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Researchers Craft Vivid Colors on Ultra-Thin Coatings

A new coating exploits interference effects in thin films, creating a range of vivid colors. The new technique coats a metallic object with an extremely thin layer of semiconductor, just a few nanometers thick. Although the semiconductor is a steely gray color, the object ends up shining in vibrant hues.The ultrathin coatings could be applied to essentially any rough or flexible material, from wearable fabrics to stretchable electronics.A machine called an electron-beam evaporator applies the gold and germanium coating. The paper sample is sealed inside the machine's chamber, and a pump sucks out the air until the pressure drops to a staggering 10-6 Torr (a billionth of an atmosphere). A stream of electrons strikes a piece of gold held in a carbon crucible, and the metal vaporizes, traveling upward through the vacuum until it hits the paper. Repeating the process, a second layer is added. A little more or a little less germanium makes the difference between indigo and crimson."This is a way of coloring something with a very thin layer of material, said Mikhail Kats, postdoctoral researcher at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, "so in principle, if it's a metal to begin with, you can just use 10 nanometers to color it, and if it's not, you can deposit a metal that's 30 nm thick and then another 10 nm. That's a lot thinner than a conventional paint coating that might be between a micron and 10 microns thick.” SourceAlso: Read about other Materials and Coatings.

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NASA Tests Gecko Grippers in Microgravity

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are working on adhesive gripping tools that could grapple objects such as orbital debris or defunct satellites that would otherwise be hard to handle.The gecko gripper project was selected for a test flight through the Flight Opportunities Program of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate. As a test, researchers used the grippers in brief periods of weightlessness aboard NASA's C-9B parabolic flight aircraft in August.The gripping system developed by Parness and colleagues was inspired by geckos, lizards that cling to walls with ease. Geckos' feet have branching arrays of tiny hairs, the smallest of which are hundreds of times thinner than a human hair. This system of hairs can conform to a rough surface without a lot of force. Although researchers cannot make a perfect replica of the gecko foot, they have put "hair" structures on the adhesive pads of the grippers.The synthetic hairs, also called stalks, are wedge-shaped and have a slanted, mushroom-shaped cap. When the gripping pad lightly touches part of an object, only the very tips of the hairs make contact with that surface.SourceAlso: Learn about Microgravity Storage Vessels for Cohesive Regolith.

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Magnetic Levitating Gear Has No Touching Parts

Researchers are developing a new transmission mechanism, with no touching parts, based on magnetic forces that prevent friction and wear, and make lubrication unnecessary. It can be applied in space travel and exploration, but has also been adapted for use in other areas such as the railroad and aircraft industries.

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Robotic Walker Helps Patients Regain Natural Gait

Researchers from the National University of Singapore have invented a novel robotic walker that helps patients carry out physical therapy sessions to regain their leg movements and natural gait. The system also increases productivity of physiotherapists, and improves the quality of rehabilitation sessions. The walker can support a patient’s weight while providing the right amount of force at the pelvis to help the patient walk with a natural gait.

Posted in: Rehabilitation & Physical Therapy, Medical, News

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Two-Stroke Engine Features Low Consumption and Fewer Emissions

Researchers have developed a new two-stroke engine notable for its low consumption and low level of pollutant emissions. The engine is the result of Powerful, a European project focusing on reduction in the engine’s weight and size using only two cylinders instead of the four used in the four-stroke engines currently on the market. Moreover, since it has fewer cylinders, the friction produced in the engine is reduced, increasing its mechanical output and, finally, its overall performance.

Posted in: Motion Control, Power Transmission, Transportation, News, Automotive

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Researchers Fabricate Rewritable Paper

Chemists at the University of California, Riverside have fabricated novel rewritable paper, one that is based on the color-switching property of commercial chemicals called redox dyes.  The dye forms the imaging layer of the paper. Printing is achieved by using ultraviolet light to photobleach the dye, except the portions that constitute the text on the paper. The new rewritable paper can be erased and written on more than 20 times, with no significant loss in contrast or resolution.“This rewritable paper does not require additional inks for printing, making it both economically and environmentally viable,” said Yadong Yin, a professor of chemistry, whose lab led the research. “It represents an attractive alternative to regular paper in meeting the increasing global needs for sustainability and environmental conservation.”SourceAlso: Learn about Biodegradable MEMS Based on Cellulose Paper.

Posted in: Green Design & Manufacturing, News

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Air Traffic Lab Answers Questions About Future Flying

The holiday season is upon us and that means crowded airports and delayed flights. Researchers at NASA's Langley Research Center are working to change that. They are conducting studies to help reshape the future of American air travel in a brand-new Air Traffic Operations Laboratory (ATOL). They are studying the Next Generation Air Transportation System, a new national airspace technology being implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Posted in: Communications, Aerospace, Aviation, RF & Microwave Electronics, News

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