News

Aircraft Engine Coating Could Triple Service Life and Save Fuel

Researchers at University West in Sweden are using nanoparticles in the heat-insulating surface layer that protects aircraft engines from heat. In tests, this increased the service life of the coating by 300%. The hope is that motors with the new layers will be in production within two years. The surface layer is sprayed on top of the metal components. Thanks to this extra layer, the engine is shielded from heat. The temperature can also be raised, which leads to increased efficiency, reduced emissions, and decreased fuel consumption.

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Pocked-Sized Anthrax Detector Aids Global Agriculture

A credit-card-sized anthrax detection cartridge developed at Sandia National Laboratories and recently licensed to a small business makes testing safer, easier, faster and cheaper.Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax, is commonly found in soils all over the world and can cause serious, and often fatal, illness in both humans and animals. The bacteria can survive in harsh conditions for decades. In humans, exposure to B. anthracis may occur through skin contact, inhalation of spores or eating contaminated meat.The new device, which is more like a pocket-sized laboratory, could cost around $5-7 and does not require a battery, electric power, or other specialized tools to operate.SourceAlso: See other Sensors tech briefs.

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Versatile Adhesive Mimics Gecko Feet

A team of University of Massachusetts Amherst inventors created a new, more versatile version of their invention, Geckskin. The technology adheres strongly to a wider range of surfaces, yet releases easily, like a gecko’s feet.“Imagine sticking your tablet on a wall to watch your favorite movie and then moving it to a new location when you want, without the need for pesky holes in your painted wall,” says polymer science and engineering professor Al Crosby. Geckskin is a ‘gecko-like,’ reusable adhesive device that they had previously demonstrated can hold heavy loads on smooth surfaces such as glass.Unlike other gecko-like materials, the UMass Amherst invention does not rely on mimicking the tiny, nanoscopic hairs found on gecko feet, but rather builds on “draping adhesion,” which derives from the gecko’s integrated anatomical skin-tendon-bone system. SourceAlso: See other Materials tech briefs.

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Nanomaterial Extends Lithium-Sulfur Battery Lifespan

A new nanomaterial could extend the lifespan of lithium-sulfur batteries, and therefore the driving range of electric vehicles.Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers added the powder to the battery's cathode to capture problematic polysulfides that usually cause lithium-sulfur batteries to fail after a few charges.Metal organic frameworks — also called MOFs — are crystal-like compounds made of metal clusters connected to organic molecules, or linkers. Together, the clusters and linkers assemble into porous 3-D structures. During lab tests, a lithium-sulfur battery with PNNL's MOF cathode maintained 89 percent of its initial power capacity after 100 charge-and discharge cycles. Having shown the effectiveness of their MOF cathode, PNNL researchers now plan to further improve the cathode's mixture of materials so it can hold more energy.SourceAlso: Check out other Materials tech briefs.

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Engineers Develop 'Simple' Robotic Swarms

University of Sheffield engineers have developed a way of making hundreds — or even thousands — of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks. The robots do not require memory or processing power. Each robot uses just one sensor that indicates the presence of another nearby robot. Based on the sensor's findings, the robots will either rotate on the spot, or move around in a circle until one can be seen.Until now, robotic swarms have required complex programming, complicating the development of miniaturized, individual robots. With the programming created by the Sheffield team, however, nanoscale machines are possible.SourceAlso: Learn about a Kinematic Calibration Process for Flight Robotic Arms.

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Switchable Material Absorbs and Stores Sun's Energy

A team at MIT and Harvard University has created a material that absorbs the sun’s heat and stores that energy in chemical form, ready to be released again on demand.The technology provides an opportunity for the expansion of solar power into new realms, specifically applications where heat is the desired output.“It could change the game, since it makes the sun’s energy, in the form of heat, storable and distributable,” says Jeffrey Grossman, the Carl Richard Soderberg Associate Professor of Power Engineering at MIT.SourceAlso: See other Materials tech briefs.

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Remote Sensing Moisture Model Could Aid Farmers

Global farmers could get better decision-making help as refinements are made to North Alabama soil moisture modeling research being done by an atmospheric science doctoral student at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. The models indicate how much added moisture would be needed in a given area versus historical data to achieve various crop yields, and they could aid in making expensive infrastructure investments by helping to determine their economic viability.

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