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A nanosized, environmentally friendly hydrogen generator

Could produce hydrogen for cars and generators in the future; we meet reduced graphene oxide (rGO) in yet another radical role
September 23, 2014

Depiction of photocatalytic hydrogen evolution using platinum/titanium oxide (Pt/TiO2) interfaced with reduced graphic oxide (rGO) and photosensitive proton pump bacteriorhodopsin (bR) (credit: Peng Wang et al./ACS Nano)

A small-scale “hydrogen generator” that uses light and a two-dimensional graphene platform to boost production of hydrogen has been developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.

While hydrogen is ubiquitous, it’s typically bonded with other elements, such as oxygen in H2O, where it must be separated to produce free hydrogen. The commercial separation process uses natural gas to react with superheated… read more

Is climate science ‘settled’?

"Rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is 'settled' (or is a 'hoax') demeans and chills the scientific enterprise."
September 23, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

The claim that “climate science is settled,” which runs through today’s popular and policy discussions, is misguided, says computational physicist Steven E. Koonin*, Director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University, writing in The Wall Street Journal Friday.

“It has … distorted our public and policy debates on issues related to energy, greenhouse-gas emissions and the environment … and inhibited… read more

Making quantum dots glow brighter

May lead to improved LED moniitors and medical imaging
September 23, 2014

This image shows the experimental set-up researchers used to analyze the behavior of quantum dots placed on metal oxides. A laser illuminated the quantum dots to make them glow and a spectrometer was used to analyze the light they emitted. (Credit: Seyed Sadeghi/ University of Alabama, Huntsville)

Researchers from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the University of Oklahoma have found a new way to control the properties of quantum dots, those tiny chunks of semiconductor material that glow different colors depending on their size, using ultrathin layers of metal oxides.

Quantum dots, which are so small they start to exhibit atom-like quantum properties, have a wide range of potential applications, from sensors, light-emitting diodes,… read more

Sensing neuronal activity with light

September 23, 2014

Archer1 fluorescence in a cultured rat hippocampal neuron. By monitoring changes in this fluorescence at up to a thousand frames per second, researchers can track the electrical activity of the cell. (Credit: Nicholas Flytzanis, Claire Bedbrook and Viviana Gradinaru/Caltech)

Caltech researchers have developed a new optogenetics material  for mapping brain activity.

Optogenetics uses light to sense or control neurons that have been genetically sensitized to light.

The work — a collaboration between Viviana Gradinaru, assistant professor of biology and biological engineering, and Frances Arnold, the Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry—was described in two separate… read more

On/off switch for aging cells discovered, may hold the key to ‘healthy aging’

Flipping on the telomerase switch to restore telomeres
September 23, 2014

Human chromosomes (gray) capped by telomeres (white) (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered an on-and-off “switch” in cells that points to a way to encourage healthy cells to keep dividing and generating, for example, new lung or liver tissue — even in old age — and may hold the key to healthy aging.

In our bodies, newly divided cells constantly replenish lungs, skin, liver and other organs. However, most human cells cannot divide… read more

Superlattice transforms graphene into a semiconductor

September 22, 2014

Graphene placed on top of boron nitride to form a superlattice (credit: Berkeley Lab)

Graphene can be transformed into a new superlattice state that converts graphene — normally a metallic conductor — into a semiconductor, MIT and University of Manchester researchers have found.

In a research paper published in Science, the collaboration, led by MIT‘s theory professor Leonid Levitov and Manchester‘s Nobel laureate Sir Andre Geim, reports that they created a superlattice… read more

Russian scientists create ultrahard ‘Fullerite’ material at room temperature and lower pressure

"Ultrahard" materials are harder than diamond
September 22, 2014

Photo of a Vickers indenter made of ultrahard fullerite (credit: Mikhai lPopov)

A method for synthesis of an ultrahard material called Fullerite (exceeding diamond in hardness) at room temperature and lower pressure has been developed by Russian researchers from the Technological Institute for Superhard and Novel Carbon Materials in Troitsk, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), MISiS, and MSU.

The research is described in a recently published paper in the journal Carbon.

Fullerite is a polymer… read more

Ultra-thin diamond nanothreads are strongest, stiffest materials

Could make possible construction of a "space elevator"
September 22, 2014

Diamond nanothread structure, artist's impression (credit: Penn State University)

Scientists have discovered how to produce ultra-thin “diamond nanothreads” that promise extraordinary properties, including strength and stiffness greater than that of today’s strongest nanotubes and polymers.

