News

Tool Nondestructively Characterizes Structural Materials as they Deform

Materials scientists are busy developing advanced materials, while also working to squeeze every bit of performance out of existing materials. This is particularly true in the aerospace industry, where small advantages in weight or extreme temperature tolerance quickly translate into tremendous performance benefits.

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NASA Tests New 'Twist' on Wing Design

Putting a literal and metaphorical twist on conventional designs, researchers at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center and Langley Research Center investigated a new aircraft aerodynamic wing scheme.

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Is AI good for management?

This week's Question: The Japanese electronics maker Hitachi Ltd. said it has developed a new artificial intelligence program that will enable robots to deliver instructions to employees based on analyses of big data and the workers’ routines. According to a Hitachi spokesperson, the AI program improved a warehouse work efficiency by 8%. Tests showed that artificial intelligence could accurately issue work orders for employees at the warehouse, instructing them on the most efficient route to pick up a product. The software, however, removes human intervention from the work processes. What do you think? Is AI good for management? 

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Robots Provide 3D Map of England's Deepwater Canyons

Using a unique combination of marine robotics and ship-based measurements, the Southampton, UK-based National Oceanography Centre (NOC) produced a three-dimensional picture of submarine canyon habitats. The information captured in the new set of maps ranges in scale from the 200-km canyon down to the size of an individual cold-water coral polyp. The data will be used to inform the management of the only English Marine Conservation Zone in deep water.

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Fluidic Actuator Harnesses Instability to Trigger Movement

Soft machines and robots are becoming more and more functional, capable of moving, jumping, gripping an object, and even changing color. The elements responsible for their actuation motion are often soft, inflatable segments called fluidic actuators. These actuators require large amounts of air or water to change shape, making the machines slow, bulky and difficult to untether.   Harvard researchers engineered a new, soft actuator that harnesses the power of instability to trigger instantaneous movement.

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New Approach Gives Robotic Grippers More Dexterity

Most robots on a factory floor are equipped with large pincers or claws to grab an object and place it somewhere else in an assembly line. Engineers at MIT have now hit upon a way to impart more dexterity to simple robotic grippers: using the environment as a helping hand. The team developed a model that predicts the force with which a robotic gripper needs to push against various fixtures in the environment in order to adjust its grasp on an object.

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Recycling Electric Motor Permanent Magnets

The latest generation of electric motors is increasingly being equipped with strong, multi-ton permanent magnets instead of a gearbox. The most powerful magnets are based on neodymium, iron, and boron. Dysprosium is also frequently contained. But while iron and boron are readily available, the supply of neodymium and dysprosium is critical. Therefore, scientists are trying to recycle magnets. Up until now, this meant extracting the rare earth elements from the magnets again.

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