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Flexible, transparent supercapacitors are latest devices from USC nanotube lab

<p>Flexible, transparent supercapacitors are latest devices from USC nanotube lab</p>

It is a completely transparent and flexible energy conversion and storage device that you can bend and twist like a poker card.

It continues a line of prototype devices created at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering that can perform the electronic operations now usually handled by silicon chips using carbon nanotubes and metal nanowires set in indium oxide films, and can potentially do so at prices competitive with those of existing technologies.

The device is a supercapacitor, a circuit component that can temporarily store large amounts of electrical energy for release when needed. A team headed by Chongwu Zhou describes it a newly-published paper on "Flexible and Transparent Supercapacitor based on Indium Nanowire / Carbon Nanotube Heterogeneous Films" in the journal Applied Physics Letters (Vol.94, Issue 4, Page 043113, 2009).

Its creators believe the device points the way to further applications, such as flexible power supply components in "e-paper" displays and conformable products.

The device stores an energy density of 1.29 Watt-hour/kilogram with a specific capacitance of 64 Farad/gram. By contrast, conventional capacitors usually have an energy density of less than 0.1 Wh/kg and a storage capacitance of several tenth millifarads.

Zhou, who holds the Jack Munushiun Early Career Chair at the USC Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering, worked with USC graduate students Po-Chiang Chen and Sawalok Sukcharoenchoke, and post-doc Guozhen Shen.

The group incorporated metal oxide nanowires with carbon nanotubes (CNTs) to form heterogeneous films and further optimized the film thickness attaching on transparent plastic substrates to maintain the mechanical flexibility and optical transparency of the supercapacitors.

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UWM scientists develop techniques to unravel proteins' mysteries

Proteins, the work-horse molecules necessary for virtually every human action from breathing to thinking, have proved an almost ghostly presence, daring scientists to fully grasp their structure and behavior.

Now, physicists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have developed powerful imaging techniques that promise to tell us much more about what proteins are and what they do, how they change shapes and how they work together in a cell.

Such questions go to the heart of our quest to understand diseases and find effective drugs.

"The vast majority of diseases are caused by impairment in some kind of protein function - too much or not enough of a certain protein, or a protein that's not working properly," said Andy Greene, director of the Biotechnology and Bioengineering Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin, who was not involved in the UWM work.

Using X-rays, lasers, powerful microscopes and mathematical equations, the UWM scientists have attacked the task of protein-watching on two fronts, publishing papers in the journals Nature Physics and Nature Photonics.

One group led by Valerica Raicu, an assistant physics professor, has discovered a novel way to eavesdrop on the interactions between one protein and another. These communications between proteins are considered vital to understanding what happens inside a living cell.

A second group, led by Abbas Ourmazd, professor of physics and electrical engineering, has developed what may be a vastly improved method of viewing the atomic structure of a single protein.

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Battle for control of TomoTherapy heating up

Judy Newman Wisconsin State Journal — 3/28/2009 6:17 am

Pressure is mounting on TomoTherapy as its annual stockholders meeting, on May 1, approaches.

TomoTherapy and its disgruntled shareowner, Avalon Portfolio, have each sent stockholders dueling proxy statements, according to papers filed with federal regulators.

TomoTherapy includes a lengthy letter from chief executive Fred Robertson, admitting that 2008 was "clearly a difficult year" but saying the Madison medical device company has taken steps to keep the company strong. Expenses have been cut — including a 12 percent staff reduction — and two product innovations were introduced, Robertson said.

TomoDirect is a quick form of the company’s Hi-Art radiation therapy system for simple cancer treatment, and Tomo Quality Assurance is "the first integrated, machine-specific quality assurance solution to be offered by a radiation therapy vendor," Robertson said. Additional developments also are in the works.

The company has a new global sales manager, a distribution agreement in Japan, and $155 million in cash and short-term investments as of Dec. 31, 2008.

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Turning sunlight into liquid fuels

<p>Turning sunlight into liquid fuels</p>

Berkeley Lab researchers create a nano-sized photocatalyst for artificial photosynthesis.

<p>Turning sunlight into liquid fuels</p>

Berkeley, CA - For millions of years, green plants have employed photosynthesis to capture energy from sunlight and convert it into electrochemical energy. A goal of scientists has been to develop an artificial version of photosynthesis that can be used to produce liquid fuels from carbon dioxide and water. Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have now taken a critical step towards this goal with the discovery that nano-sized crystals of cobalt oxide can effectively carry out the critical photosynthetic reaction of splitting water molecules.

