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What is it? » New device could make large biological circuits practical
November 24, 2014. [David L. Chandler | MIT News Office]

Innovation from MIT could allow many biological components to be connected to produce predictable effects.

Researchers have made great progress in recent years in the design and creation of biological circuits - systems that, like electronic circuits, can take a number of different inputs and deliver a particular kind of output. But while individual components of such biological circuits can have precise and predictable responses, those outcomes become less predictable as more such elements are combined.

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What is it? » New 2-D quantum materials for nanoelectronics
November 20, 2014. [David L. Chandler | MIT News Office]

MIT team provides theoretical roadmap to making 2-D electronics with novel properties.
Researchers at MIT say they have carried out a theoretical analysis showing that a family of two-dimensional materials exhibits exotic quantum properties that may enable a new type of nanoscale electronics. These materials are predicted to show a phenomenon called the quantum spin Hall (QSH) effect, and belong to a class of materials known as transition metal dichalcogenides, with layers a few atoms thick. The findings are detailed in a paper appearing this week in the journal Science, co-authored by MIT postdocs Xiaofeng Qian and Junwei Liu; assistant professor of physics Liang Fu; and Ju Li, a professor of nuclear science and engineering and materials science and engineering.

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What is it? » Striking the cord: Optical control of motor functions
November 7, 2014. [Denis Paiste | MIT News Office]

Grad student Chi Lu and colleagues demonstrate a highly flexible polymer probe for triggering spinal-cord neurons with light and simultaneously recording their activity.
MIT researchers have demonstrated a highly flexible neural probe made entirely of polymers that can both optically stimulate and record neural activity in a mouse spinal cord — a step toward developing prosthetic devices that can restore functionality to damaged nerves.

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What is it? »Wind energy reaches greater heights
November 6, 2014. [Rob Matheson | MIT News Office]

Startup’s on-site fabrication process makes taller wind turbines more feasible.

Wind turbines across the globe are being made taller to capture more energy from the stronger winds that blow at greater heights.

But it’s not easy, or sometimes even economically feasible, to build taller towers, with shipping constraints on tower diameters and the expense involved in construction.

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What is it? » Shedding light on the future of photovoltaics
November 5, 2014. [Francesca McCaffrey | MIT News Office]

MIT study finds unprecedented production of metals needed to meet some solar energy goals.
Several government agencies, academic researchers, and firms have proposed scenarios for the future in which photovoltaic (PV) technologies grow rapidly. To support such growth, PV technologies would need to be developed with resource constraints in mind. For some PV technologies, the production of the required input materials would need to grow at a rate never before seen in the metals industry, according to a new analysis by MIT researchers.

 

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What is it? » How to make a 'perfect' solar absorber
September 29, 2014. [David L. Chandler | MIT News Office]

New system aims to harness the full spectrum of available solar radiation.
The key to creating a material that would be ideal for converting solar energy to heat is tuning the material's spectrum of absorption just right: It should absorb virtually all wavelengths of light that reach Earth's surface from the sun - but not much of the rest of the spectrum, since that would increase the energy that is reradiated by the material, and thus lost to the conversion process.

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What is it? » Underwater robot for port security
September 26, 2014. [Larry Hardesty | MIT News Office]

Football-size robot can skim discreetly along a ship's hull to seek hollow compartments concealing contraband.

Last week, at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, MIT researchers unveiled an oval-shaped submersible robot, a little smaller than a football, with a flattened panel on one side that it can slide along an underwater surface to perform ultrasound scans.

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What is it? » Fingertip sensor gives robot unprecedented dexterity
September 19, 2014. [Larry Hardesty | MIT News Office]

Equipped with a novel optical sensor, a robot grasps a USB plug and inserts it into a USB port.
Researchers at MIT and Northeastern University have equipped a robot with a novel tactile sensor that lets it grasp a USB cable draped freely over a hook and insert it into a USB port.

 

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What is it? » Will tomorrow's robots move like snakes?
September 15, 2014. [Adam Conner-Simons | CSAIL]

Made completely of rubber, CSAIL team's robotic arm can slither through 'pipes'.
Over the last few years, researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) have developed biologically inspired robots designed to fly like falcons, perch like pigeons, and swim like swordfish. The natural next step? Slithering like snakes.

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What is it? » Bound for robotic glory
September 15, 2014. [Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office]

New algorithm enables MIT cheetah robot to run and jump, untethered, across grass.
Speed and agility are hallmarks of the cheetah: The big predator is the fastest land animal on Earth, able to accelerate to 60 mph in just a few seconds. As it ramps up to top speed, a cheetah pumps its legs in tandem, bounding until it reaches a full gallop.

 

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