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— Science

New metamaterial could lead to more efficient solar cells

By - May 10, 2010 1 Picture
Metamaterials are manmade substances designed to do some very weird things that natural materials don’t. The path of a beam of light through a natural material like glass is predictable, but scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have engineered an optical material that bends light in the wrong direction. This new negative-index metamaterial (NIM) could have several valuable uses including invisibility cloaking, superlensing (imaging nano-scale objects using visible light) and improved light collection in solar cells. Read More
— Medical

Sound lasers inch closer to reality

By - February 25, 2010 2 Pictures
Fifty years after the invention of the optical laser, two separate research groups have independently made important steps toward making phonon lasers — a type of laser that emits very high-frequency, coordinated sound rather than light waves — a reality. The studies, published in the journal Physical Review Letters, could lead to a completely new kind of laser that could find interesting applications in medical imaging. Read More
— Science

Less is more for highly absorbing, flexible, cheaper solar cells

By - February 17, 2010 2 Pictures
Using arrays of long, thin silicon wires embedded in a polymer substrate, a team of researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have created a new type of flexible solar cell. Promising enhanced sunlight absorption and efficient conversion of photons into electrons, the new solar cell uses only a fraction of the expensive semiconductor materials required by conventional solar cells, and because they are flexible, they will be cheaper to manufacture. Read More
— Robotics

Cyclops - the visually-impaired robot

By - October 22, 2009 1 Picture
Scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have created a remote-controlled robot to help test the effectiveness of visual prostheses, such as an artificial retina, which are implanted into visually-impaired patients. Cyclops the robot - or, rather, the mobile robotic platform, or rover - lets scientists “see” the results that human patients could expect without having to test the device on them first. It is hoped that this approach may spare them some unnecessary procedures and one day lead to giving blind people the freedom of independence. Read More
— Space

Cosmic rays hit Space-Age high

By - September 30, 2009 3 Pictures
NASA has a warning for everyone planning a trip to Mars in the near future – it might be a good idea to wrap yourself in an extra layer of tinfoil when you travel According to sensors on NASA's ACE (Advanced Composition Explorer) spacecraft, galactic cosmic rays have just hit a Space Age high, reaching levels 19 percent higher than observed in the past 50 years and sparking a rethink on the radiation shielding needed for astronauts. Read More
— Science

Building circuit boards using DNA scaffolding

By - August 20, 2009 3 Pictures
There have been a few breakthroughs in recent years that hold the promise of sustaining Moore’s Law for some time to come. These include attaching molecules to silicon and replacing copper interconnects with graphene. Now IBM are proposing a new way to pack more power and speed into computer chips by using DNA molecules as scaffolding for transistors fabricated with carbon nanotubes and silicon wires. Read More
— Space

Spitzer Space Telescope locates youngest solar systems

By - December 2, 2007 3 Pictures
December 3, 2007 Infrared imaging technology on NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has been used to locate some of the youngest solar systems yet detected. Astronomers at the University of Michigan made the discovery when using the telescope to more closely observe gaps in protoplanetary disks of gas and dust surrounding the young stars UX Tau A and LkCa 15 in the Taurus star formation region. Read More
— Robotics

Saturday's DARPA Urban Challenge finalists trimmed to 11 teams

By - November 1, 2007 24 Pictures
The finalists for Saturday’s landmark DARPA Urban Challenge were announced here today and the biggest surprise was that the final field was trimmed to just 11 starters, a decision taken by Grand Marshall and DARPA director Dr Tony Tether in the interests of securing a winner. “It’d be a great shame if one of the robots took out another robot,” said Tether as the final 11 contestants were announced. Most pointedly, Tether also introduced Team Tartan as the team that would be the Number One seed “if we were to give a ranking to the number one", before presenting the plate to Dr William “Red” Whittaker of Team Tartan (pictured). Read More
— Science

NASA's Cassini discovers potential liquid water on Enceladus

By - March 10, 2006 4 Pictures
March 11, 2006 NASA's Cassini spacecraft may have found evidence of liquid water reservoirs that erupt in Yellowstone-like geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus. The rare occurrence of liquid water so near the surface raises many new questions about the mysterious moon. "We realize that this is a radical conclusion -- that we may have evidence for liquid water within a body so small and so cold," said Dr. Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. "However, if we are right, we have significantly broadened the diversity of solar system environments where we might possibly have conditions suitable for living organisms." High-resolution Cassini images show icy jets and towering plumes ejecting large quantities of particles at high speed. Scientists examined several models to explain the process. They ruled out the idea that the particles are produced by or blown off the moon's surface by vapor created when warm water ice converts to a gas. Instead, scientists have found evidence for a much more exciting possibility -- the jets might be erupting from near-surface pockets of liquid water above 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), like cold versions of the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone. Read More
— Inventors and Remarkable People

The solar system no longer has nine planets

By - February 7, 2006 6 Pictures
February 8, 2006 Since 1930 when American Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, schoolchildren have been taught that Planet Earth is one of nine planets which orbit the sun, and that Pluto is the outermost planet in the solar system. Then last July 30, an American team found a more distant and quite large object circling the sun some 15 billion kilometers beyond earth. Dubbed UB313, an enormous debate has erupted over whether it should be classified as the tenth planet. More fuel was added to the debate last week when a group lead by Bonn astrophysicists determined that this putative planet is bigger than Pluto. By measuring its thermal emission, the scientists were able to determine a diameter of about 3000 km, which makes it 700 km larger than Pluto and thereby marks it as the largest solar system object found since the discovery of Neptune in 1846. For the last six months, many astronomers have argued that UB313 should be classified as a Kuiper belt object (KBO) but Pluto is also in the Kuiper belt, and the revelations about its size will weigh heavily when the special 19-member panel set up by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) determines exactly what constitutes a planet. Either way, the official planetary count will no longer be nine as a decision against UB313 will demote Pluto to the status of a KBO. Read More

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