science + technology news

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

Google Glass app analyzes plants’ health in seconds

“Okay, Glass, image a leaf.”
February 10, 2015

The Google Glass app and illuminator allow researchers unit to analyze chlorophyll concentration in a leaf without harming the plant (credit: UCLA)

Scientists from UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute have developed a custom-designed Google Glass Android app that, when paired with a handheld device, enables the wearer to quickly analyze the health of a plant without damaging it or requiring expensive lab equipment and expertise.

The app analyzes the concentration of chlorophyll — the substance in plants responsible for converting sunlight into energy. Reduced chlorophyll production… read more

A viral ‘Enigma machine’

February 9, 2015

Credit: University of Leeds

British researchers have cracked a code that governs infections by a major group of viruses including the common cold and polio, which could help prevent diseases.

Until now, scientists had not noticed the code, which had been hidden in plain sight in the sequence of the ribonucleic acid (RNA) that makes up this type of viral genome.

But a paper published in the Proceedingsread more

Flexible 3D graphene supercapacitors may power portables and wearables

February 9, 2015

Laser-induced graphene supercapacitor (credit: Jhiwei Peng et al./Applied Materials and Interfaces)

Rice University scientists have advanced their recent development of laser-induced graphene (LIG) by producing and testing stacked, three-dimensional supercapacitors — energy-storage devices that are important for portable, flexible electronics.

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour discovered last year that firing a laser at an inexpensive polymer burned off other elements and left a film of porous graphene, the much-studied atom-thick lattice of carbon.… read more

A caring robot with ‘emotion’ and memory

February 9, 2015

robot and elderly

Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire have developed a prototype of a social robot that supports independent living for the elderly, working in partnership with their relatives or carers.

Farshid Amirabdollahian, a senior lecturer in Adaptive Systems at the university, led a team of nine partner institutions from five European countries as part of the €4,825,492 project called ACCOMPANY (Acceptable Robotics Companions for Ageing Years).

“This… read more

New software analyzes human genomes for disease-causing variations in 90 minutes

May empower population-scale genomic analysis
February 6, 2015

Genome with mutation (credit: NIH)

Investigators at Nationwide Children’s Hospital say they have developed an optimized analysis “pipeline” that slashes the time it takes to search a person’s genome for disease-causing variations from weeks to hours.

An open-access preview article describing the ultra-fast, highly scalable software was published in the latest issue of Genome Biology.

“It took around 13 years and $3 billion to sequence the first… read more

Replacing lasers with LEDs for short-range optical communications

Applications include short-distance communication, photodetectors, imaging, biosensing, data storage, faster chip interconnects
February 6, 2015

Antenna-enhanced spontaneous emission from Indium Gallium Arsenide Phosphide nanorods (credit: Michael S. Eggleston et al./PNAS)

Berkeley Lab researchers have developed a nano-sized optical antenna that can greatly enhance the spontaneous emission of light from atoms, molecules and semiconductor quantum dots.

That opens the door to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that can replace lasers for short-range optical communications, including optical interconnects for microchips and a host of other potential applications.

“Since the invention of the laser, spontaneous light emission has been… read more

Meditation associated with slower age-related loss of gray matter in the brain

February 6, 2015

Negative correlations between global gray matter and age. The X-axis displays the chronological age (in years); the Y-axis displays the global gray matter volume (in ml). Note the less steep slope of the regression line in meditators (yellow) compared to controls (cyan). (Credit: Frontiers in Psychology)

Results of a new study by UCLA researchers suggest that meditation may help preserve the brain’s gray matter, the tissue that contains neurons.

The researchers cautioned, however, that they cannot draw a direct, causal connection between meditation and preserving gray matter in the brain. Too many other factors may come into play, including lifestyle choices, personality traits, and genetic brain differences.

Since 1970, life expectancy around the world… read more

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