News

Researchers Develop Solar Technologies, Origami-Style

As a high school student at a study program in Japan, Brian Trease would fold wrappers from fast-food cheeseburgers into cranes. He loved discovering different origami techniques in library books.Today, Trease, a mechanical engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, thinks about how the principles of origami could be used for space-bound devices.Researchers say origami could be useful one day in utilizing space solar power for Earth-based purposes. Imagine an orbiting power plant that wirelessly beams power down to Earth using microwaves. Sending the solar arrays up to space would be easy, Trease said, because they could all be folded and packed into a single rocket launch, with "no astronaut assembly required."Panels used in space missions already incorporate simple folds, collapsing like a fan or an accordion. But Trease and colleagues are interested in using more intricate folds that simplify the overall mechanical structure and make for easier deployment.Last year, Zirbel and Trease collaborated with origami expert Robert Lang and BYU professor Larry Howell to develop a solar array that folds up to be 8.9 feet (2.7 meters) in diameter. Unfold it, and you’ve got a structure 82 feet (25 meters) across.SourceAlso: Learn about Origami-Inspired Folding of Thick, Rigid Panels.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Solar Power, Renewable Energy, Energy Harvesting, Energy, Aerospace, RF & Microwave Electronics, Antennas, News

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New Laser Technology to Make 2020 Mission to Mars

NASA announced recently that laser technology originally developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory has been selected for its new Mars mission in 2020. SuperCam, which builds upon the successful capabilities demonstrated aboard the Curiosity Rover during NASA’s current Mars Mission, will allow researchers to sample rocks and other targets from a distance using a laser.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Electronics, Imaging, Photonics, Lasers & Laser Systems, Sensors, Detectors, Test & Measurement, Measuring Instruments, Aerospace, Machinery & Automation, News

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Secret of Eumelanin’s Ability to Absorb Broad Spectrum of Light Uncovered

Melanin — and specifically, the form called eumelanin — is the primary pigment that gives humans the coloring of their skin, hair, and eyes. It protects the body from the hazards of ultraviolet and other radiation that can damage cells and lead to skin cancer. But the exact reason why the compound is so effective at blocking such a broad spectrum of sunlight has remained something of a mystery. Now, however, researchers at MIT and other institutions have solved that mystery, potentially opening the way for the development of synthetic materials that could have similar light-blocking properties.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Photonics, Optics, Materials, Composites, Medical, Solar Power, Energy, News

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Physicists Create Water Tractor Beam

Physicists at The Australian National University have created a tractor beam on water, providing a radical new technique that could confine oil spills, manipulate floating objects or explain rips at the beach.The group discovered they can control water flow patterns with simple wave generators, enabling them to move floating objects at will. Advanced particle tracking tools revealed that the waves generate currents on the surface of the water.“We have figured out a way of creating waves that can force a floating object to move against the direction of the wave,” said Dr Horst Punzmann, from the Research School of Physics and Engineering, who led the project.SourceAlso: Learn about a Floating Oil-Spill Containment Device.

Posted in: Remediation Technologies, Green Design & Manufacturing, News

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New Circuits Can Function at Temperatures Above 650°F

Engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas have designed integrated circuits that can survive at temperatures greater than 350 degrees Celsius — or roughly 660 degrees Fahrenheit. Their work, funded by the National Science Foundation, will improve the functioning of processors, drivers, controllers and other analog and digital circuits used in power electronics, automobiles and aerospace equipment, all of which must perform at high and often extreme temperatures.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Electronic Components, Board-Level Electronics, Electronics, Power Management, Aerospace, Transportation, Automotive, Semiconductors & ICs, News

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Engineers Hope to Create Electronics That Stretch at the Molecular Level

Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego are asking what might be possible if semiconductor materials were flexible and stretchable without sacrificing electronic function?

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Electronic Components, Board-Level Electronics, Electronics, Materials, Sensors, Semiconductors & ICs, News

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Are You Encouraged by Robots' Increasing Role in the Workplace?

A recent Pew Research Center and Elon University report of nearly 1,900 technology experts suggests that the rise of robots in the workplace could bring both disruptions and benefits. As artificial intelligence replace jobs in factories and shop floors, some pros say that the technology will still not advance enough in the next decade to substantially impact the job market. Other optimists say that society will adapt by inventing new types of work, especially jobs that take advantage of uniquely human capabilities. Skeptics, however, imagine a more unfavorable future, one in which robots and "digital agents" displace many jobs, create income inequality, and lead to unemployment and breakdowns in the social order.

Posted in: Question of the Week

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