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Software uses cyborg swarm to map unknown environs

October 16, 2013 8:19 am | News | Comments

Researchers have developed software that allows them to map unknown environments based on the movement of a swarm of insect cyborgs, or “biobots.” The software would also allow public safety officials to determine the location of radioactive or chemical threats, if the biobots have been equipped with the relevant sensors.

New multi-touch sensor is customizable with scissors

October 15, 2013 2:37 pm | News | Comments

People often customize the size and shape of materials like textiles and wood without turning to specialists like tailors or carpenters. In the future this should be possible with electronics, according to computer scientists who have developed a printable multi-touch sensor whose shape and size can be altered by anybody.

A new role for “hunger hormone”

October 15, 2013 9:06 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

About a dozen years ago, scientists discovered that a hormone called ghrelin enhances appetite. Dubbed the “hunger hormone,” ghrelin was quickly targeted by drug companies seeking treatments for obesity—none of which have yet panned out. Neuroscientists have now discovered that ghrelin’s role goes far beyond controlling hunger.

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First pilot system to extract dandelion rubber for making tires

October 14, 2013 12:24 pm | News | Comments

Rubber can be extracted from the juice of the dandelion, but transitioning this technology to the industrial setting has been a challenge. The Fraunhofer Institute in Germany has joined with Continental tire company to build the first-ever pilot system to extract vast quantities of dandelion rubber for making tires

Triboelectric generator sources power from the sea

October 14, 2013 11:49 am | News | Comments

Renewable sources like sun and wind aren’t always productive. But waves in the ocean are never still, prompting Georgia Institute of Technology scientists to find a way to produce energy by making use of contact electrification between a patterned plastic nanoarray and water. They have introduced an inexpensive and simple prototype of a triboelectric nanogenerator that could be used to produce energy and as a chemical or temperature sensor.

Water impurities key to an icicle’s ripples

October 10, 2013 8:07 am | News | Comments

A group of physicists from Canada have been growing their own icicles in a laboratory in the hope of solving a mystery that has, up until now, continued to puzzle scientists. The presence of characteristic ripples along the surface of icicles, which remarkably have the same wavelength no matter how big the icicle or where in the world it grows, have led to several studies examining exactly how the ripples form.

Urine test could diagnose eye disease

October 9, 2013 11:54 am | News | Comments

You might not think to look to a urine test to diagnose an eye disease. But a new Duke Univ. study says it can link what is in a patient's urine to gene mutations that cause retinitis pigmentosa, or RP, an inherited, degenerative disease that results in severe vision impairment and often blindness.

Cracked metal, heal thyself

October 9, 2013 8:00 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

It was a result so unexpected that Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers initially thought it must be a mistake: Under certain conditions, putting a cracked piece of metal under tension has the reverse effect, causing the crack to close and its edges to fuse together. The surprising finding could lead to self-healing materials that repair incipient damage before it has a chance to spread.

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Clues to foam formation could help find oil

October 8, 2013 3:02 pm | News | Comments

Blowing bubbles in the backyard is one thing and quite another when searching for oil. That distinction is at the root of new research by Rice Univ. scientists who describe in greater detail than ever precisely how those bubbles form, evolve and act. The research describes two previously unknown ways that bubbles form in foam.

Scientists create first computer-designed superconductor

October 8, 2013 9:04 am | News | Comments

A Binghamton Univ. scientist and his international colleagues report on the successful synthesis of the first superconductor designed entirely on the computer. The synthesized material, a novel iron tetraboride compound, is made out of two common elements, has a brand-new crystal structure and exhibits an unexpected type of superconductivity for a material that contains iron, just as predicted in the original computational study.

Scientists discover new role for cell dark matter in genome integrity

October 4, 2013 11:26 am | News | Comments

Non-coding RNAs constitute the “dark matter of the genome”, as they are abundant but their function is largely unknown. Researchers in Canada have discovered how these RNA direct telomerase, a molecule essential for cancer development, toward structures on our genome called telomeres in order to maintain its integrity and in turn, the integrity of the genome.

Researchers identify the neural circuits that modulate REM sleep

October 3, 2013 11:58 am | News | Comments

Previous studies had established an association between the activity of certain types of neurons and the phase of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM). Scientists have now found the source of this causal relationship and have used optogenetics techniques to induce and modulate REM sleep in mice.

Pills made from feces cure serious gut infections

October 3, 2013 11:31 am | by MARILYNN MARCHIONE - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Hold your nose and don't spit out your coffee: Doctors have found a way to put healthy people's poop into pills that can cure serious gut infections—a less yucky way to do "fecal transplants." Canadian researchers tried this on 27 patients and cured them all after strong antibiotics failed to help.

