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A less-expensive way to duplicate the complicated steps of photosynthesis in making fuel

January 23, 2014


Argonne National Laboratory researchers have found a new, more efficient, less-expensive way to make fuel — principally, hydrogen — from sunlight and water: linking a synthetic cobalt-containing catalyst to an organic light-sensitive molecule called a chromophore.

Chromophore molecules, such as chlorophyll, are involved in capturing light for photosynthesis.

Currently, the most efficient methods we have for  making fuel involve rare and expensive metal catalysts, such… read more

E-whiskers: highly sensitive tactile sensors for robotics and other applications

January 23, 2014

E-whiskers are highly responsive tactile sensor networks made from carbon nanotubes and silver nanoparticles that resemble the whiskers of cats and other mammals (credit: Berkeley Lab)

Researchers with Berkeley Lab and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have created tactile sensors from composite films of carbon nanotubes and silver nanoparticles similar to the highly sensitive whiskers of cats and rats.

The new “e-whiskers” respond to pressure as slight as a single Pascal, about the pressure exerted on a table surface by a dollar bill. Among their potential applications is giving robots new abilities to “see”… read more

New technique allows minimally invasive ‘nanobiopsies’ of living cells

January 22, 2014

(Credit: UC Santa Cruz)

Researchers at UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) have developed a robotic “nanobiopsy” system that can extract tiny samples from inside a living cell without killing it.

The single-cell nanobiopsy technique is a powerful tool for scientists working to understand the dynamic processes that occur within living cells, according to Nader Pourmand, professor of biomolecular engineering in UCSC’s Baskin School of Engineering.

“We can take a biopsy from… read more

New patent mapping system helps find innovation pathways

January 22, 2014

What’s likely to be the “next big thing?” What might be the most fertile areas for innovation? Where should countries and companies invest their limited research funds? What technology areas are a company’s competitors pursuing?

To help answer those questions, researchers, policy-makers and R&D directors study patent maps, which provide a visual representation of where universities, companies and other organizations are protecting intellectual property produced by their research. But… read more

New transparent display system could provide wide-angle-view heads-up data

January 22, 2014

Photographs showing transparent screen (left) in comparison with a regular piece of glass (right). A laser projector projects blue MIT logo onto both the transparent screen and regular glass; the logo shows up clearly on the transparent screen, but not on regular glass. Three cups are placed behind to visually assess the transparency. (Credit: C. W. Hue et al./Nature Communications)

MIT researchers have come up with a new approach to transparent displays that could have significant advantages over existing systems for certain kinds of applications: wide viewing angle, simplicity of manufacture, and potentially low cost and scalability.

Transparent displays have a variety of potential applications — such as the ability to see navigation or dashboard information while looking through the windshield of a car or plane, or… read more

OpenBCI DIY EEG brain-computer-interface Kickstarter ends Jan. 22 [update: $215,438 raised from 947 backers]

January 22, 2014

OpenBCI 3D-printable EEG headset design. Electrodes can be instantly moved and snapped into any of these sections for detecting EEG signals from different regions of the cortex.  (Credit: OpenBCI)

The deadline for the OpenBCI Kickstarter, an open-source EEG brain-computer interface, is Wednesday Jan. 22 at 8:00pm EST. As of post time (Jan. 22 at 3:29 a.m. EST), $194,520 has been pledged (almost doubling the $100,000 goal), with 866 backers.

“If we reach $200K, we will host … and fund … one domestic and one international hackathon in addition to those funded through the hackathon reward levels … in… read more

Carbon-nanotube sponge shows improved water clean-up

January 21, 2014

Carbon-nanotube sponge. (a) SEM micrograph showing the entangled CNT network; (b) High-resolution SEM picture of a CNT characterized by an elbow shape, as highlighted by the red arrow (credit: L Camilli et al.Nanotechnology

A carbon nanotube sponge capable of soaking up water contaminants such as fertilizers, pesticides and pharmaceuticals more than three times more efficiently than previous efforts has been presented in a new study published January 17 in IOP Publishing’s journal Nanotechnology.

The carbon nanotube (CNT) sponges, uniquely doped with sulphur, also demonstrated a high capacity to absorb oil, potentially opening up the possibility of using the material in… read more

Marvin Minsky honored for lifetime achievements in artificial intelligence

January 21, 2014


MIT Media Lab professor emeritus Marvin Minsky, PhD, 86, a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence, has won the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the information and communications technologies category.

The BBVA Foundation cited his influential role in defining the field of artificial intelligence, and in mentoring many of the leading minds in today’s artificial intelligence community. The award also recognizes his… read more

Tiny swimming ‘biobots’ propelled by heart cells or magnetic fields

January 21, 2014

Sperm attack

University of Illinois engineers have developed tiny “bio-bot” hybrid machines that swim like sperm, the first synthetic structures that can traverse the viscous fluids of biological environments on their own, according to the engineers.

The devices are modeled after single-celled creatures with long tails called flagella — for example, sperm. The researchers begin by creating the body of the bio-bot from a flexible polymer. Then they culture heart cells… read more

Cosmic web imaged for the first time

January 20, 2014


Astronomers have discovered a distant quasar illuminating a vast nebula of diffuse gas, revealing, for the first time, part of the network of filaments thought to connect galaxies in a cosmic web.

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz led the study, published January 19 in Nature.

Using the 10-meter Keck I Telescope at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, the researchers detected a… read more

How Internet surveillance predicts disease outbreak before WHO

Creating your own disease surveillance maps
January 20, 2014


Have you ever Googled for an online diagnosis before visiting a doctor? If so, you may have helped provide early warning of an infectious disease epidemic.

In a new study published in Lancet Infectious Diseases, Internet-based surveillance has been found to detect infectious diseases such as Dengue Fever and Influenza up to two weeks earlier than traditional surveillance methods, according to Queensland University of Technology (QUT) research… read more

3D counterpart to graphene discovered [UPDATE]

Promises faster transistors and more compact hard drives
January 20, 2014


DOE Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researchers have discovered that sodium bismuthide can exist as a form of matter called a “three-dimensional topological Dirac semi-metal” (3DTDS).

“A 3DTDS is a natural three-dimensional counterpart to graphene with similar or even better electron mobility and velocity,” says Yulin Chen, a physicist with Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS) when he initiated the study that led to this discovery,… read more

A smart-object recognition algorithm that doesn’t need humans

Skynet alert
January 17, 2014

(Credit: BYU Photo)

BYU engineer Dah-Jye Lee has created an algorithm that can accurately identify objects in images or video sequences — without human calibration.

“In most cases, people are in charge of deciding what features to focus on and they then write the algorithm based off that,” said Lee, a professor of electrical and computer engineering. “With our algorithm, we give it a set of images and let the… read more

The brain can process images seen for just 13 milliseconds

January 17, 2014

An illustration of a sequence of pictures (credit: Potter,M.C.,and Levy,E.I./J. Exp.Psychol)

MIT neuroscientists have found that the human brain can process entire images that the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds — the first evidence of such rapid processing speed.

That speed is far faster than the 100 milliseconds suggested by previous studies. In the new study, which appears in the journal Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, researchers asked subjects to look for a particular type of… read more

Google’s smart contact lens project could allow diabetics to track glucose levels automatically

January 17, 2014


To help people with diabetes as they try to keep their blood sugar levels under control, Google is testing a smart contact lens designed to measure glucose levels in tears.

It uses a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material, according to Google Official Blog.

People with diabetes must still prick their finger and test… read more

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