News

'Smart' Paper Responds to Gestures

Researchers from the University of Washington, Disney Research, and Carnegie Mellon University have added sensing capabilities  to a piece of paper. Small radio frequency (RFID) tags are placed, printed, or drawn onto the "PaperID" technology to create interactive, lightweight interfaces.

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NASA Selects Eight Aerospace Technology Proposals for Investment

NASA has selected eight technology proposals for investment. The ideas have the potential to transform future aerospace missions, introduce new capabilities, and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.

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Unexpected Discovery Leads to a Better Battery

An unexpected discovery has led to a rechargeable battery that's as inexpensive as conventional car batteries, but has a much higher energy density. The new battery could become a cost-effective, environmentally friendly alternative for storing renewable energy and supporting the power grid. The Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) identified this energy storage gem after realizing the new battery works in a different way than they had assumed.

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Researchers Turn Urine into Power Source for Electronic Devices

A microbial fuel cell uses natural biological processes of ‘electric’ bacteria to turn organic matter, such as urine, into electricity. These fuel cells are efficient and relatively cheap to run, and produce nearly zero waste compared to other methods of electricity generation. Urine passes through the microbial fuel cell for the reaction to happen. From here, electricity is generated by the bacteria, and can then be stored or used to directly power electrical devices.

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Graphene Layer Lets Solar Cells Generate Power When it Rains

Chinese researchers have introduced a new approach for making an all-weather solar cell that is triggered by both sunlight and raindrops. To convert solar energy to electricity, the team developed a highly efficient dye-sensitized solar cell. In order to allow rain to produce electricity as well, they coated this cell with a whisper-thin film of graphene.

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Five-Fingered Robot Gets a Grip

Intricate tasks that require dexterous in-hand manipulation — rolling, pivoting, bending, and sensing friction — are a challenge for today's robots. A University of Washington team of computer scientists and engineers has built a robotic hand that performs dexterous manipulation and "learns" from its own experience. The five-fingered robot, for example, can spin a tube full of coffee beans without needing human direction.

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Students' Decelerator Design Wins NASA's 'Big Idea' Challenge

Students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign took top honors in NASA’s first Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge. The challenge: To increase the lift-to-drag ratio on the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) in ways that could potentially help NASA land heavier payloads. The HIAD inflatable device is designed to slow down a spacecraft upon atmospheric re-entry to Earth or other planets.

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