Billy's Blog

On Billy's Blog, Billy Hurley, Digital Editorial Manager, writes stories about new and innovative achievements in design engineering, from industrial robots and autonomous vehicles to 3D printers and see-through solar cells. Along with other Tech Briefs writers and editors, Billy shares his opinions, poses questions to readers, and finds the fun, interesting, and unexpected stories behind today's leading-edge inventions.

Current Attractions

Each month, NTB highlights tech briefs related to a particular area of technology in a special section called Technology Focus. Here are some of the technologies featured in the October issue focus on Sensors.

T-Ray Camera

A terahertz version of the single-pixel camera developed by Rice University researchers could lead to breakthrough technologies in security, telecom, signal processing, and medicine. The researchers replaced expensive, multi-pixel sensor arrays used in current terahertz imaging systems with a single sensor. Two keys to the system...

Powerhouse Cells

Yale University researchers have created a blueprint for artificial cells that are more powerful and efficient than the natural cells they mimic. The energy-generating artificial cells could one day power medical implants and provide a big advantage over battery-operated devices.

The scientists began with the question of...

Hydrogen Sensor

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Colorado School of Mines have developed a prototype sensor that quickly detects very small amounts of hydrogen accumulation in coated pipeline steel. Hydrogen can cause gradual embrittlement in conventional pipelines by slowly diffusing into the metal. The new...

Microwaving Mars and the Moon

Research conducted by material scientists may lead to the ability to extract water from the Moon and possibly Mars by shooting microwave beams into their surface, according to Bill Kaukler, Associate Research Professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The Phoenix Mars lander scratched just two inches...

Healing Nanoparticles

Purdue University researchers have developed a method of using nanoparticles to help treat injured brain and spinal cord cells. A team led by Richard Borgens of the School of Veterinary Medicine's Center for Paralysis Research and Welden School of Biomedical Engineering coated silica nanoparticles with a polymer to target...

Chemical Weapon Detecting Compound

A light-transmitting compound called (A)ZrPSe 6, where A can be potassium, rubidium, or cesium, has a difficult chemical structure that does not crystallize well. Scientists from the Argonne National Laboratory and Northwestern University were able to determine the structure of the compound using the uniquely...

Software Predicts Fungal Genes

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a computer program that trains itself to predict genes in the DNA sequences of fungi. Understanding the recently sequenced fungal genomes can help in developing and producing critical pharmaceuticals. Gene prediction can also help to identify...

Nano 50 Awards at the NNEC

The sixth annual National Nanoengineering Conference returns to Boston this year on November 12-13 at the Boston Colonnade Hotel, featuring the fourth annual Nano 50 Awards, recognizing top 50 technologies, innovators, and products that have significantly impacted the development of nanotechnology.

This year's...

Protein Detector

Scientists from Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research and the British Columbia Cancer Agency have demonstrated a new instrument that makes it possible to detect and quantify multiple different clinically important proteins in a single tumor sample using conventional staining. Currently, pathologists usually need a separate...

Insulin-Producing Cells

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have transformed cells from human skin into cells that produce insulin, the hormone used to treat diabetes. The breakthrough may one day lead to new treatments for the millions of people affected by the disease, researchers say.


Bluetooth Aids the Blind

A Bluetooth system developed at the University of Michigan tells blind or sighted pedestrians about points of interest along their path as they pass them. Called Talking Points, the system is the first known to use Bluetooth, allowing people to operate it entirely with voice commands, and incorporate community-generated...

Organic Photovoltaics

Scientists at South Dakota State University (SDSU) are working with new materials they say can be used to make devices to convert sunlight to electricity cheaper and more efficiently. Assistant professor Qiquan Qiao in SDSU's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science said so-called organic photovoltaics, or...

Quantum Computing

Researchers at the University of Michigan, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, and the University of California at San Diego recently demonstrated the fastest quantum computer bit that exploits the main advantage of the qubit over the conventional bit. The scientists used lasers to create an initialized quantum state of this...

