more top stories »


— Science

Nanowires become signature- and fingerprint-reading LEDs

What do electronic signatures, fingerprint scans and touch-sensitive robot skin have in common? All three technologies may soon be advancing, thanks to a new system that turns an array of zinc oxide nanowires into tiny LEDs. Each wire illuminates in response to externally-applied mechanical pressure. By analyzing the resulting mosaic of miniscule points of light, a computer is able to produce a high-resolution map of the pressure-applying surface. Read More
— 3D Printing

Nanoscribe claims world’s fastest commercially available nano-3D printer title

3D printing has already gone well beyond the bounds of model making, and biotechnology is one of the new frontiers where the technology is set to make a huge impact. Nanoscribe GmbH, a spin-off of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), is pushing the boundaries of this space with the release of what's claimed to be the world’s fastest and highest resolution commercially available 3D printer of micro- and nanostructures – the Photonic Professional GT. Read More
— Science

Scientists turn light into a tractor beam

From The Skylark of Space to Star Wars, no self-respecting science fiction spaceship would break orbit without a tractor beam on board. We’re still a long way from locking on to errant shuttlecraft, but a team led by Dr. Tomas Cizmar, Research Fellow in the School of Medicine at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, has turned a laser into a tractor beam that works on the microscopic level. Read More
— Science

Stanford researchers control light using synthetic magnetism

Left to its own ways, light will follow the same path through an optical system whether the system is being used as a camera lens or as a projector. This is called time-reversal symmetry, or reciprocity. As many new applications and methods would be enabled by access to a non-reciprocal optical system, it is unfortunate that they have been so difficult to come by. But now researchers at Stanford University have discovered how to make such non-reciprocal systems by generating an effective magnetic field for photons. Read More
— Telecommunications

Data transmission speed of 2.56 Tb/s achieved by twisting beams of light

Thankfully, data transmission speeds have come a long way since the days of dial-up when users would have plenty of time to twiddle their thumbs as they waited for an image or MP3 to make its way to their hard drive. These days, broadband cable currently supports speeds of around 30 megabits per second, which is a hell of an improvement. Now researchers have outdone that by a factor of around 85,000 by using twisted beams of light to transmit data at up to 2.56 terabits per second. Read More
— Science

One + one = zero: coupled lasers turn each other off

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
— Science

NASA's new super-black nanotube-based material is good news for star-gazers

When it comes to gathering measurements of objects so distant in the universe that they can no longer be seen in visible light, the smallest amount of stray light can play havoc with the sensitive detectors and other instrument components used by astronomers. Currently, instrument developers use black paint on baffles and other components to help prevent stray light ricocheting off surfaces, but the paint absorbs only 90 percent of the light that strikes it. NASA engineers have now developed a nanotech-based coating that absorbs on average more than 99 percent of the ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and far-infrared light that hits it, making it promising for a variety of space- and Earth-bound applications. Read More
— Environment

HyperSolar concentrator could boost solar cell output by 400 percent

Solar cells are the most expensive part of a solar panel, so it would follow that if panels could produce the same amount of electricity with less cells, then their prices would come down. In order for panels to be able to do so using existing cell technology, however, they would need to get more light to the fewer cells that they still had. Mounting the panels on the end of vertical poles to get them closer to the sun is one possible approach, that might work in the town of Bedrock or on Gilligan’s Island. A better idea, though, is to apply a clear layer of solar concentrators to the surface of a panel – and that’s just what HyperSolar intends to do. Read More