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Coal yields plenty of graphene quantum dots

December 6, 2013 7:55 am | Videos | Comments

The prospect of turning coal into fluorescent particles may sound too good to be true, but the possibility exists, thanks to scientists at Rice Univ. The Rice laboratory of chemist James Tour found simple methods to reduce three kinds of coal into graphene quantum dots (GQDs), microscopic discs of atom-thick graphene oxide that could be used in medical imaging as well as sensing, electronic and photovoltaic applications.

Engineers show how to optimize carbon nanotube arrays for use in hot spots

December 3, 2013 8:23 am | News | Comments

When engineers design devices, they must often join together two materials that expand and contract at different rates as temperatures change. Such thermal differences can cause problems if, for instance, a semiconductor chip is plugged into a socket that can’t expand and contract rapidly enough to maintain an unbroken contact over time. The potential for failure at such junctures has intensified as devices have shrunk to the nanoscale.

Key found to restoring “exhausted” HIV-fighting immune cells

December 3, 2013 8:07 am | News | Comments

Researchers have identified a protein that causes loss of function in immune cells combating HIV. The scientists report in a paper appearing online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation that the protein, Sprouty-2, is a promising target for future HIV drug development, since disabling it could help restore the cells’ ability to combat the virus that causes AIDS.

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Difficult dance steps: Team learns how membrane transporter moves

December 3, 2013 7:57 am | Videos | Comments

Researchers have tried for decades to understand the undulations and gyrations that allow transport proteins to shuttle molecules from one side of a cell membrane to the other. Now scientists report that they have found a way to penetrate the mystery. They have worked out every step in the molecular dance that enables one such transporter to do its job.

Process holds promise for production of synthetic gasoline

December 3, 2013 7:45 am | News | Comments

A chemical system developed by researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago can efficiently perform the first step in the process of creating syngas, gasoline and other energy-rich products out of carbon dioxide. A novel “co-catalyst” system using inexpensive, easy-to-fabricate carbon-based nanofiber materials efficiently converts carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide, a useful starting material for synthesizing fuels.

Pills of the future

December 2, 2013 12:09 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Drugs delivered by nanoparticles hold promise for targeted treatment of many diseases, including cancer. However, the particles have to be injected into patients, which has limited their usefulness so far. Now, researchers have developed a new type of nanoparticle that can be delivered orally and absorbed through the digestive tract, allowing patients to simply take a pill instead of receiving injections.

R&D 100 Video: Dry Machining Protection

December 2, 2013 11:52 am | Videos | Comments

More than 100 million gallons of cutting fluid is used each year in the U.S. to protect wet machining tools. Dry machining is a more ecologically friendly alternative to wet machining, but a lack of available cutting tools that offer the necessary lubrication and desired hot hardness has limited its usage. NanoMech Inc. has now introduced a technology that offers a potential 500% efficiency improvement on the industry standard.

Making a gem of a tiny crystal

December 2, 2013 8:34 am | News | Comments

Nature builds flawless diamonds, sapphires and other gems. Now a Northwestern Univ. research team is the first to build near-perfect single crystals out of nanoparticles and DNA, using the same structure favored by nature. The research group developed the “recipe” for using nanomaterials as atoms, DNA as bonds and a little heat to form tiny crystals. This single-crystal recipe builds on superlattice techniques.

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Nanoscale coatings improve stability, efficiency of devices for renewable fuel generation

December 2, 2013 8:14 am | News | Comments

Splitting water into its components, two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, is an important first step in achieving carbon-neutral fuels to power our transportation infrastructure. Now, North Carolina State Univ. researchers and colleagues from the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have shown that a specialized coating technique can make certain water-splitting devices more stable and more efficient.

Newly identified protein provides target for antibiotic-resistant hospital bacterium

November 27, 2013 8:49 am | News | Comments

Researchers have made inroads into tackling a bacterium that plagues hospitals and is highly resistant to most antibiotics. They determined the 3-D structure and likely function of a new protein in this common bacterium that attacks those with compromised immune systems.

Bad proteins branch out

November 26, 2013 8:45 am | News | Comments

A method by Rice Univ. researchers to model the way proteins fold, and sometimes misfold, has revealed branching behavior that may have implications for Alzheimer’s and other aggregation diseases. In an earlier study of the muscle protein titin, Rice chemist Peter Wolynes and his colleagues analyzed the likelihood of misfolding in proteins, in which domains become entangled with like sequences on nearby chains.

How losing information can benefit quantum computing

November 26, 2013 8:34 am | News | Comments

Suggesting that quantum computers might benefit from losing some data, physicists at NIST have entangled—linked the quantum properties of—two ions by leaking judiciously chosen information to the environment. The NIST experiments used two beryllium ions as quantum bits (qubits) to store quantum information and two partner magnesium ions, which were cooled with three ultraviolet laser beams to release heat.

