News

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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Funding Opportunity: Develop Advanced Biomass Supply Chain Technologies

The Department of Energy has announced about $6 million in funding for projects that will develop and demonstrate supply chain technologies to deliver commercial-scale lignocellulosic biomass feedstocks to biorefineries across the country.

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Can Cobalt-Graphene Beat Out Platinum As Catalyst in Hydrogen Fuel Cells?

Platinum works well as a catalyst in hydrogen fuel cells, but it is expensive and degrades over time. Brown University chemist Shouheng Sun and his students have developed a new material — a graphene sheet covered by cobalt and cobalt-oxide nanoparticles — that can catalyze the oxygen reduction reaction nearly as well as platinum does and is substantially more durable.

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'Nanoflowers' for Energy Storage and Solar Cells

North Carolina State University researchers have created flower-like structures out of germanium sulfide (GeS) – a semiconductor material – that have extremely thin petals with an enormous surface area. The GeS flowers hold promise for next-generation energy storage devices and solar cells.

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