News

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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New Technology Searches Space Dust for Amino Acids

Michael Callahan and his team at Goddard's Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory have recently applied advanced technology to inspect extremely small meteorite samples for the components of life. The team used a nanoflow liquid chromatography instrument to sort the molecules in the meteorite sample, then applied nanoelectrospray ionization to give the molecules an electric charge and deliver them to a high-resolution mass spectrometer instrument, which identified the molecules based on their mass. "We found amino acids in a 360 microgram sample of the Murchison meteorite," said Callahan. "This sample size is 1,000 times smaller than the typical sample size used."SourceAlso: Read a Who's Who Q&A about the electrodynamic dust shield (EDS).

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Control System Automatically Brakes and Steers Cars

Scientists at Chalmers University in Sweden are working with Volvo to develop a vehicle control system that can take over steering and breaking when it detects an imminent collision. The system can make split-second decisions on behalf of the driver.

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