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Study reduces Casimir force to lowest recorded level

October 2, 2013 9:39 am | News | Comments

A research team that includes a physics prof. at Indiana Univ.-Purdue Univ. Indianapolis has recorded a drastically reduced measurement of the Casimir effect, a fundamental quantum phenomenon experienced between two neutral bodies that exist in a vacuum. The experiment used nanostructured metallic plates to suppress the force at a much lower rate than ever recorded previously.

Grant opens new dimension in printing: 4-D

October 1, 2013 2:02 pm | News | Comments

With a $855,000 grant from the U.S. Army Research Office, a trio of university researchers is proposing the development a new printing technology that adds a fourth dimension. By manipulating materials at the micro- and nanoscale dimensions, they hope to develop printable structures that can exhibit behavior that changes over time.

NASA preparing to launch 3-D printer into space

September 30, 2013 11:03 am | by Martha Mendoza, AP National Writer | News | Comments

A new toaster-sized 3-D printer, set for launch next year, is designed to greatly reduce the need for astronauts to load up with every tool, spare part or supply they might ever need. The printers would serve as a flying factory of infinite designs, creating objects by extruding layer upon layer of plastic from long strands coiled around large spools.

“Transformer” star discovered with x-rays and radio waves

September 27, 2013 8:47 am | by Francis Reddy and Barbara K. Kennedy, Penn State | News | Comments

A fleet of orbiting x-ray telescopes has been used by an international team of scientists in the discovery of a "millisecond pulsar" star with a dual identity. The star readily shifts back and forth between two mutually exclusive styles of pulsed emissions, one in x-rays, the other in radio waves. The discovery, the scientists say, reveals a long-sought intermediate phase in the life of these powerful objects.

Quantum material may transport zero-resistance current above room temperature

September 26, 2013 9:57 am | News | Comments

A theoretical study conducted by scientists at Japan’s National Institute of Materials Science reveals the possibility of developing a quantum material to transport zero-resistance edge current above room temperature. This capability, allowed by large spin-orbit coupling, will depend on the construction of a new class of topological materials that the researchers have designed.

Engineers build basic computer using carbon nanotubes

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

A team of Stanford Univ. engineers has built a basic computer using carbon nanotubes, a semiconductor material that has the potential to launch a new generation of electronic devices that run faster, while using less energy, than those made from silicon chips. This unprecedented feat culminates years of efforts by scientists around the world to harness this promising but quirky material.

Turning plastic bags into high-tech materials

September 25, 2013 12:08 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Australia have developed a process for turning waste plastic bags into a high-tech nanomaterial. The furnace-driven process uses non-biodegradable plastic grocery bags to produce carbon layers that line pores in nanoporous alumina membranes. The result is carbon nanotube membranes.

New study finds “microbial clock” may help determine time of death

September 25, 2013 9:04 am | News | Comments

An intriguing study led by the Univ. of Colorado Boulder may provide a powerful new tool in the quiver of forensic scientists attempting to determine the time of death in cases involving human corpses: a microbial clock. The clock is essentially the lock-step succession of bacterial changes that occur postmortem as bodies move through the decay process.

Building bridges between nanowires

September 20, 2013 1:23 pm | News | Comments

A researcher in the Netherlands has managed to bridge the “gap” between two ultrathin gold nanowires, each just a few atoms high, with a single molecule. This bridge could serve to detect new physical effects or may act as a switch.

A new generation of odor-releasing materials for training dogs

September 20, 2013 8:03 am | News | Comments

Traditionally, the training of bomb-sniffing dogs has been a hazardous job, but newly developed odor-releasing materials could take the risk out of that work. Scientists at NIST are seeking to patent a novel system that can capture scents and release them over time.

“Sticky tape” for water droplets mimics rose petal

September 17, 2013 2:05 pm | News | Comments

A new nanostructured material with applications that could include reducing condensation in airplane cabins and enabling certain medical tests without the need for high tech laboratories has been developed by researchers in Australia. The newly discovered material uses “raspberry” particles, which emulate the structure of some rose petals and can trap tiny water droplets.

“Terminator”polymer regenerates itself

September 13, 2013 12:22 pm | News | Comments

Scientists in Spain have reported the first self-healing polymer that spontaneously and independently repairs itself without any intervention. The researchers have dubbed the material a “Terminator” polymer in tribute to the shape-shifting, molten T-100 terminator robot from the Terminator 2 film.

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