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Standing Still May Improve Antennas That Scan in All Directions

Amin Momeni illuminates the antenna-testing chamber while Nader Behdad installs a phased-array antenna. The flat surface consists of multiple precisely-positioned elements that convert spherical radio signals into single-column beams. (Photo: Stephanie Precourt) Antennas often need to trace circles in the sky. For example, radar arrays atop air-traffic control towers rotate to sweep signals in all directions. But spinning large objects nonstop takes a lot of time and mechanical energy. So scanning from a stationary position could speed up long-range detection and communications. Now, with support from a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research, University of Wisconsin–Madison electrical engineers are working out a new strategy to create antennas that spin their beams in circles while the devices stand still. 

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Alternative Found for Nuclear Weapon Detection

Hongxing Jiang One of the most critical issues the United States faces today is preventing terrorists from smuggling nuclear weapons into its ports. To this end, the U.S. Security and Accountability for Every Port Act mandates all overseas cargo containers be scanned for possible nuclear materials or weapons. Detecting neutron signals is an effective method to identify nuclear weapons and special nuclear materials. Helium-3 gas is used within detectors deployed in ports for this purpose.

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Shrinking the Inside of an Explosion

Novel small-scale device on a benchtop has highly sophisticated optical diagnostics enabling investigators to see what is happening during the millionth of a second the charge is exploding, with unprecedented accuracy. (Credit: Bassett/Dlott) Testing explosions is epic science. The most detailed studies of explosive charges have been conducted at national laboratories using a gun as big as a room to fire a flat bullet – the flyer plate, typically 100 millimeters in diameter – into an explosive charge inside a thick-walled chamber that contains the fierce blast. The tests require enormous facilities.

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Advanced Spray-On Material Repels Water

A new spray-on material from engineers at The Australian National University (ANU) offers a more robust waterproofing capability than previous coatings. Combining two plastics, one tough and one flexible, the invention could eventually be used to protect mobile phones, de-ice airplane parts, or keep boat hulls from corroding.

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Lab-on-a-Stick Provides Fast Detection of Antibiotic Resistance

Microfluidic strips can be used for a range of tests including blood typing and anti-microbial resistance. (University of Reading) A portable power-free test for the rapid detection of bacterial resistance to antibiotics has been developed. The Lab-on-a-Stick is an inexpensive microfluidic strip – comprising of tiny test tubes about the size of a human hair – capable of identifying bacteria found in urine samples and checking if they are resistant to common antibiotics. Simple to use and cheap to manufacture, it is a “dip and read” method using a transparent microcapillary film suitable for naked eye detection, or measurement with portable, inexpensive equipment such as a smartphone camera.

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Shortwave Infrared Instrument Could Improve Ear Infection Diagnosis

Researchers have developed a new way of imaging the middle ear using infrared light, which they say could provide much more accurate diagnosis of ear infections. A new device could greatly improve doctors’ ability to accurately diagnose ear infections. The new device, whose design is still being refined by the team, is expected ultimately to look and function very much like existing otoscopes, the devices most doctors currently use to peer inside the ear to look for signs of infection.

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Edible Batteries Power Ingestible Medical Devices

Christopher Bettinger, Ph.D., is developing an edible battery made with melanin and dissolvable materials. (Bettinger lab) Non-toxic, edible batteries could one day power ingestible devices for diagnosing and treating disease. The batteries are made with melanin pigments naturally found in the skin, hair, and eyes.

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