science + technology news

Wearables and electric vehicles may get boost from boron-infused graphene

May 19, 2015

Rice University scientists made this supercapacitor with interlocked "fingers" using a laser and writing the pattern into a boron-infused sheet of polyimide. The device may be suitable for flexible, wearable electronics. (Credit: Tour Group/Rice University)

Infusing the polymer in a laser-induced graphene supercapacitor (used to rapidly store and discharge electricity) with boric acid quadrupled the supercapacitor’s ability to store an electrical charge while greatly boosting its energy density (energy per unit volume), Rice University researchers have found.

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour uses commercial lasers to create thin, flexible supercapacitors by burning patterns into common polymers. The laser burns… read more

The geometry of immune system cloaking

MIT scientists find the optimal size and shape to cloak implantable devices and avoid immune rejection
May 19, 2015

The sugar polymers that make up the spheres in this image are designed to package and protect specially engineered cells that work to produce drugs and fight disease. While on-site, they must remain undetected by the body’s natural defense system. However, the reddish markers on the spheres’ surfaces indicate that immune cells (blue/green) have discovered these invaders and begun to block them off from the rest of the body. Further experiments with the spheres’ geometry and chemistry will lead to better invisibility cloaking and longer lasting protection for these cell-based factories. (Credit: Courtesy of the researchers)

A team of MIT researchers has come up with a way to reduce immune-system rejection of implantable devices used for for drug delivery, tissue engineering, or sensing.

Previous research found that smooth surfaces, especially spheres, are better — but counterintuively, larger spheres actually work better at reducing scar tissue, the researchers discovered.

“We were surprised by how much the size and shape of an implant can… read more

New graphene-like two-dimensional material could improve energy storage

May 18, 2015

Top view , illustrating the porous and layered structure of a highly conductive powder (Ni3(HITP)2), precursor to a new, tunable graphene analog. (Credit: Image courtesy of Mircea Dinc?, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

MIT and Harvard University researchers have created a graphene-like electrically conductive. porous, layered material as possible new tool for storing energy and investigating the physics of unusual materials.

They synthesized the material using an organic molecule called HITP and nickel ions, forming a new compound: Ni3(HITP)2.

The new porous material is a crystalline, structurally tunable electrical conductor with a high surface area — features… read more

Unraveling the mysteries of spider-web strength and damage-resistant design

May 18, 2015

Scientists at MIT have developed a systematic approach to research the structure of spider silk, blending computational modeling and mechanical analysis to 3D-print synthetic spider webs. (Credit: Courtesy of the researchers)

MIT scientists have developed a systematic approach to research the structure of spider “silk” (which ounce for ounce, is stronger than steel) and how spiders optimize their own webs. The researchers are  blending computational modeling and mechanical analysis to 3D-print synthetic spider webs, with the goal of fabricating and testing synthetic spider-web structures.

“This is the first methodical exploration of its kind,” says Professor Markusread more

NASA challenges ‘makers’ to design 3-D printed habitats for deep-space exploration

May 18, 2015

Credit: NASA

NASA and the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (America Makes) are holding a new $2.25 million competition, the 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge, to design and build a 3-D printed habitat for deep space exploration, including the agency’s journey to Mars.

The program is designed to advance the additive construction technology needed to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth and beyond. The idea is to… read more

3D-printed aerogels enable new energy-storage and nanoelectronic devices

May 15, 2015

Lawrence Livermore researchers have made graphene aerogel microlattices with an engineered architecture via a 3D printing technique known as direct ink writing (credit: Ryan Chen/LLNL)

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have made novel graphene aerogel microlattices with an engineered architecture, using a 3D printing technique known as “direct ink writing.” The research, which could lead to better energy storage, sensors, nanoelectronics, catalysis, and separations, is described in an open-access paper in the April 22 edition of the journal Nature Communications.

Lawrence Livermore National

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New evidence that electrical stimulation accelerates wound healing

May 15, 2015

After 10 days, the control would on the left and the ES treated on the right. (Credit: The University of Manchester)

The most detailed study to date of skin wound healing, conducted by University of Manchester scientists with 40 volunteers, has provided new evidence that electrical stimulation accelerates wound healing.

