NASA Washing Machine Designs Go for a Spin

New laundry ideas could be tested on the ISS.

Right now, there is no laundry service in space.

Astronaut garments aren’t washed. They are put onto ships that burn up in the atmosphere.

At NASA Glenn, summer interns took a spin at designing conceptual components for a space washing machine.

Their ideas could be tested on the space station for use on future, long-duration missions.

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A brand-new episode of our podcast series Here’s an Idea explores a variety of new and improved hearing aids, from $5 “do-it-yourself” devices to advanced systems that monitor brain waves. Here’s an Idea brings you the inspiration behind invention, through interviews with the makers of today’s most exciting technologies. Go to to listen to the episode! Send your comments and suggestions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Next month in tech briefs

The October issue highlights the varied uses of robotics in manufacturing, from autonomous collaborative robots to pick-and-place assembly units.

Wireless Solution Charges Multiple Devices at Once

Mobile phones and tablets have allowed us to stay in touch regardless of our location, yet they still rely on plugs, sockets, and charging pads to power up. New technology developed at Aalto University in Finland may be the key to true wireless charging for these and other electronics.

The new transmitter solution creates power transfer channels in all directions.

The most common wireless charging solutions involve complex control and detection functions. A transmitter traditionally must first detect a device presence and position to be able to send energy in its direction, which is usually done with cameras or sensors, adding bulk and cost to the device.

The new transmitter solution creates power transfer channels in all directions, automatically tuning channels when receiving devices are in motion. Devices like phones, laptops, and other small appliances equipped with a new receiver can simultaneously receive energy to charge batteries or directly power their functions — without ever being in physical contact or being brought to a specific place.

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Electronic Paper Displays Brilliant Colors

A new design could produce e-readers, signs, and other digital screens with optimal color display and minimal energy consumption. (Marika Gugole/Chalmers University of Technology)

With research from Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden), you may soon be able to sit in the Sun reading a digital screen as thin as paper and see the same image quality as if you were indoors. The new type of reflective screen — or electronic paper — uses ambient light to keep energy consumption to a minimum.

Using a porous and nanostructured material containing tungsten trioxide, gold, and platinum, the team inverted the design in such a way as to allow the colors to appear much more accurately on the screen. Electronic paper is also less tiring for the eyes compared to looking at a regular screen.

The team’s main goal when developing the reflective screens was to find sustainable, energy-saving solutions. In this case, energy consumption is almost zero because it uses the ambient light of the surroundings. Reflective screens are already available in some tablets today but they only display the colors black and white well, which limits their use.

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