Researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory believe they've identified a simpler way to generate biofuels – a one-step process to convert cellulose found in plant material and other biomass into a chemical that can serve as a precursor to make fuels and plastics. A simpler process means scientists can provide alternatives to economists and investors who are looking to make smart decisions about biofuel production as fossil fuel resources become more limited.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Sunflowers track the sun as it moves from east to west. But people usually have to convert sunlight into electricity or heat to put its power to use.

Now, a team of University of Florida chemists is the latest to report a new mechanism to transform light straight into motion – albeit at a very, very, very tiny scale.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — More and more, scientists are getting a better grip on the nitrogen cycle. They are learning about sources of nitrogen and how this element changes as it loops from the nonliving, such as the atmosphere, soil or water, to the living, whether plants or animals. Scientists have determined that humans are disrupting the nitrogen cycle by altering the amount of nitrogen that is stored in the biosphere.

PASADENA, Calif.—Physicists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have developed a nanoscale device that can be used for force detection, optical communication, and more. The device exploits the mechanical properties of light to create an optomechanical cavity in which interactions between light and motion are greatly strengthened and enhanced. These interactions, notes Oskar Painter, associate professor of applied physics at Caltech, and the principal investigator on the research, are the largest demonstrated to date.

The unique properties of thin layers of graphite – known as graphene – make the material attractive for a wide range of potential electronic devices. Researchers have now experimentally demonstrated the potential for another graphene application: replacing copper for interconnects in future generations of integrated circuits.

In a paper published in the June 2009 issue of the IEEE journal Electron Device Letters, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology report detailed analysis of resistivity in graphene nanoribbon interconnects as narrow as 18 nanometers.

A fresh approach to public sector leadership is vital if the Scottish Government's vision of a more successful country is to realised – especially given challenges such as the current financial situation and a general loss of trust in leaders - according to a new report from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

New York, NY, June 4, 2009 – In 2007, before the current economic downturn, an American family filed for bankruptcy in the aftermath of illness every 90 seconds; three-quarters of them were insured. Over 60% of all bankruptcies in the United States in 2007 were driven by medical incidents. In an article published in the August 2009 issue of the American Journal of Medicine, the results of the first-ever national random-sample survey of bankruptcy filers shows that illnesses and medical bills contribute to a large and increasing share of bankruptcies.

The ever-growing demand for digital storage of videos, images, music and text calls for storage media that pack increasingly more data onto chips that keep shrinking in size. However, this demand runs in sharp contrast to the history of data storage. Compare the stone carvings in the Egyptian temple of Karnak, which store approximately two bits of data per square inch but can still be read after nearly 4,000 years, to a modern DVD which can store 100 giga (billion) bits of data per square inch but will probably remain readable for no more than 30 years.

Sleeping tablets have been associated with a four-fold increase in suicide risk in the elderly. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Geriatrics have shown that, even after adjusting for the presence of psychiatric conditions, sedatives and hypnotics were both associated with an increased risk of suicide.

Using sensors capable of detecting drugs in breath, new technology developed at University of Florida monitors health-care workers' hand hygiene by detecting sanitizer or soap fumes given off from their hands.

By reminding workers to clean their hands to remove disease-causing organisms such as the bacteria MRSA, the system could help reduce hospital-acquired infections and save millions of dollars now spent to treat them.