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Herschel telescope detects water on dwarf planet

January 27, 2014


Scientists using the Herschel space observatory have made the first definitive detection of water vapor on the largest and roundest object in the asteroid belt, Ceres.

Plumes of water vapor are thought to shoot up periodically from Ceres when portions of its icy surface warm slightly. Ceres is classified as a dwarf planet, a solar system body bigger than an asteroid and smaller than a planet.… read more

Using nanodiamonds to precisely detect neural signals

January 27, 2014


A team in MIT’s Quantum Engineering Group has developed a new method to noninvasively measure how weak magnetic fields change over time, such as when neurons in the brain transmit signals to each other. 

The method uses naturally occurring defects in diamonds called nitrogen-vacancy (N-V) centers, which are sensitive to external magnetic fields, much like compasses… read more

An environmentally friendly, energy-dense sugar battery

January 24, 2014


A Virginia Tech research team has developed a battery that runs on sugar and has an unmatched energy density, a development that could replace conventional batteries with ones that are cheaper, refillable, and biodegradable.

The findings from Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of  biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, were… read more

How to monitor drug effects in real time

Eliminating the guesswork
January 24, 2014


A device that can monitor the levels of specific drugs as they flow through the bloodstream may soon take the guesswork out of drug dosing and allow physicians to tailor prescriptions to their patients’ specific biology.

Developed by UC Santa Barbara researchers Tom Soh, Kevin Plaxco and Scott Ferguson, the biosensor combines  engineering and biochemistry and has far-reaching potential.

Doctors… read more

Tapping more of the sun’s energy using heat as well as light

New approach developed at MIT could generate power from sunlight efficiently and on demand
January 24, 2014


A new approach to harvesting solar energy, developed by MIT researchers, could improve efficiency by using sunlight to heat a high-temperature material whose infrared radiation would then be collected by a conventional photovoltaic cell.

This technique could also make it easier to store the energy for later use, the researchers say.

In this case, adding the extra step improves performance, because it makes it possible to… read more

Solar distributed generation system prices to fall by 15% to 30% by 2020

January 23, 2014

Falling module prices have helped to bring down the cost of solar installations, but now balance of system (BOS) components like racking and mounting are key targets of cost reduction, as distributed generation system prices fall by between 15% and 30% by 2020 depending on geography, according to Lux Research.

Along with continuing module efficiency improvements, these advances willread more

MIT and Harvard release working papers on open online courses

Reveal how students learn and how technologies can facilitate effective teaching both on-campus and online
January 23, 2014


MIT and Harvard University have released a series of working papers (open access) based on 17 online courses offered on the edX platform.

Run in 2012 and 2013, the courses analyzed drew upon diverse topics — from ancient Greek poetry to electromagnetism — and an array of disciplines, from public health to engineering to law.

The working paper series features detailed reports… read more

A Wikipedia for robots

Allows robots to share knowledge and experience in caring for elders worldwide using a central online database
January 23, 2014

(Credit: TU/e)

European scientists from six institutes and two universities have developed an online platform where robots can learn new skills from each other worldwide — a kind of “Wikipedia for robots.”

The objective is to help develop robots better at helping elders with caring and household tasks.

“The problem right now is that robots are often developed specifically for one task”, says René van de Molengraft, TU/e researcher and… read more

A less-expensive way to duplicate the complicated steps of photosynthesis in making fuel

January 23, 2014


Argonne National Laboratory researchers have found a new, more efficient, less-expensive way to make fuel — principally, hydrogen — from sunlight and water: linking a synthetic cobalt-containing catalyst to an organic light-sensitive molecule called a chromophore.

Chromophore molecules, such as chlorophyll, are involved in capturing light for photosynthesis.

Currently, the most efficient methods we have for  making fuel involve rare and expensive metal catalysts, such… read more

E-whiskers: highly sensitive tactile sensors for robotics and other applications

January 23, 2014

E-whiskers are highly responsive tactile sensor networks made from carbon nanotubes and silver nanoparticles that resemble the whiskers of cats and other mammals (credit: Berkeley Lab)

Researchers with Berkeley Lab and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have created tactile sensors from composite films of carbon nanotubes and silver nanoparticles similar to the highly sensitive whiskers of cats and rats.

The new “e-whiskers” respond to pressure as slight as a single Pascal, about the pressure exerted on a table surface by a dollar bill. Among their potential applications is giving robots new abilities to “see”… read more

New technique allows minimally invasive ‘nanobiopsies’ of living cells

January 22, 2014

(Credit: UC Santa Cruz)

Researchers at UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) have developed a robotic “nanobiopsy” system that can extract tiny samples from inside a living cell without killing it.

The single-cell nanobiopsy technique is a powerful tool for scientists working to understand the dynamic processes that occur within living cells, according to Nader Pourmand, professor of biomolecular engineering in UCSC’s Baskin School of Engineering.

“We can take a biopsy from… read more

New patent mapping system helps find innovation pathways

January 22, 2014

What’s likely to be the “next big thing?” What might be the most fertile areas for innovation? Where should countries and companies invest their limited research funds? What technology areas are a company’s competitors pursuing?

To help answer those questions, researchers, policy-makers and R&D directors study patent maps, which provide a visual representation of where universities, companies and other organizations are protecting intellectual property produced by their research. But… read more

New transparent display system could provide wide-angle-view heads-up data

January 22, 2014

Photographs showing transparent screen (left) in comparison with a regular piece of glass (right). A laser projector projects blue MIT logo onto both the transparent screen and regular glass; the logo shows up clearly on the transparent screen, but not on regular glass. Three cups are placed behind to visually assess the transparency. (Credit: C. W. Hue et al./Nature Communications)

MIT researchers have come up with a new approach to transparent displays that could have significant advantages over existing systems for certain kinds of applications: wide viewing angle, simplicity of manufacture, and potentially low cost and scalability.

Transparent displays have a variety of potential applications — such as the ability to see navigation or dashboard information while looking through the windshield of a car or plane, or… read more

OpenBCI DIY EEG brain-computer-interface Kickstarter ends Jan. 22 [update: $215,438 raised from 947 backers]

January 22, 2014

OpenBCI 3D-printable EEG headset design. Electrodes can be instantly moved and snapped into any of these sections for detecting EEG signals from different regions of the cortex.  (Credit: OpenBCI)

The deadline for the OpenBCI Kickstarter, an open-source EEG brain-computer interface, is Wednesday Jan. 22 at 8:00pm EST. As of post time (Jan. 22 at 3:29 a.m. EST), $194,520 has been pledged (almost doubling the $100,000 goal), with 866 backers.

“If we reach $200K, we will host … and fund … one domestic and one international hackathon in addition to those funded through the hackathon reward levels … in… read more

Carbon-nanotube sponge shows improved water clean-up

January 21, 2014

Carbon-nanotube sponge. (a) SEM micrograph showing the entangled CNT network; (b) High-resolution SEM picture of a CNT characterized by an elbow shape, as highlighted by the red arrow (credit: L Camilli et al.Nanotechnology

A carbon nanotube sponge capable of soaking up water contaminants such as fertilizers, pesticides and pharmaceuticals more than three times more efficiently than previous efforts has been presented in a new study published January 17 in IOP Publishing’s journal Nanotechnology.

The carbon nanotube (CNT) sponges, uniquely doped with sulphur, also demonstrated a high capacity to absorb oil, potentially opening up the possibility of using the material in… read more

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