science + technology news

Oxygen-platinum bonding to improve fuel cells

December 1, 2004

Emory University researchers have created stable multiple chemical bonds between oxygen and platinum — once thought impossible because oxygen is extremely unstable when combined with certain metals.

Until this work, attempts to create metal-oxo species with elements such as gold, platinum, silver, iridium and rhodium have been unsuccessful. The breakthrough holds the potential for numerous applications in fuel cells, catalytic converters and emerging “green” chemistry.

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Improved molecular switch could serve as sensor

December 1, 2004

Johns Hopkins University researchers have found a new way to join two unrelated proteins to create a molecular switch where which one biochemical partner controls the activity of the other.

“Last year, we reported that we’d used protein engineering techniques to make a molecular switch, putting together two proteins that normally had nothing to do with one another, but the switching properties of that version were insufficient for many… read more

Chromosomes aged 10 years by stress

November 30, 2004

Psychological stress may be enough to age a woman’s chromosomes by 10 years, a new study suggests.

Women who reported the most stress also had the shortest telomeres. And the effect was so large that it represented nine to 17 years’ worth of cell aging.

Surgical chip shows patient info

November 30, 2004

A surgeon has invented a chip for patients designed to help prevent hospital errors.

SurgiChip is a one-inch-square RFID chip with embedded information that can be read by computers and hand-held devices so that hospital workers know that they have the right patient and the right procedure.

The information on the operation is placed in the computer. The patient sees it on a monitor and verifies that it’s… read more

Scientists track footprints of thoughts

November 30, 2004

Australian scientists have discovered a way to track the electronic footpath of a single thought travelling through the human brain.

The system uses functional MRI to track responses in the brain from particular movements and thoughts in real time.

Magnetic field benefits bacteria

November 29, 2004

Scientists have isolated a biochemical reaction responsible for the effect of a magnetic field on bacteria.

They demonstrated that a weak magnetic field can affect production of a certain molecule found in a photosynthetic bacterium.

The team used a mutant strain of the bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides called R-26 that lacks a protective chemical known as a carotenoid that normally soaks up damaging radicals.

They found that a… read more

Sprawling systems teeter on IT chaos

November 29, 2004

The UK government is spearheading a 10 million pound program aimed at finding ways to avert catastrophic failures in large IT networks.

Hidden flaws could lead to crashes in critical networks like healthcare, banking systems, and power grids.

Now all government departments, health services and education systems across the 25 countries of the European Union are being linked to the internet. But there is a real danger that… read more

Microgenerator powers electronic devices

November 29, 2004

A tiny microgenerator developed at Georgia Tech can produce 1.1 watts of power, enough to power a small electronic device like a cell phone, and may soon be able to power a laptop.

The microgenerator is about 10 millimeters wide. When coupled with a similarly sized gas-fueled microturbine (or jet) engine, the system, called a microengine, has the potential to deliver more energy and last 10 times longer than… read more

The Dream Factory

November 29, 2004

Neil Gershenfeld of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms and his students are cobbling together mobile manufacturing systems they call fabrication laboratories, or fab labs — miniature factories for the digital age.

The latest version consists of three Linux PCs, a laser cutter, a combination 3-D scanner and drill, a numerically controlled X-Acto knife, and a handful of RISC chips. You can crank out not only solid objects like… read more

Hydrogen Production Method Could Bolster Fuel Supplies

November 29, 2004

Researchers have found a way to produce pure hydrogen with far less energy than other methods.

The development would move the country closer to the Energy Department’s goal of a “hydrogen economy,” in which hydrogen would be created through a variety of means, and would be consumed by fuel cells, to make electricity to run cars, and for other purposes.

The new method involves running electricity through water… read more

Smallest ‘test tube’ scoops world record

November 24, 2004

Scientists at the University of Oxford and the University of Nottingham created the world’s smallest test tubes out of carbon nanotubes: each nanotube has an inner diameter of 1.2 nm and is roughly 2000 nm long

They used the tubes to polymerize fullerene oxide molecules in an ordered way as a result of the tube’s shape. However, there is not yet a way to extract the polymerized material from… read more

Human embryonic stem cells create new tissue to aid spinal cord repair

November 24, 2004

University of California at Irvine researchers have used human embryonic stem cells to create new insulating tissue for nerve fibers in a live animal model.

The researchers devised a novel technique that allows human embryonic stem cells to differentiate into high-purity, early-stage oligodendrocyte cells. These cells were injected into the spinal cords of mice genetically engineered to have no myelin tissue. After transplantation, the early-stage cells formed into full-grown… read more

Report: Fast-Internet Use Doubles in U.S.

November 23, 2004

The number of Americans using fast Internet connections doubled from 2001 through late 2003. according to a Commerce Department National Telecommunications and Information Administration report.

Some experts said growth was disappointing, far behind countries that include South Korea, Taiwan and Canada. The report also identified troubling figures for use or availability of high-speed Internet services among blacks, Hispanics and people in rural areas.

Secret Speech Aid

November 23, 2004

NASA engineers are developing technology that picks up and translates throat signals into words before they’re even spoken, using subvocal speech.

Electrodes picks up electromyographic signals near the chin and larnyx, which are amplified and processed with neural network software to decipher word patterns.

Applications could include speech ailments, covert communication in military operations, private speech between individuals, situations where you can’t speak normally (underwater or in fire… read more

New Process Could Lead to Carbon Nanotube Price Cut

November 23, 2004

Researchers have described an improved method of manufacturing carbon nanotubes.

Many current production schemes for single-walled carbon nanotubes use catalyst particles to speed up the reaction, but they can become incorporated into the tubes. By adding water during the manufacturing process, the resulting nanotubes were more than 99.98 percent pure without requiring additional refinement.

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