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Colin Jeffrey

Colin Jeffrey

Colin discovered technology at an early age, pulling apart clocks, radios, and the family TV. Despite his father's remonstrations that he never put anything back together, Colin went on to become an electronics engineer. Later he decided to get a degree in anthropology, and used that to do all manner of interesting things masquerading as work. Even later he took up sculpting, moved to the coast, and never learned to surf.

Follow Colin:

— Aircraft

Cobalt's Valkyrie: Bruce Wayne's new private plane?

Looking more like a high-tech fighter than a light plane designed for private use, the Valkyrie from Cobalt aircraft has just been launched. With a canard front wing, sleek aerodynamic shape and a turbocharged 350 hp (260 kW) engine, the new Valkyrie is claimed to be capable of traveling at speeds of up to 260 knots (482 km/h, 300 mph) and has capacity for up to five adults and their luggage.

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— Energy

"Fool's gold" nanocrystals present cheap, abundant alternative to lithium in batteries

As energy production moves towards solar and wind-powered alternatives, battery systems to store intermittently-produced electricity have never been more important. Unfortunately, many of the materials needed to make high-performance batteries for this purpose are rapidly diminishing and becoming increasingly expensive as a result. Now researchers have created a new type of storage battery that is made from a range of cheap and abundant materials and shows promise for high-efficiency performance.

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— Aircraft

New stealth material could defeat latest radar systems

Stealth aircraft like the F35 fighter generally rely on high-tech absorption materials and unusual geometries to scatter, deflect, and sponge up incoming radar signals. These techniques are exceptionally good at masking a vehicle's shape and size, particularly when swept with side-scanning radar. However, with lower-frequency, directed anti-stealth radar-targeting systems being developed, these surfaces prove much less able to hide an object. To help address this, a team of Chinese scientists has developed a thin electronic material that sheaths an object and effectively absorbs radar signals over a wide range of frequencies.

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— Telecommunications

Wi-FM uses local radio stations to improve Internet speeds

Wi-Fi connections are great when they work quickly and efficiently, but when they suddenly slow down inexplicably it can be very frustrating. Surprisingly, this isn't usually caused by a slow connection from your ISP, rather it occurs when two physically close Wi-Fi connections interfere with each other. Now researchers from the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University have come up with a simple way to prevent this – and improve Wi-Fi speeds – by using Frequency Modulation (FM) and a smart time-sharing system that maximizes data throughput.

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— Physics

ORNL's hybrid device combines microscopy and mass spectrometry

As occurs all too often in scientific analysis, if you want to investigate more than one aspect of a sample, then you almost always need a different tool for each examination required. How convenient it would be if a substance could be both microscopically examined and chemically analyzed at the same time. In this vein, researchers from the Department of Energy’s (DOE's) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have created a hybrid optical microscope/mass spectrometry-based imaging system capable of observing and analyzing specimens simultaneously.

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— Electronics

BitDrones could be used in flying interactive displays

Researchers working at Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab in Ontario have created a collaborating swarm of drones that act as 3D pixels (voxels) to create giant, flying interactive displays. The researchers claim that the "BitDrone" system provides users with the ability to investigate virtual information presented in 3D by directly manipulating these hovering voxels for use in the likes of 3D gaming, medical imaging, and molecular modelling.

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— Electronics

Are sound waves a better way to move data?

Researchers from the University of Leeds and Sheffield University have created a way to move data through magnetic nanowires by using surface acoustic waves as the motivating force. Being developed for use in so-called racetrack solid-state memory, the researchers claim that using sound waves for data transfer should markedly increase computer processing speeds while vastly reducing power consumption.

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— 3D Printing

Wacky tape gun produces life-size CAD-assisted wireframe models

Using a handheld packing tape dispenser gun that has been modified to fold, extrude, and cut tape into tubes, a team of researchers from the Hasso-Plattner-Insitut (HPI) at the University of Potsdam has created a method of transferring computer-generated wire-frames to the real world. Dubbed the "Protopiper" by its creators, the device is not only capable of producing full-size outline objects, it is also able to produce hinges, bearings, and axles to give them opening doors, drawers, and movement just like the real things.

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— Materials

Boron-doped graphene to enable ultrasensitive gas sensors

As an atom-thick, two-dimensional material with high conductivity, graphene is set to enable a stream of new electronic devices, including particularly sensitive sensors for the detection of various gases, such as those produced by explosives. Now an international team of researchers led by Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) has created a graphene-boron amalgam that can detect particular gases down to mere parts per billion, and may eventually lead to detectors with such sensitivity that they could detect infinitesimally tiny amounts of gas in the order of parts per quadrillion.

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