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Study: Forward osmosis desalination not energy efficient

July 24, 2014 7:37 am | by Alissa Mallinson | MIT Dept. of Mechanical Engineering | News | Comments

In a recent study published in the Journal of Membrane Science, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology team reported that, contrary to popular support, forward osmosis desalination of seawater is significantly less energy efficient, compared to reverse osmosis. In forward osmosis, water is drawn from the seawater into a concentrated salt solution, known as a draw solution.

Spinach could lead to alternative energy more powerful than Popeye

July 23, 2014 4:07 pm | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Spinach gave Popeye super strength, but it also holds the promise of a different power for a group of scientists: the ability to convert sunlight into a clean, efficient alternative fuel. Purdue Univ. physicists are part of an international group using spinach to study the proteins involved in photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert the sun’s energy into carbohydrates used to power cellular processes.

A new approach in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence: Targeting alien polluters

July 23, 2014 11:09 am | by David A. Aguilar, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics | News | Comments

Humanity is on the threshold of being able to detect signs of alien life on other worlds. By studying exoplanet atmospheres, we can look for gases like oxygen and methane that only coexist if replenished by life. But those gases come from simple life forms like microbes. What about advanced civilizations? Would they leave any detectable signs?

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Researchers pioneer a Google street view of galaxies

July 23, 2014 9:55 am | by Verity Leatherdale, Univ. of Sydney | News | Comments

A new home-grown instrument based on bundles of optical fibers is giving Australian astronomers the first “Google street view” of the cosmos—incredibly detailed views of huge numbers of galaxies. Developed by researchers at the Univ. of Sydney and the Australian Astronomical Observatory, the optical-fiber bundles can sample the light from up to 60 parts of a galaxy, for a dozen galaxies at a time.

NASA’s Fermi space telescope finds a “transformer” pulsar

July 23, 2014 9:19 am | Videos | Comments

In late June 2013, an exceptional binary containing a rapidly spinning neutron star underwent a dramatic change in behavior never before observed. The pulsar's radio beacon vanished, while at the same time the system brightened fivefold in gamma rays, the most powerful form of light, according to measurements by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. It was as if someone flipped a switch on the pulsar.

Researchers create vaccine for dust-mite allergies

July 23, 2014 8:32 am | by Richard C. Lewis, Univ. of Iowa | News | Comments

If you’re allergic to dust mites, help may be on the way. Researchers at the Univ. of Iowa have developed a vaccine that can combat dust-mite allergies by naturally switching the body’s immune response. In animal tests, the nano-sized vaccine package lowered lung inflammation by 83% despite repeated exposure to the allergens.

Technique simplifies the creation of high-tech crystals

July 22, 2014 2:29 pm | News | Comments

Highly purified crystals that split light with precision are valued in specialized optics. But photonic crystals are difficult to make with current techniques, namely electron beam etching. Researchers at Princeton and Columbia universities have proposed a new method derived from colloidal suspensions that could allow scientists to customize and grow optimal crystals with relative ease.

Reconstructing an animal’s development cell by cell

July 21, 2014 9:36 am | News | Comments

Janelia Research Campus experts have built a new computational method that can essentially automate much of the time-consuming process of reconstructing an animal's developmental building plan cell by cell. Using image data obtaining using a sophisticated form of light sheet microscopy, the tool can track the movement of cells in an animal’s body in 3-D.

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Steam from the sun

July 21, 2014 7:55 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A new material structure developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology generates steam by soaking up the sun. The structure—a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam—is a porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material’s pores, where it evaporates as steam.

Medical marijuana researcher fired by university

July 18, 2014 9:21 pm | by Astrid Galvan - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Veterans, medical marijuana activists and scientists welcomed the first federally approved research into pot as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. But their hopes for the research were dashed when the Univ. of Arizona fired researcher Suzanne Sisley, who undertook the study after clearing four years of bureaucratic hurdles.

Researchers create new method to draw molecules from live cells

July 18, 2014 12:30 pm | by Jeannie Kever, Univ. of Houston | News | Comments

Most current methods of identifying intracellular information result in the death of the individual cells, making it impossible to continue to gain information and assess change over time. Using magnetized carbon nanotubes, scientists in Texas have devised a new method for extracting molecules from live cells without disrupting cell development.

Nature’s strongest glue comes unstuck

July 18, 2014 11:23 am | News | Comments

Barnacle glue, or cement, sticks to any surface, under any conditions. And it’s still far better than anything we have been able to develop synthetically. Now, over 150 years since it was first described by Charles Darwin, scientists are finally uncovering the secrets behind the super strength of barnacle glue.

Mats made from shrimp chitin attract uranium like a magnet

July 18, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

A Univ. of Alabama start-up company, 525 Solutions, has received about $1.5 million from the federal government to refine an invention to extract uranium from the ocean for use as fuel. It is an adsorbent, biodegradable material made from the compound chitin, which is found in crustaceans and insects. The researchers have developed transparent sheets, or mats, comprised of tiny chitin fibers, which pull uranium from the water.

