October 30, 2014

Game technology can make emergency robots easier to control

A method borrowed from video gaming can make remote-controlled emergency response robots easier to use – enabling the operator to focus more on the dangerous situations they face.

An international research team is adapting a technique known to gamers as “free look control”, to emergency response robots, which will enable the robots to mimic way the human body turns in relation to the movement of the head and direction of sight.

Biology Meets Geometry

A UCSB biophysicist and deputy director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics collaborates with colleagues to describe the geometry of a common cellular structure

Architecture imitates life, at least when it comes to those spiral ramps in multistory parking garages. Stacked and connecting parallel levels, the ramps are replications of helical structures found in a ubiquitous membrane structure in the cells of the body.

Creating the Coldest Cubic Meter in the Universe

A forthcoming neutrino detector will require temperatures approaching absolute zero.

In an underground laboratory in Italy, an international team of scientists has created the coldest cubic meter in the universe. The cooled chamber—roughly the size of a vending machine—was chilled to 6 milliKelvin or -273.144 degrees Celsius in preparation for a forthcoming experiment that will study neutrinos, ghostlike particles that could hold the key to the existence of matter around us.

October 29, 2014

5G networks: futuristic communications for users of the present

Devices that learn from our habits and help us to “think better”, connect us to a friend just by thinking about them, or ensure continuing medical monitoring, will be a reality in 2020, thanks to the 5G technology presented today at the Spanish Royal Academy of Engineering.

“With 5G networks, the society we live in will become fully connected, not only with other people but with the objects around us, and those objects among themselves: this is truly a technological and social revolution”, summed up for EfeFuturo Professor Arturo Azcorra, Telefónica-UC3M endowed chair holder and Director at IMDEA Networks.

Nanosafety research – there’s room for improvement

Iron oxide nanoparticles on the surface of a cell

The quest for the gold standard

Empa toxicologist Harald Krug has lambasted his colleagues in the journal Angewandte Chemie. He evaluated several thousand studies on the risks associated with nanoparticles and discovered no end of shortcomings: poorly prepared experiments and results that don’t carry any clout. Instead of merely leveling criticism, however, Empa is also developing new standards for such experiments within an international network.

October 28, 2014

World Losing Farm Soil Daily To Salt-Induced Degradation

 World Losing 2,000 Hectares Of Farm Soil Daily

To Salt-Induced Degradation

Salt-spoiled soils worldwide: 20% of all irrigated lands — an area equal to France;
Extensive costs include $27 billion+ in lost crop value/year

Study identifies ways to reverse damage, says every hectare needed
to feed world’s fast-growing population

Every day for more than 20 years, an average of 2,000 hectares of irrigated land in arid and semi-arid areas across 75 countries have been degraded by salt, according to a study by UN University’s Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), published Oct. 28.

October 27, 2014

Boosting Biogasoline Production in Microbes

Joint BioEnergy Institute Researchers Combine Systems Biology with Genetic Engineering to Improve Production of Isopentenol in E.Coli

In the on-going effort to develop advanced biofuels as a clean, green and sustainable source of liquid transportation fuels, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have identified microbial genes that can improve both the tolerance and the production of biogasoline in engineered strains of Escherichia coli.

Syracuse Physicists Closer to Understanding Balance of Matter, Antimatter

Physicists in the College of Arts and Sciences have made important discoveries regarding Bs meson particles—something that may explain why the universe contains more matter than antimatter.

Distinguished Professor Sheldon Stone and his colleagues recently announced their findings at a workshop at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. Titled “Implications of LHCb Measurements and Their Future Prospects,” the workshop enabled him and other members of the Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) Collaboration to share recent data results.

Ultrafast electron diffraction experiments open a new window on the microscopic world

Researchers at McGill University have succeeded in simultaneously observing the reorganizations of atomic positions and electron distribution during the transformation of the “smart material” vanadium dioxide (VO2) from a semiconductor into a metal – in a time frame a trillion times faster than the blink of an eye.

Researchers observe brain development in utero

New investigation methods using functional magnetic resonance tomography (fMRT) offer insights into fetal brain development. These "in vivo" observations will uncover different stages of the brain's development. A research group at the Computational Imaging Research Lab from the MedUni Vienna has observed that parts of the brain that are later responsible for sight are already active at this stage.

TU/e-researchers demonstrate record data transmission over a specially fabricated fibre

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in the Netherlands and the University of Central Florida (CREOL) in the USA, report in the journal Nature Photonics the successful transmission of a record high 255 Terabits/s over a new type of fibre allowing 21 times more bandwidth than currently available in communication networks. This new type of fibre could be an answer to mitigating the impending optical transmission capacity crunch caused by the increasing bandwidth demand.

