Question of the Week

Question of the Week: Materials
Will ‘Living Materials’ Catch On?

Our lead story today highlighted the possible applications for a "living material" made from microalgae and cellulose.

Question of the Week
Will We See Human Exploration on Mars by 2040?

An INSIDER story last week highlighted another recent achievement on Mars: A rover instrument known as “MOXIE” created oxygen from the Martian atmosphere. The NASA-led demonstration is a first step toward human presence on the Red Planet, according to MOXIE principal lead Michael Hecht.

Question of the Week: Manufacturing & Prototyping
Can Moving Pins Cut 3D-Printing Costs?

An INSIDER story last week highlighted a 3D printer that uses a platform of movable pins to provide support for the created part. The invention eliminates the need for printed supports.

Question of the Week: Photonics/Optics
Do You See Potential for Objects That Change Shape via Light?

Taking inspiration from the butterfly, Tufts University researchers created light-activated composite devices that execute precise, visible movements and form complex three-dimensional shapes, without the need for wires or other actuating materials or energy sources.

Question of the Week: Robotics, Automation & Control
Will Robotic Exoskeletons Help the Elderly?

A team from the University of Waterloo is creating robotic exoskeleton legs that use A.I. to make their own steps and control decisions. "Learning" from a collection of sample-strolls around an environment, the system adjusts its movements based on the surroundings it senses.

Question of the Week: Electronics & Computers
Will Underwater Exploration Go Battery-Free?

A Tech Brief featured in our April issue highlighted a battery-free pinpointing system from MIT called Underwater Backscatter Localization. Rather than emitting its own acoustic signals, the “UBL” reflects modulated signals from its environment. The reflections provide researchers with positioning...

Question of the Week: Sensors/Data Acquisition
Would You Wear On-Body Sensors?

This month’s Here’s an Idea episode highlighted a number of on-body sensors. Penn State professor Larry Cheng, for example, found a way to 3D-print a sensor directly on the skin (shown in the above...

Question of the Week: Aerospace
Will Turboelectric Aircraft Take Off?

A recent video on Tech Briefs TV highlighted NASA’s new idea for aircraft: the STARC-ABL. The concept under development aims to bridge the gap between current jet fuel-powered aircraft and future all-electric vehicles.

Question of the Week: Manufacturing & Prototyping
Will Technology Increasingly Integrate with Nature?

“Nature is much more advanced than we are, so we should use it,” said Dr. Ben Maoz, one of a team of Tel Aviv University researchers who created a robot that uses a dead locust’s ear to “hear” electrical signals and respond to them with movement. (Read our lead story to learn...

Question of the Week: Electronics & Computers
Do You See Applications for Electronics-Free Robots?

In our lead INSIDER story today, UCSD researcher Dylan Drotman talked to Tech Briefs about his team’s air-powered robot.

Question of the Week: Photonics/Optics
Would You Use the 'LaserFactory?'

A technology from MIT known as the "LaserFactory" integrates 3D printers and laser cutters to fabricate wearables, robots, and electronics components like sensors and actuators.

Question of the Week: Robotics, Automation & Control
Do You Like the Idea of Robots in the Hospital?

Our brand-new episode of Here’s an Idea highlighted a growing use of robots and robotic arms in the hospital. While technologies like “Tommy” and “Tiago” are helpful in completing tedious, repetitive tasks, the robots do lack a certain human touch, says our editor Sherrie Trigg.

Question of the Week: Robotics, Automation & Control
Will ‘Bubble Robots’ Catch On?

A group of researchers are using a surprising ingredient in their robot design: Bubbles. (Watch the demo on Tech Briefs TV.)

Question of the Week: Robotics, Automation & Control
Can 'Bluebots' Preserve Coral Reefs?

A team of Harvard researchers have developed fish-inspired robots that can synchronize their movements like a real school of fish, without any external control. (Watch the robots in action on Tech Briefs TV.)

Question of the Week: Test & Measurement
Will We Make Vibration-Free Helicopters?

