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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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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NASA Briefs

A method of promoting healing of injured or diseased neurons from Ames Research Center involves pharmacological activation of the STAT3 alpha protein. Injured or diseased neurons heal incompletely or not at all because they are susceptible to apoptosis (cell death), or because they fail to engage in axogenesis - that is, they fail to...

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Melanoma Risk

It is known that prolonged exposure to the sun's harmful UV rays can lead to melanoma, but an unanswered question is why some people are more likely to develop melanoma than others. Researchers from the Translational Genomic Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, Arizona and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) in...

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Fuel Cell Material

Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have improved the power output of methanol fuel cells by more than 50 percent, which could broaden fuel cell applications to include portable electronics. The engineers achieved this by developing an alternative to Nafion, the material commonly used as the electrolyte...

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Communicating Underground

To improve wireless communications for emergency responders, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have confirmed that underground tunnels - generally a difficult setting for radios - can have a frequency "sweet spot" at which signals may travel several times farther than at other...

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NCAR's New Supercomputer

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has taken delivery of a new IBM supercomputer that will advance research into severe weather and the future of Earth's climate. The supercomputer, known as a Power 575 Hydro-Cluster, will be used by scientists at NCAR and across the country to accelerate research into...

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Focusing on Ultrashort Laser Pulses

Lasers that emit ultrashort pulses of light can be used for numerous applications including micromachining, microscopy, laser eye surgery, spectroscopy and controlling chemical reactions. However, the quality of the results is limited by distortions caused by lenses and other optical components that are part...

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Satellites Allow View Into Ancient Past

Satellite imagery obtained from NASA will help archeologist Bill Middleton of the Rochester Institute of Technology peer into the ancient Mexican past. Multi- and hyperspectral data will help build the most accurate and most detailed landscape map of the southern state of Oaxaca, where the Zapotec people...

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NASA Briefs

The Langley Research Center has developed an innovative method for acquiring fluid-level measurements. This method eliminates the need for the fluid-level sensor to have a physical connection to a power source or data acquisition equipment. The complete system consists of a lightweight, thin-film magnetic-field-response fluid-level...

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