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Engineering

The humble ball bearing is a key component of nearly every device with moving parts, taking advantage of the vastly reduced friction you can achieve when rolling a ball between two surfaces as opposed to sliding them across one another. Now, a Japanese company has come up with a simple design that removes a key component from a typical bearing – the cage that keeps the balls separated as they roll around. Coo Space's Autonomous Decentralised Bearings don't need to be greased, and according to their inventor, this fact alone can reduce their friction by up to 90 percent compared with standard bearings.

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While the fashion in high-tech automotive developments might lean towards hybrids and electric vehicles at the moment, there’s still plenty of scope to improve the good old internal combustion engine and one of the holy grails of such development is the creation of a viable variable-compression-ratio system. Now Porsche is working on just such an engine, revealed in the form of a newly-published patent, which will be able to alter its compression ratio. Read More
We tend to think of future lunar colonies as being cramped futuristic domes or subsurface rabbit warrens, but what about underground caverns big enough to hang glide in? According to a study by a Purdue University team, that may not be so daft as it calculates that the Moon may contain lava tubes large enough to house entire cities. Read More
As cool and wonderful as Lego is, those plastic bricks can be tricky to handle if you want to step up from mere constructive play into serious custom-built prototyping. UberBlox hopes to fill that gap. It's a metal construction set and prototyping system with a single-connector locking mechanism and a variety of control boxes for accommodating whatever computer connection or automation needs a project might have. Read More
Turbine blades for use in jet engines need to be made of a hard, unyielding exotic material made to exact specifications, which means the drilling of tiny cooling holes in the blades runs the risk of ruining them. To prevent this from happening, GE is combining the heat of the laser beam with the cooling of the water jet to drill holes without weakening the blades. Read More
Flatpack furniture is one thing, but flatpack bridges? That may seem like reaching, but over 50 of them been constructed in the UK and Ireland, and civil engineers at Queen's University Belfast announce that work will soon begin on the world's longest flatpack arch bridge. Read More
Meccano is one of those toys with a very strong nostalgia element, involving memories of hours spent bolting together a toy wheelbarrow or a coffee table-size Forth Bridge. But 21st century kids relate more to smartphones than traveling cranes, so Meccano has come up with its Meccanoid G15 KS – a kit robot that can be programmed using motion capture. Read More
Space travel is a bit more civilized now that there's a bespoke Italian espresso machine aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Unfortunately, solving one problem just raises another and the astronauts are still having to drink their cappuccinos out of placcy bags. To help the zero-g coffee aficionado, Portland State University's (PSU) Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science has developed a microgravity espresso cup that drinks like its earthbound counterparts. Read More
Keeping buildings cool isn't easy. In fact, conventional air conditioning methods are very energy intensive and account for up to 15 percent of the energy used in buildings in the United States alone. However, engineers at Stanford University have come up with a new ultrathin, multilayered, nanophotonic material that not only reflects heat away from buildings, but also directs heat from inside out into space, cooling both the building and the planet as well. Read More
When I saw BotFactory's Squink in action at MakerCon in New York last month, it was one of those innovations that took a few minutes to sink in. It looks like a modified 3D printer, but it does much more. In essence, it is a home factory in a single package. Read More
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