UpFront

Groundbreaking Air Cleaner Removes VOCs

Industries across Europe are threatened as European Union emission rules for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are tightened. Now an aircleaning invention from the University of Copenhagen has proven its ability to remove these compounds. Atmospheric chemist Matthew Johnson invented and patented the air-cleaning method that is based on the natural ability of the Earth’s atmosphere to clean itself. In a process triggered by sunlight, polluting gasses rising into the sky start forming particles when they come across naturally occurring compounds such as ozone. The newly formed particles are washed out of the atmosphere by rain. Once the rain hits the ground, the atmosphere is clean again.

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Curiosity Update

The NASA Mars rover Curiosity recently drove within a shallow depression called “Yellowknife Bay,” providing information to help researchers choose a rock to drill. Using Curiosity’s percussive drill to collect a sample from the interior of a rock, a feat never before attempted on Mars, is the mission’s priority for early 2013. Yellowknife Bay is within a different type of terrain from what the rover has traversed since landing last August. Watch Tech Briefs TV for the latest videos of the mission at www.techbriefs.com/tv/mars. Keep up with Curiosity at http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl.

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App of the Month: NASA Earth As Art

Earth-observing environmental satellites have provided invaluable in formation, and the vantage point of space has provided new perspectives on Earth. This app celebrates Earth’s aesthetic beauty in the patterns, shapes, colors, and textures of the land, oceans, ice, and atmosphere. The app features stunning images of Earth from satellites, and draws on several images from the USGS Landsat image gallery while also introducing many new images. Download the iPad app at www.nasa.gov/connect/ebooks/earth_art_detail.html.

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Zapping Deadly Bacteria Using Space Technology

Using plasma — electrically charged gas — Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics director Gregor Morfill is developing ways to kill bacteria and viruses that can cause infections in hospitals. The research began on the International Space Station in 2001.

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PTC Event Highlights Inspiration

At PlanetPTC Live, the annual worldwide gathering of PTC (www.ptc.com) customers held in Orlando last month, the focus was on inspiration. Industry thought-leaders presented their stories of how inspiration can impact the world around us.

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Rubber-Band Electronics

What if the testing done at hospitals could be conducted in the patient’s home, office, or car? Scientists foresee a time when medical monitoring devices are integrated into the human body to track vital signs. But electronics are too rigid. Researchers at Northwestern University developed a design that allows electronics to bend and stretch to more than 200 percent their original size. The key is a combination of a porous polymer and liquid metal. A highly porous 3D structure was created using a polymer material, poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS), that can stretch to three times its original size. Then they placed a liquid metal (EGaIn) inside the pores, allowing electricity to flow consistently even when the material is excessively stretched. The result is a material that is both highly stretchable and extremely conductive.

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App of the Month: Idea Sketch

Idea Sketch lets you easily draw a diagram, map, or flow chart and convert it to a text outline, and vice versa. It can be used for brainstorming new ideas, illustrating concepts, and more. There’s no drawing required — just enter your text and move the shapes around. Idea Sketch is available free for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/idea-sketch/id367246522?mt=8

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