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High-efficiency concentrating solar cells move to the rooftop

February 6, 2015

Photograph of the prototype panel being tested outdoors. The small black squares seen under each lenslet in the close-up are the solar cells (credit: © Nature Communications)

Ultra-high-efficiency multi-junction solar cells similar to those used in space or electric utilities may now be possible on your rooftop thanks to a new microscale solar-concentration technology called concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) developed by an international team of researchers.

The new CPV systems use inexpensive optics to concentrate sunlight,” said Noel C. Giebink, assistant professor of electrical engineering, Penn State. “Current CPV systems are… read more

SuperAger brains yield new clues to their remarkable memories

February 5, 2015

Three cingulate ROIs. Medial ROIs of the cingulate cortex in the Desikan-Killiany (Desikan et al., 2006) cortical labeling protocol are color-coded with their corresponding parcellations characterized by Vogt (2009). (Credit: Tamar Gefen et al./The Journal of Neuroscience)

SuperAgers, aged 80 and above — but with memories that are as sharp as those of healthy persons decades younger — have distinctly different looking brains than those of normal older people, according to new Northwestern Medicine research.

Understanding Superagers’ unique “brain signature” may enable scientists to decipher the genetic or molecular source and develop strategies to protect the memories of normal aging persons, as well as… read more

Smartphone add-on tests for HIV and syphilis in 15 minutes

February 5, 2015

The user presses the bulb of the smartphone dongle, designed to fit in one hand, to initiate the fluid flow. (credit: Tassaneewan Laksanasopin, Columbia Engineering)

A low-cost smartphone accessory that can detect three infectious disease markers from a finger prick of blood in just 15 minutes, performing all mechanical, optical, and electronic functions of a lab-based blood test.

That’s what team of researchers led by Samuel K. Sia, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia Engineering, has developed.

It performs an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) triplexed immunoassayread more

One-atom-thin ‘silicene’ silicon transistors invented

World’s thinnest silicon material promises dramatically faster, smaller, more efficient computer chips
February 5, 2015

Buckled honeycomb lattice structure of silicene (credit: Li Tao et al./Nature Nanotechnology)

The first transistors made of silicene, the world’s thinnest silicon material, have been developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering. The new material may allow for building dramatically faster, smaller, energy-efficient computer chips.

Made of a one-atom-thick layer of silicon atoms, silicene has outstanding electrical properties but has until now proved difficult to produce and work… read more

Scientists predict Earth-like planets around most stars

February 5, 2015

(Credit: Australian National University)

Planetary scientists have calculated that there are hundreds of billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy which might support life.

The new research, led by PhD student Tim Bovaird and Associate Professor Charley Lineweaver from The Australian National University (ANU), made the finding by applying a 200 year old idea called the Titius-Bode relation — used to predict the existence of… read more

Resveratrol, found in red grapes, may help prevent memory loss in the elderly

February 5, 2015

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Resveratrol, touted for its potential to prevent heart disease, may also help prevent age-related decline in memory, according to new research from Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.

Ashok K. Shetty, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine and Director of Neurosciences at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, has been studying the potential benefit of resveratrol, an antioxidant found in the skin of… read more

Fluorescent dyes ‘light up’ brain cancer cells

February 4, 2015

tumor fluorescence ft

Two new fluorescent dyes attracted to cancer cells differentiate brain tumors from normal brain tissue in mice, and may help neurosurgeons more accurately localize and completely resect (remove) brain tumors, suggests an open-access study in the February issue of Neurosurgery.

The two “tumor-selective” fluorescent agents — called CLR1501 and CLR1502 — were molecularly altered to carry fluorescent dyes that glow under lights with specific wavelengths —… read more

Penta-graphene, a new structural variant of carbon, discovered

Discovery inspired by pentagonal tile pattern found in the streets of Cairo; has semiconductor, other new properties
February 4, 2015

The pentagon pattern of penta-graphene (credit: VCU)

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and universities in China and Japan have discovered a new structural variant of carbon called “penta-graphene”— a fourth form of carbon, joining fullerene, the nanotube and graphene.

Penta-graphene is a very thin sheet of pure carbon that has a unique structure inspired by a pentagonal (five-sided) pattern of tiles and that appears to be dynamically,… read more

‘Robot scientist’ Eve could speed up search for new drugs

February 4, 2015

Eve, the Robot Scientist (credit: University of Manchester)

British scientists have developed Eve, an artificially intelligent “robot scientist” that could make drug discovery faster and cheaper.