Current Attractions

Each month, NTB highlights tech briefs related to a particular area of technology in a special section called Technology Focus. Here are some of the technologies featured in the September issue focus on Nano Materials & Manufacturing.

Breast Cancer Detection

Scientists from Finland, Germany, and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) have developed a new X-ray technique for the early detection of breast cancer. Current X-ray mammography fails to identify about 10 to 20% of palpable breast cancers because glandular tissues can mask cancer lesions. Better results...

Cutting Solar Cell Costs

University of Utah engineers devised a new way to slice thin wafers of the chemical element germanium for use in the most efficient type of solar power cells. The new method should lower the cost of such cells by reducing the waste and breakage of the brittle semiconductor. Primarily used on NASA, military, and...

High-Temp Magnetic Sensors

University of Chicago scientists have discovered how to make magnetic sensors capable of operating at the high temperatures required for engines in future cars and aircraft. The key involves slightly diluting samples of a well-known semiconductor material, called indium antimonide, which is valued for its...

Gold Power

Gold's ability to catalyze the conversion of toxic carbon monoxide (CO) into more benign carbon dioxide (CO2) at room temperature lay hidden until the 1980s. Since the discovery, scientists have sought to determine exactly how gold nanoparticles function as catalysts. Now researchers from Lehigh University, Cardiff University, and the...

Blog: Imaging
X-Ray Eyes

The advantage of using two eyes to see the world around us has long been associated with our capacity to see in 3-D. Now, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute scientist Mark Changizi has uncovered an eye-opening advantage to binocular vision: our ability to see through things. An assistant professor of cognitive science at Rensselaer,...

Semiconductors For Printing

Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology

(NIST) and Seoul National University (SNU) have learned how to tweak a new class of polymer-based semiconductors that could enable the design of practical,

large-scale manufacturing techniques for a wide range of printable, flexible...

Blog: Energy
Less Corny Ethanol

A yeast geneticist on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is close to developing mutant yeast for ethanol production that would reduce or eliminate the need to use corn to make the alternative fuel. When corn is used to make ethanol, corn kernels are ground to produce starch and the starch...

Hubble Solves Mystery

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found an answer to a long-standing puzzle by resolving giant but delicate filaments shaped by a strong magnetic field around the active galaxy NGC 1275. One of the closest giant elliptical galaxies, NGC 1275 hosts a supermassive black hole. Energetic activity of gas swirling near the black...

Artificial Bones

Engineers at Georgia Tech have used skin cells to create artificial bones that mimic the ability of natural bone to blend into other tissues, such as tendons or ligaments. The artificial bones display a gradual change from bone to softer tissue rather than the sudden shift of previously developed artificial tissue, allowing them...


Register today for NASA Tech Briefs' National Nano Engineering Conference (NNEC), the premier event focused on current and future developments in engineering innovations at the nanoscale, as well as the commercialization of nanotechnology. The event returns to Boston this year on November 12-13 at the Boston Colonnade Hotel,...

Making Drugs From Dead Cells

Costly drugs to treat conditions such as cancer and arthritis could be manufactured more cheaply with a new technique developed by scientists at the University of Edinburgh that uses cell cultures removed from dead cells. Up to now, these medicines have been expensive to make due to the time-consuming,...

Blog: Software
Sign Language Software

A group at the University of Washington has developed software that enables deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans to use sign language over a mobile phone. This is the first time two-way real-time video communication has been demonstrated over cell phones in the U.S. Communication rates on U.S. cellular networks allow about...


NASA Tech Briefs' National Nano Engineering Conference (NNEC) is the premier event focused on current and future developments in engineering innovations at the nanoscale, as well as the commercialization of nanotechnology. The event returns to Boston this year on November 12-13 at the Boston Colonnade Hotel, featuring the fourth annual Nano...

Nanoparticles Speed Light

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have theorized a way to increase the speed of pulses of light that bound across chains of tiny metal particles to well past the speed of light by altering the particle shape. Under the theory, nanosized metal chains would serve as building blocks for high-frequency...