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A powerful microscale actuator for microrobotics and drug delivery

Can deliver a force 1000 times greater than human muscle of the same weight
December 18, 2012

transforms from a metal into an insulator at a critical temperature near room temperature

A powerful new microscale actuator that can flex like a miniature beckoning finger has been developed by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California, Berkeley.

It is based on a material that expands and contracts dramatically in response to a small (15 degrees C) temperature variation. It is smaller than the width of a human hair and… read more

A powerful new ‘tool’ for assembling biomolecules

Replaces the existing expensive and complex process needed when synthesizing new chemicals --- could revolutionize pharmaceutical and biomaterials manufacturing
October 21, 2015

Proposed new simplified chemical reaction for assembling biomolecules in a single step (credit: Tiffany Piou & Tomislav Rovis/Nature)

Colorado State University chemists have invented a single chemical reaction that couples two constituent chemicals into a carbon-carbon bond, while simultaneously introducing a nitrogen component. The process promises to replace a multi-step, expensive, and complex process needed when synthesizing new chemicals — for drug creation and testing, for example.

The researchers were able to control this reaction to make the nitrogen atoms go exactly where they want them to,… read more

A Practical Fuel-Cell Power Plant

November 1, 2006

GE’s advance allows for a solid-oxide fuel cell to use coal-based fuels at costs approaching that of conventional power plants.

The final product can be built for about $800 a kilowatt, which starts to approach the $500-to-$550-per-kilowatt cost of building a conventional gas-fired power plant.

A precise new quantitative brain-scan measurement method

Can quantify the volume of specific brain tissues, a critical measurement of the progression of brain diseases
November 19, 2013

The image is of the macromolecule tissue volume (MTV)  map in a  3D view within a human brain.

An interdisciplinary Stanford team has developed a new method for quantitatively (using numbers) measuring human brain tissue using MRI (which formerly provided mostly qualitative, such as “bright” or “dark,” information).

The team members measured the volume of large molecules (macromolecules) within each cubic millimeter of the brain. Their method may improve how doctors diagnose and treat neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

“We’re moving from qualitative… read more

A precision brain-controlled prosthesis nearly as good as one-finger typing

My allow people with ALS or spinal cord injuries to communicate faster and more accurately
August 4, 2015

Brain-controlled prostheses sample a few hundred neurons to estimate motor commands that involve millions of neurons. So tiny sampling errors can reduce the precision and speed of thought-controlled keypads. A Stanford technique can analyze this sample and make dozens of corrective adjustments in the blink of an eye to make thought control more precise. (credit: Jonathan Kao, Shenoy Lab)

An interdisciplinary team led by Stanford electrical engineer Krishna Shenoy has developed a technique to improve brain-controlled prostheses. These brain-computer-interface (BCI) devices, for people with neurological disease or spinal cord injury, deliver thought commands to devices such as virtual keypads, bypassing the damaged area.

The new technique addresses a problem with these brain-controlled prostheses: they currently access a sample of only a few hundred neurons, so tiny errors in… read more

A pressure switch inside the head

November 8, 2012

View of the not yet completely enclosed intracranial pressure sensor (credit: Dr. Thomas Velten/Fraunhofer IBMT)

An increase in cerebral pressure may cause dementia or even destroy the brain, but there’s no reliable sensor available (they quickly corrode), and current intracranial pressure systems keep patients in a hospital for days or weeks.

So Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBMT) researchers have developed a small implantable sensor for cerebral pressure that’s waterproof, using a casing made from high-grade titanium. It’s… read more

A Prettier Way to Browse the Social Web

July 21, 2010

Flipboard, a start-up that is unveiling its iPad app on Wednesday, builds a personalized magazine full of updates, photos and articles shared by a reader’s friends or by people they choose to follow on Twitter and Facebook. Soon it plans to incorporate material from other sources, such as Flickr, Foursquare, Yelp and perhaps e-mail messages and attachments.

Flipboard arranges status update so they look like pull quotes and… read more

A Price Drop for Solar Panels

May 1, 2008

A shortage of the silicon used in solar panels is almost over, industry analysts predict. This could lead to a sharp drop in prices over the next couple of years, making solar electricity comparable to power from the grid.

Added silicon production capacity is now starting to begin operations. While only 15,000 tons of silicon were available for use in solar cells in 2005, by 2010, this number could… read more

A projector the size of a sugar cube

September 13, 2006

No larger than a sugar cube, a video projector developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems contains just a single mirror which can be rotated around two axes.

A promising new 2-D semiconductor material

Berkeley Lab researchers produce first ultrathin sheets of perovskite hybrids
September 30, 2015

Ultrathin sheets of a new 2-D hybrid perovskite are square-shaped and relatively large in area, properties that should facilitate their integration into future electronic devices. (credit: Peidong Yang, Berkeley Lab)

The first atomically thin 2D sheets of organic-inorganic hybrid perovskites have been created by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researchers, adding to the growing list of two-dimensional semiconductors, such as graphene, boron nitride, and molybdenum disulfide, whose unique electronic properties make them potential successors to silicon in future devices.

However, unlike the other contenders, which are covalent semiconductors,… read more

A promising new direction for organ regeneration and tissue repair

Promising effects for liver, kidney and lung regeneration and wound healing
August 2, 2013

Liver regeneration

Most human tissues do not regenerate spontaneously. But now, researchers have identified an entirely new approach to enhance normal tissue growth, a finding that could have widespread therapeutic applications, according to a team led by investigators at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.

Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)read more

A Prosthesis for Balance

April 1, 2008

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary neuroscientists have built a prosthesis to replace the balance function of the inner ear’s vestibular system and are testing it in monkeys.

The prosthesis mimics the orientation-sensing semicircular canals. An external motion sensor measures body rotation and a microprocessor processes and transfers that data to an electrode implanted into the inner ear. This is similar to how a cochlear implant works for hearing.

A Prosthesis for Speech

July 7, 2008

Boston University researchers are developing brain-reading computer software that is in the early stage of translating thoughts into speech, starting with vowels.

An implanted electrode picks up nerve signals related to movement of the mouth, lips, and jaw. These signals are sent wirelessly to a computer, where software analyzes them for patterns that most likely denote a particular sound, generating formant frequencies (the resonant frequencies of the vocal tract).… read more

A prosthetic hand that moves and provides sensation, just like a natural hand

DARPA's program aims to restore touch to amputees
February 13, 2015


In another major step toward dissolving the boundaries between machine and human, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded prime contracts for Phase 1 of its Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) program to a multi-institution research team. HAPTIX (a play on “haptics“) seeks to create a prosthetic hand system that moves and provides sensation like a natural hand, according to DARPA.

Despite recent… read more

A protein ‘passport’ that helps nanoparticles get past immune system

February 26, 2013


The body’s immune system exists to identify and destroy foreign objects, whether they are bacteria, viruses, flecks of dirt or splinters. Unfortunately, nanoparticles designed to deliver drugs, and implanted devices like pacemakers or artificial joints, are just as foreign and subject to the same response.

Now, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science and Penn’s Institute for Translational Medicine andread more

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