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A cut-away view of the LSST camera, with a person for scale

Although the pixel count for consumer cameras continues to rise, they will all pale in comparison to the 3,200-megapixel Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) camera. Although the enormous astronomical camera has yet to be built, last week the U.S. Department of Energy gave its approval for the project to proceed to the next phase of development. This means that a detailed engineering design can begin, along with a production schedule and budget. If everything goes according to plan, construction on what will be the world’s largest digital camera should begin in 2014.  Read More

Scientists have created squid-inspired artificial muscles and cells, that could lead to ca...

If you’ve ever watched a cephalopod such as a squid changing color, then you’ll know that it’s a pretty amazing process – they can instantly change the appearance of their skin from dark to light and back again, or even create pulsating bands of color that travel across it. They are able to do this thanks to muscles that manipulate the pigmentation of their skin. Now, scientists from the University of Bristol have succeeded in creating artificial muscles and cells, that might someday allow for the same sort of color changes in smart clothing that can camouflage itself against different backgrounds.  Read More

A nanowire sporting tendrils of nanoparticles, which greatly add to its surface area

Higher-density batteries, more efficient thin-film solar cells, and better catalysts may all soon be possible, thanks to a new technique that allows nanowires to be “decorated” with nanoparticles. Using the novel technology, scientists from Stanford University have been able to festoon the outside surfaces of nanowires with intricate chains of metal oxide or noble metal nanoparticles, thereby drastically boosting the effective surface area of the nanowires. Other researchers have previously tried to achieve the same end result, but apparently never with such success.  Read More

Researchers have designed coupled lasers that act as general-purpose optical logic gates

High hopes have been maintained for decades concerning optical logic, optical switching matrices (e.g. for communications), and optical computing. The missing link in actualizing this promise is a practical circuit element that allows one light to be turned on or off purely by application of another light to the device - rather like voltage on the control gate of a field effect transistor. This missing link has now been developed through a novel application of the complex behavior exhibited by coupled lasers.  Read More

By sandwiching a layer of ferric chloride molecules between two sheets of graphene (pictur...

Currently, virtually all touchscreen displays found in our electronic devices rely on a coating of indium tin oxide (ITO). It is used because of its electrical conductivity, its optical transparency, and the ease with which it can be deposited onto a display as a thin film. Using graphene, researchers at the University of Exeter have developed a viable alternative to increasingly expensive ITO that they claim is the “most transparent, lightweight and flexible material ever for conducting electricity.”  Read More

Majorana fermions might be the sole component of the dark matter in our Universe (Photo:

Physicists at the Delft University of Technology, Netherlands, have achieved a milestone that might soon revolutionize the world of quantum computing, quantum physics, and perhaps shed new light on the mystery of the dark matter in our universe. Experimenting with nanoelectronics, a group led by Prof. Leo Kouwenhoven has succeeded in detecting the elusive Majorana fermion in the laboratory, without the need for a particle accelerator.  Read More

Recent research in thermoelectric nanomaterials might lead to higher energy efficiency for...

Researchers at Purdue University in the U.S. have developed a new method of harvesting vast amounts of energy from waste heat. Using glass fibers dipped in a solution containing nanocrystals of lead telluride, the team led by Dr. Yue Wu is engineering a highly flexible thermoelectric system that generates electricity by gathering heat from water pipes and engine components.  Read More

Astrobotic Technology has received a NASA contract to determine if its Polaris rover robot...

While the Moon may or may not contain life forms, precious metals or even green cheese, recent satellite missions have indicated that it does nonetheless contain something that could prove quite valuable – water ice. NASA has estimated that at least 650 million tons (600 million tonnes) of the stuff could be deposited in craters near the Moon’s north pole alone. If mined, it could conceivably serve as a source of life support for future lunar bases, or it could be used to produce fuel for spacecraft stopping at a “lunar gas station.” Before any mining can happen, however, we need to learn more about the ice. That’s why NASA has contracted Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology to determine if its Polaris rover robot could be used for ice prospecting.  Read More

Depiction of a cargo ship equipped with the Wind Challenger Project system of sails

Of the world's nearly 45,000 cargo ships, many burn a low-grade bunker fuel in their engines and produce pollution equivalent to millions of automobiles. To help reduce that toxic load and keep the price of shipping freight reasonable, engineers at the University of Tokyo (UT) and a group of collaborators have designed a system of large, retractable sails measuring 64 feet (20 m) wide by 164 feet (50 m) high, which studies indicate can reduce annual fuel use on ships equipped with them by up to 30%.  Read More

Fusion power would allow electricty to be generated using the same processes taking place ...

While solar power harnesses energy produced by the Sun, fusion power seeks to harness the very process used by the Sun to generate a practically limitless supply of clean electricity. Despite decades of research and numerous breakthroughs, “net-gain” nuclear fusion is yet to appear. One of the hurdles is the so-called density, or Greenwald, limit that sees the plasmas within experimental fusion reactors (called tokamaks) spiraling apart and disrupting the fusion process. Now scientists have come up with a new theory as to why this occurs that, if proven, could provide a way to clear the density limit hurdle.  Read More

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