Electronics devices are a mainstay of our daily lives. But the expectation that the next shopping season will inevitably offer an upgrade to more-powerful gadgets largely depends on size, and developers who employ top down manufacturing methods are running into expensive roadblocks as the domain shrinks to the nanoscale. To go further, some researchers looking at a bottom up method, coaxing individual molecules to self-arrange into patterns.
Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology are trying to open the world of tablets to children whose limited mobility makes it difficult for them to perform the common pinch and swipe gestures required to control the devices. In their Access4Kids wireless input device, a sensor system to translate physical movements into fine-motor gestures to control a tablet.
Apple’s newest iMac computer line, which went on sale last week, has something in common with world of shipbuilding. Refined for use in constructing vessels by the Office of Naval Research, friction-stir welding is responsible for the enabling the design of the iMacs. The process uses heat and pressure to join metals, and is used to achieve an extra-thin aluminum-bodied computer.
Many design and construction companies are frustrated by a lack of strategic information when it comes time for them to decide whether to expand their efforts globally. John E. Taylor, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech has created a unique lab at Virginia Tech that can identify systemic changes in engineering networks of industrial and societal importance, and could help guide these companies.
Continuous fiber-reinforced composites with thermoplastic matrix resins are well suited for use in automotive manufacturing, but the process of creating them is complex and expensive. A new approach now makes it possible to use an injection molding process. Previously, injection molding was limited to fiber-reinforced composites made of short fibers or long fibers.
Detection of material failure is a difficult task for engineers, because cracks inside a material block can’t readily be identified from the outside. Researchers in Germany have now developed so-called self-reporting composite materials that can communicate their internal condition. The concept utilizes zinc oxide tetrapod crystals as a filler material for composites which at the same time reveals material failure by a visual signal under UV light.
At NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, a manufacturing technique called selective laser melting, or SLM, to create intricate metal parts for America's next heavy-lift rocket. Working from a 3D computer-aided design computer file, the machine basically “prints” complex parts using metal powder and lasers. The process significantly reduces the manufacturing time required to produce parts from months to weeks or even days, in some cases.
Researchers from NIST have developed on-chip optomechanical sensors for atomic force microscopy (AFM) that extend the range of mechanical properties found in commercial AFM cantilevers, potentially enabling the use of this technology to study a wide variety of physical systems.
Synchrotron-based imaging has helped develop enhanced light-emitting diode (LED) displays using bottom-up engineering methods. Collaborative work between researchers from the University of Florida and Cornell University has produced a new way to make colloidal "superparticles" from oriented nanorods of semiconducting materials.
Optical scientists and engineers have recently been polishing an 8.4-m diameter mirror underneath the University of Arizona’s football stadium. Destined for the 25-m Giant Magellan Telescope, the giant slab of glass is, by a factor of ten, the most “difficult” mirror ever made, boasting a precision of 19 nm along its surface. The shape allows it to merge seamlessly with six other mirror to form the next generation of giant telescopes.
According to a NASA engineer, “Fearless Felix” Baumgartner's death-defying jump Sunday from a balloon 24 miles above Earth gives us a good foundation for improving the odds of survival for professional astronauts, space tourists, and high-altitude pilots and passengers. Researchers have spent decades working on self-contained space escape systems, with no significant advances since Joe Kittinger in 1960 jumped from 19.5 miles up and reached 614 mph.
Case Western Reserve University researchers have won a $1.2 million grant to develop technology for mass-producing flexible electronics devices at a whole new level of small. As they're devising new tools and techniques to make wires narrower than a particle of smoke, they're also creating ways to build them in flexible materials and package the electronics in waterproofing layers of durable plastics.
Science is full of surprises. College of Wooster chemist Paul Edminston's search for a new way to detect explosives at airports instead led to the creation of what's now called "Osorb," swellable, organically modified silica, or glass, capable of absorbing oil and other contaminants from water.
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