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How to enable the Internet of Things without batteries

August 6, 2014

Wi-Fi Backscatter system includes a Wi-Fi reader, a Wi-Fi helper, and a RF-powered device (Wi-Fi Backscatter tag) (credit: University of Washington)

University of Washington engineers have designed a clever new communication system called Wi-Fi backscatter that uses ambient radio frequency signals as a power source for battery-free devices (such as temperature sensors or wearable technology) and also reuses the existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to provide Internet connectivity for these devices.

“If Internet of Things devices are going to take off, we must provide connectivity to the potentially… read more

Virtual acoustic ‘bottle’ bends path of sound waves better than metamaterials

Applications include super-high-resolution medical imaging, acoustic levitation, and acoustic cloaking and trapping
August 6, 2014

After being emitted from a planar-phased source, sound energy forms a 3D acoustic bottle of high-pressure walls and a null region in the middle. Pressure field at bottom shows self-bending ability of the bottle beam to circumvent 3D obstacles. Dashed arrows indicate wave front direction. (Credit: Xiang Zhang group)

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researchers have developed a technique to generate an acoustic bottle-like “object” in open air from sound. The virtual object can bend the paths of sound waves along prescribed convex trajectories.

The new technique could allow for super-high-resolution imaging, acoustic cloaking (without requiring engineered metamaterials), and other exotic applications.

As shown in the illustration above, the acoustic “bottle” is in the… read more

Atomically precise self-assembling nanoscale fibers mimic living cells

Reversible fibrous self-assembly has been long sought for tissue engineering, drug delivery, nanoreactors, and imaging
August 5, 2014

Carnegie Mellon chemists have created a self-assembling nano fiber using green fluorescent protein (credit: Carnegie Mellon University)

Carnegie Mellon University researchers have developed a novel method for creating self-assembled protein/polymer nanostructures that resemble fibers found in living cells.

The work offers a promising new way to fabricate materials for drug delivery and tissue engineering applications.

The findings were published in the July 28 issue of Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

“We have demonstrated that, by adding flexible linkers to protein molecules, we can form… read more

‘Rewired’ mice show signs of longer lives with fewer age-related illnesses

Gene deletion boosts energy production while slowing cell proliferation
August 5, 2014

Mitochondrion (credit: BruceBlaus/Creative Commons)

Mice lacking a specific protein (TRAP-1) live longer lives with fewer age-related illnesses, such as tissue degeneration, obesity, and spontaneous tumor formation, when compared with normal mice, researchers at The Wistar Institute have discovered.

In healthy cells, TRAP-1 is an important regulator of metabolism and has been shown to regulate energy production in mitochondria, which are organelles that generate chemically useful energy for the cell.

In the… read more

‘Active’ surfaces that control fluids or particles

Self-cleaning solar cells in the desert is one application
August 5, 2014

Photo shows a water droplet sitting on a ferrofluid-impregnated surface, which has cloaked the droplet with a very thin layer.

Imagine a treated surface that that can actively control how fluids or particles move across it.

That’s what researchers at MIT and in Saudi Arabia have developed, using a simple microtextured surface, with bumps or ridges just a few micrometers across.

They impregnated the surface with a fluid that can be manipulated — for example, an oil infused with tiny magnetic particles, or ferrofluid, which can… read more

Elon Musk: AI is ‘potentially more dangerous than nukes’

August 5, 2014

Terminator 3

Elon Musk warned in a tweet Saturday that “we need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes,” and recommended Nick Bostrom’s book, Superintelligence.

Musk followed that up a day later with “Hope we’re not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable.” (A boot loader is a small program that loads other programs at… read more

Light pulses control how graphene conducts electricity

Change graphene from a conductor to a semiconductor
August 4, 2014

MIT researchers have found a way to control how graphene conducts electricity — using an extremely short but intense light pulse, which could enable graphene’s use as a broadband light detector.

By controlling the concentration of electrons in a graphene sheet, they could change the way the material responds to the light pulse:

  • At low electron concentration, the pulse increases the material’s electrical conductivity (this

read more

Could fossils be discovered on the Moon?

August 4, 2014

(Credit: Janet Ramsden)

University of Kent physicists have tested what would happen if a piece of rock containing microscopic fossils from Earth was launched into space and hit the surface of the moon.

