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Robotic arm probes chemistry of 3-D objects by mass spectrometry

March 27, 2014 11:49 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

When life on Earth was first getting started, simple molecules bonded together into the precursors of modern genetic material. A catalyst would’ve been needed, but enzymes had not yet evolved. One theory is that the catalytic minerals on a meteorite’s surface could have jump-started life’s first chemical reactions. But scientists need a way to directly analyze these rough, irregularly shaped surfaces.

R&D Chat: Sustainability Built In

March 27, 2014 11:34 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Videos | Comments

What research lab doesn’t care about a good return on investment for their spending? The last five years has marked an increase in the level of scrutiny applied to projects to assure maximum ROI. The early design process demands greater economic analysis of lifecycle costs to reduce operating and energy costs and optimize environmental performance.

Big data keeps complex production running smoothly

March 27, 2014 9:25 am | News | Comments

Industrial plants must function effectively. Remedying production downtimes and breakdowns is an expensive and time consuming business. That is why companies collect data to evaluate how their facilities are doing. At the Hannover Messe Digital Factory, held April 7-11, researchers in Germany will show how operators can analyze these huge amounts of data and use it as an early warning system when problems threaten.

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Engineer builds instrument to study effects of genes, environment on plant traits

March 26, 2014 8:16 am | by Mike Krapfl, News Service, Iowa State Univ. | News | Comments

Let’s say plant scientists want to develop new lines of corn that will better tolerate long stretches of hot, dry weather. How can they precisely assess the performance of those new plants in different environmental conditions? Field tests can provide some answers. Greenhouse tests can provide some more. But how can plant scientists get a true picture of a plant’s growth and traits under a variety of controlled environmental conditions?

Students virtually dissect hologram-like 3-D cadaver

March 26, 2014 7:49 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

The 3-D virtual reality cadaver floats in space like a hologram on an invisible gurney. Univ. of Michigan 3-D Lab employee Sean Petty stands a few inches away. Petty wears special glasses and pilots a joystick to arbitrarily slice away sections of the cadaver. He enlarges and turns the body for a better view of the detailed anatomy inside.

Source-gated transistor could pave the way for flexible gadgets

March 25, 2014 1:06 pm | News | Comments

Existing transistors act as electronic switches, altering current flow through a semiconductor by controlling the bias voltage across the channel region. A new electronic component, called a source-gated transistor, has been developed in the U.K. and exploits physical effects such as the Schottky barriers at metal-semiconductor contacts. This innovation could improve the reliability of future digital circuits used within flexible gadgets.

Nanotube coating helps shrink mass spectrometers

March 25, 2014 11:52 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Nanotechnology is advancing tools likened to Star Trek's "tricorder" that perform on-the-spot chemical analysis for a range of applications including medical testing, explosives detection and food safety. Researchers found that when paper used to collect a sample was coated with carbon nanotubes, the voltage required was 1,000 times reduced, the signal was sharpened and the equipment was able to capture far more delicate molecules.

Robot builds on insights into Atlantic razor clam dynamics

March 25, 2014 11:10 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

The Atlantic razor clam uses very little energy to burrow into undersea soil at high speed. Now a detailed insight into how the animal digs has led to the development of a robotic clam that can perform the same trick. The device, known as “RoboClam,” could be used to dig itself into the ground to bury anchors or destroy underwater mines.

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Toilet tech fair tackles global sanitation woes

March 24, 2014 9:10 am | by Katy Daigle, AP Environment Writer | News | Comments

Scientists who accepted the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's challenge to reinvent the toilet showcased their inventions in New Delhi on Saturday. The primary goal: to sanitize waste, use minimal water or electricity and produce a usable product at low cost. The World Bank estimates the annual global cost of poor sanitation at $260 billion and India is by far the worst culprit.

R&D spending in higher education

March 21, 2014 10:04 am | News | Comments

The Higher Education Research and Development Survey, successor to the Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges, is the primary source of information on R&D expenditures at U.S. colleges and universities. The survey collects information on R&D expenditures by field of research and source of funds and also gathers information on types of research and expenses and headcounts of R&D personnel.

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.

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.

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.

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