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Morphing material could allow robots to switch between hard and soft states

July 15, 2014

Two 3D-printed soft, flexible scaffolds: The one on the left is maintained in a rigid, bent position via a cooled, rigid wax coating, while the one on the right is uncoated and remains compliant (here, it collapses under a wrench). (Credit: Nadia G. Cheng et al.)

A new Terminator T-1000 robot-style material made of wax and foam — and capable of switching between hard and soft states — could be used to build morphing surgical robots that move through the body to reach a desired location without damaging organs or vessels along the way.

Robots built from the material, described in a new paper in the journal Macromolecular Materials and Engineering, could also be used… read more

Innovation management and the emergence of the nanobiotechnology industry

July 14, 2014

Nanobiotechnology subsectors

The confluence of nanotechnology and biotechnology is creating opportunities and an emerging industry, nanobiotechnology, with tremendous potential for economic and social value creation, according to an international research team at MIT, Simon Fraser University, and the University of New South Wales

The medical applications of nanobiotechnology are promising, including effectively targeted drug delivery — imagine highly efficacious cancer treatment with few side effects — and real time,… read more

Boron ‘buckyball’ discovered

"Borospherene" uses unknown, but could serve as a cage for hydrogen storage
July 14, 2014

Researchers have shown that clusters of 40 boron atoms form a molecular cage similar to the carbon buckyball. This is the first experimental evidence that such a boron cage structure exists. (Credit: Wang lab / Brown University)

Researchers from Brown University, Shanxi University and Tsinghua University in China have discovered that a cluster of 40 boron atoms forms a hollow molecular cage similar to a carbon “buckyball.”

“This is the first time that a boron cage has been observed experimentally,” said Lai-Sheng Wang, a professor of chemistry at Brown who led the team that made the discovery.… read more

Computer memory that can store about one terabyte of data on a device the size of a postage stamp

Data density more than 50 times greater than flash memory; now a step closer to to mass production
July 14, 2014

This scanning electron microscope image and schematic show the design and composition of new RRAM memory devices based on porous silicon oxide that were created at Rice University (credit: Tour Group/Rice University)

High-density, next-generation computer memory that can store about one terabyte of data on a device the size of a postage stamp — more than 50 times the data density of current flash memory technology — is now a step closer to to mass production.

That’s because Rice University’s breakthrough silicon oxide technology will allow manufacturers to fabricate “resistive random-access memory” (RRAM) devices at room temperature with conventional production… read more

Arecibo detects mystery radio burst from beyond our galaxy

July 11, 2014

Optical sky image of the area in the constellation Auriga where the fast radio burst FRB 121102 has been detected. The position of the burst, between the old supernova remnant S147 (left) and the star formation region IC 410 (right) is marked with a green circle. The burst appears to originate from much deeper in space, far beyond our galaxy. (Credit: Rogelio Bernal Andreo (DeepSkyColors.com))

Scientists have discovered a split-second burst of radio waves using the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, published July 10 in The Astrophysical Journal.

The finding marks the first time that a “fast radio burst” has been detected using an instrument other than the Parkes radio telescope in Australia.

Scientists using the Parkes Observatory have recorded a handful of such events, but the lack of any similar findings… read more

A neural device to restore memory

Intended to help military service members with traumatic brain injury (TBI), but could also help with Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy
July 11, 2014

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) will develop an implantable neural device with the ability to record and stimulate neurons within the brain to help restore memory (credit: LLNL)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) up to $2.5 million to develop an implantable neural device with the ability to record and stimulate neurons within the brain to help restore memory.

DARPA’s interest is in traumatic brain injury (TBI), which disrupts memory. DARPA says TBI has affected 270,000 military service members since 2000. It could also help… read more

How to create ‘soft’ machines

Imagine robots with sensory skin or clothes that act as a computer interface
July 10, 2014

Purdue researchers have developed a technique to embed a liquid-alloy pattern inside a rubber-like polymer to form a network of sensors. The approach might be used to produce "soft machines" made of elastic materials and liquid metals for potential applications in robotics, medical devices and consumer electronics. (Credit: Rebecca Kramer/Purdue University)

Purdue University researchers have developed a technique that could be used to create “soft machines” made of elastic materials and liquid metals for robotics, medical devices, and consumer electronics.

Think robots with sensory skin, or stretchable garments that let you interact with a computer, or for therapeutic purposes.

