News

Researchers Turn Urine into Power Source for Electronic Devices

A microbial fuel cell uses natural biological processes of ‘electric’ bacteria to turn organic matter, such as urine, into electricity. These fuel cells are efficient and relatively cheap to run, and produce nearly zero waste compared to other methods of electricity generation. Urine passes through the microbial fuel cell for the reaction to happen. From here, electricity is generated by the bacteria, and can then be stored or used to directly power electrical devices.

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Graphene Layer Lets Solar Cells Generate Power When it Rains

Chinese researchers have introduced a new approach for making an all-weather solar cell that is triggered by both sunlight and raindrops. To convert solar energy to electricity, the team developed a highly efficient dye-sensitized solar cell. In order to allow rain to produce electricity as well, they coated this cell with a whisper-thin film of graphene.

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Five-Fingered Robot Gets a Grip

Intricate tasks that require dexterous in-hand manipulation — rolling, pivoting, bending, and sensing friction — are a challenge for today's robots. A University of Washington team of computer scientists and engineers has built a robotic hand that performs dexterous manipulation and "learns" from its own experience. The five-fingered robot, for example, can spin a tube full of coffee beans without needing human direction.

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Students' Decelerator Design Wins NASA's 'Big Idea' Challenge

Students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign took top honors in NASA’s first Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge. The challenge: To increase the lift-to-drag ratio on the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) in ways that could potentially help NASA land heavier payloads. The HIAD inflatable device is designed to slow down a spacecraft upon atmospheric re-entry to Earth or other planets.

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Would you use a “skin to screen” technology?

This week's Question: The SkinTrack technology featured in today’s lead story allows users to expand touchpad functionality to the back of the hand and lower arm. By wearing a ring, users can enable cursor movement, highlight numbers on a screen, or dial numbers on a keypad. What do you think? Would you use a “skin to screen” technology?

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'SkinTrack' Turns Lower Arm into Touchpad

A new wearable technology developed at Carnegie Mellon University could turn one's entire lower arm into a touchpad.

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NASA Tests 3D-Printed Rocket Fuel Pump

NASA tested a 3D printed rocket engine turbopump with liquid methane – an ideal propellant for engines needed to power many types of spacecraft for NASA’s journey to Mars. During the full-power test, the turbines generated 600 horsepower and the fuel pump got its “heartbeat” racing at more than 36,000 revolutions per minute, delivering 600 gallons of semi-cryogenic liquid methane per minute – enough to fuel an engine producing over 22,500 pounds of thrust.

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