A paper describing this discovery by a research team led by John V. Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University, was published in the September 21, 2014 issue of the journal Nature Materials.

Potential applications that most interest… read more

A new impermeable form of graphene oxide could be the ultimate protective coating

September 19, 2014

Water permeation through a brick with (right) and without (left) graphitic coating (credit: Y. Su et al./ArXiv)

A new form of graphene oxide could be the ultimate protective coating and could have a significant impact on chemical, pharmaceutical, and electronic industries, according to University of Manchester researchers.

For example, applied as paint, it could provide an ultra-strong, non-corrosive coating for a wide range of industrial applications.

Besides being protective, the new material is mechanically nearly as tough as graphene itself, the strongest known… read more

Car hacking: who’s monitoring (or controlling) your car?

September 19, 2014

Ford reportedly shares emails sent via its Ford SYNC with business partners (credit: Ford)

As vehicles become computers on wheels, the risk of car hacking is real, according to Australia-based Queensland University of Technology (QUT) road-safety expert Professor Andry Rakotonirainy from QUT’s Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS).

He has researched the security systems of existing fleet and future autonomous and connected cars and found there is little protection against hacking.

“The… read more

A long-lasting, water-based nuclear-energy-powered battery

Could be used in cars, emergency devices, and spaceships
September 19, 2014

Schematic diagram and photograph of the Pt-nanoporous TiO2 electrode (credit: Baek Hyun Kim & Jae W. Kwon/Scientific Reports)

University of Missouri (MU) researchers have developed a prototype of an efficient nuclear-energy-powered* battery that does not require recharging and could be a reliable energy source in automobiles and space vehicles.

Betavoltaics [a battery technology that generates electrical power from beta-particle radiation] has been studied as an energy source since the 1950s,” said Jae W. Kwon, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and… read more

Capturing the motion of a single molecule in real time as it oscillates from one quantum state to another

September 18, 2014

(Credit: Nature Photonics)

UC Irvine chemists have scored a scientific first: capturing moving images of a single molecule as it vibrates and shifts from one quantum state to another.

The groundbreaking achievement, led by Ara Apkarian, professor of chemistry, and Eric Potma, associate professor of chemistry, could lead to new insights in developing quantum computers.

It also moves researchers a step closer to viewing the… read more

Measuring the motion patterns of bacteria in real time

A potential rapid screening technique for antibiotics and cancer drugs
September 18, 2014

Illustration of a microcantilever sensor with E. coli bacteria attached and a close-up illustration of a single bacterium (inset). The motion of the bacteria couple to the cantilever and the cantilever motion is detected using the optical beam deflection technique. (Credit: L. Li and C. Lissandrello / Boston University)

Researchers at Boston University and Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a  clever new way to study the motion patterns of bacteria in real time — a potential new screen for antibiotics and cancer drugs.

The researchers chemically attached colonies of Escherichia coli bacteria to a microcantilever — a microscopic beam anchored at one end, with the other end movable, and they aimed a laser beam at the… read more

Twisting radio beams to transmit ultra-high-speed data

Transmissions reach speeds of 32 gigabits per second
September 18, 2014

This is a graphic showing the intensity of the radio beams after twisting (credit: Alan Willner / USC Viterbi)

Building on previous research using twisted light to send data at unheard-of speeds, scientists at USC have developed a similar technique with radio waves, reaching high speeds without the problems with optical systems.

The researchers, led by electrical engineering professor Alan Willner of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, reached data transmission rates of 32 gigabits per second across 2.5 meters of free space in a… read more

Smallest known galaxy with supermassive black hole discovered

Black holes may be more common than we thought
September 18, 2014

This Hubble Space telescope image shows the gargantuan galaxy M60 on the left and the ultracompact dwarf galaxy M60-UCD1 below it and to the right, and also enlarged as an inset. A new international study found that M60-UCD1 is the smallest known galaxy with a supermassive black hole at its center, suggesting that the dwarf galaxy originally was much larger but was stripped of its outer layers by gravity from galaxy M60 over billions of years. M60’s gravity also is pulling galaxy NGC4647, upper right, and the two eventually will collide. (Credit: NASA/Space Telescope Science Institute/European Space Agency)

Astronomers have discovered that an ultracompact dwarf galaxy harbors a supermassive black hole with a mass equal to 21 million suns — the smallest galaxy known to contain such a massive black hole. The finding suggests that huge black holes may be more common than previously believed.

“It is the smallest and lightest object that we know of that has a supermassive black hole,” says Anil Seth, lead author… read more

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