February 26, 2015

The building blocks of the future defy logic

A new logic-defying mathematical model could lead to materials for better skin grafts and new smart materials

(Feb.26, 2015)  Wake up in the morning and stretch; your midsection narrows. Pull on a piece of plastic at separate ends; it becomes thinner. So does a rubber band. One might assume that when a force is applied along an axis, materials will always stretch and become thinner. Wrong. Thanks to their peculiar internal geometry, auxetic materials grow wider when stretched. After confounding scientists for decades, University of Malta researchers are now developing mathematical models to explain the unusual behaviour of these logic-defying materials, unlocking a plethora of applications that could change the way we envision the future forever.

February 25, 2015

New nanowire structure absorbs light efficiently

Dual-type nanowire arrays can be used in applications such as LEDs and solar cells.

(Feb.25, 2015)  Researchers at Aalto University have developed a new method to implement different types of nanowires side-by-side into a single array on a single substrate. The new technique makes it possible to use different semiconductor materials for the different types of nanowires.

Modern art’s missing chapter

(Feb.25, 2015)  The artworks of black and indigenous peoples – a missing chapter in the history of modern art – is brought into sharp focus in a ‘revelatory’ exhibition at Cambridge University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

After being awarded £100,000 by the Art Fund to build a collection of work from Australia, South Africa and Canada, the museum officially opened The Power of Paper yesterday. The exhibition focuses on artworks made in those countries during an epoch of decolonisation.

Flexible nanosensors for wearable devices

(Feb.25. 2015)  Researchers from UPM have developed a manufacturing method of aluminum optical nanosensors on versatile substrates that can be used for wearable devices and smart labels.

A new method developed at the Institute of Optoelectronics Systems and Microtechnology (ISOM) from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) will enable the fabrication of optical nanosensors capable of sticking on uneven surfaces and biological surfaces like human skin. This result can boost the use of wearable devices to monitor parameters such as temperature, breath and heart pressure.  Besides, it is a low cost technology since they use materials like standard polycarbonate compact disks, aluminum films and adhesive tapes that would facilitate its implementation on the market.

Using 'Fuzzy logic' to Optimize Hybrid Solar/Battery Systems

(Feb.25, 2015)  Sizing techniques play an essential role in the design of renewable energies for hybrid energy systems, and now, a team of researchers is using a "fuzzy logic" algorithm to determine optimal sizing for hybrid photovoltaic panel/battery systems.

How did fuzzy logic help a group of researchers in Tunisia and Algeria create an ideal photovoltaic system that obeys the supply-and-demand principle and its delicate balance?

Electric-car driving range and emissions depend on where you live

(Feb.25, 2015)  Many car buyers weighing whether they should go all electric to help the planet have at least one new factor to consider before making the switch: geography. Based on a study of a commercially available electric car, scientists report in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology that emissions and driving range can vary greatly depending on regional energy sources and climate.

CU-Boulder technology could make treatment and reuse of oil and gas wastewater simpler, cheaper

(Feb.25,2015)  Oil and gas operations in the United States produce about 21 billion barrels of wastewater per year. The saltiness of the water and the organic contaminants it contains have traditionally made treatment difficult and expensive.

Engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder have invented a simpler process that can simultaneously remove both salts and organic contaminants from the wastewater, all while producing additional energy. The new technique, which relies on a microbe-powered battery, was recently published in the journal Environmental Science Water Research & Technology as the cover story.

New flow battery to keep big cities lit, green & safe

Smaller, cheaper battery's energy density exceeds other flow batteries

(Feb.25, 2015)   Ensuring the power grid keeps the lights on in large cities could be easier with a new battery design that packs far more energy than any other battery of its kind and size.

The new zinc-polyiodide redox flow battery, described in Nature Communications, uses an electrolyte that has more than two times the energy density of the next-best flow battery used to store renewable energy and support the power grid. And its energy density is approaching that of a type of lithium-ion battery used to power portable electronic devices and some small electric vehicles.

February 24, 2015

Detecting defects at the nanoscale profits solar panel production

(Feb.24, 2015)  Libyan Government-backed researcher Mohamed Elrawemi develops new technologies for defects in thin films, vital in products as printed electronics and solar panels

RESEARCH at the University of Huddersfield will lead to major efficiency gains and cost savings in the manufacture of flexible solar panels. It has also resulted in an exceptional number of scholarly articles co-authored by a Libyan scientist who is completing his doctoral studies as a participant in the EU-backed project.

