for the false hulls and propeller shafts that smugglers frequently use to hide contraband.

How LIMS is Essential in the Biofuels Industry

September 25, 2014 10:26 am | by Colin Thurston, Director of Product Strategy, Thermo Fisher Scientific | Thermo Fisher Scientific | Articles | Comments

As U.S. energy imports dramatically drop it would appear that renewables investment is in jeopardy, including the biofuels market. There’s some evidence to support this; but if declining or stalled investment is predicated on the limited potential of existing technology, much of which still relies on biomass, the biofuels industry may, in fact, be undergoing a natural transition instead of a decline.

World’s smallest reference material is a big plus for nanotechnology

September 25, 2014 9:44 am | News | Comments

If it's true that good things come in small packages, then NIST can now make anyone working with nanoparticles very happy. The institute recently issued Reference Material (RM) 8027, the smallest known reference material ever created for validating measurements of man-made, ultrafine particles between 1 and 100 nm in size.

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Research pinpoints role of “helper” atoms in oxygen release

September 25, 2014 8:59 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Experiments at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory solve a long-standing mystery in the role calcium atoms serve in a chemical reaction that releases oxygen into the air we breathe. The results offer new clues about atomic-scale processes that drive the life-sustaining cycle of photosynthesis and could help forge a foundation for producing cleaner energy sources by synthesizing nature's handiwork.

Report quantifies financial impacts of customer-sited photovoltaics on electric utilities

September 25, 2014 8:39 am | by Allan Chen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new report prepared by analysts from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory examines the potential impacts of customer-sited solar photovoltaics on electric utility profitability and rates. The report shows that these impacts can vary greatly depending upon the specific circumstances of the utility and may be reduced through a variety of regulatory and ratemaking measures.

Platelets modulate clotting behavior by “feeling” their surroundings

September 25, 2014 8:31 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Platelets, the tiny cell fragments whose job it is to stop bleeding, are very simple. They don’t have a cell nucleus. But they can “feel” the physical environment around them, researchers at Emory Univ. and Georgia Tech have discovered. Platelets respond to surfaces with greater stiffness by increasing their stickiness, the degree to which they “turn on” other platelets and other components of the clotting system, the researchers found.

Search for better biofuels microbes leads to the human gut

September 25, 2014 8:14 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Scientists have scoured cow rumens and termite guts for microbes that can efficiently break down plant cell walls for the production of next-generation biofuels, but some of the best microbial candidates actually may reside in the human lower intestine, researchers report. Their studyis the first to use biochemical approaches to confirm the hypothesis that microbes in the human gut can digest fiber.

Biochar alters water flow to improve sand, clay

September 25, 2014 8:00 am | by David Ruth, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

As more gardeners and farmers add ground charcoal, or biochar, to soil to both boost crop yields and counter global climate change, a new study by researchers at Rice Univ. and Colorado College could help settle the debate about one of biochar’s biggest benefits: the seemingly contradictory ability to make clay soils drain faster and sandy soils drain slower.

A Diamond is R&D’s “Synthetic” Best Friend

September 24, 2014 10:10 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

Diamonds aren’t just a girl’s best friend, they’re also R&D’s best friend—or at least a new acquaintance. Many laboratories and companies are embracing synthetic diamond for its elevated super properties in applications ranging from analytical instruments and biomedical sensors to electronics and lasers to water purification.

Magnetic field opens and closes nanovesicle

September 24, 2014 9:18 am | Videos | Comments

Researchers in the Netherlands have managed to open nanovesicles in a reversible process and close them using a magnet. Previously, these vesicles had been “loaded” with a drug and opened elsewhere using a chemical process, such as osmosis. The magnetic method, which is repeatable, is the first to demonstrate the viability of another method.

Robotic fabric could bring “active clothing”, wearable robots

September 23, 2014 2:20 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are developing a robotic fabric that moves and contracts and is embedded with sensors, an approach that could lead to "active clothing" or a new class of "soft" robots. The robotic fabric, developed at Purdue Univ.,  is a cotton material containing sensors made of a flexible polymer and threadlike strands of a shape-memory alloy that return to a coiled shape when heated, causing the fabric to move.

Smallest possible “diamonds” help form ultra-thin nanothreads

September 22, 2014 2:52 pm | Videos | Comments

For the first time, scientists led by John V. Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State Univ., have discovered how to produce ultra-thin "diamond nanothreads" that promise extraordinary properties, including strength and stiffness greater than that of today's strongest nanotubes and polymers. The core of the nanothreads is a long, thin strand of carbon atoms arranged just like the fundamental unit of a diamond's structure.

A nanosized hydrogen generator

September 19, 2014 1:54 pm | by Justin Breaux, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have created a small scale “hydrogen generator” that uses light and a 2-D graphene platform to boost production of the hard-to-make element. The research also unveiled a previously unknown property of graphene. The 2-D chain of carbon atoms not only gives and receives electrons, but can also transfer them into another substance.

First-ever chemical bond established between carbon and a superheavy element

September 19, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

Chemical experiments with superheavy elements, which have atomic numbers beyond 104, are extremely challenging because they must be synthesized in a particle accelerator and they decay rapidly. An international team has, for the first time, established a chemical bond between a superheavy element, in this case element 106, seaborgium, and a carbon atom. The experiment opens the door to new investigations of relativity effects.

Engineer to build “hot” solar cells

September 19, 2014 8:12 am | by Rase McCry, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Yale Univ. associate professor of electrical engineering Minjoo Larry Lee has been awarded $2,540,000 to develop dual-junction solar cells that can operate efficiently at extreme temperatures above 750 F. In addition to converting a portion of the sunlight directly into electricity, the solar cells will use the remainder of the light to heat high-temperature fluids that can drive a steam turbine or be stored for later use.

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