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High-efficiency concentrating solar cells move to the rooftop

February 6, 2015 8:23 am | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | Videos | Comments

Ultra-high-efficiency solar cells similar to those used in space may now be possible on your rooftop thanks to a new microscale solar concentration technology. The falling cost of typical silicon solar cells is making them a smaller and smaller fraction of the overall cost of solar electricity, which also includes "soft" costs like permitting, wiring, installation and maintenance that have remained fixed over time.

Cesium atoms shaken, not stirred, to create elusive excitation in superfluid

February 6, 2015 8:04 am | by Steve Koppes, The Univ. of Chicago | News | Comments

Scientists discovered in 1937 that liquid helium-4, when chilled to extremely low temperatures, became a superfluid that could leak through glass, overflow its containers or eternally gush like a fountain. Future Nobel laureate Lev Landau came along in 1941, predicting that superfluid helium-4 should contain an exotic, particle-like excitation called a roton.

Direct measurement of key molecule will increase accuracy of combustion models

February 6, 2015 7:50 am | by Patti Koning, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories researchers are the first to directly measure hydroperoxyalkyl radicals, a class of reactive molecules denoted as “QOOH”, that are key in the chain of reactions that controls the early stages of combustion. This breakthrough has generated data on QOOH reaction rates and outcomes that will improve the fidelity of models used by engine manufacturers to create cleaner and more efficient cars and trucks.

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Diamonds could help bring proteins into focus

February 6, 2015 7:40 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Proteins are the building blocks of all living things, and they exist in virtually unlimited varieties, most of whose highly complex structures have not yet been determined. Those structures could be key to developing new drugs or to understanding basic biological processes. But figuring out the arrangement of atoms in these complicated, folded molecules usually requires getting them to form crystals large enough to be observed in detail.

Human insights inspire solutions for household robots

February 5, 2015 11:12 am | by Aaron Dubrow, NSF | News | Comments

People typically consider doing the laundry to be a boring chore. But laundry is far from boring for artificial intelligence (AI) researchers. To AI experts, programming a robot to do the laundry represents a challenging planning problem because current sensing and manipulation technology is not good enough to identify precisely the number of clothing pieces that are in a pile and the number that are picked up with each grasp.

Octopus robot makes waves with ultra-fast propulsion

February 5, 2015 10:47 am | by Glenn Harris, Univ. of Southampton | Videos | Comments

Scientists have developed an octopus-like robot, which can zoom through water with ultra-fast propulsion and acceleration never before seen in man-made underwater vehicles. Most fast aquatic animals are sleek and slender to help them move easily through the water but cephalopods, such as the octopus, are capable of high-speed escapes by filling their bodies with water and then quickly expelling it to dart away.

Using disorder to control light on a nanoscale

February 5, 2015 9:52 am | by Matthew Chin, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

A breakthrough by a team of researchers could lead to the more precise transfer of information in computer chips, as well as new types of optical materials for light emission and lasers. The researchers were able to control light at tiny lengths around 500 nm, smaller than the light’s own wavelength, by using random crystal lattice structures to counteract light diffraction.

Harnessing the power of drones to assess disaster damage

February 5, 2015 9:38 am | by Michael Price, San Diego State Univ. | News | Comments

When disaster strikes, it's important for responders and emergency officials to know what critical infrastructure has been damaged so they can direct supplies and resources accordingly. Doug Stow, a geography professor from San Diego State Univ., is developing a program that uses before-and-after aerial imagery to reveal infrastructure damage in a matter of minutes.

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Potassium salt outperforms precious metals as a catalyst

February 5, 2015 8:18 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

A team of Caltech chemists has discovered a method for producing a group of silicon-containing organic chemicals without relying on expensive precious metal catalysts. Instead, the new technique uses as a catalyst a cheap, abundant chemical that is commonly found in chemistry labs around the world, potassium tert-butoxide, to help create a host of products ranging from new medicines to advanced materials.

How to prevent metal embrittlement

February 5, 2015 8:00 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

When a metal tube lines an oil well thousands of feet below the surface of the ocean, that metal had better be solid and reliable. Unfortunately, the environment in such deep wells is often rich in hydrogen, a gas that can penetrate high-tech alloys and make them brittle, making fractures and leaks more likely. Now researchers have figured which characteristics of a metal structure foster this embrittlement in the presence of hydrogen.

Preventing greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere

February 5, 2015 7:41 am | by Caroline Perry, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

A novel class of materials that enable a safer, cheaper and more energy-efficient process for removing greenhouse gas from power plant emissions has been developed by a multi-institution team of researchers. The approach could be an important advance in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

Scientists call for antibody “bar code” system to follow Human Genome Project

February 4, 2015 4:05 pm | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

More than 100 researchers from around the world have collaborated to craft a request that could fundamentally alter how the antibodies used in research are identified, a project potentially on the scale of the now-completed Human Genome Project.

Microscopy technique allows mapping protein synthesis in living tissues, animals

February 4, 2015 3:06 pm | by Jessica Guenzel, Columbia Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Columbia Univ. have made a significant step toward visualizing complex protein metabolism in living systems with high resolution and minimum disturbance, a longstanding goal in the scientific community. In a recent study, the research team has reported a light microscopy method to image where the new proteins are produced and where the old proteins are degraded inside living tissues and animals.

