News

Compact Light Source Improves CT Scans

A new study shows that the recently developed Compact Light Source (CLS) – a commercial X-ray source with roots in research and development efforts at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory – enables computer tomography scans that reveal more detail than routine scans performed at hospitals today. The new technology could soon be used in preclinical studies and help researchers better understand cancer and other diseases.

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"TREASORES" Project Moves Towards "Printed" Organic Solar Cells, LEDs

Flexible optoelectronic devices that can be produced roll-to-roll – much like newspapers are printed – are a highly promising path to cheaper devices such as solar cells and LED lighting panels. Scientists from "TREASORES" project recently demonstrated prototype flexible solar cell modules, as well as novel silver-based transparent electrodes, that outperform currently used materials.

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Will robots hurt the job market?

This week's Question: In a cover article in this month's issue of The Harvard Business Review, two researchers suggest strategies for remaining gainfully employed in an age of robotics and smarter machines. Although the authors concede the advance of automation, editor at large Julia Kirby and Babson College professor Thomas H. Davenport write that machines will increase possibilities for employment and that “the threat of automation” could be reframed as an “opportunity for augmentation." The authors provide examples of opportunities for humans to collaborate with machines, including big-data drug discovery, precision agriculture, design work, and elder care. Machines and computers, however, already perform tasks formerly done by humans, including factory sorting, manufacturing, and even journalism. What do you think? Will robots hurt the job market?

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New Etching Method Boosts Nanofiber Production

A new technique from MIT researchers boosts production of nanofibers fourfold, while cutting energy consumption by more than 90 percent. Potential nanofiber applications include solar cells, water filtration, and fuel cells.

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Will Hyperloops replace trains?

According to the Navigant Research firm, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies has made a deal with central California landowners to build the world's first Hyperloop. The 5-mile test track will be built along California's Interstate 5. The Hyperloop, brought up in 2014 by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, would hypothetically enable passengers to travel in suspended pods through low-pressure tubes at more than 750 miles per hour. Supporters say the Hyperloop has the potential to be a faster, cheaper, and more energy-efficient form of travel than planes, trains, or buses. It is not yet known, however, if the technology is feasible or safe. What do you think? Will Hyperloops replace trains?

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Researchers Develop Biodegradable Computer Chip

In an effort to alleviate the environmental burden of electronic devices, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has collaborated with the Madison-based U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) to develop a semiconductor chip made almost entirely of wood.

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Visual Microphone Identifies Structural Defects

A new technique from Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers estimates material properties of physical objects, such as stiffness and weight, from video.The method could have application in the field of nondestructive testing, determining materials’ physical properties without extracting samples from them or subjecting them to damaging physical tests. Structural defects, for example, could be found in an airplane’s wing by analyzing video of its vibration during flight.A given object’s preferred frequencies, and the varying strength of its vibrations at those frequencies, produce a unique pattern, which a variation on the visual-microphone algorithm was able to extract.The MIT researchers then used machine learning to find correlations between those vibrational patterns and measurements of the objects’ material properties. The correlations they found provided estimates of the elasticity of the bars and of the stiffness and weight per unit area of the analyzed fabrics. Moreover, aberrations or discontinuities in an object’s typical vibrational patterns could indicate a defect in its structure.SourceAlso: Read a Q&A with a NASA Lead Non-Destructive Evaluation Engineer.

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