Special Coverage

Technique Provides Security for Multi-Robot Systems
Bringing New Vision to Laser Material Processing Systems
NASA Tests Lasers’ Ability to Transmit Data from Space
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

Fluidic Actuator Harnesses Instability to Trigger Movement

Soft machines and robots are becoming more and more functional, capable of moving, jumping, gripping an object, and even changing color. The elements responsible for their actuation motion are often soft, inflatable segments called fluidic actuators. These actuators require large amounts of air or water to change shape, making the machines slow, bulky and difficult to untether.   Harvard researchers engineered a new, soft actuator that harnesses the power of instability to trigger instantaneous movement.

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New Approach Gives Robotic Grippers More Dexterity

Most robots on a factory floor are equipped with large pincers or claws to grab an object and place it somewhere else in an assembly line. Engineers at MIT have now hit upon a way to impart more dexterity to simple robotic grippers: using the environment as a helping hand. The team developed a model that predicts the force with which a robotic gripper needs to push against various fixtures in the environment in order to adjust its grasp on an object.

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Recycling Electric Motor Permanent Magnets

The latest generation of electric motors is increasingly being equipped with strong, multi-ton permanent magnets instead of a gearbox. The most powerful magnets are based on neodymium, iron, and boron. Dysprosium is also frequently contained. But while iron and boron are readily available, the supply of neodymium and dysprosium is critical. Therefore, scientists are trying to recycle magnets. Up until now, this meant extracting the rare earth elements from the magnets again.

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New Method Builds Microscopic Robots of Complex Shapes

Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego used an innovative 3D printing technology they developed to manufacture multipurpose fish-shaped microrobots that swim around efficiently in liquids, are chemically powered by hydrogen peroxide, and magnetically controlled.

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Fabrication Technique Cuts Cost of Aircraft Turbine Production

Compressor disks for aircraft turbines are milled from a single piece of material. During processing, the blades begin to vibrate. Now, a novel clamping system boosts vibration absorption for the blades by more than 400 times, and cuts manufacturing costs. The new clamping system lets manufacturers roughly mill the blades first, and then perform the precise finishing work because the blades no longer vibrate.

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Manufacturing Method Creates Organic Solar Cells With Improved Efficiency

New research findings contradict a fundamental assumption about the functioning of "organic" solar cells made of low-cost plastics, suggesting a new strategy for creating inexpensive solar technology. Because organic solar cells are flexible, they could find new applications that are unsuitable for rigid silicon cells such as photovoltaics integrated into buildings, and they have the potential to be lower-cost and less energy-intensive to manufacture than silicon devices.

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High-Definition 3D Lossless Imaging System

The imaging process is often affected by the field of view, wavefront aberration, ambient light, as well as the resolution of optical imaging system and detector. As a result, the image information of the object cannot be accurately transferred to the image plane, resulting in distortion, deviation, and noise convolution that affect the ultimate image quality.

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Imaging Innovation Delivers Spatial and Spectral Info Simultaneously

Using physical chemistry methods to look at biology at the nanoscale, a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researcher invented a new technology to image single molecules with unprecedented spectral and spatial resolution, thus leading to the first “true-color” super-resolution microscope. The innovation is called SR-STORM, or spectrally resolved stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy. Because SR-STORM gives full spectral and spatial information for each molecule, the technology opens the door to high-resolution imaging of multiple components and local chemical environments, such as pH variations, inside a cell.

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Depth-Sensing Camera Captures 3D Information in Sunlight and Darkness

Depth-sensing cameras, such as Microsoft’s Kinect controller for video games, have become widely used 3-D sensors. Now, a new imaging technology addresses a major shortcoming of these cameras: the inability to work in bright light, especially sunlight. The key is to gather only the bits of light the camera actually needs. The researchers created a mathematical model to help program these devices so that the camera and its light source work together efficiently, eliminating extraneous light.

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Object Recognition for Robots

SLAM, or simultaneous localization and mapping, enables mobile autonomous robots to map their environments and determine their locations. SLAM can be used to improve object-recognition systems, a vital component of future robots that have to manipulate the objects around them in arbitrary ways. A new system developed at MIT uses SLAM information to augment existing object-recognition algorithms. And because a SLAM map is three-dimensional, it does a better job of distinguishing objects that are near each other than single-perspective analysis can.

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