News

Researchers Create Shape-Shifting Plastic

Researchers from Washington State University and the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge Laboratory have created a tunable shape-memory polymer. The shape-shifting plastic can “remember” its original shape and return to it after being deformed with heat or other forces. The materials exhibit triple-shape memory behavior; the polymers can transform from one temporary shape to another temporary shape at one temperature, and then back to a permanent shape at another temperature. Changing the ratio of ingredients allows the researchers to control the overall properties of the material. The team’s method also uses off-the-shelf chemicals that can be easily scaled up to manufacture the material in bulk.Mixing the shape-memory polymers with other materials could produce stronger and stiffer composite parts that can later be recycled or reprocessed. Recyclable carbon fiber and glass fiber composites, for instance, are in high demand in the automotive industry.The material could also be used as binding glue for new types of rare earth-free magnets made from powders. The team is already experimenting with 3-D printing powder-based magnets with shape-memory polymers. Source Read other Materials & Coatings tech briefs.

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Technique Magnifies Vibrations in Bridges and Buildings

To the naked eye, buildings and bridges appear fixed in place, unmoved by forces like wind and rain. But in fact, these large structures do experience imperceptibly small vibrations that, depending on their frequency, may indicate instability or structural damage. MIT researchers have developed a technique to “see” vibrations that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye, combining high-speed video with computer vision techniques.

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Researcher Develops World’s Smallest Micro Motor

Micro actuators are needed for numerous applications, ranging from mobile and wearable devices, to minimally invasive medical devices. However, the limitations associated with their fabrication have restricted their deployment at the one-millimeter scale.

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Lens Turns Smartphone into a Microscope

Researchers at the University of Houston have created an optical lens that can be placed on an inexpensive smartphone to amplify images by a magnitude of 120, all for just 3 cents a lens. The lens can work as a microscope, and the cost and ease of using it – it attaches directly to a smartphone camera lens, without the use of any additional device – make it ideal for use with students. It also could have clinical applications, allowing small or isolated clinics to share images with specialists located elsewhere.

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Ultrafast Camera Captures Images at the Speed of Light

An ultrafast camera can acquire two-dimensional images at 100 billion frames per second, a speed capable of revealing light pulses and other phenomena previously too fast to be observed. While other research groups have achieved higher frame rates (trillion f/s), this camera is the world’s fastest 2D camera that doesn’t require an external flash or multiple exposures.

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Full-Body Scanner Quickly Detects Skin Cancer

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF have developed the Dermascanner full-body dermatological scanner to help doctors diagnose skin conditions. When the exam starts, the surface of the patient’s skin is scanned from different positions and broken down into approximately 100 individual scans. Such image documentation already exists, but the actual size and changes in growth cannot be clearly discerned solely on the bases of scans.

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Will robo-pets catch on?

This week's Question: In a study in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, Australian researcher Jean-Loup Raul predicts that robotic and virtual-reality pets will grow in popularity as urban populations expand. “It might sound surreal for us to have robotic or virtual pets, but it could be totally normal for the next generation,” Dr. Jean-Loup Rault said in a written statement. “It’s not a question of centuries from now. If 10 billion human beings live on the planet in 2050 as predicted, it’s likely to occur sooner than we think." What do you think? Will robo-pets catch on?

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