Rebecca Kramer, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and her research team have used the technique… read more

IBM invests $3 billion to extend Moore’s law with post-silicon-era chips and new architectures

Pushing limits of chip technology to 7 nanometers and below
July 10, 2014

Graphene Integrated circuit, the first fabricated from wafer-size graphene, announced by IBM in 2011 (credit: IBM)

IBM announced today it is investing $3 billion for R&D in two research programs to push the limits of chip technology and extend Moore’s law.

The research programs are aimed at “7 nanometer and beyond” silicon technology and developing alternative technologies for post-silicon-era chips using entirely different approaches, IBM says.

IBM will be investing especially in carbon nanoelectronics, silicon photonics, new memory technologies, and architectures that support quantum… read more

Red-light-sensitive protein enables noninvasive neuron studies

Also a step toward developing optogenetic treatments for diseases such as epilepsy and retinitis pigmentosa
July 9, 2014

(Credit: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT)

MIT engineers have developed the first light-sensitive protein molecule that enables neurons to be silenced noninvasively. Using a light source outside the skull makes it possible to do long-term studies without an implanted light source.

The protein, known as Jaws, also allows a larger volume of tissue to be influenced at once. The researchers described the protein in Nature Neuroscience.

Optogenetics, a technology that allows scientists… read more

A graphene replacement made from plastic

July 8, 2014

Spin-coating a polymer solution (green) to create a carbon nanosheet with characteristics similar to graphene but without the defects (black) (credit: Nanoscale)

A team of Korean researchers has synthesized hexagonal carbon nanosheets similar to graphene, using a polymer. The new material is free of the defects and complexity involved in producing graphene, and can substitute for graphene as transparent electrodes for organic solar cells and in semiconductor chips, the researchers say.

The research team is led by Han-Ik Joh at Korea Institute of Science and Technology  (KIST),… read more

How to get off the grid for under $10K

July 8, 2014

Beacon 10 Stirling engine (credit: Deka Research)

Inventor Dean Kamen is planning a 2.5 kW home version of his Deka Research Beacon 10 Stirling engine that could provide efficient around-the-clock power or hot water to a home or business, reports Forbes.

Kamen says the current Beacon is intended for businesses like laundries or restaurants that use a lot of hot water. “With commercialization partner NRG Energy, he’s deployed… read more

Possible aircraft technologies of 2040

July 8, 2014

A rescue UAV custom-printed by an aircraft on-board 3D printer (credit: BAE Systems)

Scientists and engineers at BAE Systems have developed concepts for futuristic technologies that could be incorporated in military and civil aircraft of 2040 or earlier:

  • 3D printers so advanced they could print UAVs during a mission;
  • Aircraft parts that can heal themselves in minutes;
  • A new type of long range aircraft which divides into a number of smaller aircraft when it reaches its destination;

read more

A transistor material intended to replace silicon by 2024

July 7, 2014

Hybrid CNT/IGZO circuits fabricated on a polyimide film laminated on a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) substrate (credit: USC Viterbi / Chongwu Zhou)

USC Viterbi School of Engineering researchers have developed a flexible, transparent, energy-efficient, lower-cost hybrid design that could replace silicon as the traditional transistor material used in electronic chips.

The new design, described in a paper recently published in Nature Communications, combines carbon nanotube thin-film transistors with thin-film transistors comprised of indium, gallium and zinc oxide (IGZO).

Electrical engineering professor Dr. Chongwu Zhou and USC… read more

Collaborative learning for robots

New algorithm lets independent agents collectively produce a machine-learning model without aggregating data
July 7, 2014

(Credit: 20th Century Fox)

Researchers from MIT’s Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems have developed an algorithm in which distributed agents — such as robots exploring a building — collect data and analyze it independently. Pairs of agents, such as robots passing each other in the hall, then exchange analyses.

In experiments involving several different data sets, the researchers’ distributed algorithm actually outperformed a standard algorithm that works on data aggregated… read more

Researchers regrow human corneas in mice

July 7, 2014

This is a restored functional cornea following transplantation of human ABCB5-positive limbal stem cells to limbal stem cell-deficient mice. Transplants consisting of human ABCB5-positive limbal stem cells resulted in restoration and long-term maintenance of a normal clear cornea, whereas control mice that received either no cells or ABCB5-negative cells failed to restore the cornea. (Credit: Kira Lathrop, Bruce Ksander, Markus Frank, and Natasha Frank)

A team of Boston medical researchers has identified a way to trigger regrowth of human corneal tissue using stem cells. The finding could restore vision for victims of chemical injury and others with damaging eye diseases.

Limbal stem cells, which reside in the eye’s limbus, help maintain and regenerate corneal tissue. Their loss due to injury or disease is one of the leading causes of blindness.… read more

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