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‘Invisible wires’ could improve solar-cell efficiency

November 30, 2015

Silicon pillars emerge from nanosize holes in a thin gold film. The pillars funnel 97 percent of incoming light to a silicon substrate, a technology that could significantly boost the performance of conventional solar cells. (credit: Vijay Narasimhan, Stanford University)

Stanford scientists have discovered how to make the electrical wiring on top of solar cells nearly invisible to incoming light, using nanosize silicon pillars to hide the wires. The new design could dramatically boost solar-cell efficiency, the researchers suggest.

A solar cell is basically a semiconductor that converts sunlight into electricity, sandwiched between metal contacts that carry the electrical current generated by the cell. But with current… read more

Capturing a single photon

Devices based on the research findings may be essential for future quantum communications systems
November 30, 2015

Capturing a single photon from a pulse of light: Devices based on the Weizmann Institute model may be the backbone of future quantum communications systems (credit: Weizmann Institute of Science)

Weizmann Institute of Science researchers have managed to isolate a single photon out of a pulse of light. Single photons may be the backbone of future quantum communication systems, the researchers say.

The mechanism relies on a physical effect that they call “single-photon Raman interaction” (SPRINT). “The advantage of SPRINT is that it is completely passive; it does not require any control fields — just the interaction… read more

Army ants’ ‘living’ bridges suggest collective intelligence

Could we use ant-based rules to program swarms of simple robots to build bridges and other structures by connecting to each other?
November 25, 2015

Researchers from Princeton University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology report for the first time that the "living" bridges army ants of the species Eciton hamatum (pictured) build with their bodies are more sophisticated than scientists knew. The ants automatically assemble with a level of collective intelligence that could provide new insights into animal behavior and even help in the development of intuitive robots that can cooperate as a group. (credit: Courtesy of Matthew Lutz, Princeton University, and Chris Reid, University of Sydney)

Researchers from Princeton University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) report for the first time that army ants of the species Eciton hamatum that form “living” bridges across breaks and gaps in the forest floor are more sophisticated than scientists knew. The ants exhibit a level of collective intelligence that could provide new insights into animal behavior and even help in the development of intuitive… read more

Biologists induce flatworms to grow heads and brains of other species

Findings shed light on role of a new kind of epigenetic signaling in evolution, could yield clues for understanding birth defects, regeneration of organs
November 25, 2015

Tufts biologists induced one species of flatworm -- G. dorotocephala, top left -- to grow heads and brains characteristic of other species of flatworm, top row, without altering genomic sequence. Examples of the outcomes can be seen in the bottom row of the image. (credit: Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology, School of Arts and Sciences, Tufts University.)

Tufts University biologists have electrically modified flatworms to grow heads and brains characteristic of another species of flatworm — without altering their genomic sequence. This suggests bioelectrical networks as a new kind of epigenetics (information existing outside of a genomic sequence) to determine large-scale anatomy.

Besides the overall shape of the head, the changes included the shape of the brain and the distribution of the worm’s adult stem cells.… read more

Master genetic switch for brain development discovered

November 24, 2015

Figure 1: Cells in which NeuroD1 is turned on are reprogrammed to become neurons. Cell nuclei are shown in blue (Höchst stain) and neurons, with their characteristic long processes, are shown in red (stained with neuronal marker TUJ1). (credit: A. Pataskar/J. Jung & V. Tiwari)

Scientists at the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) in Mainz, Germany have unraveled a complex regulatory mechanism that explains how a single gene, NeuroD1, can drive the formation of brain cells. The research, published in The EMBO Journal, is an important step towards a better understanding of how the brain develops and may lead to breakthroughs in regenerative medicine.

Neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, are often… read more

An ultrafast 3-D imaging system to investigate traumatic brain injury

November 24, 2015

Still frame filmed at 200,000 frames/sec of a violently collapsing vapor bubble inside a brain-mimicking collagen gel (bubble size is approximately 100 microns). Inside the gel are thousands of brain cells (neurons). (credit: J. Estrada (Franck Lab)/Brown U)

Researchers at Brown University are using an ultrafast 3-D imaging system to investigate the effects of microcavitation bubbles on traumatic brain injury (TBI), experienced by some soldiers and football players.

In the fleeting moments after a liquid is subjected to a sudden change in pressure, microscopic bubbles rapidly form and collapse in a process known as cavitation.

In mechanical systems such as propellers, the resulting shock waves and… read more

First real-time imaging of neural activity invented

November 24, 2015

A series of images from a Duke engineering experiment show voltage spreading through a fruitfly neuron over a matter of just 4 milliseconds, a hundred times faster than the blink of an eye. The technology can see impulses as fleeting as 0.2 millisecond -- 2000 times faster than a blink. (credit: Yiyang Gong, Duke University)

Researchers at Stanford University and Duke University have developed a new technique for watching the brain’s neurons in action with a temporal (time) resolution of about 0.2 milliseconds — a speed that is just fast enough to capture the action potentials in mammalian brains in real time for the first time.

