Billy's Blog

On Billy's Blog, Billy Hurley, Digital Editorial Manager, writes stories about new and innovative achievements in design engineering, from industrial robots and autonomous vehicles to 3D printers and see-through solar cells. Along with other Tech Briefs writers and editors, Billy shares his opinions, poses questions to readers, and finds the fun, interesting, and unexpected stories behind today's leading-edge inventions.

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Internet In Outer Space

Engineers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., used software called Disruption-Tolerant Networking, or DTN, to transmit dozens of space images to and from a NASA science spacecraft located more than 32 million kilometers (20 million miles) from Earth. The successful experiment could pave the way for...

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Deadly Contaminant Sensor

The blood-thinning drug heparin is highly effective when used to prevent and treat blood clots in veins, arteries, and lungs, but contaminated heparin products recently caused serious allergic reactions that led to many deaths. Now, University of Michigan researchers have demonstrated a simple, inexpensive method for...

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Fluorescent Imager

Researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston are developing an imaging system that will essentially light up and color cancerous tumors, enabling surgeons to evaluate whether they've resected an entire diseased area. The system, called fluorescence- assisted resection and exploration - or FLARE - is...

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Overcoming Spatial Disorientation

A National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) study is tackling the issue of spatial disorientation, which is responsible for up to 10 percent of general aviation accidents in the United States and is a major concern for astronaut pilots. The project involves specially designed software that monitors...

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Healing Nanofibers

Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed a strong, flexible bio-material that may be used someday to close wounds with minimal scarring and rejection by the immune system. Spun from a common blood protein, the material could be used to make the thin threads needed for wound sutures, larger...

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Brain Games

A team of scientists studying the human brain at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Chieti, Italy, report that a simple decision-making task does not involve the frontal lobes, where many of the higher aspects of human cognition, including self-awareness, are thought to originate. Instead,...

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Down to the Wires

Researchers have developed a new type of small-scale electric power generator able to produce alternating current through the cyclical stretching and releasing of zinc oxide wires encapsulated in a flexible plastic substrate with two ends bonded. When the modules are mechanically stretched and then released, because of the...

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Infrared Spectrometer

Scientists at Stanford University and Japan's National Institute of Informatics have created a new highly sensitive infrared spectrometer. The device converts light from the infrared part of the spectrum to the visible part, where the availability of superior optical detectors results in strongly improved sensing...

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Toxic Sensor

Clemson physics professor Apparao Rao and his team are developing nano-scale cantilevers that have the potential to read and alert us to toxic chemicals or gases in the air. Putting them into small handheld devices could lead to real-time chemical alerts in battle, industry, health care, and even at home. In addition to...

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Remote Key Duplication

University of California at San Diego computer scientists have designed a software program that can perform key duplication without having the key, instead relying on a photograph of the key.

The keys used in the most common residential locks in the United States have aseries of 5 or 6 cuts, spaced out at regular...

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Sensor Makes Automobiles Safer

Drivers worldwide soon will be able to navigate dangerous road conditions more safely, thanks to sensor technology developed by researchers at the University of California at Irvine. The researchers have designed a 1.7 millimeter-wide device that helps stabilize automobiles, allowing them to pass safely through...

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Cold Steel for a Hot Application

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the U.S. ITER Project Office have developed a new cast stainless steel that is 70 percent stronger than comparable steel and is being evaluated for use in the huge shield modules required by the ITER fusion device. ITER is a multibillion-dollar international...

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What's the Matter?

Scientists are on the hunt for evidence of antimatter left over from the very early Universe. Unfortunately, new results using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Compton Gamma Ray Observatory suggest the search may have just become even more difficult. Antimatter is made up of elementary particles, each of which...

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Solar Breakthrough

An untreated silicon solar cell absorbs only 67.4 percent of sunlight shone upon it, and the remaining unharvested light is a major barrier hampering the widespread adoption of solar power. However, a silicon surface treated with a new reflective coating developed by researchers at Rensselaer absorbs 96.21 percent of sunlight....