Color trail shows quickest route to destination: A GPS from the chemistry set

Empa scientists teamed up with colleagues from Hungary, Japan and Scotland to develop a chemical “processor” which reliably shows the fastest way through a City maze. As the method is basically faster than a satnav system, it could be useful in transport planning and logistics in the future, for instance, as the scientists report in the journal Langmuir.

Breakthrough in molecular electronics paves the way for DNA-based computer circuits in the future

DNA-based programmable circuits can be more sophisticated, cheaper and simpler to make

In a new research paper published in Nature Nanotechnology, an international group of scientists announced the most significant breakthrough in a decade toward developing DNA-based electrical circuits.

October 24, 2014

Three-dimensional metamaterials with a natural bent

Metamaterials, a hot area of research today, are artificial materials engineered with resonant elements to display properties that are not found in natural materials. By organizing materials in a specific way, scientists can build materials with a negative refractivity, for example, which refract light at a reverse angle from normal materials. However, metamaterials up to now have harbored a significant downside. Unlike natural materials, they are two-dimensional and inherently anisotropic, meaning that they are designed to act in a certain direction. By contrast, three-dimensional natural materials typically look the same from all directions. For instance, water in a glass acts as an isotropic material for light, even though the water molecule itself has an asymmetric and anisotropic structure.

Li-ion batteries contain toxic halogens, but environmentally friendly alternatives exist, VCU physicists discover

Physics researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University have discovered that most of the electrolytes used in lithium-ion batteries — commonly found in consumer electronic devices — are superhalogens, and that the vast majority of these electrolytes contain toxic halogens.

At the same time, the researchers also found that the electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries (also known as Li-ion batteries) could be replaced with halogen-free electrolytes that are both nontoxic and environmentally friendly.

October 23, 2014

Sea turtles’ first days of life: A sprint and a ride towards safety

Scientists follow hatchlings from Cape Verde with tiny acoustic transmitters

With new nano-sized acoustic transmitters, scientists from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, the Turtle Foundation and Queen Mary University of London were able to follow the pathways of loggerhead turtle hatchlings from Cape Verde. The tiny animals quickly swim through predator-rich coastal waters and are then dispersed by nearby ocean currents. According to the study, which was primarily funded by the Kiel Cluster of Excellence “The Future Ocean”, the local oceanic conditions are believed to drive the evolution of some unique swimming behaviours. The results are published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


Researchers at the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering have broken new ground in the development of proteins that form specialized fibers used in medicine and nanotechnology. For as long as scientists have been able to create new proteins that are capable of self-assembling into fibers, their work has taken place on the nanoscale. For the first time, this achievement has been realized on the microscale—a leap of magnitude in size that presents significant new opportunities for using engineered protein fibers.

October 22, 2014

Cooling with molecules

Researchers at the universities in Bielefeld, Manchester, and Zaragoza present low-temperature experiment in Nature Communications

An international team of scientists have become the first ever researchers to successfully reach temperatures below minus 272.15 degrees Celsius – only just above absolute zero – using magnetic molecules. The physicists and chemists are presenting their new investigation today (22 October 2014) in the scientific journal Nature Communications. It was developed by six scientists from Bielefeld University, the University of Manchester (Great Britain), and the Universidad de Zaragoza (Spain).

Cheaper silicon means cheaper solar cells

A new method of producing solar cells could reduce the amount of silicon per unit area by 90 per cent compared to the current standard. With the high prices of pure silicon, this will help cut the cost of solar power.

“We’re using less expensive raw materials, and smaller amounts of them,  we have fewer production steps and our total energy consumption is potentially lower,” explain PhD candidate Fredrik Martinsen and Professor Ursula Gibson, from NTNU’s Department of Physics.

Special UO microscope captures defects in nanotubes

University of Oregon chemists provide a detailed view of traps that disrupt energy flow, possibly pointing toward improved charge-carrying devices

University of Oregon chemists have devised a way to see the internal structures of electronic waves trapped in carbon nanotubes by external electrostatic charges.

Carbon nanotubes have been touted as exceptional materials with unique properties that allow for extremely efficient charge and energy transport, with the potential to open the way for new, more efficient types of electronic and photovoltaic devices. However, these traps, or defects, in ultra-thin nanotubes can compromise their effectiveness.

