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A Thousand Pinpoints of Light

Imagine cardboard-thin TV screens that stretch across entire walls or portable video screens that can be rolled up when not in use. Those are some of the possible applications for tiny, inorganic light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that researchers have developed. The new LEDs are just as thin as conventional organic LEDs … More


A Turn-On for Catalysts

Catalysts are prized for their ability to speed chemical reactions by grabbing molecular building blocks and knitting them together. But most catalysts are either on or off—and there hasn’t been much scientists could do to flip the switch. Now, however, researchers have created a sandwich-shaped scaffold for turning on and … More


Turning Waste Heat Into Electricity

Engineers have come up with a handful of uses for computer chip-like devices that chill objects when plugged in or convert waste heat into electrical power—stuff like car seats that cool drivers on hot days and coolers that chill drinks when plugged in. But by-and-large, these devices, known as thermoelectrics, … More


Using Light to Flip a Tiny Mechanical Switch

The feeble force of light alone can flip a nanometer-sized mechanical switch one way or the other, a team of electrical engineers reports. The little gizmo holds its position without power and at room temperature, so it might someday make a memory bit for an optical computer. Other researchers say … More


Antenna Array Lights Up

A “phased array” of 4096 micrometer-sized antennas beam out an orange and red display of the logo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. It’s by far the biggest such array pumping out visible light, besting the previous record of 16 antennas. Engineers have also long used arrays … More


A Handy Way to Date Silk

Of all the precious and fragile artifacts in museums, silk clothing and artwork can pose the most puzzles for historians. They frequently have to rely on circumstantial evidence and guesswork to assign a date of manufacture for ancient silk clothing and tapestries, as traditional carbon dating requires samples so large … More


Building a Breakable Capsule

Therapeutic drugs sometimes inflict more damage than they cure. One solution to this problem is to enclose the drugs inside a capsule, shielding them from the body—and the body from them—until they can be released at just the right spot. There are lots of ways to trigger this release, including … More


A Piranha-Proof Fish

Dip a toe into the wrong lake in the Amazon, and it may get bitten off. Here, gangs of piranhas swarm almost anything that moves. Anything, that is, except the arapaima. This humungous fish swims unchewed, even in piranha-infested lakes and rivers. A new study reveals how: The arapaima’s unique … More


Graphyne Could Be Better Than Graphene

Graphene, a layer of graphite just one atom thick, isn’t called a wonder material for nothing. The subject of the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics, it is famed for its superlative mechanical and electronic properties. Yet new computer simulations suggest that the electronic properties of a little-known sister material of … More


Programmable Nanoparticles Improve Chemotherapy’s Aim

Chemotherapy drugs are like a shotgun. Even though doctors are just aiming for tumors, the compounds hit a variety of other places in the body, leading to side effects like bone marrow damage and hair loss. To improve their aim, researchers have tried to package these drugs inside tiny hollow … More