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
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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Centennial Challenges

NASA's program of technology prizes consists of seven competitions held throughout the year. The program began in 2005 and is known as Centennial Challenges, in recognition of the centennial of powered flight. The prizes are offered to independent competitors who work without government support, including small businesses,...

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Antimicrobial Coating

Researchers at Auburn University's Samuel Ginn College of Engineering have produced antimicrobial coatings with potential to prevent diseases from spreading on contaminated surfaces - possibly solving a growing problem not only in hospitals but also in schools, offices, airplanes and elsewhere. The Auburn researchers mixed...

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"Immune Buildings"

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan have opened an engineering lab to design a ventilation system that could protect schools, hospitals, and other public buildings from chemical warfare and bioterrorist attacks. The lab's research will help determine how the Early Warning and Response system (eWAR) can both filter...

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Electricity from Compressed Air

Compressed air stored in underground caverns could answer the need for lower cost electrical energy, according to Sandia National Laboratory scientists. The scientists are examining the feasibility of using an aquifer site near Des Moines, IA, to power a plant able to generate up to 13,400 megawatts per hour with...

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Analyzing Bone Fracture Risks

Scientists at the ETH Zurich Departments of Mechanical and Process Engineering and Computer Science have teamed with supercomputingexperts at IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory to develop an accurate, powerful and fast method to automate the analysis of bone strength. The method combines density measurements with...

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Swimsuit or Spacesuit?

Swimmers around the world are breaking records this year like never before, including at this week's U.S. Olympic trials. Some attribute it to extensive training as athletes prepare to compete at this summer's games in Beijing, China. Others, however, say one factor may be a new space-age swimsuit made of fabric tested at...

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Brain Mapping

An international team of researchers has created the first complete high- resolution map of how millions of neural fibers in the human cerebral cortex - the outer layer of the brain responsible for higher level thinking - connect and communicate. Their groundbreaking work identified a single network core, or hub, that may be key to...

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Laser Microscalpel

Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a laser "microscalpel" that destroys a single cell while leaving nearby cells intact, which could improve the precision of surgeries for cancer, epilepsy and other diseases. The device uses femtosecond lasers, which produce extremely brief, high-energy light pulses...

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Brain-Machine Interfaces

Brain-machine interfaces could someday be used routinely to help paralyzed patients and amputees control prosthetic limbs with just their thoughts. Now, University of Florida researchers have devised a way for computerized devices not only to translate brain signals into movement, but also to evolve with the brain as it...

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Gesturing Medical Procedures

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University in Israel have developed a hand gesture recognition system, called Gestix, that enables doctors to manipulate digital images during medical procedures by motioning instead of touching a screen, keyboard or mouse, which compromises sterility and could spread...

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Laptop Refrigerator

Purdue University researchers are developing a miniature refrigeration system small enough to fit inside laptops and personal computers, a cooling technology that would boost performance while shrinking the size of computers. Unlike conventional cooling systems, which use a fan to circulate air through heat sinks attached to...

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New Mineral

NASA researchers and scientists from the United States, Germany and Japan have found a new mineral in material they believe came from a comet. The mineral, a manganese silicide named Brownleeite, was discovered within an interplanetary dust particle, or IDP, that appears to have originated from comet 26P/Grigg- Skjellerup. The comet...

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Low-Power Microchip

A new low-power microchip developed at the University of Michigan uses 30,000 times less power in sleep mode and 10 times less in active mode than comparable chips currently on the market. The Phoenix Processor, as it's called, sets a low-power record and is intended for use in cutting-edge sensor-based devices such as...

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Super-Earths

Using the HARPS instrument at the ESO La Silla Observatory, European astronomers have found a system of three super-Earths around the star HD 40307 - a breakthrough in the field of extra-solar planets. The astronomers also counted a total of 45 candidate planets with a mass below 30 Earth masses and an orbital period shorter than 50...

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NASA Briefs

Ames Research Center is developing a wireless-communication and data-processing system that would use radio-frequency identification devices(RFIDs) and software to establish information lifelines between firefighters in a burning building and a fire chief at a control station. The system would identify trails that firefighters could...