October 21, 2014

Super stable garnet ceramics may be ideal for high-energy lithium batteries

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have discovered exceptional properties in a garnet material that could enable development of higher-energy battery designs. 

The ORNL-led team used scanning transmission electron microscopy to take an atomic-level look at a cubic garnet material called LLZO. The researchers found the material to be highly stable in a range of aqueous environments, making the compound a promising component in new battery configurations.

October 20, 2014

In between red light and blue light: Leipzig researchers discover new functionality of molecular light switches

Diatoms play an important role in water quality and in the global climate. They generate about one fourth of the oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere and perform around one-quarter of the global CO2 assimilation, i.e. they convert carbon dioxide into organic substances. Their light receptors are a crucial factor in this process. Researchers at the Leipzig University and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research have now discovered that blue and red light sensing photoreceptors control the carbon flow in these algae. These results have been recently published by the scientists in the well-known online trade journal, PLOS ONE.

Facetless crystals that mimic starfish shells could advance 3D-printing pills

In a design that mimics a hard-to-duplicate texture of starfish shells, University of Michigan engineers have made rounded crystals that have no facets.

"We call them nanolobes. They look like little hot air balloons that are rising from the surface," said Olga Shalev, a doctoral student in materials science and engineering who worked on the project.

October 19, 2014

Crystallizing the DNA nanotechnology dream


Scientists have designed the first large DNA crystals with precisely prescribed depths and complex 3D features, which could create revolutionary nanodevices

DNA has garnered attention for its potential as a programmable material platform that could spawn entire new and revolutionary nanodevices in computer science, microscopy, biology, and more. Researchers have been working to master the ability to coax DNA molecules to self assemble into the precise shapes and sizes needed in order to fully realize these nanotechnology dreams.

October 18, 2014

Climate change alters cast of winter birds

Over the past two decades, the resident communities of birds that attend eastern North America’s backyard bird feeders in winter have quietly been remade, most likely as a result of a warming climate.

Writing this week in the journal Global Change Biology, University of Wisconsin-Madison wildlife biologists Benjamin Zuckerberg and Karine Princé document that once rare wintering bird species are now commonplace in the American Northeast.

October 17, 2014

Plastic nanoparticles also harm freshwater organisms

Organisms can be negatively affected by plastic nanoparticles, not just in the seas and oceans but in freshwater bodies too. These particles slow the growth of algae, cause deformities in water fleas and impede communication between small organisms and fish. These are the results of research carried out by Wageningen University and IMARES, part of Wageningen UR, published in the latest issue of Environmental Science and Technology. It is the first time that such effects of plastic on freshwater organisms have been studied.

Scientific breakthrough will help design the antibiotics of the future

Scientists have used computer simulations to show how bacteria are able to destroy antibiotics – a breakthrough which will help develop drugs which can effectively tackle infections in the future.

Researchers at the University of Bristol focused on the role of enzymes in the bacteria, which split the structure of the antibiotic and stop it working, making the bacteria resistant.

Winning by losing: School of Engineering scientists find a way to improve laser performance

Energy loss in optical systems, such as lasers, is a chief hindrance to their performance and efficiency and it occurs on an ongoing, frustrating basis.

To help laser systems overcome loss, operators often pump the system with an overabundance of photons, or light packets, to achieve optical gain. But now, scientists from the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis have shown a new way to reverse or eliminate such loss by, ironically, adding loss to a laser system to actually reap energy gains. In other words, they’ve invented a way to win by losing.

October 16, 2014

Light bending material facilitates the search for new particles

Particle physicists have a hard time identifying all the elementary particles created in their particle accelerators. But now researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have designed a material that makes it much easier to distinguish the particles.
To investigate the matter's smallest constituents, physicists have particles colliding with each other at very high speeds, for example in the particle accelerator LHC at Cern. The collisions create bursts of common and rare particles, all invisible to the eye.

Dispelling a Misconception About Mg-Ion Batteries

Supercomputer Simulations at Berkeley Lab Provide a Path to Better Designs

Lithium (Li)-ion batteries serve us well, powering our laptops, tablets, cell phones and a host of other gadgets and devices. However, for future automotive applications, we will need rechargeable batteries with significant increases in energy density, reductions in cost and improvements in safety. Hence the big push in the battery industry to develop an alternative to the Li-ion technology.

