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.
Because of their unique qualities, thermoelectric materials can convert waste heat into electricity. Researchers in the Netherlands have managed to significantly improve the efficiency of a common thermoelectric material by adjusting the fabrication conditions. The material may eventually be used to, for example, put the heat issued from a factory chimney or car exhaust pipe to good use.
Existing transistors act as electronic switches, altering current flow through a semiconductor by controlling the bias voltage across the channel region. A new electronic component, called a source-gated transistor, has been developed in the U.K. and exploits physical effects such as the Schottky barriers at metal-semiconductor contacts. This innovation could improve the reliability of future digital circuits used within flexible gadgets.
The Atlantic razor clam uses very little energy to burrow into undersea soil at high speed. Now a detailed insight into how the animal digs has led to the development of a robotic clam that can perform the same trick. The device, known as “RoboClam,” could be used to dig itself into the ground to bury anchors or destroy underwater mines.
In what was almost a chance discovery, researchers in Singapore have developed a solar cell material which can emit light in addition to converting light to electricity. This solar cell is developed from perovskite, a promising material that could hold the key to creating high-efficiency, inexpensive solar cells. The new cells not only glow when electricity passes through them, they can also be customized to emit different colours.
Whether traditional or derived from high technology, ceramics all have the same flaw: they are fragile. But now researchers in France have recently presented a new ceramic material inspired by mother-of-pearl from the small single-shelled marine mollusk abalone. This material, almost ten times stronger than a conventional ceramic, is the result of an innovative manufacturing process that includes a freezing step.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers have coaxed bacterial cells to produce biofilms that can incorporate non-living materials, such as gold nanoparticles and quantum dots. These “living materials” combine the advantages of live cells, which respond to their environment and produce complex biological molecules, with the benefits of nonliving materials, which add functions such as conducting electricity or emitting light.
Vertically aligned carbon nanofibers (VACNFs) are a commonly manufactured material, but conventional techniques for creating them have relied on the use of ammonia gas, which is toxic. Though it not costly, it is also not free, either. Researchers in North Carolina have demonstrated that VACNFs can be manufactured using ambient air, making the manufacturing process safer and less expensive.
An unwanted byproduct from a bygone method of glass production, the crystal devitrite could find a new use as an optical diffuser in medical laser treatments, communications systems and household lighting. For years, the properties of this material were not studied because it was considered as just a troublemaker in the glass-making process and needed to be eliminated.
Imagine a computer so efficient that it can recycle its own waste heat to produce electricity. While such an idea may seem far-fetched today, significant progress has already been made to realize these devices. Researchers at the Univ. of Utah have fabricated spintronics-based thin film devices which do just that, converting even minute waste heat into useful electricity.
Inspired by the framework structure of bones and the shell structure of bees’ honeycombs, researchers in Germany have developed microstructured lightweight construction materials of extremely high stability. Although its density is below that of water, the material’s stability relative to its weight exceeds that of massive materials, such as high-performance steel or aluminum. It was created using 3-D laser writing.
A new strategy for building nanoscale constructs uses the binding properties of complementary strands of DNA to attach nanoparticles to each other. A series of controlled steps builds up a layered thin-film nanostructure. Small-angle x-ray scattering analysis has revealed the precise form that the structures adopted, and points to ways of exercising still greater control over the final arrangement.
Ultrasound is a proven technology in components testing, but until now evaluating the data has always been quite a time-consuming process. Researchers in Germany have recently optimized an ultrasonic testing solution that can test materials quickly and reliably with the help of 3-D images produced directly from test signals. The solution is analogous to medical computed tomography.
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.
Move over, nanotechnologists, and make room for the biggest of the small. Scientists at the Harvard's Wyss Institute have built a set of self-assembling DNA cages one-tenth as wide as a bacterium. The structures are some of the largest and most complex structures ever constructed solely from DNA.
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.
Soft robots have become a sufficiently popular research topic that they now have their own journal, Soft Robotics. In the first issue of that journal, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers report the first self-contained autonomous soft robot capable of rapid body motion: a “fish” that can execute an escape maneuver, convulsing its body to change direction in just a fraction of a second, or almost as quickly as a real fish can.
Researchers have discovered that creating a graphene-copper-graphene “sandwich” strongly enhances the heat conducting properties of copper, a discovery that could further help in the downscaling of electronics.
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.
Driving behavior is a key factor that is often insufficiently accounted for in computational models that gauge the dynamic characteristics of vehicles. Researchers in Germany have developed a new driving simulator designed to make the “human factor“ more calculable for vehicle engineers.
Experts from the Univ. of Buffalo (UB), helped by colleagues from two Chinese universities, have developed an optical "nanocavity" that could help increase the amount of light absorbed by ultrathin semiconductors. The advancement could lead to the creation of more powerful photovoltaic cells and improvements in video cameras and even hydrogen fuel, as the technology could aid the splitting of water using energy from light.
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are durable and save energy. Now, researchers have found a way to make LED lamps even more compact while supplying more light than commercially available models. The key to this advance are a new type of transistors made of the semiconductor material gallium nitride.
Researchers at Harvard Univ.'s Wyss Institute have developed a method to carry out large-scale manufacturing of everyday objects using a fully degradable bioplastic isolated from shrimp shells. The objects exhibit many of the same properties as those created with synthetic plastics, but without the environmental threat. It also trumps most bioplastics on the market today in posing absolutely no threat to trees.