October 2/9, 2002   

   Integrated biochips debut
The field of microfluidics aims to do for test tubes what the computer chip did for vacuum tubes. A postage-stamp-size chip that stores 1,000 tiny droplets could set the stage for replacing roomfuls of laboratory equipment with desktop and handheld devices.
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Metal mix boosts batteries
A new material for making the electrodes that shunt electricity into and out of batteries promises to bring on a new generation of cheaper, nontoxic lithium batteries that can deliver bigger bursts of energy and recharge faster. The material could be a boon for electric cars, implantable medical devices and fuel cells.

Plastic tag makes foolproof ID
Your credit card or passport could soon have a fingerprint of its own. Small plastic squares filled with tiny pieces of glass that scatter laser beams into speckle patterns could give everyday objects unique identities. The key is the tags can't be copied or faked.
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Scheme hides Web access
A method for hiding access to censored Web pages is the latest volley in the war between those who would restrict the flow of information and those who want unfettered access. MIT's Infranet project is aimed at giving political dissidents a fighting chance at getting their messages out, and letting anyone access banned material without being tracked.

Small jolts move artificial muscle
Give certain plastics a big enough jolt of electricity and they change shape. A composite material from Penn State can be motivated with much smaller voltages, paving the way for safer artificial muscles for toys and medical devices. The material could also lead to much smaller batteries for electric cars.

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