In biology, scientists typically conduct experiments first, and then develop mathematical or computer models afterward to show how the collected data fit with theory. In his work, Rob Phillips flips that practice on its head. The Caltech biophysicist tackles questions in cellular biology as a physicist would—by first formulating a model that can make predictions and then testing those predictions.
Plants have many valuable functions: They provide food and fuel, release the oxygen that we breathe and add beauty to our surroundings. Now, a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers wants to make plants even more useful by augmenting them with nanomaterials that could enhance their energy production and give them completely new functions, such as monitoring environmental pollutants.
Oxygen-16, one of the key elements of life on earth, is produced by a series of reactions inside of red giant stars. Now, a team of physicists has revealed how the element’s nuclear shape changes depending on its state, even though other attributes such as spin and parity don’t appear to differ. Their findings may shed light on how oxygen is produced.
Using the VUV Free-Electron Laser FLASH at Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron in Hamburg, Germany, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers were part of a team that took a sneak peek deep into the lower atmospheric layers of giant gas planets such as Jupiter or Saturn.
Soft robots have become a sufficiently popular research topic that they now have their own journal, Soft Robotics. In the first issue of that journal, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers report the first self-contained autonomous soft robot capable of rapid body motion: a “fish” that can execute an escape maneuver, convulsing its body to change direction in just a fraction of a second, or almost as quickly as a real fish can.
In tough economic times, construction projects are often early victims to budget cuts. During the recent recession, research labs were no exception as many lab construction projects were delayed or canceled. However, lab owners and architectural and engineering firms note that the lab construction business is slowly resurging.
Sometimes it only takes a quick jolt of electricity to get a swarm of cells moving in the right direction. Researchers at the Univ. of California, Berkeley found that an electrical current can be used to orchestrate the flow of a group of cells, an achievement that could establish the basis for more controlled forms of tissue engineering.
Using little more than a few perforated sheets of plastic and a staggering amount of number crunching, Duke Univ. engineers have demonstrated the world’s first 3-D acoustic cloak. The new device reroutes sound waves to create the impression that both the cloak and anything beneath it are not there.
Fresh banana, a waft of flowers, blueberry: the scents in Shota Atsumi's laboratory in the Univ. of California, Davis Dept. of Chemistry are a little sweeter than most. That's because Atsumi and his team are engineering bacteria to make esters, molecules widely used as scents and flavorings, and also as basic feedstock for chemical processes from paints to fuels.
A new system at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory's x-ray laser narrows a rainbow spectrum of x-ray colors to a more intense band of light, creating a much more powerful way to view fine details in samples at the scale of atoms and molecules. Designed and installed at SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source, it's the world’s first self-seeding system for enhancing lower-energy or soft x-rays.
Imagine that you are in a meeting with coworkers or at a gathering of friends. You pull out your cell phone to show a presentation or a video on YouTube. But you don't use the tiny screen; your phone projects a bright, clear image onto a wall or a big screen. Such a technology may be on its way, thanks to a new light-bending silicon chip developed by researchers at the California Institute of Technology.
Laboratory Design Newsletter features new laboratory construction, renovation and adaptive reuse projects in each issue and also online. The new projects section of the Website hosts a large variety of laboratory builds in academic, medical, private, commercial and government laboratories.
The nature of science shares striking similarities across many industry verticals. Whether it’s biologics, chemicals or new product formulations, they are all performed with a high degree of similarity from company to company. This is exemplified by the fact that R&D informatics platforms such as LIMS, ELNs and SDMS are used, and provide real benefits in all science-related sectors.
In a significant advance for the growing field of synthetic biology, Rice Univ. bioengineers have created a toolkit of genes and hardware that uses colored lights and engineered bacteria to bring both mathematical predictability and cut-and-paste simplicity to the world of genetic circuit design.
Researchers at Harvard Univ.'s Wyss Institute have developed a method to carry out large-scale manufacturing of everyday objects using a fully degradable bioplastic isolated from shrimp shells. The objects exhibit many of the same properties as those created with synthetic plastics, but without the environmental threat. It also trumps most bioplastics on the market today in posing absolutely no threat to trees.
An experiment at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s x-ray laser has revealed the first atomic-scale details of a new technique that could point the way to faster data storage in smartphones, laptops and other devices. Researchers used pulses of specially tuned light to change the magnetic properties of a material with potential for data storage.
Flawed but colorful diamonds are among the most sensitive detectors of magnetic fields known today, allowing physicists to explore the minuscule magnetic fields in metals, exotic materials and even human tissue. A team of physicists have now shown that these diamond sensors can measure the tiny magnetic fields in high-temperature superconductors, providing a new tool to probe these much ballyhooed but poorly understood materials.
Using an inexpensive inkjet printer, Univ. of Utah electrical engineers produced microscopic structures that use light in metals to carry information. This new technique, which controls electrical conductivity within such microstructures, could be used to rapidly fabricate superfast components in electronic devices, make wireless technology faster or print magnetic materials.
Samples are precious resources and integral to the research process. The information derived from them is dependent on their quality, integrity and consistency. And, many samples represent a scientist’s investment in and trust of the biomedical research process. Yet, it is not unusual for samples to go missing, to find that their labels have fallen off or that they have become unusable.
Sandia National Laboratories researchers Jim Martin and Kyle Solis have what Martin calls “a devil of a problem.” They’ve discovered how to harness magnetic fields to create vigorous, organized fluid flows in particle suspensions. The magnetically stimulated flows offer an alternative when heat transfer is difficult because they overcome natural convection limits.
Photovoltaic spray paint could coat the windows and walls of the future if scientists are successful in developing low-cost, flexible solar cells based on organic polymers. Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory recently discovered an unanticipated factor in the performance of polymer-based solar devices that gives new insight on how these materials form and function.
Artificial photosynthesis, in which we emulate the process used by nature to capture energy from the sun and convert it into electrochemical energy, is expected to be a major asset in any sustainable energy portfolio for the future. Artificial photosynthesis offers the promise of producing liquid fuels that are renewable and can be used without exacerbating global climate change.
Rice Univ. researchers have developed a theoretical approach to analyze the process by which protein building blocks form the biopolymer skeletons of living cells. The cytoskeleton, made of fibers and microtubules, gives a cell its shape and provides the “roads” along which proteins and other cargoes travel.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemists have devised a way to trap carbon dioxide and transform it into useful organic compounds, using a simple metal complex. More work is needed to understand and optimize the reaction, but one day this approach could offer an easy and inexpensive way to recapture some of the carbon dioxide emitted by vehicles and power plants.
Finding treatments for advanced stage cancer isn’t easy. Therefore, early detection methods are paramount in the fight against the disease. Motivated by the opportunity to intervene as early as possible in the course of cancer, Dr. Muneesh Tewari, a Univ. of Michigan researcher, has been studying the diagnostic potential of blood-based biomarkers.