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Fingertip sensor gives robot dexterity

September 19, 2014 7:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Northeastern Univ. have equipped a robot with a novel tactile sensor that lets it grasp a USB cable draped freely over a hook and insert it into a USB port. The sensor is an adaptation of a technology called GelSight, which was developed at MIT, and first described in 2009.

New algorithms lets owners swap, recharge battery modules in electric cars

September 17, 2014 1:51 pm | News | Comments

Imagine being able to switch out the batteries in electric cars just like you switch out batteries in a photo camera or flashlight. Engineers in California are trying to accomplish just that, in partnership with a local San Diego engineering company. Rather than swapping out the whole battery, which is cumbersome and requires large, heavy equipment, engineers plan to swap out and recharge smaller units within the battery, known as modules.

Toward optical chips

September 17, 2014 9:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Chips that use light, rather than electricity, to move data would consume much less power. Of the three chief components of optical circuits—light emitters, modulators and detectors—emitters are the toughest to build. One promising light source for optical chips is molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), which has excellent optical properties when deposited as a single, atom-thick layer.

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For electronics beyond silicon, a new contender emerges

September 17, 2014 8:13 am | by Caroline Perry, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Silicon has few serious competitors as the material of choice in the electronics industry. Yet transistors can’t simply keep shrinking to meet the needs of powerful, compact devices; physical limitations like energy consumption and heat dissipation are too significant. Now, using a quantum material called a correlated oxide, researchers have achieved a reversible change in electrical resistance of eight orders of magnitude.

Want to print your own cell phone microscope for pennies?

September 16, 2014 8:01 am | by Susan Bauer, PNNL | Videos | Comments

At one o'clock in the morning, layers of warm plastic are deposited on the platform of the 3-D printer that sits on scientist Rebecca Erikson's desk. A small plastic housing, designed to fit over the end of a cell phone, begins to take shape. Pulling it from the printer, Erikson quickly pops in a tiny glass bead and checks the magnification.

Bound for robotic glory

September 16, 2014 7:56 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

The fastest land animal on Earth, the cheetah, is able to accelerate to 60 mph in just a few seconds. As it ramps up to top speed, a cheetah pumps its legs in tandem, bounding until it reaches a full gallop. Now, researchers have developed an algorithm for bounding that they’ve successfully implemented in a fully functional robotic cheetah.

“Squid skin” metamaterials project yields vivid color display

September 16, 2014 7:41 am | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

The quest to create artificial “squid skin”—camouflaging metamaterials that can “see” colors and automatically blend into the background—is one step closer to reality, thanks to a breakthrough color-display technology unveiled by Rice Univ. The new full-color display technology uses aluminum nanoparticles to create the vivid red, blue and green hues found in today’s top-of-the-line LCD televisions and monitors.

Optical circuit uses record low energy to operate

September 10, 2014 6:07 pm | by Nik Papageorgiou, EPFL | News | Comments

Optical circuits use light instead of electricity, making them faster and more energy-efficient than electrical systems. Scientists in Switzerland have now developed a silicon-based photonic crystal nanocavity to be used as a first building-block for photonic “transistors”. The new device requires record low energy to operate.

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Nanotechnology aids in cooling electrons without external sources

September 10, 2014 1:23 pm | News | Comments

A team of researchers has discovered a way to cool electrons to -228 C without external means and at room temperature, an advancement that could enable electronic devices to function with very little energy. The process involves passing electrons through a quantum well to cool them and keep them from heating.

“Electronic skin” could improve early breast cancer detection

September 10, 2014 1:09 pm | News | Comments

For detecting cancer, manual breast exams seem low-tech compared to other methods such as MRI. But scientists are now developing an “electronic skin” that “feels” and images small lumps that fingers can miss. Knowing the size and shape of a lump could allow for earlier identification of breast cancer, which could save lives.

Apple pushes digital wallet with Apple Pay

September 10, 2014 8:47 am | by Mae Anderson, AP Technology Writer | News | Comments

Apple is betting that people want to pay with a tap of the phone rather than a swipe of the card. The technology company on Tuesday introduced a new digital wallet service called Apple Pay that is integrated with its Passbook credential-storage app and its fingerprint ID security system. The announcement came as Apple introduced several new products including a new, larger iPhone 6 and a watch.

Wireless experts tap unused TV spectrum

September 10, 2014 8:30 am | News | Comments

Rice Univ. wireless researchers have found a way to make the most of the unused UHF TV spectrum by serving up fat streams of data over wireless hotspots that could stretch for miles. In a presentation today at the Association for Computing Machinery's MobiCom 2014 conference, researchers will unveil a multiuser, multiantenna transmission scheme for UHF, a portion of the radio spectrum that is usually reserved for television broadcasts.

Letting your car find a spot and park itself

September 9, 2014 12:15 pm | by Tom Krisher, AP Auto Writer | News | Comments

Technology being honed by French auto parts maker Valeo uses a dozen ultrasonic sound-wave sensors, 360-degree cameras and a laser scanner to safely park within a few centimeters of other vehicles. Then, when you're done with dinner or a business meeting, the car will return to you after another swipe of the thumb.

