Special Coverage


Researchers Turn Packing Peanuts into Battery Parts

While setting up their new lab, Purdue University researchers ended up with piles of packing peanuts. Professor Vilas Pol suggested an environmentally friendly way to reuse the waste.The team converted their lab's extra packing peanuts into high-performance carbon electrodes for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The batteries outperform conventional graphite electrodes. Carbon-nanoparticle and microsheet anodes were built from polystyrene and starch-based packing peanuts, respectively.Packing peanuts, though valuable for shipping, are difficult to break down and often end up in landfills. The polystyrene peanuts also contain chemicals and detergents that can contaminate soil and aquatic ecosystems.With the Purdue method, the peanuts are heated between 500 and 900 degrees Celsius in a furnace under inert atmosphere, and in the presence or absence of a transition metal salt catalyst. The resulting material is then processed into the anodes.Commercial anode particles are about 10 times thicker than the new anodes and have higher electrical resistance, which increase charging time. The Purdue method is potentially practical for large-scale manufacturing."In our case, if we are lithiating this material during the charging of a battery it has to travel only 1 micrometer distance, so you can charge and discharge a battery faster than your commercially available material," Pol said.Future work will include steps to potentially improve performance by increasing the surface area and pore size to improve the electrochemical performance.SourceAlso: Learn about an Optical Fiber for Solar Cells.

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Carolyn Parcheta, NASA Postdoctoral Fellow, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA

     A geologist by training, Carolyn Parcheta had an idea in July of 2013 to develop a robot that explores and measures the shape of volcanic fissures. She worked with engineering teams at JPL to develop the VolcanoBot. In May 2014, the robot explored Mauna Ulu on Kilauea’s East Rift Zone in Hawaii. A smaller, more compact version, VolcanoBot 2, will return early this month.

Posted in: Who's Who


Will self-driving cars be ready for the road this summer?

This week's Question: Last week, Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla, said that the electric car maker would introduce autonomous technology, an autopilot mode, by this summer; the technology will allow drivers to have their vehicles take control on major roads and highways. The CEO also announced that a software update for the Model S will be rolled out in 90 days and give Tesla owners new safety features, including automatic emergency braking and blind-spot and side-collision warnings. Some industry experts, however, are skeptical that such autonomous driving is legal and meets current regulations. Although some states have passed laws legalizing autonomous vehicles, those laws address the testing of driverless cars, not their use by consumers. What do you think?

Posted in: Question of the Week


SWaP-C and Why Your Component Partner Matters

Is SWaP-C important to your project? Then working with the right contract manufacturer is critical to your success. From knowing the unique requirements of military requirements to having the capabilities to maximize component functionality, the right partner for your project can help you decrease the size, weight, power and cost of your electronics. Discover how to select the right partner and what questions to ask in our white paper, “SWaP-C and Why Your Component Partner Matters.” Download it now and learn techniques for ensuring that your next project is a successful one.

Posted in: White Papers


Coming Soon - New Innovations in 3D Measurement Software: Increased Portability for Laser Tracker Applications

One of the primary advantages of using Laser Tracker Technology is the ability to achieve precise accuracy over large measurement volumes. However, large scale measurements can be challenging when it requires the operator to move across long distances or climb onto large structures.

Posted in: Upcoming Webinars


Self-Powered Sensors Communicate Building Defects

Michigan State University researchers have developed a technology that allows sensing, communication, and diagnostic computing — all within the building material of a structure. Using energy harvested from the structure itself, the "substrate computing" system features sensors that continuously monitor and report on the building's integrity.“Adoption of such monitoring has previously been limited because of the frequency of battery replacement for battery-powered sensors,” said Subir Biswas, professor of electrical and computer engineering, “as well as the need for a separate communication subsystem usually involving radio frequency sensor networks.”In the future, the technology will be routinely used in building materials so that structures, such as bridges, will be able to detect and diagnose potential problems, without the need for an external energy source and a separate wireless sensor network. The researchers' goal is to integrate all of the functions within a 3 x 3-millimeter electronic chip, which can be embedded within the material of a structure. Source Also: Read other Sensors tech briefs.

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Talking Drone Converses With Air Traffic Controllers

Researchers have developed and demonstrated an autonomous capability that would allow a drone to verbally interact with air traffic controllers. The development is a critical step towards the full integration of unmanned aircraft systems – or drones – into civil airspace. Drones need to be able to fly safely alongside other airspace users without causing disruption to air traffic management. The majority of air traffic control services are provided to aircraft by voice radio – aircraft controllers speaking directly to pilots. Using the new system, an air traffic controller can talk to, and receive responses from, a drone just like they would with any other aircraft. The project brings the safe and seamless operation of UAVs within civil airspace one step closer. The new system enables a drone to respond to information requests and act on clearances issued by an air traffic controller. Source:

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