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Is natural gas a solution to mitigating climate change?

February 11, 2014 8:18 am | by Cynthia Eller, California Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Methane, a key greenhouse gas, has more than doubled in volume in Earth's atmosphere since 1750. Its increase is believed to be a leading contributor to climate change. But where is the methane coming from? Research by a California Institute of Technology atmospheric chemist suggests that losses of natural gas—our "cleanest" fossil fuel—into the atmosphere may be a larger source than previously recognized.

More Hope for a HIV-1 Vaccine

February 10, 2014 9:15 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

On the eve of the 25th World AIDS Day (December 2014), President Barack Obama expressed hope to our nation, proclaiming that an “AIDS-free generation is within our reach.” During his speech, Obama expressed how our nation has made significant strides toward strengthening scientific investments, building effective HIV/AIDS education and prevention programs and bringing together public and private stakeholders.

Scientists use “voting”, “penalties” to overcome errors in quantum optimization

February 7, 2014 8:26 am | by Robert Perkins, Univ. of Southern California | News | Comments

Seeking a solution to decoherence, scientists have developed a strategy of linking quantum bits together into voting blocks, a strategy that significantly boosts their accuracy. In a recently published paper, the team found that their method results in at least a five-fold increase in the probability of reaching the correct answer when the processor solves the largest problems tested by the researcher, involving hundreds of qubits.

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Theorists predict new forms of exotic insulating materials

February 7, 2014 8:02 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Topological insulators have been of great interest to physicists in recent years because of unusual properties that may provide insights into quantum physics. But most analysis of such materials has had to rely on highly simplified models. Now, a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has performed a more detailed analysis that hints at the existence of six new kinds of topological insulators.

Researchers improve process for manufacturing efficient solar cells

February 6, 2014 9:04 am | by Bill Kisliuk, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

Working on the cutting edge of a newly emerging area of solar-cell research, Univ. of California, Los Angeles engineers have invented a new process for manufacturing highly efficient photovoltaic materials that shows promise for low-cost industrial production. The new process uses so-called perovskite materials, which in the past few years have significantly advanced scientists' efforts to create the next generation of solar cells.

Researchers find unambiguous evidence for coherent phonons in superlattices

February 6, 2014 8:39 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

We all learn in high school science about the dual nature of light—that it exists as both waves and quantum particles called photons. It’s this duality of light that enables the coherent transport of photons in lasers. Sound at the atomic-scale has the same dual nature, existing as both waves and quasi-particles known as phonons. Does this duality allow for phonon-based lasers?

Ballistic transport in graphene suggests new type of electronic device

February 6, 2014 8:20 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Using electrons more like photons could provide the foundation for a new type of electronic device that would capitalize on the ability of graphene to carry electrons with almost no resistance even at room temperature—a property known as ballistic transport. Research reported that electrical resistance in nanoribbons of epitaxial graphene changes in discrete steps following quantum mechanical principles.

Materials database proves its mettle with new discoveries

February 4, 2014 10:34 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Trying to find new materials, to improve the performance of anything from microchips to car bodies, has always been a process of trial and error. Massachusetts Institute of Technology materials scientist Gerbrand Ceder likens it to setting out from Boston for California, with neither a map nor a navigation system—and on foot.

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Technique makes “biogasoline” from plant waste

February 4, 2014 9:08 am | News | Comments

Gasoline-like fuels can be made from cellulosic materials such as farm and forestry waste using a new process invented by chemists at the Univ. of California, Davis. The process could open up new markets for plant-based fuels, beyond existing diesel substitutes.

Diamond film possible without the pressure

February 4, 2014 8:59 am | News | Comments

Perfect sheets of diamond a few atoms thick appear to be possible even without the big squeeze that makes natural gems. Scientists have speculated about it and a few laboratories have even seen signs of what they call diamane, an extremely thin film of diamond that has all of diamond’s superior semiconducting and thermal properties.

Solving a physics mystery: Those “solitons” are really vortex rings

February 4, 2014 8:51 am | by Peter Kelley, News and Information, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

The same physics that gives tornadoes their ferocious stability lies at the heart of new Univ. of Washington research, and could lead to a better understanding of nuclear dynamics in studying fission, superconductors and the workings of neutron stars. The work seeks to clarify what Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers witnessed when in 2013 they named a mysterious phenomenon.

A quicker, cheaper way to detect staph in the body

February 3, 2014 8:36 am | News | Comments

Chances are you won’t know you’ve got a staph infection until the test results come in, days after the symptoms first appear. But what if your physician could identify the infection much more quickly and without having to take a biopsy and ship it off for analysis? Researchers at the Univ. of Iowa may have found a way.

