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New York police see risks with drones' popularity

July 10, 2014 9:43 am | by Tom Hays, Associated Press | News | Comments

Police in New York City are concerned that the increasing popularity of drones in such a tightly packed metropolis could carry major risks, even becoming a potential tool for terrorists to conduct surveillance or carry out attacks. Even though it's illegal to fly the devices just about anywhere in New York City without permission, recent incidents and breathtaking videos of Manhattan suggest that the restrictions are being widely flouted.

Heads up, World Cup teams: The robots are coming

July 10, 2014 8:33 am | by Kathy Matheson, Associated Press | News | Comments

When robots first started playing soccer, it was a challenge for them just to see the ball. And to stay upright. But the machines participating in this month's international RoboCup tournament are making passes and scoring points. Their ultimate goal? To beat the human World Cup champs within the next 35 years.

Artificial cilia: Scientists develop nanostructured transportation system

July 7, 2014 3:40 pm | News | Comments

For billions of years, bacteria have moved themselves using cilia. Now, researchers have constructed molecules that imitate these tiny, hair-like structures. The innovation was possible by nanofabricating artificial cilia that would respond in just one direction to provide a net displacement of motion.

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The new atomic age: Building smaller, greener electronics

July 7, 2014 3:06 pm | by Bryan Alary, Univ. of Alberta | News | Comments

Robert Wolkow and his team at the Univ. of Alberta are working to engineer atomically precise computing technologies that have practical, real-world applications. In recent research, he and his team observed for the first time how an electrical current flows across the skin of a silicon crystal and also measured electrical resistance as the current moved over a single atomic step.

Study: Power consumption of robot joints could be 40% less

July 7, 2014 2:24 pm | News | Comments

Digital controllers are used to drive the motors of the joints in robots used in industrial processes. Programming and developing these controllers is not easy. Researchers in Spain have analyzed a way of propelling these systems or robots in a more energy-efficient way and has shown, on a laboratory level, that in some cases energy consumption can be cut by up to 40% without sacrificing precision.

With "ribbons" of graphene, width matters

July 7, 2014 9:39 am | by Laura L. Hunt, UW-Milwaukee | News | Comments

Using graphene ribbons just several atoms across, a group of researchers at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has found a novel way to “tune” the material, causing the extremely efficient conductor of electricity to act as a semiconductor. By imaging the ribbons with scanning-tunneling microscopy, researchers have confirmed how narrow the ribbon width must be. Achieving less than 10 nm in width is a big challenge.

Muscle-powered bio-bots walk on command

July 2, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

Engineers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a class of walking “bio-bots” powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical pulses, giving researchers unprecedented command over their function. The design is inspired by the muscle-tendon-bone complex found in nature. They have a backbone of 3-D printed hydrogel, strong enough to give the bio-bot structure but flexible enough to bend like a joint.

New method detects infrared energy using a nanoporous photodetector

July 1, 2014 10:09 am | News | Comments

Experiments aimed at devising new types of photodetectors have been triggered by the increasing use of optoelectronic devices. Researchers in China have proposed a new type of infrared photodetector made from zinc oxide and silicon. Its nanoporous nature, synthesized by a simple sol-gel method, allows it to be responsive to infrared wavelengths.

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Researchers create quantum dots with single-atom precision

June 30, 2014 7:59 am | News | Comments

An international team of physicists including researchers from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory has used a scanning tunneling microscope to create quantum dots with identical, deterministic sizes. The perfect reproducibility of these dots opens the door to quantum dot architectures completely free of uncontrolled variations, an important goal for technologies from nanophotonics to quantum information processing.

Diamond plates create nanostructures through pressure, not chemistry

June 27, 2014 3:09 pm | News | Comments

You wouldn’t think that mechanical force could process nanoparticles more subtly than the most advanced chemistry. But researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have created a newly patented and original method that uses simple pressure to produce finer and cleaner results in forming silver nanostructures than do chemical methods, which are not only inflexible in their results but leave harmful byproducts.

Chemists develop magnetically responsive liquid crystals

June 27, 2014 9:38 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the Univ. of California, Riverside have constructed liquid crystals with optical properties that can be instantly and reversibly controlled by an external magnetic field. Unlike conventional liquid crystals, which rotate and align themselves when an electric field is applied, the new crystals are essentially a liquid dispersion of magnetic nanorods.

Carbon-fiber epoxy honeycombs mimic material performance of balsa wood

June 25, 2014 4:06 pm | by Paul Karoff, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

In wind farms across North America and Europe, sleek turbines equipped with state-of-the-art technology convert wind energy into electric power. But tucked inside the blades of these feats of modern engineering is a decidedly low-tech core material: balsa wood.

