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High-resolution biosensor can report conditions from deep in the body

Going where no light has gone before
March 30, 2015

Geometrically encoded magnetic biosensors (credit: Kelley/NIST PML)

A new microscopic shape-shifting probe capable of sensitive, high-resolution remote biological sensing has been developed by scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

If eventually put into widespread use, the design could have a major impact on research in medicine, chemistry, biology, and engineering and ultimately used in clinical diagnostics, according to the researchers.

To date, most efforts… read more

How bacteria can use magnetic particles to create a ‘natural battery’

Could help clean up environmental pollution
March 30, 2015

Rhodopseudomonas palustris bacteria (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Iron-metabolizing bacteria can load electrons from microscopic particles of magnetite (magnetic iron oxides) and later, discharge electrons to the microparticles, which could lead to a new way to clean up environmental pollution and other bioengineering applications, an international team of researchers have found.

For example, using light energy, magnetite can reduce (gain electrons from) the toxic form of chromium, chromium VI, converting it to the less toxic… read more

A nanolaser and a bendable-light material promise to speed up microelectronic devices

March 27, 2015

nanolaser-honeycomb ft.

University of Washington (UW) scientists have built a new nanometer-sized laser — using the thinnest semiconductor available today — that is energy efficient, easy to build, and compatible with existing electronics.

The UW nanolaser, developed in collaboration with Stanford University, uses a tungsten-based semiconductor only three atoms thick as light emitter.

The technology is described in a paper published in the March 16 online edition of read more

Engineers create stretchable structures tougher than bulletproof vests

March 27, 2015

coil fabricated from aligned nanofibers1 ft

Researchers at University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) have created a material made from nanofibers that can stretch to up to seven times its length while remaining tougher than Kevlar.

These structures absorb up to 98 joules per gram. Kevlar, often used to make bulletproof vests, can absorb up to 80 joules per gram. The researchers hope the structures will one day form material that can… read more

Photosynthesis hack needed to feed the world by 2050

March 27, 2015

transforming crops ft.

High-performance computing and genetic engineering could boost crop photosynthetic efficiency enough to feed a planet expected to have 9.5 billion people on it by 2050, researchers report in an open-access paper in the journal Cell.

“We now know every step in the processes that drive photosynthesis in plants such as soybeans and maize,” said University of Illinois plant biology professor Stephen P. Long, who wrote… read more

New kind of ‘tandem’ solar cell developed

Researchers combine two types of photovoltaic material to make a cell that harnesses more sunlight
March 26, 2015

Test sample of a monolithic perovskite-silicon multijunction solar cell produced by the MIT-Stanford University team (credit: Felice Frankel)

Researchers at MIT and Stanford University have developed a new kind of solar cell that combines two different layers of sunlight-absorbing material to harvest a broader range of the sun’s energy. The development could lead to photovoltaic cells that are more efficient than those currently used in solar-power installations, the researchers say.

The new cell uses a layer of silicon — which forms the basis for most of today’s… read more

Promising pathways for solar photovoltaic power

A broad new assessment of the status and prospects of solar photovoltaic technology by MIT
March 26, 2015

comparing different photovoltaic materials ft

In a broad new assessment of the status and prospects of solar photovoltaic technology, MIT researchers say that it is “one of the few renewable, low-carbon resources with both the scalability and the technological maturity to meet ever-growing global demand for electricity.”

Use of solar photovoltaics has been growing at a phenomenal rate: Worldwide installed capacity has seen sustained growth averaging 43 percent per year since 2000. To evaluate… read more

Why carbon-nanotube fibers make ideal implantable brain electrodes

March 26, 2015

Pairs of carbon nanotube fibers have been tested for potential use as implantable electrodes to treat patients with neurological disorders like Parkinson's disease. The fibers invented at Rice University proved to be far better than metallic wires now used to stimulate neurons in the brain. (Credit: the Pasquali Lab)

Rice University scientists have found that the carbon nanotube fibers they developed for aerospace are superior to metal and plain-carbon electrodes for deep brain stimulation for neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and for brain-machine interfaces to neural circuits in the brain.

