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R&D Daily

Offshore wind farms could tame hurricanes

February 27, 2014 1:26 pm | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford Univ. | Comments

For the past 24 years, Mark Z. Jacobson, a prof. of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford Univ., has been developing a complex computer model to study air pollution, energy, weather and climate. A recent application of the model has been to simulate the development of hurricanes. Another has been to determine how much energy wind turbines can extract from global wind currents.

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Battery-free tech brings gesture recognition to all devices

February 27, 2014 12:56 pm | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | Comments

Univ. of Washington computer scientists have built a low-cost gesture recognition system that runs without batteries and lets users control their electronic devices hidden from sight with simple hand movements. The prototype, called “AllSee,” uses existing TV signals as both a power source and the means for detecting a user’s gesture command.

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Laser tool speeds up detection of Salmonella in food products

February 14, 2014 7:38 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | Comments

Purdue Univ. researchers have developed a laser sensor that can identify Salmonella bacteria grown from food samples about three times faster than conventional detection methods. Known as BARDOT, the machine scans bacteria colonies and generates a distinct black and white "fingerprint" by which they can be identified. BARDOT takes less than 24 hrs to pinpoint Salmonella.

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Rice’s carbon nanotube fibers outperform copper

February 14, 2014 7:22 am | Comments

On a pound-per-pound basis, carbon nanotube-based fibers invented at Rice Univ. have greater capacity to carry electrical current than copper cables of the same mass, according to new research. While individual nanotubes are capable of transmitting nearly 1,000 times more current than copper, the same tubes coalesced into a fiber using other technologies fail long before reaching that capacity.

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Herding robots

February 12, 2014 7:50 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Comments

Writing a program to control a single autonomous robot navigating an uncertain environment with an erratic communication link is hard enough; write one for multiple robots that may or may not have to work in tandem, depending on the task, is even harder. As a consequence, engineers designing control programs for multiagent systems have restricted themselves to special cases. Until now.

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3-D printed soil reveals the world beneath our feet

January 27, 2014 8:21 am | by Kirsty Cameron, Abertay Univ. | Comments

Soil scientists at Abertay Univ. are using 3-D printing technology to find out, for the very first time, exactly what is going on in the world beneath our feet. In the same way that ecologists study the interactions of living organisms above ground, Prof.Wilfred Otten and researchers at the university’s SIMBIOS Centre are taking advantage of the new technology to do the same below ground.

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Better protein capture a boon for drug manufacturers

January 23, 2014 8:00 am | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have created a way to fine tune a process critical to the pharmaceutical industry that could save a lot of time and money. A combination of the Rice technique that provides pinpoint locations for single proteins and a theory that describes those proteins’ interactions with other molecules could widen a bottleneck in the manufacture of drugs by making the process of isolating proteins five times more efficient.  

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3-D imaging provides window into living cells, no dye required

January 22, 2014 8:00 am | Comments

Living cells are ready for their close-ups, thanks to a new imaging technique that needs no dyes or other chemicals, yet renders high-resolution, 3-D, quantitative imagery of cells and their internal structures—all with conventional microscopes and white light.

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How to tap the sun’s energy through heat as well as light

January 20, 2014 7:43 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Comments

A new approach to harvesting solar energy, developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, could improve efficiency by using sunlight to heat a high-temperature material whose infrared radiation would then be collected by a conventional photovoltaic cell. This technique could also make it easier to store the energy for later use, the researchers say.

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Renewable chemical ready for biofuels scale-up

January 17, 2014 8:43 am | by Margaret Broeren, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | Comments

Using a plant-derived chemical, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have developed a process for creating a concentrated stream of sugars that’s ripe with possibility for biofuels. The research team has published its findings in Science, explaining how they use gamma valerolactone, or GVL, to deconstruct plants and produce sugars that can be chemically or biologically upgraded into biofuels.

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Caffeine’s positive effect on memory

January 13, 2014 7:37 am | Comments

Whether it's a mug full of fresh-brewed coffee, a cup of hot tea or a can of soda, consuming caffeine is the energy boost of choice for millions who want to wake up or stay up. Now, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Univ. have found another use for the popular stimulant: memory enhancer.

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The ocean’s hidden waves show their power

January 8, 2014 7:52 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Comments

Their effect on the surface of the ocean is negligible, producing a rise of just inches that is virtually imperceptible on a turbulent sea. But internal waves, which are hidden entirely within the ocean, can tower hundreds of feet, with profound effects on the Earth’s climate and on ocean ecosystems.

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Synthetic genetic clock checks the thermometer

January 7, 2014 12:29 pm | Comments

Genetic systems run like clockwork, attuned to temperature, time of day and many other factors as they regulate living organisms. Scientists at Rice Univ. and the Univ. of Houston have opened a window onto one aspect of the process that has confounded researchers for decades: the mechanism by which genetic regulators adjust to changing temperature.

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NASA’s Fermi makes first gamma ray study of a gravitational lens

January 7, 2014 8:54 am | Comments

An international team of astronomers, using NASA's Fermi observatory, has made the first-ever gamma ray measurements of a gravitational lens, a kind of natural telescope formed when a rare cosmic alignment allows the gravity of a massive object to bend and amplify light from a more distant source. This accomplishment opens new avenues for research, including a novel way to probe emission regions near supermassive black holes.

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3-D printing creates murky product liability issues

December 13, 2013 8:47 am | Comments

While 3-D printing empowers people to create amazing objects once unimagined, it also raises red flags on the legal concept of strict product liability, according to a Stanford Univ. law professor. Nora Freeman Engstrom published her research exploring how 3-D printing is poised to challenge the American litigation landscape. 3-D printers can produce elaborate 3-D products of almost any shape, working from designs on a computer screen.

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