Materials

'Squid Skin' Metamaterial Yields Vivid Color Display

The quest to create artificial "squid skin" — camouflaging metamaterials that can "see" colors and automatically blend into the background — is one step closer to reality, thanks to a color-display technology by Rice University's Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP).The new full-color display technology uses aluminum nanoparticles to create the vivid red, blue, and green hues found in today's top-of-the-line LCD televisions and monitors.The breakthrough is the latest in a string of recent discoveries by a Rice-led team that set out in 2010 to create metamaterials capable of mimicking the camouflage abilities of cephalopods — the family of marine creatures that includes squid, octopus, and cuttlefish.LANP's new color display technology delivers bright red, blue, and green hues from five-micron-square pixels that each contains several hundred aluminum nanorods. By varying the length of the nanorods and the spacing between them, LANP researchers Stephan Link and Jana Olson showed they could create pixels that produced dozens of colors, including rich tones of red, green, and blue that are comparable to those found in high-definition LCD displays.

Posted in: Imaging, Displays/Monitors/HMIs, Materials, Nanotechnology, News

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Untethered Soft Robot Walks Through Flames

Developers from Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have produced the first untethered soft robot — a quadruped that can stand up and walk away from its designers.The researchers were able to scale up earlier soft-robot designs, enabling a single robot to carry on its back all the equipment it needs to operate — micro-compressors, control systems, and batteries.Compared with earlier soft robots, which were typically no larger than a steno pad, the system is huge, measuring more than a half-meter in length and capable of carrying as much as 7½ pounds on its back.Giving the untethered robot the strength needed to carry mechanical components meant air pressures as high as 16 pounds per square inch, more than double the seven psi used by many earlier robot designs. To deal with the increased pressure, the robot had to be made of tougher stuff.The material settled on was a “composite” silicone rubber made from stiff rubber impregnated with hollow glass microspheres to reduce the robot’s weight. The robot’s bottom was made from Kevlar fabric to ensure it was tough and lightweight. The result was a robot that can stand up to a host of extreme conditions.SourceAlso: Learn about a Field-Reconfigurable Manipulator for Rovers.

Posted in: Materials, Composites, Mechanical Components, Motion Control, Motors & Drives, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News

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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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Toughened Uni-piece Fibrous Reinforced Oxidation-Resistant Composite (TUFROC)

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California TUFROC has an exposed surface edge design and an appropriate materials combination for a space vehicle that will survive the mechanical stresses induced in the initial ascent, and will subsequently survive the extreme heating and mechanically stressful environment of re-entry. It provides a thermal protection tile attachment system, suitable for application to a space vehicle leading edge, and for other uses in extreme heating environments [up to 3,600 °F (1,982 °C), and possibly higher, for short time intervals].

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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High-Efficiency Tantalum-Based Ceramic Composite Structures

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California High-efficiency tantalum-based ceramic (HETC) composite structures are suitable for use in thermal protection systems. These composite structures have high-efficiency surfaces (low catalytic efficiency and high-emittance), thereby reducing heat flux to a spacecraft during planetary reentry. These low catalytic efficiency and high-emittance ceramic materials were developed in order to increase the capability of a Toughened Uni-Piece Fibrous Insulation (TUFI)-like thermal protection system, with its high-impact resistance, to temperatures above 3,000 °F (≈1,650 °C). These ceramics have been applied to various aerodynamic configurations, such as wedge, wing-leading segment, and conventional tile shapes used on high-speed atmospheric entry vehicles. In addition, this family of tantalum-based ceramics exhibits low catalytic efficiency to atom recombination during exposure to highenergy dissociated hypersonic flow.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Use of Solvent-Free Conditions/Dry Mixing for Functionalizing Carbon Nanotubes

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas Two methods have been developed for functionalizing carbon nanotubes in solvent-free conditions. In one method, purified single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) and a diazonium salt are added to a metal vial, which is loaded with a stainless steel ball bearing. The metal vial is clamped into a mill mixer, and is mixed for one hour. The unreacted diazonium salt is then dissolved in a volume of acetonitrile that efficiently solubilizes the salt to remove the unreacted functionalization reagent. The functionalized nanotubes are then collected by filtration.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Synthesis of Novel Copoly(alkyl ether imide)s With Unique Surface Properties

These materials have potential applications in marine biofouling, biomedical devices, microfluidics, corrosion and stain resistance, ice and water adhesion, and drag reduction. Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia Copoly(alkyl ether imide)s were synthesized for the purposes of tailoring surface chemistry. Alkyl ether oligomers with amine end groups were synthesized from the hydroxyl-terminated species, and subsequently reacted with aromatic dianhydrides and diamines to make the copolymers. Films were solution-cast from the copolymers and exhibited reduced surface energy and increased surface fluorine content at extremely low loadings relative to the imide matrix. These copolymers are currently being evaluated for mitigation of particle adhesion and fouling from exposure to various particle and biological contaminants. Additionally, the surface migration of the oxetane segments can be used as a shuttle to bring other designed chemical constituents to the surface.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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