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Are you excited about smartphone virtual reality options?

Virtual reality will reach mobile devices, thanks to two commercially available headsets: the Samsung Gear VR and LG VRTX One. Both use a smartphone to deliver 360-degree gaming and videos. With the immersive Samsung and LG devices, users must place their phones into the front of the headset and over their eyes. They can then move their head to see different parts of the artificial environment. The efforts could potentially introduce virtual reality to a mass audience. What do you think? Are you excited about smartphone virtual reality options?

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Device Harvests Power from Natural Temperature Fluctuations

University of Washington researchers have created a power harvester that uses natural fluctuations in temperature and pressure as its power source. The device harvests energy in any location where these temperature changes naturally occur, powering sensors that can check for water leaks or structural deficiencies in hard-to-reach places and alerting users by sending out a wireless signal.“Pressure changes and temperature fluctuations happen around us all the time in the environment, which could provide another source of energy for certain applications,” said Shwetak Patel, a UW associate professor of computer science and engineering and of electrical engineering.A metal bellows about the size of a cantaloupe is filled with a temperature-sensitive gas. When the gas heats and cools in response to the outside air temperature, it expands and contracts, causing the bellows to do the same. Small, cantilever motion harvesters are placed on the bellows and convert the kinetic energy into electrical energy. The process powers sensors that also are placed on the bellows, and data collected by the sensors is sent wirelessly to a receiver.The researchers say this technology would be useful in places where sun and radio waves can’t always penetrate, such as inside walls or bridges and below ground where there might be at least small temperature fluctuations.SourceAlso: Learn about Bi-Axial Vibration Energy Harvesting.

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Sun-Powered Desalination Provides Potable Water

Around the world, there is more salty groundwater than fresh, drinkable groundwater. For example, 60 percent of India is underlain by salty water — and much of that area is not served by an electric grid that could run conventional reverse-osmosis desalination plants.Now an analysis by MIT researchers shows that a different desalination technology called electrodialysis, powered by solar panels, could provide enough clean, palatable drinking water to supply the needs of a typical village. By pairing village-scale electrodialysis systems — a bit smaller than the industrial-scale units typically produced today — with a simple set of solar panels and a battery system to store the produced energy, an economically viable and culturally acceptable system could double the area of India in which groundwater — which is inherently safer, in terms of pathogen loads, than surface water — could provide acceptable drinking water.Electrodialysis works by passing a stream of water between two electrodes with opposite charges. Because the salt dissolved in water consists of positive and negative ions, the electrodes pull the ions out of the water, leaving fresher water at the center of the flow. A series of membranes separate the freshwater stream from increasingly salty ones.The researcher plan to put together a working prototype for field evaluations in India in January.SourceAlso: Learn about a System For Measuring Osmotic Transport Properties of a Membrane.

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Army Selected for Joint Strike Fighter Software Assessment

The F-35 Joint Program Office has selected the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center to perform independent software safety analyses of the next-generation strike aircraft commonly called the Joint Strike Fighter. The single-engine, single-seat F-35 will be manufactured in three versions: a conventional-takeoff-and-landing variant for the Air Force, an aircraft-carrier variant for the Navy, and a short- takeoff/vertical landing variant for the Marine Corps and the U.K. Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.

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Researchers Work to Create Smarter Underwater Drones

An underwater drone armed with the best technology on the planet descended repeatedly to the bottom of the Indian Ocean, trying to find the remains of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, and time after time, it turned up nothing. If Nina Mahmoudian has her way, however, the next generation of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) will have a much better chance of getting it right.

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NASA Engineers Develop 3D Printed Rocket Injectors

NASA engineers pushed the limits of technology by designing a rocket engine injector — a highly complex part that sends propellant into the engine — with design features that took advantage of 3D printing. To make the parts, the design was entered into the 3-D printer's computer. The printer then built each part by layering metal powder and fusing it together with a laser, a process known as selective laser melting.The additive manufacturing process allowed rocket designers to create an injector with 40 individual spray elements, all printed as a single component rather than manufactured individually. The part was similar in size to injectors that power small rocket engines and similar in design to injectors for large engines, such as the RS-25 engine that will power NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) — the heavy-lift, exploration class rocket under development to take humans beyond Earth orbit and to Mars. "We wanted to go a step beyond just testing an injector and demonstrate how 3D printing could revolutionize rocket designs for increased system performance," said Chris Singer, director of Marshall's Engineering Directorate. "The parts performed exceptionally well during the tests."Using traditional manufacturing methods, 163 individual parts would be made and then assembled. With 3D printing technology, only two parts were required, saving time and money and allowing engineers to build parts that enhance rocket engine performance and are less prone to failure.Source Also: Learn about the Peregrine 100-km Sounding Rocket Project.

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Researchers Create See-Through Solar Concentrator

A team of researchers at Michigan State University has developed a new type of solar concentrator that when placed over a window creates solar energy.The device is called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator and can be used on buildings, cell phones, and any other device that has a clear surface.And, according to Richard Lunt of MSU’s College of Engineering, the key word is “transparent.”The solar harvesting system uses small organic molecules developed by Lunt and his team to absorb specific nonvisible wavelengths of sunlight.The “glowing” infrared light is guided to the edge of the plastic where it is converted to electricity by thin strips of photovoltaic solar cells.“Because the materials do not absorb or emit light in the visible spectrum, they look exceptionally transparent to the human eye,” said Richard Lunt of MSU’s College of Engineering.SourceAlso: Learn about High-Efficiency Nested Hall Thrusters for Robotic Solar System Exploration.

Posted in: Materials, Plastics, Solar Power, Renewable Energy, Energy, Semiconductors & ICs, News

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