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The Lead

Robot masters new skills through trial-and-error

May 22, 2015 10:04 am | by Sarah Yang, Univ. of California, Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley researchers have developed algorithms that enable robots to learn motor tasks through trial and error using a process that more closely approximates the way humans learn, marking a major milestone in the field of artificial intelligence. They demonstrated their technique, a type of reinforcement learning, by having a robot complete various tasks without pre-programmed details about its surroundings.

How to make continuous rolls of graphene

May 21, 2015 7:30 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Graphene is a material with a host of potential applications, including in flexible light...

Printing 3-D graphene structures for tissue engineering

May 20, 2015 8:15 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Ever since single-layer graphene burst onto the science scene in 2004, the possibilities for the...

Seashell strength inspires stress tests

May 20, 2015 7:43 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Mollusks got it right. They have soft innards, but their complex exteriors are engineered to...

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Laser technique for self-assembly of nanostructures

May 19, 2015 8:38 am | by Swinburne Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers from Swinburne Univ. of Technology and the Univ. of Science and Technology of China have developed a low-cost technique that holds promise for a range of scientific and technological applications. They have combined laser printing and capillary force to build complex, self-assembling microstructures using a technique called laser printing capillary-assisted self-assembly (LPCS).

First large-scale graphene fabrication

May 14, 2015 4:32 pm | by Ron Walli, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

One of the barriers to using graphene at a commercial scale could be overcome using a method demonstrated by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Graphene, a material stronger and stiffer than carbon fiber, has enormous commercial potential but has been impractical to employ on a large scale, with researchers limited to using small flakes of the material.

A new way to manufacture nanofibers

May 13, 2015 8:51 am | by James Hataway, Univ. of Georgia | Videos | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Georgia have developed an inexpensive way to manufacture extraordinarily thin polymer strings commonly known as nanofibers. These polymers can be made from natural materials like proteins or from human-made substances to make plastic, rubber or fiber, including biodegradable materials.

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Controlling swarms of robots with a finger

May 13, 2015 8:05 am | by Jason Maderer, Georgia Institute of Technology | Videos | Comments

Using a smart tablet and a red beam of light, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have created a system that allows people to control a fleet of robots with the swipe of a finger. A person taps the tablet to control where the beam of light appears on a floor. The swarm robots then roll toward the illumination, constantly communicating with each other and deciding how to evenly cover the lit area.

Pet robotics has come a long way from the Tamagotchi craze of the mid-90s. In Japan, people are becoming so attached to their robot dogs that they hold funerals for them when the circuits die.

Robot pets to rise in an overpopulated, tech-crazed world

May 12, 2015 11:04 am | by University of Melbourne | News | Comments

Robotic dogs are likely to replace the real thing in households worldwide in as little as a decade, as our infatuation with technology grows and more people migrate to high-density city living. University of Melbourne animal welfare researcher Dr. Jean-Loup Rault says the prospect of robopets and virtual pets is not as far-fetched as we may think.

3-D microbattery suitable for large-scale on-chip integration

May 12, 2015 8:18 am | by Rick Kubetz, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

By combining 3-D holographic lithography and 2-D photolithography, researchers from the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a high-performance 3-D microbattery suitable for large-scale on-chip integration with microelectronic devices.

Out with heavy metal

May 11, 2015 11:29 am | by Dawn Zimmerman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Researchers have demonstrated a new process for the expanded use of lightweight aluminum in cars and trucks at the speed, scale, quality and consistency required by the auto industry. The process reduces production time and costs while yielding strong and lightweight parts, for example delivering a car door that is 62% lighter and 25% cheaper than that produced with today's manufacturing methods.

Revealing security flaws in teleoperated surgical robots

May 8, 2015 8:17 am | by Jennifer Langston, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

To make cars as safe as possible, we crash them into walls to pinpoint weaknesses and better protect people who use them. That’s the idea behind a series of experiments conducted by a Univ. of Washington engineering team who hacked a next-generation teleoperated surgical robot to test how easily a malicious attack could hijack remotely controlled operations in the future and to make those systems more secure.

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Sounding out scaffolds for eardrum replacement

May 7, 2015 10:18 am | by Institute of Physics | News | Comments

An international team of researchers has created tiny, complex scaffolds that mimic the intricate network of collagen fibers that form the human eardrum. It is hoped the scaffolds can be used to replace eardrums when they become severely damaged, reducing the need for patients to have their own tissue used in reconstruction surgery.

Tiny silicone spheres appear from the mist

May 7, 2015 7:44 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Technology in common household humidifiers could enable the next wave of high-tech medical imaging and targeted medicine, thanks to a new method for making tiny silicone microspheres developed by chemists at the Univ. of Illinois. Microspheres, tiny spheres as small as a red blood cell, have shown promise as agents for targeted drug delivery to tissues, as contrast agents for medical imaging and in industrial applications.

Handing “cognitive” control to underwater robots

May 7, 2015 7:34 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

For the last decade, scientists have deployed increasingly capable underwater robots to map and monitor pockets of the ocean to track the health of fisheries, and survey marine habitats and species. In general, such robots are effective at carrying out low-level tasks, specifically assigned to them by human engineers, a tedious and time-consuming process for the engineers.

Inkjet printing process for kesterite solar cells

May 6, 2015 11:33 am | by Antonia Rotger, Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin | News | Comments

The drop-on-demand inkjet printing is a promising approach allowing patterning of materials with negligible materials waste; hence, significant reduction of raw materials cost can be achieved. Furthermore, inkjet printing can be easily adapted to a roll-to-roll process, which is suitable for large scale production.

