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R&D Daily

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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Blood clots absorb bacterial toxin

December 11, 2013 8:07 am | Comments

Blood clots play an unexpected role in protecting the body from the deadly effects of bacteria by absorbing bacterial toxins, researchers have found. Even with modern antibiotics, septic shock from bacterial infections afflicts about 300,000 people a year in the U.S., with a mortality rate of 30 to 50%. Septic shock is caused by Gram-negative bacteria, which release a toxin called lipopolysaccharide or endotoxin.

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Harvesting electricity: Triboelectric generators capture wasted power

December 10, 2013 7:46 am | Comments

With one stomp of his foot, Zhong Lin Wang illuminates a thousand light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, with no batteries or power cord. The current comes from essentially the same source as that tiny spark that jumps from a fingertip to a doorknob when you walk across carpet on a cold, dry day. Wang and his research team have learned to harvest this power and put it to work.

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Morphing material has mighty potential

December 10, 2013 7:32 am | Comments

Heating a sheet of plastic may not bring it to life, but it sure looks like it does in new experiments at Rice Univ. The materials created by Rice polymer scientist Rafael Verduzco and his colleagues start as flat slabs, but they morph into shapes that can be controlled by patterns written into their layers.

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Coal yields plenty of graphene quantum dots

December 6, 2013 7:55 am | Comments

The prospect of turning coal into fluorescent particles may sound too good to be true, but the possibility exists, thanks to scientists at Rice Univ. The Rice laboratory of chemist James Tour found simple methods to reduce three kinds of coal into graphene quantum dots (GQDs), microscopic discs of atom-thick graphene oxide that could be used in medical imaging as well as sensing, electronic and photovoltaic applications.

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Proteins’ passing phases revealed

December 5, 2013 2:47 pm | Comments

A new method to identify previously hidden details about the structures of proteins may speed the process of novel drug design, according to scientists at Rice Univ. A unique combination of computational techniques and experimental data helped Rice theorists predict intermediate configurations of proteins that, until now, have been hard to detect.

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Researchers develop new technology to study hearing

December 4, 2013 8:20 am | Comments

Much of what is known about sensory touch and hearing cells is based on indirect observation. Scientists know that these tiny cells are sensitive to changes in force and pressure. But to truly understand how they function, scientists must be able to manipulate them directly. Now, Stanford Univ. scientists are developing a set of tools that are small enough to stimulate an individual nerve or group of nerves.

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Difficult dance steps: Team learns how membrane transporter moves

December 3, 2013 7:57 am | Comments

Researchers have tried for decades to understand the undulations and gyrations that allow transport proteins to shuttle molecules from one side of a cell membrane to the other. Now scientists report that they have found a way to penetrate the mystery. They have worked out every step in the molecular dance that enables one such transporter to do its job.

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