Special Coverage

Converting from Hydraulic Cylinders to Electric Actuators
Automating Optimization and Design Tasks Across Disciplines
Vibration Tables Shake Up Aerospace and Car Testing
Supercomputer Cooling System Uses Refrigerant to Replace Water
Computer Chips Calculate and Store in an Integrated Unit
Electron-to-Photon Communication for Quantum Computing
Mechanoresponsive Healing Polymers
Variable Permeability Magnetometer Systems and Methods for Aerospace Applications
Evaluation Standard for Robotic Research

Coming to a Lab Bench Near You: Femtosecond X-Ray Spectroscopy

Upon light activation (in purple, bottom row’s ball-and-stick diagram), the cyclic structure of the 1,3-cyclohexadiene molecule rapidly unravels into a near-linear shape in just 200 femtoseconds. Using ultrafast X-ray spectroscopy, researchers have captured in real time the accompanying transformation of the molecule’s outer electron “clouds” (in yellow and teal, top row’s sphere diagram) as the structure unfurls. (Credit: Kristina Chang/Berkeley Lab)

The ephemeral electron movements in a transient state of a reaction important in biochemical and optoelectronic processes have been captured and, for the first time, directly characterized using ultrafast X-ray spectroscopy at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). Like many rearrangements of molecular structures, the ring-opening reactions in this study occur on timescales of hundreds of femtoseconds (1 femtosecond equals a millionth of a billionth of a second). The researchers were able to collect snapshots of the electronic structure during the reaction by using femtosecond pulses of X-ray light on a tabletop apparatus.

Posted in: News, Lasers & Laser Systems, Optics, Photonics, Measuring Instruments, Test & Measurement
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Engineers Invent Method to Control Light Propagation in Waveguides

Artistic illustration of a photonic integrated device. In one arm an incident fundamental waveguide mode (with one lobe in the waveguide cross-section) is converted into the second-order mode (with two lobes in the waveguide cross-section). In the other arm the incident fundamental waveguide mode is converted into strong surface waves. (Illustration courtesy of Adam Overvig and Nanfang Yu)

A team of Columbia Engineering researchers, led by Applied Physics Assistant Professor Nanfang Yu, has invented a method to control light propagating in confined pathways, or waveguides, with high efficiency by using nano-antennas. To demonstrate this technique, they built photonic integrated devices that not only had record-small footprints but were also able to maintain optimal performance over an unprecedented broad wavelength range.

Posted in: News, Nanotechnology, Optical Components, Optics, Photonics
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Need Glass? Push Print.

LLNL researchers have reported the synthesis of 3D printed transparent glass components using a "slurry" of silica particles extruded through a direct-ink writing process. From left: LLNL chemical engineer and project lead Rebecca Dylla-Spears and LLNL materials engineer Du Nguyen.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists and academic collaborators from the University of Minnesota and Oklahoma State University have demonstrated the synthesis of transparent glass through 3D printing, a development that could ultimately lead to altering the design and structure of lasers and other devices that incorporate optics.

Posted in: News, Lasers & Laser Systems, Optical Components, Optics
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Sound-Off: How are Collaborative Robots Being Used Today?

Are you seeing collaborative robots being integrated into today's production and manufacturing environments? Tech Briefs invites you to "Sound Off" on the role of "cobots."

Posted in: News, Robotics
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What's New on Tech Briefs: Brickmaking on Mars a 'Smashing' Success

With support from Congress and the President, NASA aims to send a manned mission to Mars by 2040. Establishing a human presence on the Red Planet, however, will require permanent shelters.

And lugging a pile of bricks on the nine-month, 35-million-mile trip is out of the question.

Posted in: News, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling
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Human-Robot Interaction: When Robotics Meets Philosophy

To support human-robot interaction, designers are taking a page from philosophy and studying how we work together with one another.

Posted in: News, Automation, Robotics
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A Shape-Changing Display – Made from Fog

Researchers from the University of Sussex are the first to combine two cutting-edge visualization technologies in one: a fog screen and a shape-shifting display. The “MistForm” system, according to one of its creators, enables interaction capabilities that improve upon today’s virtual- and augmented-reality offerings.

Posted in: News, Displays/Monitors/HMIs, Imaging
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Tech Briefs Q&A: Photocatalyst Device Turns Pollution into Power

Researchers from the University of Antwerp and KU Leuven have built a proof-of-concept device that performs two noble functions simultaneously: purifying polluted air and generating power. Read the Tech Briefs Q&A with Professor Sammy Verbruggen.

Posted in: News, Energy, Energy Harvesting, Energy Storage, Renewable Energy, Solar Power
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Infrared 3D Scanner Measures Like Human Vision

With the new infrared 3D scanner, people can be measured without disturbing projections. (© Photo Fraunhofer IOF)

A 3D scanner, with a resolution of one million pixels and real-time data processing, operates using measuring technology that works in a similar way to human vision. To detect an object, periodic patterns are projected onto the surface using a specially developed near-infrared projector. A sequence of different patterns is projected in rapid succession in order to record as many measurement points as possible by the two cameras.

Posted in: News, Measuring Instruments, Test & Measurement
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High-Efficiency Power Converter for the Internet of Things

Researchers from MIT’s Microsystems Technologies Laboratories (MTL) have designed a new power converter that maintains its efficiency at currents ranging from 100 picoamps to 1 milliamp.

Internet of Things sensors will have to operate at very low powers to extend battery life for months, or make do with energy harvested from the environment. But that means that they’ll need to draw a wide range of electrical currents. Researchers from MIT developed a new step-down power converter that features a variable clock that can run switch controllers at a wide range of rates.

Posted in: News, Energy Storage, Renewable Energy
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