Tech Briefs

New Microscope Uses Adaptable Mirror to Create Clearer Images

The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NBIB) has developed a microscope that increases resolution and contrast in thick biological samples. The new microscope improves on its predecessor by combining two-photon laser scanning microscopy (2PM) with instant structured illumination microscopy (ISIM). Key to the development, was including adaptive optics (AO) to rapidly correct distortions.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics

Soft Robot “Walks” on Any Terrain

Traditional robots often feature isolated mechanical joints. These discrete components limit a rover’s ability to traverse sand, stone, and other challenging environments. A team at the University of California San Diego has demonstrated a more flexible option: a soft robot that lifts its legs over obstacles and operates on a variety of terrains. The 3D-printed quadrupedal technology may someday support search-and-rescue missions requiring intelligent navigation capabilities.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control, Automation, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Terrain, Kinematics, Additive manufacturing, Robotics, Autonomous vehicles

High-Temperature Actuators Bend as They “Breathe”

The mechanical components are made from films that expand and contract as they let oxygen in and out.

Extreme temperatures are hard for mechanical components to endure without degrading. To address the problem, researchers at MIT worked with several other universities to develop a new way to make actuators that could be used in exceptionally hot environments.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control, Automation, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Heat resistant materials, Materials properties, Test equipment and instrumentation

3D-Printed Tensegrity Object Can Change Shape

The technology creates a large, lightweight, strong object that can be flattened and then expanded to its full size when heated.

A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology has developed a way to use 3D printers to create objects capable of dramatic expansion. The technology could someday be used in applications ranging from space missions to biomedical devices. The new 3D-printed objects use tensegrity, a structural system of floating rods in compression and cables in continuous tension. The researchers fabricated the struts from shape memory polymers that unfold when heated.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control, Automation, Thermodynamics, Thermodynamics, Additive manufacturing, Fabrication, Materials properties, Polymers, Smart materials

Flat, Triangular Modules Connect to Form Origami Robot

Using two genderless mechanisms, module sides are connected and folded to create reconfigurable 3D structures.

Origami robots are composed of thin structures that can fold and unfold to change shape. They are compact and lightweight, but have functional restrictions related to size, shape, and how many folds can be created. On the other hand, modular robots use large numbers of individual entities to reconfigure the overall shape and address diverse tasks. These robots are more flexible when it comes to shape and configuration, but they are generally bulky and complex.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control, Automation, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Fabrication, Robotics, Lightweight materials, Materials properties

Straws Help Create Simple Robot Joints

Plastic drinking straws and inflatable tubing are used to build machines that walk like insects.

Inspired by arthropod insects and spiders, Harvard professor George Whitesides and Alex Nemiroski, a former postdoctoral fellow in Whitesides’ Harvard lab, used ordinary plastic drinking straws to create a type of semi-soft robot capable of standing and walking. The team also created a robotic water strider capable of pushing itself along the liquid surface.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control, Automation, Design processes, Robotics, Materials properties, Plastics

High-Speed Network Protocol for Faster, More Reliable Emergency Response

Anew network protocol — the Multi Node Label Routing (MNLR) protocol — was developed to improve the information flow between emergency responders at the scene of an incident and decision-makers at the office of emergency management.

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Communication protocols, Communication protocols, Disaster and emergency management, Emergency management, Hazards and emergency management, Hazards and emergency operations

Conductive Particle Assembly Enables Creation of Two-Dimensional Electronic Circuits

Fabrication of one-dimensional granular and colloidal materials can be used for granular conductors, flexible electronics for wearable devices, and electromagnetic energy transport.

One-dimensional conductive particle assembly holds promise for a variety of practical applications; in particular, for a new generation of electronic devices. Synthesis of such chains with programmable shapes outside a liquid environment has proven difficult.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Electronic equipment, Integrated circuits, Electronic equipment, Integrated circuits, Conductivity

Omni Jaw 5™ Powered Protrusion Cutter

With an interchangeable jaw, the tool can be used as a bolt cutter, punch, or shear.

In many manufacturing and construction activities, it is frequently necessary to remove a protrusion of material from a component or from a substrate surface. These removal operations include clipping the head off a bolt, or removing a nut, rivet, weld bead, or temporary assembly alignment tab from a substrate surface of assembled components. These operations may be required during normal assembly, during demolition of equipment or facilities, or during product repair or manufacturing rework activities.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Maintenance, Repair and Service Operations, Maintenance, repair, and service operations, Tools and equipment, Assembling, Cutting

Low-Cost Chip Extends Life of Battery Sensors

Batteries in sensors last longer – in some cases, more than ten times longer.

A voltage detector chip was developed that requires only a few trillionths of a Watt (picowatts) to activate other circuits, enabling engineers to design sensors that continuously listen, without using power from a battery or mains. The result is smaller batteries, or a battery life that is extended, in some cases by years. The voltage detector can also eliminate standby power.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors, Batteries, Integrated circuits, Sensors and actuators, Batteries, Integrated circuits, Sensors and actuators

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