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All shook up for greener chemistry

June 1, 2015 9:57 am | by Dawn Fuller, Univ. of Cincinnati | Videos | Comments

Solvent-free chemistry, more common in Europe and Asia, is gaining notice among American manufacturers due to environmental concerns and rising costs in reducing toxic waste. Research out of the Univ. of Cincinnati finds that this sustainable approach to chemistry, while noisier, can be just as reliable for chemical reactions without the drawbacks. Plus, its recycling ability cuts costs on investing in expensive reagents.

“Designer carbon” boosts battery performance

June 1, 2015 7:51 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. scientists have created a new carbon material that significantly boosts the performance of energy-storage technologies. Their results are featured in ACS Central Science. The new "designer carbon" is both versatile and controllable and represents a dramatic improvement over conventional activated carbon.

Making power plants more efficient

June 1, 2015 7:27 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Most of the world’s electricity-producing power plants, whether powered by coal, natural gas or nuclear fission, make electricity by generating steam that turns a turbine. That steam then is condensed back to water, and the cycle begins again. But the condensers that collect the steam are quite inefficient, and improving them could make a big difference in overall power plant efficiency.

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Technique harnesses everyday seismic waves to image the Earth

May 29, 2015 11:30 am | by Ker Than, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

A new technique developed at Stanford Univ. harnesses the buzz of everyday human activity to map the interior of the Earth. Using tiny ground tremors generated by the rumble of cars and trucks across highways, the activities within offices and homes, pedestrians crossing the street and even airplanes flying overhead, a Stanford Univ. team created detailed three-dimensional subsurface maps of the California port city of Long Beach.

Cheetah robot lands the running jump

May 29, 2015 10:56 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

In a leap for robot development, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers who built a robotic cheetah have now trained it to see and jump over hurdles as it runs, making this the first four-legged robot to run and jump over obstacles autonomously. To get a running jump, the robot plans out its path, much like a human runner: As it detects an approaching obstacle, it estimates that object’s height and distance.

DNA double helix does double duty in assembling nanoparticle arrays

May 29, 2015 8:18 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

In a new twist on the use of DNA in nanoscale construction, scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory and collaborators put synthetic strands of the biological material to work in two ways: They used ropelike configurations of the DNA double helix to form a rigid geometrical framework, and added dangling pieces of single-stranded DNA to glue nanoparticles in place.

Researchers prove magnetism can control heat, sound

May 29, 2015 7:47 am | by Jamie Abel, Ohio Supercomputer Center | News | Comments

Phonons have magnetic properties. In Nature Materials, Ohio State Univ. researchers describe how a magnetic field, roughly the size of a medical MRI, reduced the amount of heat flowing through a semiconductor by 12%. Simulations performed at the Ohio Supercomputer Center then identified the reason for it—the magnetic field induces a diamagnetic response in vibrating atoms known as phonons, which changes how they transport heat.

Physicists precisely measure interaction between atoms, carbon surfaces

May 29, 2015 7:36 am | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Physicists at the Univ. of Washington have conducted the most precise and controlled measurements yet of the interaction between the atoms and molecules that comprise air and the type of carbon surface used in battery electrodes and air filters; key information for improving those technologies.

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Researchers find “lost” memories

May 29, 2015 7:27 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

Memories that have been “lost” as a result of amnesia can be recalled by activating brain cells with light. In a paper published in Science, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology reveal that they were able to reactivate memories that could not otherwise be retrieved, using a technology known as optogenetics.

Spiraling laser pulses could change graphene

May 28, 2015 11:46 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

A new study predicts that researchers could use spiraling pulses of laser light to change the nature of graphene, turning it from a metal into an insulator and giving it other peculiar properties that might be used to encode information. The results pave the way for experiments that create and control new states of matter with this specialized form of light, with potential applications in computing and other areas.

Designing less odorous latrines

May 28, 2015 11:37 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

About 2.5 billion people worldwide don’t have access to sanitary toilets. Latrines are an option for many of those people, but these facilities’ overwhelming odors can deter users, who then defecate outdoors instead. To improve this situation, fragrance scientists paired experts’ noses and analytical instruments to determine the odor profiles of latrines with the aim of countering the offensive stench.

Merging galaxies break radio silence

May 28, 2015 11:20 am | by Hubble Information Centre | News | Comments

In the most extensive survey of its kind ever conducted, a team of scientists have found an unambiguous link between the presence of supermassive black holes that power high-speed, radio-signal-emitting jets and the merger history of their host galaxies. Almost all of the galaxies hosting these jets were found to be merging with another galaxy, or to have done so recently.

Breakthrough heralds super-efficient light-based computers

May 28, 2015 8:07 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. electrical engineer Jelena Vuckovic wants to make computers faster and more efficient by reinventing how they send data back and forth between chips, where the work is done. In computers today, data is pushed through wires as a stream of electrons. That takes a lot of power, which helps explain why laptops get so warm.

