HAKUTO, the Japanese team competing for the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE, has announced new pre-flight models of its two moon exploration rovers: four wheeled “Moonraker” and two wheeled “Tetris.” The Google Lunar XPRIZE is an unprecedented competition challenging privately funded teams to successfully land a spacecraft on the lunar surface that travels at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and imagery back to earth. Hakuto has developed a small and lightweight dual rover system to fulfill the requirements of the Google Lunar XPRIZE and, for the first time, explore caves beneath the lunar surface.
September 30, 2014
September 29, 2014
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Nine commercial aircraft flying regular routes are on the frontier of aviation safety, carrying sensors that monitor their structural health along with their routine maintenance. These flight tests are part of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification process that will make the sensors widely available to U.S. airlines.
“The flight test program is underway,” said Dennis Roach, a senior scientist in Sandia National Laboratories’ Transportation, Safeguards & Surety Program who has worked in aviation safety for 25 years. “We have moved past laboratory research and are looking for certification for actual on-board usage. Our activities are proving that the sensors work on particular applications and that it is safe and reliable to use these sensor systems for routine aircraft maintenance.”
September 26, 2014
Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory are the first team to sequence the entire genome of the Clostridium autoethanogenum bacterium, which is used to sustainably produce fuel and chemicals from a range of raw materials, including gases derived from biomass and industrial wastes.
RUB researchers study extraordinary phycobiliproteins
Paper of the week: algae combine tried-and-tested with new synthesis methods
Phytoplankton not only constitutes the foundation of the food chain in the oceans, it also fixes carbon through photosynthesis and generates oxygen with the help of solar energy. A considerable part of phytoplankton is made up of cryptophytes, complex single-cell algae. In the course of evolution, these algae have adapted their light-harvesting mechanisms to their environment and have thus become capable of utilising green light.
Freiburg researchers elucidate how a nitrogen-fixing enzyme also produces hydrocarbons
Plants need nitrogen and carbon to grow. Photosynthesis allows them to take in the latter directly from the air, but they have to procure nitrogen through their roots in the form of organic molecules like ammonia or urea. Even though nitrogen gas makes up approximately 80 percent of Earth’s atmosphere, the plant can only access it in a bound – or ‘fixed' – form. Farmers thus use fertilizers to provide their crops with nitrogen.
September 24, 2014
Water movement as detection aid for molecules
RESOLV combines terahertz spectroscopy and simulation
Water is a ubiquitous solvent in all life sciences – sometimes referred to as the "matrix of life". Contrary to earlier assumptions, it is not a passive witness of biochemical processes; rather, it participates in them actively. By influencing the movement of water molecules surrounding their binding pockets, proteins can create a type of “funnel” in the surrounding water, which assists the bonding of certain binding partners that are solvated in water.
Princeton University researchers have developed a new method to increase the brightness, efficiency and clarity of LEDs, which are widely used on smartphones and portable electronics as well as becoming increasingly common in lighting.
Using a new nanoscale structure, the researchers, led by electrical engineering professor Stephen Chou, increased the brightness and efficiency of LEDs made of organic materials (flexible carbon-based sheets) by 57 percent. The researchers also report their method should yield similar improvements in LEDs made in inorganic (silicon-based) materials used most commonly today.
Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Materials Science and Technology Division have developed a novel one-step process using, for the first time in these types of syntheses, potassium superoxide (KO2) to rapidly form oxide nanoparticles from simple salt solutions in water.
"Typically, the synthesis of oxide nanoparticles involves the slow reaction of a weak oxidizing agent, such as hydrogen peroxide, with dilute solutions of metal salts or complexes in both aqueous and non-aqueous solvent systems," said Dr. Thomas Sutto, NRL research chemist. "The rapid exothermic reaction of potassium superoxide with the salt solutions results in the formation of insoluble oxide or hydroxide nanoparticulates."
September 23, 2014
Los Alamos researchers uncover new properties in nanocomposite oxide ceramics for reactor fuel, fast-ion conductors
In a nanocomposite, the size of each of these grains is on the order of nanometers, roughly 1000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.
