It's not quite the bionics of science fiction, but European researchers have created a robotic hand that gave an amputee a sense of touch he hadn't felt in a decade. The experiment lasted only a week, but it let the patient feel if different objects were hard or soft, slim or round, and intuitively adjust his grasp.
Exposed on a vertical face, rock climbers rely on their instincts and experience just as much as their equipment for survival. Depending on the climb, an assortment of gear is used for a successful ascension to the top—carabineers, cams, harnesses, specialized climbing shoes. Different styles of footwear are used for finessing cracks, balancing on small toeholds or smearing sloping slabs, the choice depends on individual preference.
Working on the cutting edge of a newly emerging area of solar-cell research, Univ. of California, Los Angeles engineers have invented a new process for manufacturing highly efficient photovoltaic materials that shows promise for low-cost industrial production. The new process uses so-called perovskite materials, which in the past few years have significantly advanced scientists' efforts to create the next generation of solar cells.
Researchers at Tyndall National Institute in Ireland have produced the first ever atom-by-atom simulation of nanoscale film growth by atomic layer deposition (ALD), a thin-film technology used in the production of silicon chips. The accomplishment required the acquisition of the complete set of hundreds of ALD reactions at the quantum mechanical level.
In a world’s first, researchers at the National Institute of Materials Science in Japan have succeeded in controlling the length of a one-dimensional, or supramolecular, assembly of molecules. Their method involves molecular self-organization, which until now has not been practical for polymer synthesis because of a lack of knowledge about the interplay of organizational pathways.
Scientists at the Univ. of Strathclyde, U.K., have successfully demonstrated two notable high-power laser research developments: the first ever tunable diamond Raman laser and the first continuous-wave (CW) laser. Both lasers use synthetic diamond material made by California’s Element Six. The breakthrough is a significant achievement in solid-state laser engineering.
Continuous miniaturization in microelectronics is nearing physical limits, so researchers are seeking new methods for device fabrication. One promising candidate is a DNA origami technique in which individual strands of the biomolecule self-assemble into arbitrarily-shaped nanostructures. A new simpler strategy combines DNA origami with self-organized pattern formation to do away with elaborate procedures for positioning DNA structures.
Local Motors Inc. and Oak Ridge National Laboratory have signed a new partnership to develop and deliver technology to produce the world’s first production 3-D printed vehicle. The CRADA between Local Motors and ORNL will explore making vehicle construction more efficient, including lower production time, costs and part count, coupled with higher standards of control, safety, aesthetics and mechanical flexibility.
A new catalytic converter developed in the U.K. could cut fuel consumption and manufacturing costs significantly. Tests suggest that the new prototype, which uses up to 80% less rare metal than a conventional converter, could reduce fuel consumption in a standard vehicle by up to 3%. Metals such as platinum now account for 60 to 70% of the cost of the component.
Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory have created a new type of tunnel device structure in which the tunnel barrier and transport channel are made of the same material, graphene. Their work shows the highest spin injection values yet measured for graphene, opening an entirely new avenue for making highly functional, scalable graphene-based electronic and spintronic devices a reality.
Stratasys, a manufacturer of 3-D printers and materials for personal use, prototyping and production, has announced the launch of the ground-breaking Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3-D Printer, the first and only 3-D printer to combine colors with a variety of photopolymer 3-D printed materials.
Univ. of Houston researchers have developed a new stretchable and transparent electrical conductor, bringing the potential for a fully foldable cell phone or a flat-screen television that can be folded and carried under your arm closer to reality. The researchers report that their gold nanomesh electrodes, produced by the novel grain boundary lithography, increase resistance only slightly, even at a strain of 160%.
Researchers from two continents have engineered an efficient and environmentally friendly catalyst for the production of molecular hydrogen (H2), a compound used extensively in modern industry to manufacture fertilizer and refine crude oil into gasoline. The new method can product industrial quantities of hydrogen without emitting carbon into the atmosphere.
Graphene, a sheet of carbon one atom thick, may soon have a new nanomaterial partner. In the laboratory and on supercomputers, chemical engineers have determined that a unique arrangement of 36 boron atoms in a flat disc with a hexagonal hole in the middle may be the preferred building blocks for “borophene.”
Soil scientists at Abertay Univ. are using 3-D printing technology to find out, for the very first time, exactly what is going on in the world beneath our feet. In the same way that ecologists study the interactions of living organisms above ground, Prof.Wilfred Otten and researchers at the university’s SIMBIOS Centre are taking advantage of the new technology to do the same below ground.
Hanchen Huang, an engineer at Northeastern Univ., has spent the last 10 years revising the classical theory of crystal growth that accounts for his observations of nanorod crystals. The theory, on the macroscale, holds that height steps gradually disappear as atoms of a given material tumble down to fill in the gaps. On the nanoscale, Huang has found, things operate differently.
New research hints that nanodevices in microcircuits can protect themselves from heat generation through the transformation of nanotransistors into quantum states. The finding, demonstrated in nanoscale semiconductors devices, could boost computing power without large-scale changes to electronics.
Researchers in Ireland and Germany have discovered a novel solid state reaction which lets kesterite grains grow within a few seconds and at relatively low temperatures. The work points towards a new pathway for the fabrication of thin microcrystalline semiconductor films without the need of expensive vacuum technology.
A Virginia Tech research team has developed a battery that runs on sugar, using a non-natural synthetic enzymatic pathway that strip all charge potentials from the sugar. While other sugar batteries have been developed, this one has an energy density an order of magnitude higher than others, allowing it to run longer before needing to be refueled.
Superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs) are incredibly sensitive magnetic flux sensors which have been limited in their applications because of thermal challenges at ultralow temperatures. Researchers in the U.K. have succeeded in overcoming this difficulty by introducing a new type of nanoscale SQUID based on optimized proximity effect bilayers.
Several hundred ants have boldly gone where no ants have gone before: the International Space Station (ISS), high above Earth. An unmanned supply rocket delivered 600 small black common pavement ants to the ISS. Their arrival marked the beginning of an experiment designed by a team at Stanford Univ. to determine how the ants, in these exotic surroundings, adapt the innate algorithms that modulate their group behavior.
The alien world of aquatic microorganisms just got new residents: synthetic self-propelled swimming bio-bots. A team of engineers has developed a class of tiny bio-hybrid machines that swim like sperm, the first synthetic structures that can traverse the viscous fluids of biological environments on their own.
The most efficient way to convert light into different wavelengths for use in spectroscopy or laser applications is to use nonlinear optical crystals, but these tend to suffer crystal damage at high laser intensities. Oleg Louchev of the RIKEN Center in Japan and colleagues have discovered that such crystal damage arises from small localized temperature rises due to photon absorption and electric field effects within the crystal.
Expectations are high for RoboEarth, a new European-funded system to speed the development of human-serving robots. Scientists from five major European technical universities have gathered in the Netherlands this week for its launch and to demonstrate possible applications. The first: the deceptively simple task of delivering a glass of milk to a patient in a mock-up hospital room.
North Carolina State Univ. researchers have used silver nanowires to develop wearable, multi-functional sensors that could be used in biomedical, military or athletic applications, including new prosthetics, robotic systems and flexible touch panels. The sensors can measure strain, pressure, human touch and bioelectronic signals such as electrocardiograms.