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Microwave ovens may help produce lower-cost solar energy technology

August 24, 2012 10:31 am | News | Comments

The same type of microwave oven technology that most people use to heat up leftover food has found an important application in the solar energy industry, providing a new way to make thin-film photovoltaic products with less energy. Engineers at Oregon State University have, for the first time, developed a way to use microwave heating in the synthesis of copper zinc tin sulfide, a promising solar cell compound.

Polymer linking technology joins the unjoinable

August 24, 2012 6:18 am | News | Comments

Silicone is a so-called low surface energy polymer, which explains why paint doesn’t stick to it. Teflon is similarly non-sticky and is ubiquitous on frying pans. Researchers at Kiel University in Germany have recently developed the first technology capable of joining these two “unjoinable” materials together. The method is not chemical, rather it applies passive nano-scaled crystal linkers as internal staples.

Superheavy, and yet stable

August 24, 2012 5:36 am | News | Comments

The heaviest element on Earth is uranium, and superheavy, short-lived elements up to atomic number 118 have been produced artificially. But a subtle quantum effect suggests that even heavier atomic elements could exists for years. An international research searching for this “island of stability” has taken a big step in this direction by determining, for the first time, the strength of shell stability in heavy nuclei with 152 neutrons.

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Glass offers improved means of storing U.K.'s nuclear waste

August 24, 2012 4:56 am | News | Comments

University of Sheffield researchers have shown, for the first time, that a method of storing nuclear waste normally used only for high level waste (HLW), could provide a safer, more efficient, and potentially cheaper, solution for the storage and ultimate disposal of intermediate level waste (ILW).

Biocompatible cellulose nanostructures could speed wound recovery

August 23, 2012 6:30 am | News | Comments

Nanocellulose is a highly fibrillated material, composed of nanofibrils with diameters in the nanometer scale, with high aspect ratio and high specific surface area. Recently, the suitability of cellulose nanofibrils from wood for forming elastic cryogels has been demonstrated by scientists. These gels could improve wound healing if used in dressings.

Superconductor 'flaws' could be key to its abilities

August 23, 2012 4:04 am | News | Comments

Physicists who study superconductivity strive to create a clean, perfect sample. But a Purdue University team that has mapped seemingly random, four-atom-wide dark lines of electrons on the surface of copper-oxygen based superconducting crystals has discovered that they exist throughout the crystal. The findings suggest the lines, which are “flaws”, could play a role in the material's superconductivity at much higher temperatures than others.

Synthetic platelets could stop life-threatening internal bleeding

August 22, 2012 9:23 am | News | Comments

Inspired by studies showing there are few options to treat soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq who suffer internal injuries from the roadside bombs known as improvised explosive devices, researchers at Case Western Reserve University have made significant advances toward developing synthetic platelets that could be both portable and effective for stopping the life-threatening bleeding that occurs from these types of injuries.

Advances in decades-old dream of mining seawater for uranium

August 21, 2012 6:04 am | News | Comments

At this week’s American Chemical Society meeting, a number of scientists reported progress toward workable solutions for extracting uranium for nuclear power from seawater, which holds at least four billion tons of the material. The concept, which dates back 40 years, is seen as a crucial step for making future nuclear power operations viable.

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Experiment would test cloud geoengineering as way to slow warming

August 20, 2012 10:59 am | News | Comments

Even though it sounds like science fiction, researchers are taking a second look at a controversial idea that uses futuristic ships to shoot salt water high into the sky over the oceans, creating clouds that reflect sunlight and thus counter global warming. The point of the paper is to encourage more scientists to consider the idea of marine cloud brightening and even poke holes in it.

Writing the book in DNA, literally

August 20, 2012 4:54 am | News | Comments

Using next-generation sequencing technology and a new strategy to encode 1,000 times the largest data size previously achieved in DNA, Harvard University geneticist George Church has encoded his book in life's language. While the volume of data is comparatively modest, the density of 5.5 petabits, or 1 million gigabits per cubic meter, is off the charts.

Testing cholesterol with a photograph

August 17, 2012 6:47 am | News | Comments

Researchers in India have developed a total cholesterol test that uses a digital camera to take a snapshot of the back of the patient's hand rather than a blood sample. The image obtained is cropped and compared against thousands of images in a database for known cholesterol levels.

Soft robots, in color

August 17, 2012 4:03 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers led by Harvard University chemist George Whitesides, a R&D Magazine Scientist of the Year, has already broken new engineering ground with the development of soft, silicone-based robots inspired by creatures like starfish and squid. Now, they're working to give those robots the ability to disguise themselves.

