Astrobotic Technology Inc., a spin-off company of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), has debuted its full-size flight prototype of its Polaris lunar water-prospecting robot. Polaris is specially designed to work in the permanently shadowed craters at the Moon’s poles. Scheduled to be sent to the Moon using a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle, the solar-powered rover is a contender in the US$20 million Google Lunar X Prize and is tasked with seeking ice deposits that could be used by future colonists. Read More
Scooping up a handful of dirt may seem simple, but for a robot operating on another planet, it’s a major operation. NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is making itself ready to collect its first soil sample at an area called “Rocknest.” The preparations involve testing the nuclear-powered rover’s motorized scoop and cleaning out its Chemistry and Mineralogy (ChemMin) and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratories of any terrestrial contaminants before receiving soil samples. Read More
We're used to the thought of humans sweating to cool down, but what about buildings? Researchers at ETH Zurich have applied the biological cooling mechanism to the task of keeping a building cool, and in the process have hit upon a novel and inexpensive method of cooling houses which could prove useful for homes in both developed and emerging nations. Read More
The single biggest factor hindering the convenience, and therefore the adoption, of electric vehicles is the batteries used to power them. While filling up an ICE vehicle takes just a few minutes at the pump, electric vehicle recharge times are measured in hours. Engineers at the University of California, San Diego, have developed new algorithms that improve the efficiency of existing lithium-ion batteries and could allow them to be charged twice as fast than is currently possible. Read More
Researchers at Disney Research Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University are experimenting with 3D printed optics using clear resin. Printed optics can create a variety of effects within 3D-printed objects, from focusing light within printed prisms to channeling light through honeycomb-like "light pipes," which give the effect of individually lit pixels. Read More
Following on from news out of the University at Buffalo earlier this year that a graphene varnish could significantly slow the corrosion of steel, researchers from Monash and Rice Universities have used a graphene coating to improve copper’s resistance to corrosion by nearly 100 times. The researchers say such a dramatic extension of the metal’s useful life could result in significant cost savings for a wide range of industries. Read More
Boeing has filed a patent for a method of disposing of dead satellites and other debris orbiting the earth by hitting them with a puff of gas. The method, which is still at the conceptual stage, is designed to slow down satellites, forcing them to re-enter the atmosphere without sending up more space junk that itself will need disposing of. Read More
Making broad differentiations between modern and classic paintings can be fairly easy for the untrained eye, but telling the difference between an Impressionist and a Post-Impressionist painting may require a certain knowledge of art history. Well, it ain’t necessarily so when it comes to computers. An algorithm created and tested by computer scientists Lior Shamir and Jane Tarakhovsky, of Lawrence Technological University in Michigan, produced surprisingly accurate and expert results in art analysis. Read More
Most people’s image of plants is actually upside down. For most of our photosynthetic friends, the majority of the plant is underground in the form of an intricate system of roots. The bit that sticks up is almost an afterthought. That’s a problem for scientists trying to study plants because growing them in media that allow you to see the roots, such as hydroponics, doesn't mimic real soil very well. Now, a team of researchers at the James Hutton Institute and the University of Abertay Dundee in Scotland has developed an artificial transparent soil that allows scientists to make detailed studies of root structures and subterranean soil ecology on a microscopic level. Read More
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications have developed a system that allows solar cells to effectively harvest energy from the infrared spectrum, tapping into a source of energy that in the past has mostly been out of reach. The new technology, which promises to work well with commercially available solar cells, has the potential of becoming a standard in the solar panels of tomorrow. Read More