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Silver nanowire sensors hold promise for prosthetics, robotics

January 16, 2014 9:22 am | News | Comments

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.

Human arm sensors make robot smarter

January 16, 2014 9:11 am | News | Comments

Using arm sensors that can read a person’s muscle movements, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have created a control system that makes robots more intelligent. The sensors send information to the robot, allowing it to anticipate a human’s movements and correct its own. The system is intended to improve time, safety and efficiency in manufacturing plants.

Inverse opal structure improves thin-film solar cells

January 13, 2014 3:59 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have shown how to increase the efficiency of thin-film solar cells, a technology that could bring low-cost solar energy. The approach uses 3-D photonic crystals to absorb more sunlight than conventional thin-film cells. The synthetic crystals possess a structure called an inverse opal to make use of and enhance properties found in the gemstones to reflect, diffract and bend incoming sunlight.

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3-D printing set to break out of niche

January 13, 2014 1:15 pm | by Peter Svensson, AP Technology Writer | News | Comments

Based on some of the printing technologies on display at the International CES gadget show in Las Vegas, the question is not whether everyone’s home will someday have a 3-D printer. The question is which rooms will have one: the garage, the kitchen or the wardrobe? Possibly all three. Startups are showcasing printers than can create food, robotics and even clothing in just minutes from inexpensive raw materials.

Technology uses micro-windmills to recharge cell phones

January 13, 2014 9:06 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Texas have designed a micro-windmill that generates wind energy and may become an innovative solution to cell phone batteries constantly in need of recharging. A single grain of rice could hold about 10 of these tiny windmills, and hundreds of them could be embedded in a sleeve for a cell phone.

Engineers create light-activated “curtains”

January 10, 2014 12:36 pm | by Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

A new development by researchers at the Univ. of California, Berkeley, could lead to curtains and other materials that move in response to light, no batteries needed. Engineers have created a new light-reactive material made up of carbon nanotubes and plastic polycarbonate.

Researchers make a 3-D strutted framework from graphene for the first time

January 10, 2014 12:18 pm | News | Comments

A new fabrication method inspired by blown sugar art has been used to make structure in which an ultrathin graphene layer, or layers, is glued to a 3-D strutted framework. The researchers in Japan, calling this the “chemical blowing method”, overcomes the weak intersheet connections that have made this type of structure so difficult to create in the past.

Eye-catching electronics

January 8, 2014 2:03 pm | by Peter Rüegg, ETH Zürich | News | Comments

Researchers in Switzerland are developing electronic components that are thinner and more flexible than before. They can even be wrapped around a single hair without damaging the electronics. This opens up new possibilities for ultra-thin, transparent sensors that are literally easy on the eye.

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High-temperature sensor technologies to increase power plant efficiency

January 7, 2014 9:27 am | News | Comments

The sensors team at the National Energy Technology Laboratory is working on sensor technologies to enable embedded gas sensing at high temperature. Through a combination of theoretical simulations and experiments, the team has demonstrated that transparent conducting oxides such as aluminum-doped zinc oxide show significant promise for high-temperature optical gas sensing in the near‑infrared wavelength range.

Simple technique may drive down biofuel production costs

January 7, 2014 8:21 am | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a simple, effective and relatively inexpensive technique for removing lignin from the plant material used to make biofuels, which may drive down the cost of biofuel production. Lignin, nature’s way of protecting plant cell walls, is difficult to break down or remove from biomass. However, that lignin needs to be extracted in order to reach the energy-rich cellulose that is used to make biofuels.

Nano-inspired packaging plastic protects as well as aluminium foil

January 6, 2014 12:06 pm | News | Comments

A spin-off company from Singapore’s A*STAR research institute, has invented a new plastic film using a nano-inspired process that makes the material thinner but as effective as aluminium foil in keeping air and moisture at bay. The stretchable plastic could be an alternative for prolonging shelf-life of pharmaceuticals, food, and electronics, bridging the gap of aluminium foil and transparent oxide films.

Researchers find simple, cheap way to increase solar cell efficiency

January 6, 2014 7:42 am | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have found an easy way to modify the molecular structure of a polymer commonly used in solar cells. Their modification can increase solar cell efficiency by more than 30%. Polymer-based solar cells have two domains, consisting of an electron acceptor and an electron donor material.

Ultra-thin tool heating improves injection molding

January 2, 2014 11:58 am | News | Comments

To manufacture plastic parts with high-end surfaces, the entire forming tool is heated to 110 C using a technique known as variothermic tempering. To retrieve the finished plastic part, the mold must be cooled by up to 30 C, consuming lots of energy. Researchers have now developed a new kind of tempering technique that is up to 90% more energy efficient than variothermic tempering approaches.

