Special Coverage


Are rechargeable battery modules viable?

Our lead story in today's INSIDER revealed engineers' attempts to power an electric car with removable, rechargeable battery modules. The potentially game-changing technology, however, faces challenges. The modules weigh 20 to 30 pounds, and no infrastructure currently exists for users to lease or purchase the rechargeable devices, for example. The engineers, however, say that they expect the battery technology to mature and shrink in size, and that exchange stations could easily be gradually deployed. What do you think? Are rechargeable battery modules viable?

Posted in: Question of the Week


Vincent Systems Prosthetics Give Patients A New Feel For Life

The human hand is a biomechanical marvel and therefore hard to replace. Being ready to take up this challenge the Vincent Systems GmbH builds ultra-sophisticated prosthetic hands and partial hand systems since the founding in 2009. Ever since the Company attempts to mimic the range of the human hands natural capabilities by combining mechanical performance with an anatomically correct sized soft-shell design and an intuitive usage. This Webinar gives the audience a brief introduction to the daily work at the Vincent Systems GmbH and on how their products affect the life of prosthesis wearers. Precision, functionality and control have to go hand in hand with aesthetic design and natural feel. Vincent Systems masters all these challenges within PTC’s Creo 3D CAD system and the computing power of the HP Z420 workstation. You will get an overview about how these systems work and on how they are designed and build.

Posted in: On-Demand Webinars


Researchers Control Surface Tension of Liquid Metals

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a technique for controlling the surface tension of liquid metals by applying very low voltages, opening the door to a new generation of reconfigurable electronic circuits, antennas and other technologies. The technique hinges on the fact that the oxide “skin” of the metal – which can be deposited or removed – acts as a surfactant, lowering the surface tension between the metal and the surrounding fluid.The researchers used a liquid metal alloy of gallium and indium. In base, the bare alloy has a remarkably high surface tension of about 500 millinewtons (mN)/meter, which causes the metal to bead up into a spherical blob. “But we discovered that applying a small, positive charge – less than 1 volt – causes an electrochemical reaction that creates an oxide layer on the surface of the metal, dramatically lowering the surface tension from 500 mN/meter to around 2 mN/meter,” says Dr. Michael Dickey, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State and senior author of a paper describing the work. “This change allows the liquid metal to spread out like a pancake, due to gravity.”The researchers also showed that the change in surface tension is reversible. If researchers flip the polarity of the charge from positive to negative, the oxide is eliminated and high surface tension is restored.  The surface tension can be tuned between these two extremes by varying the voltage in small steps.SourceAlso: Learn about Gradient Metal Alloys Fabricated Using Additive Manufacturing.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Electronics, Power Management, Materials, Metals, RF & Microwave Electronics, Antennas, News


Engineers Prepare Battery Module Swapping Approach for Electric Cars

Imagine being able to switch out the batteries in electric cars just like you switch out batteries in a photo camera or flashlight. A team of engineers at the University of California, San Diego, are trying to accomplish just that, in partnership with a local San Diego engineering company.Rather than swapping out the whole battery, which is cumbersome and requires large, heavy equipment, engineers plan to swap out and recharge smaller units within the battery, known as modules.Swapping battery modules could also have far-reaching implications for mobile and decentralized electrical energy storage systems such as solar backup and portable generators. The technology can make energy storage more configurable, promote safety, simplify maintenance and eventually eliminate the use of fossil fuels for these applications.Engineers not only believe that their approach is viable, but also plan to prove it. They will embark on a cross-country trip with a car powered by the removable, rechargeable M-BEAM, or Modular Battery Exchange and Active Management, battery modules.  They plan to drive from coast to coast only taking breaks that are a few minutes long to swap out the modules that will be recharged in a chase vehicle. They believe they can drive from San Diego to the coast of South Carolina less than 60 hours — without going over the speed limit.SourceAlso: Learn about a Full-Cell Evaluation/Screening Technique for New Battery Chemistries.

Posted in: Batteries, Electronics & Computers, Power Management, Solar Power, Renewable Energy, Energy, News, Automotive


Finding the Right Manufacturer for Your Design

To receive a quality PCB, you need an efficient design and a manufacturer capable of producing it. This paper will examine the challenges and best practices associated with matching your design requirements to a manufacturer's capabilities.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, White Papers


3D Printing in Space: The Next Frontier

NASA has a long-term strategy for In-Space Manufacturing that includes fabricating components and equipment on demand for human missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. To support this strategy, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and Made In Space, Inc. have developed the 3D Printing In Zero-G Technology Demonstration for the International Space Station (ISS). The experiment will be the first machine ever to perform 3D printing in space.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, White Papers


'Squid Skin' Metamaterial Yields Vivid Color Display

The quest to create artificial "squid skin" — camouflaging metamaterials that can "see" colors and automatically blend into the background — is one step closer to reality, thanks to a color-display technology by Rice University's Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP).The new full-color display technology uses aluminum nanoparticles to create the vivid red, blue, and green hues found in today's top-of-the-line LCD televisions and monitors.The breakthrough is the latest in a string of recent discoveries by a Rice-led team that set out in 2010 to create metamaterials capable of mimicking the camouflage abilities of cephalopods — the family of marine creatures that includes squid, octopus, and cuttlefish.LANP's new color display technology delivers bright red, blue, and green hues from five-micron-square pixels that each contains several hundred aluminum nanorods. By varying the length of the nanorods and the spacing between them, LANP researchers Stephan Link and Jana Olson showed they could create pixels that produced dozens of colors, including rich tones of red, green, and blue that are comparable to those found in high-definition LCD displays.

Posted in: Imaging, Displays/Monitors/HMIs, Materials, Nanotechnology, News