The rapid and on-going development of micro-miniature optical electronic devices is helping to usher in a new era of photonic computers and light-based memories
that promise super-fast processor speeds and ultra-secure
communications. However, as these components are shrunk ever further, fundamental limits to their dimensions are dictated by the wavelength of light itself. Now researchers at ETH Zurich claim to have overcome this limitation by creating both the world's smallest optical switch using a single atom,
and accompanying circuitry that appears to break the rules by being
smaller than the wavelength of the light that passes through it.
Although they aren't as common as flying drones, we are seeing an increasing number of wall-climbing robots. What isn't so common, however, are devices like the VertiGo, which both drives on the ground and climbs up walls. Its climbing ability is particularly impressive, as it can even tackle walls with rough, uneven surfaces.
Scientists have created a picture that only fleas could truly appreciate. That's because the inkjet-printed image takes up an area no larger than the cross-section of a human hair. The picture of a few clownfish in their sea anemone home measures just 80 µm x 115 µm for a total area of 0.0092 mm2.
As we learned earlier this year, researchers at ETH Zürich's institute for Dynamic Systems and Control are looking at ways in which flying construction robots can be programmed to autonomously build tensile structures. Now it appears they've taken a significant step forward. Literally. The team has demonstrated a rope bridge built by drones that can support the weight of an adult human as they walk across it.
Ever since the late 19th century, people have experimented with making textiles from natural-source-based gelatine, as a cheaper and less allergenic alternative to wool. Although the emergence of synthetic fibers largely put an end to that, a new technique may yet allow gel-based yarn to see the spotlight. The fiber is said to have an insulation quality similar to that of Merino wool, and the collagen used to produce it can be obtained from waste at animal-processing facilities.
We've seen tracked wheelchairs
before, that are able to take on steep or uneven terrain. For regular
surfaces, however, wheels make more sense. That's why a group of
students from ETH Zurich and the Zurich University of the Arts are
creating the Scalevo electric wheelchair, which features wheels for
cruising and tracks for climbing stairs.
Nanorobots hold great potential in the field of medicine. This is
largely due to the possibility of highly-targeted delivery of medical
payloads, an outcome that could lessen side effects and negate the need
for invasive procedures. But how these microscopic particles can best
navigate the body's fluids is a huge area of focus for scientists.
Researchers are now reporting a new technique whereby nanorobots are
made to swim swiftly through the fluids like blood to reach their
A Swiss joint venture has developed a hybrid-electric powertrain for road sweepers that's said to consume half the energy of diesel-hydraulic vehicles and reduce emissions by more than 60 percent. The modular system can also be adapted to cleaner fuel types such as hydrogen.