Misfit dislocations are key to transport properties across material interfaces
Nanocomposite oxide ceramics have potential uses as ferroelectrics, fast ion conductors, and nuclear fuels and for storing nuclear waste, generating a great deal of scientific interest on the structure, properties, and applications of these blended materials.
September 22, 2014
Researchers have developed a chip capable of simulating a tumor's "microenvironment" and plan to use the new system to test the effectiveness of nanoparticles and drugs that target cancer.
The new system, called a tumor-microenvironment-on-chip (T-MOC) device, will allow researchers to study the complex environment surrounding tumors and the barriers that prevent the targeted delivery of therapeutic agents, said Bumsoo Han, a Purdue University associate professor of mechanical engineering.
New research suggests that people should avoid drinking water from plastic bottles if they have been sitting in a warm environment for a long time.
Researchers from the University of Florida found that when heated, plastic water bottles, which are made from polyethylene terephthalate, release the chemicals antimony and bisphenol A, commonly called BPA.
Mobile robots could be much more useful in homes, if they could locate people, places and objects. Today’s robots usually see the world with cameras and lasers, which have difficulty reliably recognizing things and can miss objects that are hidden in clutter. A complementary way robots can “sense” what is around them is through the use of small ultra-high frequency radio-frequency identification (UHF RFID) tags. Inexpensive self-adhesive tags can be stuck on objects, allowing an RFID-equipped robot to search a room for the correct tag’s signal, even when the object is hidden out of sight. Once the tag is detected, the robot knows the object it’s trying to find isn’t far away.
Discovery is another step toward faster and more energy-efficient optical devices for computation and communication
University of Minnesota electrical engineering researchers have developed a unique nanoscale device that for the first time demonstrates mechanical transportation of light. The discovery could have major implications for creating faster and more efficient optical devices for computation and communication.
The research paper by University of Minnesota electrical and computer engineering assistant professor Mo Li and his graduate student Huan Li has been published online and will appear in the October issue of Nature Nanotechnology.
Researchers have discovered a way to create a highly sensitive chemical sensor based on the crystalline flaws in graphene sheets. The imperfections have unique electronic properties that the researchers were able to exploit to increase sensitivity to absorbed gas molecules by 300 times.
The study is available online in advance of print in Nature Communications.
Scientists from Heidelberg, Mannheim and Bonn discover a new shape of neurons that allows signals to be propagated via a shortcut (September 2014).
Nerve cells communicate by using electrical signals. Via widely ramified cell structures—the dendrites—, they receive signals from other neurons and then transmit them over a thin cell extension—the axon—to other nerve cells. Axon and dendrites are usually interconnected by the neuron’s cell body. A team of scientists at the Bernstein Center Heidelberg-Mannheim, Heidelberg University, and the University of Bonn has now discovered neurons in which the axon arises directly from one of the dendrites. Similar to taking a bypass road, the signal transmission is thus facilitated within the cell.
Cheaper, longer-lasting materials could enable batteries that make wind and solar energy more competitive.
Researchers at MIT have improved a proposed liquid battery system that could enable renewable energy sources to compete with conventional power plants.
Donald Sadoway and colleagues have already started a company to produce electrical-grid-scale liquid batteries, whose layers of molten material automatically separate due to their differing densities. But the new formula — published in the journal Nature by Sadoway, former postdocs Kangli Wang and Kai Jiang, and seven others — substitutes different metals for the molten layers used in a battery previously developed by the team.
Experimental therapy stopped the metastasis of breast and ovarian cancers in lab mice, pointing toward a safe and effective alternative to chemotherapy.
A team of Stanford researchers has developed a protein therapy that disrupts the process that causes cancer cells to break away from original tumor sites, travel through the bloodstream and start aggressive new growths elsewhere in the body.
For the first time, 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, will be published in the 21 September 2014 issue of the journal Nature Materials.
September 21, 2014
Greenhouse gas emissions from the production and use of shale gas would be comparable to conventional natural gas, but the controversial energy source actually faired better than renewables on some environmental impacts, according to new research.
