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University of Cambridge Articles
Aim to lead innovation in Europe
A consortium including the Institute for Manufacturing at the University of Cambridge has begun work on a major project to improve innovation processes and their effectiveness in society.
Nano 'hall of mirrors' causes molecules to mix with light
When a molecule emits a blink of light, it doesn't expect it to ever come back. However researchers have now managed to place single molecules in such a tiny optical cavity that emitted photons, or particles of light, return to the molecule before they have properly left. The energy oscillates back and forth between light and molecule, resulting in a complete mixing of the two.
Understanding of cellulose could lead to tailored biofuels
In the search for low emission plant-based fuels, new research may help avoid having to choose between growing crops for food or fuel. Scientists have identified new steps in the way plants produce cellulose, the component of plant cell walls that provides strength, and forms insoluble fibre in the human diet. The findings could lead to improved production of cellulose and guide plant breeding for specific uses such as wood products and...
Smart glass switches between transparent and opaque
A smart material that switches back and forth between transparent and opaque could be installed in buildings or automobiles, potentially reducing energy bills by avoiding the need for costly air conditioning. Imagine a glass skyscraper in which all of the windows could go from clear to opaque at the flick of a switch, allowing occupants to regulate the amount of sunlight coming through the windows without having to rely on costly air conditi...
'Polymer opals' have potential for smart clothing
The team, led by the University of Cambridge, have invented a way to make such sheets on industrial scales, opening up applications ranging from smart clothing for people or buildings, to banknote security. Using a new method called Bend-Induced-Oscillatory-Shearing (BIOS), the researchers are now able to produce hundreds of metres of these materials, known as 'polymer opals', on a roll-to-roll process. The results are reported in the journal Nat...
Can we save the algae biofuel infustry?
Christian Ridley (Department of Plant Sciences) discusses why algae biofuel has failed to deliver, and what could be done to save this promising technology. Algal biofuels are in trouble. This alternative fuel source could help reduce overall carbon emissions without taking land from food production, like many crop-based biofuels do. But several major companies including Shell and ExxonMobil are seemingly abandoning their investments in this envi...
'World's tiniest engine' uses light to power itself
Researchers have developed the world’s tiniest engine – just a few billionths of a metre in size – which uses light to power itself. The nanoscale engine, developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, could form the basis of future nano-machines that can navigate in water, sense the environment around them, or even enter living cells to fight disease.
Laser technique promises super-secure quantum cryptography
A method of implementing an 'unbreakable' quantum cryptographic system is able to transmit information at rates more than ten times faster than previous attempts. Researchers have developed a new method to overcome one of the main issues in implementing a quantum cryptography system, raising the prospect of a useable 'unbreakable' method for sending sensitive information hidden inside particles of light.
Could future buildings be made with bone and eggshells?
As the world grapples with climate change, we urgently need to find ways of reducing our CO₂ emissions. Sectors which rely heavily on fossil fuels, such as energy and aviation, are commonly held to be the worst offenders. But what most people don't realise is that there's another culprit, hiding in plain sight; on the streets of our cities, and in the buildings where we live and work.
Graphene shown to safely interact with neurons in the brain
Researchers have successfully demonstrated how it is possible to interface graphene – a two-dimensional form of carbon – with neurons, or nerve cells, while maintaining the integrity of these vital cells. The work may be used to build graphene-based electrodes that can safely be implanted in the brain, offering promise for the restoration of sensory functions for amputee or paralysed patients, or for individuals with motor disorders s...
Fuel cell electrolyte for more efficient energy
A new thin-film electrolyte material that helps solid oxide fuel cells operate more efficiently and cheaply than those composed of conventional materials, and has potential applications for portable power sources, has been developed at the University of Cambridge. These new materials offer the possibility of either significantly improving the efficiency of current high-temperature fuel cell systems, or achieving the same performance levels a...
Robots can evolve and be autonomously creative
According to Fumiya Iida, Lecturer in mechatronics, University of Cambridge, creating artificial intelligence that can design future versions of itself – effectively a robot that can reproduce and evolve – might help us discover innovations that humans might not consider on their own.
New holographic technology implemented in vehicles
Cambridge researchers have developed a new type of display for vehicles which is the first to use laser holographic techniques to project information such as speed, direction and navigation onto the windscreen. The technology is now available on all Jaguar Land Rover vehicles. According to researchers, these new systems provide a fully immersive driving experience and could even improve safety by monitoring driver behaviour.
Artificial pancreas works for length of entire school term
An artificial pancreas given to children and adults with type 1 diabetes going about their daily lives has been proven to work for 12 weeks, meaning the technology, developed at the University of Cambridge, can now offer a whole school term of extra freedom for children with the condition.
Scientists 'squeeze' light one particle at a time
A team of scientists has successfully measured particles of light being ‘squeezed’, in an experiment that had been written off in physics textbooks as impossible to observe.
First Coding School for Girls was a success
The first Coding School for Girls run by Cambridge University Computer Laboratory and Cambridge Coding Academy, helped 76 girls, aged 15-18 with little or no prior coding experience, design and develop an online game, build Instagram-like image filters and programme drones to fly semi-autonomously. The aim of the one-week coding summer school was to spur excitement in digital innovation and inspire young women to explore opportunities in technolo...
Mother robot builds and tests its own 'children'
Researchers led by the University of Cambridge have built a mother robot that can independently build its own children and test which one does best; and then use the results to inform the design of the next generation, so that preferential traits are passed down from one generation to the next.
iPad game improves the memory of people with schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health condition that causes a range of psychological symptoms, ranging from changes in behaviour through to hallucinations and delusions. Psychotic symptoms are reasonably well treated by current medications; however, patients are still left with debilitating cognitive impairments, including in their memory, and so are frequently unable to return to university or work.
Nanoscale technique enables 'perfect' quantum dot junctions
Researchers have developed a method for growing ‘hybrid’ crystals at the nanoscale, in which quantum dots - essentially nanoscale semiconductors - of different materials can be sequentially incorporated into a host nanowire with perfect junctions between the components. An approach to self-assemble and tailor complex structures at the nanoscale opens opportunities to tailor properties and functionalities of materials for a wide r...
Aeronautic superalloys on show at Summer Science Exhibition
At any one time over half a million people are flying far above our heads in modern aircraft. Their lives depend on the performance of the special metals used inside jet engines, where temperatures can reach over 2000˚C. Cambridge researchers will be exhibiting these remarkable materials at this year’s Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition.