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MIT designs small, modular, efficient fusion power plant

Could produce about three times as much electricity as is needed to keep it running within a decade, providing electricity to about 100,000 people
August 11, 2015

A cutaway view of the proposed ARC reactor. Thanks to powerful new magnet technology, the much smaller, less-expensive ARC reactor would deliver the same power output as a much larger reactor. (credit: the MIT ARC team)

MIT plans to create a new compact version of a tokamak fusion reactor with the goal of producing practical fusion power, which could offer a nearly inexhaustible energy resource in as little as a decade.

Fusion, the nuclear reaction that powers the sun, involves fusing pairs of hydrogen atoms together to form helium, accompanied by enormous releases of energy.

The new fusion reactor, called ARC,… read more

Controlling inflammation to reduce chronic disease risk

August 10, 2015

Two-hit model of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (credit: ILSI Europe)

In an open-access paper in the British Journal of Nutrition, a coalition of 17 experts explain how elevated unresolved chronic inflammation is involved a range of chronic diseases, and how nutrition influences inflammatory processes and helps reduce chronic risk of diseases.

According to the authors, “the nutrition status of the individual with for example a deficiency or excess of certain micronutrients (e.g. folate, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin 1, vitamin… read more

Google Glass could bring toxicology specialists to remote emergency rooms

August 10, 2015

credit: Google

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have found that Google Glass — presumably the Enterprise Edition — could effectively extend bedside toxicology consults to distant health care facilities such as community and rural hospitals to diagnose and manage poisoned patients, according to a paper in the Journal of Medical Toxicology.

“In the present era of value-based care, a toxicology service using hands-free devices, such… read more

How to create a genius mouse

Scientists find a single gene can create primate-level neural development in the mouse neocortex
August 10, 2015

The left brain hemisphere shows the normal level and cellular distribution of Pax6 expression in the developing neocortex. The right brain hemisphere shows a sustained, primate-like Pax6 expression pattern in the neocortex of a double transgenic mouse embryo. These animals have more Pax6-positive progenitor cells and a higher Pax6 expression level in the germinal layer close to the ventricle in the right hemisphere. (credit: © MPI of Molecular Cell Biology & Genetics)

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics have created a transgenic mouse in which a gene called Pax6, during embryonic development, is highly expressed in a specific group of brain cortical cells called neural progenitor stem cells (the cells that generate all cells that make up the brain).

The resulting mouse brain generated more neurons than normal and exhibited… read more

New solid-state memory technology allows for highest-density non-volatile storage

August 10, 2015

A schematic shows the layered structure of tantalum oxide, multilayer graphene and platinum used for a new type of memory developed at Rice University. The memory device overcomes crosstalk problems that cause read errors in other devices. (credit: Tour Group/Rice University)

Scientists in the Rice University lab of chemist James Tour have created a solid-state memory technology that allows for high-density 162 gigabits nonvolatile storage, much higher than other oxide-based memory systems under investigation by scientists. (Eight bits equal one byte; a 162-gigabit unit would store about 20 gigabytes of information.)

Applying voltage to a 250-nanometer-thick sandwich of graphene, tantalum, nanoporous tantalum oxideread more

How aging cripples the immune system

New research findings reinforce benefits of antioxidants by lowering free radicals
August 7, 2015

Thymus (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Aging cripples the production of new immune cells, decreasing the immune system’s response to vaccines and putting the elderly at risk of infection, but antioxidants in the diet may slow this damaging process.

That’s a new finding by scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), published in an open-access paper in the journal Cell Reports.

The problem is focused on an… read more

Electro-optical modulator is 100 times smaller, consumes 100th of the energy

August 7, 2015

Colourized electron microscope image of a micro-modulator made of gold. In the slit in the centre of the picture light is converted into plasmon polaritons, modulated and then re-converted into light pulses.  (credit: Haffner et al. Nature Photonics)

Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a modulator that is a 100 times smaller than conventional modulators, so it can now be integrated into electronic circuits. Transmitting large amounts of data via the Internet requires high-performance electro-optic modulators — devices that convert electrical signals (used in computers and cell phones) into light signals (used in fiber-optic cables).

Today, huge amounts of data are sent incredibly fast through… read more

‘Plasmonic’ material could bring ultrafast all-optical communications

August 7, 2015

This rendering depicts a new "plasmonic oxide material" that could make possible devices for optical communications that are at least 10 times faster than conventional technologies. (credit: Purdue University/Nathaniel Kinsey)

Researchers at Purdue University have created a new “plasmonic oxide material” that could make possible modulator devices for optical communications (fiber optics, used for the Internet and cable television) that are at least 10 times faster than conventional technologies.