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Soft robot squirms over fire, ice, and withstands crushing force

September 9, 2014 7:54 am | Videos | Comments

Engineers have created a shape-changing "soft" robot that can tread over a variety of adverse environmental conditions including snow, puddles of water, flames, and the crushing force of being run over by an automobile. The pneumatically powered, fully untethered robot was enabled by the careful selection of materials and composites, including silicone elastomer.

Microsoft revamps MSN to flow across devices

September 8, 2014 12:25 am | by Mae Anderson - AP Technology Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Microsoft is giving its MSN news service a crisper look, new lifestyle tools and seamless syncing across devices. The company says the revamped site fits in with Microsoft's overall strategy of making mobile phones and Internet-based services priorities as its traditional businesses—Windows and Office software installed on desktops—slow down or decline.

First graphene-based flexible display produced

September 5, 2014 12:03 pm | Videos | Comments

A flexible display incorporating graphene in its pixels’ electronics has been successfully demonstrated by the Cambridge Graphene Centre and Plastic Logic. The new prototype is an active matrix electrophoretic display, similar to the screens used in today’s e-readers, except it is made of flexible plastic instead of glass. This advance marks the first time graphene has been used in a transistor-based flexible device.

Atomically thin material opens door for integrated nanophotonic circuits

September 4, 2014 12:43 pm | News | Comments

A team of U.S. and Swiss researchers have built a new basic model circuit consisting of a silver nanowire and a single-layer flake of molybdenum disulfide. This new combination of materials can efficiently guide electricity and light along the same tiny wire, a finding that could be a step towards building computer chips capable of transporting digital information at the speed of light.

Changing temperature powers sensors in hard-to-reach places

September 4, 2014 10:04 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | Videos | Comments

A centuries-old clock built for a king is the inspiration for a group of computer scientists and electrical engineers who hope to harvest power from the air. The clock, powered by changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure, was invented in the early 17th century by a Dutch builder. Three centuries later, Swiss engineer Jean Leon Reutter built on that idea and created the Atmos mechanical clock that can run for years.

A single molecule device for mobile phones

September 3, 2014 8:46 am | News | Comments

Researchers have designed a single molecule which can act as a useful building block in nanometer-size circuits. They found that the molecule functions as a resonant tunneling device, an essential component in mobile phones and WiFi. These devices typically have a complicated design consisting of several layers of different materials.

Simpler process to grow germanium nanowires could improve lithium-ion batteries

September 2, 2014 12:07 pm | by Andrew Careaga, Missouri Univ. of Science and Technology | News | Comments

As a semiconductor material, germanium is superior to silicon. But it is more expensive to process for widespread use in batteries, solar cells, transistors and other applications. Researchers in Missouri have now developed what they call “a simple, one-step method” to grow nanowires of germanium from an aqueous solution. Their process could make it more feasible to use germanium in lithium-ion batteries.

Smartphone app can detect newborn jaundice in minutes

August 27, 2014 11:40 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Newborn jaundice: It’s one of the last things a parent wants to deal with, but it’s unfortunately a common condition in babies less than a week old. Skin that turns yellow can be a sure sign that a newborn is jaundiced and isn’t adequately eliminating the chemical bilirubin. But that discoloration is sometimes hard to see. Researchers have developed a smartphone application that checks for jaundice in newborns.

Copper shines as flexible conductor

August 26, 2014 4:20 pm | News | Comments

Sensors made with copper could be cheap, light, flexible and highly conductive. Making such concepts affordable enough for general use remains a challenge but a new way of working with copper nanowires and a PVA “nano glue” could be a game-changer. Engineers in Australia have found a way of making flexible copper conductors cost-effective enough for commercial applications.

C2D2 fighting corrosion

August 26, 2014 8:48 am | by Anna Maltsev, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Bridges become an infrastructure problem as they get older, as de-icing salt and carbon dioxide gradually destroy the reinforced concrete. A new robot called C2D2 (Climbing Corrosion Detecting Device) is now in use in Switzerland and can check the condition of these structures, even in places that people cannot reach.

Razor-sharp TV pictures

August 25, 2014 1:24 pm | News | Comments

The future of movie, sports and concert broadcasting lies in 4K definition, which will bring cinema quality TV viewing into people’s homes. With its 3840 x 2160 resolution, 4K Ultra HD has four times as many pixels as today’s Full HD. The new HEVC video compression standard now allows broadcasters to transmit live video in the 4K digital cinema standard, and was used recently to broadcast a soccer game in Germany.

New framework would facilitate use of new Android security modules

August 21, 2014 8:35 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Computer security researchers have developed a modification to the core Android operating system that allows developers and users to plug in new security enhancements. The new Android Security Modules (ASM) framework aims to eliminate the bottleneck that prevents developers and users from taking advantage of new security tools.

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