Phosphors are essential to fluorescent lighting, and thus office parks the world over, but their use of rare-earth elements makes them less than ideal. To address that issue, new types of phosphors have been developed that use substantially less rare-earth elements than current phosphors found in fluorescent bulbs. This could reduce the reliance on the limited supplies of rare-earth elements until fluorescent lighting can be completely replaced by LED lighting, which isn't expected to occur for over a decade.
Researchers at MIT in the US and DESY (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron) in Germany have developed a technology that could shrink particle accelerators by a factor of 100 or more. The basic building block of the accelerator uses high-frequency electromagnetic waves and is just 1.5 cm (0.6 in) long and 1 mm (0.04 in) thick, with this drastic size reduction potentially benefitting the fields of medicine, materials science and particle physics, among others.
Currently, if you want to check water supplies for the presence of toxic bacteria, you have to take a water sample and then culture it in a lab over several days. In the meantime, it's impossible to say if the water source is safe to use. A group of students from the Technical University of Denmark, however, have created a sensor that they say can detect bacteria in water instantly, on the spot.
Envision a nanoscale wrench, capable of controlling shapes at the nanoscale level to create customized molecules. That's what Severin Schneebeli, a University of Vermont chemist and his team have developed. The opening on this mini wrench is only 1.7 nanometers, roughly a hundred-thousand-times smaller than the width of human hair.
In what is likely a major breakthrough for quantum computing, researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia have managed for the first time to build the fundamental blocks of a quantum computer in silicon. The device was created using standard manufacturing techniques, by modifying current-generation silicon transistors, and the technology could scale up to include thousands, even millions of entangled quantum bits on a single chip. Gizmag spoke to the lead researchers to find out more.
If you're wondering what the best dressed sea turtles are wearing at the beach this season, then the University of Queensland has the answer. As part of a study to find the foraging areas of endangered loggerhead turtles, researchers there designed a bespoke swimsuit for the 120 kg (264 lb) animals that acts as a harness for a "giant nappy" to collect fecal samples.
Researchers at Brown University have developed a way to create "mini brains" – 3D arrangements of neural tissue that are able to transmit electrical synapses – that, at 25 cents apiece after fixed costs, could provide an efficient means of conducting neuroscience research.
How to improve food systems by looking to nature for design solutions – this was the brief given to entrants in the Biomimicry Institute’s Global Design Challenge, which announced its finalists this week. The selection committee has drawn up a list of eight teams, each of which has been invited to prototype its solution in an accelerator program that will award US$100,000 to the winner.
Improving on their previous design, scientists at Harvard University have developed a cheap and highly adaptable flow battery that could prove ideal for storing renewable energy throughout the day. The battery is made using Earth-abundant materials, is much safer than previous designs, and could reach the market in as little as three years.
Our brains are wondrous, incredible machines. They're slower than the earliest personal computers in terms of raw processing power, yet capable of leaps of intuition and able to store a lifetime of memories that are cross-referenced and instantly-accessible at the slightest prompting. We know so very little about how they do these things, however. But imagine for a moment if we could build a complete wiring diagram of a human brain – to map in detail every one of the hundred trillion or so synapses and roughly hundred billion neurons together with all the tiniest supporting mechanisms. What might that mean, and would it even be possible?