News

Fire Ants Inspire New Energy Storage Process

U.S. Army-sponsored researchers at Georgia Tech have discovered a process for simultaneously storing and dissipating energy within structures that could lead to design rules for new types of active, reconfigurable materials for structural morphing, vibration attenuation and dynamic load mitigation. In particular, researchers examined how a species of South American fire ants collectively entangle themselves to form an active structure capable of changing state from a liquid to a solid when subject to applied loads. An ant's swarm intelligence leading to continual construction could also be applied to modular robotics research or possibly inspire new methods for actively reconfiguring interconnections in complex networks. The collective dynamics of the fire ants reveal a number of novel cohesive properties beyond energy dissipation. Source Also: Learn about a Wireless Inductive Power Device.  

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Researchers Discover Bio-Inspired Way to Grow Graphene for Electronic Devices

Graphene, a form of two-dimensional carbon, has many desirable properties that make it a promising material in many applications. However, its production, especially for high-end electronics such as touch screens, faces many challenges. This may soon change with a fresh approach developed by NUS (National University of Singapore) researchers that mimics nature.

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Computers Can Be Hacked Using High-Frequency Sound

Using the microphones and speakers that come standard in many of today's laptop computers and mobile devices, hackers can secretly transmit and receive data using high-frequency audio signals that are mostly inaudible to human ears. Two researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing, and Ergonomics, Michael Hanspach and Michael Goetz, recently performed a proof-of-concept experiment that showed that "covert acoustical networking," a technique that had been hypothesized but considered improbable by most experts, is indeed possible. Their findings could have major implications for electronic security. In particular, it means "air-gapped" computers — that is, computers that are not connected to the Internet — are vulnerable to malicious software designed to steal or corrupt data.

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Harnessing the Sun’s Energy for Use at Night

Solar energy has long been used as a clean alternative to fossil fuels such as coal and oil, but it could only be harnessed during the day when the sun’s rays were strongest. Researchers have built a system that converts the Sun’s energy not into electricity but hydrogen fuel and stores it for later use, allowing us to power our devices long after the Sun goes down.

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Superlens Extends the Range of Wireless Power Transfer

Duke University researchers have demonstrated the feasibility of wireless power transfer using low-frequency magnetic fields over distances much larger than the size of the transmitter and receiver. The team used metamaterials to create a “superlens” that focuses magnetic fields. The superlens translates the magnetic field emanating from one power coil onto its twin nearly a foot away, inducing an electric current in the receiving coil.

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Environmentally Friendly Sugar Battery for Gadget Power

Virginia Tech researchers developed a battery that runs on sugar and has an unmatched energy density, a development that could replace conventional batteries with ones that are cheaper, refillable, and biodegradable. In as soon as three years, the new battery could be running some of the cell phones, tablets, video games, and other electronic gadgets that require power.

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NASA 3D Manufacturing on the Rise

Given NASA's unique needs for highly customized spacecraft and instrument components, additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, offers a compelling alternative to more traditional manufacturing approaches."We're not driving the additive manufacturing train; industry is," said Ted Swanson, the assistant chief for technology for the Mechanical Systems Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Swanson is the center's point-of-contact for additive manufacturing. "But NASA has the ability to get on-board to leverage it for our unique needs."Led by NASA's Space Technology Mission Direc­torate, the agency has launched a number of formal programs to prototype new tools for current and future missions using this emerging manufacturing technique. Additive manufacturing involves computer-aided device, or CAD, models and sophisticated printers that literally deposit successive layers of metal, plastic or some other material until they are complete.SourceAlso: Learn about Gradient Metal Alloys Fabricated Using Additive Manufacturing.

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