News

NASA Balloons Study Effects of Volcanic Eruption

A team of NASA and University of Wyoming scientists has ventured into the Australian bush to send a series of balloons aloft. The balloons will make measurements of a volcanic plume originating from neighboring Indonesia.The campaign, in Australia’s Northern Territory, is part of an effort to better understand the climate effects of volcanic eruptions.The KlAsh (Kelud Ash) experiment is based in Darwin, Australia, where smaller balloon payloads are being launched over the Indian Ocean. Larger balloons, with payloads that must be recovered, are being launched from Corroboree, a remote area about 60 miles south of Darwin.The larger balloon, filled with helium, measures about 115 by 65 feet when fully inflated.Almost all of the energy entering Earth’s climate system comes from the sun. Some of that energy is absorbed by the planet, while the rest is radiated back into space. Ash and sulfate reflect and absorb energy differently, and may also have different chemical impacts on the stratosphere.“Understanding those characteristics is important for climate models that include periodic volcanic activity,” said Terry Deshler, principal investigator for the University of Wyoming’s instrumentation.SourceAlso: Learn about Targeting and Monitoring of Volcanic Activity.

Posted in: Environmental Monitoring, Green Design & Manufacturing, Test & Measurement, Monitoring, News

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Would You Be Satisfied with a "Smart Home?"

Technology companies, including Google and Apple, are investing in "smart home" technologies that connect household devices — lighting, security systems, garage-door openers, climate controllers or kitchen appliances — with mobile devices. Research indicates that the global "smart home" industry will grow. Some have concerns, however, that the technology could be hacked, lead to a clutter of multiple apps, and make the smartphone a single point of failure.

Posted in: Question of the Week

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New Algorithms Enable Self-Assembling, Printable Robots

In two new papers, MIT researchers demonstrate the promise of printable robotic components that, when heated, automatically fold into prescribed three-dimensional configurations.One paper describes a system that takes a digital specification of a 3-D shape — such as a computer-aided design, or CAD, file — and generates the 2-D patterns that would enable a piece of plastic to reproduce it through self-folding.The other paper explains how to build electrical components from self-folding laser-cut materials. The researchers present designs for resistors, inductors, and capacitors, as well as sensors and actuators — the electromechanical “muscles” that enable robots’ movements.“We have this big dream of the hardware compiler, where you can specify, ‘I want a robot that will play with my cat,’ or ‘I want a robot that will clean the floor,’ and from this high-level specification, you actually generate a working device,” said Daniela Rus, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT.SourceAlso: Learn about Self-Assembling, Flexible, Pre-Ceramic Composite Preforms.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Electronic Components, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Motion Control, Motors & Drives, Power Transmission, Sensors, Software, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Mathematical/Scientific Software, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News

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Motion-Sensing Keyboard Lets Users Hover and Swipe

Microsoft engineers have developed a new type of augmented mechanical keyboard, sensing rich and expressive motion gestures performed both on and directly above the device. A low-resolution matrix of infrared (IR) proximity sensors is interspersed with the keys of a regular mechanical keyboard. This results in coarse, but high frame-rate motion data.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, PCs/Portable Computers, Mechanical Components, Sensors, Software, Mathematical/Scientific Software, News

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New Rotary Sensor Keeps Conveyor Belts Running Smoothly

Rotary sensors can help determine the position of a moveable body in relation to an axis. They are essential to the smooth running of car engines in the automotive industry, for example. In factories, goods and products are transported from one processing station to the next via conveyor belt. For the transfer from one belt to the next to run smoothly, it must take place precisely at a specific position, which means knowing the relative position of objects on the conveyor belts as they move towards each other. This can be determined from the angle of rotation, which refers to the position of a moveable body to an axis.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Electronic Components, Photonics, Optics, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Industrial Controls & Automation, Consumer Product Manufacturing, Sensors, Test & Measurement, Measuring Instruments, News

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Wireless System Paves Way for 'Electroceutical' Medical Devices

A wireless system uses the same power as a cell phone to safely transmit energy to chips the size of a grain of rice. The technology paves the way for new "electroceutical" devices to treat illness or alleviate pain.The central discovery is an engineering breakthrough that creates a new type of wireless power transfer that can safely penetrate deep inside the body. The technology could spawn a new generation of programmable microimplants – sensors to monitor vital functions deep inside the body; electrostimulators to change neural signals in the brain; and drug delivery systems to apply medicines directly to affected areas.SourceAlso: Visit Medical Design Briefs.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Electronic Components, Power Management, Implants & Prosthetics, Medical, Drug Delivery & Fluid Handling, Patient Monitoring, Communications, Wireless, RF & Microwave Electronics, Semiconductors & ICs, News

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Will You Use a Smartphone Spectrometer Before You Eat?

SCiO, a handheld molecular sensor, allows users to scan their food to check its nutritional value and alcohol, sugar, or calorie content. The spectroscopy product from the Israeli startup Consumer Physics is paired with a smartphone and shines near-infrared light on the food to stimulate and record molecular reactions. An accompanying app then displays the nutritional values for the users.

Posted in: Question of the Week

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