Drawing upon nature for inspiration, a team of researchers has created a new artificial lens that is nearly identical to the natural lens of the human eye. Made up of thousands of nanoscale polymer layers, the lens may one day provide more natural performance in implantable lenses. It also may lead to superior ground and aerial surveillance technology.
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.
Although widespread rebuilding in the hard-hit New York metro region from Super Storm Sandy has not yet begun, New Jersey Institute of Technology professor Mohamed Mahgoub says when the hammers start swinging, it's time to look at autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC). A combination of finely ground sand, cement, quick lime, gypsum, aluminum, and water, AAC offers light weight, strength, and environmental friendliness, but has yet to catch on widely in the U.S.
Engineers in Israel have created a radically new design for a concentrator solar cell that, when irradiated from the side, generates solar conversion efficiencies which rival, and may eventually surpass, the most efficient photovoltaics. The design, the developers say, can exceed 40% conversion efficiency at intensities of 10,000 suns.
Most electronic data is stored on magnetic hard drives that cannot simply be enlarged to store more data. The required spinning speed for larger sizes strains components. Researchers in Singapore report that an alternative technology, heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), is now a significant step closer to commercial realization. The method has the potential to double storage capacity for a given hard drive.
Sandia National Laboratories has signed a pair of cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs) that could broadly add to the Labs' research into combustion, defense, energy, and nuclear security. The umbrella CRADAs, which enable Sandia and its partners to pursue multiple projects in a variety of categories, are with Northrop Grumman Information Systems and General Electric Global Research.
Hydrogen production by solar water splitting in photoelectrochemical cells (PEC) has long been considered the holy grail of sustainable energy research. Iron oxide is a promising electrode material, and now an international team of researchers gained in-depth insights into the electronic structure of an iron oxide electrode, while it was in operation. This opens up new possibilities for an affordable hydrogen production from solar energy.
Conventional microelectromechanical systems tend to be made out of silicon-based materials familiar to the micro-electronics industry, but this ignores a suite of useful materials such as other semiconductors, ceramics, and metals. By using a variety of materials not commonly associated with MEMS technology, a team from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, has created stronger microstructures that can form precise, tall and narrow 3D shapes.
Glass can possess a quite diverse array of characteristics, depending on what ingredients one uses to modify it. A new process developed at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany now makes the analysis of glass characteristics up to five times faster than previous methods, and uses only 20% of the material. This system consists of an oven and a CMOS camera that enables researchers to observe the glass during the entire heating process.
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.
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.
An international research group has recently demonstrated integrated arrays of emitters of so call “optical vortex beams” onto a silicon chip. The generation of these “twisted” light beams, which do not propagate in straight rays, have typically relied on bulk optical elements such as plates, lenses, and holograms. The new emitters, however, are thousands of times smaller than conventional elements.
Thanks to an ultrasensitive accelerometer—a type of motion detector—developed by researchers at the California Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester, a new class of microsensors is a step closer to reality. Instead of using an electrical circuit to gauge movements, this accelerometer uses laser light and is so sensitive it could be used to navigate shoppers through a grocery aisle or even stabilize fighter jets.
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.
At this week’s Frontiers in Optics 2012, physicists are presenting possible applications based on research that uses natural spider silk to catch light. Recent findings could present an eco-friendly alternative to glass or plastic fiber optics: the traditional materials for manipulating light. Silk-enabled implantable biosensors, lasers, and microchips could result.
A phased approach to product development, including models, can help reduce risks and end in rewards.
A research team in Japan has succeeded in developing equipment that enables simple, high speed measurement of the band diagrams of organic semiconductor materials in atmospheric conditions. The device essentially combines a spectrophotometer system for studying band gaps with a photoemission yield system to examine ionized potential.
People can let their fingers—and hands—do the talking with a new touch-activated system that projects onto walls and other surfaces and allows users to interact with their environment and each other. Developed at Purdue University, the "extended multitouch" system allows more than one person to use a surface at the same time and also enables people to use both hands, distinguishing between the right and left hand.
Laser machine tools can help speed product development cycles for a range of materials.
Because conventional solar cells lose all of the energy available from the infrared portion of the solar spectrum, researchers have been investigating photovoltaics that can convert this lost energy. Black silicon is one material which can do this, researchers in Germany have recently managed to double the efficiency of black silicon solar cells by modifying the shape of the laser pulse used to irradiate the silicon.
Microorganisms isolated from nature use their own metabolism to produce certain chemicals. But they are often inefficient, so metabolic engineering is used to improve microbial performance. Recent work at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology highlights the potential for engineered organism, such as Escherichia coli, to aid in common industrial processes such as polymer production.
When stretched, a layer of silicon can build up internal mechanical strain which can considerably improve its electronic properties. Using this principle, engineers have developed a method which allows them to produce 30-nm-thick highly strained wires in a silicon layer. This strain is the highest that has ever been observed in a material which can serve as the basis for electronic components.
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