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Carbon nanotube 'stitches' make stronger, lighter composites

The newest Airbus and Boeing passenger jets flying today are made primarily from advanced composite materials such as carbon fiber reinforced plastic – extremely light, durable materials that reduce the overall weight of the plane by as much as 20 percent compared to aluminum-bodied planes. Such lightweight airframes translate directly to fuel savings, which is a major point in advanced composites' favor.But composite materials are also surprisingly vulnerable: While aluminum can withstand relatively large impacts before cracking, the many layers in composites can break apart due to relatively small impacts – a drawback that is considered the material's Achilles' heel.Now MIT aerospace engineers have found a way to bond composite layers in such a way that the resulting material is substantially stronger and more resistant to damage than other advanced composites.The researchers fastened the layers of composite materials together using carbon nanotubes – atom-thin rolls of carbon that, despite their microscopic stature, are incredibly strong. They embedded tiny "forests" of carbon nanotubes within a glue-like polymer matrix and then pressed the matrix between layers of carbon fiber composites. The nanotubes, resembling tiny, vertically aligned stitches, worked themselves within the crevices of each composite layer, serving as a scaffold to hold the layers together.In experiments to test the material's strength, the team found that, compared with existing composite materials, the stitched composites were 30 percent stronger, withstanding greater forces before breaking apart.Roberto Guzman, who led the work as an MIT postdoc in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro), says the improvement may lead to stronger, lighter airplane parts – particularly those that require nails or bolts, which can crack conventional composites."More work needs to be done, but we are really positive that this will lead to stronger, lighter planes," says Guzman, who is now a researcher at the IMDEA Materials Institute in Spain. "That means a lot of fuel saved, which is great for the environment and for our pockets."

Posted in: News, Aviation

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New System Allows Buildings to 'Sense' Internal Damage

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a computational model that makes sense of the ambient vibrations that travel up a structure as trucks and other forces rumble by. By picking out specific features in the noise that give indications of a building’s stability, the model may be used to continuously monitor a building for signs of damage or mechanical stress.

Posted in: News, Data Acquisition, Detectors, Sensors

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‘Robomussels’ Monitor Climate Change

Northeastern University scientist Brian Helmuth and other researchers have developed "robomussels" that monitor climate change. The tiny devices have miniature built-in sensor that track temperatures inside the mussel beds.

Posted in: News, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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Entry-Level PXI/PXIe Platforms

ADLINK Technology (San Jose, CA) announced new entry-level PXI and PXI Express (PXIe) platforms for PXI testing system startup users. PXES-2301 is an all-hybrid, 6-slot compact PXIe chassis with system bandwidth up to 8 GB/s. PXIe-3935 and PXI-3930 are embedded controllers with Intel® Celeron® 2000E 2.2GHz processors, delivering up to 50% increase in computing power and as much as eight times the bandwidth of available market offerings. ADLINK's PXIe-3935 and PXI-3930 significantly reduce maintenance burdens with easily replaceable battery and upgradable storage and SODIMM modules. Backup BIOS also eases recovery in the event of a main BIOS crash.Click here to learn more

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Scientists Find Twisting 3-D Electron Raceway in Nanoscale Crystal Slices

A scanning electron microscope image shows triangular (red) and rectangular (blue) samples of a semimetal crystal known as cadmium arsenide. The rectangular sample is about 0.8 microns (thousandths of a millimeter) thick, 3.2 microns tall and 5 microns long. The design of the triangular samples proved useful in mapping out the strange electron orbits exhibited by this material when exposed to a magnetic field. (Credit: Nature, 10.1038/nature18276) Researchers have created an exotic 3-D racetrack for electrons in ultrathin slices of a nanomaterial they fabricated at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). The international team of scientists from Berkeley Lab, UC Berkeley, and Germany observed, for the first time, a unique behavior in which electrons rotate around one surface, then through the bulk of the material to its opposite surface and back.

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Complex Materials Can Self-Organize Into Circuits

An ORNL study found that complex oxide materials can self-organize into electrical circuits, which creates the possibility for new types of computer chips. (Credit: ORNL) Researchers studying the behavior of nanoscale materials at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have uncovered remarkable behavior that could advance microprocessors beyond today’s silicon-based chips. The study shows that a single crystal complex oxide material, when confined to micro- and nanoscales, can act like a multi-component electrical circuit. This behavior stems from an unusual feature of certain complex oxides called phase separation, in which tiny regions in the material exhibit vastly different electronic and magnetic properties. It means individual nanoscale regions in complex oxide materials can behave as self-organized circuit elements, which could support new multifunctional types of computing architectures.

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Chaos-Based Microchips Offer Possible Solution to Moore’s Law

Reconfigurable chaotic integrated circuit. (Credit: Behnam Kia) Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed new, nonlinear, chaos-based integrated circuits that enable computer chips to perform multiple functions with fewer transistors. These integrated circuits can be manufactured with “off the shelf” fabrication processes and could lead to novel computer architectures that do more with less circuitry and fewer transistors.

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