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New sensor uses radio waves to detect subtle changes in pressure

October 10, 2014 2:09 pm | Comments

Stanford Univ. engineers have invented a sensor that uses radio waves to detect subtle changes in pressure. Already used to monitor brain pressure in laboratory mice as prelude to possible use with human patients, this pressure-sensing technology relies on a specially designed rubber and could lead to touch-sensitive “skin” for prosthetic devices.

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Snakes and snake-like robots show how sidewinders conquer sandy slopes

October 10, 2014 8:15 am | by John Toon, Georgia Tech and Byron Spice, Carnegie Mellon Univ. | Comments

The amazing ability of sidewinder snakes to quickly climb sandy slopes was once something biologists only vaguely understood and roboticists only dreamed of replicating. By studying the snakes in a unique bed of inclined sand and using a snake-like robot to test ideas spawned by observing the real animals, both biologists and roboticists have now gained long-sought insights, including how sidewinders effectively traverse sandy slopes.

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Nanoparticles get a magnetic handle

October 9, 2014 10:50 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Comments

A long-sought goal of creating particles that can emit a colorful fluorescent glow in a biological environment, and that could be precisely manipulated into position within living cells, has been achieved by a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and several other institutions. The new technology could make it possible to track the position of the nanoparticles as they move within the body or inside a cell.

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“Bellhops” in cell walls can double as hormones

October 8, 2014 9:29 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | Comments

Researchers have discovered that some common messenger molecules in human cells double as hormones when bound to a protein that interacts with DNA. The finding could bring to light a class of previously unknown hormones and lead to new ways to target diseases—including cancers and a host of hormone-related disorders.

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Two Japanese, one American win Nobel for LED lights

October 7, 2014 9:10 am | by Karl Ritter and Malin Rising, Associated Press | Comments

Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano of Japan and U.S. scientist Shuji Nakamura won the 2014 Nobel Prize in physics for the invention of blue light-emitting diodes, a breakthrough that spurred the development of light-emitting diode (LED) technology. Scientists had struggled for decades to produce the blue diodes that are a crucial component in producing white light from LEDs when the three laureates made their breakthroughs in the early 1990s.

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Through the combining glass

October 6, 2014 11:35 am | Comments

Trying on clothes when a shop is closed could become a reality thanks to new research that uses semi-transparent mirrors in interactive systems. The innovation, which builds on a mirror’s ability to map a reflection to one unique point behind the mirror, independently of the observer’s location, could change the way people interact and collaborate in public spaces, such as museums and shop windows.

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Google Glass gets speech-to-text update

October 6, 2014 8:20 am | by Jason Maderer, Georgia Institute of Technology | Comments

A team of Georgia Institute of Technology researchers has created speech-to-text software for Google Glass that helps hard-of-hearing users with everyday conversations. A hard-of-hearing person wears Glass while a second person speaks directly into a smartphone. The speech is converted to text, sent to Glass and displayed on its heads-up display.

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Untangling how cables coil

October 6, 2014 7:57 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Comments

The world’s fiber-optic network spans more than 550,000 miles of undersea cable that transmits Email, Websites and other packets of data between continents, all at the speed of light. A rip or tangle in any part of this network can significantly slow telecommunications around the world. Now, engineers have developed a method that predicts the pattern of coils and tangles that a cable may form when deployed onto a rigid surface.

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Untangling how cables coil

October 3, 2014 10:48 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Comments

A rip or tangle in any part of world’s 550,000-mile fiber-optic network can significantly slow telecommunications around the world. Now engineers have developed a method that predicts the pattern of coils and tangles that a cable may form when deployed onto a rigid surface. The research combined laboratory experiments with custom-designed cables, computer-graphics technology used to animate hair in movies, and theoretical analyses.

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Undergrad helps develop method to detect water on Mars

October 3, 2014 9:25 am | by Eric Sorensen, Washington State Univ. | Comments

Washington State University undergraduate Kellie Wall, 21, recently looked for evidence that water influenced crystal formation in basalt, the dark volcanic rock that covers most of eastern Washington and Oregon. She then compared this with volcanic rock observations made by the rover Curiosity on Mars’ Gale Crater, inventing a new method for detecting water on Mars.

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Study: Lift weights, improve your memory

October 2, 2014 9:21 am | Comments

A new Georgia Institute of Technology study shows that an intense workout of as little as 20 min can enhance episodic memory, also known as long-term memory for previous events, by about 10% in healthy young adults. The research isn’t the first to find that exercise can improve memory. But the study took a few new approaches, including testing memory after just single period of exercise.

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Swimming sea-monkeys reveal how zooplankton may help drive ocean circulation

October 1, 2014 9:17 am | by Marcus Woo, Caltech | Comments

Brine shrimp, which are sold as pets known as sea-monkeys, are tiny—only about half an inch long each. With about 10 small leaf-like fins that flap about, they look as if they could hardly make waves. But get billions of similarly tiny organisms together and they can move oceans.

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Drug delivery capsule may replace injections

October 1, 2014 8:22 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Comments

Given a choice, most patients would prefer to take a drug orally instead of getting an injection. Unfortunately, many drugs, can’t be given as a pill because they get broken down in the stomach before they can be absorbed. To help overcome that obstacle, researchers have devised a novel drug capsule coated with tiny needles that can inject drugs directly into the lining of the stomach after swallowed.

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Cheap hydrogen fuel from the sun, without rare metals

September 30, 2014 1:27 pm | by Emmanuel Barraud, EPFL | Comments

Michael Grätzel’s laboratory in Switzerland is producing hydrogen fuel from sunlight and water. By combining a pair of solar cells made with a mineral called perovskite and low cost electrodes, scientists have obtained a 12.3% conversion efficiency from solar energy to hydrogen, a record using earth-abundant materials as opposed to rare metals.

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California drought linked to climate change

September 30, 2014 9:42 am | by Ker Than, Stanford Univ. | Comments

The atmospheric conditions associated with the unprecedented drought currently afflicting California are "very likely" linked to human-caused climate change, according to Stanford Univ. scientists. The team used a combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure hovering over the Pacific Ocean was likely to form from modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

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