R&D laboratories take on challenges of terrorism, energy, and communications in the new millennium.
Researchers recently published a report that compared the future sustainability of California high-speed rail with that of competing modes of transportation, namely automobile and air travel. They determined that, in terms of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, a mature high-speed rail system wins out when using greener electricity. This was true even after accounting for the emergence of more fuel-efficient airplanes and automobiles.
Students at Clemson University participated in an effort to retrofit a section of an airport runway that halts overrun aircraft. Because the task required the drilling of more than 80,000 holes in concrete, the students came up with a labor-saving solution: They successfully adapted a mobile drill press for the laborious task.
Humans and animals have evolved to consume energy very efficiently for movement. If robotic actuation can be made to approach the efficiency of human and animal actuation, the range of practical robotic applications will greatly increase. To help this progression, DARPA has created the M3 Actuation program with the goal of achieving a 2,000% increase in the efficiency of power transmission and application.
A multidisciplinary team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in Spain has found a new mathematical approach to simulating the electronic behavior of noncrystalline materials, which may eventually play an important part in new devices including solar cells; organic LED lights; and printable, flexible electronic circuits.
Police and security teams guarding airports, docks, and border crossings from terrorist attack or illegal entry need to know immediately when someone enter a prohibited area. A network of surveillance cameras is typically used to monitor these at-risk locations. Now, a system being developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology can perform security analysis more accurately and in a fraction of the time it would take a human camera operator.
What do you get when you combine a slingshot, a fish tank, a stack of 2 by 4s, and five engineering students determined to help the United States Air Force? For Team CADET at Rice University, the answer is a device to stop high-velocity projectiles without destroying them.
While SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory's Linac Coherent Light Source was designed to push the limits as a high-energy X-ray laser, users' requests led staff at the facility to successfully step it back to a lower minimum energy for some experiments. And a successful test proved that the X-ray laser could dip more deeply into the so-called "water window," an energy regime useful for biological imaging.
Plans to create the world's first carbon-neutral higher-speed locomotive were unveiled this week by the Coalition for Sustainable Rail, which has the goal of proving the viability of solid biofuel—torrefied biomass—and modern steam locomotive technology. The first step in those plans is to break the world speed record for steam trains.
After spending nearly five months conducting experiments in one spot, the NASA rover moved for the first time this week, rolling off the rock outcrop where it hunkered down for the Martian winter. Engineers will check its power supply before directing it north to study dust and bedrock.
Mineral oil is typically used as a cooling lubricant for machining hard metals and for tool-making machinery on which tools are manufactured, but engineers are now offering an alternative to fossil fuel-based oils that often transport very little heat. The new aqueous biopolymer solutions are actually based on water, which is no worse a lubricant than oil if the right additives are used.
If errors creep in during the assembly of components for automobiles, costly post-processing is often the consequence. Automatic testing is difficult, especially where individual products are concerned. Now, researchers in Germany are new testing system that is flexible and economical, even for smaller production runs.
InterTech Development Company has designed an in-line solution around the versatility of their M1075 leak tester. The new system shortens test cycle time and saves costs for diesel engine production lines by finding leaks faster.
Engineers at Stanford University have found a novel method for decorating nanowires with chains of tiny particles to increase their electrical and catalytic performance. The new technique is simpler, faster, and provide greater control than earlier methods and could lead to better batteries, solar cells, and catalysts.
A team of Rice University students has invented a machine designed to improve the process of correcting bone deformities in children. Typically, bone correction devices are manually operated, which children must remember to use and which introduces the possibility of damaging fragile tissues and nerves. The new automated linear lengthener avoids these risks.
Mature additive manufacturing technologies present new opportunities for R&D prototypes, high-end manufacturing facilities, and hobbyists alike.
Autonomous, self-replicating robots—exobots—are the way to explore the universe, find and identify extraterrestrial life and perhaps clean up space debris in the process, according to a Penn State engineer, who notes that the search for extraterrestrial intelligence—SETI—is in its 50th year.
Stratasys, Inc., a manufacturer of 3D printers and production systems for prototyping and manufacturing applications, and privately-held Objet Ltd., a manufacturer of 3D printers for rapid prototyping, have approved a definitive merger agreement under which the companies would combine in an all-stock transaction worth approximately $1.4 billion.
New research from North Carolina State University shows that federal requirements governing diesel engines of new tractor trailer trucks have resulted in major cuts in emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides—pollutants that have significant human health and environmental impacts.
The 725-acre Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette is the largest university-affiliated incubation complex in the country, and will soon get larger as Automotive Robotics Proving Labs Inc. plans to open a nearly 50,000-square-foot engine test facility and create 30 jobs.
According to findings by the U.S. Geological Survey, the rate of earthquakes in the United States’ midsection has jumped six-fold from the late 20th century through last year, and the changes are "almost certainly man-made." Most of the earthquakes resulting from drilling activities are relatively mold, falling into the magnitude 3 range on the Richter scale.
Pouring juice into a plastic cup can be a great challenge to a robot, which must hold a glass bottle firmly, yet gently grasp the cup. Researchers at Saarland University in Germany together with associates in Bologna and Naples have developed a robotic hand that can accomplish both tasks with ease using a device scarcely larger than a human arm.
Using sonar, an expedition spearheaded by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos has discovered what he claimed were discarded engines from the 1969 Apollo 11 mission lurking 14,000 feet deep. In an online announcement Wednesday, Bezos said he is drawing up plans to recover the sunken engines, jettisoned from the mighty Saturn V rocket just minutes after launch.
The Deepsea Challenger successfully reached the bottom of the Marianas Trench recently, a place only two others had ever gone. On board the vessel, filmmaker James Cameron spent more than three hours at the bottom, longer than the 20 minutes Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard spent in the only other visit 52 years ago.
Earth's lost frontier is about to be explored firsthand after more than half a century. In the next several days, James Cameron, the director of "Titanic," ''Avatar" and "The Abyss," plans to dive to the deepest part of the ocean, so deep that the pressure is the equivalent of three SUVs sitting on your toe.