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Could a Blu-ray disc improve solar-cell performance?

December 12, 2014

It was rated of one of the 25 worst movie conversions to Blu-ray. But never mind that. A Teen Wolf Blu-ray disc will work just as fine in improving your future solar collector. (Credit: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Here’s an idea: recycle that old grade-B movie Blu-ray disc to improve your future solar collector. Well, sort of. It turns out the Blu-ray data storage pattern when used with a solar collector increases light absorption by 21.8 percent, according to new research from Northwestern University, thanks to Blu-ray discs’ quasi-random pattern and high data density.

The researchers tested a wide range of movies and television shows stored on… read more

A disposable organic oximeter

December 12, 2014

UC Berkeley engineers have created a pulse oximeter sensor composed of all-organic optoelectronics that uses red and green light. The red and green organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) are detected by the organic photodiode (OPD). The device measures arterial oxygen saturation and heart rate as accurately as conventional, silicon-based pulse oximeters. (Credit: Yasser Khan)

Engineers at UC Berkeley have designed a wearable organic (carbon-based) oximeter (for  blood-oxygen levels) device that could ultimately be thin, cheap, and flexible enough to be slapped on like a Band-Aid.

“There are various pulse oximeters already on the market that measure pulse rate and blood-oxygen saturation levels, but those devices use rigid conventional electronics, and they are usually fixed to the fingers or earlobe,” said Ana Arias, an… read more

Saving information on a computer boosts human memory resources for new information

.. but only when the storage medium is trusted
December 11, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

The simple act of saving something, such as a file on a computer, may improve our memory for the information we encounter next, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The research suggests that the act of saving helps to free up cognitive resources that can be used to remember new information.

“Our findings show that people are significantly better at… read more

New ‘electronic skin’ detects pressure from different directions

Possible uses include prosthetic limbs, robotics, wearable electronics, remote surgery
December 11, 2014

A new kind of stretchy “electronic skin” (blue patch) is the first to be able to detect directional pressure. (Credit: American Chemical Society)

Korean researchers have developed a stretchable “electronic skin” closely modeled on human skin. The technology could have applications in prosthetic limbs, robotics, wearable electronics, remote surgery, and biomedical devices.

Current electronic skins are flexible, film-like devices designed to detect stress (pressure), read brain activity, monitor heart rate, or perform other functions. The new technology can also sense the direction and amount of stress, providing cues for the… read more

Nano-movies of biomolecules

Imaging proteins at unprecedented atomic spatial resolution and ultrafast temporal resolution
December 10, 2014

Samples of the crystallized protein (right), called photoactive yellow protein or PYP, were jetted into the path of SLAC's LCLS X-ray laser beam (fiery beam from bottom left). The crystallized proteins had been exposed to blue light (coming from left) to trigger shape changes. Diffraction patterns created when the X-ray laser hit the crystals allowed scientists to recreate the 3-D structure of the protein (center) and determine how light exposure changes its shape. (Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

An international team led by Prof. Marius Schmidt from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has imaged a light-sensitive biomolecule with an X-ray laser at unprecedented atomic spatial resolution and ultrafast temporal (time) resolution, as the scientists write in the journal Science.

The researchers used the photoactive yellow protein (PYP) as a model system. PYP is a receptor for blue light that is part of the photosynthetic machinery in certain bacteria.… read more

Tracking microdoses of carcinogens as they move through the body

How to safely test a carcinogen in the body with a dose similar to that of a grilled steak
December 10, 2014

Blood concentration from a 29 nanogram dose of a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (equivalent to a 5.2 oz. serving of smoked meat at the European Union maximum legal limit) (credit: Erin Madeen et al./Chemical Research In Toxicology)

Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) and two other organizations have developed a method to track polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) carcinogens through the human body as extraordinarily tiny amounts of these potential carcinogens are biologically processed and eliminated.

PAHs, which are the product of the incomplete combustion of carbon, have been a part of everyday human life since cave dwellers first roasted meat on an open fire. More… read more

A new low-cost way to create 3D nanostructures

December 9, 2014

A variety of asymmetric hollow-core 3D nanostructures can be created (credit: Xu Zhang)

Researchers from North Carolina State University (NC State) have developed a new low-cost lithography technique that can create three-dimensional (3D) nanostructures for biomedical, electronic, and photonic applications, replacing laborious stacking of two-dimensional (2D) patterns to create 3D structures.

