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Mechanical Metamaterials Can Block Symmetry of Motion

An artist’s rendering of mechanical metamaterials. (Credit: Cockrell School of Engineering) Engineers and scientists at the University of Texas at Austin and the AMOLF institute in the Netherlands have invented mechanical metamaterials that transfer motion in one direction while blocking it in the other. The material can be thought of as a mechanical one-way shield that blocks energy from coming in but easily transmits it going out the other side. The researchers developed the mechanical materials using metamaterials, which are synthetic materials with properties that cannot be found in nature.

Posted in: News, Materials, Motion Control

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Exo-Brake “Parachute” to Enable Safe Return for Small Spacecraft

Engineers pack the Technology Education Satellite with the Exo-Brake payload. Almost 4 square feet in cross section (0.35 square meters), the Exo-Brake is made of Mylar and is controlled by a hybrid system of mechanic struts and flexible cord. (Credit: NASA Ames/Dominic Hart) Engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA have been testing its Exo-Brake technology as a simple design that promises to help bring small payloads back through Earth’s atmosphere unharmed. An Exo-Brake is a tension-based, flexible braking device resembling a cross-parachute that deploys from the rear of a satellite to increase the drag. It is a de-orbit device that replaces the more complicated rocket-based systems that would normally be employed during the de-orbit phase of re-entry.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Motion Control

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Unified Approach Improves the Accuracy of Five-Axis Machine Tools

Ph.D. students Jennifer Creamer and Le Ma work in Missouri University of Science and Technology’s Precision Motion Control Laboratory. (Credit: Missouri S&T) Five-axis machine tools are computer-numerically controlled (CNC) machines that can move, cut, or mill a part on five different axes at the same time. Because of inherent geometric errors, manufacturers must make adjustments when calibrating these machines. Several different approaches exist to help compensate for the errors, but none of them provides a complete picture. Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology set out to find a way to eliminate that piecemeal approach and develop a new way to capture complicated geometric errors and automatically generate compensation tables.

Posted in: News, Industrial Controls & Automation, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Motion Control, Machinery & Automation

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Six-Legged Robots Move Faster with Bipod Gate

Researchers have discovered a faster and more efficient gait, never observed in nature, for six-legged robots walking on flat ground. Bio-inspired gaits, which are less efficient for robots, are used by real insects because they have adhesive pads to walk in three dimensions. (Credit: EPFL/Alain Herzog) Researchers in Lausanne, Switzerland have determined that a bipod gait is the fastest and most efficient way for six-legged robots to move on flat ground, provided they don’t have the adhesive pads used by insects to climb walls and ceilings. This suggests designers of insect-inspired robots should make a break with the nature-inspired tripod-gait paradigm.

Posted in: News, Motion Control, Robotics

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Researchers Advance Printable Solar Cell Possibilities

By finding a new way to manufacture low-cost perovskite solar cells, a team at the University of Toronto believes that making solar cells could someday be as easy and inexpensive as printing a newspaper. The researchers' alternative solar technology supports the development of low-cost, printable solar panels capable of turning nearly any surface into a power generator.

Posted in: News, Solar Power

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Long-Lasting Flow Battery Advances Renewable Energy Efforts

A new flow battery from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) stores energy in organic molecules dissolved in neutral pH water. Losing only one percent of its capacity per 1000 cycles, the non-toxic, non-corrosive device offers the potential to significantly decrease the costs of production.

Posted in: News, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Renewable Energy, Wind Power

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Electricity Generator Mimics Trees

The biomimetic tree's leaves, modeled after cottonwood leaves, rely on piezoelectrical processes to produce electricity. (Photo by Christopher Gannon) Iowa State University scientists have built a device that mimics the branches and leaves of a cottonwood tree and generates electricity when its artificial leaves sway in the wind. The device is derived from biomimetics, or the use of artificial means to mimic natural processes. Such biomimetic technology could become a market for those who want to generate limited amounts of wind energy without the need for tall and obstructive towers or turbines.

Posted in: News, Energy Efficiency, Wind Power

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