Toward a squishier robot

May 5, 2015 11:37 am | by Univ. of Pittsburgh | News | Comments

For decades, robots have advanced the efficiency of human activity. Typically, however, robots are formed from bulky, stiff materials and require connections to external power sources; these features limit their dexterity and mobility. But what if a new material would allow for development of a "soft robot" that could reconfigure its own shape and move using its own internally generated power?

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Making robots more human

May 1, 2015 8:18 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Most people are naturally adept at reading facial expressions to tell what others are feeling. Now scientists have developed ultra-sensitive, wearable sensors that can do the same thing. Their technology, reported in the ACS Nano, could help robot developers make their machines more human.

Engineers at Oregon State University have successfully field tested their walking robot, ATRIAS. Courtesy of Oregon State University

Inspired by humans, a robot takes a walk in the grass

April 29, 2015 2:14 pm | by Oregon State University | News | Comments

In a rolling, outdoor field, full of lumps, bumps and uneven terrain, researchers at Oregon State University last week successfully field-tested for the first time the locomotion abilities of a two-legged robot with technology that they believe heralds the running robots of the future.

Researchers have developed membranes that can significantly reduce aircraft noise when inserted into the honeycomb structures used in aircraft design. Courtesy of Yun Jing, North Carolina State University

Lightweight membrane can significantly reduce in-flight aircraft noise

April 27, 2015 2:29 pm | by North Carolina State University | News | Comments

Riding in a helicopter or airplane can be a noisy experience for passengers. But researchers from North Carolina State University and MIT have developed a membrane that can be incorporated into aircraft to drastically reduce the low-frequency noise that penetrates the cabin.

Daniel Wilson Ph.D. researcher with UAV and drogue

Sky-high refuelling for UAVs

April 24, 2015 11:13 am | by Univ. of Sydney | News | Comments

A Univ. of Sydney researcher has designed and successfully tested a method for autonomously docking drones for refueling or recharging, in mid-air. He used a combination of precise measurements from an infrared camera, with GPS and inertial sensors to allow the sky-high docking to occur.

A tetrahedron is a polyhedron composed of four triangular faces, three of which meet at each corner or vertex. It has six edges and four vertices.

Revolutionary discovery leads to invention of new "building blocks"

April 24, 2015 10:16 am | by Univ. of Akron | News | Comments

Macromolecular science will have to add a new giant molecule to its lexicon thanks to new and cutting-edge polymer research at The Univ. of Akron (UA). The research team led by Stephen Z.D. Cheng, professor at UA’s college of polymer science and polymer engineering, invented a new thinking pathway in the design and synthesis of macromolecules—the backbone of modern polymers—by creating an original class of giant tetrahedra.

James Webb Space Telescope's Pathfinder backplane test model is being prepared for its cryogenic test. Courtesy of NASA/Chris Gunn

Building Hubble's successor: Crucial Pathfinder test set up inside Chamber A

April 24, 2015 10:05 am | by Laura Betz, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Inside NASA's giant thermal vacuum chamber, called Chamber A, at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, the James Webb Space Telescope's Pathfinder backplane test model is being prepared for its cryogenic test. Previously used for manned spaceflight missions, this historic chamber is now filled with engineers and technicians preparing for a crucial test.

Real-Time Process Measurement: A Sea Change in Manufacturing

April 24, 2015 8:44 am | by Chad Lieber, VP of Product Development, Prozess Technologie and Brian Sullivan, Director of Sales, Valin Corp. | Articles | Comments

In a world where most information is available in an instant, plant managers and engineers are continuously trying to find ways to improve the efficiency of processes along the manufacturing line. Analyzing these processes can be a difficult task. Until recently, days of laboratory work were often required to analyze any given sample segment or process in a manufacturing line.

3D-printed aerogels improve energy storage

April 23, 2015 8:03 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new type of graphene aerogel will make for better energy storage, sensors, nanoelectronics, catalysis and separations. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have made graphene aerogel microlattices with an engineered architecture via a 3D printing technique known as direct ink writing.

3D-printed blossoms a growing tool for ecology

April 17, 2015 10:36 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

3D printing has been used to make everything from cars to medical implants. Now, Univ. of Washington ecologists are using the technology to make artificial flowers, which they say could revolutionize our understanding of plant-pollinator interactions.

3D-Printed Optic Breakthroughs

April 16, 2015 2:20 pm | by Tim Studt | Articles | Comments

Just a few years ago, many researchers working in alternative manufacturing methods believed the basic layering technologies integral to 3D printing limited the capability of this technique to build quality optical devices and lenses. But, as rapidly evolving as these techniques are, and as broad ranging as the applications it’s infiltrating, this limitation has been surmounted by a number of research groups around the world.

Report charts a research path for improving “printed” metal parts

April 14, 2015 12:05 pm | by NIST | News | Comments

Additive manufacturing has been called a game changer. But new games require new instructions, and the manuals for a growing assortment of methods for building parts and products layer-by-layer, collectively known as "3D printing", still are works in progress. Manufacturing researchers at NIST have scoped out the missing sections in current guidelines for powder bed fusion, the chief method for "printing" metal parts.

Technique could slash energy used to produce plastics

April 14, 2015 11:52 am | by Univ. of Colorado, Boulder | News | Comments

A new material developed at the Univ. of Colorado Boulder could radically reduce the energy needed to produce a wide variety of plastic products, from grocery bags and cling wrap to replacement hips and bulletproof vests. Approximately 80 million metric tons of polyethylene is produced globally each year, making it the most common plastic in the world.

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