Six-Legged Robots Move Faster with Bipod Gate

Researchers have discovered a faster and more efficient gait, never observed in nature, for six-legged robots walking on flat ground. Bio-inspired gaits, which are less efficient for robots, are used by real insects because they have adhesive pads to walk in three dimensions. (Credit: EPFL/Alain Herzog)

Researchers in Lausanne, Switzerland have determined that a bipod gait is the fastest and most efficient way for six-legged robots to move on flat ground, provided they don’t have the adhesive pads used by insects to climb walls and ceilings. This suggests designers of insect-inspired robots should make a break with the nature-inspired tripod-gait paradigm.

Posted in: News, Motion Control, Robotics

Will packages be effectively delivered by parachute?

This week's Question: Amazon recently filed a patent for parachute-aided delivery of packages. The proposed idea imagines drones releasing parcels from the sky, deploying parachutes to slow their descent and ensure the valuables inside remain intact. To address gusts of wind or unexpected obstacles, a drone will hover nearby, monitoring a package as it falls. If the parcel moves off course, the drone can deploy methods (like bursts of compressed air!) to correct its descent. What do you think? Will packages be effectively delivered by parachute?

Posted in: Question of the Week, Aviation

Researchers Advance Printable Solar Cell Possibilities

By finding a new way to manufacture low-cost perovskite solar cells, a team at the University of Toronto believes that making solar cells could someday be as easy and inexpensive as printing a newspaper. The researchers' alternative solar technology supports the development of low-cost, printable solar panels capable of turning nearly any surface into a power generator.

Posted in: News, Solar Power

Will "$100-per-killowatt-hours" batteries boost wind and solar energy efforts?

This week’s Question: The Department of Energy (DOE) has set a goal of building a battery that stores energy for less than $100 per kilowatt-hour, making stored wind and solar energy competitive with energy produced from traditional power plants. Today’s lead INSIDER story featured a new flow battery that offers the potential to significantly decrease the costs of production. "If you can get anywhere near this cost target then you change the world," said researcher Michael Aziz. "It becomes cost effective to put batteries in so many places. This research puts us one step closer to reaching that target." What do you think? Will "$100-per-killowatt-hours" batteries boost wind and solar energy efforts?

Posted in: Question of the Week, Energy, Energy Storage

Long-Lasting Flow Battery Advances Renewable Energy Efforts

A new flow battery from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) stores energy in organic molecules dissolved in neutral pH water. Losing only one percent of its capacity per 1000 cycles, the non-toxic, non-corrosive device offers the potential to significantly decrease the costs of production.

Posted in: News, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Renewable Energy, Wind Power

Electricity Generator Mimics Trees

The biomimetic tree's leaves, modeled after cottonwood leaves, rely on piezoelectrical processes to produce electricity. (Photo by Christopher Gannon)

Iowa State University scientists have built a device that mimics the branches and leaves of a cottonwood tree and generates electricity when its artificial leaves sway in the wind. The device is derived from biomimetics, or the use of artificial means to mimic natural processes. Such biomimetic technology could become a market for those who want to generate limited amounts of wind energy without the need for tall and obstructive towers or turbines.

Posted in: News, Energy Efficiency, Wind Power

Energy Management System Cuts Hybrid Fuel Consumption by One-Third

Xuewei Qi and a team of UCR researchers are using vehicle connectivity and evolutionary algorithms to improve the efficiency of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Engineers at the University of California, Riverside have taken inspiration from biological evolution and the energy savings garnered by birds flying in formation to improve the efficiency of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) by more than 30 percent.

Posted in: News, Energy Efficiency

Will telepresence drones take off?

This week’s Question: According to a recent application made public last week, Google is hoping to patent a "mobile telepresence system." The proposed drone is designed for collaboration with colleagues from remote locations. The technology will fly indoors and move from room to room, adjusting to unpredictable floor plans. What do you think? Will telepresence drones take off?

Posted in: Question of the Week, Robotics

Light-Absorbent Material Keeps Buildings Cool

Engineers at the University of California San Diego have created a thin, flexible, light-absorbing material that absorbs more than 87 percent of near-infrared light. The technology could someday support the development of solar cells; transparent window coatings to keep cars and buildings cool; and lightweight shields that block thermal detection.

Posted in: News, Materials

Data Logger Aids in Development of New Vehicles

A new data logger developed by Fraunhofer researchers simultaneously collects data from vehicles with combustion engines, electric drives, external sensors, and location data, and permits the development of new hybrid and electric vehicles. Once installed in a car, it records all the relevant operational data from the trips the car makes over a period of several weeks or months, enabling evaluation of how a car is used, including characteristics such as route profiles or driving style – when does the driver drive more cautiously, when more aggressively?

Posted in: News, Monitoring, Test & Measurement

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