• Napolitano enlists MIT engineers and scientists

    At a recent speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urged for greater private sector involvement to help develop technological solutions to secure critical infrastructure and the border; Napolitano said that technology will be the key to DHS’ future in screening passengers and cargo more effectively and efficiently; she also called for more people with cybersecurity, engineering, and science skills to assist the government; in particular, she pointed to the “data problem,” with the massive amounts of data that government agencies must sift through to detect terrorist threats, the sheer volume alone presents a logistical challenge to counter-terrorism efforts

  • Day of invisibility cloak nears

    In physics, the Doppler Effect describes the change in frequency of light or sound waves whenever there is a relative movement between an observer and a wave’s source; thus, when an object and an observer move closer together, light frequency increases from red wavelengths to blue ones; when they move further apart, light frequency decreases from blue to red; researchers have for the first time ever demonstrated a reversal of the optical Doppler Effect — a promising sign for the future development of science fiction-inspired technology such as invisibility cloaks; this technology, which has already been demonstrated on a micro-scale by U.S. researchers, may be closer to becoming a reality than most people think

  • Powerful magnets developed to end rare earths dependency

    Scientists at General Electric’s Global Research are currently developing powerful new magnets that are stronger, lighter, and use less rare Earth metals; researchers hope that the new magnets will help reduce U.S. dependence on China’s supplies of rare Earth metals, which have been subject to disruption; the new magnets are being created with nanocomposites which consist of combining tiny particles of various magnetic alloys to create more reactive coatings; GE has received $2.25 million from the Department of Energy to develop these magnets

  • Clothes as silent witnesses

    New research seeks to recover fingerprint ridge detail and impressions from fabrics — a technique that has up until now proved difficult; it is the first time in more than thirty years that fingerprints on fabrics have been a major focus for research and the team has already had a number of successes; the technique, known as vacuum metal deposition (VMD), uses gold and zinc to recover the fingerprint

  • Sensors to detect explosives, monitor food

    University of Houston (UH) chemist and his team have developed materials for use in creating sensors for detection devices — able to monitor everything from explosives to tainted milk; the materials are based on what the team calls “the artificial receptor concept”: this is akin to an enzyme functioning as a biochemical catalyst within a cell, like an antibody, binding with specific molecules to produce a specific effect in the cell

  • New magnets to reduce rare-earths dependence on China

    China produces more than 95 percent of the world’s rare Earth elements, and Japan, the United States, and other industrial societies are increasingly anxious about the dependence of important sectors of their economies on Chinese whims; researchers are now working on new types of nanostructured magnets that would use smaller amounts of rare Earth metals than standard magnets; many hurdles remain, but GE Global Research hopes to demonstrate new magnet materials within the next two years

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  • New glass tops steel in strength, toughness

    Researchers develop glass which is stronger than steel — indeed, the damage-tolerant metallic glass has demonstrated a strength and toughness beyond that of any known material; the new metallic glass is a microalloy featuring palladium, a metal with a high “bulk-to-shear” stiffness ratio that counteracts the intrinsic brittleness of glassy materials

  • Recycled Haitian concrete safe, strong, cheap

    Nearly a year after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake, most of the damaged areas of Haiti are still in ruins; researchers find that concrete and other debris in Port-au-Prince could be safely and inexpensively recycled into strong new construction material which meets or exceeds the minimum strength standards used in the United States

  • Plastic homes for quick rebuilding after disaster

    Canadian company thinks it has an answer for Haitian relief; the company uses a rubber seal to attach the plastic structure to the concrete slab used as the foundation; the result is the structure “floats” atop the foundation in such a way it that can compensate for movements in the earth directly below, while the production process allows it to hold up against winds in excess of 240 kilometers per hour

  • China will cut rare earths export quotas yet again

    China produces 97 percent of the world’s rare earth elements; over the last three years it has been steadily reducing the exports of these metals; the Chinese say the reason is the need for growing domestic demand; critics say that China’s goal is to undermine the high-tech sectors of Western countries’ economies; earlier this year China stopped shipping rare earths to Japan following a dispute between the two countries over a couple of small Pacific islands

  • U.S. rare Earth mine resumes active mining

    Colorado-based Molycorp resumed active mining of the rare Earth metal facility at Mountain Pass, California last week; the site had been shutdown in 2002 amid environmental concerns and the low costs for rare Earth metals provided by mining operations based in China

  • China's dominance in rare Earth elements to weaken

    China currently has a lock on the rare Earth elements market: in 2009 it provided 95 percent of the world’s supply, or 120,000 tons; other countries used to produce rare Earth elements, but environmental and economic considerations led to the near death of the industry outside of China; the growing unease with China’s dominance — and its willingness to exploit this dominance for political gain — have led to a renewed interest in reopening abandoned mines; U.S. company Molycorp has just secured the permits and funding to restart production at a mine in Mountain Pass, California, which would become the first U.S. source of rare Earth elements in more than a decade; full operations will start by the end of next year; by 2012, the revamped U.S. mine is expected to produce around 20,000 tons of rare Earth materials per year

  • DoE report warns of U.S. vulnerability to China's rare-earth supplies

    A U.S. Department of Energy report draws attention to the need to diversify the supply of rare Earth metals needed for clean technology and defense; China currently supplies 97 percent of the world’s rare Earth elements; the largest U.S. producer of rare earths last week announced a $130 million funding deal with Japanese company Sumitomo that promises the financier “substantial quantities of rare-earth products”

  • Quake experiments may lead to sturdier buildings

    Johns Hopkins researchers will study how seismic forces affect mid-rise cold-formed steel buildings, up to nine stories high; the cold-formed steel pieces that are commonly used to frame low- and mid-rise buildings are made by bending about 1-millimeter-thick sheet metal, without heat, into structural shapes; these components are typically lighter and less expensive than traditional building systems and possess other advantages

  • New kind of blast-resistant glass -- thinner and tougher -- developed

    Current blast-resistant glass technology — the kind that protects the windows of key federal buildings, the president’s limo, and the Pope-mobile — is thicker than a 300 page novel — so thick it cannot be placed in a regular window frame; DHS-funded research develops thinner, yet tougher, glass; the secret to the design’s success is long glass fibers in the form of a woven cloth soaked with liquid plastic and bonded with adhesive