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Physicists use geometry to understand “jamming” process

March 21, 2014 8:01 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Oregon physicists using a supercomputer and mathematically rich formulas have captured fundamental insights about what happens when objects moving freely jam to a standstill. Their approach captures jamming—the point at which objects come together too tightly to move—by identifying geometric signatures.

Rapid materials testing in 3-D

March 20, 2014 12:31 pm | News | Comments

Ultrasound is a proven technology in components testing, but until now evaluating the data has always been quite a time-consuming process. Researchers in Germany have recently optimized an ultrasonic testing solution that can test materials quickly and reliably with the help of 3-D images produced directly from test signals. The solution is analogous to medical computed tomography.

Getting rid of bad vibrations

March 20, 2014 9:25 am | News | Comments

Scanning electron microscopes are extremely sensitive and even subtle movements going on around them can affect their accuracy. Vibration control tables already exist to dampen these sometimes barely perceptible disturbances. But now a new kind of isolation platform for the first time integrates sensors and actuators into the mount, resulting in a platform that is more cost-effective and compact than its predecessors.

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Study: Industry-sponsored academic inventions spur increased innovation

March 20, 2014 7:57 am | by Bobbie Mixon, NSF | News | Comments

Industry-sponsored academic research leads to innovative patents and licenses, says a new analysis led by Brian Wright, Univ. of California, Berkeley prof. of agricultural and resource economics. The finding calls into question assumptions that corporate support skews science toward inventions that are less accessible and less useful to others than those funded by the government or non-profit organizations.

Tiny transistors for extreme environs

March 20, 2014 7:47 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Utah electrical engineers fabricated the smallest plasma transistors that can withstand high temperatures and ionizing radiation found in a nuclear reactor. Such transistors someday might enable smartphones that take and collect medical x-rays on a battlefield, and devices to measure air quality in real time.

R&D Chat: Collaborative Laboratory Space

March 20, 2014 7:27 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Videos | Comments

Not all outcomes of the recession were negative. As the North American market shrank, the AEC industry saw a significant increase in the number of national and global institutional and private collaborations and people getting creative about funding and seeking partnerships to pool resources.

IBM's Watson to help in brain cancer research

March 19, 2014 3:20 pm | by Bree Fowler - AP Technology Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

IBM is teaming up with the New York Genome Center to help fight brain cancer. The company said Wednesday that its Watson cloud computing system will be used in partnership with a New York-based genetic research center to help develop treatments for glioblastoma, the most common type of brain cancer in U.S. adults.

Researchers survey protein family that helps brain form synapses

March 19, 2014 8:35 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Neuroscientists and bioengineers at Stanford Univ. are working together to solve a mystery: How does nature construct the different types of synapses that connect neurons—the brain cells that monitor nerve impulses, control muscles and form thoughts.

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Smartphone to become smarter with “deep learning” innovation

March 19, 2014 8:01 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are working to enable smartphones and other mobile devices to understand and immediately identify objects in a camera's field of view, overlaying lines of text that describe items in the environment. The innovation could find applications in "augmented reality" technologies like Google Glass, facial recognition systems and robotic cars that drive themselves.

New lens design improves kidney stone treatment

March 18, 2014 10:53 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Duke Univ. engineers have devised a way to improve the efficiency of lithotripsy—the demolition of kidney stones using focused shock waves. After decades of research, all it took was cutting a groove near the perimeter of the shock wave-focusing lens and changing its curvature.

Flexible carbon nanotube circuits are more reliable, power efficient

March 18, 2014 9:57 am | News | Comments

Engineers would love to create flexible electronic devices, such as e-readers that could be folded to fit into a pocket. One approach they are trying involves designing circuits based on electronic fibers, known as carbon nanotubes, instead of rigid silicon chips. But reliability is essential.

Researchers devise stretchable antenna for wearable health monitoring

March 18, 2014 9:13 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a new, stretchable antenna that can be incorporated into wearable technologies, such as health monitoring devices. The researchers wanted to develop an antenna that could be stretched, rolled or twisted and always return to its original shape, because wearable systems can be subject to a variety of stresses as patients move around.

Graphene light detector first to span infrared spectrum

March 18, 2014 8:04 am | by Kate McAlpine, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

The first room-temperature light detector that can sense the full infrared spectrum has the potential to put heat vision technology into a contact lens. Unlike comparable mid- and far-infrared detectors currently on the market, the detector developed by Univ. of Michigan engineering researchers doesn't need bulky cooling equipment to work.