Shaping the Way to See the World

The proliferation of cells, in particular the orientation in which they divide, is key in regulating the shapes of tissues. However, the cellular mechanisms that govern cell proliferation and cell division orientation are not fully understood. Research conducted by Dr. Toshiaki Mochizuki, Dr. Shohei Suzuki and Prof. Ichiro Masai of the Developmental Neurobiology Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, aimed to decipher these mechanisms by studying cell proliferation in the lenses of zebrafish. Their recent findings are being published in the October, 15th 2014 of Biology Open, appearing on the cover of the journal.

Researchers Develop World’s Thinnest Electric Generator

(October 16, 2014)  First experimental observation of piezoelectricity in an atomically thin material—MoS2—could lead to wearable devices

Researchers from Columbia Engineering and the Georgia Institute of Technology report today that they have made the first experimental observation of piezoelectricity and the piezotronic effect in an atomically thin material, molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), resulting in a unique electric generator and mechanosensation devices that are optically transparent, extremely light, and very bendable and stretchable.

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Brain surgery through the cheek

For those most severely affected, treating epilepsy means drilling through the skull deep into the brain to destroy the small area where the seizures originate – invasive, dangerous and with a long recovery period.

Five years ago, a team of Vanderbilt engineers wondered: Is it possible to address epileptic seizures in a less invasive way? They decided it would be possible. Because the area of the brain involved is the hippocampus, which is located at the bottom of the brain, they could develop a robotic device that pokes through the cheek and enters the brain from underneath which avoids having to drill through the skull and is much closer to the target area

Study reveals optimal particle size for anticancer nanomedicines

Nanomedicines consisting of nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery to specific tissues and cells offer new solutions for cancer diagnosis and therapy. Understanding the interdependency of physiochemical properties of nanomedicines, in correlation to their biological responses and functions, is crucial for their further development of as cancer-fighters.

October 15, 2014

Scientists Map Key Moment in Assembly of DNA-Splitting Molecular Machine

Crucial steps and surprising structures revealed in the genesis of the enzyme that divides the DNA double helix during cell replication

The proteins that drive DNA replication—the force behind cellular growth and reproduction—are some of the most complex machines on Earth. The multistep replication process involves hundreds of atomic-scale moving parts that rapidly interact and transform. Mapping that dense molecular machinery is one of the most promising and challenging frontiers in medicine and biology.

A brighter design emerges for low-cost, ‘greener’ LED light bulbs

The phase-out of traditional incandescent bulbs in the U.S. and elsewhere, as well as a growing interest in energy efficiency, has given LED lighting a sales boost. However, that trend could be short-lived as key materials known as rare earth elements become more expensive. Scientists have now designed new materials for making household LED bulbs without using these ingredients. They report their development in ACS’ Journal of the American Chemical Society.

ORNL research reveals unique capabilities of 3-D printing

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have demonstrated an additive manufacturing method to control the structure and properties of metal components with precision unmatched by conventional manufacturing processes.

Ryan Dehoff, staff scientist and metal additive manufacturing lead at the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL, presented the research this week in an invited presentation at the Materials Science & Technology 2014 conference in Pittsburgh.

October 14, 2014

Plannar light source using a phosphor screen with single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) as field emitters

We developed and successfully fabricated a plannar light source device using a phosphor screen with single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) as field emitters in a simple diode structure composed of the cathode containing the highly purified and crystalline SWCNTs dispersed into an organic In2O3–SnO2 precursor solution and a non-ionic surfactant. The cathode was activated by scratching process with sandpaper to obtain a large field emission current with low power consumption. The nicks by scratching were treated with Fourier analysis to determine the periodicity of the surface morphology and designed with controlling the count number of sandpapers. The anode, on the other hand, was made with phosphor deliberately optimized by coverage of ITO nanoparticles and assembled together with the cathode by the new stable assembling process resulting to stand-alone flat plane-emission panel.

New ORNL electric vehicle technology packs more punch in smaller package

Using 3-D printing and novel semiconductors, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have created a power inverter that could make electric vehicles lighter, more powerful and more efficient.

At the core of this development is wide bandgap material made of silicon carbide with qualities superior to standard semiconductor materials. Power inverters convert direct current into the alternating current that powers the vehicle. The Oak Ridge inverter achieves much higher power density with a significant reduction in weight and volume.

Unique catalysts for hydrogen fuel cells synthesized in ordinary kitchen microwave oven

Swedish and Chinese researchers show how a unique nano-alloy composed of palladium nano-islands embedded in tungsten nanoparticles creates a new type of catalysts for highly efficient oxygen reduction, the most important reaction in hydrogen fuel cells. Their results are published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

October 13, 2014

NTU develops ultra-fast charging batteries that last 20 years

Scientists at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) have developed ultra-fast charging batteries that can be recharged up to 70 per cent in only two minutes.