Novel Pretreatment Could Cut Biofuel Costs by 30 Percent or More

(Feb.24, 2015)  UC Riverside researchers have developed a novel technology that cuts the amount of enzymes needed to produce biofuels by 90 percent or more

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have invented a novel pretreatment technology that could cut the cost of biofuels production by about 30 percent or more by dramatically reducing the amount of enzymes needed to breakdown the raw materials that form biofuels.

February 23, 2015

Frequency combs in the molecular fingerprint region

(Feb.23, 2015)  Silicon nanowire optical waveguides dramatically broaden mid-infrared frequency comb spectra.

In an article published in Nature Communications (February 20th, 2015), an international collaboration of scientists around Dr. Nathalie Picqué (Max-Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München) describes a reliable new technique of producing a broadband optical frequency comb in the mid-infrared region. In a lithographically fabricated silicon nanowire waveguide, the spectrum of a short-pulse laser is significantly broadened. Even at low pulse energies, octave-spanning phase-coherent frequency combs are generated.

Simulating superconducting materials with ultracold atoms

Rice physicists build superconductor analog, observe antiferromagnetic order 

(Feb. 23, 2015) Using ultracold atoms as a stand-in for electrons, a Rice University-based team of physicists has simulated superconducting materials and made headway on a problem that’s vexed physicists for nearly three decades.

3D-printed guides can help restore function in damaged nerves

(Feb.23, 2015)  Scientists at the University of Sheffield have succeeded in using a 3D printed guide to help nerves damaged in traumatic incidents repair themselves.

The team used the device to repair nerve damage in animal models and say the method could help treat many types of traumatic injury.

Brain Makes Decisions with Same Method Used to Break WW2 Enigma Code

(Feb.23, 2015)  When making simple decisions, neurons in the brain apply the same statistical trick used by Alan Turing to help break Germany’s Enigma code during World War II, according to a new study in animals by researchers at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and Department of Neuroscience. Results of the study were published Feb. 5 in Neuron.

February 19, 2015

Perfect colors, captured with one ultra-thin lens


(Feb.19, 2015)  Most lenses are, by definition, curved. After all, they are named for their resemblance to lentils, and a glass lens made flat is just a window with no special powers.

February 18, 2015

Researchers developed a cost-effective and efficient rival for platinum

(Feb.18, 2015) Researchers succeeded in creating an electrocatalyst that is needed for storing electric energy made of carbon and iron.

A challenge that comes with the increased use of renewable energy is how to store electric energy.

Platinum has traditionally been used as the electrocatalyst in electrolysers that store electric energy as chemical compounds.

Turning smartphones into personal, real-time pollution monitors

(Feb.18, 2015)  As urban residents know, air quality is a big deal. When local pollution levels go up, the associated health risks also increase, especially for children and seniors. But air pollution varies widely over the course of a day and by location, even within the same city. Now scientists, reporting in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, have used smartphone and sensing technology to better pinpoint where and when pollution is at its worst.

February 17, 2015

Insight into inner magnetic layers

(Feb.17, 2015)  Measurements at BESSY II have shown how spin filters forming within magnetic sandwiches influence tunnel magnetoresistance – results that can help in designing spintronic components.

Research teams from Paris, Madrid and Berlin have observed for the first time how magnetic domains mutually influence one another at interfaces of spintronic components. Using measurements taken at BESSY II, they could demonstrate that what are known as spin filters form between the outer ferromagnetic layers and the inner anti-ferromagnetic insulating layer, influencing tunnel magnetoresistance (TMR). In doing so, the teams enhanced our understanding of processes that are important for future TMR data storage devices and other spintronic components.

“Bionic” Eye Implant Offers Hope of Restoring Vision

(Feb.17, '15)  It’s a medical story, a science and technology advancement and a romance wrapped into one moment: when a man who is blind sees his wife again for the first time in a decade.

Allen Zderad began to have serious vision problems about 20 years ago due to retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease affecting the retina. There is no effective treatment or cure. It ended his professional career and after a decade he was effectively blind, unable to see anything other than very bright light. He adjusted, even continuing woodworking by developing his sense of touch and spatial relationships. But he was unable to see his family, including ten grandchildren or his wife, Carmen.

February 16, 2015

Brain’s iconic seat of speech goes silent when we actually talk

(Feb.16, 2015)  For 150 years, the iconic Broca’s area of the brain has been recognized as the command center for human speech, including vocalization. Now, scientists at UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University in Maryland are challenging this long-held assumption with new evidence that Broca’s area actually switches off when we talk out loud.

