-- Researchers at the National Institute of Standards & Technology have formed a temporary partnership with the Texas Air National Guard to test the wind stability of various house designs. The test homes, bristling with instruments, will be subjected to hurricane-force winds generated by the propellers of a C-103 Hercules aircraft. The data gathered will be used to produce computer models capable of predicting the behavior of future house designs in high-wind situations.

-- Scientists at the University of Illinois have chosen fiber optics as the basis of a sensor to monitor stress on train tracks. Once the optical lines are attached to the rails, tiny alterations in the light passing through the fiber alert engineers to the slightest deflections in the metal rails. What's more, fiber optic sensors are not just sensitive--they're surprisingly tough. The strain gauges now in use are affected by electromagnetic interference, but the fiber is not.

-- Dimethylcadmium is one nasty compound. The toxic chemical is unstable at room temperature, explosive at higher temperatures, and costly to use. So why keep it around? For the past 10 years, scientists have needed the hazardous material to form nanocrystals, which are used in applications such as special electronic and optoelectronic devices. Now, a University of Arkansas research team has found a way to replace the toxic compound with a more stable and less expensive substance. The researchers discovered that from a base of cheaper--and safer--cadmium oxide, they can make a variety of nanocrystals incorporating several different materials.

By Petti Fong

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