February 25/
March 3, 2004   

   Ethanol yields hydrogen
Ethanol is a renewable fuel, and fuel cells are clean energy generators. Using ethanol to generate hydrogen for fuel cells would make for a clean and renewable energy source. The trouble is ethanol is flammable. Using automobile fuel injectors gets the hydrogen out quickly enough to avoid igniting the fuel.
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Biochip makes droplet test tubes
Biochips that manipulate minuscule droplets on surfaces are getting better. One prototype uses water droplets as test tubes, filling them with samples and reagents, moving them about and merging them to mix their contents. The device, which has no moving parts, could eventually power portable medical, biological and chemical testing equipment, including systems that perform custom genetic screening.

Model keeps virtual eyes right
You can always tell by the eyes. Even if you are fooled by a virtual human's features, his gaze still makes it apparent he's not for real. Where a person looks turns out to be an issue of instinct and reflex rather than intelligence. A computer model aims to give virtual people the visual wiring of real primates.

Simple optics make quantum relay
Boosting ordinary optical signals is a matter of copying fading light pulses and sending bright new copies. The nascent field of quantum communications, however, can't use the copying method. This has led researchers to come up with all manner of tricky schemes for transmitting information contained in particles like photons. A technique that uses simple equipment is a step toward practical long distance quantum communication.

News briefs
Hot tip boosts disk capacity... Nanotubes boost shape recovery... Nanowires spot DNA mutation... Scans pick up object orientation... Nanotube mix makes liquid crystal... Film promises terabit storage.

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