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Where and when the brain recognizes, categorizes an object

January 28, 2014

mit_fmri_meg

MIT researchers scanned individuals’ brains as they looked at different images and were able to pinpoint, to the millisecond, when the brain recognizes and categorizes an object, and where these processes occur.

“This method gives you a visualization of ‘when’ and ‘where’ at the same time. It’s a window into processes happening at the millisecond and millimeter scale,” says Aude Oliva, a principal research scientist in… read more

Crowdsourced ‘EteRNA’ RNA designs outperform computer algorithms

Carnegie Mellon and Stanford project combines global online design challenge with lab experiments
January 28, 2014

eterna

An enthusiastic group of non-experts, working through an online interface and receiving feedback from lab experiments, has produced designs for RNA molecules that are consistently more successful than those generated by the best computerized design algorithms, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University report.

The researchers then gathered some of the best design rules and practices generated by players of the online EteRNA design… read more

Wrinkled metamaterials for controlling light and sound propagation

January 28, 2014

mit_wrinkle_waves

MIT researchers have developed flexible, layered metamaterials textured with nanoscale wrinkles that could provide a new way to control the distribution of sound or light signals, such as changing the materials’ color or making it optically or acoustically invisible.

The technology could be used for nondestructive testing of materials, new medical diagnostic tools, and sound suppression in a certain volume (location) in space rather thanread more

A 3D window into living cells, no dye required

January 27, 2014

3d_imaging_living_cells

University of Illinois researchers have developed a new imaging technique that needs no dyes or other chemicals, yet renders high-resolution, three-dimensional, quantitative imagery of cells and their internal structures using conventional microscopes and white light.

Called white-light diffraction tomography (WDT), the imaging technique opens a window into the life of a cell without disturbing it and could allow cellular biologists unprecedented insight into cellular processes, drug effects and stem cell… read more

How to cool microprocessors with carbon nanotubes

January 27, 2014

Ogletree-CNT

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a “process friendly” technique that would use carbon nanotubes to cool microprocessor chips .

Frank Ogletree, a physicist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division, led a study in which organic molecules were used to form strong covalent bonds between carbon nanotubes and metal surfaces.

This improved by six-fold the flow of heat from the metal to… read more

Herschel telescope detects water on dwarf planet

January 27, 2014

ceres_art

Scientists using the Herschel space observatory have made the first definitive detection of water vapor on the largest and roundest object in the asteroid belt, Ceres.

Plumes of water vapor are thought to shoot up periodically from Ceres when portions of its icy surface warm slightly. Ceres is classified as a dwarf planet, a solar system body bigger than an asteroid and smaller than a planet.… read more

Using nanodiamonds to precisely detect neural signals

January 27, 2014

ontrol_nanoscale_diamond_sensors

A team in MIT’s Quantum Engineering Group has developed a new method to noninvasively measure how weak magnetic fields change over time, such as when neurons in the brain transmit signals to each other. 

The method uses naturally occurring defects in diamonds called nitrogen-vacancy (N-V) centers, which are sensitive to external magnetic fields, much like compasses… read more

An environmentally friendly, energy-dense sugar battery

January 24, 2014

vt_sugar_battery

A Virginia Tech research team has developed a battery that runs on sugar and has an unmatched energy density, a development that could replace conventional batteries with ones that are cheaper, refillable, and biodegradable.

The findings from Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of  biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, were… read more

How to monitor drug effects in real time

Eliminating the guesswork
January 24, 2014

MEDIC

A device that can monitor the levels of specific drugs as they flow through the bloodstream may soon take the guesswork out of drug dosing and allow physicians to tailor prescriptions to their patients’ specific biology.

Developed by UC Santa Barbara researchers Tom Soh, Kevin Plaxco and Scott Ferguson, the biosensor combines  engineering and biochemistry and has far-reaching potential.

Doctors… read more

Tapping more of the sun’s energy using heat as well as light

New approach developed at MIT could generate power from sunlight efficiently and on demand
January 24, 2014

nanophotonic_solar_thermophotovoltaic_device

A new approach to harvesting solar energy, developed by MIT 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.

In this case, adding the extra step improves performance, because it makes it possible to… read more

Solar distributed generation system prices to fall by 15% to 30% by 2020

January 23, 2014

Falling module prices have helped to bring down the cost of solar installations, but now balance of system (BOS) components like racking and mounting are key targets of cost reduction, as distributed generation system prices fall by between 15% and 30% by 2020 depending on geography, according to Lux Research.

Along with continuing module efficiency improvements, these advances willread more

MIT and Harvard release working papers on open online courses

Reveal how students learn and how technologies can facilitate effective teaching both on-campus and online
January 23, 2014

mitx_working_papers

MIT and Harvard University have released a series of working papers (open access) based on 17 online courses offered on the edX platform.

Run in 2012 and 2013, the courses analyzed drew upon diverse topics — from ancient Greek poetry to electromagnetism — and an array of disciplines, from public health to engineering to law.

The working paper series features detailed reports… read more

A Wikipedia for robots

Allows robots to share knowledge and experience in caring for elders worldwide using a central online database
January 23, 2014

(Credit: TU/e)

European scientists from six institutes and two universities have developed an online platform where robots can learn new skills from each other worldwide — a kind of “Wikipedia for robots.”

The objective is to help develop robots better at helping elders with caring and household tasks.

“The problem right now is that robots are often developed specifically for one task”, says René van de Molengraft, TU/e researcher and… read more

A less-expensive way to duplicate the complicated steps of photosynthesis in making fuel

January 23, 2014

anl_photosynthesis

Argonne National Laboratory researchers have found a new, more efficient, less-expensive way to make fuel — principally, hydrogen — from sunlight and water: linking a synthetic cobalt-containing catalyst to an organic light-sensitive molecule called a chromophore.

Chromophore molecules, such as chlorophyll, are involved in capturing light for photosynthesis.

Currently, the most efficient methods we have for  making fuel involve rare and expensive metal catalysts, such… read more

E-whiskers: highly sensitive tactile sensors for robotics and other applications

January 23, 2014

E-whiskers are highly responsive tactile sensor networks made from carbon nanotubes and silver nanoparticles that resemble the whiskers of cats and other mammals (credit: Berkeley Lab)

Researchers with Berkeley Lab and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have created tactile sensors from composite films of carbon nanotubes and silver nanoparticles similar to the highly sensitive whiskers of cats and rats.

The new “e-whiskers” respond to pressure as slight as a single Pascal, about the pressure exerted on a table surface by a dollar bill. Among their potential applications is giving robots new abilities to “see”… read more

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