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— Environment

Cheaper, longer-lasting perovskite solar cells could be on the way

Perovskite solar cells are one of the most exciting green energy technologies to emerge in recent years, combining low cost with high energy conversion rates. Now, researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) have found a way to cut their cost even further by developing a charge-carrying material that is much cheaper, highly efficient, and could even help address the technology's current major weakness by significantly lengthening the lifespan of the panels.

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— Robotics

Soft robotic gripper gets a grasp on fragile objects using electroadhesion

Building machines that replicate the delicate touch of a human hand is a complex undertaking that has seen the development of all kinds of soft robotic grippers, from squishy green blobs to boa constrictor-inspired claws. Scientists are now claiming an important advance in this area, demonstrating a robotic device that can better grasp fragile objects through the help of electroadhesion, the very same phenomenon that sees balloons cling to ceilings after being rubbed on your hair.

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— Medical

Firefly enzyme inspires Swiss team to create portable disease test kit

Portable test kits represent an advance in disease diagnosis, as their ready availability increases chances of earlier detection and treatment. This type of technology is constantly evolving, and sometimes inspiration can come from surprising sources. Such is the case with research carried out by a Swiss team, which has borrowed from the mechanics behind the firefly's glow to develop a sensitive molecule detector.

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— Space

EPFL's CleanSpace One satellite will "eat" space junk

Three years ago, Swiss research institute EPFL announced its plans to build a spacecraft that could grab orbital debris and then carry it back towards Earth, burning up in the atmosphere with it on its way down. Called CleanSpace One, the satellite was depicted at the time as using a claw-like grasping tool. Now, however, EPFL has announced that it will utilize a folding conical net to essentially gobble up bits of space garbage.

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— Robotics

Mind-controlled telepresence robot to get paralyzed people out and about

A telepresence robot developed at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) that can be controlled by thought may give people with severe motor disabilities a greater level of independence. Successfully put through its paces by 19 people scattered around Central Europe – nine of whom are quadriplegic and all of whom were hooked up to a brain-machine interface – the robot handled obstacle detection and avoidance on its own while the person controlling it gave general navigation instructions.

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— Drones

Origami-inspired drone snaps open to take flight

Micro-drones may be versatile in the air, but carry one in your pocket or bag and you run the risk of damaging its propellers. While carry cases are available for a number of models, some are catering to the micro-drone class with arms that fold away for safe storage. Two Swiss roboticists are the latest to take this approach, with a palm-sized quadcopter that spreads its wings and springs to life in less than a second.

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— Physics

Image captures light as both wave and particle for very first time

In 1905, Albert Einstein provided an explanation of the photoelectric effect – that various metals emit electrons when light is shined on them – by suggesting that a beam of light is not simply a wave of electromagnetic radiation, but is also made up of discrete packets of energy called photons. Though a long accepted tenet in physics, no experiment has ever directly observed this wave/particle duality. Now, however, researchers at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland claim to have captured an image of this phenomenon for the first time ever. Read More
— Medical

Telescopic contact lenses zoom in and out with the wink of an eye

Researchers from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have developed contact lenses that have tiny telescopic lenses built in to boost vision. Controlled by smart glasses that react in response to the winking of an eye, the device allows the wearer to zoom in on objects by providing magnification up to 2.8 times that of unaided human eyesight. Read More
— Electronics

Self-repairing, reconfigurable electronic circuits take a step closer to reality

If electronic circuits could automatically reconfigure their internal conductive pathways as required, microchips could function as many different circuits on the one device. If many of these devices were then incorporated into larger pieces of equipment, such as robots, it is possible that self-sufficient, self-sustaining machines could change to suit their environment or even reconfigure broken or damaged pathways to repair themselves. Promising applications like these – and more – could one day be made possible if technology resulting from recent research into atomic manipulation at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) comes to fruition. Read More
— Drones

Vampire bat-inspired drone can fly and crawl

Robot drones that can both fly and move about on land would vastly improve their usefulness by increasing the areas in which they could operate. Adding wheels of sufficient size to handle most terrains, however, would adversely increase both the weight and size of such a drone. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), building on their earlier developments, have created a drone that uses wings incorporating movable tips, allowing it to both walk and fly. Read More
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