News

Will Li-Fi catch on?

This week's Question: A technology called ìLi-Fiî uses light waves from ordinary LED light bulbs to deliver internet connectivity that, according to its creators, is cheaper, more secure, and 100 times faster that broadband internet. Velmini ó a tech company in Tallinn, Estonia ó is the first to test visible light communication technology in a real-world scenario, using Li-Fi-equipped LED lights. According to the International Business Times, the technology transmits data at 1 gigabit per second (Gbps); Li-Fi lab simulations recorded speeds up to 224 Gbps. Li-Fi will not entirely replace Wi-Fi entirely since light waves, unlike radio waves, cannot travel through walls. In addition, the tool does not work outdoors with direct sunlight. The company's co-founder estimates that the technology will be ready for public use within the next two to three years. What do you think? Will Li-Fi catch on? 

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'Invisible' Wires Improve Solar-Cell Efficiency

Scientists from Stanford University have discovered how to make the electrical wiring on top of solar cells nearly invisible to incoming light. The new design, which uses silicon nanopillars to hide the wires, could dramatically boost solar-cell efficiency. In most solar cells, the upper contact consists of a metal wire grid that carries electricity to or from the device. The wires, however, also act like a mirror and prevent sunlight from reaching the semiconductor, which is usually made of silicon. The Stanford team placed a 16-nanometer-thick film of gold conducting metal on a flat sheet of silicon. The gold film was riddled with an array of nanosized square holes, but to the eye, the surface looked like a shiny, gold mirror. To hide the reflective gold film, the engineers created nanosized silicon pillars that "tower" above the gold film and redirect the sunlight before it hits the metallic surface. In addition to silicon, the new technology can be used with other semiconducting materials for a variety of applications, including photosensors, light-emitting diodes and displays and transparent batteries, as well as solar cells. Source

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NASA Studies How Volcanic Ash Affects Airplane Engines

NASA researchers are poring over data from a recent test that involved sending volcanic ash through an airplane engine. The primary issue, according to NASA, is that volcanic ash forms glass in the hot sections of some engines that clogs cooling holes and chokes off flow within the engine, which can eventually lead to an engine power loss.

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Army’s “Robo-Raven” UAV Flies with Flapping Wings

In the future, it's possible that some unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) might sport wings that flap like a bird or a butterfly. The Army Research Lab has been testing such a UAV, known as Robo-Raven.

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Remotely Piloted Plane Bridges Gap Between Wind Tunnel and Crewed Testing

A new modular, subscale remotely piloted aircraft offers NASA researchers more affordable options for developing a wide range of cutting edge aviation and space technologies. The Prototype-Technology Evaluation and Research Aircraft (PTERA) flying laboratory bridges the gap between wind tunnels and crewed flight testing.

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Is it possible to empathize with robots as we do with humans?

This week's Question: According to a recent study by researchers in Japan, our brain's empathetic reaction toward humanoid robots in perceived pain is similar to that toward humans in the same situation. The researchers hooked up 15 healthy adults to electroencephalography (EEG) monitors and then showed them dozens of color pictures of either a human or robotic hand in painful and non-painful situations. Event-related brain potentials for empathy toward humanoid robots in perceived pain were similar to those for empathy toward humans in pain. With humans and robots collaborating more closely and more often than ever before, what do you think? Is it possible to empathize with robots as we do with humans?  

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Gamma-Ray Spectroscope Supports Asteroid Mining Missions

A new gamma-ray spectroscope detects the veins of gold, platinum, and rare earths hidden within the asteroids, moons, and other airless objects floating around the solar system. The sensor, developed by teams at Vanderbilt and Fisk Universities, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Planetary Science Institute, will allow miners to find valuable materials beyond Earth.

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