Based at the University of Manchester, Eve has already discovered that a compound shown to have anti-cancer properties might also be used in the fight against malaria.

Eve was developed by researchers at the Universities of Aberystwyth and Cambridge. In 2009, they announced Adam, the first machine toread more

Improved artificial blood vessels

February 3, 2015

SEM micrograph of chitosan-PVA nanofibers in three-layered composite graft (credit: Yuanyuan Liu et al./AIP Advances)

By combining micro-imprinting and electro-spinning techniques, researchers at Shanghai University’s Rapid Manufacturing Engineering Center have developed a vascular graft (blood-vessel bypass) composed of three layers for the first time.

This tri-layered composite allowed researchers to combine separate materials to provide mechanical strength and also promote new cell growth, not possible with existing vascular grafts, which are limited to a single or double… read more

Researchers determine how the brain controls robotic grasping tools

Could lead to advancements in assistive technologies benefiting the disabled
February 3, 2015

Planning and execution phase responses in the MT. Significant results were mapped to a 3-D brain using CARET’s Population-Average, Landmark- and Surface-based atlas using the Average Fiducial Mapping algorithm. (A) Relative to resting baseline, both types of action planning were associated with significant increases in occipital cortex, extending dorsally into the medial superior parietal lobule, left premotor cortex, bilateral TPJ, and cMTG. (B) During movement execution, grasp-related increases in activity were found near the intersection of the IPS and postcentral sulcus contralateral to the hand involved. (Credit: Scott H. Frey et al./ Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience)

University of Missouriresearchers have found evidence that the cerebellum portion of the brain may play a critical role in the complex network of brain functions involved in grasping. Their findings could lead to advancements in assistive technologies benefiting the disabled.

“For those with disabilities, assistive technologies, such as robotic arms or sensors inserted in the brain, make it possible to accomplish actions like grasping with… read more

A pump inspired by flapping bird wings

February 3, 2015

When a fluid is squeezed and expanded repeatedly between two sawtooth-like boundaries, a net flow is generated to the right (credit: B. Thiria & J. Zhang)

Two New York University researchers have taken inspiration from avian locomotion strategies and created a pump that moves fluid using vibration instead of a rotor. Their results were published today (February 3) in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

“When we use a household pump, that pump is very likely a centrifugal pump. It uses a high-speed rotor… read more

How complex environments push brain evolution

February 2, 2015

A hypothetical animat "brain," comprising a logic-gate network with 2 sensors, 4 hidden Markov elements, and 2 motors (credit: Larissa Albantakis/PLoS Computational Biology)

A recent study by neuroscientists offers clues about how increasingly difficult tasks have evolved the brain.

They created a video game similar to the old video game Tetris, in which programmed artificial adaptive agents (“animats”) have to “catch” moving blocks of different sizes before the blocks reach the bottom (in a game for humans, that might be done by pressing right or left cursor keys).… read more

High-def radar images of near-Earth asteroid captured

February 2, 2015

Collage of radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86 made by the Green Bank Telescope from radar transmitted from NASA's Goldstone Deep Space Network antenna. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech; NRAO/AUI/NSF)

A team of astronomers using the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia and NASA’s Deep Space Network radar transmitter at Goldstone, California, has made the most detailed radar images yet of asteroid 2004 BL86.

The images, taken early in the morning on Jan. 27, 2015, reveal the asteroid’s surface features in unprecedented clarity. At the time of the observations, the asteroid was traveling away from the Earth, so… read more

Deep-brain imaging reveals which nearly identical neurons are associated with specific behaviors

More precise mapping of how individual neurons interact in the brain
January 30, 2015

Integration of the miniepifluorescence microscope with the microendoscope for deep-brain imaging of LH GABAergic neurons expressing GCaMP6m (credit: Joshua H. Jennings et al./Cell)

Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine have used new deep-brain imaging techniques to link the activity of individual, genetically similar neurons to particular behaviors of freely moving mice.

For the first time ever, scientists watched as one neuron was activated when a mouse searched for food while a nearly identical neuron next to it remained inactive; instead, the second neuron only became activated when the mouse began… read more

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