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Simple Material Gives Electronics a Power Boost

The tiny transistor is the heart of the electronics revolution, and Penn State scientists have discovered a way to give this workhorse a big boost, using a new technique to incorporate vanadium oxide into the electronic devices. Vanadium dioxide is just a specific combination of the elements vanadium and oxygen, but it has an unusual property called the metal-to-insulator transition.

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Nanotechnology Increases Storage Capability of Dielectric Capacitors

Capacitors are key components of portable electronics, computing systems, and electric vehicles. In contrast to batteries, which offer high storage capacity, but slow delivery of energy, capacitors provide fast delivery, but poor storage capacity. A great deal of effort has been devoted to improving energy density of dielectric capacitors, which comprise an insulating material sandwiched between two conducting metal plates.

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Single-Layer Material Mimics Photosynthesis

A Florida State University researcher has discovered an artificial material that mimics photosynthesis and potentially creates a sustainable energy source. The new material efficiently captures sunlight; then, the energy can be used to break down water into oxygen (O2) and hydrogen (H2).

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NASA Completes Heat Shield Test for Future Mars Vehicles

As NASA missions to Mars progress, spacecraft will require larger heat shields to protect against the extreme heat of entering a planet's atmosphere and decelerating at a safe altitude in the thin Martian atmosphere. NASA’s Adaptive Deployable Entry and Placement Technology (ADEPT) is a mechanically deployable heat shield concept using carbon fabric: a flexible heat shield that expands to open like an umbrella.

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Mobile Eye-Test Device Could Lead to Prescription Virtual-Reality Screens

MIT’s Netra, a plastic, binocular-like headset attaches in the front to a smartphone. Users peer through the headset at the phone’s display. Patterns, such as separate red and green lines or circles, appear on the screen. The user turns a dial to align the patterns and pushes a button to lock them in place. After eight interactions, the app calculates the difference between what the user sees as “aligned” and the actual alignment of the patterns. This signals any refractive errors, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. The app then displays the refractive powers, axis of astigmatism, and pupillary distance required for eyeglasses prescriptions.

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Researchers Weld the Un-Weldable

Despite recent advances in materials design, alternative metals still pose a challenge to manufacturers in practice. Many are considered un-weldable by traditional means, in part because high heat and re-solidification weaken the metals. Engineers at The Ohio State University have developed a new welding technique that consumes 80 percent less energy than a common welding technique, yet creates a stronger bond.

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Engineers Put 'Spring' in Robots' Step

The ATRIAS robot model developed at Oregon State University uses a "spring-mass" walking approach. The natural-gait method gives human-sized bipedal robots the ability to blindly react to rough terrain, maintain balance, retain an efficiency of motion, and walk like humans.

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