News

Nanomaterial Extends Lithium-Sulfur Battery Lifespan

A new nanomaterial could extend the lifespan of lithium-sulfur batteries, and therefore the driving range of electric vehicles.Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers added the powder to the battery's cathode to capture problematic polysulfides that usually cause lithium-sulfur batteries to fail after a few charges.Metal organic frameworks — also called MOFs — are crystal-like compounds made of metal clusters connected to organic molecules, or linkers. Together, the clusters and linkers assemble into porous 3-D structures. During lab tests, a lithium-sulfur battery with PNNL's MOF cathode maintained 89 percent of its initial power capacity after 100 charge-and discharge cycles. Having shown the effectiveness of their MOF cathode, PNNL researchers now plan to further improve the cathode's mixture of materials so it can hold more energy.SourceAlso: Check out other Materials tech briefs.

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Engineers Develop 'Simple' Robotic Swarms

University of Sheffield engineers have developed a way of making hundreds - or even thousands - of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks. The robots do not require memory or processing power. Each robot uses just one sensor that indicates the presence of another nearby robot. Based on the sensor's findings, the robots will either rotate on the spot, or move around in a circle until one can be seen.Until now, robotic swarms have required complex programming, complicating the development of miniaturized, individual robots. With the programming created by the Sheffield team, however, nanoscale machines are possible.SourceAlso: Learn about a Kinematic Calibration Process for Flight Robotic Arms.

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Will "Flying Cars" Become a Reality?

A Boston-based aerospace company Terrafugia announced last year that it began work on its TF-6, a four-seat hybrid electric car that can do vertical take-offs and landings. The vehicle has foldable wings, cruises at 100 miles per hour, fits inside a single-car garage, and drives at highway speeds. With the new prototype, Terrafugia believes that users can learn to operate the TF-X in just five hours. Users will have to learn how to interface with the vehicle; how to determine if it's safe to take off and land; and when to activate the vehicle's parachute system in the event of an emergency.

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Switchable Material Absorbs and Stores Sun's Energy

A team at MIT and Harvard University has created a material that absorbs the sun’s heat and stores that energy in chemical form, ready to be released again on demand.The technology provides an opportunity for the expansion of solar power into new realms, specifically applications where heat is the desired output.“It could change the game, since it makes the sun’s energy, in the form of heat, storable and distributable,” says Jeffrey Grossman, the Carl Richard Soderberg Associate Professor of Power Engineering at MIT.SourceAlso: See other Materials tech briefs.

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In The Near Future, Will 3D Printers Be Used To Create Human Organs?

3D printers, an emerging technology, use computer-created digital models to produce a variety of objects, including toys, mechanical components, and even food. There is hope now, too, that 3D printers could someday create much-needed organs for transplants. Printing human organs is still years away, but many medical professionals are optimistic and see great promise with the technology. A major challenge will be the ability to create the material, which is biological in nature.

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Remote Sensing Moisture Model Could Aid Farmers

Global farmers could get better decision-making help as refinements are made to North Alabama soil moisture modeling research being done by an atmospheric science doctoral student at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. The models indicate how much added moisture would be needed in a given area versus historical data to achieve various crop yields, and they could aid in making expensive infrastructure investments by helping to determine their economic viability.

Posted in: Sensors, Software, Mathematical/Scientific Software, RF & Microwave Electronics, News

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NASA Radar Demonstrates Ability to Predict Sinkholes

New analyses of NASA airborne radar data collected in 2012 reveal that radar detected indications of a huge sinkhole before it collapsed and forced evacuations in Louisiana that year. The findings suggest such radar data, if collected routinely from airborne systems or satellites, could at least in some cases foresee sinkholes before they happen, decreasing danger to people and property.

Posted in: Environmental Monitoring, Green Design & Manufacturing, Sensors, Test & Measurement, Monitoring, Aerospace, RF & Microwave Electronics, News

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