Emergency backup

A new computer architecture created by Princeton researchers could help emergency personnel obtain helpful but protected information when they respond to natural disasters or terrorist attacks. The architecture employs security features that would be embedded in the hardware of electronic devices like PDAs, and the key element, according to electrical engineering professor Ruby Lee, is an option called “transient trust,” which provides temporary access to secure information, such as a building’s floor plans or a patient’s medical records. Police, firefighters, or medical personnel would be allowed to consult relevant data during an emergency, but when the crisis ended, so would the user’s access to the sensitive information. Lee and graduate student Jeffrey Dwoskin presented their design at a communications security conference Oct. 31.

Better than bone

Silica compounds can be arranged in nanoscale patterns to create structures that rival the balance of stiffness and density found in natural porous materials such as bone and wood, according to a study in Nature Materials written by several authors, including Princeton chemistry professor Salvatore Torquato. The team, led by researchers from the University of New Mexico and Sandia National Laboratories, used artificially determined patterns to create cubic, hexagonal, and “worm-like” (curving cylinder) structures that “maximize mechanical properties at a given density.” The process could lead to the production of stiff, porous materials for membrane applications or microelectronics, according to University of New Mexico professor and principal investigator Jeff Brinker.