A U.S. team of researchers hunting for dark matter in a former gold mine in South Dakota, said Wednesday that the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment has proven itself to be the most sensitive dark matter detector ever created.

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LUX researchers, seen here in a clean room on the surface at the Sanford Lab, work on  the detector, before it is inserted into its titanium cryostat

Announcing the first results from the test’s initial 90-day run during a seminar at the Sanford Lab in Lead, S.D., the team said they have obtained results that are “the first physics outcomes achieved since the Ray Davis solar neutrino experiment, which earned him a Nobel Prize for Physics.”

“LUX is blazing the path to illuminate the nature of dark matter,” said Brown University physicist Rick Gaitskell, co-spokesperson for LUX with physicist Dan McKinsey of Yale University.

The scientists have been working at the one-of-a-kind laboratory located at the bottom of what was once North America’s deepest gold mine, hoping to find more definitive evidence of the mysterious substance estimated to make up as much as 85% of the universe’s total matter.

“This is only the beginning for LUX,” said team leader Dan McKinsey. “Now that we understand the instrument and its backgrounds, we will continue to take data, testing for more and more elusive candidates for dark matter.”

Less than 15% of the universe is made up of conventional matter — protons, neutrons, and electrons. Most of the rest is thought to be dark matter, which cannot be seen or felt, and seems to interact weakly, if at all, with conventional matter. (Hence the nickname for dark matter particles — WIMPs, or weakly interacting massive particles.) Identifying the raw material of the universe is a high priority for physicists and astronomers.

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Henry Sapiecha

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WEARING A VERY SMALL FLEXIBLE MONITORING DEVICE REPLACES LARGE ONES

Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University, has developed a flexible, skin-like heart monitor that is sensitive enough to detect stiff arteries and cardiovascular problems. The sensor is worn under an adhesive bandage on the wrist. To make the monitor so small and sensitive, Bao’s team used a thin middle layer of rubber covered with tiny pyramid bumps. Each mold-made pyramid is only a few microns in diameter. When pressure is put on the device, the pyramids deform slightly, changing the size of the gap between the two halves of the device. This change in separation causes a measurable change in the electromagnetic field and the current flow in the device.

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Henry Sapiecha

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THIS 1mm CUBE MINIATURE CIRCUIT WILL POWER ITSELF UNIVERSITY SAYS

Tackling the challenge of power consumption on miniaturized computer systems, researchers at the University of Michigan College of Engineering have designed a one-cubic-millimeter circuit that can power itself. This particular device is aimed at inter-ocular pressure monitoring for glaucoma diagnosis and management, and can be implanted in the eye with a simple outpatient technique. U-M scientists, including Electrical Engineering and Computer Science professors Dennis Sylvester and David Blaauw, hope to make the sensors in volume at the U-M and disseminate them to other researchers in an effort to open up new areas of application.

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Henry Sapiecha

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COULD THIS BE THE SKIN OF THE FUTURE FOR ROBOTS & MAYBE MANKIND?

An international research team led by Professor Takao Someya of the University of Tokyo has manufactured extremely thin (2 μm) and light (3 g/m2) soft organic transistor integrated circuits (ICs) on ultra-thin polymeric films. The research team developed a novel technique to form a high-quality 19-nm-thick insulating layer on the rough surface of the 1.2-μm-thick polymeric film. The electrical properties and mechanical performance of the flexible ICs were practically unchanged (no degradation was seen) even when squeezed to a bending radius of 5 μm, dipped in physiological saline, or stretched to up to twice their original size. A major application of this flexible IC and touch sensor system is medical monitoring. “This can be attached to all sorts of surfaces and does not limit the movement of the person wearing it,” says Someya.

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Henry Sapiecha

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Henry Sapiecha

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