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New System Stores Solar Energy at Night

Common solar energy systems today are unable to use the generated energy at night or in cloudy conditions. A University of Texas at Arlington materials science and engineering team has developed a new energy cell that stores large-scale solar energy even when it is dark.

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New Method Makes Ultrasensitive Conductivity Measurements

Researchers at Rice University have discovered a new way to make ultrasensitive conductivity measurements at optical frequencies on high-speed nanoscale electronic components. The researchers linked pairs of puck-shaped metal nanodisks with metallic nanowires and showed how the flow of current at optical frequencies through the nanowires produced “charge transfer plasmons” with unique optical signatures.

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Driving Simulator Tests Artificial Lens for Cataract Patients

An advanced driving simulator will be used to test a patient’s driving ability after cataract surgery. The trial will help determine if a newly developed artificial lens will be approved for sale in the United States. The lens replaces the patient’s natural, cataract-ravaged lens during surgery, and the trial will determine if it sufficiently reduces visual distractions caused by headlights when driving at night.

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Kimberly Hambuchen, Deputy Project Manager, Human Robotics System Project, Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX

Kim Hambuchen is currently building user interfaces for Vakyrie, a six-foot-two, 286-pound humanoid robot. The two-legged Valkyrie builds on NASA’s Robonaut, a robotic assistant currently onboard the International Space Station.

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New Technique Enables Fast, Inexpensive Nanofiber Production

The high cost to manufacture nanofibers has relegated them to just a few niche industries. MIT researchers developed a new technique for producing nanofibers that increases the rate of production fourfold while reducing energy consumption by more than 90 percent, holding out the prospect of cheap, efficient nanofiber production.

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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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