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Breakthrough greatly strengthens graphene-reinforced composites

June 4, 2014 10:07 am | News | Comments

Haydale, a U.K.-based developer of a unique plasma functionalization process for nanomaterials, has announced the publication of research showing its functionalized graphene nanoplatelets significantly improve the nanoscale reinforcement of resin. The report states a greater than two times increase in tensile strength and modulus of an epoxy composite using this technology.

New prototype transistor consumes little power

June 4, 2014 7:37 am | News | Comments

The basic element of modern electronics, namely the transistor, suffers from significant current leakage. By enveloping a transistor with a shell of piezoelectric material, which distorts when voltage is applied, researchers in the Netherlands were able to reduce this leakage by a factor of five compared to a transistor without this material.

Rice Univ. produces carbon-capture breakthrough

June 4, 2014 7:14 am | News | Comments

A porous material invented by the Rice Univ. lab of chemist James Tour sequesters carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, at ambient temperature with pressure provided by the wellhead and lets it go once the pressure is released. The material shows promise to replace more costly and energy-intensive processes.

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Discovery sheds light on how to control self-assembly process

June 3, 2014 8:35 am | News | Comments

Imagine a tower that builds itself into the desired structure only by choosing the appropriate bricks. Absurd, but in the nano world self-assembly is now a common practice for forming structures. Researchers in Austria have been investigating how they can control the ordering of self-assembling structures and discovered how to switch the assembly process on and off.

Simple sewing machine has high-tech role in future “soft” machines

June 3, 2014 7:50 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

The humble sewing machine could play a key role in creating "soft" robotics, wearable electronics and implantable medical systems made of elastic materials that are capable of extreme stretching. New stretchable technologies could lead to innovations including robots that have human-like sensory skin and synthetic muscles and flexible garments that people might wear to interact with computers or for therapeutic purposes.

Affordable precision printing for pros

June 3, 2014 7:38 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Against the backdrop of today’s burgeoning 3-D printing landscape, with an ever-increasing number of machines popping up, MIT Media Lab spinout Formlabs has carved out a precise niche. Combining a highly accurate (but usually expensive) light-based printing technique with engineering ingenuity, the Formlabs team invented a high-resolution 3-D laser printer, called the Form 1, that’s viewed as an affordable option for professional users.

The hunt for white aluminium

May 30, 2014 10:29 am | by Katrine Krogh-Jeppesen, DTU | News | Comments

Bang & Olufsen is working with scientists in Denmark to develop a method for creating white aluminium surfaces. This has been exceedingly difficult for manufacturers because the existing technology used to color aluminium cannot be used to produce the color white because the molecules used to create “white” are too big. Rather than use pigments, then, researchers have a way to make it become white during the process.

Think fast, robot

May 30, 2014 9:01 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

One of the reasons we don’t yet have self-driving cars and miniature helicopters delivering online purchases is that autonomous vehicles tend not to perform well under pressure. A system that can flawlessly parallel park at 5 mph may have trouble avoiding obstacles at 35 mph. Part of the problem is the time it takes to produce and interpret camera data.

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SpaceX finishes qualification testing for 3-D printed rocket engine

May 30, 2014 8:58 am | Videos | Comments

The SuperDraco thruster, an engine that will power SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to orbit, has completed a test regimen held over the last month at SpaceX’s Rocket Development Facility in Texas. This qualification test involves a variety of conditions conditions including multiple starts, extended firing durations and extreme off-nominal propellant flow and temperatures.

Study: Solar panel manufacturing is greener in Europe than China

May 30, 2014 8:42 am | by Louise Lerner, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Solar panels made in China have a higher overall carbon footprint and are likely to use substantially more energy during manufacturing than those made in Europe, said a new study from Northwestern Univ. and Argonne National Laboratory. The report compared energy and greenhouse gas emissions that go into the manufacturing process of solar panels in Europe and China.

Bake your own robot

May 30, 2014 7:40 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

At this year’s IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, a research team introduced a new wrinkle on the idea of printable robots: bakable robots. In two new papers, the researchers demonstrate the promise of printable robotic components that, when heated, automatically fold into prescribed 3-D configurations.

New laser sensing technology could support self-driving cars, smartphone tech

May 29, 2014 11:50 am | News | Comments

A new twist on 3-D imaging technology could one day enable your self-driving car to spot a child in the street half a block away or play “virtual tennis” on your driveway. The new system, developed by researchers at the Univ. of California, Berkeley, can remotely sense objects across distances as long as 30 feet, 10 times farther than what could be done with comparable current low-power laser systems.

SABIC collaborates with Cima Nanotech on new conductive, transparent film

May 29, 2014 9:01 am | News | Comments

Saudi Arabian-based petrochemical company SABIC and Cima NanoTech have announced the joint development of a new transparent conductive polycarbonate film. The collaboration leverages both Cima NanoTech’s proprietary SANTE nanoparticle technology and SABIC’s LEXAN film to produce a film that outperforms indium tin oxide by a factor of ten.

