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Rechargeable batteries with almost infinite lifetimes coming, say MIT-Samsung engineers

Solid-state material could also make rechargeable batteries safer
August 24, 2015

Illustration of the crystal structure of a superionic conductor. The backbone of the material is a body-centred cubic-like arrangement of sulphur anions. Lithium atoms are depicted in green, sulfur atoms in yellow, PS4 tetrahedra in purple, and GeS4 tetrahedra in blue. Researchers have revealed the fundamental relationship between anion packing and ionic transport in fast lithium-conducting materials. (credit: Yan Wang)

MIT and Samsung researchers have developed a new approach to achieving long life and a 20 to 30 percent improvement in power density (the amount of power stored in a given space) in rechargeable batteries — using a solid electrolyte, rather than the liquid used in today’s most common rechargeables. The new materials could also greatly improve safety and last through “hundreds of thousands of cycles.”… read more

Why wind — and soon solar — are already cheaper than fossil fuels

August 24, 2015

Cost of energy from renewables expected to fall drastically over the next years (credit: Citigroup)

Citigroup has published an analysis of the costs of various energy sources called “Energy Darwinism II.” It concludes that if all the costs of generation are included (known as the levelized cost of energy), renewables turn out to be cheaper than fossil fuels and a “benefit rather than a cost to society,” RenewEconomy reports.

“Capital costs are often cited by the promoters of fossil fuels as… read more

Making hydrogen fuel from water and visible light at 100 times higher efficiency

A big step closer to hydrogen as a practical fuel to power vehicles and electrical devices
August 23, 2015

Test unit schematic for temperature-induced photocatalytic hydrogen production from H2O with methanol as a sacrificial agent: (1) thermocouple, (2) black Pt/TiO2 on SiO2 substrate, (3) quartz wool, (4) quartz tube reactor, and (5) electrical tube furnace (credit: Bing Han and Yun Hang Hu/Journal of Physical Chemistry)

Researchers at Michigan Technological University have found a way to convert light to hydrogen fuel more efficiently — a big step closer to mimicking photosynthesis.

Current methods for creating hydrogen fuel are based on using electrodes made from titanium dioxide (TiO2), which acts as a catalyst to stimulate the light–>water–>hydrogen chemical reaction. This works great with ultraviolet (UV) light, but UV comprises only… read more

Why you’re smarter than a chicken

August 21, 2015

(credit: Johnathan Nightingale via Flickr)

A single molecular event in a protein called PTBP1 in our cells could hold the key to how we evolved to become the smartest animal on the planet, University of Toronto researchers have discovered.

The conundrum: Humans and frogs, for example, have been evolving separately for 350 million years and use a remarkably similar repertoire of genes to build organs in the body. So what… read more

MIT researchers invent process for 3D-printing complex transparent glass forms

August 21, 2015

Printing molten glass (credit: John Klein et al./3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing)

An additive-manufacturing glass-printing process called G3DP (Glass 3D Printing) has been developed by researchers in the Mediated Matter Group at the MIT Media Lab in collaboration with the Glass Lab at MIT.

The platform is based on a dual heated-chamber concept. The upper chamber acts as a Kiln Cartridge (a thermally insulated heater) operating at about 1900°F to melt the glass, while the lower chamber serves… read more

The dilemma of human enhancement

August 20, 2015


How far can science push the limits of human life?

That was the theme of a Crosstalks webcast today, “The dilemma of human enhancement,” available for download.

The show addressed questions like “Can we prevent people from dying? With implants, nanotechnology, artificial body parts and smart drugs we can enhance human physiology beyond our current limitations. But should we really pursue this? And can… read more

‘Diamonds from the sky’ approach to turn CO2 into valuable carbon nanofibers

Decreasing CO2 to pre-industrial-revolution levels is the goal
August 19, 2015

Researchers are generating carbon nanofibers (above) from CO2 , removing a greenhouse gas from the air to make products. (credit: Stuart Licht, Ph.D)

A research team of chemists at George Washington University has developed a technology that can economically convert atmospheric CO2 directly from the air into highly valued carbon nanofibers for industrial and consumer products — converting an anthropogenic greenhouse gas from a climate change problem to a valuable commodity, they say.

The team presented their research today (Aug. 19) at the 250th National Meeting & Exposition of theread more

‘I think I know that person … or do I?’

Could help explain what goes wrong with memory in diseases like Alzheimer’s and could help to preserve people’s memories as they age
August 19, 2015

A cross-section of a rat's brain, showing where the key decisions are made about what is a new memory being made and what is old and familiar.A cross-section of a rat's brain, showing where the key decisions are made about what is a new memory being made and what is old and familiar. (credit: Johns Hopkins University)

Know that feeling when you see someone and realize you may know them (or not)? Now we know actually where in the brain that happens — the CA3 region of the hippocampus, the seat of memory, thanks to Johns Hopkins University neuroscientists.

