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Navy plans first live test of electromagnetic railgun on ship in 2016

April 8, 2014


The U.S. Navy announced today (Apr. 7, 2014) that it plans to install and test a prototype electromagnetic railgun (EM railgun) aboard a joint high-speed vessel in fiscal year 2016 — the first time an electromagnetic railgun will be demonstrated at sea and a significant advance in naval combat.

EM railgun technology uses an electromagnetic force, known as the Lorenz Force, to… read more

Molybdenum disulfide as an alternative to graphene

Fast bottom-up creation of bulk material, better switching are among advantages
April 7, 2014

Schematic diagram of the MoS2 monolayer photosensor depicting the electrical connections and the laser photo-excitation (credit: Néstor Perea-López et al./2D Materials)

Molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) has been put forward by a group of researchers as a potential building block for the next generation of low-cost electrical devices as an alternative to graphene.

Because of its impressive ability to convert light into electricity at with high efficiency, single layers of the semiconducting material have been used to fabricate a widely used device known as a photosensor, which is found in a range… read more

Stick-on electronic patches for health monitoring

Better than fitness trackers on your wrist or clipped to your belt, the inventors say
April 7, 2014


Engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University have developed soft, thin stick-on patches that stretch and move with the skin, using commercially available, off-the-shelf chip-based electronics for sophisticated wireless health monitoring.

The patches stick to the skin like a temporary tattoo and incorporate a unique microfluidic construction, with wires folded like origami to allow the patch to bend and flex without being constrained by the… read more

How to create a large-area visible-light invisibility cloak

Harry Potter-style cloaking finally possible
April 7, 2014

Negative index material (11 layers) transferred to a glass substrate by n nanotransfer printing, with an enlarged view at the bottom left inset (credit:  Li Gao et al./Advanced Optical Materials)

University of Central Florida (UCF) scientists have created the first large-area metamaterial (cloaking material) for the visible-light spectral range*.

Controlling and bending light around an object so it appears invisible to the naked eye is the theory behind fictional invisibility cloaks. But so far, cloaking has been mainly limited to the microwave region or to micron-scale (millionths of a meter) objects in the visible-light region.

But UCF assistant… read more

Virtual robots teach each other Pac-Man and StarCraft video games

Teaching physical robots and humans planned
April 4, 2014


Researchers in Washington State University’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science have developed a method to allow a computer to give advice and teach skills to another computer in a way that mimics how a real teacher and student might interact.

The paper by Matthew E. Taylor, WSU’s Allred Distinguished Professor in Artificial Intelligence, was published online in the journal Connection Science.

The researchers had… read more

Quantum cryptography for mobile phones

First "NSA-proof" mobile phone planned
April 4, 2014

Integrated orbital angular momentum devices array (credit: Centre for Quantum Photonics)

An ultra-high-security scheme that could one day get quantum cryptography using Quantum Key Distribution into mobile devices has been developed and demonstrated by researchers from the University of Bristol’s Center for Quantum Photonics (CQP) in collaboration with Nokia.

Currently available quantum cryptography technology is bulky, expensive, and limited to fixed physical locations — often server rooms in a bank.  The team at Bristol has shown… read more

Magnetically controlled nanoparticles cause cancer cells to self-destruct

Avoid harming other tissues
April 4, 2014

SPIONs (Credit: ACS Nano)

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed a technique to use magnetically controlled nanoparticles to force tumor cells to “self-destruct.” without harming surrounding tissue, as with radiotherapy, and tissues elsewhere in the body, as with chemotherapy.

“Our technique is able to attack only the tumor cells,” said Enming Zhang, first author of the study.

Inducing cell suicide

The technique involves getting the nanoparticles into a… read more

First comprehensive roadmap of the mammalian brain

April 3, 2014

A top-down 3-D view of the cortico-connections originating from multiple distinct cortical areas, visualized as virtual tractography (credit: Allen Institute for Brain Science)

Researchers from the Allen Institute for Brain Science have published the Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas, the first comprehensive, large-scale data set on how the brain of a mammal is wired, described in their paper in Nature. 

The mouse brain’s 75 million neurons are arranged in a structure roughly similar to the human brain’s approximately 100 billion neurons, so they provide a powerful model system… read more

A blueprint for how to build a human brain

April 3, 2014

Image of the human fetal brain, reference atlas, color-coded by structure (credit: Allen Institute)

Researchers at the Allen Institute for Brain Science have generated a blueprint for how to build a human brain at unprecedented anatomical resolution.

This first major report using data from the  the BrainSpan Atlas of the Developing Human Brain is published in the journal Nature this week. The data provide insight into diseases like autism that are linked to early brain development, and to the origins of human… read more

Microsoft introduces Cortana, a personal digital assistant inspired by a Halo AI character

April 3, 2014

Cortana screen on Windows Phone 8.1 (credit: Microsoft)

As part of its Windows Phone 8.1 update announcement Wednesday, Microsoft introduced Cortana, a personal digital assistant with a persona.

“We were inspired by the popular character from Halo who served as a brilliant AI and a deeply personal digital assistant to Master Chief… so we called her Cortana,” said Joe Belfiore, the corporate vice president and manager for Windows Phone Program Management at Microsoft on hisread more

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

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