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Swarming robots could be our future servants

April 1, 2013

Swarming robots push object (credit: University of Sheffield)

Researchers in the Sheffield Centre for Robotics, jointly established by the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University, are programming a group of 40 robots.

The researchers have demonstrated that the swarm can carry out simple fetching and carrying tasks, by grouping around an object and working together to push it across a surface.

The robots can also group themselves together into a single… read more

Making robots mimic the human hand

April 1, 2013

robot_changes_tire

As part of a national research project to develop low-cost artificial hands, the Pentagon has released a video of a robot that can change a tire — almost, The New York Times reports.

In the video, the two-armed DARPA-funded robot uses a tool to remove a tire from a car:

The goal of the program, now in its third phase, is to develop robots… read more

Domestic drones and their unique dangers

March 31, 2013

AR Drone 2.0

The use of drones by domestic U.S. law enforcement agencies is growing rapidly, both in terms of numbers and types of usage, blogger Glenn Greenwald writes in The Guardian.

A short summary of Greenwald’s comprehensive article:

  • The belief that weaponized drones won’t be used on U.S. soil is patently irrational. Police departments are already speaking openly about how their drones “could be equipped to carry

read more

The touch-screen generation

March 30, 2013

touch-screen generation

Young children — even toddlers — are spending more and more time with digital technology. What will it mean for their development?

The Atlantic magazine explores this trend in its cover story, “The Touch-Screen Generation.”

Apple’s new iPhone? Wraparound display, no buttons

March 30, 2013

appleiphone-newpatent--620x358

According to patent application 20130076612, just filed by Apple, a potential smartphone design could include a full wraparound display, have no buttons.

A flexible display panel would be configured to display content at any portion of the gadget’s frame, ZDNET reports.

The use of AMOLED and a conical shape for the flexible panel could offer users “an illusion of depth perception [...] mimicking a… read more

A new way to freeze molecules for quantum computing

March 29, 2013

ucla_cooling_molecules

Chilling molecules to a fraction of a degree above absolute zero, the temperature at which they can be manipulated to store and transmit data in quantum computers, has proven to be a difficult challenge for scientists.

At higher temperatures, molecules rocket around, bouncing into each other and exchanging energy. Any information a scientist attempted to store in such a chaotic system would quickly become gibberish.

Now,… read more

How to make perfect nanospheres

March 29, 2013

Researchers led by Dr. Victoria Gelling at North Dakota State University, Fargo, developed a patent-pending technology to produce nanospheres that could enable advances across multiple industries. The environmentally-friendly process oxidizes ozone in water to produce polymer-based nanospheres, ranging from 70 to 400 nanometers in diameter, that are uniform in size and shape, stay suspended in solution, and are easily removed using a centrifuge. The scanning electron microscopy image depicts the uniform spherical morphology of these nanospheres. (Credit: North Dakota State University)

A patent-pending technology to produce nanospheres developed by a research team at North Dakota State University, Fargo, could enable advances across multiple industries, including electronics, manufacturing, and biomedical sectors.

The environmentally-friendly process produces polymer-based nanospheres (tiny microscopic particles) that are uniform in size and shape, while being low-cost and easily reproducible.

The process allows scale-up of operation to high production levels, without requiring specialized… read more

Wireless device powers implanted blood-pressure sensor, eliminating batteries

March 29, 2013

A handheld reader (top right) wirelessly powers and interrogates a tiny blood-pressure sensor embedded inside a prosthetic graft, inserted in this case as a conduit for haemodialysis in a patient with kidney failure (credit: A*STAR Institute of Microelectronics)

Researchers at A*STAR Institute of Microelectronics in Singapore are developing a prototype wireless device that powers an implanted blood-pressure sensor, eliminating the need to recharge or replace a battery.

The microscale electronic sensor monitors blood flow through artificial blood vessels. Surgeons use these prosthetic grafts to bypass diseased or clogged blood vessels in patients experiencing restricted blood supply, for example.

Over time, however, the… read more

Quality control opens path to synthetic biology’s Ikea

March 29, 2013

home-biofab

The next industrial revolution could be biological. Think living machines that produce energy from landfill waste, biological sensors that detect dirty water or bacterial production lines that churn out drugs.

These are just some of the applications that synthetic biology — applying engineering principles to biological parts — could make possible, New Scientist reports.

That goal is looking more likely now that, for the… read more

Biological transistor enables computing within living cells

March 29, 2013

Three-terminal transcriptor-based gates use integrase (Int) control signals to modulate RNA polymerase flow between a separate gate input and output (credit: Bonnet et al./Science)

Stanford University bioengineers have taken computing beyond mechanics and electronics into the living realm of biology by creating the “transcriptor” — a biological transistor made from DNA and RNA.

In electronics, a transistor controls the flow of electrons along a circuit. Similarly, a transcriptor controls the flow of a specific protein, RNA polymerase, as it travels along a strand of DNA.

“Transcriptors are the… read more

Better than X-rays: a more powerful terahertz imaging system

March 29, 2013

optical pump

An electrical engineering research team at the University of Michigan has developed a laser-powered terahertz source and detector system that transmits with 50 times more power and receives with 30 times more sensitivity than existing technologies.

This offers 1,500 times more powerful systems for imaging and sensing applications.

Low-energy terahertz radiation could potentially enable doctors to see deep into tissues without the damaging effects… read more

New solar structure cools buildings in full sunlight, replacing air conditioners

Homes and buildings chilled without air conditioners? Car interiors that don't heat up in the summer sun? Tapping the frigid expanses of outer space to cool the planet? Yes.
March 29, 2013

sunlight_building

Stanford University researchers have designed an entirely new form of cooling structure that cools even when the sun is shining, eliminating the need for air conditioning.

Such a structure could vastly improve the daylight cooling of buildings, cars, and other structures by reflecting sunlight back into space.

“We’ve developed a new type of structure that reflects the vast majority of sunlight, while at the same… read more

Better eyes for flying robots

March 28, 2013

04newsRobotChipEyes-1363613026620

In February, at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference, two teams presented new work aimed at building better-performing and lower-power vision systems that would help aerial robots navigate and aid them in identifying objects, IEEE Spectrum reports:

  • Drastically lower the power requirement of the feature extractor. That system uses an

read more

3D imaging methodology reveals nano details not seen before

Understanding nanoparticles at atomic scale in three dimensions could improve materials
March 28, 2013

A representation of a 3-D atomic resolution screw dislocation in a platinum nanoparticle. (Illustration: Chien-Chun Chen and I-Sheng Chou, UCLA)

A team of scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Northwestern University has produced 3-D images and videos of a tiny platinum nanoparticle at atomic resolution that reveal new details of defects in nanomaterials that have not been seen before.

Prior to this work, scientists only had flat, two-dimensional images with which to view the arrangement of atoms.

The… read more

You don’t ‘own’ your own genes

All human genes are patented many times over.
March 28, 2013

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Court-proposed molecular points of distinction that allow claims on isolated DNA sequences. On the basis of two molecular changes (small circles) to a single phosphate and one hydroxyl group, the Federal Circuit court suggested that a new DNA fragment is patentable subject matter. (Credit: Genome Medicine)

Humans no longer “own” their own genes.

The more than 40,000 patents on DNA molecules have allowed companies to essentially claim the entire human genome for profit, report two researchers. Their study, published March 25 in the journal Genome Medicine, raises an alarm about the loss of individual “genomic liberty.”

The research team examined two types of patented DNA sequences: long and short fragments. They discovered… read more

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