“You see a familiar face and say to yourself, ‘I think I’ve seen that face.’ But is this someone I met five years ago, maybe… read more

‘Armchair nanoribbon’ design makes graphene a wafer-scalable semiconductor

Mass-production technique promises to boost the performance of next-generation electronic devices
August 19, 2015

Progressively zoomed-in images of graphene nanoribbons grown on germanium. The ribbons automatically align perpendicularly and naturally grow in what is known as the armchair edge configuration. (credit: Arnold Research Group and Guisinger Research Group)

University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers have discovered a way to grow graphene nanoribbons with semiconducting properties — and directly on a conventional germanium semiconductor wafer.

Graphene, an atom-thick material with extraordinary properties, normally functions as a conductor of electricity, but not as a semiconductor. This advance is significant because it could allow manufacturers to easily use graphene nanoribbons in hybrid integrated circuits, which promise to… read more

Paper-based test can quickly diagnose Ebola in remote areas

August 19, 2015

A paper-based diagnostic test distinguishes between yellow fever virus, Ebola and dengue using different colored nanoparticles tagged with antibodies that target specific virii (credit: Chunwan Yen)

American Chemical Society | A simple, cheap test for Ebola, dengue and yellow fever

MIT researchers have developed a low-cost, paper-based device that changes color, depending on whether the patient has Ebola, dengue, or yellow fever. The test is designed to facilitate diagnosis in remote, low-resource settings, takes minutes, and does not need electricity to read out results.

The team described… read more

A brain-computer interface for controlling an exoskeleton

August 18, 2015

A volunteer calibrating the exoskeleton brain-computer interface (credit: (c) Korea University/TU Berlin)

Scientists at Korea University and TU Berlin have developed a brain-computer interface (BCI) for a lower limb exoskeleton used for gait assistance by decoding specific signals from the user’s brain.

Using an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap, the system allows users to move forward, turn left and right, sit, and stand, simply by staring at one of five flickering light emitting diodes (LEDs).… read more

Most complete functioning human-brain model to date, according to researchers

Could advance studies of genetic and environmental causes of central nervous system disorders
August 18, 2015

This image of the lab-grown brain is labeled to show identifiable structures: the cerebral hemisphere, the optic stalk and the cephalic flexure, a bend in the mid-brain region, all characteristic of the human fetal brain. (credit: The Ohio State University)

Scientists at The Ohio State University have developed a miniature human brain in a dish with the equivalent brain maturity of a five-week-old fetus.

The brain organoid, engineered from adult human skin cells, is the most complete human brain model yet developed, said Rene Anand, a professor of biological chemistry and pharmacology at Ohio State.

The lab-grown brain, about the size of a… read more

Surprising results from brain and cognitive studies of a 93-year-old woman athelete

August 18, 2015

Olga Kotelko's brain "does not look like a 90-plus-year-old" ---  Beckman Institute director Art Kramer

Brain scans and cognitive tests of Olga Kotelko, a 93-year-old Canadian track-and-field athlete with more than 30 world records in her age group, may support the potential beneficial effects of exercise on cognition in the “oldest old.”

In the summer of 2012, researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois invited her to visit for in-depth analysis… read more

‘Information sabotage’ on Wikipedia claimed

Politically controversial science topics like acid rain, evolution, and climate change are vulnerable to "edit wars" by trolls
August 17, 2015

Research has moved online, with more than 80 percent of U.S. students using Wikipedia for research papers, but how reliable is controversial science information? (credit: Pixabay)


Wikipedia entries on politically controversial scientific topics can be unreliable due to “information sabotage,” according to an open-access paper published today in the journal PLOS One.

The authors (Gene E. Likens* and Adam M. Wilson*) analyzed Wikipedia edit histories for three politically controversial scientific topics (acid rain, evolution, and global warming), and four non-controversial scientific topics (the standard… read more

Scientists discover atomic-resolution secret of high-speed brain signaling

Could lead to treatments for mental disorders
August 17, 2015

This illustration shows a protein complex at work in brain signaling. Its structure, which contains joined protein complexes known as SNARE and synaptotagmin-1, is shown in the foreground. This complex is responsible for the calcium-triggered release of neurotransmitters from our brain’s nerve cells in a process called synaptic vesicle fusion. The SNARE structure is shown in blue, red, and green, and synaptotagmin-1 is shown in orange. The background image shows electrical signals traveling through a neuron. (credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

Stanford School of Medicine scientists have mapped the 3D atomic structure of a two-part protein complex that controls the release of signaling chemicals, called neurotransmitters, from brain cells in less than one-thousandth of a second.

The experiments were reported today (August 17) in the journal Nature. Performed at the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the experiments were built… read more

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