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Big data keeps complex production running smoothly

March 27, 2014 9:25 am | News | Comments

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.

Micro systems with big commercial potential featured in SPIE journal

March 26, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

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.

Thermoelectric capacity doubled with new thin film material

March 26, 2014 9:24 am | News | Comments

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.

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Source-gated transistor could pave the way for flexible gadgets

March 25, 2014 1:06 pm | News | Comments

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.

Robot builds on insights into Atlantic razor clam dynamics

March 25, 2014 11:10 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

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.

Scientists discover material that can be solar cell by day, light panel by night

March 25, 2014 7:49 am | News | Comments

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.

Mother-of-pearl inspires super-strong material

March 25, 2014 7:43 am | News | Comments

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.

Engineers design “living materials”

March 24, 2014 9:45 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

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Researchers grow carbon nanofibers using ambient air, without toxic ammonia

March 24, 2014 9:39 am | News | Comments

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.

New use for an old troublemaker

March 24, 2014 9:04 am | News | Comments

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.

Materials experts create spintronic thermoelectric power generators

March 21, 2014 2:18 pm | News | Comments

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.

Lightweight construction materials achieve high stability

March 21, 2014 2:07 pm | News | Comments

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 layered nanostructure held together by DNA

March 20, 2014 12:40 pm | by David Lindley, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

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.

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Rapid materials testing in 3-D

March 20, 2014 12:31 pm | News | Comments

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.

Algae may be a potential source of biofuels, biochemicals even in cool climate

March 20, 2014 12:22 pm | News | Comments

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.

Roomy cages built from DNA

March 14, 2014 11:48 am | News | Comments

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.

Amsterdam canal house built with 3-D printer

March 14, 2014 9:58 am | by Toby Sterling, Associated Press | News | Comments

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.

GE introduces a new technology for home refrigeration

March 14, 2014 9:45 am | News | Comments

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 robotic fish moves like the real thing

March 13, 2014 8:05 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

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.

Graphene-copper sandwich may improve, shrink electronics

March 12, 2014 2:00 pm | by Sean Nealon, Univ. of Riverside, Calif. | News | Comments

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.

Imec achieves record 8.4% efficiency in fullerene-free organic solar cells

March 11, 2014 9:50 am | News | Comments

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.

Interactive simulator takes driver behavior into account

March 10, 2014 7:43 am | News | Comments

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.

Scientists create optical nanocavity to improve light absorption in semiconductors

March 7, 2014 1:14 pm | News | Comments

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.

LED lamps: Less energy, more light with gallium nitride

March 7, 2014 12:55 pm | News | Comments

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.

Manufacturing a solution to planet-clogging plastics

March 7, 2014 9:06 am | by Kristen Kusek, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

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.

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