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Lightweight solar cells track the sun, providing 40 percent more energy than fixed cells

Inspired by Japanese paper-cutting art, they replace heavy conventional Sun-tracking systems
September 14, 2015

By borrowing from kirigami, the ancient Japanese art of paper cutting, researchers at the University of Michigan have developed solar cells that can track the sun. A flat plastic sheet backing the solar cells splits into wavy, connected ribbons when stretched. The tilt of the cells depends on the stretching, a simple mechanism for tracking the sun across the sky. (credit: Aaron Lamoureux)

University of Michigan engineers have developed an innovative array of solar cells that can capture up to 40 percent more energy than conventional fixed solar cells. The trick: borrowing from kirigami (the ancient Japanese art of paper cutting), the solar cells are aimed at different angles, allowing for part of the array to be always perpendicular to the Sun’s rays.

“The design takes what a large tracking… read more

Cancer patient receives 3D-printed ribs in world-first surgery

September 12, 2015

(Credit: CSIRO)

A Spanish cancer patient has received a 3D-printed titanium sternum and rib cage.

Suffering from a chest wall sarcoma (a type of cancerous tumor that grows, in this instance, around the rib cage), the 54 year old man needed his sternum and a portion of his rib cage replaced. This part of the chest is notoriously tricky to recreate with prosthetics, due to the complex geometry and design required… read more

How curly nanowires can absorb more light to power nanoscale electronic circuits

Twisting conventional nanowires into springs can boost their light absorption by more than 20 percent and in 50 percent less area
September 11, 2015

Nanosprings can absorb light more efficiently. (a) The scheme represents prototype of utilized device that is composed of bare nanospring photodetectors placed on a glass substrate and metal contacts in order to collect charges. Light incidents from top of the nanostructure. (credit: Tural Khudiyev et al./Applied Optics)

Researchers from Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey, have shown that twisting straight nanowires into springs can increase the amount of light the wires absorb by up to 23 percent. Absorbing more light is important because one application of nanowires is turning light into electricity, for example, to power tiny sensors instead of requiring batteries.

If nanowires are made from a semiconductor like silicon, light striking the wire will dislodge… read more

‘Molecules’ made of light may be the basis of future computers

September 11, 2015

Researchers show that two photons, depicted in this artist's conception as waves (left and right), can be locked together at a short distance. Under certain conditions, the photons can form a state resembling a two-atom molecule, represented as the blue dumbbell shape at center. (credit: E. Edwards/JQI)

Photons could travel side by side a specific distance from each other — similar to how two hydrogen atoms sit next to each other in a hydrogen molecule — theoretical physicists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland (with other collaborators) have shown.

“It’s not a molecule per se, but you can imagine it as having a similar… read more

Magnetic-permeability technology may radically lower disk-drive storage limits

May also eliminate credit-card data deletion by magnetic fields
September 11, 2015

Scanning electron microscope image of 300 nm diameter bits created in magnetic-permeability-based storage material (credit: John Timmerwilke et al./Journal of Physics D)

A new magnetic-memory technology that is far less susceptible to corruption by magnetic fields, thermal exposure, or radiation effects than conventional ferromagnetic memory has been developed by a research team led by U.S. Army Research Laboratory physicist Alan Edelstein, PhD.

(Ferromagnetic materials are used to store data in hard drives and magnetic-stripe credit cards.)

The idea is to avoid corruption of data stored magnetically from heating (which limits… read more

Discovery of Homo naledi adds a new branch to the human family tree

September 11, 2015

Skeletal fossil of the hand of Homo naledi (photo credit: John Hawks, UW–Madison)

An international research team has discovered a new species of a human relative, Homo naledi, uncovered in a cave outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. The discovery in late 2013 may shed light on the diversity of our genus and possibly its origin.

The team’s findings, which are published in two papers in the open-access journal eLife, were announced by South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand, the National… read more

The CRISPR controversy: faster, cheaper gene editing vs. bioethicists

September 10, 2015

Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) technology employs a guide RNA to direct the Cas9 enzyme (light blue) to a target DNA sequence. Once there, Cas9 will bind when it finds a protospacer-adjacent motif sequence (red) in the DNA and cut both strands, priming the gene sequence for editing. (credit: Adapted from OriGene Technologies)

Within the past few years, a new technology has made altering genes in plants and animals much easier than before. The tool, called CRISPR/Cas9 or just CRISPR, has spurred a flurry of research that could one day lead to hardier crops and livestock, as well as innovative biomedicines.

