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Why disorder can improve the performance of plastic solar cells

August 6, 2013

These X-ray images reveal the microscopic structure of two semiconducting plastic polymers. The bottom image, with several big crystals stacked in a row, is from a highly ordered polymer sample. The top image shows a disordered polymer with numerous tiny crystals that are barely discernible. (Credit: Jonathan Rivnay,Stanford and Michael Toney, SSRL/SLAC)

Scientists have spent decades trying to build flexible plastic solar cells efficient enough to compete with conventional cells made of silicon.

To boost performance, research groups have tried creating new plastic materials that enhance the flow of electricity through the solar cell.

Several groups expected to achieve good results by redesigning pliant polymers of plastic into orderly, silicon-like crystals, but the flow of electricity did not improve.… read more

Making a mini Mona Lisa

The future of nanomanufacturing?
August 6, 2013


Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have “painted” the Mona Lisa on a substrate surface approximately 30 microns in width — or one-third the width of a human hair.

The “Mini Lisa” demonstrates a technique that could potentially be used to achieve nanomanufacturing of devices, because the team was able to vary the surface concentration of molecules on such short-length scales.

The image was created… read more

A cheap spying tool with a high creepy factor

August 6, 2013


How easy would it be to monitor the movement of everyone on the street by a private citizen with a few hundred dollars to spare?

Brendan O’Connor, 27, bought some plastic boxes and stuffed them with a $25, credit-card size Raspberry Pi Model A computer and a few over-the-counter sensors, including Wi-Fi adapters, The New York Times reports.

He connected each of those boxes to a… read more

New graphene-based supercapacitors rival lead-acid batteries

August 5, 2013


Monash University researchers have developed a completely new strategy to engineer graphene-based supercapacitors (SC), making them viable for widespread use in renewable energy storage, portable electronics and electric vehicles.

SCs are generally made of highly porous carbon impregnated with a liquid electrolyte to transport the electrical charge. Known for their almost indefinite lifespan and the ability to re-charge in seconds, the drawback of existing SCs… read more

A layer of microspheres can slow sound waves

Potential to shrink devices, create new types of sensors
August 5, 2013


MIT researchers have created two-dimensional arrays of micrograins that can funnel acoustic waves, much as specially designed crystals can control the passage of light or other waves.

The granular material behaves much like a crystal, with its close-packed grains mimicking the precise, orderly arrangement of crystalline atoms.

The researchers say the findings could lead to a new way of controlling frequencies in electronic devices… read more

Existing cropland could feed 4 billion more

An abundant supply of food for a hungry world, hidden in plain sight
August 5, 2013


Reallocating croplands away from fuels and animal feed could boost food available for people by 70 percent without clearing more land, new research from the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota research shows

The world’s croplands could feed 4 billion more people than they do now just by shifting from producing animal feed and biofuels to producing exclusively food for human consumption,… read more

First Google Glass use for real-time location of where multiple viewers are looking

August 3, 2013


“What you are seeing here is the first use of Google Glass and another device — an Android phone in this case — for real-time focus between multiple users,” CrowdOptic CEO Jon Fisher explained to KurzweilAI in an exclusive interview.

“This is real-time triangulation from GPS and compass data on both devices, using.a [forthcoming] app that locates the common point of focus,” he… read more

Reprogramming cells by computer

New options for regenerative medicine
August 2, 2013

reprogramming cells

Scientists at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg have developed a model that makes predictions that allow for deciding which differentiated cells — for instance skin cells — can be very efficiently changed into completely different cell types — such as nerve cells, for example.

This can be done entirely without stem cells. These computer-based instructions for… read more

Quantum dots could be safe for deep-tissue imaging

No toxic effects in non-human primates
August 2, 2013

Bright light emission from silicon quantum dots in a cuvette. The image is from a camera that captures the near-infrared light that the quantum dots emit. The light emission shown is a psuedo color, as near-infrared light does not fall in the visible spectrum. (Credit: Folarin Erogbogbo/University at Buffalo)

Tiny silicon crystals caused no health problems in monkeys three months after large doses were injected, marking a step forward in the quest to bring such materials into clinics as biomedical imaging agents, according to a new study.

The findings, published July 10 in the journal ACS Nano, suggest that the silicon nanocrystals, known as quantum dots, may be a safe tool for diagnostic imaging in humans.… read more

Single-cell RNA sequencing yields genetic makeup of human and mouse embryos in unprecedented detail

Are we about to usher in a new age of eugenics and designer babies?
August 2, 2013


UCLA scientists, in collaboration with teams in China, have used the powerful technology of single-cell RNA sequencing to track the genetic development of a human and a mouse embryo at an unprecedented level of accuracy.

The technique could lead to earlier and more accurate diagnoses of genetic diseases — even when the embryo consists of only eight cells.

The study was led by Guoping… read more

Giant hollow magnetic-cage molecules could deliver drugs non-invasively

August 2, 2013

Illustration depicts a Mn24C18 cluster carrying a magnetic moment of 70 Bohr magnetons. Image courtesy of Menghao Wu, Ph.D./VCU.

Large hollow magnetic cage molecules could one day be used in medicine as a drug delivery system to non-invasively treat tumors, according to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) researchers.

About 25 years ago, scientists first made the discovery of C60 fullerene — better known as Buckminster Fullerene — a molecule composed of 60 carbon atoms that formed a hollow cage.

Its unique hollow cage structure offers… read more

How did Earth’s primitive chemistry get kick-started?

At alkaline hydrothermal vents at the bottom of oceans, says NASA JPL scientist
August 2, 2013


Three new papers co-authored by Mike Russell, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., strengthen the case that Earth’s first life began at alkaline hydrothermal vents at the bottom of oceans.

Scientists are interested in understanding early life on Earth because if we ever hope to find life on other worlds — especially icy worlds with subsurface oceans such as Jupiter’s moon… read more

A promising new direction for organ regeneration and tissue repair

Promising effects for liver, kidney and lung regeneration and wound healing
August 2, 2013

Liver regeneration

Most human tissues do not regenerate spontaneously. But now, researchers have identified an entirely new approach to enhance normal tissue growth, a finding that could have widespread therapeutic applications, according to a team led by investigators at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.

Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)read more

Create a printable 3D model of any object using only a camera and Web browser

August 1, 2013

3D camera

Volumental‘s 3D Scan-to-Print web app will be the world’s first browser-based, 3D-printable model creator. The idea is to scan (and later, print) a 3D object as easily as printing a document, using just a depth camera (such as a Kinect*) and computer browser.

The team just launched a Kickstarter. “We need $20,000 in funding to hire a dedicated developer for this project as well as… read more

Capturing black hole spin could further understanding of galaxy growth

August 1, 2013

black hole spin courtesy of nasa-jpl-caltech

Durham University Astronomers have found a new way of measuring the spin in supermassive black holes, which could lead to better understanding about how they drive the growth of galaxies.

The astronomers observed a black hole — with a mass 10 million times that of our Sun — at the center of a spiral galaxy 500 million light years from Earth while it was feeding on the… read more

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