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DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials winner: Schaft from Japan

December 21, 2013

Future Google delivery guy? (credit: SHAFT, Inc.)

It was a “Woodstock for robots,” said Boston Dynamics’ Marc Raibert, as sixteen teams from around the world came together at Florida’s Homestead Miami Speedway, December 20–21, 2013 to participate in eight demanding tasks in DARPA’s Robotics Challenge Trials.

And the winner was Schaft from Japan, owned by Google. Atlas-Ian from Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition placed second;… read more

Method for mass production of graphene-based field-effect transistors (FETs) developed

December 20, 2013


Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) researchers in Korea have announced a method for mass production of graphene-based field-effect transistors (FETs).

The design creates boron/nitrogen co-doped graphene nanoplatelets (BCN-graphene) via a simple solvothermal reaction of BBr3/CCl4/N2 in the presence of potassium.

Various methods of making graphene-based FETs have been exploited, including doping graphene, tailoring graphene like a nanoribbon, and using boron nitride… read more

World’s first text message via molecular communication sent

May be useful for communication underground, underwater, or inside the body
December 20, 2013

Molecular transmitter

Scientists have created a molecular communications system for the transmission of messages and data in challenging environments where electromagnetic waves cannot be used — such as tunnels, pipelines, underwater, within the body, and in biomedical nanorobots.

Molecular signaling is a common feature of the plant and animal kingdom — insects for example use pheromones for long-range signalling — but to date, continuous data have not been transmitted usingread more

A new — and reversible — cause of aging

NAD, a naturally produced compound in cells, rewinds aspects of age-related demise in mice
December 20, 2013


Researchers have discovered a cause of aging in mammals that may be reversible: a series of molecular events that enable communication inside cells between the nucleus and mitochondria.

As communication breaks down, aging accelerates. By administering a molecule naturally produced by the human body, scientists restored the communication network in older mice. Subsequent tissue samples showed key biological hallmarks that were comparable to those of much younger animals.… read more

Converting algae to crude oil — a million-year natural process — in minutes

December 20, 2013

Algae slurry

Engineers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have created a continuous chemical process that produces useful crude oil from harvested algae in minutes, described in the journal Algae Research.

Utah-based Genifuel Corp. has licensed the technology and is working with an industrial partner to build a pilot plant using the technology.

How to create ‘instant oil’

A slurry of… read more

Microprinting low-cost artificial cells

Could serve as drug and gene delivery devices
December 19, 2013

Schematic representation of production of arrays of controlled-size giant proteoliposomes by combining hydrogel stamping and electroformation techniques

Easily manufactured, low-cost artificial cells manufactured using microprinting may one day serve as drug and gene delivery devices and in biomaterials, biotechnology and biosensing applications, according to a team of Penn State biomedical engineers.

These artificial cells will also allow researchers to explore actions that take place at the cell membrane.

“In a natural cell, so much is going on inside that it is… read more

Programming smart molecules for chemical-based AI

Machine-learning algorithms could make chemical reactions intelligent, tuned to your personal chemistry to diagnose or treat a range of pathologies using "smart drugs"
December 19, 2013

Molecular program

Computer scientists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have joined forces to put powerful probabilistic reasoning algorithms in the hands of bioengineers.

In a new paper (open access) presented at the recent Neural Information Processing Systems conference, Ryan P. Adams and Nilsread more

Graphene nanoribbons with semiconducting properties synthesized

Could be used in transistors and solar cells; "far more effective than silicon"
December 19, 2013

STM image of graphene nanoribbons demonstrates a well-organized self-assembled monolayer of straight and uniform nanoribbons of up to about 60 nm in length (credit: Nature Chemistry)

Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) researchers have succeeded in producing long, structurally well-defined graphene nanoribbons (GNRs) with semiconducting properties.

The “bottom-up” graphene synthesis method used consists in putting together molecular graphene building blocks to produce graphene nanoribbons in the desired shape and size.

Unlike native graphene, graphene nanoribbons have electronic bandgaps, which allow for control of the movement of  electrons and optical properties. They… read more

Music brings memories back to the injured brain

December 19, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

New hope for severely brain-injured patients: researchers have found that playing popular music can help them recall personal memories.

The study by Amee Baird and Séverine Samson, published in Neuropsychological Rehabilitation (open access), is the first to examine what they call “music-evoked autobiographical memories” (MEAMs) in patients with acquired brain injuries.

The researchers played excerpts from 50 “Number 1 Songs of the Year” (from 1960 to 2010) and… read more

Cellulose nanocrystals found to have stiffness of steel

Applications range from electronics and medical devices to structural components for the automotive, civil and aerospace industries
December 18, 2013


The same tiny cellulose crystals that give trees and plants their high strength, light weight and resilience, have now been shown to have the stiffness of steel.

The nanocrystals might be used to create a new class of biomaterials with wide-ranging applications, such as strengthening construction materials and automotive components.

Calculations using precise models based on the atomic structure of cellulose show the crystals have a stiffness of… read more

Cells taken from the retina act as ‘ink’ in inkjet printer

December 18, 2013


UK researchers have used inkjet printing technology to successfully use ganglion cells and glial cells taken from the eye as “ink” in printing retinal patterns.

The breakthrough could lead to the production of artificial tissue grafts made from the variety of cells found in the human retina and may aid in the search to cure blindness.

The results are preliminary and provide proof-of-principle that an inkjet printer can… read more

New telescope techniques allow for imaging binary stars, may soon image exoplanets

December 18, 2013


A new instrument that combines two high-resolution telescope techniques — adaptive optics and interferometry — has for the first time distinguished and studied the individual stars in a nearby binary star system, demonstrating promise for eventually picking out planets that have been indistinguishable from the stars they orbit.

In the December issue of the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics (open access), an international team of astronomers report that they were… read more

New artificial cartilage mimics strength and suppleness of native cartilage

Composite material closest yet to properties of the real thing
December 17, 2013


A Duke research team has developed a better synthetic replacement cartilage in joints that mimics both the strength and suppleness of native cartilage.

An article by lead authors Farshid Guilak, a professor of orthopedic surgery and biomedical engineering, and Xuanhe Zhao, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, appears today, Dec. 17 in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Articular cartilage is the tissue on the ends of… read more

Researchers split water into hydrogen, oxygen using light, nanoparticles

Technology potentially could create a clean, renewable source of energy
December 17, 2013

Transmission electron micrograph of cobalt oxygen nanoparticles

Researchers from the University of Houston have found a catalyst, cobalt oxide nanoparticles, that can quickly generate hydrogen from water using sunlight, potentially creating a clean and renewable source of energy.

Photocatalytic water-splitting experiments have been tried since the 1970s, but this was the first to use cobalt oxide and the first to use neutral water under visible light at a high energy conversion efficiency without co-catalysts or… read more

Lightweight autonomous dragonfly avoids obstacles

December 17, 2013


TU Delft researchers have developed the DelFly Explorer, which they claim is the first Micro Air Vehicle with flapping wings that can avoid obstacles by itself.

Its low weight (20 grams) opens up new possible applications for MAVs, the researchers suggest.

With its two flapping, transparent wings, the DelFly resembles a robotic dragonfly. The micro aircraft has a binocular vision system that weighs four… read more

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