A Tech Briefs TV video features a test technology from the Army that’s informally known as a “Shaker.” The Multi-Degree of Freedom (MDOF) system will study the causes of vibrations in a helicopter’s many components and subcomponents. The Army researchers hope to use the conclusions of their study...

Question of the Week: Transportation
Has the Vehicle Become Your “Second Space?”

"Honestly, the car has become an office for some people just so they can get away from the noise of their house," said Carla Bailo at CES 2021 last week. "The sound [in the car] is great, and you can connect from anywhere."

Question of the Week: Robotics, Automation & Control
Will Robotics and Automation Lead to a Greater Appreciation of Nature?

Our lead INSIDER story today focused on the environmental impacts of robotics and automation.

Question of the Week: Robotics, Automation & Control
Would You Use a 'Twining' Robotic Gripper?

Our lead INSIDER story today focused on a twining robotic gripper that its inventor says is especially effective at grabbing thin objects like pencils, paintbrushes, and even a straightened paperclip.

Question of the Week: Robotics, Automation & Control
Could ‘Smellicopters’ Someday Support Search-and-Rescue?

Our second INSIDER story today highlights an innovative combination of autonomous drones and live moth antennae: The “Smellicopter.”

Question of the Week: Medical
Will RepelWrap Catch On?

A material called "RepelWrap" won this year's "Create the Future" Design Contest. The thin film, invented by researchers at McMaster University, instantly fends off viruses and bacteria when the material is placed on a surface, including a door handle or railing.

Question of the Week: Materials
Should We Use Chitin to Build on Mars?

In the latest episode of our Tech Briefs podcast series Here's an Idea™, researcher Javier Gomez Fernandez talks about his idea for making habitats on Mars. Fernandez envisions using chitin from insects – and combining the substance with the Martian soil – to create a kind of sustainable building...

Question of the Week: Energy
Will Indoor Light Someday Power Our Smart Devices?

Our lead INSIDER story today looks at “perovskite-inspired” materials that can absorb indoor light at higher efficiencies than ever before.

Question of the Week: Software
Would You Use 'Tsugite' Software for Woodworking?

A recent INSIDER story highlighted a new tool for architects, furniture-makers, and woodworking beginners. The interactive software from the University of Tokyo, known as "Tsugite," provides milling machine instructions and on-screen design guidance so that users can piece an object together...

Question of the Week: Manufacturing & Prototyping
Will Paper-Based Keypads Catch On?

The “5 Ws” feature of our November issue of Tech Briefs highlights a paper-based keypad being developed at Purdue University.

Question of the Week: Unmanned Systems
Will Mobile Docking Stations Become an Essential Part of Underwater Exploration?

An INSIDER story this month highlighted an innovative way of supporting underwater robots: mobile docking stations.

Question of the Week: Robotics, Automation & Control
Would You Use a ‘SwingBot?’

A “SwingBot” robotic arm from MIT can learn the physical features of a handheld object through tactile exploration. Instead of using cameras or vision methods, the robot’s grippers use GelSight tactile sensors that measure the pose and force distribution of the object. Watch the demo on Tech Briefs TV.

Question of the Week: Electronics & Computers
Will Self-Erasing Chips Catch On?

University of Michigan engineers reported that their new self-erasing chips could help stop counterfeit electronics or provide alerts if sensitive shipments are tampered with. The chips use a new material that temporarily stores energy, changing the color of the light it emits. The self-erase period takes seven...

Question of the Week: Sensors/Data Acquisition
Will We Someday 'Draw' Sensors On Our Skin?

A Tech Brief featured in our October issue showcases how University of Missouri researchers are creating pencil-drawn sensors. The engineers demonstrated that the simple combination of pencils and paper could be used to create personal, health-monitoring devices.

Question of the Week: Photonics/Optics
Will Flat Fisheye Lenses Play a Greater Role in Medical Imaging and Consumer Electronics?

A recent Tech Briefs TV video demonstrated an achievement from engineers at MIT and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. The teams designed the first completely flat fisheye lens to produce crisp, 180-degree panoramic images. The lenses, according to...

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