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Programming safety into self-driving cars

February 4, 2015 11:21 am | by Aaron Dubrow, NSF | News | Comments

For decades, researchers in artificial intelligence, or AI, worked on specialized problems, developing theoretical concepts and workable algorithms for various aspects of the field. Computer vision, planning and reasoning experts all struggled independently in areas that many thought would be easy to solve, but which proved incredibly difficult.

Astronomers find new details in first known spiral galaxy

February 4, 2015 10:56 am | by Kevin Mayhood, Case Western Reserve Univ. | News | Comments

Case Western Reserve Univ. astronomers peered deep into space to discover new features of a galaxy that's been sketched and photographed for 170 years. The researchers were able to see faint plumes extending from the northeast and south of the nearby spiral galaxy M51a, also called the "Whirlpool Galaxy," by taking what is essentially a photograph made by a 20-hr exposure.

How the brain ignores distractions

February 4, 2015 10:18 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

When we concentrate on something, we also engage in the unsung, parallel act of purposefully ignoring other things. A new study describes how the brain may achieve such “optimal inattention.” With this knowledge, scientists at Brown Univ. hope they can harness our power to ignore.

Tiny robotic hands could improve cancer diagnostics, drug delivery

February 4, 2015 10:08 am | by American Chemical Society | Videos | Comments

Many people imagine robots today as clunky, metal versions of humans, but scientists are forging new territory in the field of “soft robotics”. One of the latest advances is a flexible, microscopic hand-like gripper. The development could help doctors perform remotely guided surgical procedures or perform biopsies. The materials also could someday deliver therapeutic drugs to hard-to-reach places.

Record keeping helps bacteria’s immune system fight invaders

February 4, 2015 10:01 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Bacteria have a sophisticated means of defending themselves, and they need it: more viruses infect bacteria than any other biological entity. Two experiments undertaken at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory provide new insight at the heart of bacterial adaptive defenses in a system called CRISPR, short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat.

Rediscovering spontaneous light emission

February 4, 2015 8:06 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers have developed a nano-sized optical antenna that can greatly enhance the spontaneous emission of light from atoms, molecules and semiconductor quantum dots. This advance opens the door to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that can replace lasers for short-range optical communications, including optical interconnects for microchips, plus a host of other potential applications.

One-atom-thin silicon transistors hold promise for super-fast computing

February 4, 2015 7:50 am | by Sandra Zaragoza, The Univ. of Texas at Austin | News | Comments

Researchers at The Univ. of Texas at Austin have created the first transistors made of silicene, the world’s thinnest silicon material. Their research holds the promise of building dramatically faster, smaller and more efficient computer chips. Made of a one-atom-thick layer of silicon atoms, silicene has outstanding electrical properties but has until now proved difficult to produce and work with.

Hidden uncertainties uncovered in nuclear forensic measurement

February 3, 2015 12:16 pm | by Ryan Fitzgerald, NIST | News | Comments

A little detective work by nuclear physicists has uncovered hidden uncertainties in a popular method for precisely measuring radioactive nuclides, often used to make reference materials for forensic analyses such as radioactive dating. The much-used method, called α/β-γ anticoincidence counting, has long relied on simplified assumptions. Now researchers from NIST have produced a more realistic model.

Microscopic monitoring may yield big advanced in production of consumer products

February 3, 2015 12:02 pm | by James Devitt, New York Univ. | News | Comments

A team of New York Univ. physicists has developed a method to monitor the properties of microscopic particles as they grow within a chemical reaction vessel, creating new opportunities to improve the quality and consistency of a wide range of industrial and consumer products. Their work, which appears in Soft Matter, offers benefits for commodities ranging from food and pharmaceuticals to perfumes and cosmetics.

Artificial blood vessels

February 3, 2015 11:17 am | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

By combining micro-imprinting and electro-spinning techniques, researchers at Shanghai Univ. have developed a vascular graft composed of three layers for the first time. This tri-layered composite has allowed researchers to utilize separate materials that respectively possess mechanical strength and promote new cell growth, a significant problem for existing vascular grafts that have only consisted of a single or double layer.

Winding borders may enhance graphene

February 3, 2015 9:20 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Far from being a defect, a winding thread of odd rings at the border of two sheets of graphene has qualities that may prove valuable to manufacturers, according to Rice Univ. scientists. Graphene rarely appears as a perfect lattice of chicken wire-like six-atom rings. When grown via chemical vapor deposition, it usually consists of “domains,” or separately grown sheets that bloom outward from hot catalysts until they meet up.

Tell us your 3D printing experiences

February 3, 2015 9:13 am | by R&D Magazine Editors | News | Comments

The editors of R&D Magazine are looking for speakers to participate in a webinar on “Using Multiple Materials in 3D Printing.” Candidates are asked to give a 15-min PowerPoint-based talk over the phone on their experiences in fabricating 3D printed products using multiple materials or developing the processes and/or technologies to accomplish this.

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