Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a stretchable antenna that can be incorporated into wearable technologies such as health monitoring devices. To create the resilient and effective device, they used a stencil to apply silver nanowires in a specific pattern and then poured a liquid polymer over them. When the polymer sets, it forms an elastic composite material that has the nanowires embedded in the desired pattern. This patterned material forms the radiating element of a microstrip patch antenna. By manipulating the shape and dimensions of the radiating element, the researchers can control the frequency at which the antenna sends and receives signals. The radiating layer is then bonded to a “ground” layer made of the same composite, except it has a continuous layer of embedded silver nanowires. The antenna can be stretched, rolled, or twisted and always return to its original shape.
Soft robots not only have soft exteriors for safer operation around human beings, they also are powered by fluid flowing through flexible channels and can change shape into a nearly infinite range of configurations, enhancing movement as well. With these advantages in mind, doctoral candidate Andrew Marchese at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has built a soft robotic fish that can convulse its body in a fraction of a second to execute escape maneuvers almost as quickly as a real fish. Each side of the fish’s tail is bored through with a long, tightly undulating channel. Carbon dioxide released from a canister in the fish’s abdomen causes the channel to inflate, bending the tail in the opposite direction. The robot can perform 20 or 30 escape maneuvers, depending on their velocity and angle, before it exhausts its carbon-dioxide canister. (photo by M. Scott Brauer)
Researchers at Purdue University are working to enable smartphones and other mobile devices to understand and immediately identify objects in the camera’s field of view, overlaying lines of text that describe these objects. Known as deep learning, the process requires layers of neural networks that mimic how the brain processes information. It also requires significant computational power, so the researchers developed software and hardware that would enable even conventional smartphone processors to run deep-learning software. The approach is about 15 times more efficient than conventional graphic processors, with another tenfold improvement possible, according to the researchers. (courtesy of Purdue University e-Lab)
Developed by researchers at the University of Michigan, the Polaris-H handheld radiation camera lays a gamma-ray map over an image of a room, pinpointing radiation sources such as leaky fuel rods, radioactive buildup in pipes, and stray radioactive particles. At least four nuclear power plants in the United States as well as NASA and the Department of Defense are now using versions of the camera, available through U-M spinoff company H3D. It works at room temperature, unlike other detectors that must be cryogenically cooled. It also costs less than $100,000, while traditional imagers can cost $200,000. Operators simply set the camera in the contaminated area, switch it on, and then leave the room while it reveals the radiation hotspots and identifies the radioactive elements present. (courtesy of Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing)
The University of Washington is building a massive digital ocean observatory with dozens of instruments that will connect to power and Internet cables on the seafloor, as well as robots that will travel almost two miles of ocean to monitor water conditions and marine life. Now undergoing testing, one of these tethered robots will work at shallow depths, and the other will work at dark depths. Both will use eight different instruments to gather continuous, real-time data on temperature, salinity, currents, oxygen, chlorophyll, and other chemical and biological data and respond to events such as large storms and microbial blooms. The robots’ home base will be a platform 650 feet deep that will hold stationary instruments, a high-definition video camera, and a winch that will feed cable up to the moving science pod.
Duke University chemistry professor Benjamin Wiley grows copper nanowires from scratch. These nanowires could be used in touchscreens, organic LEDs lights, and solar cells. When added to a growth solution, octahedral “seeds” made of copper-oxide nanoparticles that are 1 µm wide sprout nanowires in minutes. This technique enabled Wiley’s lab to better control the number and length of nanowires and help make them a cheap, efficient substitute in transparent conducting films.
As many college kids hit the beaches for spring break this month, many students and professors are hard at work in their labs, developing cutting-edge technology that you soon may be able to utilize in your own work.
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