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A new ‘off’ switch for neurons

"Will greatly enhance work in large-brained organisms like rats and primates" -- Karl Deisseroth
April 28, 2014

Modified light-sensitive channelrhodopsin structure, with the nine mutations to achieve neuron silencing shown in orange (credit: Andre Berndt et al./Science)

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) scientists have found a way to silence (turn off) individual neurons, using optogenetics, which previously could only turn on neurons.

Optogenetics is a method used by neuroscientists to study how specific neurons work. They shine LED or laser light on genetically modified neurons (light-activated) proteins (such as channelrhodopsin) that function as ion channels, which then turn on the… read more

A new process for producing synthetic gasoline based on carbon nanofibers

December 4, 2013

carbon nanofibers featured

A chemical system developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago can efficiently perform the first step in the process of creating synthetic gasoline (syngas) and other energy-rich products out of carbon dioxide.

The key to the new process is a novel “co-catalyst” system using inexpensive, easy-to-fabricate carbon-based nanofiber materials that efficiently convert carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide, a useful starting material for synthesizing fuels. The… read more

A new quantum-cryptography scheme to secure anonymous transactions

March 13, 2014

quantum_atm_artist_small

An international team has demonstrated a form of quantum cryptography that can protect people doing business with others they may not know or trust – a situation encountered often on the Internet and in everyday life — for example, at a bank’s ATM.

“I expect that quantum technologies will gradually become integrated with existing devices such as smartphones, allowing us to do things like identify ourselves securely or generate… read more

A new scheme for photonic quantum computing

October 14, 2011

Pumplaser_02

“Coherent photon conversion” could potentially overcome the unresolved problems for optical implementations of quantum computing. An international team of scientists led by researchers from the Vienna Center for Quantum Science and Technology (VCQ) at the University of Vienna (group of Anton Zeilinger) introduced this new scheme this week in Nature.

The new scheme provides a method of coherent conversion between different photon states and is… read more

A New Search Engine, Where Less Is More

November 1, 2010

Blekko, a search engine that will open to the public on Monday, aims to show search results from only useful, trustworthy sites.

Blekko’s search engine scours three billion Web pages that it considers worthwhile, but it shows only the top results on any given topic. It calls its edited lists of Web sites slashtags. The engine also tries to weed out Web pages created by … read more

A new self-assembling graphene-like material for flat semiconductors

May 1, 2014

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MIT and Harvard University researchers have found a two-dimensional material whose properties are very similar to graphene*, but with some distinct advantages — including the fact that this material naturally has a usable bandgap, which is essential for making devices such as computer chips and solar cells.

The new material, is a combination of nickel and an organic compound called HITP. Its constituents also naturally… read more

A new self-healing chemistry for plastics

April 15, 2014

Self-healing process (credit:  Kim K. Oehlenschlaeger et al./Advanced Materials)

Scientists at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and Evonik Industries have developed a self-healing chemistry that allows for rapid healing of a plastic material using mild heating, restoring its initial molecular structure. It is based on a reversible chemical crosslinking reaction*.

  • The reaction happens at temperatures from 50°C (122°F) to 120°C (248°F).
  • The material can be restored completely in less than 5 minutes, and

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A new solid-state hard drive that uses ultrasound to store more data

February 21, 2013

Acoustic-assisted magnetic recording (credit: Oregon State University)

Electrical engineers at Oregon State University have discovered a new method, called acoustic-assisted magnetic recording, to use high-frequency sound waves to create durable solid state storage that allows for storing more data in a smaller space, using less power.

“We’re near the peak of what we can do with the technology we now use for magnetic storage,” said Pallavi Dhagat, an associate professor in the… read more

A new spin on origins of evolvability: survival of the evolvable

Diversity trumps competition
April 30, 2013

evolvability_heat_map

Scientists have long observed that species seem to have become increasingly capable of evolving in response to changes in the environment.

But computer science researchers now say that the popular explanation of competition to survive in nature may not actually be necessary for evolvability to increase.

In a paper published this week in open-access PLOS ONE, the researchers report that evolvability… read more

A new stem-cell-like treatment target for deadly brain tumors

August 2, 2012

tumor_cells_gfp

A study by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers  reveals new insight into why the most common, deadly kind of brain tumor in adults recurs and identifies a potential target for future therapies.

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) currently is considered incurable. Despite responding to initial therapy, the cancer almost always returns.

GBM is a fast-growing, malignant brain tumor that occurred in 15 percent of the… read more

A new supercapacitor for energy storage at high temperatures

September 5, 2013

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Rice University researchers who have developed a supercapacitor that can operate at very high temperatures, using clay as a key ingredient.

The supercapacitor is reliable at temperatures of up to 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit), and could be useful for powering devices for use in extreme environments, such as oil drilling, the military and space, Rice scientist Pulickel Ajayan reported in Nature’s… read more

A new tool for precise brain mapping

Optogenetic infrared light precisely illuminates neural pathways in the brain
May 21, 2013

A new tool that could help map and track the interactions between neurons in different areas of the brain is being developed by University of Texas Arlington assistant professor of physics Samarendra Mohanty.

The technology would be useful in the BRAIN (Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) mapping initiative.

This new method, which uses a fiber-optic, two-photon, optogenetic stimulator, has been used on… read more

A new tool to reveal structure of proteins

March 21, 2012

protein

A new solid state NMR method that uses paramagnetic tags to help visualize the shape of protein molecules has been developed by Christopher Jaroniec, associate professor of chemistry at Ohio State University, and colleagues.

The new method could help researchers understand biological molecules involved in causing disease and those performing critical functions in healthy cells.

For roughly a decade, a technique called solid state nuclear magnetic resonance… read more

A New Treatment for Alzheimer’s?

January 16, 2008

A drug commonly used to treat arthritis caused a dramatic and rapid improvement in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, according to physicians in California. However, scientists and others not involved in the work worry that the report, which was based on trials in a few patients and hasn’t been independently confirmed, may offer little more than false hope for Alzheimer’s sufferers and their families.

See also: Jan 10read more

A new tumor-killer

May 23, 2013

saxs_hamlet

Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Lund University, Sweden, have bioengineered a novel molecule proven to successfully kill tumor cells.

This molecule is based on a natural protein present in human breast milk, which has been found to have strong and wide-ranging tumor killing properties when bound to certain lipids. Lipids are organic molecules like amino acids and carbohydrates, made up of carbon and… read more

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