In the new research, half-centimeter harmless wounds were created on each upper arm of the volunteers.  One wound was left to heal normally, while the other was treated with electrical pulses* over a period of two weeks.  The… read more

First large-scale graphene fabrication

By overcoming size, amount required, and other limits, graphene could become competitive on a commercial scale
May 15, 2015

ORNL’s ultrastrong graphene features layers of graphene and polymers and is an effective conductor of electricity. (Credit: ORNL)

Fabrication size limits — one of the barriers to using graphene on a commercial scale — could be overcome using a new method developed by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

Graphene, a one-atom-thick material that is about 100 times stronger than steel by weight, has enormous commercial potential but has been impractical to employ on a large scale, mainly… read more

Limitless, Minority Report sequels coming to TV

May 15, 2015

one pill

Limitless, a TV series sequel to the movie, picks up after the events of the film. Edward Mora (Bradley Cooper), now a powerful senator and presidential hopeful, reveals the power of the mysterious drug NZT to Brian Finch (Jake McDorman) — who is then coerced by the FBI into using his newfound cognitive abilities to solve complex cases. Cooper is also executive producer.

Fall 2015. Moreread more

Google plans to test its new self driving vehicle prototypes on California roads

May 15, 2015

Our safety drivers will test fully self-driving vehicle prototypes like this one on the streets of Mountain View, Calif., this summer (credit: Google)

Google announced today (May 15) that it test a few of its new Volkswagen Beetle-like prototype self-driving vehicles on roads in Mountain View, Calif. this summer Unlike Google’s previous prototype test vehicles, these will have safety drivers aboard, and with a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, and brake pedal if needed.

These vehicles are designed for local driving, with speed capped at 25mph.

Google said the… read more

MIT deep-learning system autonomously learns to identify objects

May 14, 2015

The first layers of a neural network trained to classify scenes seem to be tuned to geometric patterns of increasing complexity, but the higher layers appear to be picking out particular classes of objects (credit: courtesy of the researchers)

MIT researchers have discovered that a deep-learning system designed to recognize and classify scenes has also learned how to recognize individual objects.

Last December, at the Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, MIT researchers announced the compilation of the world’s largest database of images labeled according to scene type, with 7 million entries. By exploiting a machine-learning technique known as “deep learning,” they used… read more

New ‘magnonic’ holographic memory device could improve speech and image recognition

May 14, 2015

magnonic holographic memory ft.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering and the Russian Academy of Sciences have demonstrated a new type of pattern recognition using a “magnonic” holographic memory device, intended to improve hardware for speech and image recognition.

The device is based on patterns of sound and images that are encoded into the phase (timing) of spin waves, which are collective oscillations of… read more

Restoring sensation for people with prosthetic hands

May 14, 2015

The macro-sieve peripheral nerve interface was designed by Moran's lab to stimulate regeneration of the ulnar and median nerves to transmit information back into the central nervous system (credit: Dan Moran, PhD, Washington University in St. Louis)

A team of engineers and researchers at Washington University in St. Louis is developing a device to restore sensory feedback for those qwith upper limb prosthetic devices, allowing people to feel touch, and hot and cold through their prosthetic hands.

If it works, upper-limb amputees who use motorized prosthetic devices would be able to feel various sensations through the prosthetic by stimulating the nerves in the upper… read more

Mediterranean diet plus olive oil or nuts associated with improved cognitive function

May 13, 2015

(credit: iStock)

Supplementing the plant-based Mediterranean diet with antioxidant-rich extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts has been associated with improved cognitive function in a study of older adults in Spain, according to an open-access article published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Previous research suggests following a Mediterranean diet may be associated with better cognitive function and a lower risk of dementia. However, the observational studies that have examined these… read more

A 3D-printed mini jet engine that performs at 33,000 RPM

May 13, 2015

Credits: GE Aviation

GE engineers have made a simple proof-of-concept 3D-printed mini jet engine that operates at 33,000 rotations per minute.

The backpack-sized jet engine was built over the course of several years to test the technology’s abilities and to work on a side project together.

“We wanted to see if we could build a little engine that runs almost entirely out of additive manufacturing parts,” says one of the engineers.… read more

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