News

Nanogenerator Harvests Power from Rolling Tires

A group of University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers and a collaborator from China have developed a nanogenerator that harvests energy from a car's rolling tire friction. The technology ultimately could provide automobile manufacturers with a new way to reuse energy and provide greater vehicle efficiency.

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Diamond-Like Coating Application Improves Engine Components

Applying carbon coatings to engine components, such as piston rings and pins, reduces friction and lowers fuel consumption. Using a new laser-based method, researchers at Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Munich, Germany, say they can now produce layers of carbon that are almost as hard as diamond. The team of researchers have created hydrogen-free tetrahedral amorphous carbon coatings of up to 20 micrometers, which, they say, are more resistant to wear than conventional diamond-like coatings.

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Researchers Prevent Fires in Next-Gen Lithium Batteries

New research from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Menlo Park, CA, could help remove a major barrier to developing lithium-sulfur and lithium-air batteries. The SLAC engineering team discovered that adding two chemicals to a lithium metal battery's electrolyte prevents the formation of dendrites, “fingers” of lithium that pierce the barrier between the battery’s halves and cause electrical shorts, overheating, and fires. The engineers discovered that adding both chemicals, in specific amounts, stopped lithium dendrite formation and the lithium metal electrode acquired a stable protective coating that improved the battery’s performance.

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Will remote-controlled passenger flights take off in the next 5 years?

This week's Question: Last month, the Manassas, VA-based Aurora Flight Sciences Corp. tested its 4100-pound twin-propeller experimental airplane. The Centaur flew without a pilot and within airspace also being used by commercial aircraft. John Langford, the CEO of Aurora, is very optimistic about the test flight and the future of Centaur and other unmanned aircraft. Langford recently told CNN: “I’m a huge believer that the unmanned airplane revolution will make aviation safer for everybody. That isn’t to say there won’t be accidents, but the overall level of safety will go up as the robotic stuff is introduced.” Merging large unmanned aircraft into commercial airspace will require adjustments to aircraft and operator certification, air traffic control, and the FAA's air traffic system. Langford believes that planes like Centaur will be able to fly with FAA approval in 5 to 7 years. What do you think? Will remote-controlled passenger flights take off in the next 5 years?

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New System Stores Solar Energy at Night

Common solar energy systems today are unable to use the generated energy at night or in cloudy conditions. A University of Texas at Arlington materials science and engineering team has developed a new energy cell that stores large-scale solar energy even when it is dark.

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New Method Makes Ultrasensitive Conductivity Measurements

Researchers at Rice University have discovered a new way to make ultrasensitive conductivity measurements at optical frequencies on high-speed nanoscale electronic components. The researchers linked pairs of puck-shaped metal nanodisks with metallic nanowires and showed how the flow of current at optical frequencies through the nanowires produced “charge transfer plasmons” with unique optical signatures.

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Driving Simulator Tests Artificial Lens for Cataract Patients

An advanced driving simulator will be used to test a patient’s driving ability after cataract surgery. The trial will help determine if a newly developed artificial lens will be approved for sale in the United States. The lens replaces the patient’s natural, cataract-ravaged lens during surgery, and the trial will determine if it sufficiently reduces visual distractions caused by headlights when driving at night.

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