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How to instantly turn ‘pencil lead’ (graphite) into diamond

April 3, 2014


Stanford University scientists have discovered by accident a way to produce thin diamond films from graphite, which could be useful for a variety of industrial applications, from cutting tools to electronic devices and electrochemical sensors.

The scientists added a few layers of graphene (one-atom thick sheets of graphite) to a platinum support and exposed the topmost layer to hydrogen.

The ‘Midas touch’?

To their surprise, the reaction… read more

Ordered carbon-nanotube design may increase conductivity of solar cells by 100 million times

Also expected to lower number of expensive carbon nanotubes required by a factor of 100
April 2, 2014


Controlled placement of carbon nanotubes in nanostructures could result in a huge boost in electronic performance in photovoltaic solar cells, researchers at Umeå University in Sweden have discovered.

KurzweilAI has reported on a number of recent research projects using carbon nanotubes as a replacement for silicon to improve the performance of solar cells. However, according to Umeå University researchers, the projects have found that the nanotubes… read more

Self-healing engineered muscle grown in ‘bionic mouse’

Contracts as strongly as native neonatal skeletal muscle, a first
April 2, 2014

Engineered muscle fiber stained to observe growth after implantation into a mouse (credit: Duke University)

Duke University biomedical engineers have grown living skeletal muscle that resembles the real thing. It contracts powerfully and rapidly, integrates into mice quickly, and for the first time, demonstrates the ability to heal itself both inside the laboratory and inside an animal.

The researchers watched the muscle growth in real time through a window on the back of a living, walking mouse.

Both the lab-grown muscle and experimental… read more

High-speed optical information processing on chips inspired by human brain

April 1, 2014

Small neural network

Ghent University researchers have created a small 16-nodes neural network in a silicon photonics chip, inspired by how the human brain works.

The goal is to create a new information technique based on light instead of electricity, with the potential for high speed (up to several hundreds of Gbits/sec., or more with miniaturization), low power consumption, and compact design.

The researchers have experimentally shown that the… read more

Nanoprobes for deep-tissue optical imaging of proteins in neurons

April 1, 2014


In a potential breakthrough in brain-tissue imaging, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researchers have developed ultra-tiny (sub-10-nanometers), ultra-bright nanoprobes for single-molecule deep-tissue optical imaging of proteins in neurons in the brain and other tissues.

Scientists often study proteins within cells by labeling them with light-emitting probes, but finding probes that are bright enough for imaging — but not so large as to disrupt the protein’s function… read more

A ‘mini heart’ to help return venous blood

A solution for chronic venous insufficiency, one of the most widespread diseases in the Western world
April 1, 2014

CardioVein snapshot

George Washington University (GW) researcher Narine Sarvazyan, Ph.D., has invented a new organ to help return blood flow from veins lacking functional valves. A rhythmically contracting cuff made of cardiac muscle cells surrounds the vein acting as a ‘mini heart’ to aid blood flow through venous segments. The cuff can be made of a patient’s own adult stem cells, eliminating the chance of implant rejection.… read more

Generating entangled photons by linking LEDs and superconductors

March 31, 2014

A magnet levitating above a high-temperature superconductor, cooled with liquid nitrogen (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A team of University of Toronto physicists led by Alex Hayat has proposed a novel and efficient way to leverage quantum entanglement: combining light-emitting diodes (LEDs) with a superconductor to generate entangled photons.

The method could open up a rich spectrum of new physics as well as devices for quantum technologies, including quantum computers and quantum communication, the researchers suggest.

“A usual light source… read more

A record quantum entanglement: 103 dimensions

More quantum dimensions easier to achieve than more qubits, researchers find
March 31, 2014


An international team of researchers has created an entanglement of 103 dimensions with only two photons, beating the previous record of 11 dimensions.

The discovery could represent an advance toward toward better encryption of information and quantum computers with much higher processing speeds, according to a statement by the researchers.

Until now, to increase the “computing” capacity of these particle systems, scientists have mainly turned to increasing the number… read more

Einstein’s skepticism about quantum mechanics may lead to ultra-secure Internet

March 31, 2014

Albert Einstein portrait taken in 1935 in Princeton

Einstein’s skepticism* about quantum mechanics may lead to an ultra-secure Internet, suggests a new paper by researchers from Swinburne University of Technology and Peking University.

Associate Professor Margaret Reid from Swinburne’s Center for Quantum and Optical Science said Einstein’s reservations about quantum mechanics were highlighted in a phenomenon known as “spooky action at a distance,” which is the strange way entangled particles stay… read more

Keeping secrets in a world of spies and mistrust

March 31, 2014


An article in Nature reviewing developments in quantum cryptography describes how we can keep our secrets secret even when faced with the double challenge of mistrust and manipulation.

In the March 27 issue of NatureCenter for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore ( CQT)’s Director Artur Ekert and Renato Renner review what physics tells us about keeping our secrets secret.… read more

The search for seeds of black holes

Galaxy mergers are not necessary to create big black holes, new observations suggest
March 31, 2014

The galaxy NGC 4395 is shown here in infrared light, captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A new study using data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has turned up what might be the cosmic seeds from which a supermassive black hole will sprout.

The smallest black holes, only a few times greater in mass than our sun, form from exploding stars. The biggest, billions of times the mass of our sun, grow together with their host galaxies over time, deep in the… read more

Filtering light based on direction

Potential uses include solar photovoltaics, telescopes, microscopes, and privacy filters for display screens
March 31, 2014


MIT researchers have developed a system that allows light of any color to pass through only if it is coming from one specific angle; the technique reflects all light coming from other directions.

This new approach could ultimately lead to advances in solar photovoltaics, detectors for telescopes and microscopes, and privacy filters for display screens.

The work is described in a paper appearing in the journal… read more

MIT’s fast synthesis system could boost peptide-drug development

Peptide drugs are expected to become a $25 billion market by 2018, but current archaic manufacturing methods are too slow
March 28, 2014


Small protein fragments, also called peptides, are promising as drugs because they can be designed for very specific functions inside living cells, but manufacturing the peptides takes several weeks, making it difficult to obtain large quantities, and to rapidly test their effectiveness.

A team of MIT chemists and chemical engineers has designed a way to manufacture peptides in mere hours. The new system, described in… read more

First comprehensive atlas of human gene activity released

March 28, 2014

Samples profiled in FANTOM5 (credit: Alistair R. R. Forrest et al./Nature)

A large international consortium of researchers has produced the first comprehensive, detailed map of the way genes work across the major cells and tissues of the human body. The findings describe the complex networks that govern gene activity, and the new information could play a crucial role in identifying the genes involved with disease.

“Now, for the first time, we are able to pinpoint the… read more

Bio-printing tissues for cheaper, faster drug testing

3D-printing technology specifically tailored to printing biological materials, not repurposed
March 28, 2014


Bio-printed tissues can help better predict and test whether a drug will be effective on people and at less cost, researchers at the University of British Columbia Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and spinoff Aspect Biosystems hope to prove.

Ultimately, this work could also lead to growing organs for human transplant.

Developing a new drug costs upward of $4 billion, a fee that gets passed… read more

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