How Penn State Scientist Christine Keating Is Making Cell-Like Vesicles Out of Non-Living Polymers

Synthetic Cells

by Tom Imerito

Chris Keating wants to know something basic about how cells work. “How does a given molecule within a cell get to the place where it wants to go?” she asks.

To find the answer, a great many researchers have tried taking cells apart. But Keating, an assistant professor of chemistry at Penn State, is using a different approach: she’s building a cell from scratch.

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The Life and Times of Samuel Pierpont Langley

Time Stars Sun Spots and Flying Machines

by Tom Imerito

At the foot of the escalator on the first floor of Wesley Posvar Hall at the University of Pittsburgh a stately memento of the earliest days of aeronautics hangs from the ceiling in testament to the genius of its inventor, Samuel Pierpont Langley.  Dr. Langley came to Pittsburgh in 1867 to serve as director of the Allegheny Observatory and professor of physics and astronomy at the University.  Langley’s scientific intuition, practical resourcefulness and an unrelenting inclination to look at things with a fresh eye made him famous around the world. [Continue Reading…]

Taking a Ride in Carnegie Mellon's Driverless SUV

Race Day at Robot City

by Tom Imerito

It’s not often that a scientific trial exudes the festive tone of a carnival, but this one did.  On a scorching day in June, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tartan Racing Team, assembled at Robot City on the former site of LTV Steel on the banks of the Monongahela.  Today, the team’s driverless SUV, named Boss, would undergo qualification testing by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) for inclusion on the list of 36 elite competitors in this coming November’s $2 million Urban Challenge.  The Urban Challenge will be a simulated battlefield supply mission run at an urban military training facility in Victorville, California on November 3. [Continue Reading…]

Tony Huang Makes Motors Out of Molecules

Research Penn State

by Tom Imerito

Tony Huang’s enthusiasm for nanoscience is both obvious and irrepressible. “When nanotechnology came around, sometimes I couldn’t even sleep at night, I was so excited about the problems I was working on,” he says. “Even today, every day when I come to my office, I am very excited about some new idea.”

Trained as a mechanical engineer in his native China, Huang once worked on the fluid mechanics of advanced nuclear power cooling systems, plausibly the largest end of the engineering spectrum, where things are measured in meters and tons. Today, he works at the smallest end of the spectrum, investigating objects and events that are measured in nanometers and atomic weights. [Continue Reading…]

Thar Technologies Exploits the Super Side of Carbon Dioxide

Supercritical Man

by Tom Imerito

In our ongoing love-hate relationship with carbon dioxide it can only come as a pleasant surprise that the ambivalent molecule that brought us both champagne bubbles and global warming has become a fair-haired child of the emerging field of green chemistry. Using waste CO2 and a deep understanding of an exotic state of matter called supercritical fluids, Lalit Chordia, a Pittsburgh chemical entrepreneur, has turned the secret of supercritical fluids into a company that is out to solve the world’s conflicting energy and food crises in a completely green way. Headquartered in RIDC Park, Dr. Chordia’s company is called Thar Technologies and the technology it uses is supercritical fluid extraction with carbon dioxide. [Continue Reading…]