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Colin Jeffrey

Materials

Coal-based electronics: A potential usurper to silicon's throne?

Graphene may be the poster child of thin film electronics, and silicon the current king of materials for semiconductors, but if scientists from MIT get their way, graphene's humble cousin, coal, could soon be giving them both a run for their money. For the first time, electronic devices have been created from thin films of coal and the research points to a range of uses that this cheap and abundant material could have in electronic devices, solar panels, and batteries.Read More

Materials

Metamaterial paves way for thermophotovoltaic cells that generate electricity in the dark

Using a new optical magnetic metamaterial claimed to have revolutionary properties, physicists from the Australian National University (ANU) and the University of California Berkeley (UC Berkeley) have produced a prototype device that could be used in super-efficient thermophotovoltaic cells. These cells do not need direct sunlight to generate electricity, but instead absorb infrared radiation to convert to electric current and, unlike conventional photovoltaic cells, can do so even in the dark.Read More

Physics

World's smallest engine powered by a single atom

A team of German physicists has just created the world's smallest working engine. Powered by a single electrically-charged calcium atom, the new device is claimed to have the equivalent thermodynamic efficiency (if scaled to size) of an average automobile engine. Basically a heat-exchange engine, its single-atom acts as both fuel and powerplant and is heated by electrical noise and cooled by laser beam.Read More

Electronics

Nanotube circuits self-assembled and powered at a distance via "Teslaphoresis"

Using a powerful electric force emitted by a Tesla coil, scientists at Rice University have made carbon nanotubes self-assemble to form a circuit linking two LEDs and then used the energy from that same field to power them. According to the researchers, the manipulation of matter on this scale has never before been observed and they've dubbed this phenomenon of remotely moving and assembling the nanotubes "Teslaphoresis."Read More

Space

Prototype moon buggy saved from junkyard goes to auction

When the Apollo 15 mission landed on the moon in July 1971, it took with it the first ever vehicle to be driven by humans on another world; the lunar roving vehicle (LRV). In the long and complex history prior to that event, however, NASA commissioned the construction of a range of test vehicles for the Apollo program, many of which were eventually scrapped once their experimental use was concluded. One such vehicle – a mid-1960s LRV prototype – ended up in the hands of a junkyard dealer who decided not to break it down for scrap but, instead, held on to it for some years. "Rediscovered" late in 2015, the long-lost prototype is now headed for auction where it is expected to fetch at least US$125,000. Read More

Materials

Steel breaks record for not breaking

With iron being one of the most abundant metals on Earth, its transformation into steel also makes it one of the most useful. With applications in almost every realm of manufacturing and construction technology, steel has been the material on which the very structure of modern society has been built. In recent years, though, the heavy and unwieldy nature of steel has seen its decline as lighter – but more brittle – alloys replace it. Now a team of engineers has created a steel alloy that should be cheaper to produce than competing alloys, while being much strong without being brittle. The researchers believe that the new steel alloy could be incorporated in everything from motor vehicles and spacecraft to tools and armor.Read More

Electronics

World's smallest diode made from a single DNA molecule

As electronic devices become ever more complex, and the densities of components in those devices increases exponentially, we are rapidly approaching the day when the limitations of Moore's Law will be realized. In an effort to avert this eventuality, research has concentrated on moving away from traditional silicon technologies and into the realms of molecule-sized components and alternative materials. In this vein, researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) and Ben-Gurion University in Israel have, for the first time, created a nanoscale electronic diode from a single DNA molecule.
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Materials

Multiple bends won't crack this lightweight, paper-like, flexible ceramic

Materials to make hard-wearing, bendable non-conducting substrates for wearables and other flexible electronics are essential for the next generation of integrated devices. In this vein, researchers at the University of Twente have reformulated ceramic materials so that they have the flexibility of paper and the lightness of a polymer, but still retain exceptional high-temperature resistance. The new material has been dubbed flexiramics.Read More

Robotics

Robot climbs up pipes to clean power station boiler tube walls

Cleaning power station boiler tube walls is a dirty and troublesome job that is not only hazardous, but can generally only be done during station down times to minimize the risk to human cleaners. To help address this problem, a new robot has been developed that is specifically designed to climb and clean boiler tube walls, even in confined spaces and at elevated particulate levels.Read More

Materials

Transforming metamaterial alters size, volume, and shape on command

Harvard researchers have created a 3D programmable mechanical metamaterial that can be programmed to change shape, volume and size on command, making it ideal for building a range of different assemblies and structures that can be automatically altered to suit their purpose or environment. Claimed to be able to take the weight of an elephant when laid flat, the new material could be used to make everything from tiny self-deploying nanostructures for use in medical procedures, all the way up to large buildings that are able to metamorphose for different purposes on command. Read More

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