News

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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New Airborne GPS Improves Weather Models

By designing a new GPS system aboard airplanes, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego researchers will improve weather models and hurricane forecasting by detecting precise conditions in the atmosphere.Current measurement systems that use GPS satellite signals as a source to probe the atmosphere rely on GPS receivers that are fixed to ground and cannot measure over the ocean, or they rely on GPS receivers that are also on satellites that are expensive to launch and only occasionally measure in regions near storms. The new system, led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography geophysicist Jennifer Haase and her colleagues, captures detailed meteorological readings at different elevations at targeted areas of interest, such as over the Atlantic Ocean in regions where hurricanes might develop.“This field campaign demonstrated the potential for creating an entirely new operational atmospheric observing system for precise moisture profiling from commercial aircraft,” said Haase, an associate researcher with the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Physics and Planetary Physics (IGPP) at Scripps. SourceAlso: Learn about GPS Estimates of Integrated Weather Forecasters.

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Researchers Build Innovative, Solar-Powered Toilet

A revolutionary University of Colorado Boulder toilet, fueled by the sun, will assist some of the 2.5 billion people around the world lacking safe and sustainable sanitation.  The technology will be unveiled in India this month. The self-contained, waterless toilet, designed and built using a $777,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has the capability of heating human waste to a high enough temperature to sterilize it and create biochar, a highly porous charcoal, said project principal investigator Karl Linden, professor of environmental engineering. The biochar can be used to both increase crop yields and sequester carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. According to the Gates Foundation, the awards recognize researchers who are developing ways to manage human waste that will help improve the health and lives of people around the world. Unsafe methods to capture and treat human waste result in serious health problems and death – food and water tainted with pathogens from fecal matter results in the deaths of roughly 700,000 children each year. Linden’s team is one of 16 around the world funded by the Gates “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” since 2011.SourceAlso: Have a new design idea? Enter our Create the Future Design Contest.  

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System Enables Unmanned Aircraft to Detect Another in Flight

Queensland University of Technology Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) researchers have made what's believed to be a world-first breakthrough for small unmanned aircraft (UA), developing an onboard system that has enabled a UA to detect another aircraft using vision while in flight.

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