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NASA Robot Explores Volcanoes

Carolyn Parcheta, a NASA postdoctoral fellow based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and JPL robotics researcher Aaron Parness are developing robots that can explore volcanic fissures."We don't know exactly how volcanoes erupt. We have models but they are all very, very simplified. This project aims to help make those models more realistic," Parcheta said.Parcheta, Parness, and JPL co-advisor Karl Mitchell first explored this idea last year using a two-wheeled robot they call VolcanoBot 1, with a length of 12 inches (30 centimeters) and 6.7-inch (17-centimeter) wheels.VolcanoBot 2, smaller and lighter than its predecessor, will explore Hawaii's Kilauea volcano in March 2015. Parcheta's research endeavors were recently honored in National Geographic’s Expedition Granted campaign. SourceAlso: Learn about Autonomous Response for Targeting and Monitoring of Volcanic Activity.

Posted in: News, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Measuring Instruments, Monitoring

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New Vision Algorithm Enables Household Robots

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory believe that household robots should take advantage of their mobility and their relatively static environments to make object recognition easier, by imaging objects from multiple perspectives before making judgments about their identity.Matching up the objects depicted in the different images, however, poses its own computational challenges.In a paper appearing in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Robotics Research, the MIT researchers show that a system using an off-the-shelf algorithm to aggregate different perspectives can recognize four times as many objects as one that uses a single perspective, while reducing the number of misidentifications.The team's new algorithm is 10 times as fast, making it much more practical for real-time deployment with household robots.SourceAlso: See other Software tech briefs.

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Researchers Build 3D 'Pop-Up' Silicon Structures

Exploiting mechanics principles similar to those found in children’s ‘pop-up’ books, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a unique process for geometrically transforming two dimensional (2D) micro/nanostructures into extended 3D layouts. Complex, 3D micro/nanostructures are ubiquitous in biology, where they provide essential functions in even the most basic forms of life. Similar design strategies have great potential for use in a wide variety of man-made systems, from biomedical devices to microelectromechanical components, photonics and optoelectronics, metamaterials, electronics, and energy storage. “Conventional 3D printing technologies are fantastic, but none offers the ability to build microstructures that embed high performance semiconductors, such as silicon,” explained John Rogers, a Swanlund Chair and professor of materials science and engineering at Illinois. “We have presented a remarkably simple route to 3D that starts with planar precursor structures formed in nearly any type of material, including the most advanced ones used in photonics and electronics. A stretched, soft substrate imparts forces at precisely defined locations across such a structure to initiate controlled buckling processes that induce rapid, large-area extension into the third dimension. The result transforms the planar materials into well-defined, 3D frameworks with broad geometric diversity. SourceAlso: Learn about Ohmic Contact to N- and P-Type Silicon Carbide.

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Nanowire Clothing Traps Heat

Scientists have developed a novel nanowire coating that can both generate heat and trap the heat from our bodies better than regular clothing.The researchers developed lightweight, breathable mesh materials that are flexible enough to coat normal clothes. When compared to regular clothing material, the special nanowire cloth trapped body heat far more effectively. Because the coatings are made out of conductive materials, they can also be actively warmed with an electricity source to further crank up the heat. The research team calculated that their thermal textiles could save about 1,000 kilowatt hours per person every year.SourceAlso: See other Materials tech briefs.

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New Climate Measurement Instrument to Operate from Space Station

NASA’s Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) team designed and built a new cloud and aerosol measurement instrument. The instrument will measure clouds, volcanic ash plumes, and other aerosols from aboard the International Space Station for up to three years. CATS will be the first to use three-wavelength laser technology to measure aerosols in order to improve the accuracy of climate change models.

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Forensic Tracers Identify Contamination in Water

Duke University scientists have developed new forensic tracers to identify coal ash contamination in water and distinguish it from contamination coming from other sources. The tools can be used by regulatory agencies to monitor the environmental effects of coal ash, and determine whether it has or hasn’t impacted the environment. Previous methods to identify coal ash contaminants in the environment were based solely on the contaminants’ chemical variations. The newly developed tracers provide additional forensic fingerprints that give regulators a more accurate and systematic tool. The tracers, which have been tested both in the laboratory and the field, are based on the distinctive isotopic and geochemical signatures of two elements, boron and strontium, found in coal ash effluent. The U.S. EPA has submitted a proposal to the Office of Management and Budget to restrict coal ash disposal into the environment and, for the first time, establish federal regulations to govern how the ash is stored and disposed. Source:

Posted in: News, Environmental Monitoring, Monitoring

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Technology Diagnoses Brain Damage from Concussions, Strokes, and Dementia

New optical diagnostic technology developed at Tufts University School of Engineering promises new ways to identify and monitor brain damage resulting from traumatic injury, stroke, or vascular dementia in real time and without invasive procedures.

Posted in: News, Electronic Components, Diagnostics, Fiber Optics, Optics, Photonics, Measuring Instruments

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