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Flexible phototransistor is world’s fastest, most sensitive

May dramatically improve performance of cameras and other light-capturing devices
October 30, 2015

Developed by UW-Madison electrical engineers, this unique phototransistor is flexible, yet faster and more responsive than any similar phototransistor in the world (credit: Jung-Hun Seo)

University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) electrical engineers have created the fastest, most responsive flexible silicon phototransistor ever made, inspired by mammals’ eyes.

Phototransistors (an advanced type of photodetector) convert light to electricity. They are widely used in products ranging from digital cameras, night-vision goggles, and smoke detectors to surveillance systems and satellites.

Developed by UW-Madison collaborators Zhenqiang “Jack” Ma, professor of electrical andread more

Long-term aerobic exercise prevents age-related brain deterioration

October 30, 2015

age-related changes ft

A study of the brains of mice shows that structural deterioration associated with old age can be prevented by long-term aerobic exercise starting in mid-life, according to the authors of an open-access paper in the journal PLOS Biology yesterday (October 29).

Old age is the major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, like many other diseases, as the authors at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine,… read more

Sleep disruptions similar to jet lag linked to memory and learning problems

Add good sleep habits to regular exercise and a healthy diet to maximize good memory, scientists advise
October 29, 2015

(credit: iStock)

Chemical changes in brain cells caused by disturbances in the body’s day-night cycle may lead to the learning and memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a University of California, Irvine (UCI) study.

People with Alzheimer’s often have problems with sleeping or may experience changes in their slumber schedule. Scientists do not completely understand why these disturbances occur.

“The issue is whether poor sleep accelerates… read more

MOTOBOT: the first autonomous motorcycle-riding humanoid robot

Cooler than Terminator and Robocop
October 29, 2015

MOTOBOT Ver. 1 (credit: Yamaha)

Yamaha introduced MOTOBOT Ver.1, the first autonomous motorcycle-riding humanoid robot, at the Tokyo Motor Show Wednesday (Oct. 28). A fusion of Yamaha’s motorcycle (an unmodified Yamaha YZF-R1M) and robotics technology, the future Motobot robot will ride an unmodified motorcycle on a racetrack at more than 200 km/h (124 mph), Yamaha says.

“We want to apply the fundamental technology and know-how gained in the process of this challenge… read more

This robot will out-walk and out-run you one day

Human-like “spring-mass” design may lead to walking-running robot soldiers, fire fighters, factory workers, and home servants of the near future.
October 29, 2015


Imagine robots that can walk and run like humans — or better than humans. Engineers at Oregon State University (OSU) and Technische Universitat Munchen may have achieved a major step in that direction with their “spring-mass” implementation of human and animal walking dynamics, allowing robots to maintain balance and efficiency of motion in difficult environments.

Studies done with OSU’s ATRIAS robot model, which… read more

Controlling acoustic properties with algorithms and computational methods

October 28, 2015

A “zoolophone” with animal shapes automatically created using a computer algorithm. The tone of each key is comparable to those of professionally made instruments as a demonstration of an  algorithm for computationally designing an object's vibrational properties and sounds. (credit: Columbia Engineering)

Computer scientists at Columbia Engineering, Harvard, and MIT have demonstrated that acoustic properties — both sound and vibration — can be controlled by 3D-printing specific shapes.

They designed an optimization algorithm and used computational methods and digital fabrication to alter the shape of 2D and 3D objects, creating what looks to be a simple children’s musical instrument — a xylophone with keys in the shape of zoo animals.… read more

What happens in the brain when we learn

Findings could enhance teaching methods and lead to treatments for cognitive problems
October 28, 2015

These are isolated cells in the visual cortex of a mouse (credit: Alfredo/Kirkwood (JHU))

A Johns Hopkins University-led research team has proven a working theory that explains what happens in the brain when we learn, as described in the current issue of the journal Neuron.

More than a century ago, Pavlov figured out that dogs fed after hearing a bell eventually began to salivate when they heard the bell ring. The team looked into the question of how… read more

Holographic sonic tractor beam lifts and moves objects using soundwaves

Another science-fiction idea realized
October 27, 2015

Holograms are tridimensional light-fields that can be projected from a two-dimensional surface (credit: Asier Marzo, Bruce Drinkwater and Sriram Subramanian © 2015)

British researchers have built a working Star-Trek-style “tractor beam” — a device that can attract or repel one object to another from a distance. It uses high-amplitude soundwaves to generate an acoustic hologram that can grasp and move small objects.