World’s first compact rotary 3D printer-cum-scanner unveiled at AAAS by NTU start-up

(Feb.16, '15)  Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) start-up Blacksmith Group today launched the world’s first compact 3D printer that can also scan items into digitised models.

Named the Blacksmith Genesis, this user-friendly device allows users without much knowledge of 3D software to scan any item, then edit the digitised model on the computer and print it out in 3D.

The all-in-one 3D printer and scanner whose production was financed through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.com, was unveiled today at the American Association Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in San Jose, California.

Technology changing teacher’s role

(Feb.16, '15)  Along with technological development, traditional teaching methods have been challenged by various technologically enhanced teaching and learning methods. This trend has received mixed reactions: On the one hand it is feared that these new technologies will replace teachers altogether. On the other hand, the expectations towards technology can also be over-optimistic; that it will solve all the problems of learning.

Solar power from energy-harvesting trees – Watch the video!

(Feb.16, '15)  Scientists at VTT have developed a prototype of a tree that harvests solar energy from its surroundings - whether indoors or outdoors - stores it and turns it into electricity to power small devices such as mobile phones, humidifiers, thermometers and LED light bulbs. The technology can also be used to harvest kinetic energy from the environment.

Half spheres for molecular circuits

(Feb.16, ’15) Corannulene is a carbon molecule with a unique shape (similar to the better known fullerene) and promising properties. A team of scientists from SISSA and the University of Zurich carried out computer simulations of the molecule’s properties and discovered that it might help overcome the difficulties building molecular circuits (i.e., of  the size of molecules).

Climate change can cause loss of important ice dynamics in streams

[2015-02-16] In her thesis, Lovisa Lind shows that ice and winter floods are important natural disturbances for maintaining species-rich riparian zones along northern watercourses. If the climate becomes warmer this disturbance might be lost. This could potentially lead to a less diverse riparian zone. She defends her thesis at Umeå University on Friday 27 February.

Ancient rocks show life could have flourished on Earth 3.2 billion years ago

[2015-02-16]  A spark from a lightning bolt, interstellar dust, or a subsea volcano could have triggered the very first life on Earth.

But what happened next? Life can exist without oxygen, but without plentiful nitrogen to build genes – essential to viruses, bacteria and all other organisms – life on the early Earth would have been scarce.

Satellite images reveal ocean acidification from space

[2015-02-16]   Pioneering techniques that use satellites to monitor ocean acidification are set to revolutionise the way that marine biologists and climate scientists study the ocean.

This new approach, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, offers remote monitoring of large swathes of inaccessible ocean from satellites that orbit the Earth some 700 km above our heads.

New ozone-destroying gases on the rise

[2015-02-16]  Scientists report that chemicals that are not controlled by a United Nations treaty designed to protect the Ozone Layer are contributing to ozone depletion.

In the new study, published today in Nature Geoscience, the scientists also report the atmospheric abundance of one of these ‘very short-lived substances’ (VSLS) is growing rapidly.

February 12, 2015

Study Reports Significant Reduction in Stress via Electrical Neurosignaling

(February 12, 2015)  Thync today announced results from a study published via bioRxiv that show electrical neurosignaling delivered by its consumer wearable device reduces the brain’s response to stress in a chemical-free manner.

Thync uses electrical waveforms targeted to specific neural pathways to reduce the brain’s response to stress. The study, conducted on 82 volunteers in the Boston area, revealed that a 14-minute session using Thync’s electrical waveforms resulted in significant stress reduction, with 97 percent of the subjects stating the effects induced greater relaxation than the sham treatment.

read entire press  release

Getting in Shape

(Feb.12 ’15)  New research from the Micro/Bio/Nanofluidics Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) looks at how to create various non-spherical particles by releasing droplets of molten wax into a cool liquid bath. The physics behind this research shows how a range of non-spherical shapes can be produced and replicated with many possible industrial applications. OIST Professor Amy Shen collaborated with her former Ph.D student Shilpa Beesabathuni from University of Washington, as well as The Procter & Gamble Company in the United States to conduct the research published

Brain’s GPS system influenced by shape of environment

(Feb.12, ’15)  Patterns created by the brain’s grid cells, which are believed to guide navigation, are modified by the shape of the environment, according to UCL researchers. This means grid patterns aren’t a universal metric for the brain’s GPS system to measure distance, as previously thought.

Grid cells in the brain appear to form an internal map of the local environment by signalling periodically to create a ‘grid-pattern’ that helps animals to navigate, even in the dark.