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Computers and Electronics at NNEC

Register today for NASA Tech Briefs' National Nano Engineering Conference (NNEC), the premier event focused on current and future developments in engineering innovations at the nanoscale. The event returns to Boston this year on November 12-13 at the Boston Colonnade Hotel, featuring the fourth annual Nano 50...

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Silicon Optical Fiber

Clemson University scientists have made a practical optical fiber with a silicon core, employing the same methods that are used to develop all-glass fibers. The development could make silicon fibers viable alternatives to glass fibers, and help increase efficiency and decrease power consumption in computers and other...

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Nosy Detector

By marrying a sensitive detector able to distinguish hundreds of different chemical compounds with a pattern-recognition module that mimics the way animals recognize odors, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researchers have created a new approach for "electronic noses." The detector could be a potent tool for...

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Coming Attractions

As products become more feature-rich, manufacturers are looking at ways to improve the human-computer interface (HCI). Touchscreens, with intuitive operation and software flexibility, and screen-printed touch surfaces, with refined aesthetics and better sealing, have become extremely popular. But what these touch-input devices...

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Computer Guardians

As computer processor chips grow faster and more complex, they are likely to make it to market with more design bugs. But that may be OK, according to University of Michigan researchers who have devised a new system that lets chips work around all functional bugs, even those that haven't been detected. Normally CPU...

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Solar Energy Material

Researchers at Ohio State University have created a new material that overcomes two of the major obstacles to solar power: it absorbs all the energy contained in sunlight, and it generates electrons in a way that makes them easier to capture. The new hybrid material was created by combining electrically conductive plastic...

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Fluid Transducer

Many technical systems work with air or water - air compression systems and water pipes are just two examples. Sensors constantly monitor the pressure of such systems to keep costly fault-related losses to a minimum. At present, these sensors are either battery-driven or connected up by complex technical wiring, making it...

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High-Capacity Neural Probe

University of Arkansas scientists have developed a neural probe that demonstrates significantly greater electrical charge storage capacity than all other neural prosthetic devices, making it possible to stimulate nerves and tissues with less damage and sense neural signals with better sensitivity. The probe, made of...

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Plasmonic Lenses That 'Fly'

Engineers at the University of California at Berkeley, are reporting a new way of creating computer chips that could revitalize optical lithography, the dominant patterning technique in integrated circuits manufacturing. The researchers were able to create line patterns only 80 nanometers wide at speeds up to 12...

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Disaster Response

Researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) have developed a low- cost, high-resolution imaging system that can be attached to a helicopter to create a complete and detailed picture of an area devastated by a hurricane or other natural disaster. The resulting visual information can be used to estimate the number...

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Cosmic Lens

Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology and their colleagues have been able to observe a young star-forming galaxy as it appeared only two billion years after the Big Bang and determine how the galaxy may eventually evolve to become a system like our own Milky Way. The team made their observations by coupling two...

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Seismic Simulations

For the first time, seismic signals that precede a volcanic eruption have been simulated and visualized in 3D under controlled pressure conditions in a laboratory. The ability to conduct such simulations will better equip municipal authorities in volcanic hot spots around the world in knowing when to alert people. Nearly 500...

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Protein Highlighters

Biochemists Lila Gierasch and Beena Krishnan at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have found a way to slip a fluorescent marker into one of a cell's molecular machines so it lights up when it has formed the proper shape to carry out the cell's "work orders." The new technique should allow labeling of correctly folded...

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Nanomaterials at NNEC

Register today for NASA Tech Briefs' National Nano Engineering Conference (NNEC), the premier event focused on current and future developments in engineering innovations at the nanoscale. The event returns to Boston this year on November 12-13 at the Boston Colonnade Hotel, featuring the fourth annual Nano 50 Awards,...

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MRI And Body Temperature

Duke University chemists say they have developed a new way to measure temperature changes inside the body with unprecedented precision, by correcting a subtle error in the original theory underlying Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The technique could improve clinical applications of hyperthermia against cancer, and...

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Current Attractions

Each month, NTB highlights tech briefs related to a particular area of technology in a special section called Technology Focus. Here are some of the technologies featured in the October issue focus on Sensors.

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