The new generation batteries also have a long lifespan of over 20 years, more than 10 times compared to existing lithium-ion batteries.

Aluminium and its likely contribution to Alzheimer’s disease

A world authority on the link between human exposure to aluminium in everyday life and its likely contribution to Alzheimer’s disease, Professor Christopher Exley of Keele University, UK, says in a new report that it may be inevitable that aluminium plays some role in the disease.

He says the human brain is both a target and a sink for aluminium on entry into the body – “the presence of aluminium in the human brain should be a red flag alerting us all to the potential dangers of the aluminium age. We are all accumulating a known neurotoxin in our brain from our conception to our death. Why do we treat this inevitability with almost total complacency?”

Strange bedfellows

LMU chemists have synthesized a ferromagnetic superconducting compound that is amenable to chemical modification, opening the route to detailed studies of this rare combination of physical properties.

Superconductivity and ferromagnetism – the “normal” form of magnetism, such as that found in the familiar horseshoe magnet – are like chalk and cheese: They generally don’t go together. Ferromagnets are magnetic because the parallel alignment of adjacent electron spins in the iron atoms generates a strong internal magnetic field.

Tailored flexible illusion coatings hide objects from detection

Developing the cloak of invisibility would be wonderful, but sometimes simply making an object appear to be something else will do the trick, according to Penn State electrical engineers.

"Previous attempts at cloaking using a single metasurface layer were restricted to very small-sized objects," said Zhi Hao Jiang, postdoctoral fellow in electrical engineering, Penn State. "Also, the act of cloaking would prevent an enclosed antenna or sensor from communicating with the outside world."

Atomic map reveals clues to how cholesterol is made

In spite of its dangerous reputation, cholesterol is in fact an essential component of human cells. Manufactured by the cells themselves, it serves to stiffen the cell’s membrane, helping to shape the cell and protect it. By mapping the structure of a key enzyme involved in cholesterol production, Rockefeller University researchers and a colleague in Italy have gained new insight into this complex molecular process.

Australian teams set new records for silicon quantum computing

Two research teams working in the same laboratories at UNSW Australia have found distinct solutions to a critical challenge that has held back the realisation of super powerful quantum computers.

The teams created two types of quantum bits, or "qubits" – the building blocks for quantum computers – that each process quantum data with an accuracy above 99%. The two findings have been published simultaneously today in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Solid nanoparticles can deform like a liquid

Unexpected finding shows tiny particles keep their internal crystal structure while flexing like droplets.

A surprising phenomenon has been found in metal nanoparticles: They appear, from the outside, to be liquid droplets, wobbling and readily changing shape, while their interiors retain a perfectly stable crystal configuration.

October 10, 2014


(October 10, 2014) Device is used to monitor brain pressure in lab mice as prelude to possible use with human patients; future applications of this pressure-sensing technology could lead to touch-sensitive “skin” for prosthetic devices.

Stanford engineers have invented a wireless pressure sensor that has already been used to measure brain pressure in lab mice with brain injuries.

The underlying technology has such broad potential that it could one day be used to create skin-like materials that can sense pressure, leading to prosthetic devices with the electronic equivalent of a sense of touch.

A nine-member research team led by Chemical Engineering Professor Zhenan Bao detailed two medical applications of this technology in Nature Communications.

In one simple demonstration they used this wireless pressure sensor to read a team member’s pulse without touching him.

In a more complex application, they used this wireless device to monitor the pressure inside the skull of a lab mouse, an achievement that could one day lead to better ways to treat human brain injuries.

Bao’s wireless sensor is made by placing a thin layer of specially designed rubber between two strips of copper. The copper strips act like radio antennas. The rubber serves as an insulator.

The technology involves beaming radio waves at this simple antenna-and-rubber sandwich. When the device comes under pressure, the copper antennas squeeze the rubber insulator and move infinitesimally closer together.

That tiny change in proximity alters the electrical characteristics of the device. Radio waves reflected by these antennas slow down in terms of frequency. When pressure is relaxed, the copper antennas move apart and the radio waves accelerate in frequency.

journal reference >>

Iowa State University researchers turn to robotics to improve understanding of plant growth

Iowa State University faculty members are developing a new facility that will utilize a specially designed robot to gather unprecedented amounts of data on the growth of plants under different environmental conditions.

The project was funded recently by a $929,773 grant from the National Science Foundation. ISU personnel plan to have a prototype of the plant-growth facility next year and a completed facility with as many as eight growth chambers in three years.