But along with potential benefits, it raises red flags, according to an open-access article in Chemical & Engineeringread more

Magnetic solitons may lead to more energy-efficient computing

September 10, 2015

Schematic of the x-ray microscopy measurements. The x-ray spot size at the sample was 35 nm and the transmitted x rays were detected by an avalanche photo diode. Images were recorded by raster scanning of the sample. (credit: R. Kukreja et al./Physics Review Letters)

A team of physicists has taken pictures of a theorized but previously undetected “magnetic soliton” that they believe could be an energy-efficient means to transfer data in future electronic devices.

The research, which appears in the journal Physical Review Letters, was conducted by scientists at New York University, Stanford University, and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Harnessing solitons to transmit dataread more

Why human genome editing research is essential

“Restricting research ... is premature and dangerous"
September 10, 2015

Genome with mutation (credit: NIH)

Research involving editing the human genome, including research with human embryos, is essential to gain basic understanding of biology and germ cells and should be permitted, according to one of the first global meetings to debate the controversial new techniques.

The bold statement was published today (Thursday, Sept. 10) by the Hinxton Group, a global network of stem cell researchers, bioethicists, and experts on policy and scientific… read more

New video series ‘Beyond the Desktop’ explores potential of 3-D printing

How additive manufacturing could transform medicine, aerospace and space travel
September 10, 2015

additive manufacturing

A five-episode video series called Beyond the Desktop that explores how additive manufacturing could affect the fields of medicine, aerospace, space technology and more has been released by the Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP). The first episode was posted yesterday (Sept. 9); a new episode will be released each Wednesday through early October.

“Desktop 3-D printing has received significant media… read more

First superconducting graphene created

Promises to usher in a new era of graphene electronics and nanoscale quantum devices
September 9, 2015

University of British Columbia physicists have been able to create the first superconducting graphene sample by coating it with lithium atoms. (credit: University of British Columbia)

University of British Columbia (UBC) physicists have created the first single-layer superconducting graphene sample by coating it with lithium atoms.

Although superconductivity has already been observed in layered bulk graphite, inducing superconductivity in single-layer graphene has until now eluded scientists.

“This first experimental realization of superconductivity in graphene promises to usher us in a new era of graphene electronics and nanoscale quantum… read more

Functional carbon nanotube integrated circuits: a breakthrough

Dealing with environmental degradation
September 9, 2015

Complementary SWCNT TFT structures. Atomic force micrograph of the random network SWCNT morphology in the TFT channel with a linear density of ~10 SWCNTs/μm (Height color bar: 0 to 15 nm). (credit: Michael L. Geier et al./Nature Nanotechnology)

Northwestern University engineers say that have finally found the key to practical use of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in integrated circuits. Individual transistors made from CNTs are faster and more energy-efficient and reliable than those made from other materials.

The problem. But making the leap to wafer-scale integrated circuits (a microprocessor typically has a billion transistors) is a challenge. The process is incredibly expensive, often requiring billion-dollar cleanrooms to… read more

An experimental ultrafast optical transistor based on a silicon nanoparticle

September 9, 2015

An illustration of a silicon nanoparticle switching between modes depending on the intensity of incoming laser pulse. (credit: Nano Letters)

Russian physicists have invented an optical version of a transistor, based on a silicon nanoparticle. The research could lead to optical computers in the future.

Current computers are limited by the time needed to trigger a transistor — usually around 0.1 to 1 nanosecond (10−9 of a second). An optical transistor could work up to 1000 times faster — at picoseconds (10−12 of a second),… read more

‘I’ve seen the future, and it’s …. paper’

How a new origami “zippered tube” design may transform structures from pop-up furniture to buildings
September 8, 2015

Origami 'zipper tubes' interlocking zigzag paper tubes, can be configured to build a variety of structures that have stiffness and function, but can fold compactly for storage or shipping. (credit: Rob Felt)

A new origami “zippered tube” design that makes paper-based (or other thin materials) structures stiff enough to hold weight, yet can fold flat for easy shipping and storage could transform structures ranging from microscopic robots to furniture and even buildings.

That’s what researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Tokyo suggest in a Proceedings of the National Academy ofread more

Lipid DNA origami may lead to advanced future nanomachines

September 8, 2015

Scientists have developed a method, using a double layer of lipids, which facilitates the assembly of DNA origami units, bringing us one-step closer to DNA nanomachines. (credit: Kyoto University's Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences)

Kyoto University scientists in Japan have developed a method for creating larger 2-D self-assembling DNA origami* nanostructures.

Current DNA origami methods can create extremely small two- and three-dimensional shapes that could be used as construction material to build nanodevices, such as nanomotors, in the future for targeted drug delivery inside the body, for example. KurzweilAI recently covered advanced methods developed by Brookhaven National Laboratory and  … read more

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