science + technology news

Visual Brain Areas Assist Inflamed Optic Nerves

October 6, 2004

Researchers using functional magnetic resonance imaging of the brain found that visual areas of the cortex could adapt to altered input coming from an inflamed optic nerve.

Areas of the brain normally associated with more specialized higher visual processing reorganized themselves in response to the faulty visual information transmitted by the nerve. The techniques used in this study could also be applied to other conditions such as stroke in… read more

Extending the Physical Limits of Magnetic Data Storage

October 6, 2004

University of Houston engineers are developing a method to improve magnetic data storage density by producing the first nanopatterned medium recording (N-PMR) at the scale of one terabyte per square inch, with a goal of recording on individual crystallites.

Currently, magnetic storage uses 50 to 100 crystallites for a storage unit. With the new method, each crystallite would be located in a specific, lithographically defined place so that individual… read more

Science of smell scoops Nobel Prize

October 5, 2004

Explaining how the human sense of smell works has earned two American scientists the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Richard Axel of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Columbia University and Linda Buck of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have helped piece together every step in the process by which cells in the nose capture smelly compounds and transmit signals to the brain, which are perceived as distinct aromas.… read more

Monitoring Heat Flow at a Molecular Scale

October 5, 2004

University of Illinois and University of Scranton researchers used an ultrafast laser spectrometer to monitor heat flow through a system at a molecular scale.

The researchers found that the rate of heat flow depended on the shape, and resulting vibrational couplings, of the molecules in a system. These results could help improve nanoscale device design by allowing heat flows within a device to be predicted based on molecular interactions.… read more

Researchers Manipulate Cell Recognition Mechanism

October 5, 2004

Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have developed a technique to change the type of molecule that activates a cell’s nuclear receptors, where the activated receptor in turn initiates gene expression.

With this technique, cells could be programmed to signal the presence of specific molecules in their environment. These modified cells could be used in sensor arrays, gene therapy for cancer or as research tools.

Georgia Instituteread more

Robotic Capsule to Crawl Through Intestines

October 5, 2004

Researchers have developed a prototype robotic capsule designed to crawl though a patient’s stomach, enabling doctors to view and even treat an internal ailment remotely.

Current endoscopies require a patient to swallow a capsule equipped with a camera that transmits images back outside the body. The prototype capsule has legs, made of a shape memory alloy, that can move the capsule across intestinal tissues without damaging the tissue.… read more

Mechanical Memory Switch Outstrips Chip Technology

October 4, 2004

Boston University researchers have built mechanical memory switches that vibrate at 24 megahertz and use only femtowatts to change between states, allowing faster and more efficient storage than conventional electronic or magneto-electronic storage.

The switches, built with electron-beam lithography, are also resilient in electrical and magnetic fields.

Boston University news release

Drugs Delivered By Robots in the Blood

October 4, 2004

A microscopic swimming robot unveiled by Chinese scientists could eventually be used for drug delivery or to clear arteries in humans.

The 3 mm by 2 mm by 0.4 mm triangular machine is propelled using an external magnetic field that controls its microscopic fins: the speed of the craft can be changed by altering the resonant frequency of the magnetic field.

The next model of the robot will… read more

Control of Molecular Switches Increased By Tailored Intermolecular Interactions

October 4, 2004

Penn State researchers have developed a method to stabilize OPEs (oligo phenlylene-ethynylene) molecular switches by changing their local chemical environment.

OPEs had previously been shown to switch randomly or with applied electric fields between conductive and non-conductive states. Their potential use as switches in computers and other electronic devices would depend on the ability to control these states. Random switching was reduced with the new method, a step towards… read more

Motion Detector 1,000 Times More Sensitive

October 1, 2004

Sandia National Laboratories researchers have developed a motion detector that allows for viewing a motion of 10 nm with the naked eye.

The device depends upon a formerly unrecognized property of optics: light diffracted from very small gratings that move very small lateral distances undergoes a relatively big, and thus easily measurable, change in reflection.

Sandia National Laboratories news release

Robot Uses Whiskers To Get Around

October 1, 2004

University of Tokyo and University of Zurich researchers have developed a robot that uses real mouse whiskers as sensors.

Each whisker is plugged directly into a capacitor microphone at the front of the robot. This capacitor can detect vibrations with acute sensitivity — up to 3 thousand vibrations per second (3 kiloHertz). The process imitates the way a real mouse uses its whiskers to sense, via the nerves in… read more

Time on a Chip: The Incredible Shrinking Atomic Clock

October 1, 2004

Researchers are developing atomic clocks 1,000 times more accurate than the best quartz oscillators and a cubic centimeter in size.

They could fit into future cell phones or hand-held computers.

New Surface Chemistry May Extend Life of Technology for Making Transistors

September 30, 2004

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers developed a technique that uses surface chemistry to make tinier and more effective p-n junctions in silicon-based semiconductors.

The technique may lead to faster silicon-based transistors, helping to shrink the active region in p-n junctions from the current 25 nm down towards 10 nm thick.

University of Illinois news release

Angela Belcher, Nanotechnologist, awarded MacArthur Fellowship

September 30, 2004

Angela Belcher, associate professor of materials science at MIT, has received a 2004 MacArthur Fellowship.

The Fellowship, with its non-restricted stipend of $500,000, is intended for “individuals who show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work.” Along with other research projects, Belcher has genetically modified viruses to interact with solutions of inorganic semiconductors, yielding self-assembling metal films and wires with diameters in the low tens of… read more

DNA as Substrate Speeds Up Chemical Reaction Discovery Time

September 30, 2004

Harvard University scientists have developed a new way to test the reactions between multiple chemicals simultaneously by piggybacking collections of different small organic molecules onto short strands of DNA, which then gives the reactants the opportunity to react by zipping together.

This system for reaction discovery, driven by DNA-templated synthesis, is so efficient that a single researcher can evaluate thousands of potential chemical reactions in a two-day experiment.… read more

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