The individual nanotubes measure only a few nanometers across, but when millions are bundled in a process called wet spinning, they become thread-like fibers about a… read more

U.S. engineering schools to educate 20,000 students to meet grand challenges

March 25, 2015

(credit: National Academy of Engineering)

In a letter of commitment presented to President Barack Obama at the White House Science Fair Monday, more than 120 U.S. engineering schools announced plans to educate a new generation of engineers expressly equipped to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing society in the 21st century.

These “Grand Challenges,” identified through initiatives such as the White House Strategy for American Innovation, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges… read more

What is 5G and when can I get it?

March 25, 2015

(credit: Huawei)

Imagine being able to download a full-length 8GB HD movie to your phone in six seconds (versus seven minutes over 4G or more than an hour on 3G) and video chats so immersive that it will feel like you can reach out and touch the other person right through the screen.

That’s the vision for the 5G concept — the next generation of wireless networks — presented at the… read more

How to create 3D mini lungs

Could help scientists learn more about lung diseases and test new drugs
March 25, 2015

Scientists coax stem cells to form mini lungs, 3D structures that mimic human lungs and survived in the lab for 100 days (credit: University of Michigan Health System)

Scientists have coaxed stem cells to grow the first three-dimensional human mini lungs, or organoids, to help scientists learn more about lung diseases and test new drugs.

Previous research has focused on deriving lung tissue from flat (2D) cell systems or growing cells onto scaffolds made from donated organs.

“These mini lungs can mimic the responses of real tissues and will be a good model to study how organs… read more

Almost 3,000 atoms entangled with a single photon

Could lead to powerful quantum computers and more-accurate atomic clocks
March 25, 2015

Generating entanglement of 2,910 atoms (credit: Robert McConnell et al./Nature)

Physicists from MIT and the University of Belgrade have developed a new technique that can entangle 2,910 atoms using only a single photon — the largest number of particles that have ever been mutually entangled experimentally (previous record: 100).

The researchers say the technique provides a realistic method to generate large ensembles of entangled atoms, which are key components for realizing more-precise atomic clocks and more powerful computers.… read more

Optogenetics without the genetics

Allows scientists to stimulate neurons with flashes of light without requiring genetic modification
March 24, 2015

Funtionalized heated gold nanoparticles are not washed away, allowing them to serve a neural stimulators (credit: Joa˜ o L. Carvalho-de-Souza/Neuron)

A method of using light to activate or suppress neurons without requiring genetic modification (as in optogenetics) has been developed by scientists from the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The new technique, described in the journal Neuron, uses targeted, heated gold nanoparticles. The researchers says it’s a significant technological advance with potential advantages over current optogenetic methods, including possible use in… read more

How to sort and extract biomolecules in fluids

Could lead to efficient clinical diagnostics and chemical purification, including removing contaminants from water and desalination
March 24, 2015

A team of Harvard scientists has demonstrated a new way of detecting and extracting biomolecules from fluid mixtures (credit: Peter Mallen, Harvard Medical School)

Harvard scientists have demonstrated a new way to detect and extract biomolecules from fluid mixtures, using an ingenious microfluidic design combining chemical and mechanical properties.

The approach requires fewer steps, uses less energy, and achieves better performance than several techniques currently in use. It could lead to better technologies for medical diagnostics and chemical purification.

For example, it could provide a means of removing contaminants from water, and… read more

Neuroscientists pinpoint cell type in the brain that controls body clock

Could lead to treatments for jet lag, neurological problems, and metabolism issues, but one simple solution is to not use electronic devices before sleep
March 24, 2015

Suprachiasmatic nucleus controls sleep-wake cycles (credit: National Institute of General Medical Sciences)

UT Southwestern Medical Center neuroscientists have identified key cells in the brain that control 24-hour circadian rhythms (sleep and wake cycles) as well as functions such as hormone production, metabolism, and blood pressure.

The discovery may lead to future treatments for jet lag and other sleep disorders and even for neurological problems such as Alzheimer’s disease, as well as metabolism issues and psychiatric disorders such as depression.

It’s been… read more

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