"Photooxidation of water molecules into oxygen, electrons and protons (hydrogen ions) is one of the two essential half reactions of an artifical photosynthesis system - it provides the electrons needed to reduce carbon dioxide to a fuel," said Heinz Frei, a chemist with Berkeley Lab's Physical Biosciences Division, who conducted this research with his postdoctoral fellow Feng Jiao. "Effective photooxidation requires a catalyst that is both efficient in its use of solar photons and fast enough to keep up with solar flux in order to avoid wasting those photons. Clusters of cobalt oxide nanocrystals are sufficiently efficient and fast, and are also robust (last a long time) and abundant. They perfectly fit the bill."

Frei and Jiao have reported the results of their study in the journal Angewandte Chemie, in a paper entitled: "Nanostructured Cobalt Oxide Clusters in Mesoporous Silica as Efficient Oxygen-Evolving Catalysts." This research was performed through the Helios Solar Energy Research Center (Helios SERC), a scientific program at Berkeley Lab under the direction of Paul Alivisatos, which is aimed at developing fuels from sunlight. Frei serves as deputy director of Helios SERC.

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Stimulus stiffs biotech start-ups

Mike Ivey  —  3/11/2009 7:10 am

With all the stimulus money getting tossed around these days, you'd figure biotechnology would be near the top of the wish list.

Instead, specific funding for early stage science companies was practically written out of the $780 billion package, claims the president of Madison-based Centrose LLC.

A line inserted into the massive spending bill says $10 billion in stimulus funds provided to the National Institutes of Health are exempt from a previous requirement that 2.5 percent of NIH research money go to private companies.

"This single line stole a potential $250 million from research being conducted at small businesses," says Centrose CEO and founder Jim Prudent. "That may seem fine to some people. But to the businesses who create most, if not all, of the new non-government jobs, it's an outrage."

Prudent says NIH officials explain they've had difficulty getting enough high-quality grant proposals to meet the small-business funding mandate. They also told Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., that having funding flexibility allows the agency to devote excess money to "pure science" vs. research on a specific product or application.

But Prudent says that approach is a big mistake, arguing that taxpayer dollars are better aimed at actual companies. Founded in 2007, Centrose has eight employees and a sugar-based technology that improves the uptake and potency of pharmaceuticals.

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Fermilab collider experiments discover rare single top quark

Batavia, Ill.—Scientists of the CDF and DZero collaborations at the Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory have observed particle collisions that produce single top quarks. The discovery of the single top confirms important parameters of particle physics, including the total number of quarks, and has significance for the ongoing search for the Higgs particle at Fermilab’s Tevatron, currently the world’s most powerful operating particle accelerator.

Previously, top quarks had only been observed when produced by the strong nuclear force. That interaction leads to the production of pairs of top quarks. The production of single top quarks, which involves the weak nuclear force and is harder to identify experimentally, has now been observed, almost 14 years to the day of the top quark discovery in 1995.

Searching for single-top production makes finding a needle in a haystack look easy. Only one in every 20 billion proton-antiproton collisions produces a single top quark. Even worse, the signal of these rare occurrences is easily mimicked by other “background” processes that occur at much higher rates.

"Observation of the single top quark production is an important milestone for the Tevatron program," said Dr. Dennis Kovar, Associate Director of the Office of Science for High Energy Physics at the U.S. Department of Energy. "Furthermore, the highly sensitive and successful analysis is an important step in the search for the Higgs."

Discovering the single top quark production presents challenges similar to the Higgs boson search in the need to extract an extremely small signal from a very large background. Advanced analysis techniques pioneered for the single top discovery are now in use for the Higgs boson search. In addition, the single top and the Higgs signals have backgrounds in common, and the single top is itself a background for the Higgs particle.

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Engineers Ride ‘Rogue’ Laser Waves to Build Better Light Sources

New Technology Presented at World's Largest Optical Communication Conference Produces Better Sources of White Light

WASHINGTON, March 4—A freak wave at sea is a terrifying sight. Seven stories tall, wildly unpredictable, and incredibly destructive, such waves have been known to emerge from calm waters and swallow ships whole. But rogue waves of light -- rare and explosive flare-ups that are mathematically similar to their oceanic counterparts -- have recently been tamed by a group of researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

UCLA's Daniel Solli, Claus Ropers, and Bahram Jalali are putting rogue light waves to work in order to produce brighter, more stable white light sources, a breakthrough in optics that may pave the way for better clocks, faster cameras, and more powerful radar and communications technologies. Their findings will be presented during the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition/National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference (OFC/NFOEC), taking place March 22-26 in San Diego.

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