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Virus Image

Using electron microscopy and 3D computer reconstruction, UC San Diego scientists have produced the most detailed image yet of the protein envelope of an asymmetrical virus and the viral DNA packed within. By assembling over 12,000 microscopic views of frozen viral particles, the chemists have determined the structure of a...

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Universal Threat Detector

Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) continue to make progress in developing a universal detection system that can monitor the air for virtually all of the major threat agents that could be used by terrorists. The system, called Single-Particle Aerosol Mass Spectrometry (SPAMS), had been...

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NASA Briefs

Workers at NASA Ames Research Center are developing durable, oxidation-resistant, foam thermal protection systems (TPSs) that would be suitable for covering large exterior spacecraft surfaces. The TPSs would have low to moderate densities, and temperature capabilities comparable to those of carbon-based TPSs, which are reusable at...

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Current Attractions

Dr. David Morrison is senior scientist at the NASA Astrobiology Institute, and a founder of the multidisciplinary field of astrobiology. He is an expert on the risk of asteroid impacts and potential ways to mitigate that risk. Scientists are currently studying a 300-meter diameter asteroid, called Apophis.

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Microfluidic Device

A team from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory was having trouble making a chip that could withstand the rigors of the European ExoMars rover mission, scheduled for launch in 2013, until they turned to materials called perfluoropolyethers(PFPEs). PFPEs were first pioneered by researchers at University of North Carolina Chapel...

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Microwave Signals from Silicon Chip

Scientists have developed a method to generate high-power signals at frequencies of 200 GHz and higher on an ordinary silicon chip, which could lead to microwave radiation being used as a nondestructive imaging technology to detect diseases, or for security purposes. The method, proposed by Ehsan Afshari,...

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Electricity from Auto Exhausts

Researchers at Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft for Physical Measurement Techniques in Germany are working on a thermoelectric generator that converts the heat from car exhaust fumes into electricity. The thermoelectric module feeds the energy into the car's electronic systems, reducing fuel consumption and carbon dioxide...

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High Tunability Range Crystals

Physicists at the City College of New York (CCNY) have developed near-infrared broadband laser materials with tunability ranges about triple those of earlier crystals. For the first time, tunable laser operation was achieved at both the 1.33-micron and 1.55-micron telecommunication windows, from a single optical...

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NASA Briefs

A system that estimates the global radius of curvature (GRoC) of a segmented telescope mirror has been developed by the Marshall Space Flight Center for use in a larger system that exerts precise control over the displacements of the mirror segments. This system makes it possible to control the GRoC of the mirror with sufficient...

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Photonic Beetle

Researchers have been unable to build an ideal photonic crystal, or "champion" crystal, impeding the dream of ultrafast optical computers that run on light (photons) instead of electricity (electrons). But now, University of Utah chemists have discovered that photonic crystals with the ideal, diamond-like structure are found in...

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Walking Aid

Johns Hopkins University undergraduates have designed and built a device to enable critically ill, intensive care unit patients to leave their beds and walk, while remaining tethered to essential life-support equipment. The invention allows doctors to better understand whether carefully supervised rehabilitation, as opposed to...

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NASA Briefs

The Johnson Space Center offers a Mathcad computer program that largely automates the design and analysis of the restraint layer of an inflatable vessel. Prior to the development of this program, the design task was performed by use of a difficult-to-use spreadsheet program that required manual addition of rows and columns, depending...

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Possibly Toxic Buckyballs

A study predicts that carbon-60 molecules, or buckyballs, are easily absorbed into animal cells, providing a possible explanation for how the molecules could be toxic to humans. Using computer simulations, University of Calgary scientists modeled the interaction between carbon-60 molecules and cell membranes. They found...

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Reducing the Cost of Quality in Automotive BiW

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Electric-Vehicle Transmission Development Priorities

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The Critical Role of Fiber Optic Temperature Sensors in Medical...

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Zinc Die Casting Concepts to Achieve Precision, Performance, and...

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Radar Measurements: Triggering, Analysis, and Generation

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Designing with Silicone for Space

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