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.

Blog
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,...

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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....

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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...

Blog
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,...

Blog
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...

Blog
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.

Blog
T-Ray Camera

A terahertz version of the single-pixel camera developed by Rice University researchers could lead to breakthrough technologies in security, telecom, signal processing, and medicine. The researchers replaced expensive, multi-pixel sensor arrays used in current terahertz imaging systems with a single sensor. Two keys to the system...

Blog
Powerhouse Cells

Yale University researchers have created a blueprint for artificial cells that are more powerful and efficient than the natural cells they mimic. The energy-generating artificial cells could one day power medical implants and provide a big advantage over battery-operated devices.

The scientists began with the question of...

Blog
Hydrogen Sensor

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Colorado School of Mines have developed a prototype sensor that quickly detects very small amounts of hydrogen accumulation in coated pipeline steel. Hydrogen can cause gradual embrittlement in conventional pipelines by slowly diffusing into the metal. The new...

Blog
Microwaving Mars and the Moon

Research conducted by material scientists may lead to the ability to extract water from the Moon and possibly Mars by shooting microwave beams into their surface, according to Bill Kaukler, Associate Research Professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The Phoenix Mars lander scratched just two inches...

Videos