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Nanopores control inner ear’s ability to select sounds

March 18, 2014 7:41 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Even in a crowded room full of background noise, the human ear is remarkably adept at tuning in to a single voice—a feat that has proved remarkably difficult for computers to match. A new analysis of the underlying mechanisms, conducted by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has provided insights that could ultimately lead to better machine hearing, and perhaps to better hearing aids as well.

Novel membrane reveals water molecules will bounce off a liquid surface

March 17, 2014 9:38 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Consider the nearest water surface: a half-full glass on your desk, a puddle outside your window or a lake across town. All of these surfaces represent liquid-vapor interfaces, where liquid meets air. Molecules of water vapor constantly collide with these liquid surfaces: Some make it through the surface and condense, while others simply bounce off.

Brighter inks, without pigment

March 17, 2014 7:57 am | by Manny Morone '14, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at the Harvard Univ. School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are giving man-made materials structural color. Producing structural color is not easy, though; it often requires a material’s molecules to be in a very specific crystalline pattern, like the natural structure of an opal, which reflects a wide array of colors.

Bionic plants

March 17, 2014 7:36 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Plants have many valuable functions: They provide food and fuel, release the oxygen that we breathe and add beauty to our surroundings. Now, a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers wants to make plants even more useful by augmenting them with nanomaterials that could enhance their energy production and give them completely new functions, such as monitoring environmental pollutants.

Innovative solar-powered toilet ready for India unveiling

March 14, 2014 11:54 am | News | Comments

A self-contained, waterless toilet, designed and built using a $777,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has the capability of heating human waste enough to sterilize the waste and create biochar, a highly porous charcoal. The toilet, fueled by the sun, is being developed to help some of the 2.5 billion people around the world lacking safe and sustainable sanitation, and will be unveiled in India this month.

Roomy cages built from DNA

March 14, 2014 11:48 am | News | Comments

Move over, nanotechnologists, and make room for the biggest of the small. Scientists at the Harvard's Wyss Institute have built a set of self-assembling DNA cages one-tenth as wide as a bacterium. The structures are some of the largest and most complex structures ever constructed solely from DNA.

GE introduces a new technology for home refrigeration

March 14, 2014 9:45 am | News | Comments

For the past 100 years, the way your fridge preserved your food has been rooted in technology dating back to the mid-1800s, but that is about to change. GE researchers are developing a new magnetic refrigeration method that uses no refrigerants or compressors and is 20% more efficient than what is used today.

NIST zero-energy house gives back to the grid

March 14, 2014 7:50 am | News | Comments

Over the first six months in their special, new, four-bedroom home in suburban Maryland, the Nisters, a prototypical family of four, earned about $40 by exporting 328 kW-h of electricity into the local grid, while meeting all of their varied energy needs. These virtual residents of the Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) on the campus of NIST didn't have to skimp the creature comforts of 21st century living, either.

Recovering metals and minerals from waste

March 13, 2014 9:15 am | News | Comments

Scarcity of clean water is one of the most serious global challenges. In its spearhead program, a research center in Finland developed energy-efficient methods for reuse of water in industrial processes and means for recovering valuable minerals and materials from waste for recycling. Toward this purpose, rapid membrane-based tools were developed for identification of environmental pollutants.

Heat-based technique offers new way to count microscopic particles

March 13, 2014 9:09 am | News | Comments

Particle counters are used in a wide variety of industries. Researchers in North Carolina have developed a new thermal technique that counts and measures the size of particles, but is less expensive than light-based techniques. It can also be used on a wider array of materials than electricity-based techniques.

Soft robotic fish moves like the real thing

March 13, 2014 8:05 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Soft robots have become a sufficiently popular research topic that they now have their own journal, Soft Robotics. In the first issue of that journal, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers report the first self-contained autonomous soft robot capable of rapid body motion: a “fish” that can execute an escape maneuver, convulsing its body to change direction in just a fraction of a second, or almost as quickly as a real fish can.

Ultracold molecules promising for quantum computing, simulation

March 13, 2014 7:49 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have created a new type of "ultracold" molecule, using lasers to cool atoms nearly to absolute zero and then gluing them together, a technology that might be applied to quantum computing, precise sensors and advanced simulations. Physicists are using lasers to achieve such extreme cooling, reducing the temperature to nearly absolute zero, or -273 C (-459 F)—the lowest temperature possible in the universe.

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