International network of experts on intelligent systems

(Feb.12, ’15)  More than 800,000 Euro for Bielefeld University/CITEC Cluster of Excellence to head new programme

Equipping machines with the necessary intelligence that will enable them to recognize how to make life easier for their human users all by themselves: To further this research, Bielefeld University is strengthening its international ties with leading universities and research institutes on five continents. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is providing more than 800,000 Euro for the new Thematic Network: Interactive Intelligent Systems. Bielefeld University’s Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Information Technology (CITEC) will be running the programme. Bielefeld already has one Thematic Network in the theoretical sciences set up in 2013. The DAAD is funding a total of 28 Thematic Networks throughout Germany.

February 11, 2015

Love online is about being real, not perfect

UI researchers find people prefer online profiles that present potential love interests who are successful, humble, and real

People using online dating services are searching for a perfect match, but not a perfect person.

In fact, researchers at the University of Iowa say people who are looking for love online are less apt to trust a person with a flashy profile, preferring instead a potential partner who appears not only successful, but humble and real as well.

Bacterial Armor Holds Clues for Self-Assembling Nanostructures

Imagine thousands of copies of a single protein organizing into a coat of chainmail armor that protects the wearer from harsh and ever-changing environmental conditions. That is the case for many microorganisms. In a new study, researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have uncovered key details in this natural process that can be used for the self-assembly of nanomaterials into complex two- and three-dimensional structures.

SOLIDWORKS: New Capabilities Include More Online Training, Manufacturing Network, and Cloud File Storage

(Feb.11, '15)

2.7M SOLIDWORKS Users Can Leverage Power of Community; New Capabilities Include More Online Training, Manufacturing Network, and Cloud File Storage

Dassault Systèmes (Euronext Paris: #13065, DSY.PA), the 3DEXPERIENCE Company, world leader in Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions, 3D design software and 3D Digital Mock Up, today announced the latest enhancements to MySolidWorks, the online gateway that provides single-point access to all SOLIDWORKS communities and content. Launched last year, MySolidWorks has been updated with new features to help 2.7 million SOLIDWORKS users get the best answers to their questions about SOLIDWORKS, stay current, sharpen design skills, and share expertise, all from the convenience of their mobile device or desktop.

Power Distribution Just Got Smarter

(Feb.11, '15)  As the worldwide demand for energy continues to grow, innovators around the world are setting their sights on new energy sources that harness the power of technology as well as natural resources like wind and water.

In addition to building up new energy sources or finding new reserves of traditional energy, we see an additional way to meet growing energy demands – improving energy efficiency through engineering and innovation.

February 10, 2015

Nanotubes self-organize and wiggle: evolution of a non-equilibrium system demonstrates maximum entropy production

(Feb.10, '15)  The second law of thermodynamics tells us that all systems evolve toward a state of maximum entropy, wherein all energy is dissipated as heat, and no available energy remains to do work. Since the mid-20th century, research has pointed to an extension of the second law for nonequilibrium systems: the Maximum Entropy Production Principle (MEPP) states that a system away from equilibrium evolves in such a way as to maximize entropy production, given present constraints.

February 9, 2015

Bionic Leaf

(Feb.9, '15) Researchers use bacteria to convert solar energy into liquid fuel

Harvesting sunlight is a trick plants mastered more than a billion years ago, using solar energy to feed themselves from the air and water around them in the process we know as photosynthesis.

Scientists have also figured out how to harness solar energy, using electricity from photovoltaic cells to yield hydrogen that can be later used in fuel cells. But hydrogen has failed to catch on as a practical fuel for cars or for power generation in a world designed around liquid fuels.

Binding bad: Buckyballs offer environmental benefits

(Feb.9, '15) In Rice University study, treated carbon-60 molecules remove metals from liquids

Treated buckyballs not only remove valuable but potentially toxic metal particles from water and other liquids, but also reserve them for future use, according to scientists at Rice University.

The Rice lab of chemist Andrew Barron has discovered that carbon-60 fullerenes (aka buckyballs) that have gone through the chemical process known as hydroxylation aggregate into pearl-like strings as they bind to and separate metals – some better than others – from solutions. Potential uses of the process include the environmentally friendly removal of metals from acid mining drainage fluids, a waste product of the coal industry, as well as from fluids used for hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas production.

Nano-antioxidants prove their potential

(Feb.9, '15) Rice-led study shows how particles quench damaging superoxides

Injectable nanoparticles that could protect an injured person from further damage due to oxidative stress have proven to be astoundingly effective in tests to study their mechanism.

