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Electronic nose knows when your cantaloupe is ripe

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(Mar. 30, 2012) — Have you ever been disappointed by a cantaloupe from the grocery store? Too ripe? Not ripe enough? Luckily for you, researchers from the University of California, Davis might have found a way to make imperfectly ripe fruit a thing of the past.

The method will be published on March 30 in the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE).

"We are involved in a project geared towards developing rapid methods to evaluate ripeness and flavour of fruits," said paper-author Dr. Florence Negre-Zkharov. "We evaluated an electronic nose to see if it can differentiate maturity of fruit, specifically melons. The goal is to develop a tool that can be used post-harvest to better evaluate produce, and develop better...

Whether grasping Easter eggs or glass bottles, this robotic hand uses tact

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(Mar. 30, 2012) — It may be difficult to imagine, but pouring juice into a plastic cup can be a great challenge to a robot. While one hand holds the glass bottle firmly, the other one must gently grasp the cup. Researchers at Saarland University together with associates in Bologna and Naples have developed a robotic hand that can accomplish both tasks with ease and yet including the actuators is scarcely larger than a human arm. This was made possible by a novel string actuator, making...

Clocking an accelerating universe: First results from BOSS

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(Mar. 30, 2012) — Some six billion light years ago, almost halfway from now back to the big bang, the universe was undergoing an elemental change. Held back until then by the mutual gravitational attraction of all the matter it contained, the universe had been expanding ever more slowly. Then, as matter spread out and its density decreased, dark energy took over and expansion began to accelerate.

Today BOSS, the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey, the largest component of...

Unexpected behaviour of microdroplets

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(Mar. 30, 2012) — Physicists agree that laminar flow of liquids has been well understood and described in detail from the theoretical point of view. Researchers at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw have, however, observed that droplets of chemical substances flowing in a carrier liquid inside microchannels -- although presenting laminar flow inside them -- present ultiple mysteries.

Researchers from the Institute of Physical...

'Backpacking' bacteria help ferry nano-medicines inside humans

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(Mar. 29, 2012) — To the ranks of horses, donkeys, camels and other animals that have served humanity as pack animals or beasts of burden, scientists are now enlisting bacteria to ferry nano-medicine cargos throughout the human body. They reported on progress in developing these "backpacking" bacteria -- so small that a million would fit on the head of a pin -- in San Diego on March 29 at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society...

Electricity and carbon dioxide used to generate alternative fuel

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(Mar. 29, 2012) — Imagine being able to use electricity to power your car -- even if it's not an electric vehicle. Researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have for the first time demonstrated a method for converting carbon dioxide into liquid fuel isobutanol using electricity.

Today, electrical energy generated by various methods is still difficult to store efficiently. Chemical batteries, hydraulic pumping and water splitting suffer from...

Oscillating gel acts like artificial skin, giving robots potential ability to 'feel'

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(Mar. 29, 2012) — Sooner than later, robots may have the ability to "feel." In a paper published online March 26 in Advanced Functional Materials, a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) demonstrated that a nonoscillating gel can be resuscitated in a fashion similar to a medical cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

These findings pave the way for the development of a wide range of new applications that sense...

Physicists explain the collective motion of particles called fermions

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(Mar. 29, 2012) — Some people like company. Others prefer to be alone. The same holds true for the particles that constitute the matter around us: Some, called bosons, like to act in unison with others. Others, called fermions, have a mind of their own.

Different as they are, both species can show "collective" behavior -- an effect similar to the wave at a baseball game, where all spectators carry out the same motion regardless of whether they like each other.

Scientists...

New material cuts energy costs of separating gas for plastics and fuels

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(Mar. 29, 2012) — A new type of hybrid material developed at the University of California, Berkeley, could help oil and chemical companies save energy and money -- and lower their environmental impacts -- by eliminating an energy-intensive gas-separation process.

Today, to separate hydrocarbon gas mixtures into the pure chemicals needed to make plastics, refineries "crack" crude oil at high temperatures -- 500 to 600 degrees Celsius -- to break complex hydrocarbons into...