News

BeeRotor Robot Equipped with Insect-Like Eye

Biorobotics researchers at the Institut des Sciences du Mouvement (Aix Marseille University) have developed the BeeRotor, a tethered flying robot. The robot adjusts its speed and follows terrain without an accelerometer or the measurement of altitude. Optic flow sensors, inspired by insect vision, allow the BeeRotor to adjust its speed and avoid objects. With a weight of 80 grams and a length of 47 centimeters, the device can independently avoid vertical obstacles in a tunnel with moving walls. To measure optic flow, environmental contrasts, and motion, BeeRotor is equipped with 24 photodiodes, distributed at the top and the bottom of its eye. As in insects, the speed at which scenery feature moves from one pixel to another provides the angular velocity of the flow.BeeRotor has three feedback loops, which act as three different reflexes that directly make use of the optic flow. The first feedback loop changes altitude, the second controls speed, and the final loop stabilizes the eye in relation to the local slope. By eliminating bulky accelerometers and inertial reference systems, the development could enable lighter robots and technologies.SourceAlso: Learn about a Self-Diagnostic Accelerometer FPGA.

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Sensors Detect Icing Conditions to Help Protect Airplanes

When ice accumulates on the surface of an aircraft during flight, it distorts the smooth flow of air necessary to stay aloft. The result is a reduction in lift, which can lead to stalls and crashes. Icing conditions can vary wildly within the same airspace. That’s why scientists at NASA’s Glenn Research Center are advancing the methods, technology, and accuracy of sensor systems to provide better detection of potential icing hazards around the nation’s airports. A ground-based station developed at Glenn includes sophisticated instruments such as a Ka-band cloud radar, which reads particle density distribution; a multi-frequency microwave radiometer that provides vertical temperature and water vapor profiles and a measure of liquid water present aloft; and a ceilometer for refined cloud base measurements. A series of weather balloons is being released to read and calibrate weather data, and validate the ground-based sensors. The balloons are fitted with an instrument package to measure pressure, temperature, humidity, and most importantly, supercooled liquid water content. When an airplane comes into contact with supercooled water, it attaches to the surface as ice. As it builds up, airframes are compromised. Source:

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Breathalyzer Could Identify Lung Cancer

Researchers have developed a fluorescence-based sensor device that can rapidly identify cancer-related volatile organic compounds found exclusively in the exhaled breath of some people with lung cancer. Their work demonstrates the potential of the device to be used as a breathalyzer for early lung cancer detection. Based on a small, circular plate called fluorescent cross-responsive sensor array, a specially designed rotary gas chamber and a data collection and processing system, the device can detect lung cancer-related gases at very low concentration, showing a potential to identify lung cancer at the early stage. Currently, doctors can detect lung cancer in its earliest stages by using methods like CT scans, but there are no simple, safe, and effective methods that can detect lung cancer at the early stage. In experiments, four kinds of lung cancer-related volatile organic compounds were selected and uniformly distributed in a gas chamber to each responsive spot in the sensor array. A light source containing excites the fluorescent spectra of the array, which is later collected and analyzed to produce a unique spectrum for each gas. By extracting the characteristic matrix of spectra and comparing with the existed fluorescent database, researchers can identify and quantify a specific gas. Source:

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New Method Measures Steel Fracturing

Researchers have visualized on a microscopic level how certain steels fracture when extreme loads are applied to them. Scientists used a scanning electron microscope to obtain high-resolution images (around 10 nanometers). The application of new techniques to characterize materials has made it possible to better understand the behavior of sintered steels (those produced from powders) on fracturing. In this way, they have been able to discover how the first cracks nucleate and extend. This study makes changes in the microstructure of the material visible while it is being tested. Moreover, the methodology used is applicable to any type of alloy, not only to test its behavior under pressure, but also its behavior at high temperatures. Source:

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Will 'Bloon' rides catch on?

This week's Question: Zero2infinity, a Spanish company, plans to launch passengers to near space using technologies called "Bloons." A maximum of four passengers will join two pilots in the Bloon cabin, which will be chained to a balloon filled with inert helium. Once fully inflated, the balloon will pull the cabin to an altitude of about 22 miles or 116,000 ft; the balloons would take between 1.5-2 hours to reach maximum altitude. The passengers would not reach space itself, but would still be able to see the Earth, as well as the sun rise. Whether passengers would still need to wear spacesuits will depend on certification from authorities. Bloon's first departures are expected to be followed by the launch of space flights from World View Enterprises, an Arizona-based ballooning company. What do you think? Will 'Bloon' rides catch on?

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Energy-Harvesting Method Shows Promise for Mars Power Stations

Northumbria and Edinburgh Universities researchers have developed an innovative, new technique to harvest energy from carbon dioxide. The method may enable the creation of future power stations on the surface of Mars.The research proposes a new kind of engine for producing energy based on the Leidenfrost effect – a phenomenon which happens when a liquid comes into near contact with a surface much hotter than its boiling point. Blocks of dry ice are able to levitate above hot surfaces protected by a barrier of evaporated gas vapor. Northumbria’s research proposes using the vapor created by this effect to power an engine. The technique has implications for working in extreme and alien environments, such as outer space, where it could be used to make long-term exploration and colonization sustainable by using naturally occurring solid carbon dioxide as a resource rather than a waste product.Increasing evidence from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) suggests that dry ice may be a naturally occurring resource on Mars, as suggested by the seasonal appearance of gullies on the surface of the red planet. If utilized in a Leidenfrost-based engine, the dry-ice deposits could provide the means to create future power on the Red Planet. The working principle of a Leidenfrost-based engine differs from steam-based heat engines; the high-pressure vapor layer creates freely rotating rotors whose energy is converted into power without the need of a bearing, thus conferring the new engine with low-friction properties.SourceAlso: Learn about Mars-Optimized Solar Cells.

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Are FAA drone rules too restrictive?

This week's Question: This month, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed long-awaited rules on the commercial use of small drones, requiring operators to be certified, fly only during daylight, and keep their aircraft in sight. The ruling, for now, prevents drones from being used for a range of possible other commercial uses, including crop inspection and package delivery. What do you think? Are FAA drone rules too restrictive?

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