Imagine a material with the same weight and density as aerogel—a material so light it's called “frozen smoke”—but with 10,000 times more stiffness. This material could have a profound impact on the aerospace and automotive industries as well as other applications where lightweight, high-stiffness and high-strength materials are needed.
Researchers the world over are investigating solar cells which imitate plant photosynthesis, with the goal of using sunlight and water to create synthetic fuels such as hydrogen. Scientists in Switzerland have developed this type of photoelectrochemical cell, but this one recreates a moth’s eye to drastically increase its light collecting efficiency. The cell is made of cheap raw materials: iron and tungsten oxide.
Rapid Prototype + Manufacturing (rp+m) has formally partnered with Case Western Reserve Univ. to move its research and development arm to the university, joining forces with faculty researchers to develop new technologies in the growing additive manufacturing market, assist students in entrepreneurship and with research opportunities, and boost economic development in the region.
The humble sewing machine could play a key role in creating "soft" robotics, wearable electronics and implantable medical systems made of elastic materials that are capable of extreme stretching. New stretchable technologies could lead to innovations including robots that have human-like sensory skin and synthetic muscles and flexible garments that people might wear to interact with computers or for therapeutic purposes.
Bang & Olufsen is working with scientists in Denmark to develop a method for creating white aluminium surfaces. This has been exceedingly difficult for manufacturers because the existing technology used to color aluminium cannot be used to produce the color white because the molecules used to create “white” are too big. Rather than use pigments, then, researchers have a way to make it become white during the process.
The SuperDraco thruster, an engine that will power SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to orbit, has completed a test regimen held over the last month at SpaceX’s Rocket Development Facility in Texas. This qualification test involves a variety of conditions conditions including multiple starts, extended firing durations and extreme off-nominal propellant flow and temperatures.
Solar panels made in China have a higher overall carbon footprint and are likely to use substantially more energy during manufacturing than those made in Europe, said a new study from Northwestern Univ. and Argonne National Laboratory. The report compared energy and greenhouse gas emissions that go into the manufacturing process of solar panels in Europe and China.
Saudi Arabian-based petrochemical company SABIC and Cima NanoTech have announced the joint development of a new transparent conductive polycarbonate film. The collaboration leverages both Cima NanoTech’s proprietary SANTE nanoparticle technology and SABIC’s LEXAN film to produce a film that outperforms indium tin oxide by a factor of ten.
Now researchers have developed a new way to measure the thickness of paint layers and the size of particles embedded inside. A technique called terahertz reflectometry is used to characterize coats of paint without damaging them. No other current methods can do this successfully, and the technique could be useful for a variety of applications from cars to cancer detection.
Sandia National Laboratories is working to fill gaps in the fundamental understanding of materials science through an ambitious long-term, multidisciplinary project called Predicting Performance Margins (PPM). Since 2010, PPM has been helping to identify how material variability affects performance margins for engineering components. The goal, says Sandia experts, is a science-based foundation for materials design and analysis.
IBM scientists have developed a new tool inspired by hieroglyphics. The core of the technology is a tiny, heatable silicon tip with a sharp apex 100,000 times smaller than a sharpened pencil. Working like a 3-D printer it “chisels” away material by local evaporation. They have used this invention to make a magazine cover for National Geographic that is just 11 by 14 micrometers in size.
Using a mixture of cervical cancer cells and a hydrogel substance that resembles an ointment balm, Drexel Univ.’s Wei Sun can print out a tumor model that can be used for studying their growth and response to treatment. This living model will give cancer researchers a better look at how tumors behave and a more accurate measure of how they respond to treatment.
Scientists at Rice Univ. have created a nanoscale detector that checks for and reports on the presence of hydrogen sulfide in crude oil and natural gas while they’re still in the ground. The nanoreporter is based on nanometer-sized carbon material developed by a consortium of Rice labs led by chemist James Tour, R&D’s 2013 Scientist of the Year.
Thirty years have passed since 3-D printers first appeared, but only recently have they hinted at a new era of manufacturing. The first working 3-D printer was created in 1984 by Chuck Hull of 3D Systems Corp. This early device, based on stereolithography, gave way to the first truly practical 3-D printing, or “3DP”, technology patented by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1993.
Navy researchers have recently demonstrated sustained flight of a radio-controlled P-51 fighter replica fueled by a new gas-to-liquid process that uses seawater as carbon feedstock. The fuel is made using an innovative and proprietary electrolytic cation exchange module that separates gases from water at 92% efficiency. Catalysis converts the gases to liquid hydrocarbons.
Pipes, rails, and wires are typically manufactured at high speeds, which makes in-line inspection efforts difficult. This is because micro-defects take time to detect, even with machine vision technology. A new optical inspection system developed in Germany reviews the workpieces at 10 m per second, as fast as an Olympic sprinter, and finds defects in real time that can be as narrow as a single hair.
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.
Commercial demand is driving high-tech research and development in micro-optoelectromechanical systems (MOEMS) for diverse applications such as space exploration, wireless systems, and healthcare. A new special section on Emerging MOEMS Technology and Applications in the current issue of the Journal of Micro/Nanolithography, MEMS, and MOEMS discusses these recent breakthrough achievements.
They need warmth to grow, but algae don’t necessarily need light. Experts in Finland, where warmer weather is rare, say it makes sense to link algae cultivation to industrial operations where residual heat is available to heat algae cultivation ponds or reactors. Recent research there shows that such an approach could be profitably implemented.
Hundreds of years after wealthy merchants began building the tall, narrow brick houses that have come to define Amsterdam's skyline, Dutch architects are updating the process for the 21st century: fabricating pieces of a canal house out of plastic with a giant 3-D printer and slotting them together like oversized Lego blocks.
For the past 100 years, the way your fridge preserved your food has been rooted in technology dating back to the mid-1800s, but that is about to change. GE researchers are developing a new magnetic refrigeration method that uses no refrigerants or compressors and is 20% more efficient than what is used today.
Organic solar cells are a compelling thin-film photovoltaic technology in part because of their compatibility with flexible substrates and tunable absorption window. Belgium-based chipmaker imec has set a new conversion efficiency record of 8.4% for this type of cell by developing fullerene-free acceptor materials and a new multilayer semiconductor device structure.
Researchers from Empa and ETH Zurich have succeeded in producing a prototype of a vibration-damping material that could change the world of mechanics. The material of the future is not only able to damp vibrations completely; it can also specifically conduct certain frequencies further.
Cornell Univ. researchers have recently led what is probably the most comprehensive study to date of block copolymer nanoparticle self-assembly processes. The work is important, because using polymers to self-assemble inorganic nanoparticles into porous structures could revolutionize electronics.
Researchers at IBM have set a new record for data transmission over a multimode optical fiber, a type of cable that is typically used to connect nearby computers within a single building or on a campus. The data was sent at a rate of 64 Gb/s over a cable 57-m long using a type of laser called a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser. This rate is 2.5 times faster than the capabilities of today's typical commercial technology.