We've already heard about two different studies in which scientists are developing camouflage systems inspired by squids' color-changing skin. If they're successful, the result could be military clothing that can change its coloration to match the environment. It's an intriguing idea, although it presumably still wouldn't allow soldiers to avoid detection by infrared cameras at night. Now, however, researchers from the University of California at Irvine are developed a stick-on covering that could let them do so. Read More
Good news if you're hooked on chocolate. Researchers from Ghent University in Belgium and the University of Ghana have developed a new technique for making chocolate that results in it being both healthier and more flavorful. The technique differs from conventional chocolate production in that cacao beans are roasted at a lower temperature and bean pods are left unopened for five days rather than split open right away. It is expected to be particularly useful in countries where cacao beans have less natural flavor and antioxidant activity. Read More
In various types of manufacturing, parts are robotically picked and placed using graspers or suction cups. The former can damage fragile items, however, while the latter won't work in vacuums or on rough surfaces. That's why scientists from Germany's Leibniz Institute for New Materials (INM) have developed – well, a new material. It utilizes the same principle as sticky gecko feet, but its gripping quality can be switched on and off as needed. Read More
A team of MIT scientists has developed software capable of analyzing existing satellite imagery to identify separate structures, significantly speeding up the process of deciding where to apportion aid in rural areas in the developing world. The system will be tested against existing methods on a project in India. Read More
Whether they're on robots or amputees, artificial hands tend to be rather complex mechanisms, incorporating numerous motor-driven cables. Engineers from Germany's Saarland University, however, have taken a different approach with their hand. It moves its fingers via shape-memory nickel-titanium alloy wires, bundled together to perform intricate tasks by working like natural muscle fibers. Read More
The use of optical sound-on-film recording on early movie films revolutionized the motion picture industry and remained the standard method of audio recording in that medium for more than 80 years. Now researchers from the University of Illinois have emulated that feat in miniature by claiming to have recorded the world's first optically encoded audio onto a plasmonic film substrate. The size of human hair, this substrate has a capacity over five-and-a-half thousand times greater than conventional analog magnetic recording media. Read More
Before the dream of quantum computing is realized, a number of inherent problems must first be solved. One of these is the ability to maintain a stable memory system that overcomes the intrinsic instability of the basic unit of information in quantum computing – the quantum bit or "qubit". To address this problem, Physicists working at the University of California Santa Barbara (UC Santa Barbara) claim to have created breakthrough circuitry that continuously self-checks for inaccuracies to consistently maintain the error-free status of the quantum memory. Read More
We already knew that graphene was a highly useful material, but just how useful is it? Well, it turns out that even defective graphene may be valuable. According to a team of mostly-American scientists, improperly-formed graphene could find use in next-generation fuel cells. Among other things, those cells might allow electric cars to be recharged in the amount of time that it currently takes to refuel a gas-burning vehicle. Read More
Usually when we hear about the properties of geckos being applied to human technology, it's the reptiles' sticky feet that are in question. Now, however, scientists in Australia are looking at the manner in which a particular type of gecko is able to stay clean. Their findings could pave the way for things like water-repelling electronics, or clothes that never need washing. Read More
At this time of year, people living in northern regions all over the world are faced with the same problem: icy sidewalks. Boots with otherwise grippy soles still slip, and spikes don't do well on stretches where there is no ice. Researchers from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and the University of Toronto are developing what could be a better alternative, however – rubber soles with bits of glass embedded in them. Read More