science + technology news

Another key step toward flexible electronics

Bendable multiferroric materials could be used in high-density, energy-efficient memory and switches
February 11, 2015

This electron microscope image shows tiny nanoparticles of bismuth ferrite embedded in a polymer film. The film enhances the unique electric and magnetic properties of bismuth ferrite and preserves these properties even when bent. (Credit: YoungPak Lee/ Hanyang University)

Researchers from South Korea have taken a new step toward more bendable devices by manufacturing a thin film that keeps its useful electric and magnetic properties even when highly curved.

Flexible electronics have been hard to manufacture because many materials with useful electronic properties tend to be rigid. Researchers have addressed this problem by taking tiny bits of materials like silicon and embedding them in flexible plastics.… read more

How buckyballs can help the environment by removing metals from liquids

Valuable metals can also be recovered
February 11, 2015

Treated carbon-60 molecules have the ability to recover valuable metals from liquids, including water and potential pollutants. In testing various metals, Rice University researchers found that charge and ionic radius influence how the metals bind to the hydroxylated buckyballs. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Treated buckyballs can remove potentially toxic metal particles from water and other liquids while recovering valuable particles for future use, according to scientists at Rice University.

The Rice lab of chemist Andrew Barron has discovered that carbon-60 fullerenes (aka buckyballs) that have gone through the chemical process known as hydroxylation aggregate into pearl-like strings as they bind to and separate metals from solutions.

Potential uses of the… read more

‘Virtual virus’ unfolds the flu on a CPU

Their research is 'nothing to sneeze at,' the researchers suggest
February 10, 2015

Future simulation work will involve the influenza A virus in close apposition with a host cell membrane (credit: H. Koldsø/Oxford)

By combining experimental data from X-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy, cryoelectron microscopy and lipidomics (the study of cellular lipid networks), researchers at the University of Oxford have built a complete model of the outer envelope of an influenza A virion for the first time.

The simulation may help scientists better understand how the virus survives in the wild… read more

Tiny soft robotic hands with magnetic nanoparticles could improve cancer diagnostics, drug delivery

February 10, 2015


“Soft robotics” researchers have developed a flexible, microscopic hand-like gripper that could help doctors perform remotely guided surgical procedures, biopsies, and someday deliver therapeutic drugs to hard-to-reach places. 

David H. Gracias at The Johns Hopkins University and colleagues note that many robotic tools require cords to provide power to generate their movements, adding to the bulk of robots and limiting the spaces they can access.

To address this… read more

Google Glass app analyzes plants’ health in seconds

“Okay, Glass, image a leaf.”
February 10, 2015

The Google Glass app and illuminator allow researchers unit to analyze chlorophyll concentration in a leaf without harming the plant (credit: UCLA)

Scientists from UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute have developed a custom-designed Google Glass Android app that, when paired with a handheld device, enables the wearer to quickly analyze the health of a plant without damaging it or requiring expensive lab equipment and expertise.

The app analyzes the concentration of chlorophyll — the substance in plants responsible for converting sunlight into energy. Reduced chlorophyll production… read more

A viral ‘Enigma machine’

February 9, 2015

Credit: University of Leeds

British researchers have cracked a code that governs infections by a major group of viruses including the common cold and polio, which could help prevent diseases.

Until now, scientists had not noticed the code, which had been hidden in plain sight in the sequence of the ribonucleic acid (RNA) that makes up this type of viral genome.

But a paper published in the Proceedingsread more

Flexible 3D graphene supercapacitors may power portables and wearables

February 9, 2015

Laser-induced graphene supercapacitor (credit: Jhiwei Peng et al./Applied Materials and Interfaces)

Rice University scientists have advanced their recent development of laser-induced graphene (LIG) by producing and testing stacked, three-dimensional supercapacitors — energy-storage devices that are important for portable, flexible electronics.

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour discovered last year that firing a laser at an inexpensive polymer burned off other elements and left a film of porous graphene, the much-studied atom-thick lattice of carbon.… read more

A caring robot with ‘emotion’ and memory

February 9, 2015

robot and elderly

Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire have developed a prototype of a social robot that supports independent living for the elderly, working in partnership with their relatives or carers.

Farshid Amirabdollahian, a senior lecturer in Adaptive Systems at the university, led a team of nine partner institutions from five European countries as part of the €4,825,492 project called ACCOMPANY (Acceptable Robotics Companions for Ageing Years).

