New Methods Detect and Predict Fatigue-Related Aircraft Cracks

Researchers are developing tools and technology to detect the formation of cracks in aircraft components and monitor their progression. The team is conducting comprehensive testing and characterization studies to understand and monitor how tiny cracks are initiated and grow in metal components as they are subjected to repetitive strains and stresses similar to those that wings, fuselages, and other aircraft components experience in service.

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Precision NASA Thruster Keeps Spacecraft Still

The European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder spacecraft is on its way to space with the Disturbance Reduction System (DRS), a thruster technology developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The DRS uses colloid micronewton thrusters, the first of their kind, to keep the spacecraft as still as possible and compensate for solar pressure. These thrusters electrically charge small liquid droplets and accelerate them through an electric field in order to generate thrust.

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Nano-Submarine Motors Powered by Light

Each of the single-molecule, 244-atom submersibles built at Rice University has a motor powered by ultraviolet light. With each full revolution, the motor’s tail-like propeller moves the sub forward 18 nanometers. And with the motors running at more than a million RPM, that translates into speed. Though the sub’s top speed amounts to less than 1 inch per second, that’s a breakneck pace on the molecular scale.

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Wearable Equipment Supports Human Motion

The Unplugged Powered Suit (UPS), a new model of pneumatic muscle and an active type of assistive equipment incorporating the muscle, is wearable equipment that supports human movement without requiring any electronic devices and tanks. It employs a newly developed pneumatic muscle named Pneumatic Gel Muscle (PGM) as an actuator.

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Making Conductors by Spreading Them Like Butter on Toast

Scientists from Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have made flexible, transparent electrical conductors with record-high performance for use in solar cells, displays, and other devices by spreading polymers on a clear surface with a tiny blade, like a knife spreading butter on toast.

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New Technique Can Weld “Un-weldable” Metals

Engineers at The Ohio State University have developed a new welding technique that consumes 80 percent less energy than a common welding technique, yet creates bonds that are 50 percent stronger. The new technique could have a huge impact on the auto industry. Despite recent advances in materials design, alternative metals still pose a challenge to manufacturers. Many are considered un-weldable by traditional means, in part because high heat and re-solidification weaken them.

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Graphene-Based Inks Enable High-Speed Manufacturing of Printed Electronics

A low-cost, high-speed method for printing graphene inks using a conventional roll-to-roll printing process, like that used to print newspapers, could open up a wide range of practical applications, including inexpensive printed electronics, intelligent packaging, and disposable sensors. The method allows graphene and other electrically conducting materials to be added to conventional water-based inks and printed using typical commercial equipment, the first time that graphene has been used for printing on a large-scale commercial printing press at high speed.

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Sponge-Like Material Soaks Up Oil Spills

In hopes of limiting the disastrous environmental effects of massive oil spills, scientists from Drexel University and Deakin University, in Australia, have teamed up to manufacture and test a new material. The boron nitride nanosheet absorbs up to 33 times its weight in oils and organic solvents — a trait that supports the quick mitigation of costly accidents.

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Tiny Lenses Capture Very Big View

Engineers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have created the first- ever flexible, Fresnel zone plate microlenses with a wide field of view — a development that could allow everything from surgical scopes to security cameras to capture a broader perspective. The advance centers on a method for creating tiny lenses, each the size of a grain of salt, embedded within a flexible plastic polymer. This approach allowed the researchers, led by Hongrui Jiang, the Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor and Lynn H. Matthias Professor in electrical and computer engineering at UW-Madison, to bend an array of multiple lenses into a cylindrical structure. An array of these miniscule lenses, each no larger than a head of a pin, can capture an almost complete panorama, producing images from a 170-degree field of view.

Posted in: Articles, News, Optics, Photonics
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New Electron Microscopy Method Sculpts 3-D Structures at Atomic Level

Electron microscopy researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a unique way to build 3-D structures with finely controlled shapes as small as one to two billionths of a meter. The new technique demonstrates how scanning transmission electron microscopes, normally used as imaging tools, are also capable of precision sculpting of nanometer-sized 3-D features in complex oxide materials.

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