Discovery has implications for finding life on Earth, Mars

August 16, 2012 6:30 am | by Ashley Washburn | News | Comments

A recent finding by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln research team shows that Moqui marbles, unusual balls of rock that can be found rolling around the southwestern U.S. sandstone regions, were formed roughly 2 million years ago with the help of microorganisms. Previous theories of their formation had suggested a chemical reaction devoid of life, but clear evidence of life’s role has been discovered.

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Star births seen on cosmic scale in distant galaxy

August 16, 2012 5:37 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Scientists using NASA's Chandra X-Ray telescope have found a galaxy that gives births to more stars in a day than ours does in a year. Even more puzzling to astronomers than its prolific nature its age. At 6 billion years old, the large, mature galaxy shouldn’t be producing that many stars.

Seventeenth century shipwreck to be freeze-dried, rebuilt

August 15, 2012 8:16 am | by Michael Graczyk, Associated Press | News | Comments

More than three centuries ago, a French explorer's ship sank in the Gulf of Mexico, taking with it France's hopes of colonizing a vast piece of the New World—modern-day Texas. Like La Salle in 1685, researchers at Texas A&M University are in uncharted waters as they try to reconstruct his vessel with a gigantic freeze-dryer, the first undertaking of its size.

3D facial reconstruction tools “shaves” faces virtually

August 13, 2012 4:48 am | News | Comments

Conventional face capturing is well established and widely utilized in the entertainment industry to capture a 3D model of an actor's face. However, up to now, no method was capable of reconstructing facial hair or even handling it appropriately. A new method developed at Disney Research in Switzerland captures individual strands of facial hair and stores them separately from the actual human face until added. Or “shaved” away.

Autonomous robotic plane flies indoors

August 10, 2012 7:36 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The Robust Robotics Group at MIT that won the last Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International competition has set for itself an even tougher challenge: developing autonomous-control algorithms for the indoor flight of GPS-denied airplanes. Their work has produced an autonomous airplane that has completed a series of successful flight tests in a subterranean parking garage.

The power to heal at the tips of your fingers

August 10, 2012 7:27 am | News | Comments

A international research team has mimicked and recreated the intricate properties of human fingertips using semiconductor devices. The devices, shown to be capable of responding with high precision to the stresses and strains associated with touch and finger movement, may lead to the development of advanced surgical gloves.

Study: Skin-aging radicals also age naturally-formed particles

August 10, 2012 3:54 am | by Jocelyn Duffy | News | Comments

Pine trees give off gases that react with airborne chemicals, creating tiny, invisible particles that muddy the air. New research shows that the biogenic particles formed from pine tree emissions are more chemically dynamic than previously thought. A study has generated the first experimental evidence that such compounds are chemically transformed by free radicals, the same compounds that age our skin, after they are first formed in the atmosphere.

DNA code shapes gold nanoparticles

August 9, 2012 3:33 am | News | Comments

DNA holds the genetic code for all sorts of biological molecules and traits. But University of Illinois researchers have found that DNA's code can similarly shape metallic structures. The team found that DNA segments can direct the shape of gold nanoparticles.

Fossils hint at distant cousins to our ancestors

August 8, 2012 1:35 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Our family tree may have sprouted some long-lost branches going back nearly 2 million years. A famous paleontology family has found fossils that they think confirm their theory that there are two additional pre-human species besides the one that eventually led to modern humans.

Scientists define new limits of microbial life in undersea volcanoes

August 7, 2012 6:21 am | News | Comments

This week researchers have reported the first detailed data on methane-exhaling microbes that live deep in the cracks of hot undersea volcanoes. As evidence builds that a large amount of biomass exists in Earth’s subsurface, the scientists’ major goal was to test results of predictive computer models and to establish the first environmental hydrogen threshold for these extreme microbes.

NASA releases low-res video of Mars rover descent

August 7, 2012 4:15 am | by Alicia Chang and Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writers | News | Comments

NASA's Curiosity rover on Monday transmitted a low-resolution video showing the last 2 1/2 minutes of its white-knuckle dive through the Mars atmosphere, giving Earthlings a sneak peek of a spacecraft landing on another world. It was a sneak preview since it'll take some time before full-resolution frames are beamed back depending on other priorities.

Researchers identify a novel double-stranded DNA structure

August 6, 2012 5:47 am | News | Comments

Addressing a scientific debate that had lasted for 16 years over the existence of a certain type of double-stranded DNA structure called S-DNA, researchers in Singapore were able to create the structure by stretching conventional double-stranded DNA beyond a certain transition force. The debate centered over whether the new structure was merely a melting transition for a full-fledge form.

How the cell swallows

August 3, 2012 8:25 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Germany have recently combined the power of two kinds of microscope to produce a 3D movie of how cells “swallow” nutrients and other molecules by bending its membrane inwards and engulfing them.

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