Scientists at Rice University, Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School designed methods to validate their 2012 discovery that combined polyethylene glycol-hydrophilic carbon clusters — known as PEG-HCCs — could quickly stem the process of overoxidation that can cause damage in the minutes and hours after an injury.

New Design Tool for Metamaterials

(Feb.9 ’15) Metamaterials – artificial nanostructures engineered with electromagnetic properties not found in nature – offer tantalizing future prospects such as high resolution optical microscopes and superfast optical computers. To realize the vast potential of metamaterials, however, scientists will need to hone their understanding of the fundamental physics behind them. This will require accurately predicting nonlinear optical properties – meaning that interaction with light changes a material’s properties, for example, light emerges from the material with a different frequency than when it entered. Help has arrived.

New study confirms the presence of dark matter in the inner part of the Milky Way

(Feb.9, '15) The Universe is pervaded by a mysterious form of matter, dubbed dark matter, about five times more abundant than the ordinary matter – made of atoms – we are familiar with. Its existence in galaxies was robustly established in the 1970s. Scientists now obtained for the first time a direct observational proof of the presence of dark matter in the innermost part our Galaxy, the Milky Way.

UCLA and USC scientists devise breakthrough technique for mapping temperature in tiny electronic devices

(Feb.9, '15) Overheating is a major problem for the microprocessors that run our smartphones and computers. But a team of UCLA and USC scientists have made a breakthrough that should enable engineers to design microprocessors that minimize that problem: They have developed a thermal imaging technique that can “see” how the temperature changes from point to point inside the smallest electronic circuits.

A ray of sunshine for bioenergy

(Feb.9, '15) New study shows value of combining solar thermal energy with biomass gasification to produce natural gas substitute

Even at historically low natural gas prices, bioenergy may not be out of the running — it just may need a little help from the sun. A new study from researchers at the University of Minnesota examining the financial viability of solar-heated biomass gasification technologies that produce a natural gas substitute product concludes that combining these renewable resources can make economic sense.

Cool clocks pave the way to new measurements of the earth

(Feb.9, '15) We all like to know our watches keep the time well, but Hidetoshi Katori, of RIKEN's Quantum Metrology Laboratory and the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Engineering, is taking precision to an entirely new dimension. In work published in Nature Photonics, Katori's group demonstrated two cryogenically cooled optical lattice clocks that can be synchronized to a tremendous one part in 2.0 x 10-18—meaning that they would only go out of synch by a second in 16 billion years. This is nearly 1,000 times more precise than the current international timekeeping standard cesium atomic clock.

February 6, 2015

Diamonds could help bring proteins into focus

(Feb.6, '15) New technique could use tiny diamond defects to reveal unprecedented detail of molecular structures.

Proteins are the building blocks of all living things, and they exist in virtually unlimited varieties, most of whose highly complex structures have not yet been determined. Those structures could be key to developing new drugs or to understanding basic biological processes.

But figuring out the arrangement of atoms in these complicated, folded molecules usually requires getting them to form crystals large enough to be observed in detail — and for many proteins, that is either impossible or dauntingly difficult.

Smartphone app tracks students’ class attendance automatically

(Feb.6, '15) Do you want to know how often your college student attends class? Missouri University of Science and Technology has an app for that.

A team of Missouri S&T researchers has developed an app that tracks classroom attendance using a smartphone camera. The system is more efficient and effective than current roll-taking methods and can help improve a student’s grades.

Scientists Target Smartphone Technology to Improve Hearing Devices

(Feb.6, '15) Many scientists agree: The smartphone offers many applications and has become one of the most sophisticated technologies out there.

With the support of a $522,000, two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health, a UT Dallas team wants to harness the power of smartphones to help improve the quality of life of people who wear hearing assistive devices (HAD), including hearing aids, cochlear implants and personal sound amplifiers.

Prototype of a robotic system with emotion and memory developed by university researchers

(Feb.6, '15) Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire have developed a prototype of a social robot which supports independent living for the elderly, working in partnership with their relatives or carers.
The robot uses a state of the art service platform called Care-O-bot® 3 and works within a smart-home environment.

Why 'baking powder' increases efficiency of plastic solar cells

(Feb.6, '15) The efficiency of plastic solar cells can be doubled or tripled if an extra solvent is added during the production process, comparable with the role of baking powder in dough mixture. Exactly how this works has been unclear for the last ten years. But now researchers at TU/e have come up with the answer in a publication in Nature Communications. This new understanding will now enable focused development of plastic solar cells.