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A high-performance single-molecule diode

The ultimate limit in electronic miniaturization just got a lot closer
August 3, 2015

Researchers from Berkeley Lab and Columbia University have created the world’s highest-performance single-molecule diode using a combination of gold electrodes and an ionic solution (credit: Latha Venkataraman, Columbia University)

A team of researchers from Berkeley Lab and Columbia University has created “the world’s highest-performance single-molecule diode,” using a combination of gold electrodes and an ionic solution.

The diode’s rectification ratio (ratio of forward to reverse current at fixed voltage) is in excess of 200, “a record for single-molecule devices,” says Jeff Neaton, Director of the Molecular Foundry, a senior faculty scientist… read more

A high-performance solar-thermoelectric generating device

May 4, 2011

Prototype of a flat-panel solar-thermoelectric generating device (credit: Melanie Gonick)

Researchers at MIT and their collaborators have developed a high-performance and possibly less expensive way to convert solar heat  into electricity, using flat-panel solar power combined with hot water systems.

Their system produces power with an efficiency roughly eight times higher than ever previously reported for a solar thermoelectric device that produces electricity from solar heat. It does so by generating and harnessing a temperature difference of… read more

A high-resolution endoscope as thin as a human hair

March 13, 2013


Engineers at Stanford University have developed a prototype single-fiber endoscope that is as thin as a human hair, with a resolution four times better than previous devices of similar design.

The “micro-endoscope” is a significant step forward in high-resolution, minimally invasive bioimaging, with potential applications in research and clinical practice. Micro-endoscopy could enable new methods in diverse fields ranging from study of the brain to early cancer… read more

A high-resolution nanoscale window to the live biological world

December 27, 2012


Investigators at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute have invented a way to directly image biological structures at nanometer-resolution in their natural habitats (a liquid environment).

The technique is a major advancement toward the ultimate goal of imaging biological processes in action at the atomic level.

The technique uses two silicon-nitride microchips with windows etched in their centers and pressing them together until only… read more

A high-stakes search continues for silicon’s successor

December 6, 2011

As we approach the limits of miniaturization of silicon semiconductors, at universities and corporate laboratories around the world, researchers are trying to develop the next generation of chip-making technologies.

Stanford University researchers are making prototypes of a new kind of molecular-scale semiconductor nanocircuit called a carbon nanotube field effect transistor (CNFET) that is far smaller and uses far less power than today’s most advanced silicon-based computer circuits. It may… read more

A Hole in the Genome

March 2, 2009

Several studies in the last year have found that missing or extra pieces of DNA in the 1q21.1 region put the bearer at risk for a surprisingly broad range of psychiatric and neurological disorders, including autism, schizophrenia, and mental retardation.

The discovery that one piece of DNA can lead to such diverse outcomes is opening new avenues in the study of disease.

A holographic microscope for just $250

November 6, 2012


You can build a holographic microscope for $250 (for parts), MIT Technology Review Physics arXiv Blog reports.

Holographic microscopes record the 3D shape of tiny objects such as cells in high resolution, unlike traditional microscopes, which have a tiny field of view and shallow depth of field.

With a holographic microscope, you make a hologram of the sample: split a laser beam in two, use one as… read more

A home heating system with a brain

March 6, 2012


A thermal regulator that uses neural networks to learn about your house as the seasons change has been developed by a spinoff from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM).

Most home thermal regulators only react to a single parameter — the outside temperature — in regulating their output.

EPFL researchers developed a system, called Neurobatread more

A Hybrid Nano-Energy Harvester

April 9, 2009

Georgia Tech and University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have combined a nanogenerator (converts mechanical vibrations into electical energy) with a solar cell to create an integrated mechanical- and solar-energy-harvesting device.

A hydrogel that destroys superbugs and drug-resistant biofilms

Novel antimicrobial hydrogel prevents antibiotic-resistant microbes from forming on wounds, medical devices and implants
January 28, 2013

Biofilm after treatment (credit: IBN)

The first-ever antimicrobial hydrogel that can break apart biofilms and destroy multidrug-resistant superbugs upon contact has been developed by researchers from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) and IBM Research.

Tests have demonstrated the effectiveness of this novel synthetic material in eliminating various types of bacteria and fungi that are leading causes of microbial infections, and preventing them from developing antibiotic resistance.

This… read more

A hyperspectral smartphone-based Star Trek ‘tricorder’

April 2, 2015

(credit: Unispectral Technologies)

Tel Aviv University researchers hope to turn smartphones into powerful hyperspectral sensors that determine precise spectral data for each pixel in an image.

As with the Star Trek tricorder,* the enhanced smartphones would be capable of identifying the chemical components of objects from a distance, based on unique hyperspectral signatures.

The technology combines an optical component and image processing software, according to… read more

A Japan-developed robot for disaster response

November 23, 2012


Toshiba has developed a remote-controlled tetrapod inspection robot with camera and dosimeter, designed to investigate risky areas, such as Fukushima nuclear power plants.

The multiple joints of its legs are controlled by a movement algorithm that enables the robot to walk on uneven surfaces (like Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog), avoid obstacles, and climb stairs to get access into areas can’t be reached by wheeled robots (such as some iRobot… read more

A Japanese robot car that drives itself on sidewalks and footpaths

March 28, 2013

Ropits … the self-driving robot car (credit: Hitachi)

Hitachi has launched the self-driving Robot for Personal Intelligent Transport System (Ropits) car, developed for elderly and disabled drivers, The Guardian reports.

The vehicle is designed to roam pavements and footpaths, rather than roads, and is equipped with a plethora of sensors and guidance systems to help it navigate around bumps, potholes, and pedestrians.

A touch-screen map is linked to a… read more

A jet engine powered by lasers and nuclear explosions?

July 14, 2015

lasers vaporize the radioactive material and cause a fusion reaction — in effect a small thermonuclear explosion.<br />
Lasers vaporize radioactive material and cause a fusion reaction --- in effect a small thermonuclear explosion (credit: Patent Yogi/YouTube)

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has awarded a patent (US 9,068,562) to Boeing engineers and scientists for a laser- and nuclear-driven airplane engine.

“A stream of pellets containing nuclear material such as Deuterium or Tritium is fed into a hot-stop within a thruster of the aircraft,” Patent Yogi explains. “Then multiple high powered laser beams are all focused onto the hot-spot. The pellet is… read more

A joyride through the nanoworld

November 16, 2009

Atomic force microscope (Felice Frankel)

Chemist George Whitesides has collaborated with MIT and Harvard photographer-in-residence Felice Frankel to produce No Small Matter, a book of images of the micro and nanoworld.

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