Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Fraunhofer

The parallel ordering of liquid crystals make them near-frictionless lubricants (Image: Mi...

The world uses tens of millions of tons of lubricant every year, from the smallest part of a micro-precision instrument to the expansion rollers on the largest bridges. Most are oil based, though others use powders, and even metals, and it’s been that way for decades. That could be changing as the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials, Nematel GmbH, and Dr. Tillwich GmbH have developed a new class of lubricants that are based on liquid crystals instead of oil. According to Fraunhofer, this is the first fundamentally new lubricant developed in twenty years.  Read More

Fraunhofer's thermic-piezoelectric deformable mirror could be applied in high-powered lase...

One cinematic cliché we've all seen is when the hero deflects the villain's dastardly laser beam with a hastily snatched hand mirror, sending it back at his adversary. Physics, ever the wet blanket, says that this is a highly improbable scenario. Focusing high-powered lasers isn't easy. A powerful laser distorts the mirror, throwing the beam off and spreading it out uselessly. To combat this, Fraunhofer is developing a lens that can deform itself to compensate for heating and other distortion factors to keep lasers focused on target.  Read More

How a snake-like robot developed by Fraunhofer winds its way through the narrow openings i...

Although modern jet airliners may be at the cutting edge of technology, assembling them is, in many ways, still as much of a craft as 18th century shipbuilding, requiring loads of skill and manual labor to get the job done. The Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology (IWU) in Chemnitz, Germany wants to bring airplane construction into the 21st century with a snake-like robot that can assemble airplane wings by reaching into narrow, hard to reach cavities.  Read More

The Mobile Authentication via Retina Scanner (MARS) prototype is compact and portable (Pho...

Retinal scans have a lot going for them as a form of identification. You can’t forget your retinas, they're unique, they’re a lot harder to steal than passwords, and Captain Kirk uses them. The problem is, the technology needed to run a reliable retinal scan is often bulky, expensive, and hard to use. Scientists at the Dresden-based Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS) have shrunk down retinal scanning technology in the hopes of making retinal scans a more widespread identification technology.  Read More

A demonstration of how the phosphorus-laden particles can be removed from water using a ma...

Phosphorus is a mineral that's widely used in fertilizer, which itself has an unfortunate tendency to leach out of farmers' fields and into our waterways. Now, researchers from Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research have devised a method of retrieving some of that phosphorus from the water – thus both reducing pollution, and providing a source of reclaimed phosphorus.  Read More

Gallium nitride transistors enabled the compact design of this 2090 lumen retrofit LED lam...

Although known for long life and low energy consumption, the LED uses a DC power supply, or driver, to overcome its sensitivity to current fluctuations, and it’s the high-frequency, high-speed switching transistors in this driver that’s made the LED so costly for use in large-scale commercial applications dominated by fluorescent and incandescent lighting. But that’s about to change. Fraunhofer researchers are developing a new, more economical means of making the high-performance gallium nitride transistors needed for the LED’s high-efficiency driver.  Read More

Samples of Fraunhofer's wood foam insulation

Insulating your home may help the environment by lowering your energy usage, but unfortunately the petroleum-based foam that's typically used as insulation isn't all that eco-friendly itself. Researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, however, have developed a reportedly greener alternative that they claim works just as well – it's foam made from wood.  Read More

safe@home detects seniors' falls, and contacts people who can help (Photo: Shutterstock)

For seniors in general, falls can result result in broken hips or other serious injuries. For seniors living alone, however, there's also a good chance that they could end up lying on the floor for up to several hours before anyone else knows what's happened. User-triggered radio devices such as Life Alert are helpful up to a point, although they're not much good if the user isn't carrying them at the time, or if they get knocked unconscious. That's why a group of German companies are developing the automatic safe@home system.  Read More

The Parasol system uses passive radar sensors and mathematical algorithms to determine if ...

With aspirations to claim 80 percent of its power from renewable sources by the 2050, it follows that Germany is taking a proactive approach to its clean energy transformation. Wind farms, while set to play an important part in achieving this goal, often meet impassioned opposition from disgruntled neighbors piqued by their perpetually blinking beacons. In an effort to address this issue, researchers have developed a sensor system for wind turbines which detects nearby aircraft, switching on a beacon warning system only as they approach.  Read More

The Galileo-SmartLVS hardware (prototype pictured) coupled with the LawinenFon app transfo...

In October of last year, the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) issued a warning about the dangers of relying on smartphone apps that were being marketed as economical alternatives to avalanche transceivers. But a new smartphone app and add-on hardware component could provide an alternative that is not only cheaper than dedicated avalanche transceivers, but also provides additional functionality.  Read More

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