Research and Development

  • National Academies calls for expanded nuclear-fusion research

    A report out on Wednesday from the National Academies says university researchers studying nuclear fusion still have a long way to go before overcoming the many scientific hurdles to the commercial generation of what is hoped to be a virtually limitless supply of energy

  • Balancing safety, risk in the debate over the new H5N1 viruses

    This fall, the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) set off a debate when it asked the authors of two recent H5N1 research studies and the scientific journals that planned to publish them to withhold important details of the research in the interest of biosecurity; the scientific community is divided over the issue of best to balance free research and security

  • Day of human-elements technology nears

    Human-element research looks into biometrics, brain/computer interface and interaction, and human language technology; the U.S. military encourages government agencies, academic institutions, and commercial organizations to collaborate in this research

  • How wings really lift

    See video

    A wing lifts when the air pressure above it is lowered. The explanation typically offered in high school and college physics courses is that this happens because the airflow moving over the top, curved surface has a longer distance to travel and needs to go faster to have the same transit time as the air travelling along the lower, flat surface. This is the wrong explanation, and a 1-minute video released by the University of Cambridge sets the record straight on this much misunderstood concept — how wings lift

  • Lawmakers make steep cuts to DHS research budget

    Over the weekend the Senate approved an omnibus spending bill that would result in deep cuts to DHS’ research and development arm

  • Creating drought-tolerance in crops

    Researchers’ discovery creates new blueprint for engineering drought tolerant crops; the researchers found a way to rewire this cellular machinery to heighten the plants’ stress response — a finding that can be used to engineer crops to give them a better shot at surviving and displaying increased yield under drought conditions

  • DARPA to boost cyber research spending by 50 percent

    Last week, the head of the Department of Defense’s advanced research arm announced that the agency would increase cyber research spending by 50 percent over the next five years to develop both defensive and offensive capabilities

  • Printing a building -- additive manufacturing research moves into construction

    Additive manufacturing — commonly known as 3-D printing — has been used for a surprisingly large range of products and projects, while the devices themselves have continually declined in cost and size; now the technology turns its attention to concrete and building

  • Transforming acids into bases

    Chemists at the University of California, Riverside have accomplished in the lab what until now was considered impossible: transform a family of compounds which are acids into bases; the research offers vast family of new catalysts for use in drug discovery, biotechnology

  • High tech more effective than tax climate in driving states' economic growth

    Race-to-the-top policies are generally defined as those involving investments in education, entrepreneurship, and infrastructure; race-to-the-bottom policies involve competition among the states for jobs by using lower taxes and industrial recruitment incentives; researchers find that states with more technology classes in school, higher domain name registrations, and more people online tended to economically outperform states with a lower emphasis on technology

  • Scientific research, budget cuts, and DHS

    The FY2011 budget of DHS’s Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) is $827 million; this year the administration’s budget proposal raised it to $1.2 billion; a measure passed by the House last week cut S&T’s FY2012 budget by 52 percent relative to the current budget — to $398 million; DHS said the cuts would stall development of technologies for border protection, detection of bio-hazards, cargo screening, and seriously disrupt research into domestic IED detection, leaving mass transit vulnerable to attacks; as we consider this dramatic cut, we should accept three things: first, the growing national debt is a threat to the well being of the United States and its security, and must be addressed; there are only two ways to address the debt issue: the government must reduce spending, or it must take in more money, or both; second, every government program must be thoroughly examined to see whether there is a justification to continue it — or continue it at the current level of funding; homeland security programs should not be exempt from such an examination; third, reasonable men and women may differ on the relevant issues: what is the nature of the homeland security threats the United States is facing; what are the best — and most cost effective — ways to meet these threats; can every last research initiative at S&T be convincingly justified?

  • Researchers unveil biometric walk scanner

    Researchers from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom recently unveiled new biometric technology that is capable of identifying individuals by the way they walk; a professor in computer vision at the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, and two PhD students have developed a system that can recognize a person by their gait with over 90 percent accuracy; individuals walking through a “biometric tunnel” were recorded on twelve cameras to create a unique signature that can be used to identify them later; researchers tried to fool the system by wearing different clothes, obscuring their faces with hats and motorcycle helmets, but the biometric system prevailed

  • Cost-effective way to produce solar thermal hydrogen fuel developed

    The U.S. Department of Energy is investigating novel approaches for solar thermochemical water splitting — that is, splitting water into its gaseous components, hydrogen and oxygen — to produce hydrogen, with the eventual goal of commercializing production; DOE’s cost targets set hydrogen production in 2015 at $6 per kilogram and hydrogen delivery in 2025 at $2 to $3 per kilogram.; and innovative technology, using thin-film metal ferrite process, developed by University of Colorado Boulder researchers is projected to meet both benchmarks

  • New sensor detects minute traces of explosives

    MIT chemical engineers develop a new sensor that can detect minute traces of explosives; the new sensors would be more sensitive than existing explosives detectors — those commonly used at airports, for example — which use spectrometry to analyze charged particles as they move through the air

  • New insect repellant may be thousands of times stronger than DEET

    The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been supporting a major interdisciplinary research project to develop new ways to control the spread of malaria by disrupting a mosquito’s sense of smell; as part of the project, Vanderbilt University researchers developed an insect repellant which is not only thousands of times more effective than DEET — the active ingredient in most commercial mosquito repellants — but also works against all types of insects, including flies, moths, and ants