Composed of a very little number of atoms, nanomachines offer the promise of a revolution in manufacturing and civilization. Researchers around the world look at various molecules trying to put them to work. But recent measurements in Poland using a new technique for estimating power generated by motors of single molecule in size reveal that power of such motors is considerably less than expected by developers.
Polymer, or plastic, solar cells contain Earth-abundant and environmentally benign materials, can be made flexible and lightweight, and can be fabricated using roll-to-roll technologies. But the cells’ power-conversion efficiency has been limited. A Northwestern Univ. research reports the design and synthesis of new polymer semiconductors a plastic solar cells with fill factors of 80%. This number is close to that of silicon solar cells.
Flexible thin film solar cells that can be produced by roll-to-roll manufacturing are a highly promising route to cheap solar electricity. Researchers in Switzerland report that they have designed a low-cost cadmium telluride solar cell technology based on metal foil substrates. By doping the cells with cooper, they have elevated efficiency from 8 to 11.5%.
Hold a magnifying glass over the driveway on a sunny day and it will focus sunlight into a single beam. Hold a prism in front of the window and the light will spread out into a perfect rainbow. Lenses like these have been used for thousands of years. Until now, all lenses have shared one big limitation: It’s impossible to focus light into a beam that’s smaller than half of the light’s wavelength.
In the last few decades, European companies have moved much of their manufacturing abroad. A joint study produced by Austrian Institute of Technology and the Management Center Innsbruck shows that such companies spend significantly more on R&D or product design, and invest more in process innovation than non-offshoring firms.
Proteins are the workhorses of cells. But when a scientist is designing a new drug they can't always find a protein that will do the job they want, and often engineer their own novel proteins to use in experiments. Now, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have developed a new tool for protein engineering: a way to add strong, unbreakable bonds between two points in a protein or between two proteins.
The power of multispectral imaging is already leveraged in a wide variety of research applications. Multispectral images are data-rich, revealing things beyond our human vision by combining ultraviolet fluorescence, narrow-band color and penetrating near-infrared images. However, until recently, there has not been a feasible way to scale this technology for production-volume portable devices.
Sun-drenched rooms make for happy residents, but large glass windows also bring higher air-conditioning bills. Now a bioinspired microfluidic circulatory system for windows developed by researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University could save energy and cut cooling costs dramatically—while letting in just as much sunlight.
Flexible electronics have a wide variety of possibilities, from bendable displays and batteries to medical implants that move with the body. Networks of spherical nanoparticles embedded in elastic materials may make the best stretchy conductors yet, engineering researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have discovered.
Researchers at Arizona State Univ. have successfully manufactured the world’s largest flexible color organic light emitting display prototype using advanced mixed oxide thin film transistors. Measuring 7.4 diagonal inches, the device was developed at ASU’s Flexible Display Center in conjunction with Army Research Labs scientists.
Laser frequency combs—high-precision tools for measuring different colors of light in an ever-growing range of applications such as advanced atomic clocks, medical diagnostics and astronomy—are not only getting smaller but also much easier to make. Physicists at NIST can now make the core of a miniature frequency comb in one minute. Conventional microfabrication techniques, by contrast, may require hours, days or even weeks.
A low-cost system developed in Singapore, based on the principles of vibration and imaging, can turn a whiteboard, glass window or even a wooden tabletop into a responsive, touch-sensitive surface. According to its developers, retrofitting the system onto existing flat-panel TVs will transform them into new, touch-sensitive display screens.
This revolutionary solar-powered plane is about to end a slow and symbolic journey across America by quietly buzzing the Statue of Liberty and landing in a city whose buildings often obscure the power-giving sun. But the Solar Impulse’s designers and flyers hope to grab attention in a surprising way: By being silent and consuming little energy.
With a 3-D printer, a petri dish and some cells from a cow, Princeton Univ. researchers are growing synthetic ears that can receive—and transmit—sound. The 3-D ear is not designed to replace a human one, though; the research is meant to explore a new method of combining electronics with biological material.
In new research, Biodesign Institute team members describe a pair of tweezers made using principles of DNA base-pairing. They are astonishingly small: When the jaws of these tools are in the open position, the distance between the two arms is about 16 nanometers—over 30,000 times smaller than a single grain of sand.
Using the octopus as inspiration, researchers in Germany have built a silent propulsion system for boats and water sport devices. The actuator works by sucking water into an elastomer ball, which is then contracted by a hydraulic piston. The most compelling feature is that the designers can produce the system in a single step with a 3-D printer.
More than 2,500 attendees turned out for the 2013 RAPID Conference and Exposition, almost doubling last year’s attendance and reflecting widespread excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing, according to event organizer SME. It included attendees from nearly 30 countries and the U.S.
At this week’s International Image Sensor Workshop in Utah, Belgium’s imec and Holst Centre, in collaboration with Philips Research, will present a large-area fully-organic photodetector array fabricated on a flexible substrate. The imager is sensitive in the wavelength range suitable for x-ray imaging applications.
Researchers in Germany have developed a method that can reduce engine friction and wear even during production of engine components. The new surface finishing methods that the team from five different Fraunhofer Institute locations produce a nanocrystalline layer which offers much improved tribological properties of the metal. The advance, they say, can help to reduce fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.
A rabbit sculpture, the size of a typical bacterium, is one of several whimsical shapes created by a team of Japanese scientists using a new material that can be molded into complex, highly conductive 3D structures with features just a few micrometers across. The new resin holds promise for making customized electrodes for fuel cells or batteries, as well as biosensor interfaces for medical uses.
A University of British Columbia engineer and a team of U.S. researchers have made a breakthrough utilizing spray-on technology that could revolutionize the way optical lenses are made and used. Nearly all lenses—whether in an eye, a camera, or a microscope—are presently curved, which limits the aperture, or amount of light that enters. The new spray-on lens is flat, and can be affixed to a glass slide.
Northwestern University researchers have recently developed a graphene-based ink that is highly conductive and tolerant to bending, and they have used it to inkjet-print graphene patterns that could be used for extremely detailed, conductive electrodes. The resulting patterns are 250 times more conductive than previous attempts to print graphene-based electronic patterns and could be a step toward low-cost, foldable electronics.
Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered that DNA "linker" strands coax nano-sized rods to line up in way unlike any other spontaneous arrangement of rod-shaped objects. The arrangement—with the rods forming "rungs" on ladder-like ribbons linked by multiple DNA strands—results from the collective interactions of the flexible DNA tethers and may be unique to the nanoscale.
Researchers in Europe have developed a new experimental system to gain accurate information on mechanical values and properties of any microelectromechanical (MEMS) device through electrical measurement. The technique works by applying a current across the device with a varying frequency and analyzes the harmonic content of the output voltage of the component parts.
Researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) recently flew their fuel cell powered Ion Tiger UAV for 48 hours and 1 minute on April 16-18 by using liquid hydrogen fuel in a new, NRL-developed, cryogenic fuel storage tank and delivery system. This flight shatters their previous record of 26 hours and 2 minutes set in 2009 using the same vehicle, but with gaseous hydrogen stored at 5000 psi.