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Do the largest structures in the Universe actually exist?

By - November 20, 2013 4 Pictures
Our knowledge of the large-scale structure of the Universe is gradually taking shape. However, our improved vision is mostly being statistically squeezed from huge data sets. Working backward from a statistical analysis to a putative fact about the (singular) Universe, to which statistics do not apply on a cosmological scale, is a dicey business. A case in point is a recent look at the biggest known structures in the Universe – large quasar groups. Read More
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Silicon/nickel water splitter could lead to cheaper hydrogen

By - November 18, 2013 2 Pictures
Photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells can use sunlight to sustainably split water into hydrogen and oxygen, but efficient PEC materials tend to corrode rapidly in use. A Stanford research group has been studying this problem, and has found that depositing a thin layer of nickel atoms on a silicon PEC electrode allows it to operate for over 80 hours with no sign of corrosion. Read More
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Lithium-air batteries go viral for greater durability and performance

By - November 14, 2013 2 Pictures
In recent years, lithium-air batteries that promise improved power density per pound over lithium-ion batteries have been the subject of much research in the quest to give electronic vehicles greater range. By enlisting the help of a genetically-modified virus, researchers at MIT have found a way to improve the performance and durability of lithium-air batteries, which offer the potential of two to three times the energy density of current lithium-ion batteries. Read More
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New tech could beam power from roadside stations to passing electric cars

By - November 14, 2013 1 Picture
Among the concepts put forth for decreasing the range anxiety associated with electric cars, one is to embed electrical coils within the asphalt. This would allow vehicles to wirelessly draw power from the road as they traveled, although it would also involve having to tear up existing roads to install those coils. An alternative could be on its way, however. Scientists at North Carolina State University are developing a system in which power could be transmitted from stationary roadside stations to mobile receiver coils in cars passing by. Read More
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Oops! Invisibility cloaks actually make objects easier to see

By - November 12, 2013 4 Pictures
It's often a case of swings and roundabouts. If you save money by buying a house out of town, you spend more time and money commuting. If you really measure the momentum of an electron, you have no idea where the little guy is located. And now, according to a new analysis by a pair of University of Texas electrical engineers, the better an object is hidden by an invisibility cloak at a given wavelength of light, the easier it is to see at other wavelengths. Swings and roundabouts. Read More
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Good vibrations lead to efficient excitations in hybrid solar cells

By - November 8, 2013 2 Pictures
Increasing the efficiency of a hybrid solar cell simply by placing it near a source of ambient noise or vibration would be a boon for photovoltaics in urban areas, in the military, or on machinery or transportation. Hybrid organic/inorganic solar cells are already a tempting option over silicon because of their lower cost, but they suffer from their own drawbacks of efficiency. However, new research demonstrates that the piezoelectric qualities of the cells' inorganic layer can be used to boost the overall efficiency of hybrid systems, which is promising for wherever sound and sun are together. Read More
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Harvard scientists develop a transistor that learns

By - November 7, 2013 3 Pictures
In a development that may enable a wholly new approach to artificial intelligence, researchers at Harvard University's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have invented a type of transistor that can learn in ways similar to a neural synapse. Called a synaptic transistor, the new device self-optimizes its properties for the functions it has carried out in the past. Read More
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Monkeys control arms of avatar using their mind

By - November 7, 2013 1 Picture
Recently there's been increasing hope for people who have lost the use of their arms, as various research institutes have started developing prosthetic arms that can be controlled by thought alone. So far, all of the systems have just allowed users to control a single arm – for many of the tasks that we perform on a daily basis, that's simply not enough. Now, however, scientists at North Carolina's Duke University have succeeded in getting two rhesus monkeys to control both arms of animated digital avatars, using nothing but their mind. Read More
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