The researchers combined genetically encoded voltage indicators, which can sense individual action potentials from… read more

Quantum entanglement achieved at room temperature in macroscopic semiconductor wafers

November 23, 2015

quantum entanglement in silicon chip

Researchers in Prof. David Awschalom’s group at the Institute for Molecular Engineering have demonstrated macroscopic entanglement at room temperature and in a small (33 millitesla) magnetic field.

Previously, scientists have overcome the thermodynamic barrier and achieved macroscopic entanglement in solids and liquids by going to ultra-low temperatures (-270 degrees Celsius) and applying huge magnetic fields (1,000 times larger than that of a typical refrigerator magnet) or… read more

Physicists plan a miniaturized particle accelerator prototype in five years

November 23, 2015

Three “accelerators on a chip” made of silicon. A shoebox-sized particle accelerator would use a series of these “accelerators on a chip” to boost the energy of electrons. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has awarded $13.5 million to Stanford University for an international effort to build a working particle accelerator the size of a shoebox, based on an “accelerator on a chip” design, a novel technique using laser light to propel electrons through a series of glass chips, with the potential to revolutionize science, medicine, and other fields by dramatically shrinking the size and cost… read more

Storing solar, wind, and water energy underground could replace burning fuel

November 23, 2015

WWS solution

Stanford and UC Berkeley researchers have a solution to the problem of storing energy from wind, water and solar power overnight (or in inclement weather): store it underground. The system could result in a reliable, affordable national grid, replacing fossil fuel, they believe.

How it would work

  • Summer heat gathered in rooftop solar collectors could be stored in soil or rocks and used for heating

read more

E-coli bacteria, found in some China farms and patients, cannot be killed with antiobiotic drug of last resort

"One of the most serious global threats to human health in the 21st century" --- could spread around the world, requiring "urgent coordinated global action"
November 20, 2015

meat sampling & patient screening ft

Widespread E-coli bacteria that cannot be killed with the antiobiotic drug of last resort — colistin — have been found in samples taken from farm pigs, meat products, and a small number of patients in south China, including bacterial strains with epidemic potential, an international team of scientists revealed in a paper published Thursday Nov. 19 in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The scientists in… read more

Google Glass helps cardiologists complete difficult coronary artery blockage surgery

November 20, 2015

coronary artery ft

Cardiologists from the Institute of Cardiology, Warsaw, Poland have used Google Glass in a challenging surgical procedure, successfully clearing a blockage in the right coronary artery of a 49-year-old male patient and restoring blood flow, reports the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

Chronic total occlusion, a complete blockage of the coronary artery, sometimes referred to as the “final frontier in interventional cardiology,” represents a major challenge for catheter-based… read more

A sensory illusion that makes yeast cells self-destruct

A possible tactic for cancer therapeutics
November 20, 2015

fooling yeast ft

UC San Francisco researchers have discovered that even brainless single-celled yeast have “sensory biases” that can be hacked by a carefully engineered illusion — a finding that could be used to develop new approaches to fighting diseases such as cancer.

In the new study, published online Thursday November 19 in Science Express, Wendell Lim, PhD, the study’s senior author*, and his team discovered that yeast cells… read more

Researchers discover signaling molecule that helps neurons find their way in the developing brain

November 20, 2015

This image shows a section of the spinal cord of a mouse embryo. Neurons appear green, and those that express the Robo3 receptor are labeled red. Commissural axons appear as long, u-shaped threads, and the bottom, yellow segment of the structure represents the midline. (credit: Laboratory of Brain Development and Repair at The Rockefeller University)

Rockefeller University researchers have discovered a molecule secreted by cells in the spinal cord that helps guide axons (neuron extensions) during a critical stage of central nervous system development in the embryo. The finding helps solve the mystery: how do the billions of neurons in the embryo nimbly reposition themselves within the brain and spinal cord, and connect branches to form neural circuits?

Working in mice, the… read more

This app lets autonomous video drones with facial recognition target persons

One small step for selfies, one giant leap for cheap deep-learning autonomous video-surveillance drones
November 19, 2015

selfie ft

Robotics company Neurala has combined facial-recognition and drone-control mobile software in an iOS/Android app called “Selfie Dronie” that enables low-cost Parrot Bebop and Bebop 2 drones to take hands-free videos and follow a subject autonomously.

To create a video, you simply select the person or object and you’re done. The drone then flies an arc around the subject to take a video selfie (it moves with the… read more

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