“Our approach reduces the cost of nanolithography to the point where it could be done in your garage,” says Dr. Chih-Hao Chang, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at… read more

Is this a path to quantum transistors?

December 9, 2014

Samarium hexaboride, abbreviated SmB6, is a compound made of the metal samarium and the rare metalloid boron. University of Michigan researchers have confirmed its unusual electrical properties and shown how it could advance the development of next-generation transistors for quantum computers. (Credit: Gang Li)

Physicists at the University of Michigan (U-M) and several other universities have discovered or confirmed several properties of the compound samarium hexaboride (SmB6) at low temperature that raise hopes for finding the “silicon” of the quantum era.

In an open-access paper in the journal Science, the U-M researchers say they provide the first direct evidence that samarium hexaboride (SmB6) is a “topological insulator” — a… read more

Australian researchers set new world record in solar-energy efficiency

December 8, 2014

Spectrum splitting prototype (credit: UNSW)

University of New South Wales (UNSW) solar researchers have converted more than 40% of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity, “the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity,” UNSW Scientia Professor and Director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP) Professor Martin Green said.

“We used commercial solar cells, but in a new way, so these efficiency improvements are readily accessible to the solar… read more

Spray-on solar sensors for random surfaces

December 8, 2014

Kramer built his sprayLD device using parts that are readily available and rather affordable—he sourced a spray nozzle used in steel mills to cool steel with a fine mist of water, and a few regular air brushes from an art store. (Credit: UofT)

Canadian researchers have invented a fast, low-cost way to spray solar cells onto flexible surfaces using light-sensitive materials known as colloidal quantum dots (CQDs).

“My dream is that one day you’ll have two technicians with Ghostbusters backpacks come to your house and spray your roof,” said Illan Kramer, a post-doctoral fellow with The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto and IBM Canada’s… read more

Wireless brain sensor-transmitter could unchain neuroscience from cables

December 8, 2014

head-mounted transmitter

A team of scientists led by Brown University has developed a high-data-rate, low-power, wireless brain-sensor and transmitter system for acquiring high-fidelity neural data during animal behavior experiments.

The new system solves a fundamental problem in neuroscience research: cables, which are needed to connect brain sensors to computers, constrain movement of subjects, limiting the kinds of research that are possible.

“We view this as a platform device for tapping… read more

Fabrics that transmit biomedical data

December 5, 2014

Smart fabric is durable, malleable, and can be woven with cotton or wool. Horizontal lines are antennas. (Credit: Stepan Gorgutsa, Universite Laval)

Canadian researchers have developed “smart textiles” able to monitor and transmit wearers’ biomedical information via wireless or cellular network by superimposing multiple layers of copper, polymers, glass, and silver.

“The fiber acts as both sensor and antenna. It is durable but malleable, and can be woven with wool or cotton, and signal quality is comparable to commercial antennas,” explained Professor Younes Messaddeq at Université Laval’s Faculty of Science and Engineering… read more

Robotic-leg prosthetic allows amputees to walk normally

Simplified gait model eliminates need for complex designs and team of physical-rehabilitation specialists
December 5, 2014

Amputee with robot-inspired artificial leg can walk at normal speed on a treadmill (credit:  University of Texas at Dallas)

Wearers of a new robotic leg can walk on a moving treadmill almost as fast as an able-bodied person, said inventor Robert Gregg, PhD, a University of Texas at Dallas professor, who applied robot control theory to enable powered prosthetics to dynamically respond to the wearer’s environment and help amputees walk.

“We borrowed from robot control theory to create a simple, effective new way to analyze the human… read more

The Pentagon wants your advice on tech for the year 2030 time frame

December 4, 2014

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is asking for ideas from the private sector on breakthrough technologies to guide military investment for the next decade and beyond, according to an article by futurist Patrick Tucker Wednesday in Defense One newsletter.

“On Wednesday, Defense Department officials issued a request for information calling on interested parties ‘to identify current and emerging technologies … that could provide significant military advantage to the United… read more

Rewritable paper

December 4, 2014

Yadong Yin’s lab at the University of California, Riverside has fabricated novel rewritable paper, one that is based on the color switching property of commercial chemicals called redox dyes. (Credit: Yin Lab, UC Riverside)

Chemists at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) have fabricated a novel rewritable “paper” process in the lab, based on the color-switching property of commercially available chemicals called redox dyes.

Printing is achieved by using ultraviolet light to photobleach the dye, except the masked portions for the text on the paper. The prototype rewritable paper can be erased and written on more than 20 times with no significant loss… read more

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