Inspired by Nature, Researchers Build a Tougher Metal

Drawing inspiration from the structure of bones and bamboo, researchers have gradually changed the internal structure of metals to make stronger, tougher materials. The new metals can be customized for a wide variety of applications — from body armor to automobile parts. The research team tested the new approach in interstitial free (IF) steel, which is used in some industrial applications.If conventional IF steel is made strong enough to withstand 450 megapascals (MPa) of stress, it has very low ductility – the steel can only be stretched to less than 5 percent of its length without breaking. Low ductility means a material is susceptible to catastrophic failure, such as suddenly snapping in half. Highly ductile materials can stretch, meaning they are more likely to give people time to respond to a problem before total failure.The researchers are also interested in using the gradient structure approach to make materials more resistant to corrosion, wear, and fatigue.SourceAlso: Find more Materials tech briefs.

Posted in: News, Metals, Automotive


Students Design Robotic Gardeners for Deep Space

Graduate students from the University of Colorado Boulder are designing robots to work in a deep-space habitat, tending gardens and growing food for astronaut explorers.The team's entry in the eXploration HABitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge is called "Plants Anywhere: Plants Growing in Free Habitat Spaces." Instead of an area set aside just for vegetation, the approach calls for plants to be distributed in any available space in a deep-space habitat.In their new system, a Remotely Operated Gardening Rover, or ROGR, travels around the habitat tending to a fleet of SmartPots, or SPOTS, which would be distributed throughout the deep-space habitat's living space.The SPOTS facilitate plants growing in a small, custom- designed hydroponic growth chamber with computerized systems to monitor the vegetation's progress. Each has its own sensor run by an embedded computer."We envision dozens of SPOTS on a space habitat," said Dane Larsen who is working on a master's degree on computer science. "Telemetry in each SPOT provides data on plant condition to a computer display."The robots and plants are networked together, and the SPOTS have the ability to monitor their fruits' or vegetables' soil humidity and issue watering requests.As each SPOT monitors and supports its plants, it can determine when ROGR needs to perform plant maintenance tasks. ROGR, a robot on wheels, has a forklift to move SPOTS, a mechanical arm for manipulating the plants, and a fluid delivery system that can provide fresh water or water with nutrients.SourceAlso: Learn about a Dexterous Humanoid Robot.

Posted in: News, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Sensors, Monitoring


New Technology Detects Bacterial Pathogens in Soldiers' Combat Wounds

A biological detection technology developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists can detect bacterial pathogens in the wounds of U.S. soldiers that have previously been missed by other technologies. This advance may, in time, allow an improvement in how soldiers' wounds are treated.

Posted in: News, Detectors, Sensors


Scientists Demonstrate Data Teleportation for Secure Communications

Teleportation, a long-standing staple in the world of science fiction, has become a reality for scientists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in terms of battlefield data and image processing. Army Research Laboratory quantum information principal investigator Ronald Meyers and team member Keith Deacon recently demonstrated information teleportation using entangled photons.

Posted in: News, Computers, Photonics


Synthetic Aperture Sonar Can Help Navy Hunt Sea Mines

Since World War II, sea mines have damaged or sunk four times more U.S. Navy ships than all other means of attack combined, according to a Navy report on mine warfare. New sonar research being performed by the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) could improve the Navy’s ability to find sea mines deep under water.

Posted in: News, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Detectors, Sensors


NASA Decelerators Slow Payloads Traveling at Supersonic Speed

What will it take to land heavier spacecraft on Mars? How will engineers slow large payloads traveling at supersonic speeds in a thin Martian atmosphere? The Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) mission will seek to answer these questions.

Posted in: News, Motors & Drives, Power Transmission, Machinery & Automation


Morphable Surfaces Reduce Air Resistance

A morphable surface developed by an MIT team can change surface texture — from smooth to dimpled, and back again — through changes in pressure. When the inside pressure is reduced, the flexible material shrinks, and the stiffer outer layer wrinkles. Increasing pressure returns the surface to a smooth state. Adding golf ball-like dimples to surfaces could reduce drag and improve efficiency of vehicles.The ability to change the surface in real time comes from the use of a multilayer material with a stiff skin and a soft interior — the same basic configuration that causes smooth plums to dry into wrinkly prunes. To mimic that process, the team made a hollow ball of soft material with a stiff skin — with both layers made of rubberlike materials — then extracted air from the hollow interior to make the ball shrink and its surface wrinkle.Because the surface texture can be controlled by adjusting the balls’ interior pressure, the degree of drag reduction can be controlled at will. “We can generate that surface topography, or erase it,” said MIT’s Pedro Reis. “That reversibility is why this is pretty interesting; you can switch the drag-reducing effect on and off, and tune it.”Many researchers have studied various kinds of wrinkled surfaces, with possible applications in areas such as adhesion, or even unusual optical properties. “But we are the first to use wrinkling for aerodynamic properties,” said Reis.SourceAlso: Learn about other innovative Materials and Coatings.

Posted in: News, Coatings & Adhesives, Automotive