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Bio-inspired way to grow graphene for electronic devices

December 30, 2013 9:56 am | News | Comments

Inspired by how beetles and tree frogs keep their feet attached to submerged leaves, researchers in Singapore have revealed a new method that allows both the growth and transfer steps of graphene on a silicon wafer. This technique enables the graphene to be applied in photonics and electronics, for devices such as optoelectronic modulators, transistors, on-chip biosensors, and tunnelling barriers.

Success in fabrication of 3-D single-element quasicrystal

December 26, 2013 12:06 pm | News | Comments

A research group based in Japan has succeeded for the first time in fabricating a 3-D structure of a quasicrystal composed of a single element. Discovered in 1984, quasicrystals have been found in more than 100 kinds of alloy, polymer and nanoparticle systems. However, a quasicrystal composed of a single element has not yet been found.

Researchers grow liquid crystal “flowers” that can be used as lenses

December 23, 2013 11:17 am | News | Comments

In earlier studies, a team from the Univ. of Pennsylvania produced nanoscale grids and rings of “defects,” or useful disruptions in the repeating patterns found in liquid crystals. Their latest study adds a more complex pattern out of an even simpler template: A 3-D array in the shape of a flower. This advances the use of liquid crystals as a medium for assembling structures.

To clean up coal, Obama pushes more oil production

December 23, 2013 10:31 am | by Dina Cappiello, Associated Press | News | Comments

America's newest, most expensive coal-fired power plant is hailed as one of the cleanest on the planet, thanks to government-backed technology that removes carbon dioxide and keeps it out of the atmosphere. But once the carbon is stripped away, it will be used to do something that is not so green at all. It will extract oil.

Researchers make a micro-muscular breakthrough

December 19, 2013 8:27 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A team of researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has demonstrated a micro-sized robotic torsional muscle/motor made from vanadium dioxide that for its size is a thousand times more powerful than a human muscle. It is able to catapult objects 50 times heavier than itself over a distance five times its length within just 60 milliseconds.

Scientists line up unruly gas molecules for x-rays

December 19, 2013 8:25 pm | by Glenn Roberts Jr., SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) | News | Comments

It's hard to study individual molecules in a gas because they tumble around chaotically and never sit still. Researchers in California overcame this challenge by using a laser to point them in the same general direction, like compass needles responding to a magnet, so they could be more easily studied with an x-ray laser. It’s a key step toward producing movies that show how a single molecule changes during a chemical reaction.

Jet-propelled wastewater treatment

December 19, 2013 7:55 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart have developed a new method for the active degradation of organic pollutants in solution by using swimming microengines. These tiny “engines” are made from platinum and iron and are highly efficient in removing organic pollutants from water using hydrogen peroxide.

Ultra-short pulse laser delivers controlled ablation to industrial settings

December 19, 2013 7:36 pm | News | Comments

Ultra-short laser pulses provide a fast and precise way of processing a wide range of materials without excessive heat input. Scientists from Bosch, TRUMPF, Jena Univ. and Fraunhofer Institute in Germany have turned the ultra-short pulse laser into an effective series-production tool. This type of laser can remove, or ablate, tiny areas measuring just a few nanometers.

FedEx CEO says drones unlikely to make big impact

December 18, 2013 2:50 pm | by JOSHUA FREED - AP Business Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The CEO of FedEx doesn't see drones taking over the package delivery business anytime soon. Fred Smith says FedEx has several drone studies underway. But the idea of delivering items by drone is "almost amusing," Smith said on a conference call on Wednesday after the company reported financial results.

Lowering titanium’s cost, environmental footprint for lightweight products

December 18, 2013 2:34 pm | News | Comments

A new method for extracting titanium significantly reduces the energy required to separate it from its tightly bound companion, oxygen. Scientists have discovered that they could eliminate the energy-intensive steps of the Kroll process, a finding that could lower cost and accessibility of future titanium products.

Cells from the eye inkjet printed for the first time

December 18, 2013 2:05 pm | News | Comments

A group of researchers from the U.K. have used inkjet printing technology to successfully print cells taken from the eye for the very first time. The breakthrough, detailed in Biofabrication, could lead to the production of artificial tissue grafts made from the variety of cells found in the human retina and may aid in the search to cure blindness.

Microprinting leads to low-cost artificial cells

December 18, 2013 9:12 am | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

Easily manufactured, low-cost artificial cells manufactured using microprinting may one day serve as drug and gene delivery devices, according to engineers at Penn State Univ. who are creating large arrays of artificial cells. Made of lipids and proteins, these uniformly sized cells can either remain attached to the substrate on which they grow, or become separated and used as freely moving vessels.

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