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Science Connect: Next-Generation Engineering Facilities

April 17, 2015 | by Lindsay Hock, Editor | Comments

In the past decade, the expansion of research focus areas in engineering has undergone a transformation. The demands of engineering labs present challenges for institutions because most occupied spaces were conceived during an era with radically different needs and required services.

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R&D Daily

“Failed stars” host powerful auroral displays

July 30, 2015 11:20 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, California Institute of Technology | Comments

Brown dwarfs are relatively cool, dim objects that are difficult to detect and hard to classify. They are too massive to be planets, yet possess some planet-like characteristics; they are too small to sustain hydrogen fusion reactions at their cores, a defining characteristic of stars, yet they have star-like attributes.

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Twin discoveries, “eerie” effect may lead to manufacturing advances

July 28, 2015 7:45 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | Comments

The discovery of a previously unknown type of metal deformation, sinuous flow, and a method to suppress it could lead to more efficient machining and other manufacturing advances by reducing the force and energy required to process metals.  Researchers at Purdue Univ. discovered sinuous flow deformation and were surprised to find a potentially simple way to control it.

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Tiny mechanical wrist gives dexterity to needlescopic surgery

July 24, 2015 12:20 pm | by David Salisbury, Vanderbilt Univ. | Comments

With the flick of a tiny mechanical wrist, a team of engineers and doctors at Vanderbilt Univ.’s Medical Engineering and Discovery Laboratory hope to give needlescopic surgery a whole new degree of dexterity. Needlescopic surgery, which uses surgical instruments shrunk to the diameter of a sewing needle, is the ultimate form of minimally invasive surgery.

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Worming into our hearts

July 24, 2015 11:00 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | Comments

Tasting and spitting out toxic food is a survival trait shared by many complex organisms. Now Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have shown that a simple roundworm, Caenorhabditis elegans, has the ability to spit out potentially deadly substances—a finding that could have surprising implications for human heart research.

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Long-sought discovery fills in missing details of cell “switchboard”

July 23, 2015 11:15 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Comments

A biomedical breakthrough, published in Nature, reveals never-before-seen details of the human body’s cellular switchboard that regulates sensory and hormonal responses. The work is based on an x-ray laser experiment at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The much-anticipated discovery, a decade in the making, could have broad impacts on development of more highly targeted and effective drugs with fewer side effects. 

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Finding the origins of life in a drying puddle

July 21, 2015 7:39 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | Comments

Anyone who’s ever noticed a water puddle drying in the sun has seen an environment that may have driven the type of chemical reactions that scientists believe were critical to the formation of life on the early Earth. Research demonstrates that important molecules of contemporary life, known as polypeptides, can be formed simply by mixing amino and hydroxy acids and then subjecting them to cycles of wet and dry conditions.

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The secret to the sea sapphire’s colors, invisibility

July 16, 2015 7:40 am | by American Chemical Society | Comments

Sapphirina, or sea sapphire, has been called “the most beautiful animal you’ve never seen,” and it could be one of the most magical. Some of the tiny, little-known copepods appear to flash in and out of brilliantly colored blue, violet or red existence. Now scientists are figuring out the trick to their hues and their invisibility.

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Bacteria: The next frontier of mind control

July 16, 2015 7:18 am | by Amy Loeffler, Virginia Tech | Comments

Forget the Vulcan mind-meld of the Star Trek generation. As far as mind control techniques go, bacteria is the next frontier. In a paper published in Scientific Reports, a Virginia Tech scientist used a mathematical model to demonstrate that bacteria can control the behavior of an inanimate device like a robot.

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Volcanic rocks resembling Roman concrete help solve mystery

July 13, 2015 8:28 am | by Ker Than, Stanford Univ. | Comments

The discovery of a fiber-reinforced, concrete-like rock formed in the depths of a dormant supervolcano in Italy could help explain the unusual ground swelling that led to the evacuation of an Italian port city in recent years, and may inspire the creation of durable building materials in the future, Stanford Univ. scientists say.

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Neutrons find “missing” magnetism of plutonium

July 13, 2015 7:55 am | by Katie Bethea, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Comments

Groundbreaking work at two U.S. Dept. of Energy national laboratories has confirmed plutonium’s magnetism, which scientists have long theorized but have never been able to experimentally observe. The advances that enabled the discovery hold great promise for materials, energy and computing applications.

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A jump for soft-bodied robots

July 10, 2015 12:30 pm | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | Comments

Traditional robots are made of components and rigid materials like you might see on an automotive assembly line. But away from the assembly line, for robots to harmoniously assist humans in close–range tasks scientists are designing new classes of soft–bodied robots. Yet one of the challenges is integrating soft materials with requisite rigid components that power and control the robot's body.

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Bacteria use DNA replication to time key decision

July 10, 2015 7:15 am | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | Comments

In spore-forming bacteria, chromosomal locations of genes can couple the DNA replication cycle to critical, once-in-a-lifetime decisions about whether to reproduce or form spores. The new finding by Rice Univ. bioengineers and colleagues at the Univ. of California at San Diego and the Univ. of Houston appears in Cell.

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Novel battery uses light to produce power

July 9, 2015 8:37 am | by American Chemical Society | Comments

To move the world toward sustainability, scientists are continuing to explore and improve ways to tap the vast power of sunlight to make fuels and generate electricity. Now they have come up with a brand-new way to use light—solar or artificial—to drive battery power safely. Their “photo battery,” reported in The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, uses light and titanium nitride for the anode.

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Driving tiny shock waves through diamond

July 9, 2015 8:23 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Comments

Researchers have used an x-ray laser to record, in detail never possible before, the microscopic motion and effects of shock waves rippling across diamond. The technique allows scientists to precisely explore the complex physics driving massive star explosions, which are critical for understanding fusion energy, and to improve scientific models used to study these phenomena.

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Autonomous taxis would deliver significant environmental, economic benefits

July 6, 2015 3:30 pm | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Comments

Imagine a fleet of driverless taxis roaming your city, ready to pick you up and take you to your destination at a moment’s notice. While this may seem fantastical, it may be only a matter of time before it becomes reality. And according to a new study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, such a system would both be cost-effective and greatly reduce per-mile emissions of greenhouse gases.

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