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66-yard crater appears in far northern Siberia

July 18, 2014 8:47 am | News | Comments

Russian scientists say they believe a 66-yard wide crater discovered recently in far northern Siberia could be the result of changing temperatures in the region. Andrei Plekhanov, a senior researcher at the Scientific Research Center of the Arctic who visited the crater this week, the crater was mostly likely the result of a "build-up of excessive pressure" underground due to rising temperatures.

Water molecules favor negative charges

July 17, 2014 7:52 am | News | Comments

Recent research shows that, in the presence of charged substances, water molecules favor associating with elements with a negative electrical charge rather than a positive electric charge. A study on the subject that employed advanced optical spectroscopy techniques could provide new insights on the processes of cell formation.

Are ants the answer to carbon dioxide sequestration?

July 17, 2014 7:24 am | News | Comments

A 25-year-long study published in Geology provides the first quantitative measurement of in situ calcium-magnesium silicate mineral dissolution by ants, termites, tree roots, and bare ground. This study reveals that ants are one of the most powerful biological agents of mineral decay yet observed. This discovery might offer a line of research on how to "geoengineer" accelerated carbon dioxide consumption by Ca-Mg silicates.

Study: Squid skin protein could improve biomedical technologies

July 16, 2014 2:24 pm | News | Comments

The common pencil squid may hold the key to a new generation of medical technologies that could communicate more directly with the human body. Materials science researchers in California have discovered that reflectin, a protein in the tentacled creature’s skin, can conduct positive electrical charges, or protons, making it a promising material for building biologically inspired devices.  

Trying gene therapy to create biological pacemaker

July 16, 2014 2:22 pm | by Lauran Neergaard - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

No batteries required: Scientists are creating a biological pacemaker by injecting a gene into the hearts of sick pigs that changed ordinary cardiac cells into a special kind that induces a steady heartbeat. The study, published Wednesday, is one step toward developing an alternative to electronic pacemakers that are implanted into 300,000 Americans a year.

Bubble wrap serves as sheet of tiny test tubes in resource-limited regions

July 16, 2014 11:46 am | News | Comments

Popping the blisters on the bubble wrap might be the most enjoyable thing about moving. But now, researchers led by 2007 R&D Magazine Scientist of the Year George Whitesides propose a more productive way to reuse the popular packing material: as a sheet of small, test tube-like containers for medical and environmental samples. Analyses can take place right in the bubbles.

Entomology research fights mosquitoes with mosquitoes

July 15, 2014 4:58 pm | Videos | Comments

Researchers in Kentucky have developed a technology that uses male mosquitoes to effectively sterilize females through a naturally occurring bacterium. Called MosquitoMate, the new technology has been issued an experimental use permit for open field releases targeting the invasive Asian tiger mosquito, which is a vector for newly introduced pathogens like the Chikungunya virus.

Study: Friends share similarities in their DNA

July 15, 2014 9:20 am | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

You may be more similar to your friends than you think. A new study suggests that the DNA code tends to be more alike between friends than between strangers, and the similarity goes beyond the effect of shared ethnicity. The difference is slight but detectable and consistent, and the finding could be important for theories about human evolution.

3-D printed anatomy to mark a new era for medical training

July 14, 2014 11:32 am | News | Comments

The creators of a unique kit containing 3-D printed anatomical body parts say it will revolutionize medical education and training, especially in countries where cadaver use is problematic. The “3D Printed Anatomy Series”, developed by experts in Australia, is thought to be the first commercially available resource of its kind. The kit contains no human tissue, yet it provides all the major parts of the body required to teach anatomy.

Study: Spoonfuls can lead to medicine errors

July 14, 2014 12:21 am | by Lindsey Tanner - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The song says a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but a study says that kind of imprecise measurement can lead to potentially dangerous dosing mistakes. The results, published online in Pediatrics, underscore recommendations that droppers and syringes that measure in milliliters be used for liquid medicines—not spoons.

LG Display unveils 18-inch flexible display

July 11, 2014 11:38 am | by Youkyung Lee, AP Technology Writer | News | Comments

The South Korean display panel maker LG has developed an 18-inch flexible display that can be rolled into the shape of a thin cylinder, a step toward making a large display for flexible TVs. Although not as sharp as the latest ultra-high definition flat screens, the new display has a resolution of 1200 pixels by 810 pixels and maintains its function when it is rolled up.

Inventor pushes solar panels for roads, highways

July 11, 2014 11:33 am | by Nicholas K. Geranios, Associated Press | News | Comments

The solar panels that Idaho inventor Scott Brusaw has built aren't meant for rooftops. They are meant for roads, driveways, parking lots, bike trails and, eventually, highways. Brusaw, an electrical engineer, says the hexagon-shaped panels can withstand the wear and tear that comes from inclement weather and vehicles, big and small, to generate electricity.

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