New synthesis method generates functionalized carbon nanolayers

June 25, 2014 8:10 am | News | Comments

An international team has developed an elegant method for producing self-organized and functionalized carbon nanolayers and equipping them chemically with a range of functions. The effort depended on the development of a special compound, the molecules of which were aligned perfectly in parallel to each other in a single self-organized layer, like the bristles on a brush.

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Collaborative learning for robots

June 25, 2014 7:54 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Machine learning, in which computers learn new skills by looking for patterns in training data, is the basis of most recent advances in artificial intelligence, from voice-recognition systems to self-parking cars. It’s also the technique that autonomous robots typically use to build models of their environments. That type of model-building gets complicated, however, in cases in which clusters of robots work as teams.

Woman or machine? New robots look creepily human

June 24, 2014 9:46 am | by Yuri Kageyama, AP Business Writer | News | Comments

New robot guides at a Tokyo museum look so eerily human and speak so smoothly they almost outdo people. The two life-size robots, which have silicon skin, artificial muscles, and can speak in a variety of voices, will be on display starting Wednesday, allowing the public to interact with them extensively.

Super-stretchable yarn is made of graphene

June 23, 2014 12:30 pm | News | Comments

According to researchers, a simple, scalable method of making strong, stretchable graphene oxide fibers that are easily scrolled into yarns and have strengths approaching that of Kevlar is possible. An international collaboration has recently produced graphene oxide yarn fibers much stronger than other carbon fibers.

Researchers develop new ultra-light, ultra-stiff 3-D printed materials

June 19, 2014 4:11 pm | by Kenneth Ma, LLNL | News | Comments

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.

Synthetic aperture sonar to help Navy hunt sea mines

June 19, 2014 8:37 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Since World War II, sea mines have damaged or sunk four times more U.S. Navy ships than all other means of attack combined. New sonar research being performed could improve the Navy’s ability to find sea mines deep under water. The underlying technology, known as synthetic aperture sonar, uses advanced computing and signal processing power to create fine-resolution images of the seafloor based on reflected sound waves.

A new way to detect leaks in pipes

June 19, 2014 8:09 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Explosions caused by leaking gas pipes have frequently made headlines in recent years. But while the problem of old and failing pipes has garnered much attention, methods for addressing such failing infrastructure have lagged far behind. Typically, leaks are found using aboveground acoustic sensors. But these systems are very slow, and can miss small leaks altogether. Now researchers have devised a robotic system that can detect leaks.

New manufacturing methods needed for “soft” machines, robots

June 19, 2014 7:52 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a technique that might be used to produce "soft machines" made of elastic materials and liquid metals for potential applications in robotics, medical devices and consumer electronics. Such an elastic technology could make possible robots that have sensory skin and stretchable garments that people might wear to interact with computers or for therapeutic purposes.

Collecting light with artificial moth eyes

June 18, 2014 4:00 pm | News | Comments

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.

Nanofibers for quantum computing

June 17, 2014 4:12 pm | News | Comments

A proposed hybrid quantum processor for a future quantum computer uses trapped atoms as the memory and superconducting qubits as the processor. The concept requires, however, an optical trap that is able to work well with superconductors, which don’t like magnetic fields or high optical power. Joint Quantum Institute scientists believe they’ve developed an effective method for creating these ultra-high transmission optical nanofibers.

Nanoparticle production method could lead to better lights, lenses, solar cells

June 17, 2014 4:02 pm | News | Comments

Titanium dioxide nanoparticles show great promise as optical encapsulants or fillers for tunable refractive index coatings. However, they've been largely shunned because they’ve been difficult and expensive to make. Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories have now come up with an inexpensive way to synthesize properly sized titanium dioxide nanoparticles and is seeking partners who can demonstrate the process at industrial scale.

Researchers develop efficient approach to manufacture 3-D metal parts

June 16, 2014 2:12 pm | by Kenneth Ma, LLNL | News | Comments

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have developed a new and more efficient approach to a challenging problem in additive manufacturing—using selective laser melting, namely, the selection of appropriate process parameters that result in parts with desired properties.

Nano-imaging probes molecular disorder

June 13, 2014 10:59 am | News | Comments

In semiconductor-based components, high mobility of charge-carrying particles is important. In organic materials, however, it is uncertain to what degree the molecular order within the thin films affects the mobility and transport of charge carriers. Using a new imaging method, researchers have shown that thin-film organic semiconductors contain regions of structural disorder that could inhibit the transport of charge and limit efficiency.

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