The R&D 100 Awards have a 50+ year history of recognizing excellence in innovation, earning the name the “Oscars of Invention." And at the annual event, the high rollers of the science and technology industry were honored on stage for their innovative, high-tech products and processes that are, or will, make a difference in our everyday lives.
Additive manufacturing, widely known as 3-D printing, offers many advantages over traditional manufacturing methods such as injection molding and machining, which limit a part’s geometry and size. By freeing manufacturers from these design constraints, additive manufacturing helps create complex parts that spark innovation and save companies time and money.
Energy storage devices and computer screens may seem worlds apart, but they're not. When Assoc. Prof. Qi Hua Fan set out to make a less expensive supercapacitor for storing renewable energy, he developed a new plasma technology that will streamline the production of display screens.
Physicists at Australian National Univ. have engineered a spiral laser beam and used it to create a whirlpool of hybrid light-matter particles called polaritons. The ability to control polariton flows in this way could aid the development of completely novel technology to link conventional electronics with new laser and fiber-based technologies.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have developed an efficient method to measure residual stress in metal parts produced by powder-bed fusion additive manufacturing. This 3-D printing process produces metal parts layer by layer using a high-energy laser beam to fuse metal powder particles.
The editors of R&D Magazine have announced the opening of the 2015 R&D 100 Awards entry process. The R&D 100 Awards have a 50 plus year history of awarding the 100 most technologically significant products of the year. Past winners have included sophisticated testing equipment, innovative new materials, chemistry breakthroughs, biomedical products, consumer items, high-energy physics and more.
The rapidly melting ice sheets on the coast of West Antarctica are a potential major contributor to rising ocean levels worldwide. Although warm water near the coast is thought to be the main factor causing the ice to melt, the process by which this water ends up near the cold continent is not well understood. Using robotic ocean gliders, Caltech researchers now have a better understanding of the cause.
In a step toward robots smaller than a grain of sand, Univ. of Michigan researchers have shown how chains of self-assembling particles could serve as electrically activated muscles in the tiny machines. So-called microbots would be handy in many areas. But several challenges lie between current technologies and science fiction possibilities. Two of the big ones are building the bots and making them mobile.
What began as research into a method to strengthen metals has led to the discovery of a new technique that uses a pulsing laser to create synthetic nanodiamond films and patterns from graphite, with potential applications from biosensors to computer chips.
French security officials are investigating a spate of mysterious and illegal flights by drone aircraft over more than a dozen nuclear power stations in France, raising security concerns in a country that largely lives off atomic energy. In what environmental activists call a worrisome development, authorities have tallied at least 15 overflights of nuclear sites since early October, culminating Friday with five at separate sites.
With an eye toward making better running robots, researchers have made surprising new findings about some of nature’s most energy-efficient bipeds—running birds. Although birds are designed primarily for flight, scientists have learned that species that predominately live on land and scurry around on the ground are also some of the most sophisticated runners of any two-legged land animals.
When an aspiring mechanical engineer on a budget wants a top-of-the-line guitar, what does he do? He makes it himself, of course. At age 13, Nathan Spielberg—now a Massachusetts Institute of Technology senior—began building his first guitar, a process that consumed his attention for eight hours a day, every weekend, for 3 1/2 years.
A new membrane, developed scientists in the Netherlands, can be made more or less porous “on demand”. In this way, smart switching between “open” and “closed” is possible, which opens the way to innovative applications in biosensors, chemical analysis and catalysis.
Inside Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Building 41, a small, Roomba-like robot is trying to decided where to go. As the robot considers its options, its “thoughts” are projected on the ground in the form of different colored dots and lines. This new visualization system, called “measurable virtual reality”, combines projectors with motion-capture technology and animation software to project a robot’s intentions in real time.
Techniques for self-assembling of molecules have grown increasingly sophisticated, but biological structures remain a challenge. Recently, scientists have used self-assembly under controlled conditions to create a membrane consisting of layers with distinctly different structures. At the Advanced Photon Source, the team has studied the structures and how they form, paving the way for hierarchical structures with biomedical applications.
Projecting images on curved screens poses a dilemma. The sharper the image, the darker it is, even when using lasers and scanning mirrors. A novel optical approach involving the use of an array of microprojectors now brings brightness and sharpness together for the first time on screens of any curvature. It also allows an increase in projection rates by about 10,000 times.
The trend toward energy self-sufficient probes and ever smaller mobile electronics systems continues, and are used to monitor the status of the engines on airplanes, or for medical implants. They gather the energy they need for this from their immediate environment, such as vibrations. Fraunhofer Institute researchers have developed a process for the economical production of piezoelectric materials that supply this type of energy.
Lasers are so deeply integrated into modern technology that their basic operations would seem well understood. CD players, medical diagnostics and military surveillance all depend on lasers. Re-examining longstanding beliefs about the physics of these devices, Princeton Univ. engineers have now shown that carefully restricting the delivery of power to certain areas within a laser could boost its output by many orders of magnitude.
Researchers in the U.K. have found a new way to make nanostructured carbon using the waste product sawdust. By cooking sawdust with a thin coating of iron at 700 C, they have discovered that they can create carbon with a structure made up of many tiny tubes. These tubes are one thousand times smaller than an average human hair.
A few short years ago, the idea of a practical manufacturing process based on getting molecules to organize themselves in useful nanoscale shapes seemed far-fetched. Recent work at NIST, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and IBM Almaden Research Center suggest this capability isn’t far off, however, by demonstrating self-assembly of thin films on a polymer template that creates precise rows just 10 nm wide.
Action-packed science-fiction movies often feature colorful laser bolts. But what would a real laser missile look like during flight, if we could only make it out? How would it illuminate its surroundings? The answers lie in a film made by researchers in Poland who have captured the passage of an ultrashort laser pulse through the air.
New software algorithms have been shown to significantly reduce the time and material needed to produce objects with 3-D printers. Because the printers create objects layer-by-layer from the bottom up, this poses a challenge when printing overhanging or protruding features like a figure's outstretched arms. They must be formed using supporting structures—which are later removed—adding time and material to the process.
In a design that mimics a hard-to-duplicate texture of starfish shells, Univ. of Michigan engineers have made rounded crystals that have no facets. The team calls the crystals "nanolobes". The nanolobes' shape and the way they're made have promising applications. The geometry could potentially be useful to guide light in advanced LEDs, solar cells and non-reflective surfaces.
Microscopic particles that bind under low temperatures will melt as temperatures rise to moderate levels, but re-connect under hotter conditions, a team of New York Univ. scientists has found. Their discovery points to new ways to create "smart materials," cutting-edge materials that adapt to their environment by taking new forms, and to sharpen the detail of 3-D printing.
Graphene’s exotic properties can be tailored by cutting large sheets down to ribbons of specific lengths and edge configurations. But this “top-down” fabrication approach is not yet practical, because current lithographic techniques always produce defects. Now, scientists from the U.S. and Japan have discovered a new “bottom-up” self-assembly method for producing defect-free graphene nanoribbons with periodic zigzag-edge regions.