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

NASA Flight-Tests Sample Return Capsule

A prototype capsule that one day will return science experiments to Earth was tested by releasing it from a high-altitude balloon. Technology like this capsule could one day return biological samples and other small payloads from space in a relatively short time. The balloon was launched to an altitude of about 20 miles. The capsule was released and descended at a velocity similar to what it would experience during an actual entry from space.

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Paper-Based Test Quickly Diagnoses Ebola in Remote Areas

To facilitate diagnosis in remote, low-resource settings, researchers have developed a paper-based device that changes color, depending on whether the patient has Ebola, yellow fever, or dengue. The test takes minutes and does not need electricity to work.

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Design Tool Converts CAD Files into Visual Models

A new system from researchers at MIT and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel automatically turns CAD files into visual models that users can modify in real time. Once the design meets the user’s specifications, he or she hits the print button to send it to a 3D printer.

Posted in: News, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling
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New Technology Can Expand LED Lighting

Highly efficient, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) could slash the world’s electricity consumption. They are already sold in stores, but more widespread adoption of the technology has been hindered by high costs due to limited availability of raw materials and difficulties in achieving acceptable light quality. But researchers recently reported at a meeting of the American Chemical Society that they have overcome these obstacles and have developed a less expensive, more sustainable white LED.

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What Makes Quantum Dots Blink?

Quantum dots are nanoparticles of semiconductor that can be tuned to glow in a rainbow of colors. Since their discovery in the 1980s, these remarkable nanoparticles have held out tantalizing prospects for all kinds of new technologies, ranging from paint-on lighting materials and solar cells to quantum computer chips, biological markers, and even lasers and communications technologies. But there’s a problem – quantum dots often blink.

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Blue LEDs Could Provide Chemical-Free Food Preservation Technology

A team of scientists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has found that blue light emitting diodes (LEDs) have strong antibacterial effects on major foodborne pathogens, and are most effective when in cold temperatures (between 4°C and 15°C) and mildly acidic conditions of around pH 4.5. This opens up novel possibilities of using blue LEDs as a chemical-free food preservation method. Acidic foods such as fresh-cut fruits and ready-to- eat meat can be preserved under blue LEDs in combination with chilling temperatures without requiring further chemical treatments that are commonly needed for food preservation.

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Self-Healing Spacecraft Material Plugs Holes in Seconds

Although shields and sophisticated maneuvers could help protect space structures, scientists have to prepare for the possibility that debris could pierce a vessel. NASA and a team from the University of Michigan developed a new material that heals itself within seconds and could prevent structural penetration from being catastrophic.

Posted in: News, Coatings & Adhesives, Materials
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'Snap' Design Mimics Venus Flytrap

A team led by physicist Christian Santangelo at the University of Massachusetts Amherst uses curved creases to give thin shells a fast, programmable snapping motion. The technique – inspired by the natural "snapping systems" like Venus flytrap leaves and hummingbird beaks – avoids the need for complicated materials and fabrication methods when creating structures with fast dynamics.

Posted in: News, Materials, Joining & Assembly, Mechanical Components
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Depth-Sensing Camera Works in Bright Light and Darkness

A new imaging technology from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Toronto operates in both bright sunlight and darkness. A mathematical model programs the device so that the camera and its light source work together efficiently, eliminating extraneous light, or “noise,” that would otherwise wash out the signals needed to detect a scene’s contours.

Posted in: News, Detectors, Sensors
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Crash Test Helps Improve Emergency Response

NASA’s Langley Research Center hoisted a Cessna 172 aircraft 100 feet into the air by cables and released it. The plane plummeted onto a slab of dirt in a violent but controlled experiment that will help NASA improve aviation emergency response times. The test is part of a push to bolster the reliability of emergency locator transmitters. The systems automatically alert rescue personnel in the event of an airplane crash.

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