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Duke University

There may come a day when certain plants in your workplace suddenly turn white, at which point everyone will run screaming from the building – those co-workers will have been right to do so, as the white plants indicated that a toxic gas was present. Before that scenario can take place, a little more work still needs to be done, and Colorado State University (CSU) biologist Dr. June Medford is doing it. Using a computer-designed detection trait, she is creating plants that stop producing chlorophyll when they detect pollutants or explosives in the air. Read More
A robot guided by 3-D ultrasound and artificial intelligence has demonstrated it can locate lesions in simulated breast and prostate tissue and take biopsies without human assistance. A team of bioengineers at Duke University, North Carolina, 'souped up' an existing robot arm with a purpose-built ultrasound system which acts as the robot's 'eyes' by collecting data from its scan and locating its target. An artificial intelligence program processes the real-time 3D information from the ultrasound and gives the robot specific commands to perform using a mechanical 'hand' that can manipulate the same biopsy plunger device used by doctors. Read More
The latest flat-panel TVs and computer screens produce images by an array of electronic pixels connected by a transparent conductive layer made from indium tin oxide (ITO). ITO is also used as a transparent electrode in thin-film solar cells. But ITO has drawbacks: it is brittle; its production process is inefficient; and it is expensive and becoming more so because of increasing demand. One potential alternative is to use tiny copper nanowires and researchers have now perfected a simple way to make these in quantity. The cheap conductors are small enough to be transparent, making them ideal for thin-film solar cells, flat-screen TVs and computers, and flexible displays. Read More
Modern technologies have made so many forms of collaboration possible that oft times the basics are overlooked, says Duke University management professor Jonathon Cummings. Globally distributed teams cannot rely entirely on technology to overcome time and space barriers; they still need to talk. And that probably means working some overlapping hours. Cummings developed these recommendations based on a multi-year study of 108 project teams in 53 locations in 22 countries at Intel. Read More
The golden ratio describes a rectangle with a length roughly one and a half times its width. Also known as the golden section, golden mean and divine proportion, among other names, it has intrigued mathematicians and artists alike for centuries. The Egyptians supposedly used it to guide the construction the Pyramids, the architecture of ancient Athens is thought to have been based on it, and many artists have fashioned their works around it. This includes Leonardo da Vinci, who used it in the Mona Lisa and the Vitruvian Man. Now a Duke University scientist believes he has figured out the secret behind the golden ratio’s popularity – and it’s all down to evolution. Read More
Blood vessels that supply tumors are more porous than normal vessels, makes nanoscale drug delivery systems a particularly attractive prospect. If properly engineered, nanoparticles can in fact get inside a tumor, targeting it precisely and allowing much higher drug dosages as they reduce side effects to a minimum. Two recent studies featured in the latest issue of the journal Nature Materials specifically address these issues and give us promising leads in the fight against cancer. Read More
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in many parts of the world, including the U.S., England and Canada, so it's not surprising that bioengineers at Duke University are excited by what they believe could be an important first step toward growing a living “heart patch” to repair damaged heart tissue. In a series of experiments using mouse embryonic stem cells, the bioengineers used a novel mold of their own design to fashion a three-dimensional "patch" made up of heart muscle cells, known as cardiomyocytes. The new tissue exhibited the two most important attributes of heart muscle cells - the ability to contract and to conduct electrical impulses. Read More
Smartphones use GPS locating for a variety of functions but mainly they're used on the road where their accuracy - only within 10m - is basically a case of 'near enough is good enough'. But try using one indoors. They don't work! Nor can they distinguish between two adjacent environments, however different. And 10m can make a big difference inside a shopping complex or multi-roomed office block. In a research jointly sponsored by Microsoft, Nokia, Verizon and the National Science Foundation, a group of computer engineers from Duke University is working on achieving better indoor localization using a combination of sounds, lighting and accelerometer data picked up by a mobile phone. They hope it will supplement the use of GPS systems, which most users know, have their limitations. Read More
Peanut allergies are very common - something like one in every 200 children will suffer from some sort of reaction, and while roughly 100 people per year die as a result, peanuts are still thought to be the most prevalent food-related cause of death. Certainly, for those afflicted, it's a huge annoyance to be constantly checking labels and asking at restaurants just to make sure. So it's good to hear that Duke University researchers are making progress on a cure - or at least a therapy for reducing the effects of peanut exposure. Read More
Scientists have scored a lucky break by capturing a one-second image and the electrical fingerprint of a rarely-seen ‘gigantic jet’ - a huge lightning that flowed 40 miles upward from the top of a storm. Images of highly charged meteorological events like this have only been recorded on five occasions since 2001. The team from Duke University team captured a one-second view and magnetic field measurements that scientists hope will give them a much clearer understanding about these occurrences. Read More
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