The optical material, made of aluminum-doped zinc oxide (AZO) also requires less power than other “all-optical” semiconductor devices. That is essential for the faster… read more

Move over, autonomous AI weapons, there’s a new risk in town: ‘gene drives’

Unanimous international consensus reached by 26 scientists for conducting gene-drive research responsibly
August 6, 2015

An Anopheles stephensi mosquito — a known malarial vector — obtains a blood meal from a human host in this photo.  Wyss Institute scientists believe that synthetic gene drives, if researched further with great prudence and responsibility to avoid unintended ecological impacts, could potentially be used in the future to render mosquito populations unable to transmit malaria. (credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC))

An international group of 26 experts, including prominent genetic engineers and fruit fly geneticists, has unanimously recommended a series of preemptive measures to safeguard gene drive research from accidental (or intentional) release from laboratories.

RNA-guided gene drives are genetic elements — found naturally in the genomes of most of the world’s organisms — that increase the chance of the gene they carry being passed on to all offspring. So … read more

Scientists reveal secrets for reaching age 100 (or more)

Prime factors: long telemere length (pre-age 100) and low inflammation
August 6, 2015

Telomere length in study participants up to 115 years of age. Leukocyte telomere length vs age is shown for males (blue or cyan) and females (green or red). Centenarians, (semi-)supercentenarians, and centenarian offspring are shown in blue (males) or red (females), respectively. Unrelated participants younger than 100 years are indicated in cyan (males) or green (females). Regression lines belonging to these groups are indicated by the same colour. (credit: Yasumichi Arai et al./EBioMedicine)

Scientists say they have cracked the secret of why some people live a healthy and physically independent life over the age of 100: keeping inflammation down and telomeres long.

Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing in the U.K. and Keio University School of Medicine note that severe inflammation is part of many diseases in the old, such as diabetes or diseases attacking the bones… read more

Cheap, power-efficient flash memory for big data without sacrificing speed

August 6, 2015

BlueDBM Cluster-ft

There’s a big problem with big data: the huge RAM memory required. Now MIT researchers have developed a new system called “BlueDBM” that should make servers using flash memory as efficient as those using conventional RAM for several common big-data applications, while preserving their power and cost savings.

Here’s the context: Data sets in areas such as genomics, geological data, and daily twitter feeds can be as… read more

A fast, accurate, nanoscale ‘biochemical nose’ sensor

Can be used in food safety, medical diagnosis, chemical analysis, and a wide array of other fields, with mass production on a wafer scale planned
August 5, 2015

A nanoplasmonic resonator (NPR) consists of a thin silicon dioxide layer sandwiched between metallic nanodisks. NPRs can enhance surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopic (SERS) signals by a factor of 60 billion. (credit: Cheng Sun et al./ ACS Nano)

Imagine being able to test your food in your kitchen to quickly determine if it carried any deadly microbes. Technology now being commercialized by Optokey may soon make that possible.

Optokey, a startup based in Hayward, California, has developed a miniaturized sensor using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) that can quickly and accurately detect or diagnose substances at a molecular level. The technology is based on… read more

The MIND diet may slow brain aging by 7.5 years

August 5, 2015

Eating a group of specific foods — known as the MIND diet — may slow cognitive decline among aging adults, even when the person is not at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers at Rush University Medical Center.

This finding supplements a previous study by the research team, reported by KurzweiliAI in March, that found that the MIND diet may reduce a person’s… read more

Looking at living cells down to individual molecules

August 5, 2015

3D rendered correlative AFM/PALM image of a fixed mammalian cell (mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) cell) expressing the fusion protein paxillin-mEOS2 (credit: Pascal D. Odermatt et al./Nano Letters)

EPFL scientists have captured images of living cells with unprecedented nanoscale resolution — even the evolution of their structure and molecular characteristics.

They did that by combining two cutting edge microscopy techniques — high-speed atomic force microscopy and a single-molecule-localization, super-resolution optical imaging system — into one instrument.

Their work was published in the journal ACS Nano Letters.

The “correlated single molecule localization microscope” combines… read more

Heating and cooling genetic samples with light leads to ultrafast DNA diagnostics

Five-minute DNA tests possible in a wide range of settings, from rural Africa to a hospital ER
August 4, 2015

This is an artist's rendering of photonic PCR on a chip using light to rapidly heat and cool electrons at the surface of a thin film of gold. This method yields gene amplification results in mere minutes, and promises to transform point-of-care diagnostics in fields as diverse as medicine, food security and evolutionary biology. (credit: Luke Lee's BioPOETS lab)

New technology developed by bioengineers at the University of California, Berkeley, promises to dramatically speed up the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) DNA test and make it cheaper and more portable by simply accelerating the heating and cooling of genetic samples with the switch of a light.

This turbocharged thermal cycling, described in an open-access paper published Friday July 31 in the journal Light: Science & Application,… read more

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