The UK holds enough shale gas to supply its entire gas demand for 470 years, promising to solve the country’s energy crisis and end its reliance on fossil-fuel imports from unstable markets. But for many, including climate scientists and environmental groups, shale gas exploitation is viewed as environmentally dangerous and would result in the UK reneging on its greenhouse gas reduction obligations under the Climate Change Act.
September 20, 2014
Researchers at Princeton University have begun crystallizing light as part of an effort to answer fundamental questions about the physics of matter.
The researchers are not shining light through crystal — they are transforming light into crystal. As part of an effort to develop exotic materials such as room-temperature superconductors, the researchers have locked together photons, the basic element of light, so that they become fixed in place.
Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have created a small scale “hydrogen generator” that uses light and a two-dimensional graphene platform to boost production of the hard-to-make element.
The research also unveiled a previously unknown property of graphene. The two-dimensional chain of carbon atoms not only gives and receives electrons, but can also transfer them into another substance.
Equipped with a novel optical sensor, a robot grasps a USB plug and inserts it into a USB port.
Researchers at MIT and Northeastern University have equipped a robot with a novel tactile sensor that lets it grasp a USB cable draped freely over a hook and insert it into a USB port.
The sensor is an adaptation of a technology called GelSight, which was developed by the lab of Edward Adelson, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Vision Science at MIT, and first described in 2009. The new sensor isn’t as sensitive as the original GelSight sensor, which could resolve details on the micrometer scale. But it’s smaller — small enough to fit on a robot’s gripper — and its processing algorithm is faster, so it can give the robot feedback in real time.
With almost all of the U.S. population armed with cellphones – and close to 80 percent carrying a smartphone – mobile phones have become second-nature for most people.
What’s coming next, say University of Washington researchers, is the ability to interact with our devices not just with touchscreens, but through gestures in the space around the phone. Some smartphones are starting to incorporate 3-D gesture sensing based on cameras, for example, but cameras consume significant battery power and require a clear view of the user’s hands.
September 19, 2014
Transforming substances from liquids into gels plays an important role across many industries, including cosmetics, medicine, and energy. But the transformation process, called gelation, where manufacturers add chemical thickeners and either heat or cool the fluids to make them more viscous or elastic, is expensive and energy demanding. Take shampoo, for example. Without gelation, the contents of the shampoo bottle would be thin and watery. Instead of squirting a gooey dollop into the palm of your hand, the shampoo would rush between your fingers and escape down the drain before you could slather it on your head.
STEP TOWARD QUANTUM COMPUTING, SPINTRONIC MEMORY, BETTER DISPLAYS
University of Utah physicists read the subatomic “spins” in the centers or nuclei of hydrogen isotopes, and used the data to control current that powered light in a cheap, plastic LED – at room temperature and without strong magnetic fields.
The study – published in Friday’s issue of the journal Science – brings physics a step closer to practical machines that work “spintronically” as well as electronically: superfast quantum computers, more compact data storage devices and plastic or organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs, more efficient than those used today in display screens for cell phones, computers and televisions.
September 18, 2014
We have all seen a peacock show its extravagant, colorful tail feathers in courtship of a peahen. Now, a group of researchers have used a special camera developed by an engineer at Washington University in St. Louis to discover that female northern swordtail fish choose their mates based on a similar display.
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In a world first, researchers at Aalto University have opened a new pilot plant that converts CO2 and slag, the by-product of steel manufacturing, into Precipitated Calcium Carbonate (PCC).
PCC is a valuable mineral product used in e.g. plastics, papers, rubbers and paints. The innovative plant represents the next stage prior commercialization of a new process that consumes CO2 in order to convert a low-value by-product into a highly valuable resource for industry.
September 17, 2014
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Sandia National Laboratories is helping makers of wind turbine blades improve the labor productivity associated with blade fabrication and finishing. This improved productivity makes domestic blades more cost competitive with blades from countries that pay workers lower wages.
Leaving one’s job to become an entrepreneur is inarguably risky. But it may not be the fear of risk that makes entrepreneurs more determined to succeed. A new study finds entrepreneurs are also concerned about what they might lose in the transition from steady employment to startup.