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A more Earth-friendly way to make bright white cotton fabrics

May 29, 2014 7:44 am | News | Comments

With a growing number of consumers demanding more earth-friendly practices from the fashion world, scientists are developing new ways to produce textiles that could help meet rising expectations. They report in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research one such method that can dramatically reduce the amount of energy it takes to bleach cotton while improving the quality of the popular material.

Supersonic spray delivers high quality graphene layer

May 28, 2014 11:26 am | by Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago | News | Comments

Although the potential uses for graphene seem limitless, there has been no easy way to scale up from microscopic to large-scale applications without introducing defects. Researchers in Chicago and Korea have recently developed a supersonic spray system that produces very small droplets of graphene which disperse evenly, evaporate rapidly, and reduce aggregation tendencies. And, to the researchers’ surprise, it also eliminates defects.

New method is the first to control growth of metal crystals from single atoms

May 28, 2014 11:01 am | News | Comments

Using a doped-graphene matrix to slow down and then trap atoms of the precious metal osmium, researchers in the U.K. have shown the ability to control and quantify the growth of metal-crystals. When the trapped atoms come into contact with further osmium atoms they bind together, eventually growing into 3-D metal-crystals. They have called this new technique nanocrystallometry.

Laser system mimics sunlight to test solar cell efficiency

May 28, 2014 10:34 am | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST have developed a laser-based instrument that generates artificial sunlight to help test solar cell properties and find ways to boost their efficiency. The novel NIST system simulates sunlight well across a broad spectrum of visible to infrared light. More flexible than conventional solar simulators, the laser instrument can be focused down to a small beam spot and shaped to match any desired spectral profile.

New engine design could reduce aircraft fuel consumption by 15%

May 27, 2014 12:20 pm | by Christian Johansson, Chalmers University of Technology | News | Comments

According to new research from Sweden, two aircraft engine concepts, a geared turbofan and an open rotor, can enable a significant reduction to aircraft fuel consumption. With an open rotor, the potential reduction is 15%. An open rotor engine generates most of the thrust from two counter-rotating propellers instead of a ducted fan. This enables a larger engine diameter and a higher propulsive efficiency.

Miniature truss work

May 27, 2014 7:44 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

Fancy Erector Set? Nope. The elaborate fractal structure shown at left is many, many times smaller than that and is certainly not child's play. It’s the latest example of a fractal nanotruss—nano because the structures are made up of members that are as thin as 5 nm; truss because they are carefully architected structures that might one day be used in structural engineering materials.

AFM systems take a tip from nanowires

May 23, 2014 12:32 pm | News | Comments

In response to requests from the semiconductor industry, a team of researchers at the Physical Measurement Laboratory has demonstrated that atomic force microscope probe tips made from its near-perfect gallium nitride nanowires are superior in many respects to standard silicon or platinum tips. They also found a way to use the tips as LEDs to illuminate sample regions while scanning.

A new way to make sheets of graphene

May 23, 2014 7:39 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Graphene’s promise as a material for new kinds of electronic devices, among other uses, has led researchers around the world to study the material in search of new applications. But one of the biggest limitations to wider use of the strong, lightweight, highly conductive material has been the hurdle of fabrication on an industrial scale.

Automated guided vehicles ripe for standardized performance tests

May 22, 2014 10:40 am | News | Comments

Automated guided vehicles—or AGVs—are robotic versions of draft animals, hauling heavy loads and navigating their way in factories, distribution centers, ports and other facilities. These modern beasts of burden are evolving so rapidly in capabilities and electronic intelligence that the need for the equivalent of standardized performance testing has become apriority for the fast-growing AGV industry and its customers.

Robots transform into furniture at EPFL

May 21, 2014 2:26 pm | Videos | Comments

Scientists from the Biorobotics Laboratory (BIOROB) at EPFL in Switzerland have developed small robotic modules that can change their shape to create reconfigurable furniture. Like Lego bricks, these robotic pieces, or Roombots, can be stacked upon each other to create various structures. Each piece has three motors that allow the module to pivot with three degrees of freedom, and each also has a battery and wireless connection.

Liquid crystal acts as machine lubricant

May 21, 2014 9:27 am | News | Comments

Although lubricants for machinery are widely used, almost no fundamental innovations for this type of product has been made in the last 20 years, according researchers in Germany who have been working on a new class of lubricating substance. Their new liquid crystalline lubricant enable nearly frictionless sliding because although it is a liquid, the molecules display directional properties like crystals do.

Busting rust with light: New technique delivers perfect paint job

May 20, 2014 3:08 pm | News | Comments

Now researchers have developed a new way to measure the thickness of paint layers and the size of particles embedded inside. A technique called terahertz reflectometry is used to characterize coats of paint without damaging them. No other current methods can do this successfully, and the technique could be useful for a variety of applications from cars to cancer detection.

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