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Soft Actuator Provides Gentle Strength for Robots

Compliant electrodes are attached to each side of the membrane and cause it to stretch when voltage is applied. A membrane switches from its more compact state to its stretched state when voltage is applied to its electrodes. (©Alejandro Posada) Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart developed a motion system that is compliant and can be integrated in robots thanks to its space-saving design. The device consists of a dielectric elastomer actuator (DEA), which is a membrane made of hyperelastic material like a latex balloon with flexible electrodes attached to each side. The stretching of the membrane is regulated by means of an electric field between the electrodes.

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Technique Controls Autonomous Vehicles in Extreme Conditions

Georgia Tech researchers are using an electric-powered autonomous vehicle to help driverless vehicles maintain control at the edge of their handling limits. (Photo: Rob Felt) Researchers have devised a novel way to help keep a driverless vehicle under control as it maneuvers at the edge of its handling limits. The new technology is being tested by racing, sliding, and jumping one-fifth-scale, fully autonomous auto-rally cars at the equivalent of 90 mph. The technique – model predictive path integral control (MPPI) – was developed to address the nonlinear dynamics involved in controlling a vehicle near its friction limits.

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System Makes Airport Surface Traffic More Efficient

Researchers are attempting to improve the control tower software system using mathematics and optimization techniques. (Photo: ThinkStock) Researchers have developed an optimization system that identifies the optimal timing and taxiing sequences for runway use by a given aircraft. It plans detailed taxiing routes, recommends new routes automatically, and responds to a continuous stream of updated information. The model takes into account the basic rules and physical restrictions that apply at all airports, such as safety zones around turning aircraft and one-way taxiing routes.

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NASA Tests Technologies to Increase Drone Uses

Photo: NASA/David C. Bowman NASA researchers and drone industry representatives foresee a day when small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are used in wildfire spotting, precision agriculture, wildlife monitoring, and small package delivery.

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3D-Printed Polymer Turns Methane to Methanol

By combining biology and 3D printing, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists have created a reactor that continuously produces methanol from methane at room temperature and pressure.

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Researchers Test Galaxy-Seeking Robots

A telescope project from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) will use a planned array of 5,000 galaxy-seeking robots to produce a 3D map of the universe. Dubbed ProtoDESI, the scaled-down, 10-robot system will help scientists achieve the pinpoint accuracy needed to home in on millions of galaxies, quasars, and stars with the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI).

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SLED-Based Broadband Near-Infrared Source

Avo Photonics (Horsham, PA) design, development, and manufacturing, was commissioned by Luxmux Technology Corporation, to develop and manufacture a solid-state, broadband, continuous emitter for use with their line of miniature integrated spectrometers. The emitter combines the outputs of multiple super-luminescent LEDs (SLEDs) into a polarization-maintaining single-mode fiber. Such an accomplishment required collimating multiple beams and achieving collinearity to an overlap of 700 um and pointing to within 250 urad. The result is a >100 mw, fiber-coupled source with continuous emission over the 1250 – 1750 nm band. To learn more, click here.

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