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Imagine being able to switch out the batteries in electric cars just like you switch out batteries in a photo camera or flashlight. A team of engineers at the University of California, San Diego, are trying to accomplish just that, in partnership with a local San Diego engineering company.
The quest for the ultimate memory device for computing may have just taken an encouraging step forward. Researchers at The City College of New York led by chemist Stephen O’Brien have discovered new complex oxides that exhibit both magnetic and ferroelectric properties.
Study highlights forest growth trends from 1870 to the present
Global change: Trees continue to grow at a faster rate
Trees have been growing significantly faster since the 1960s. The typical development phases of trees and stands have barely changed, but they have accelerated – by as much as 70 percent. This was the outcome of a study carried out by scientists from Technische Universität München (TUM) based on long-term data from experimental forest plots that have been continuously observed since 1870. Their findings were published recently in Nature Communications.
Look out, astronauts – your companion robot on the International Space Station is now mobile! NASA's Robonaut 2 has received a set of legs that will help it move around the station, and will eventually enable the bot to work on repairs both inside and outside the orbiting outpost.
Nissan and HKDC Start Collaborative Testing of the 100% Electric Nissan e-NV200 Compact Van in Hong Kong
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* Nissan and Veolia’s subsidiary, Hong Kong District Cooling Company Limited, begins testing of the 100% electric e-NV200 compact van in Hong Kong
* Part of the comprehensive field testing program by Nissan in Hong Kong and the continuous efforts by Hong Kong District Cooling Company Limited to practice sustainable development in the community and industry
* Trial results and feedback will continue to shape the development of zero-emission mobility solutions and infrastructure in Hong Kong
New observations explain why Milky Way-like galaxies are so common in the Universe
For decades scientists have believed that galaxy mergers usually result in the formation of elliptical galaxies. Now, for the the first time, researchers using ALMA and a host of other radio telescopes have found direct evidence that merging galaxies can instead form disc galaxies, and that this outcome is in fact quite common. This surprising result could explain why there are so many spiral galaxies like the Milky Way in the Universe.
Wearable electronic activity monitors hold great promise in helping people to reach their fitness and health goals. These increasingly sophisticated devices help the wearers improve their wellness by constantly monitoring their activities and bodily responses. This information is organized into companion computer programs and mobile apps.
September 16, 2014
Manufactures of turbine engines for airplanes, automobiles and electric generation plants could expedite the development of more durable, energy-efficient turbine blades thanks to a partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, the German Aerospace Center and the universities of Central Florida and Cleveland State.
NEW TRANSISTOR ACHIEVES ‘COLOSSAL’ SWITCHABLE RESISTANCE USING QUANTUM MATERIALS AND PHYSICS DEVELOPED IN A FUEL CELL LAB
Silicon has few serious competitors as the material of choice in the electronics industry. Yet transistors, the switchable valves that control the flow of electrons in a circuit, cannot simply keep shrinking to meet the needs of powerful, compact devices; physical limitations like energy consumption and heat dissipation are too significant.
Rice University lab refines deicing film that allows radio frequencies to pass
Rice University scientists who created a deicing film for radar domes have now refined the technology to work as a transparent coating for glass.
The new work by Rice chemist James Tour and his colleagues could keep glass surfaces from windshields to skyscrapers free of ice and fog while retaining their transparency to radio frequencies (RF).
Transmissions reach speeds of 32 gigibits per second
Building on previous research that twisted light to send data at unheard-of speeds, scientists at USC have developed a similar technique with radiowaves, reaching high speeds without some of the hassles that can go with optical systems.
Face recognition software measures various parameters in a mug shot, such as the distance between the person’s eyes, the height from lip to top of their nose and various other metrics and then compares it with photos of people in the database that have been tagged with a given name. Now, research published in the International Journal of Computational Vision and Robotics looks to take that one step further in recognizing the emotion portrayed by a face.
