In the latest green energy – or perhaps that should be brown energy – news, a team of engineers from Oregon State University (OSU) has developed new technology they claim significantly improves the performance of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) that can be used to produce electricity directly from wastewater. With the promise of producing 10 to 50 times the electricity, per volume, than comparable approaches, the researchers say the technology could see waste treatment plants not only powering themselves, but also feeding excess electricity back to the grid. Read More
The quest to give robots touch-sensitive artificial skin and develop medical prostheses with a sense of touch has shown much promise in recent years. The latest promising development comes out of Seoul National University's Multiscale Biomimetic Systems Laboratory where researchers have created a new biomimetic “electronic skin” that is inexpensive, yet sensitive enough to “feel” a drop of water. Read More
Having long been successful with "talkies," Disney has developed technology that could allow the creation of "feelies." While designed more for touchscreens than the silver screen, the REVEL system developed at Disney Research uses reverse electrovibration to bring computerized control over the sense of touch, thereby allowing programmers to change the feel of real-world surfaces and objects without requiring users to wear special gloves or use force-feedback devices. Read More
The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) is little known to the public, but represents one of the most-challenging efforts in observational cosmology ever attempted. The most recent phase, SDSS-III, began in 2008 and includes the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), a part of SDSS-III aimed at mapping the cosmos. Its goal is to map the physical locations of all major galaxies back to seven billion years ago, and bright quasars back to 12 billion years ago – two billion years after the Big Bang. This is being done so we can gain a better understanding of dark matter and energy, and hopefully encounter a few surprises. Read More
Driving a car in the country at night can be a scary. The combination of poor visibility and animals or other hard to spot obstacles on the road poses an obvious threat to both the car and its occupants. Some luxury models now have the option of forward looking infrared (FLIR) night vision systems, so you can see the animal in time to swerve. Unfortunately these systems are pricey, even as an aftermarket add-on, but that may soon change through the work of researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials (IWM) in Freiburg, Germany. The researchers have invented a way of bringing down the cost of the infrared lenses in FLIR systems down by 70 percent - opening the way to cheap FLIR cameras for the mass market. Read More
Unlike in old B movies, real scientists don’t scream “Fools! I’ll destroy them all!” before throwing the switch on their doomsday device. At least, most of the them don’t. However, the August 10 issue of the Astrophysical Journal reports that a team of scientists are working on destroying the world - not once, but repeatedly. Fortunately, the world they’re destroying exists only in a computer simulation and its destruction is in the service of learning more about planets revolving around other stars. Read More
The International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) is being backed by Google Lunar X Prize contestant Moon Express in placing a small telescope on the Moon's surface to test and troubleshoot operating protocols for a fully loaded remote telescope. Last week, the ILO-X, the first ILOA telescope that will be sent to the Moon, was remotely tested by ILOA and Moon Express on the summit of Mauna Kea, and passed with flying colors. Later ILOA/Moon Express missions will include landing considerably larger telescopes at strategic locations on the lunar surface. Read More
Revamping a concept that was first explored forty years ago, researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) are putting the final touches on a patent-pending design for cheap, rechargeable, high energy density iron-air batteries. Because of their unique features, the batteries look particularly well-suited to the kind of large-scale energy storage that could accelerate the adoption of renewable energy sources. Read More
It is now possible to control a computer by touching a house plant – touching the plant in different places can even cause the computer to do different things. While using a mouse or touchscreen still might be more intuitive, Disney Research’s experimental Botanicus Interactus system does hint at what could be possible down the road. Read More
Everyone knows that it’s possible to identify different species of birds by their vocalizations, but did you know that it’s also possible to differentiate between different types of bats based on their echolocation calls? Well, now you do. So far, however, there hasn’t been a standardized system of doing so – it’s been left up to individual human listeners to decide on the closest match. That may soon no longer be the case, though, as the new online iBatsID tool comes into use. Read More