The technique, published in an open-access paper in Nature Communications October 27, has a wide range of potential applications, the researchers say. A sonic production line could… read more

Longer-lasting, lighter lithium-ion batteries from silicon anodes

October 27, 2015

electrode made of SiNP SG PAN-ft

Zhongwei Chen, a chemical engineering professor at the University of Waterloo, and a team of graduate students have created a new low-cost battery design using silicon instead of graphite, boosting the performance and life of lithium-ion batteries.

Waterloo’s silicon battery technology promises a 40 to 60 per cent increase in energy density (energy storage per unit volume), which is important for consumers with smartphones, smart… read more

Up to 27 seconds of inattention after talking to your car or smartphone

Distraction rated "high" for most devices while driving
October 26, 2015

Mazda 2015 dashboard. Phone calls can be made or received via Bluetooth on the steering wheel and the display has multiple screens for radio, Sirius XM, GPS, and phone directory. (credit: Landmark MAZDA)

If you think it is okay to talk to your car infotainment system or smartphone while driving or even when stopped at a red light, think again. It takes up to 27 seconds to regain full attention after issuing voice commands, University of Utah researchers found in two new studies for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

One of the studies showed that it is highly distracting to use… read more

How to fall gracefully if you’re a robot

October 26, 2015

Robot braces its fall based on new algorithm (credit: Georgia Institute of Technology)

Georgia Tech | Algorithm allows robot to fall gracefully

Researchers at Georgia Tech are teaching robots how to fall with grace and without serious damage.

This is becoming important as costly robots become more common in manufacturing, healthcare, and domestic tasks.

Ph.D. graduate Sehoon Ha and Professor Karen Liu developed a new algorithm that tells a robot how to react to a wide variety of falls, from… read more

A drug-delivery technique to bypass the blood-brain barrier

Could benefit a large population of patients with neurodegenerative disorders
October 26, 2015


Researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School and Boston University have developed a new technique to deliver drugs across the blood-brain barrier and have successfully tested it in a Parkinson’s mouse model (a line of mice that has been genetically modified to express the symptoms and pathological features of Parkinson’s to various extents).

Their findings, published in the journal Neurosurgery, lend hope to patients with… read more

Creating an artificial sense of touch by electrical stimulation of the brain

DARPA-funded study may lead to building prosthetic limbs for humans using a direct brain-electrode interface to recreate the sense of touch
October 26, 2015

(credit: DARPA)

Neuroscientists in a project headed by the University of Chicago have determined some of the specific characteristics of electrical stimuli that should be applied to the brain to produce different sensations in an artificial upper limb intended to restore natural motor control and sensation in amputees.

The research is part of Revolutionizing Prosthetics, a multi-year Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).… read more

Cobalt atoms on graphene: a low-cost catalyst for producing hydrogen from water

Rice University catalyst may lead to clean, inexpensive hydrogen production for fuel cells
October 23, 2015

A new catalyst just 15 microns thick has proven nearly as effective as platinum-based catalysts but at a much lower cost, according to scientists at Rice University. The catalyst is made of nitrogen-doped graphene with individual cobalt atoms that activate the process. (credit: Tour Group/Rice University)

Graphene doped with nitrogen and augmented with cobalt atoms has proven to be an effective, durable catalyst for the production of hydrogen from water, according to scientists at Rice University.

The Rice University lab of chemist James Tour and colleagues has developed a robust, solid-state catalyst that shows promise to replace expensive platinum for hydrogen generation. (Catalysts can split water into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen atoms, a process… read more

How to 3-D print a heart

October 23, 2015

Coronary artery structure being 3-D bioprinted (credit: Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering)

Carnegie Mellon scientists are creating cutting-edge technology that could one day solve the shortage of heart transplants, which are currently needed to repair damaged organs.

“We’ve been able to take MRI images of coronary arteries and 3-D images of embryonic hearts and 3-D bioprint them with unprecedented resolution and quality out of very soft materials like collagens, alginates and fibrins,” said Adam Feinberg, an… read more

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