First Water-Based Nuclear Battery Developed by MU Researcher Can Be Used to Generate Electrical Energy
Long-lasting batteries could be used for emergency equipment and in spaceflight
From cell phones to cars and flashlights, batteries play an important role in everyday life. Scientists and technology companies constantly are seeking ways to improve battery life and efficiency. Now, for the first time using a water-based solution, researchers at the University of Missouri have created a long-lasting and more efficient nuclear battery that could be used for many applications such as a reliable energy source in automobiles and also in complicated applications such as space flight.
As part of the WoTIM project (Wood-based Thermal Insulation Materials), VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is developing wood fibre-based insulation materials and sprayable insulation foams with enhanced product features. The new materials will enable mass production of high-quality insulation products, which will replace products made of non-renewable or poorly recyclable raw materials. Use of wood-based material will lower energy consumption at the production stage, as well as reducing the products' carbon footprint.
September 15, 2014
Rice lab creates RGB color display technology with aluminum nanorods
The quest to create artificial “squid skin” — camouflaging metamaterials that can “see” colors and automatically blend into the background — is one step closer to reality, thanks to a breakthrough color-display technology unveiled this week by Rice University’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP).
Sugar is a vital source of energy for both plants and animals alike.
Understanding just how sugar makes its way into the cell could lead to the design of better drugs for diabetes patients and an increase in the amount of fruits and vegetables farmers are able to grow. Stanford University researchers have recently uncovered one of these "pathways” into the cell by piecing together proteins slightly wider than the diameter of a strand of spider silk.
Unique laboratory experiment shows rapid evolutionary adaptation to ocean acidification and warming
The single most important calcifying algae of the world’s oceans is able to simultaneously adapt to rising water temperatures and ocean acidification through evolution. A unique long-term experiment with the species Emiliania huxleyi at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel shows that the evolutionary potential of the algae is much greater than previously thought. In their laboratory evolution experiment, the scientists have shown for the first time that evolutionary adaptations to multiple stress factors do not necessarily interfere with each other. Further work will reveal how evolution in ocean microbes may affect the function of the ocean in removing carbon dioxide to the deep sea and whether or not laboratory findings can be translated into the natural ocean environment.
An interdisciplinary team of researchers led by Northeastern University has developed a novel method for controllably constructing precise inter-nanotube junctions and a variety of nanocarbon structures in carbon nanotube arrays. The method, the researchers say, is facile and easily scalable, which will allow them to tailor the physical properties of nanotube networks for use in applications ranging from electronic devices to CNT-reinforced composite materials found in everything from cars to sports equipment.
A*STAR scientists have discovered genes in this tropical freshwater fish which may be synonymous with the genes for developing hair-like structures in the human airway
A small freshwater fish found in many tropical aquariums may hold the key to unlocking one of the leading causes of respiratory diseases in humans.
Scientists from A*STAR’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) have identified hundreds of novel genes in the zebrafish that could be functionally identical to the human genes required for forming motile cilia, hair-like structures on the surface of airway cells. These are required for removing dust and pathogens from the human airway. The study showed that the loss of these genes is linked to development of defective motile cilia, which could be the cause of some respiratory diseases.
Rice University researchers’ acid-free approach leads to strong conductive carbon threads
The very idea of fibers made of carbon nanotubes is neat, but Rice University scientists are making them neat — literally.
The single-walled carbon nanotubes in new fibers created at Rice line up like a fistful of uncooked spaghetti through a process designed by chemist Angel Martí and his colleagues.
Researchers from the Technological Institute for Superhard and Novel Carbon Materials in Troitsk, MIPT, MISiS, and MSU have developed anew method for the synthesis of an ultrahard material that exceeds diamond in hardness. An article recently published in the journal Carbon describes in detail a method that allows for the synthesis of ultrahard fullerite, a polymer composed of fullerenes, or spherical molecules made of carbon atoms.
In their work, the scientists note that diamond hasn’t been the hardest material for some time now. Natural diamonds have a hardness of nearly 150 GPa, but ultrahard fullerite has surpassed diamond to become first on the list of hardest materials with values that range from 150 to 300 GPa.