Cast Your Vote!

It’s time to submit your vote for this year’s Tech Briefs Readers’ Choice Product of the Year Awards. See the 12 nominees, and cast your vote for the 2021 honors.

What’s New on

This month, our blog catches up with the winners of the Create the Future Design Contest including Grand Prize Winner Aaron Hall. Hall and his team at Intropic Materials are using enzymes to create a plastic that truly disappears.

The Pandemic’s Effects on Our Atmosphere

Earth’s atmosphere reacted in surprising ways to lower emissions during the COVID-19 pandemic, showing how closely climate warming and air pollution are linked. Satellite data from NASA showed that reduced travel around the globe drastically decreased air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions within just a few weeks .

Next Month in Tech Briefs

The January issue highlights unique challenges facing distributors and manufacturers in a volatile supply chain environment. Because of pandemic-related decreases in human and transportation assets, product supply chains have been severely affected.

Hybrid Method 3D-Prints Self-Powered Wearable Devices

The hybrid printing method integrates a wide range of functional and structural materials in one platform.

When most people think of wearable devices, they think of smart watches, smart glasses, fitness trackers, and even smart clothing. These devices have two things in common: They all need an external power source, and they all require exacting manufacturing processes — until now.

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame developed an innovative hybrid printing method  — combining multimaterial aerosol jet printing and extrusion printing — that integrates both functional and structural materials into a single, streamlined printing platform.

Using the process, they demonstrated stretchable piezoelectric sensors, conformable to human skin, with integrated tellurium nanowire piezoelectric materials, silver nanowire electrodes, and silicone films. The devices were then attached to a human wrist, accurately detecting hand gestures, and to an individual’s neck, detecting the individual’s heartbeat. Neither of the devices used an external power source.

Mini-Rovers Navigate Simulated Lunar Terrain

Graphic visualization of CADRE robots working together over a wireless communication network to explore the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

A team of shoebox-sized rover scouts traversed simulated lunar soil in the Simulated Lunar Operations lab (SLOPE) to better understand the types of challenges that lunar rovers of this size will face on the Moon’s surface.

NASA’s Cooperative Autonomous Distributed Robotic Exploration (CADRE) project  is developing robots programmed to work as an autonomous team to explore the lunar surface, collect data, and map different areas of the Moon in 3D. With each mini-rover free to move independently, together they can perform distributed measurements that would be nearly impossible for a single rover to achieve.

Tests included traction of the wheels in different conditions, negotiating large rocks, and climbing slopes. Scientific imaging equipment determined the amount of wheel slip in the simulated lunar soil, which could affect the rovers’ ability to determine location accurately using their sensors.

CADRE is targeted to fly as a technology demonstration on a commercial robotic lander within the next five years via NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) Initiative.