science + technology news

Smartphone-based device could provide rapid, low-cost molecular tumor diagnosis

April 14, 2015


A smartphone-based device developed by Harvard Medical School investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital could bring rapid, accurate molecular diagnosis of cancer and other diseases to locations lacking the latest medical technology.

The device uses technology for making holograms to collect detailed microscopic images for digital analysis of the molecular composition of cells and tissues.

“The global burden of cancer, limited access to prompt pathology… read more

Short probabilistic programming machine-learning code replaces complex programs for computer-vision tasks

April 13, 2015

Two-dimensional images of human faces (top row) and front views of three-dimensional models of the same faces, produced by both a new MIT system (middle row) and one of its predecessors (bottom row). (credit: Courtesy of the researchers)

Probabilistic programming does in 50 lines of code what used to take thousands

On some standard computer-vision tasks, short programs — less than 50 lines long — written in a probabilistic programming language are competitive with conventional systems with thousands of lines of code, MIT researchers have found.

Most recent advances in artificial intelligence — such as mobile apps that convert speech to text… read more

Robust ‘spider silk’ matrix guides cardiac tissue regeneration

April 13, 2015

Heart tissue cells matrix ft

Genetically engineered fibers of the protein spidroin — the construction material for spider webs — are a ideal matrix (substrate or frame) for cultivating heart tissue cells, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) researchers have found, as noted in an open-access article in the journal PLOS ONE.

Regenerative methods can solve the problem of transplant rejection, but it’s a challenge to find a… read more

‘Training’ carbon-nanotube composites in ‘unconventional’ computing

April 10, 2015

As the liquid crystals align in electric fields, it helps to align the nanotubes — changing the electrical structure of the materials. You can see the thermal output from the material during this “training” process. Bright colors represent localized heating within the material, which the group suspects is due to the formation of new conductive pathways as the material changes or evolves. (Credit: Mark K. Massey/Journal of Applied Physics)

Researchers from Durham University and the University of São Paulo-USP have  developed a method of using single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) composites in “unconventional” computing.

By studying the mechanical and electrical properties of the materials, they discovered a correlation between SWCNT concentration/viscosity/conductivity and the computational capability of the composite.

“Instead of creating circuits from arrays of discrete components (transistors in digital electronics), our work takes a… read more

Understanding how complex carbon nanostructures form

Promises better control over carbon nanotube properties, such as stiff (for wires) or soft (for wearables)
April 10, 2015

A numerically simulated CNT forest (credit: Matt Maschmann)

A University of Missouri researcher has developed a way to predict how complicated carbon nanotube (CNT) structures (called “forests”) are formed when “grown” in a high-temperature furnace.

This understanding promises to enable designers and engineers to better incorporate the appropriate form of this highly adaptable material into devices and products such as aerospace wiring, combat body armor, computer logic components, and micro sensors used in biomedical… read more

Graphene promising for future high-efficiency spintronic processors

Could graphene as a conductor outperform semiconductors in efficiency?
April 10, 2015

In graphene, electrons keep their magnetization, their spin (the pink arrows in the picture) much longer than they do in ordinary conductors such as copper and aluminum. This characteristic of graphene may enable spintronics to become a complement to traditional electronics, which only utilizes one of the electron´s degrees of freedom, namely their charge. (credit: M Venkata Kamalakar et al/Nature Communications)

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have discovered that large-area graphene, created by chemical vapor deposition (CVD), can preserve electron spin over an extended period of time and communicate it over greater distances than previously known. This opens the door to use spintronics — normally used only to store data — to achieve energy-efficient processors and memory.

There’s been a lot of recent research on creating versions of… read more

Next-generation supercomputer will have 180 petaflop/s peak performance

April 9, 2015


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has invested $200 million to deliver a next-generation supercomputer, known as Aurora, with a peak performance of 180 petaflop/s (quadrillions of calculations per second).

Scheduled for completion in 2018, Aurora will be based on a next-generation Cray supercomputer, code-named “Shasta,” and will use Intel’s HPC scalable system framework. The  supercomputer will be open to all scientific users.

The current fastest supercomputer is… read more

An artificial hand that can respond sensitively thanks to ‘muscles’ made of shape-memory wires

April 9, 2015

Artificial hand able to respond sensitively thanks to muscles made from smart metal wires (credit: Filomena Simone et al.)

Engineers at Saarland University have created an artificial hand with muscles made from of nickel-titanium alloy shape-memory wire (the wire is able to “remember” its shape and to return to that original shape after it has been deformed).

