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Biological transistor enables computing within living cells

March 29, 2013

Three-terminal transcriptor-based gates use integrase (Int) control signals to modulate RNA polymerase flow between a separate gate input and output (credit: Bonnet et al./Science)

Stanford University bioengineers have taken computing beyond mechanics and electronics into the living realm of biology by creating the “transcriptor” — a biological transistor made from DNA and RNA.

In electronics, a transistor controls the flow of electrons along a circuit. Similarly, a transcriptor controls the flow of a specific protein, RNA polymerase, as it travels along a strand of DNA.

“Transcriptors are the… read more

Better than X-rays: a more powerful terahertz imaging system

March 29, 2013

optical pump

An electrical engineering research team at the University of Michigan has developed a laser-powered terahertz source and detector system that transmits with 50 times more power and receives with 30 times more sensitivity than existing technologies.

This offers 1,500 times more powerful systems for imaging and sensing applications.

Low-energy terahertz radiation could potentially enable doctors to see deep into tissues without the damaging effects… read more

New solar structure cools buildings in full sunlight, replacing air conditioners

Homes and buildings chilled without air conditioners? Car interiors that don't heat up in the summer sun? Tapping the frigid expanses of outer space to cool the planet? Yes.
March 29, 2013


Stanford University researchers have designed an entirely new form of cooling structure that cools even when the sun is shining, eliminating the need for air conditioning.

Such a structure could vastly improve the daylight cooling of buildings, cars, and other structures by reflecting sunlight back into space.

“We’ve developed a new type of structure that reflects the vast majority of sunlight, while at the same… read more

Better eyes for flying robots

March 28, 2013


In February, at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference, two teams presented new work aimed at building better-performing and lower-power vision systems that would help aerial robots navigate and aid them in identifying objects, IEEE Spectrum reports:

  • Drastically lower the power requirement of the feature extractor. That system uses an

read more

3D imaging methodology reveals nano details not seen before

Understanding nanoparticles at atomic scale in three dimensions could improve materials
March 28, 2013

A representation of a 3-D atomic resolution screw dislocation in a platinum nanoparticle. (Illustration: Chien-Chun Chen and I-Sheng Chou, UCLA)

A team of scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Northwestern University has produced 3-D images and videos of a tiny platinum nanoparticle at atomic resolution that reveal new details of defects in nanomaterials that have not been seen before.

Prior to this work, scientists only had flat, two-dimensional images with which to view the arrangement of atoms.

The… read more

You don’t ‘own’ your own genes

All human genes are patented many times over.
March 28, 2013

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Court-proposed molecular points of distinction that allow claims on isolated DNA sequences. On the basis of two molecular changes (small circles) to a single phosphate and one hydroxyl group, the Federal Circuit court suggested that a new DNA fragment is patentable subject matter. (Credit: Genome Medicine)

Humans no longer “own” their own genes.

The more than 40,000 patents on DNA molecules have allowed companies to essentially claim the entire human genome for profit, report two researchers. Their study, published March 25 in the journal Genome Medicine, raises an alarm about the loss of individual “genomic liberty.”

The research team examined two types of patented DNA sequences: long and short fragments. They discovered… read more

A Japanese robot car that drives itself on sidewalks and footpaths

March 28, 2013

Ropits … the self-driving robot car (credit: Hitachi)

Hitachi has launched the self-driving Robot for Personal Intelligent Transport System (Ropits) car, developed for elderly and disabled drivers, The Guardian reports.

The vehicle is designed to roam pavements and footpaths, rather than roads, and is equipped with a plethora of sensors and guidance systems to help it navigate around bumps, potholes, and pedestrians.

A touch-screen map is linked to a… read more

Rejuvenating blood by reprogramming stem cells

March 27, 2013


Lund University researchers have succeeded in rejuvenating the blood of mice by reversing, or reprogramming, the stem cells that produce blood.

Stem cells form the origin of all the cells in the body and can divide an unlimited number of times. When stem cells divide, one cell remains a stem cell and the other matures into the type of cell needed by the body, for example a blood… read more

Solar cells that can be recycled

March 27, 2013

Photograph of a solar cell fabricated at Georgia Tech on nanocellulose substrates derived from trees. Photo courtesy of Canek Fuentes-Hernandez

Georgia Institute of Technology and Purdue University researchers have developed efficient solar cells using natural substrates derived from plants such as trees.

By fabricating them on cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) substrates, the solar cells can be quickly recycled in water at the end of their lifecycle.

The technology is published in the open-access journal Scientific Reports.

The researchers report that the organic solar cells reach a… read more

Nanofoams can better protect soldiers and buildings

March 27, 2013


Nanofoams that could be used to make better body armor, prevent traumatic brain injury and blast-related lung injuries in soldiers, and protect buildings from impacts and blasts are being developed by University of California, San Diego engineers.

“We are developing nanofoams that help disperse the force of an impact over a wider area,” said Yu Qiao, a professor of structural engineering at the Jacobs School of Engineeringread more

Iron Man meets HULC as Lockheed enters exoskeletons race

March 27, 2013

Ekso exoskeleton

Wearable machines that enhance human muscle power are poised to leave the realm of science fiction and help factory workers hoist heavier tools, lighten soldiers’ loads and enable spinal patients to walk, The Daily Item reports.

Lockheed Martin and Parker Hannifin are joining a handful of startups in finding uses and customers for bionic suits inspired by novelist Robert Heinlein’s 1959 “Starship Troopers” and Stan Lee’s Iron… read more

‘Metascreen’ forms ultra-thin invisibility cloak

March 27, 2013

Cloaked cylinder hidden from microwaves (Credit: IOP)

Invisibility cloaks put forward by scientists have been fairly bulky contraptions.

Now University of Texas at Austin researchers have developed a cloak that is just microns thick and can hide 3D objects from microwaves in their natural environment, in all directions and from all of the observers’ positions.

The trick: a new, ultrathin layer called a “metascreen,” made by attaching strips of 66-micron-thick copper taperead more

Guiding stem cells into damaged hearts with MRI and ultrasonics

March 26, 2013

Ultrasound imaging of hMSCs-after


Stem-cell therapy for damaged hearts is a brilliant idea whose time has not yet come. The problem: no way to ensure against faulty initial placement of the stem cells.

Stanford’s Sam Gambhir, PhD, MD, who heads Stanford medical school’s Department of Radiology may have found a way around it.

“You can use ultrasound to… read more

Using carbon nanotubes as qubits for quantum computers

March 26, 2013


A study by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has shown how nanotubes can store information in the form of vibrations.

Using quantum mechanical phenomena, computers could be much more powerful than their classical digital predecessors.

Up to now, researchers have experimented primarily with electrically charged particles. But because nanomechanical devices are not charged, they are much less sensitive to electrical interference.… read more

Online’s range getting wider and deeper as Stanford’s course offerings take advantage of new technology

March 26, 2013


Around 20 Stanford courses will be taught entirely or partially online this spring.

Some courses have been taught before, others are brand new; some are entirely for public consumption, while others are reserved for on-campus students.

The offerings have expanded beyond computer science and engineering to political science, the humanities, and public health, among many other fields.

MOOCs for everyone

Among the… read more

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