Special Coverage


Engineers Develop 'Simple' Robotic Swarms

University of Sheffield engineers have developed a way of making hundreds — or even thousands — of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks. The robots do not require memory or processing power. Each robot uses just one sensor that indicates the presence of another nearby robot. Based on the sensor's findings, the robots will either rotate on the spot, or move around in a circle until one can be seen.Until now, robotic swarms have required complex programming, complicating the development of miniaturized, individual robots. With the programming created by the Sheffield team, however, nanoscale machines are possible.SourceAlso: Learn about a Kinematic Calibration Process for Flight Robotic Arms.

Posted in: Motion Control, Sensors, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News


Switchable Material Absorbs and Stores Sun's Energy

A team at MIT and Harvard University has created a material that absorbs the sun’s heat and stores that energy in chemical form, ready to be released again on demand.The technology provides an opportunity for the expansion of solar power into new realms, specifically applications where heat is the desired output.“It could change the game, since it makes the sun’s energy, in the form of heat, storable and distributable,” says Jeffrey Grossman, the Carl Richard Soderberg Associate Professor of Power Engineering at MIT.SourceAlso: See other Materials tech briefs.

Posted in: Materials, Energy Storage, Solar Power, Renewable Energy, Energy, News


Remote Sensing Moisture Model Could Aid Farmers

Global farmers could get better decision-making help as refinements are made to North Alabama soil moisture modeling research being done by an atmospheric science doctoral student at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. The models indicate how much added moisture would be needed in a given area versus historical data to achieve various crop yields, and they could aid in making expensive infrastructure investments by helping to determine their economic viability.

Posted in: Sensors, Software, Mathematical/Scientific Software, RF & Microwave Electronics, News


NASA Radar Demonstrates Ability to Predict Sinkholes

New analyses of NASA airborne radar data collected in 2012 reveal that radar detected indications of a huge sinkhole before it collapsed and forced evacuations in Louisiana that year. The findings suggest such radar data, if collected routinely from airborne systems or satellites, could at least in some cases foresee sinkholes before they happen, decreasing danger to people and property.

Posted in: Environmental Monitoring, Green Design & Manufacturing, Sensors, Test & Measurement, Monitoring, Aerospace, RF & Microwave Electronics, News


NASA Model Provides 3-D View of L.A. Earthquake

On March 28, residents of Greater Los Angeles experienced the largest earthquake to strike the region since 2008. The magnitude 5.1 quake was centered near La Habra in northwestern Orange County about 21 miles (33 kilometers) east-southeast of Los Angeles, and was widely felt throughout Southern California. There have been hundreds of aftershocks, including one of magnitude 4.1.Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., have developed a model of the earthquake, based on the distribution of aftershocks and other seismic information from the U.S. Geological Survey.A new image based on the model shows what the earthquake may look like through the eyes of an interferometric synthetic aperture radar, such as NASA's Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR). JPL scientists plan to acquire UAVSAR data from the region of the March 28 quake, possibly as soon as this week, and process the data to validate and improve the results of their model. The UAVSAR flights serve as a baseline for pre-earthquake activity. As earthquakes occur during the course of this project, the team is measuring the deformation at the time of the earthquakes to determine the distribution of slip on the faults, and then monitoring longer-term motions after the earthquakes to learn more about fault zone properties. SourceAlso: Learn about QuakeSim 2.0.

Posted in: Imaging, Software, Mathematical/Scientific Software, Test & Measurement, Monitoring, RF & Microwave Electronics, News


Researchers Use Sun to Produce Solar-Energy Materials

In a recent advance in solar energy, researchers have discovered a way to tap the sun not only as a source of power, but also to directly produce solar energy materials.This breakthrough by chemical engineers at Oregon State University could soon reduce the cost of solar energy, speed production processes, use environmentally benign materials, and make the sun a “one-stop shop” that produces both the materials for solar devices and the energy to power them.The work is based on the use of a “continuous flow” microreactor to produce nanoparticle inks that make solar cells by printing. In this process, simulated sunlight is focused on the solar microreactor to rapidly heat it, while allowing precise control of temperature to aid the quality of the finished product. The light in these experiments was produced artificially, but the process could be done with direct sunlight, and at a fraction of the cost of current approaches.SourceAlso: Read other Materials tech briefs.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Materials, Solar Power, Renewable Energy, Energy, Nanotechnology, News


Transient Electronics Dissolve When Triggered

An Iowa State research team led by Reza Montazami is developing "transient materials" and "transient electronics" that can quickly and completely melt away when a trigger is activated. The development could mean that one day you might be able to send out a signal to destroy a lost credit card.To demonstrate that potential, Montazami played a video showing a blue light-emitting diode mounted on a clear polymer composite base with the electrical leads embedded inside. After a drop of water, the base and wiring began to melt away. As the technology develops, Montazami sees more and more potential for the commercial application of transient materials. A medical device, once its job is done, could harmlessly melt away inside a person’s body. A military device could collect and send its data and then disappear, leaving no trace of an intelligence mission. An environmental sensor could collect climate information, then wash away in the rain. SourceAlso: Read other Electronics & Computers tech briefs.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Electronic Components, Electronics, Environmental Monitoring, Green Design & Manufacturing, Materials, Composites, Plastics, Medical, Lighting, LEDs, Semiconductors & ICs, Defense, News