Professor Mark Burchell and researchers from Kent ’s Centre for Astrophysics simulated the condition that fossilized diatoms — microscopic algae with detailed shells — might have faced if… read more

Ebola outbreak: second patient to be flown to Atlanta hospital Tuesday; 1603 cases, 887 deaths and rising

August 1, 2014

#EbolaOutbreak. Send newstips here. UPDATED:  August 5, 2014 at 2:07 am EDT (new content on top; new videos at bottom of this page)

  • Terror threat of lethal Ebola dirty bomb — The Sun
  • Ebola risk unheeded as Guinea’s villagers keep on eating fruit bats. — The Guardian 8/4/2014
  • The death toll from Ebola increased from 720 to

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Engineered biomaterial may regenerate damaged skeletal muscle

August 1, 2014

Cell-derived extracellular matrix (credit: Jeffrey C. Wolchok and Patrick A. Tresco/Biomaterials)

A biomaterial that can regenerate damaged skeletal muscle is being developed by University of Arkansas biomedical engineering researcher Jeffrey Wolchok, funded by a National Institutes of Health three-year, $437,248 grant.

Living cells secrete fibrous proteins and polysaccharide gels called extracellular matrix, which support cell survival and tissue strength. Minor muscle injuries affect tissue cells but not the extracellular components. In severe injuries, however, the extracellular matrix does not… read more

Nanostructured metal-oxide catalyst efficiently converts CO2 to methanol

August 1, 2014

Scanning tunneling microscope image of a cerium-oxide and copper catalyst (CeOx-Cu) used in the transformation of carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2) gases to methanol (CH3OH) and water (H2O). In the presence of hydrogen, the Ce4+ and Cu+1 are reduced to Ce3+ and Cu0 with a change in the structure of the catalyst surface. (Credit: BNL)

Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered a new catalytic system for converting carbon dioxide (CO2) to methanol — a key commodity used to create a wide range of industrial chemicals and fuels. With significantly higher activity than other catalysts now in use, the new system could make it easier to get normally unreactive CO2 to participate in these reactions.

“Developing an effective catalyst for synthesizing methanol… read more

Google Glass app aims to improve surgeon training in Stanford University Medical School

August 1, 2014

CrowdOptic app lets a user see what another user is looking at simply by looking at that person (credit: CrowdOptic)

CrowdOptic is working with the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Stanford University Medical Center to use CrowdOptic’s Google Glass software to help improve resident training in complex surgical procedures, the company has announced.

CrowdOptic’s app gives a Google Glass wearer — such as a surgeon — access to what another user — such as a resident performing an operation — is seeing, simply by looking in the… read more

The social origins of intelligence in the brain

A study of brain injuries in vets showed that brain regions that contribute to optimal social functioning are also vital to general intelligence and emotional intelligence
August 1, 2014

(credit: iStock)

By studying the injuries and aptitudes of Vietnam War veterans who suffered penetrating head wounds during the war, researchers have found that brain regions that contribute to optimal social functioning are also vital to general intelligence and emotional intelligence.

This finding, reported in the journal Brain, bolsters the view that general intelligence emerges from the emotional and social context of one’s life.

“We are trying to understand the nature… read more

A ‘nanosubmarine’ that could deliver drug molecules to cells

July 31, 2014

The sequential transport of donors and acceptors across cell membranes with independent and dynamic nanocarriers enables energy transfer exclusively in the intracellular space with concomitant fluorescence activation (credit: Francisco Raymo, professor of Chemistry and director of the laboratory for molecular photonics, at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences)

Researchers at the University of Miami and the University of Ulster have created self-assembling nanoparticles that can transport drugs and other molecules into target living cells.

The new nanocarriers are just 15 nanometers in diameter, based on building blocks called amphiphilic polymers: they have both hydrophilic (water-loving, polar) and lipophilic (fat-loving) properties). That allows the nanocarriers to hold the… read more

A rice genome to feed the world

Will it deal with the "9 billion-people question" for the year 2050?
July 31, 2014

Understanding the complete genome of African rice will enable researchers and agriculturalists to develop new varieties of rice with African rice's hardiness, making them better able to adapt to conditions of a changing climate. (Credit: International Rice Research Institute)

An international team of researchers led by the University of Arizona (UA) has sequenced the complete genome of African rice.

The genetic information will enhance scientists’ and agriculturalists’ understanding of the growing patterns of African rice, and help development of new rice varieties that are better able to cope with increasing environmental stressors to help solve global hunger challenges, the researchers say.

The research paper was… read more

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