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Spinning a new version of silk

May 28, 2015 7:22 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

After years of research decoding the complex structure and production of spider silk, researchers have now succeeded in producing samples of this exceptionally strong and resilient material in the laboratory. The new development could lead to a variety of biomedical materials made from synthesized silk with properties specifically tuned for their intended uses.

What the solar system looked like as a “toddler”

May 27, 2015 11:01 am | by Sarah Collins, Univ. of Cambridge | News | Comments

An international team of astronomers has identified a young planetary system which may aid in understanding how our own solar system formed and developed billions of years ago. Using the Gemini Planet Imager at the Gemini South telescope in Chile, the researchers identified a disc-shaped bright ring of dust around a star only slightly more massive than the sun, located 360 light-years away in the Centaurus constellation.

One step closer to mimicking gamma-ray bursts

May 27, 2015 9:56 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Using ever-more energetic lasers, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have produced a record high number of electron-positron pairs, opening exciting opportunities to study extreme astrophysical processes, such as black holes and gamma-ray bursts.

Helping robots put it all together

May 27, 2015 9:28 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Today’s industrial robots are remarkably efficient, as long as they’re in a controlled environment where everything is exactly where they expect it to be. But put them in an unfamiliar setting, where they have to think for themselves, and their efficiency plummets. And the difficulty of on-the-fly motion planning increases exponentially with the number of robots involved.

Squeezed quantum cats

May 27, 2015 8:15 am | by Oliver Morsch, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Quantum physics is full of fascinating phenomena. For example, the cat from the famous thought experiment by the physicist Erwin Schrodinger. The cat can be dead and alive at once, since its life depends on the quantum mechanically determined state of a radioactively decaying atom which, in turn, releases toxic gas into the cat's cage. As long as one hasn't measured the state of the atom, one knows nothing about the cat's health either.

Chip makes testing for antibiotic-resistant bacteria faster, easier

May 27, 2015 8:06 am | by RJ Taylor, Univ. of Toronto | News | Comments

We live in fear of superbugs: infectious bacteria that don't respond to treatment by antibiotics, and can turn a routine hospital stay into a nightmare. A 2015 Health Canada report estimates that superbugs have already cost Canadians $1 billion, and are a "serious and growing issue." Each year two million people in the U.S. contract antibiotic-resistant infections, and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result.

A new kind of wood chip

May 27, 2015 7:57 am | by John Steeno, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Portable electronics are discarded at an alarming rate in consumers' pursuit of the next best electronic gadget. In an effort to alleviate the environmental burden of electronic devices, a team of Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has collaborated with researchers in the Madison-based U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory to develop a surprising solution: a semiconductor chip made almost entirely of wood.

Seeing the action

May 27, 2015 7:47 am | by Sonia Fernandez, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara | News | Comments

Cells are biological wonders. Throughout billions of years of existence on Earth, these tiny units of life have evolved to collaborate at the smallest levels in promoting, preserving and protecting the organism they comprise. Among these functions is the transport of lipids and other biomacromolecules between cells via membrane adhesion and fusion.

Chip placed under skin provides precise medicine

May 27, 2015 7:39 am | by EPFL | News | Comments

The future of medicine lies in ever greater precision, not only when it comes to diagnosis but also drug dosage. The blood work that medical staff rely on is generally a snapshot indicative of the moment the blood is drawn before it undergoes hours, or even days, of analysis. Several EPFL laboratories are working on devices allowing constant analysis over as long a period as possible.

Linking superconductivity and structure

May 27, 2015 7:31 am | by Carnegie Institution | News | Comments

Superconductivity is a rare physical state in which matter is able to conduct electricity without any resistance. It can only be found in certain materials, and even then it can only be achieved under controlled conditions of low temperatures and high pressures. New research from the Carnegie Institution hones in on the structural changes underlying superconductivity in iron arsenide compounds.

New technique speeds nanoMRI imaging

May 26, 2015 11:11 am | by American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

NanoMRI is a scanning technique that produces nondestructive, high-resolution 3-D images of nanoscale objects, and it promises to become a powerful tool for researchers and companies exploring the shape and function of biological materials such as viruses and cells in much the same way as clinical MRI today enables investigation of whole tissues in the human body.

One step closer to a single-molecule device

May 26, 2015 10:57 am | by Columbia Univ. | News | Comments

Under the direction of Latha Venkataraman, associate professor of applied physics at Columbia Engineering, researchers have designed a new technique to create a single-molecule diode, and, in doing so, they have developed molecular diodes that perform 50 times better than all prior designs. Venkataraman's group is the first to develop a single-molecule diode that may have real-world technological applications for nanoscale devices.

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