The new technology allows for fabricating flexible, lightweight robot hands for industrial applications and novel prosthetic devices. The muscle fibers are composed of bundles of ultrafine nickel-titanium alloy wires that are… read more

Robots and prostheses learn human touch

The emerging science of "artificial haptic intelligence"
April 9, 2015

Touch-sensitive robotic hand (Credit: Science Nation)

Research engineers and students in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Biomechatronics Lab are designing artificial limbs that are more touch-sensitive.

The team, led by mechanical engineer Veronica J. Santos, is constructing a language of touch and quantifying it with mechanical touch sensors that interact with objects of various shapes, sizes. and textures.

Using an array of instrumentation, Santos’ team is able to translate that interaction into… read more

Future electronics based on carbon nanotubes now more likely

April 8, 2015

Thermal gradients associated with mild heating of a metallic carbon nanotube induces thermocapillary flows in a thin organic overcoat. The result is an open trench with the tube at the base. (credit: J.Rogers/UIUC)

A method to purify arrays of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) developed by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers could be a step to post-silicon circuits and devices.

The exceptional properties of atomic-scale semiconducting molecular cylinders known as carbon nanotubes have tantalized researchers for years because of the possibility they could serve as a successors to silicon in laying the logic for smaller, faster and cheaper electronic devices.

But… read more

Inkjet-printed liquid metal could lead to new wearable tech, soft robotics

April 8, 2015

Inkjet-functionalized nitrile glove with arrays of electronic strain gauges, intricate wiring, and contact pads (credit: John William Boley et al./Advanced Materials)

Purdue University researchers have developed a potential manufacturing method called “mechanically sintered gallium-indium nanoparticles” that can inkjet-print flexible, stretchable conductors onto anything — including elastic materials and fabrics — and can mass-produce electronic circuits made of liquid-metal alloys for “soft robots” and flexible electronics.

The method uses ultrasound to break up liquid metal into nanoparticles in ethanol solvent to make ink that is compatible with inkjet printing.

Elastic… read more

Using sound waves to detect rare circulating cancer cells

April 8, 2015

As a mix of cancer cells and white blood cells flows through the microfluidic channel, sound waves from the transducers located on both sides of the channel guide them into separate channels, allowing the rare cancer cells to be isolated. (Credit: the researchers)

A team of engineers from MIT, Penn State University, and Carnegie Mellon University is developing a novel way to isolate cancer cells that circulate in the bloodstream: using sound waves to separate them from blood cells.

Cancer cells often break free from their original locations and circulate through the bloodstream, allowing them to form new tumors elsewhere in the body.

Detecting these cells could give doctors a new… read more

First human head transplant planned

April 8, 2015

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The first person to undergo a head-transplant operation will be Valery Spiridinov, The Independent reports. The procedure will be performed by controversial Italian doctor Sergio Canavero, MD.

Canavero hopes to remove Spiridinov’s head (he’s suffering from a wasting or degenerative disease) and transplant it onto the body of someone who is brain-dead but still has a functioning body,

In a 2013 paper in open-access journal… read more

Complex organic molecules discovered in infant star system

Hints that prebiotic organic chemistry is universal
April 7, 2015

Artist impression of the protoplanetary disk surrounding the young star MWC 480. ALMA has detected the complex organic molecule methyl cyanide in the outer reaches of the disk in the region where comets are believed to form. This is another indication that complex organic chemistry, and potentially the conditions necessary for life, is universal. (Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF))

For the first time, astronomers have detected the presence of complex organic molecules, the building blocks of life, in a protoplanetary disk surrounding a young star, suggesting once again that the conditions that spawned our Earth and Sun are not unique in the universe.

This discovery, made with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), reveals that the protoplanetary disk surrounding the million-year-old star MWC 480… read more

MIT invents ultrasensitive magnetic-field detector

Could lead to miniaturized, hypersensitive battery-powered devices for brain-wave sensing, medical, and materials imaging, contraband detection, and geological exploration
April 7, 2015

In this image, laser light enters a synthetic diamond from a facet at its corner and bounces around inside the diamond until its energy is exhausted. This excites "nitrogen vacancies" that can be used to measure magnetic fields. (Credit: H. Clevenson/MIT Lincoln Laboratory)

MIT researchers have developed a new, ultrasensitive magnetic-field detector that is 1,000 times more energy-efficient than its predecessors. It could lead to miniaturized, battery-powered devices for medical and materials imaging, contraband detection, and even geological exploration.

Magnetic-field detectors (magnetometers) are already used for all those applications. But existing technologies have drawbacks: Some rely on gas-filled chambers; others work only in narrow frequency bands, limiting their… read more

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