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.

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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.

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...

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...

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...

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...

Healing Nanoparticles

Purdue University researchers have developed a method of using nanoparticles to help treat injured brain and spinal cord cells. A team led by Richard Borgens of the School of Veterinary Medicine's Center for Paralysis Research and Welden School of Biomedical Engineering coated silica nanoparticles with a polymer to target...

Chemical Weapon Detecting Compound

A light-transmitting compound called (A)ZrPSe 6, where A can be potassium, rubidium, or cesium, has a difficult chemical structure that does not crystallize well. Scientists from the Argonne National Laboratory and Northwestern University were able to determine the structure of the compound using the uniquely...

Software Predicts Fungal Genes

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a computer program that trains itself to predict genes in the DNA sequences of fungi. Understanding the recently sequenced fungal genomes can help in developing and producing critical pharmaceuticals. Gene prediction can also help to identify...

Nano 50 Awards at the NNEC

The sixth annual National Nanoengineering Conference returns to Boston this year on November 12-13 at the Boston Colonnade Hotel, featuring the fourth annual Nano 50 Awards, recognizing top 50 technologies, innovators, and products that have significantly impacted the development of nanotechnology.

This year's...

Protein Detector

Scientists from Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research and the British Columbia Cancer Agency have demonstrated a new instrument that makes it possible to detect and quantify multiple different clinically important proteins in a single tumor sample using conventional staining. Currently, pathologists usually need a separate...

Insulin-Producing Cells

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have transformed cells from human skin into cells that produce insulin, the hormone used to treat diabetes. The breakthrough may one day lead to new treatments for the millions of people affected by the disease, researchers say.


Bluetooth Aids the Blind

A Bluetooth system developed at the University of Michigan tells blind or sighted pedestrians about points of interest along their path as they pass them. Called Talking Points, the system is the first known to use Bluetooth, allowing people to operate it entirely with voice commands, and incorporate community-generated...

Organic Photovoltaics

Scientists at South Dakota State University (SDSU) are working with new materials they say can be used to make devices to convert sunlight to electricity cheaper and more efficiently. Assistant professor Qiquan Qiao in SDSU's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science said so-called organic photovoltaics, or...

Quantum Computing

Researchers at the University of Michigan, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, and the University of California at San Diego recently demonstrated the fastest quantum computer bit that exploits the main advantage of the qubit over the conventional bit. The scientists used lasers to create an initialized quantum state of this...

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 September issue focus on Nano Materials & Manufacturing.

Breast Cancer Detection

Scientists from Finland, Germany, and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) have developed a new X-ray technique for the early detection of breast cancer. Current X-ray mammography fails to identify about 10 to 20% of palpable breast cancers because glandular tissues can mask cancer lesions. Better results...

Cutting Solar Cell Costs

University of Utah engineers devised a new way to slice thin wafers of the chemical element germanium for use in the most efficient type of solar power cells. The new method should lower the cost of such cells by reducing the waste and breakage of the brittle semiconductor. Primarily used on NASA, military, and...


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