While modern artificial hips are made of a number of high-tech materials, metal is still often the material of choice for younger, more active patients. This is due mainly to the fact that it’s so robust. Unfortunately, however, difficulties can arise in the metal ball-and-socket interface – where the artificial head of the femur meets the artificial socket of the pelvis – if things aren't perfectly aligned. In particular, the metal surfaces can wear against one another
, decreasing the longevity of the implant and potentially causing health problems in the patient. Now, researchers from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation are developing a new type of heavy-duty artificial hip, that contains no metal at all.
When it comes to implantable electronic devices such as pacemakers, biosensors
or drug-delivery devices
, there are a few options regarding power sources. While batteries could be used in some
applications, doing so would require surgically replacing the implant when its battery runs out. Radio wave-based
systems are instead often used, in which power is “beamed” to the device from a source outside the body. According to researchers from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems, however, such systems often have a limited range, and are easily affected by factors such as location, position and movement. Instead, they’ve developed what they claim is a better, more versatile system.
While electric cars are often touted as being less mechanically complex than their internal combustion-engined counterparts, there is at least one way in which they’re considerably more “involved” – their radios. Because electrical signals emitted by the car can potentially interfere with incoming radio signals, manufacturers must do things such as insulating the motor and shielding the cables. This adds time and material expenses to the production process. Now, however, researchers from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration have developed technology to help minimize the problem.
When it comes to groups that work together to get a job done, ants have pretty much got the process perfected. That’s why computer scientist Marco Dorigo studied the creatures’ behavior, and created his Ant Colony Optimization
model – an algorithmic technique that can be applied to human endeavors, when efficiency is the order of the day. Scientists from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics have now applied these algorithms to a swarm of 50 autonomous shuttle robots working in a parts warehouse, in an effort to create a new and better type of materials-handling system.
Chronic venous insufficiency - or CVI - is a very common medical condition in which veins in the legs cannot pump enough oxygen-poor blood back to the heart. It is caused by faulty valves within the leg veins, and causes blood to pool in the legs, which can lead to edemas and even open ulcers. Typically, treatment consists of anti-inflammatory drugs and diuretics, along with the use of items such as compression stockings. Now scientists have developed a method of mass-producing artificial venous valves, that could replace the malfunctioning natural ones.
There are a number of reasons that some people choose not to eat meat – for instance, they may not want to support the slaughter of animals, they may wish to avoid the health risks associated with consuming too much animal protein, or perhaps they’re not big fans of the environmental impact of raising livestock on a commercial scale. Unfortunately, if these people still want to eat meat-like foods, a lot of the meat alternatives currently available are kind of ... yucky. Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging, however, is working on a device nicknamed the “vegetarian cutlet factory.” It produces continuous slabs of veggie-based mock meat, which is reportedly quite similar to the real thing.
It looks like the skiers’ communications systems from Buhel
could soon be in for some solar-powered competition. Working with German tech company TEXSYS and the Technische Universität Berlin, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration have developed a communications module that can be integrated directly into a ski helmet. That module is powered by nothing but sunlight, and can be linked with the user’s mobile devices via a Bluetooth-enabled glove-based control unit.
Pity the poor industrial robot. It spends countless hours toiling away at mindless manual labor, never getting a chance to explore its creative side. Well, next month at the CeBIT digital technology trade show, one such robot will get the opportunity. When visitors to the Fraunhofer display take a seat on a provided stool, one of the company's industrial robots will create a pencil sketch of them, then hold up the finished product for everyone to see.
Some readers might remember the Mr. Fusion unit in Back to the Future
that Doc Brown fills with household garbage, including a banana peel and some beer, to power the iconic time-traveling DeLorean. While we're still some way from such direct means of running our cars on table scraps, researchers at Fraunhofer have developed a pilot plant that ferments the waste from wholesale fruit and veg markets, cafeterias and canteens to make methane, which can be used to power vehicles.
While great works of art should be exhibited so the public can enjoy them, putting those pieces on display also puts them at risk. If environmental factors such as lighting intensity, temperature or humidity aren’t in the optimal range, for instance, works can prematurely deteriorate as a result. In order to minimize the risks, three of Germany’s Fraunhofer research institutes have collaborated to develop Artguardian, a system that monitors the conditions under which artworks are displayed.