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Bio-Bots Swim by Themselves

Engineers developed the first tiny, synthetic machines that can swim by themselves, powered by beating heart cells.The bio-bots are modeled after single-celled creatures with long tails called flagella – for example, sperm. The researchers begin by creating the body of the bio-bot from a flexible polymer. Then they culture heart cells near the junction of the head and the tail. The cells self-align and synchronize to beat together, sending a wave down the tail that propels the bio-bot forward.The team also built two-tailed bots, which they found can swim even faster. Multiple tails also opens up the possibility of navigation. The researchers envision future bots that could sense chemicals or light and navigate toward a target for medical or environmental applications. Source Also: Read other Medical tech briefs.

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Building ‘Belt’ Repairs Earthquake Damage

A ‘belt’ technology offers cheap and quick repair of earthquake-damaged buildings.Metal straps are wrapped around each floor of the building, and the straps are then tensioned either by hand or using compressed air tools. The technology is designed for use on reinforced concrete frame buildings – a common construction technique used around the world, including countries like Haiti. Unlike other repair methods, it does not require expensive materials or a high level of technical knowledge.“The strapping works very much like a weight-lifter’s belt, by keeping everything tightly compressed to reduce tension on the concrete columns of the structure," said lead researcher, Professor Kypros Pilakoutas. SourceAlso: Watch Earthquake Testing on Cold-Formed-Steel Buildings.

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Micro-Windmills Recharge Cell Phones

A UT Arlington research associate and electrical engineering professor have designed a micro-windmill that generates wind energy. The technology may improve cell phone batteries constantly in need of recharging and home energy generation where large windmills are not preferred.Smitha Rao and J.-C. Chiao designed and built the device that is about 1.8 mm at its widest point. A single grain of rice could hold about 10 of the tiny windmills. Hundreds of the windmills could be embedded in a sleeve for a cell phone. Wind, created by waving the cell phone in air or holding it up to an open window on a windy day, would generate the electricity that could be collected by the cell phone’s battery.Because of the small sizes, flat panels with thousand of windmills could also be made and mounted on the walls of houses or building to harvest energy for lighting, security or environmental sensing, and wireless communication.SourceAlso: Read Electronics & Computers tech briefs.

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Electric Tongues Measure Grape Ripeness

Electronic tongues can become an ally of the wine grower by measuring the detailed degree of maturation and improving competitiveness. Researchers at the Polytechnic University of Valencia applied electronic tongues to measure the maturity of eight different types of grapes (Macabeo, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shyrah, Merlot, and Bobal) in several vineyards in Valencia. The researchers observed a good correlation between the total acidity of the fruit and the amount of sugar. The results confirm the usefulness of these devices for controlling the grape maturity and, therefore, evaluating the most appropriate time for harvest. Current methods of analysis usually require further assessment in the laboratory. The electronic tongues perform actions on the fruit where the harvest moves. Source

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NASA Tank-Crushing Test Helps Build Better Rockets

NASA completed a series of high-tech can-crushing tests involving an enormous fuel tank crumbling under the pressure of almost a million pounds of force, all in the name of building lighter, more affordable rockets. During the testing for the Shell Buckling Knockdown Factor Project at Marshall Space Flight Center, force and pressure were increasingly applied to the top of an empty but pressurized rocket fuel tank to evaluate its structural integrity. The resulting data will help engineers design, build and test the gigantic fuel tanks for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket NASA is developing for deep space missions. The aluminum-lithium tank was made from unused space shuttle tank hardware and decked out in 70,000 black and white polka dots that helped high-speed cameras focus on any buckles, rips, or strains. Source

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Special Camera Makes Hidden Tumors Visible During an Operation

Tumor removal surgeries pose a great challenge even to skillful and experienced surgeons. Up to now, doctors depend exclusively upon their trained eyes when excising pieces of tumors. A new camera system developed by Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Auto- mation (IPA) in Germany can help visualize during operation even the smallest, easy-to-overlook malignant pieces of tumor and thereby support the surgeons during operations. The camera can display fluorescent molecules that “paint” the cancer tissue. These are injected into the patient’s blood prior to the operation, and selectively attach onto the tumor during their trip through the body. If the corresponding area is then illuminated with a specific wavelength, fluorescence is emitted and the malignant tissue glows green, blue, red, or any other color, depending on the injected dye, while the healthy tissue appears the same. In this way, the surgeon can see clusters of tumors cells that cannot be recognized by the naked eye. The multispectral fluorescence camera system will integrate into various medical imaging systems such as surgical microscopes and endoscopes. The camera can display several fluorescent dyes and the reflectance image simultaneously in real time. Arteries and delicate nerves that must not be injured during an intervention can likewise be colored with dye and detected with the new camera, since they are set apart from their surroundings. The researchers require only one camera and one set of filters for their photographs, which can present up to four dyes at the same time. Software developed in-house analyzes and processes the images in seconds and presents it continuously on a monitor during surgery. The information from the fluorescent image is superposed on the normal color image. Source

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Imaging System Inspired by Human Eye Can Diagnose Disease

Optical devices like telescopes and microscopes have relied on solid lenses that slide up and down to magnify and to focus. To tune how much light is received, conventional devices use mechanical contraptions like the blades that form the adjustable aperture in cameras. Engineers from the University of Freiburg in Germany have built a novel type of imaging system inspired by the elegance and relative mechanical simplicity of the human eye. The technology may one day lead to new imaging instruments and microscopes for use in medicine and scientific research, such as devices for detecting early signs of skin cancer or early visual cues for food spoilage. The new imaging system is the first to demonstrate the imaging capabilities of some of these unusual focusing techniques by replacing conventional, solid lenses with the combination of a malleable lens and a liquid iris-like component. And the device focuses light almost as well as its biological counterpart in people. For their new device, the researchers used two imaging elements that they had demonstrated previously but had never combined into a single system. They made a lens of silicone surrounded by several miniaturized motors that adjust the focus by deforming the lens. The cylindrical device is roughly three centimeters in diameter and five centimeters long, and although the researchers plan to shrink the design a bit more, making a miniature version isn't their primary goal, since optical quality is inherently limited with smaller sizes. Instead, the researchers hope to add more functionality. Source

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