A detailed look at HIV in action

January 31, 2014 9:45 am | by Katie Neith. California Institute of Technology | News | Comments

The human intestinal tract, or gut, is best known for its role in digestion. But this collection of organs also plays a prominent role in the immune system. In fact, it is one of the first parts of the body that is attacked in the early stages of an HIV infection. Knowing how the virus infects cells and accumulates in this area is critical to developing new therapies for the over 33 million people worldwide living with HIV.

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Antibiotic “smart bomb” can target specific strains of bacteria

January 30, 2014 10:15 am | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a de facto antibiotic “smart bomb” that can identify specific strains of bacteria and sever their DNA, eliminating the infection. The technique offers a potential approach to treat infections by multi-drug resistant bacteria.

Puzzling question in bacterial immune system answered

January 30, 2014 8:04 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A central question has been answered regarding a protein that plays an essential role in the bacterial immune system and is fast becoming a valuable tool for genetic engineering. A team of researchers has determined how the bacterial enzyme known as Cas9, guided by RNA, is able to identify and degrade foreign DNA during viral infections, as well as induce site-specific genetic changes in animal and plant cells.

Facelift complications eased with help of 3-D imaging technique

January 28, 2014 7:49 am | News | Comments

Millions of people each year remove wrinkles, soften creases and plump up their lips by injecting a gel-like material into their facial tissue. These cosmetic procedures are sometimes called “liquid facelifts” and are said to be minimally invasive. It’s rare, but sometimes things go wrong. In a matter of minutes, patients’ skin can turn red or blotchy white and the injected area becomes painful.

Study advances quest for better superconducting materials

January 28, 2014 7:37 am | News | Comments

Nearly 30 years after the discovery of high-temperature superconductivity, many questions remain, but an Oak Ridge National Laboratory team is providing insight that could lead to better superconductors. Their work examines the role of chemical dopants, which are essential to creating high-temperature superconductors.

3-D printed soil reveals the world beneath our feet

January 27, 2014 8:21 am | by Kirsty Cameron, Abertay Univ. | Videos | Comments

Soil scientists at Abertay Univ. are using 3-D printing technology to find out, for the very first time, exactly what is going on in the world beneath our feet. In the same way that ecologists study the interactions of living organisms above ground, Prof.Wilfred Otten and researchers at the university’s SIMBIOS Centre are taking advantage of the new technology to do the same below ground.

How the “Matthew Effect” helps some scientific papers gain popularity

January 27, 2014 7:40 am | by Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Do scientific papers written by well-known scholars get more attention than they otherwise would receive because of their authors’ high profiles? A new study co-authored by an Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist reports that high-status authorship does increase how frequently papers are cited in the life sciences—but finds some subtle twists in how this happens.

Solar cell technology captures high-energy photons more efficiently

January 24, 2014 8:38 am | News | Comments

Getting the blues is rarely a desirable experience—unless you’re a solar cell, that is. Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory and the Univ. of Texas at Austin have together developed a new, inexpensive material that has the potential to capture and convert solar energy—particularly from the bluer part of the spectrum—much more efficiently than ever before.

Tuning the chemical bonds of buckyballs

January 24, 2014 8:28 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

If the chemical bonds that hold together the constituent atoms of a molecule could be tuned to become stronger or weaker, certain chemical properties of that molecule might be controlled to great advantage for applications in energy and catalysis. Researchers were able to accomplish this feat by using an applied voltage and electric current to tune the strength of chemical bonds in fullerene or buckyball molecules.

Researchers develop new method to control nanoscale diamond sensors

January 24, 2014 7:59 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but they could also one day help us understand how the brain processes information, thanks to a new sensing technique developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A team in MIT’s Quantum Engineering Group has developed a new method to control nanoscale diamond sensors, which are capable of measuring even very weak magnetic fields.

New surface treatment stops scale buildup

January 23, 2014 8:10 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

You’ve probably seen it in your kitchen cookware, or inside old plumbing pipes: scaly deposits left over time by hard, mineral-laden water. It happens not only in pipes and cooking pots in the home, but also in pipelines and valves that deliver oil and gas, and pipes that carry cooling water inside power plants. Scale, as these deposits are known, causes inefficiencies, downtime and maintenance issues.

Better protein capture a boon for drug manufacturers

January 23, 2014 8:00 am | Videos | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have created a way to fine tune a process critical to the pharmaceutical industry that could save a lot of time and money. A combination of the Rice technique that provides pinpoint locations for single proteins and a theory that describes those proteins’ interactions with other molecules could widen a bottleneck in the manufacture of drugs by making the process of isolating proteins five times more efficient.  

Cooling microprocessors with carbon nanotubes

January 23, 2014 7:48 am | News | Comments

“Cool it!” That’s a prime directive for microprocessor chips and a promising new solution to meeting this imperative is in the offing. Researchers with the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a process-friendly technique that would enable the cooling of microprocessor chips through carbon nanotubes.

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