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Category: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Controlling how “odd couple” surfaces and liquids interact | MIT News
January 17, 2022

The wettability of a surface — whether drops of water or another liquid bead up or spread out when they come into contact with it — is a crucial factor in a wide variety of commercial and industrial applications, such as how efficiently boilers and condensers work in power plants or how heat pipes funnel heat away in industrial processes. This characteristic has long been seen as a fixed property of a given pair of...

Physicists watch as ultracold atoms form a crystal of quantum tornadoes | MIT News
January 5, 2022

The world we experience is governed by classical physics. How we move, where we are, and how fast we’re going are all determined by the classical assumption that we can only exist in one place at any one moment in time. But in the quantum world, the behavior of individual atoms is governed by the eerie principle that a particle’s location is a probability. An atom, for instance, has a certain chance of being in one...

MIT engineers produce the world’s longest flexible fiber battery | MIT News
December 20, 2021

Researchers have developed a rechargeable lithium-ion battery in the form of an ultra-long fiber that could be woven into fabrics. The battery could enable a wide variety of wearable electronic devices, and might even be used to make 3D-printed batteries in virtually any shape. The researchers envision new possibilities for self-powered communications, sensing, and computational devices that could be worn like ordinary...

Technique enables real-time rendering of scenes in 3D | MIT News
December 7, 2021

Humans are pretty good at looking at a single two-dimensional image and understanding the full three-dimensional scene that it captures. Artificial intelligence agents are not. Yet a machine that needs to interact with objects in the world — like a robot designed to harvest crops or assist with surgery — must be able to infer properties about a 3D scene from observations of the 2D images it’s trained on....

Feast or forage? Study finds circuit that helps a brain decide | MIT News
December 6, 2021

MIT neuroscientists have discovered the elegant architecture of a fundamental decision-making brain circuit that allows a C. elegans worm to either forage for food or stop to feast when it finds a source. Capable of integrating multiple streams of sensory information, the circuit employs just a few key neurons to sustain long-lasting behaviors and yet flexibly switch between them as environmental conditions...

Immune system-stimulating nanoparticle could lead to more powerful vaccines | MIT News
December 3, 2021

A common strategy to make vaccines more powerful is to deliver them along with an adjuvant — a compound that stimulates the immune system to produce a stronger response. Researchers from MIT, the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, and other institutions have now designed a new nanoparticle adjuvant that may be more potent than others now in use. Studies in mice showed that it significantly improved antibody production...

Artificial intelligence that understands object relationships | MIT News
November 29, 2021

When humans look at a scene, they see objects and the relationships between them. On top of your desk, there might be a laptop that is sitting to the left of a phone, which is in front of a computer monitor. Many deep learning models struggle to see the world this way because they don’t understand the entangled relationships between individual objects. Without knowledge of these relationships, a robot designed to help...

Getting quantum dots to stop blinking | MIT News
November 23, 2021

Quantum dots, discovered in the 1990s, have a wide range of applications and are perhaps best known for producing vivid colors in some high-end televisions. But for some potential uses, such as tracking biochemical pathways of a drug as it interacts with living cells, progress has been hampered by one seemingly uncontrollable characteristic: a tendency to blink off at random intervals. That doesn’t matter when the dots...

Avoiding shortcut solutions in artificial intelligence | MIT News
November 20, 2021

If your Uber driver takes a shortcut, you might get to your destination faster. But if a machine learning model takes a shortcut, it might fail in unexpected ways. In machine learning, a shortcut solution occurs when the model relies on a simple characteristic of a dataset to make a decision, rather than learning the true essence of the data, which can lead to inaccurate predictions. For example, a model might learn to...

How ultracold, superdense atoms become invisible | MIT News
November 19, 2021

An atom’s electrons are arranged in energy shells. Like concertgoers in an arena, each electron occupies a single chair and cannot drop to a lower tier if all its chairs are occupied. This fundamental property of atomic physics is known as the Pauli exclusion principle, and it explains the shell structure of atoms, the diversity of the periodic table of elements, and the stability of the material universe. Now, MIT...

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