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Press Release

NSF.gov
July 2007
Original source:
http://www.nsf.gov/news/newsletter/jul_07/index.jsp

Grant for Leaf Sensor Technology

AgriHouse Receives National Science Foundation Research (NSF)

photo of plant in dirt

With new technology, researchers hope to save vast quantities of time, money and water by having plants "tell" farmers what they need and when. Credit: © 2007 Jupiter Images Corporation.

Turning a New Leaf

Working with a $150,000 Small Business Technology Transfer research grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Richard Stoner and others at his high-tech company, AgriHouse, are developing a technology that will enable plants to communicate with humans.

The technology uses sensors to record a plant's moisture content. The sensors are simply clipped to plant leaves to monitor the plant's water deficiency and accompanying stress. The resulting data is transferred from the sensors to computers linked to irrigation systems. Hence, the sensors ensure timely watering of plants and cut down on excessive watering.

Agricultural activity accounts for about 40% of freshwater use in the United States and techniques utilized by these sensors will decrease overall water consumption, potentially saving farmers millions of dollars per year.

To date, the technology has been used only with cowpea, a legume, but researchers believe that this leaf-sensor technology could be transferred to a variety of crops including corn, wheat, potatoes, sugar beets and pinto beans, and even be extended to grass and fields, which would aid park and field maintenance.

Yet another case of NSF research and technology turning a new leaf! See the press release from the University of Colorado at Boulder for more information.


box diagram of kidney exchange of 2 recipients; R1 incompatible with husband but compatible with child of R2 and R2 incompatible with child but compatible with husband of R1

An exchange performed because of blood type incompatibility. The husband of Recipient 1 donates to Recipient 2 and the adult child of Recipient 2 donates to Recipient 1. Credit: S2N Media.

New Algorithm May Increase Kidney Transplants

Of the 70,000 some Americans awaiting kidney transplants, about 4,000 will die each year. Currently in the United States, kidney exchanges are considered the best way to increase the number of kidney transplants.

Computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a new method that can match living kidney donors with kidney disease patients, and increase the number of kidney transplants. Matches between kidney donors and recipients are determined by a specific algorithm that can search through the large national pools of donors and recipients. According to computer scientist Tuomas Sandholm, the revolutionary new algorithm creates matches for three- and four-way exchanges as well as two-way exchanges. This means that three or four donors can be matched with three or four recipients.

The Alliance for Paired Donation, a kidney exchange program, already uses the new algorithm, and many scientists are pleased with the potential it holds. Alliance Director, Dr. Michael Rees of the University of Toledo Medical Center said that if the national pool could include 3,000 donor-patient pairs and accumulate 1,000 to 1,500 pairs each year, as many as 2,000 transplants could be performed if three- and four-way exchanges are incorporated.

See the news release from Carnegie Mellon for more information.


person with laptop, numeric data streams running across top of image

Researchers demonstrated that power levels high enough to run a laptop can be transferred over the distance of a room even with objects obstructing the sending and receiving units. Credit: © 2007 Jupiter Images Corporation.

Power Transfer Goes Unplugged

Recently, a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology experimentally demonstrated an important step for the wireless transfer of power that could be used for everyday cordless devices. In the world of laptops, iPods and cell phones, charging heavy batteries becomes a hassle. In addition, batteries significantly add to the total weight of a device and are expensive to replace.

The researchers' novel concept of "WiTricity" is based on the notion of magnetically coupled resonance. The team coupled a system of two electromagnetic resonators through their magnetic fields, which created an efficient power transfer.

Their design consists of two self-resonant copper coils, a sending unit and a receiving unit. The sending unit is attached to the power source and fills the space around itself with a non-radiative magnetic field. The receiving unit resonates with the field, producing a strong connection between the two units.

The team identified the strongly coupled regime through this interaction, which functioned even when the two objects were separated by a large distance.  This specific regime allows for the highly efficient transfer of power. This discovery could revolutionize the wireless industry and leave batteries as a thing of the past.

See MIT's press release, "Goodbye Wires..." for more information.


black widow spider hanging from a web

The foundation of the black widow spider's web is made from their strong dragline silk. Credit: morgueFile.

Unraveling the Secrets of the Black Widow's Unique Silk

The identification of the genes encoding two key proteins in the unique silk of the black widow spider may lead to advances in new materials for industrial, medical and military uses. Biologists at the University of California, Riverside have identified the ingredients and the genetic blueprint of the spider's "dragline silk." This new knowledge may make it possible to one day artificially spin silk fibers for use in lightweight super-strong body armor, components of medical devices and high-tech athletic attire.

Dragline silk--one of seven different silks that a spider produces--is used to lay the groundwork of webs and also supports the spider as it moves around. The dragline silk of the black widow spider is one of the strongest and toughest spider silks.

For more on the secrets of the black widow spider's silk, see UCR's press release.


cars travelling along a split highway

NSF uses FastLane to process and document all of its grant activity. Now, NSF is charged with the task of bringing the paperless system to the rest of the government. Credit: © 2007 Jupiter Images Corporation.

In the driver’s seat, NSF rides in the FastLane.

Since 1996, a vast majority of NSF's interactions with the external grantee community have been conducted electronically through the agency's interactive Web site, FastLane. In collaboration with NSF, more than 250,000 people use FastLane each year. For example, 41,500 grant applications were processed via FastLane in FY 2005, leading to approximately 9,500 awards. In FY 2005, 192,000 reviews, 26,000 technical progress reports, 15,800 cash requests, and distributions of $4 billion in grant funds were also handled via the interactive Web site.

Because of FastLane, NSF was among six government agencies to receive an "A" rating from the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform in March 2006. FastLane has driven NSF into a leadership position as it is one of only three initial "Consortia" service providers to help develop a government-wide solution of public and comprehensive grants management.