“This… read more

New software analyzes human genomes for disease-causing variations in 90 minutes

May empower population-scale genomic analysis
February 6, 2015

Genome with mutation (credit: NIH)

Investigators at Nationwide Children’s Hospital say they have developed an optimized analysis “pipeline” that slashes the time it takes to search a person’s genome for disease-causing variations from weeks to hours.

An open-access preview article describing the ultra-fast, highly scalable software was published in the latest issue of Genome Biology.

“It took around 13 years and $3 billion to sequence the first… read more

Replacing lasers with LEDs for short-range optical communications

Applications include short-distance communication, photodetectors, imaging, biosensing, data storage, faster chip interconnects
February 6, 2015

Antenna-enhanced spontaneous emission from Indium Gallium Arsenide Phosphide nanorods (credit: Michael S. Eggleston et al./PNAS)

Berkeley Lab researchers have developed a nano-sized optical antenna that can greatly enhance the spontaneous emission of light from atoms, molecules and semiconductor quantum dots.

That opens the door to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that can replace lasers for short-range optical communications, including optical interconnects for microchips and a host of other potential applications.

“Since the invention of the laser, spontaneous light emission has been… read more

Meditation associated with slower age-related loss of gray matter in the brain

February 6, 2015

Negative correlations between global gray matter and age. The X-axis displays the chronological age (in years); the Y-axis displays the global gray matter volume (in ml). Note the less steep slope of the regression line in meditators (yellow) compared to controls (cyan). (Credit: Frontiers in Psychology)

Results of a new study by UCLA researchers suggest that meditation may help preserve the brain’s gray matter, the tissue that contains neurons.

The researchers cautioned, however, that they cannot draw a direct, causal connection between meditation and preserving gray matter in the brain. Too many other factors may come into play, including lifestyle choices, personality traits, and genetic brain differences.

Since 1970, life expectancy around the world… read more

High-efficiency concentrating solar cells move to the rooftop

February 6, 2015

Photograph of the prototype panel being tested outdoors. The small black squares seen under each lenslet in the close-up are the solar cells (credit: © Nature Communications)

Ultra-high-efficiency multi-junction solar cells similar to those used in space or electric utilities may now be possible on your rooftop thanks to a new microscale solar-concentration technology called concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) developed by an international team of researchers.

The new CPV systems use inexpensive optics to concentrate sunlight,” said Noel C. Giebink, assistant professor of electrical engineering, Penn State. “Current CPV systems are… read more

SuperAger brains yield new clues to their remarkable memories

February 5, 2015

Three cingulate ROIs. Medial ROIs of the cingulate cortex in the Desikan-Killiany (Desikan et al., 2006) cortical labeling protocol are color-coded with their corresponding parcellations characterized by Vogt (2009). (Credit: Tamar Gefen et al./The Journal of Neuroscience)

SuperAgers, aged 80 and above — but with memories that are as sharp as those of healthy persons decades younger — have distinctly different looking brains than those of normal older people, according to new Northwestern Medicine research.

Understanding Superagers’ unique “brain signature” may enable scientists to decipher the genetic or molecular source and develop strategies to protect the memories of normal aging persons, as well as… read more

Smartphone add-on tests for HIV and syphilis in 15 minutes

February 5, 2015

The user presses the bulb of the smartphone dongle, designed to fit in one hand, to initiate the fluid flow. (credit: Tassaneewan Laksanasopin, Columbia Engineering)

A low-cost smartphone accessory that can detect three infectious disease markers from a finger prick of blood in just 15 minutes, performing all mechanical, optical, and electronic functions of a lab-based blood test.

That’s what team of researchers led by Samuel K. Sia, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia Engineering, has developed.

It performs an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) triplexed immunoassayread more

One-atom-thin ‘silicene’ silicon transistors invented

World’s thinnest silicon material promises dramatically faster, smaller, more efficient computer chips
February 5, 2015

Buckled honeycomb lattice structure of silicene (credit: Li Tao et al./Nature Nanotechnology)

The first transistors made of silicene, the world’s thinnest silicon material, have been developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering. The new material may allow for building dramatically faster, smaller, energy-efficient computer chips.

Made of a one-atom-thick layer of silicon atoms, silicene has outstanding electrical properties but has until now proved difficult to produce and work… read more

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