Scientists identify new catalyst for cleanup of nitrites

November 26, 2013 7:41 am | News | Comments

Chemical engineers at Rice Univ. have found a new catalyst that can rapidly break down nitrites, a common and harmful contaminant in drinking water that often results from overuse of agricultural fertilizers. Nitrites and their more abundant cousins, nitrates, are inorganic compounds that are often found in both groundwater and surface water. The compounds are a health hazard.

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Inexpensive nanocamera can operate at the speed of light

November 26, 2013 7:31 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

A $500 “nanocamera” that can operate at the speed of light has been developed by researchers in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. The 3-D camera could be used in medical imaging and collision-avoidance detectors for cars, and to improve the accuracy of motion tracking and gesture-recognition devices used in interactive gaming.

A possible cause of the end-Permian mass extinction: Lemon juice?

November 25, 2013 11:05 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Rain as acidic as undiluted lemon juice may have played a part in killing off plants and organisms around the world during the most severe mass extinction in Earth’s history. About 252 million years ago, the end of the Permian period brought about a worldwide collapse known as the Great Dying, during which a vast majority of species went extinct. The cause of such a massive extinction is a matter of scientific debate.

Scientists capture “redox moments” in living cells

November 25, 2013 8:27 am | News | Comments

Scientists have charted a significant signaling network in a tiny organism that's big in the world of biofuels research. The findings about how a remarkably fast-growing organism conducts its metabolic business bolster scientists' ability to create biofuels using the hardy microbe Synechococcus, which turns sunlight into useful energy.

An inside look at a MOF in action

November 25, 2013 8:05 am | News | Comments

A unique inside look at the electronic structure of a highly touted metal-organic framework (MOF) as it is adsorbing carbon dioxide gas should help in the design of new and improved MOFs for carbon capture and storage. Researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have recorded the first in situ electronic structure observations of the adsorption of carbon dioxide inside Mg-MOF-74.

Scientists prove x-ray laser can solve protein structures from scratch

November 25, 2013 7:54 am | News | Comments

A study shows, for the first time, that x-ray lasers can be used to generate a complete 3-D model of a protein without any prior knowledge of its structure. An international team of researchers working at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory produced from scratch an accurate model of lysozyme, a well-studied enzyme found in egg whites, using the Linac Coherent Light Source x-ray laser and sophisticated computer analysis tools.

Creating synthetic antibodies

November 25, 2013 7:40 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineers have developed a novel way to generate nanoparticles that can recognize specific molecules, opening up a new approach to building durable sensors for many different compounds, among other applications. To create these “synthetic antibodies,” the researchers used carbon nanotubes.

Aging erodes genetic control, but it’s flexible

November 22, 2013 8:19 am | News | Comments

Biologists at Brown Univ. have found a way to measure the effects of aging by watching the ebb and flow of chromatin, a structure along strands of DNA that either silences or permits gene expression. In several newly published experiments they show that gene silencing via chromatin in fruit flies declines with age.

Will 2-D tin be the next super material?

November 22, 2013 8:09 am | News | Comments

A single layer of tin atoms could be the world’s first material to conduct electricity with 100% efficiency at the temperatures that computer chips operate, according to a team of theoretical physicists led by researchers from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford Univ.

Searching for cosmic accelerators via IceCube

November 22, 2013 7:55 am | News | Comments

In our universe there are particle accelerators 40 million times more powerful than the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Scientists don’t know what these cosmic accelerators are or where they are located, but new results being reported from IceCube, the neutrino observatory buried at the South Pole, may show the way. These new results should also erase any doubts as to IceCube’s ability to deliver on its promise.

Energy savings in 3-D

November 21, 2013 7:37 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are working with aircraft makers to determine energy savings through the use of additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing. The research team is printing airplane parts to show additive manufacturing’s potential as a technology that should be considered foundational to processes seeking more energy efficiency.

Droplets break a theoretical time barrier on bouncing

November 21, 2013 7:25 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Those who study hydrophobic materials are familiar with a theoretical limit on the time it takes for a water droplet to bounce away from such a surface. But Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have now found a way to burst through that perceived barrier, reducing the contact time by at least 40%.

Connection found between nitrogen levels in water, toxic algae production

November 20, 2013 10:15 am | News | Comments

Scientists have long known that phosphorus fuels growth of algae in lakes and streams. Wisconsin Sea Grant researchers have found that nitrogen levels are a factor in whether or not these algae—specifically, blue-green algae—produce toxins. The findings, published in PLOS ONE have parts of the scientific community buzzing.

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