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Speedy Laser Mirrors Enable Better Welding

Silicon micromirrors can guide laser beams at extremely high speeds, allowing operators to dose heat input to workpieces with absolute precision. But to date, they have not been robust enough to be used for laser cutting and welding. Researchers have developed fast, durable mirrors that are capable of performing challenging cutting and welding tasks.

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3D-Printed Aerogels Improve Energy Storage

A new type of graphene aerogel will make for better energy storage, sensors, nanoelectronics, catalysis, and separations. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory made graphene aerogel microlattices with an engineered architecture via a 3D printing technique known as direct ink writing. The 3D printed graphene aerogels have high surface area, excellent electrical conductivity, are lightweight, have mechanical stiffness, and exhibit super-compressibility.

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Micro-Tentacles Help Robots Handle Delicate Objects

Engineers from Iowa State University developed micro-tentacles that enable robots to handle delicate objects. “Most robots use two fingers. To pick things up, they have to squeeze,” said Jaeyoun (Jay) Kim, an Iowa State University associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and an associate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory. “But these tentacles wrap around very gently.”

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NASA Tests Aircraft Wing Coatings that Slough Bug Guts

Bug guts create drag, and drag increases fuel consumption. But aircraft of the future could be made more fuel-efficient with non-stick coatings NASA recently tested on Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator 757. NASA and Boeing engineers tested non-stick wing coatings designed to shed insect residue and help reduce aircraft fuel consumption. Researchers assessed how well five different coatings worked to prevent insect remains from sticking to the leading edge of the airplane's right wing.

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Tiny Origami Robot Folds Itself Up

MIT researchers have developed a printable origami-inspired robot that, when heated, folds itself up from a flat sheet of plastic. The robot weighs a third of a gram and measures about a centimeter from front to back.

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New Fluid Makes Geothermal Power Cleaner

More American homes could be powered by the Earth's natural underground heat with a new, nontoxic, and potentially recyclable liquid that is expected to use half as much water as other fluids used to tap into otherwise unreachable geothermal hot spots. The fluid might be a boon to a new approach to geothermal power called enhanced geothermal systems. These systems pump fluids underground, a step that's called "reservoir stimulation," to enable power production where conventional geothermal doesn't work.

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Smart Tablet Controls Swarms of Robots

Using a tablet and a red beam of light, researchers at Georgia Tech have created a system that controls a fleet of robots with the swipe of a finger. A person taps the tablet to control where the beam of light appears on a floor. The swarm robots then roll toward the illumination, constantly communicating with each other and deciding how to evenly cover the lit area. When the person swipes the tablet to drag the light across the floor, the robots follow. If the operator puts two fingers in different locations on the tablet, the machines will split into teams and repeat the process.

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