News

Platform Dampens Vibrations in All Spatial Directions

When scientists wish to protect sensitive measuring devices from interference, they turn to active damping or, more specifically, an isolation platform. Each of the platform's four integrated swivel-mount modules contains a sensor that measures any vibrations in all three directions and an actuator that counterbalances them in three dimensions.

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Harnessing Everyday Motion to Power Mobile Devices

Imagine powering your cell phone by simply walking around your office or rubbing it with the palm of your hand. Rather than plugging it into the wall, you become the power source. Researchers at Georgia Tech have developed the first triboelectric nanogenerator, or "TENG." The team paired two sheets of different materials together — one donates electrons, and the other accepts them. When the sheets touch, electrons flow from one to the other. When the sheets are separated, a voltage develops between them.

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New Battery Technology Employs Multifunctional Materials

Researchers at the University of Delaware have discovered that fragmented carbon nanotube films can serve as adhesive conductors in lithium-ion batteries.“The problem with the current technology is that the binders impair the electrochemical performance of the battery because of their insulating properties,” says Bingqing Wei, professor of mechanical engineering. “Furthermore, the organic solvents used to mix the binders and conductive materials together not only add to the expense of the final product, but also are toxic to humans.”The new battery technology employs multifunctional materials. Fragmented carbon nanotube macrofilms (FCNTs) can serve as adhesive conductors, combining two functions in one material. FCNTs are web-like meshes with “tentacles” that are coupled with active lithium-based cathode and anode materials. They are then assembled using simple ultrasound processing. The process employs no organic solvents.The researchers see great potential for the use of this technology in vehicle applications, where quick charging and discharging are required. SourceAlso: Read other Materials tech briefs.

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Robotic System Enables Early-Earth Simulations

A new robotic system at Georgia Tech’s Center for Chemical Evolution could soon let scientists better simulate and analyze the chemical reactions of early Earth on the surface of real rocks.In a proof-of-concept study, scientists selected a region for analysis using a 3-D camera on a robotic arm, which mapped the three-dimensional coordinates of the sample’s surface. The scientists programmed the robotic arm to poke the sample with an acupuncture needle. The needle collected a small amount of material that the robot deposited in a nearby mass spectrometer.To show that the system was capable of probing a three-dimensional object, the researchers imprinted ink patterns on the surfaces of polystyrene spheres. The team then used the robotic arm to model the surfaces, probe specific regions, and see if samples collected were sufficient for mass spectrometry analysis. The robot-mass spec combo may also be useful to dermatologists who often probe lesions on the skin, which have distinct molecular signatures depending on if the lesion is a tumor or normal skin tissue.SourceAlso: Learn about Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry on Satellites.

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Liquid Metal Pump Breakthrough for Microfluidics

RMIT University researchers have developed the world's first liquid metal enabled pump, a revolutionary new microscale device with no mechanical parts. The unique design will enable micro-fluidics and lab-on-a-chip technology to finally realize their potential, with applications ranging from biomedicine to biofuels.

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Vote on NASA's Next Spacesuit Design

NASA's Z-2 Suit is the newest prototype in its next-generation spacesuit platform, the Z-series. The surface-specific planetary mobility suit is the first to be tested in full vacuum. The prototype used 3D human laser scans and 3D-printed hardware for suit development and sizing. The suit-port concept is integrated with a hard upper torso suit structure.The cover layer of a prototype suit is important as it serves to protect the suit against abrasion and snags during the rigors of testing.  NASA is leaving the design up to you. Choose which of three candidates will be built. The deadline is April 15.Vote now.

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Will 'Smell Notes' Catch On?

Set for a beta launch in July, a new "oPhone" app allows users to compose and send notes containing aromas. The free app lets user send the smell note by text or email, based on a set menu of scents contained in 'Ochips.' The message can be received like a typical text from a mobile device, and recipients can then download the composition from hotspots, which will be set up in the launch city of Boston. Creators of the technology see potential for the scent technology as a new type of self-expression, and possibly even a new language that may be used together with music, books, and other kinds of art.

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