science + technology news

New molecular shape for electronic circuits discovered

February 18, 2015


Corannulene — a carbon molecule with molecular shape similar to fullerene (C60) — has properties that could be ideal for building molecule-size circuits, a team of scientists from SISSA, the University of Zurich, and the University of Nova Gorica in Slovenia has found in theoretical studies.

Imagine taking a fullerene sphere and cutting it in half like a melon. What you get is a corannulene (C20H10)… read more

An ‘in silico’ method of predicting effectiveness of cognitive enhancers

February 17, 2015

pathway activation profile2

The Biogerontology Research Foundation (BGRF) has used gene expression data to evaluate activated or suppressed signaling pathways in tissues or neurons of the mouse brain that has been cognitively enhanced with nootropic drugs.

Currently used cognitive enhancers are those that are widely available, rather than optimal for the user, the researchers note. These include drugs typically prescribed for treatment of ADHD (e.g., methylphenidate) and sleep… read more

Gold nanotubes image and destroy cancer cells in three ways

February 17, 2015

Pulsed near infrared light (shown in red) is shone onto a tumour (shown in white) that is encased in blood vessels. The tumour is imaged by multispectral optoacoustic tomography via the ultrasound emission (shown in blue) from the gold nanotubes. (credit: Jing Claussen/iThera Medical, Germany)

Leeds scientists have shown that gold nanotubes can fight cancer in three ways: as internal nanoprobes for high-resolution photoacoustic imaging, as drug delivery vehicles, and as agents for destroying cancer cells.

The study, published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, details the first successful demonstration of the biomedical use of gold nanotubes in a mouse model of human cancer — an alternative to existing chemotherapy and… read more

Purdue spinoff commercializes new design tool that helps users create computer-generated shapes without using a mouse

February 17, 2015

Karthik Ramani, Purdue University's Donald W. Feddersen Professor of Mechanical Engineering and co-founder and chief scientist of Zero UI, demonstrates how the Handy Potter can be used as a hand-free, gesture-based 3-D modeling software to create digital models and then print the designs on a 3D printer. The technology is being commercialized by Zero UI, a Cupertino, California-based company. (credit: Purdue Research Foundation)

A Purdue innovation that enables people to use a new class of hands-free, gesture-based 3D modeling software is being commercialized by Zero UI, a Cupertino, California-based company that specializes in 3D modeling technology.

The technology, called Handy-Potter, addresses the complexity and limitations of conventional computer-aided-design (CAD) tools used to create geometric shapes.

Handy-Potter uses a Kinectdepth-sensing camera with advanced software algorithms to interpret hand movements… read more

How to store data error-free for millions of years

February 16, 2015

fossil data storage

ETH researchers have found an error-free  way to store information in the form of DNA, potentially preserving it for millions of years: encapsulate the information-bearing segments of DNA in silica (glass), using an error-correcting information-encoding scheme.

Scrolls thousands of years old provide us with a glimpse into long-forgotten cultures and the knowledge of our ancestors. In this digital era, in contrast, a large part of our knowledge is… read more

New laser probe identifies brain cancer cells in real time

Promises to improves tumor surgeries and extend survival times for brain cancer patients
February 16, 2015

The image depicts a 3D rendering of the brain, with the cancer detectable on T1- and T2-weighted MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) in red and yellow respectively. The bright points indicate cancer detected using Raman spectroscopy (probe measurements were made at these points), as far as 1cm beyond what is detectable using MRI, and the actual cancer cells are depicted conceptually in the pop out. By detecting these invasive cancer cells, we can provide the surgeon with a tool to allow for more complete resection and thereby improve patient survival. (credit: Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital - The Neuro)

A new intraoperative handheld probe for cancer-cell-detection enables surgeons, for the first time, to detect more than 92% of invasive brain cancer cells in real time during surgery, according to its developers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro, McGill University MUHC, and Polytechnique Montréal.

“Often it is impossible to visually distinguish cancer from normal brain, so invasive brain cancer cells frequently remain after surgery, leading… read more

Precision growth of light-emitting nanowires

February 13, 2015

Nanowires grown using catalyst rich in gold (top) and nickel (bottom). (Credit: Berkeley Lab)

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) scientists have demonstrated a new technique for growing nanowires with control over their light-emitting and electronic properties, using specially engineered catalysts.

The new approach could allow for making better next-generation devices such as solar cells, light emitting diodes, and high-power electronics, says Shaul Aloni, staff scientist at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, and lead author on the study published in read more

A prosthetic hand that moves and provides sensation, just like a natural hand

DARPA's program aims to restore touch to amputees
February 13, 2015


In another major step toward dissolving the boundaries between machine and human, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded prime contracts for Phase 1 of its Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) program to a multi-institution research team. HAPTIX (a play on “haptics“) seeks to create a prosthetic hand system that moves and provides sensation like a natural hand, according to DARPA.

Despite recent… read more

Training computers to understand sentiments conveyed by images

February 12, 2015


Jiebo Luo, professor of computer science at the University of Rochester, in collaboration with researchers at Adobe Research has come up with a more accurate way than currently possible to train computers to be able to digest big data that comes in the form of images.

‪In a paper presented at the recent American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) conference in Austin, Texas,… read more

How to 3D-print a custom low-cost mechanical sensor

February 12, 2015

The top panel is a 3-D printed plastic tab with the letters “UW” printed in a slightly different material. The bottom panel is the same material after stretching. (Credit: A.J. Boydston / UW)

University of Washington scientists have printed out molecules that can respond to their surroundings.

As a test, they created a bone-shaped plastic tab that turns purple under stretching, offering an easy way to record the force on an object.

“At the UW, this is a marriage that’s been waiting to happen — 3D printing from the engineering side, and functional materials from the chemistry side,” said Andrew more

Promising peptide for traumatic brain injury, heart attack and stroke

February 11, 2015


Strokes, heart attacks, and traumatic brain injuries are separate diseases with certain shared pathologies that achieve a common end: cell death and human injury due to hypoxia, or lack of oxygen.

In these diseases, a lack of blood supply to affected tissues begins a signaling pathway that ultimately halts the production of energy-releasing ATP molecules — a death sentence for most cells.

By employing derivatives of… read more

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

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