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Engineers Develop 2D Liquid

Soft nanoparticles from a University of Pennsylvania research team stick to the plane where oil and water meet, but do not stick to one another. The interface presents a potentially useful set of properties. The nanoparticles freely move past one another while being confined to the interface, effectively acting as a 2D liquid. Gold nanoparticles were decorated with surfactant, or soap-like, ligands. The ligands have a water-loving head and an oil-loving tail, and the way they are attached to the central particle allows them to contort themselves.The arrangement produces a “flying saucer” shape, with the ligands stretching out more at the interface than above or below. The ligand bumpers keep the particles from clumping together.  The researchers also devised ways of measuring the system's properties. Their data will better inform computer simulations and potentially lead to applications in fields like nanomanufacturing and catalysis. SourceAlso: Learn about a Nanoparticle/Polymer Nanocomposite Bond Coating.

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Prototype Camera Powers Itself

A new prototype video camera is fully self-powered and can produce an image each second, indefinitely, of a well-lit indoor scene. Columbia University researchers designed a pixel that can not only measure incident light but also convert the incident light into electric power.The simple pixel design uses two transistors. During each image capture cycle, the pixels first record and read out the image, and then harvest energy and charge the sensor’s power supply; the image sensor continuously toggles between image capture and power harvesting modes. When the camera is not used to capture images, it can generate power for other devices, such as a phone or a watch.SourceAlso: Learn about Detection of Dropped Objects in Video.

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Special Delivery: NASA Marshall Receives 3D-Printed Tools from Space

Engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, unboxed some special cargo from the International Space Station on April 6: the first items manufactured in space with a 3D printer.The items were manufactured as part of the 3D Printing in Zero-G Technology Demonstration on the space station to show that additive manufacturing can make a variety of parts and tools in space. The early in-space 3D printing demonstrations are the first steps toward realizing an additive manufacturing, print-on-demand “machine shop” for long-duration missions and sustaining human exploration of other planets, where there is extremely limited ability and availability of Earth-based resupply and logistics support. In-space manufacturing technologies like 3D printing will help NASA explore Mars, asteroids, and other locations.NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore installed the printer in the station’s Microgravity Science Glovebox in November 2014. Before the end of the year, the crew manufactured 21 items including a ratchet wrench, the first tool built in space. To make the items, the printer heated a relatively low-temperature plastic filament to build parts, layer on top of layer, in designs supplied to the machine. The printer remains on aboard the station for continued use later this year. The printer used 14 different designs and built a total of 21 items and some calibration coupons. The parts returned to Earth in February on the SpaceX Dragon. They were then delivered to Marshall where the testing to compare the ground controls to the flight parts will be conducted. SourceAlso: Learn about the Design and Fabrication of a Radio Frequency Grin Lens Using 3D Printing.

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Smart Sensor System Continuously Monitors Machinery

A new method of continuously monitoring the status of machinery is a mobile tablet-based system that supplies information on the operational state of industrial machinery and plant equipment, and informs operators if a part needs to be replaced or if a repair can be postponed. The system uses sensors that continuously acquire data on parameters such as vibrational frequency or temperature.

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New Sensor Platform Gives Cities Quick Access to Data

As urban populations increase, so too does the complexity involved in maintaining basic services like clean water and emergency services. But one of the biggest barriers to making cities “smarter” is quick and easy access to data. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have developed the Waggle platform that outfits researchers with a next-generation data collection experience. Featuring the same type of circuit board and real-time processing speeds as a smartphone, users can add their own mix of sensors, specific to what they’re researching, and install programs onto a single, low-power “system on a chip” computer board, complete with a Linux-based operating system to control them.

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Human Brain Inspires Wearable Microsensors

Wei Tang, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at New Mexico State University, is taking a cue from nature to devise the next generation of integrated, low-power, wearable micro-devices. The human brain inspired his approach in the novel design of a system of state-of-the-art miniaturized sensors that can detect, transmit, and reliably process valuable data.

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Robotic Vehicle Explores Depths of Antarctica

A robotic vehicle developed by Georgia Institute of Technology scientists and engineers recently dove to depths never before visited under Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf.The team deployed (and retrieved) the vehicle through a 12-inch diameter hole. The "IceFin" searched through 20 meters of ice and another 500 meters of water to the sea floor.Icefin was deployed as a part of the Sub Ice Marine and Planetary–analog Ecosystem (SIMPLE) program, funded by NASA and supported by NSF. The robotic vehicle carried a scientific payload capable of measuring ocean conditions under the ice. Icefin’s readings, and video of the life that thrives in the harsh conditions, will help researchers understand how Antarctica’s ice shelves are changing under warming conditions. Scientists will also be able to examine how organisms thrive in cold and light-free environments. The technologies developed for Icefin will also assist in the search for life on other planets, namely Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Antarctica’s icy oceans are remarkably similar to Europa’s ice-capped oceans.SourceAlso: Learn how a NASA robot will explore volcanoes.

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