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.

High-Temp Magnetic Sensors

University of Chicago scientists have discovered how to make magnetic sensors capable of operating at the high temperatures required for engines in future cars and aircraft. The key involves slightly diluting samples of a well-known semiconductor material, called indium antimonide, which is valued for its...

Gold Power

Gold's ability to catalyze the conversion of toxic carbon monoxide (CO) into more benign carbon dioxide (CO2) at room temperature lay hidden until the 1980s. Since the discovery, scientists have sought to determine exactly how gold nanoparticles function as catalysts. Now researchers from Lehigh University, Cardiff University, and the...

X-Ray Eyes

The advantage of using two eyes to see the world around us has long been associated with our capacity to see in 3-D. Now, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute scientist Mark Changizi has uncovered an eye-opening advantage to binocular vision: our ability to see through things. An assistant professor of cognitive science at Rensselaer,...

Semiconductors For Printing

Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology

(NIST) and Seoul National University (SNU) have learned how to tweak a new class of polymer-based semiconductors that could enable the design of practical,

large-scale manufacturing techniques for a wide range of printable, flexible...

Less Corny Ethanol

A yeast geneticist on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is close to developing mutant yeast for ethanol production that would reduce or eliminate the need to use corn to make the alternative fuel. When corn is used to make ethanol, corn kernels are ground to produce starch and the starch...

Hubble Solves Mystery

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found an answer to a long-standing puzzle by resolving giant but delicate filaments shaped by a strong magnetic field around the active galaxy NGC 1275. One of the closest giant elliptical galaxies, NGC 1275 hosts a supermassive black hole. Energetic activity of gas swirling near the black...

Artificial Bones

Engineers at Georgia Tech have used skin cells to create artificial bones that mimic the ability of natural bone to blend into other tissues, such as tendons or ligaments. The artificial bones display a gradual change from bone to softer tissue rather than the sudden shift of previously developed artificial tissue, allowing them...


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, as well as the commercialization of nanotechnology. The event returns to Boston this year on November 12-13 at the Boston Colonnade Hotel,...

Making Drugs From Dead Cells

Costly drugs to treat conditions such as cancer and arthritis could be manufactured more cheaply with a new technique developed by scientists at the University of Edinburgh that uses cell cultures removed from dead cells. Up to now, these medicines have been expensive to make due to the time-consuming,...

Sign Language Software

A group at the University of Washington has developed software that enables deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans to use sign language over a mobile phone. This is the first time two-way real-time video communication has been demonstrated over cell phones in the U.S. Communication rates on U.S. cellular networks allow about...


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

Nanoparticles Speed Light

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have theorized a way to increase the speed of pulses of light that bound across chains of tiny metal particles to well past the speed of light by altering the particle shape. Under the theory, nanosized metal chains would serve as building blocks for high-frequency...

Polymer Electric Storage

The proliferation of solar, wind, and tidal electric generation, and the emergence of hybrid electric automobiles demands flexible and reliable methods of high-capacity electrical storage. A team of Penn State materials scientists is developing ferroelectric polymer-based capacitors that can deliver power more rapidly,...

Quantum Dots

Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI), a collaborative center of the University of Maryland and NIST, have reported a new way to fine-tune the light coming from quantum dots, by manipulating them with pairs of lasers. The accomplishment could accelerate...

Telltale Fish Embryos

Purdue University researchers have harnessed the sensitivity of days-old fish embryos to create a fiber optic-based tool to detect a range of harmful chemicals. By measuring rates of oxygen use in developing fish, the technology could reveal the presence of minute levels of toxic substances. It could thus warn of...

Pinhole Camera

The pinhole camera has inspired a lens-less, three-dimensional imaging technology that produces some of the brightest, sharpest X-ray holograms of microscopic objects to date. The technology was developed by scientists at the Advanced Light Source of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and...


A new type of device called a "lab-on-a-chip" could result in a future generation of instant home tests for illnesses, food contaminants and toxic gases. But today these portable, efficient tools are often stuck in the lab themselves. Specifically, in the labs of researchers who know how to make them from scratch. University of...

Exhaustible Energy

Researchers at Ohio State University have invented a new material that will make cars even more efficient by converting heat wasted through engine exhaust into electricity. Scientists call such materials thermoelectric materials, and they rate the materials' efficiency based on how much heat they can convert into electricity...

Compressor-Free Fridge

Penn State researchers are investigating electrically induced heat effects of some ferroelectric polymers. "This is the first step in the development of an electric field refrigeration unit," says Qiming Zhang, professor of electrical engineering. "For the future, we can envision a flat panel refrigerator. No more coils,...

Asphalt Solar Collector

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute is developing a solar collector that could turn roads and parking lots into sources of electricity and hot water. Roads and parking lots are typically resurfaced every 10 to 12 years, so the massive acreage of already installed roads and lots could be retrofitted at that...

GreenLight Project

The information technology industry consumes as much energy and has roughly the same carbon footprint as the airline industry. Energy usage per compute server rack is growing from about 2 kilowatts (KW) per rack in 2000, to an estimated 30 KW per rack in 2010. Every dollar spent on power for IT equipment requires that another...

Crystal Cloak

In computer simulations, researchers at the University of Illinois have demonstrated an approximate cloaking effect created by concentric rings of silicon photonic crystals. The mathematical proof brings scientists a step closer to a practical solution for optical cloaking.

“When light of the correct wavelength strikes...

Microscope on a Chip

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have developed a compact, high-resolution microscope small enough to fit on a finger tip. Dubbed an optofluidic microscope, the device operates without lenses but has the magnifying power of a top-quality optical microscope. It can be used in the field to analyze samples...

Embedded Telescope

Tiny telescopes have long been mounted on glasses to help visually impaired people perform tasks, such as driving. But many potential users have resisted using them due to their appearance, whereby the lens is mounted atop the regular lens or above the frame. Moreover, the magnified view through the telescope is...

Software of the Year Award

Computer programs that are used to define safety margins for fiery spacecraft re-entries and help detect planets outside our solar system are co-winners of NASA's 2007 Software of the Year Award.

Software engineers at NASA's Ames Research Center developed the Data-Parallel Line Relaxation, or DPLR, which is used...

Mini Magnet MRI

Ohio State University physicists have invented a new kind of MRI technique to see inside a magnet that's smaller than the head of a pin. The magnet is a ferromagnet and has too strong of a magnetic field to be studied with typical MRI. The technique may eventually enable the development of extremely small computers, and give...

Zero-Gravity Flights

NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program has selected seven Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, companies to participate in reduced-gravity test flights in early September. The companies will have the opportunity to test their newly developed hardware on an aircraft that simulates the weightless conditions of...

Low-Cost LED Lighting

Purdue University researchers have uncovered a potentially less expensive method to produce solid-state lighting based on light-emitting-diode (LED) technology. This development could hasten the day when LEDs, which are more energy efficient and longer lasting than conventional incandescent light bulbs, become the preferred...

Wearable Kidney

Researchers from UCLA and the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System have developed a design for an automated, wearable artificial kidney, or AWAK. Around 1980, a similar artificial kidney machine was built which was portable, but not wearable. The new technology would allow patients to go about their regular...


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