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— Robotics

FluxCrawler robot inspects steel cables big and small

The important task of inspecting cables on bridges, elevators, ski lifts and cable cars for signs of strain, wear and corrosion is commonly carried out by a device that clasps around the cable and exposes it to a magnetic field, looking for disruptions in the field. The problem is that the diameter of the cables and their jackets can vary considerably, limiting the use of such devices. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing have come up with a one-size-fits-all approach in the form of a robot they’ve dubbed the FluxCrawler. Read More
— Marine

Octopus inspires silent propulsion system for boats and subs

Along with their writhing tentacles, octopi and squid sport another interesting feature – they swim not by swishing a tail, but by expelling a jet of water. This allows them to move very quickly and quietly. Scientists from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation have now copied this system, in a propulsion system that could ultimately find use in boats, recreational watercraft, or submarines. Read More
— Science

Prefab houses could soon be taped together

Prefabricated houses are made up of separate pre-assembled modules that are joined to one another on-site – those modules, in turn, are made up of various wooden components that are typically nailed (or sometimes stapled) together in a factory. The wood used in the frames of the modules must be reasonably thick, in order not to split when the nails are driven in. This places some limitations on design possibilities. Now, however, German scientists have developed an alternative to those nails: electrically-activated adhesive tape. Read More

Smart door seal keeps conference rooms from getting stuffy

If you’re in a confidential meeting with the boardroom door closed, the air can get stale pretty fast. Should it be too cold outside to crack any windows, or if the room simply has no windows, then opening those isn’t a choice. That’s why Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems has teamed up with the Athmer Company to create an “intelligent door seal system.” Read More
— Science

Potentially very-useful "polymer opals" change color when stretched

Some of the most vividly colored materials in nature, including things like butterfly wings, don’t obtain their color from pigment. Instead, their internal structure reflects light at a given wavelength, producing a specific color. Opals are another example of something that utilizes this effect. In collaboration with Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Structural Durability and System Reliability, scientists from the University of Cambridge have now copied the colorful nanostructure of the opal. The result is a flexible, colorful material that won’t fade over time, that changes color when stretched, and that could have many applications. Read More
— Telecommunications

Record 40 Gbit/s wireless data transmission rate matches it with optical fiber

If you thought 5G wireless was fast at one Gbit/s, how does 40 Gbit/s sound? That's the new wireless data transmission record set by a team of engineers in Germany using integrated solid state mm-wave transceivers. This data transmission rate was demonstrated over a distance of 1 km (0.6 miles) and it is hoped that such links could be used to close gaps between optical networks in rural areas at a fraction of the cost of installing optical fiber. Read More
— Science

Color-changing glove warns of toxic substances

Laboratories that deal with dangerous chemicals devote a lot of time and money to ensuring the work environment is safe. Since many toxic substances lack a noticeable smell or color, the trick is finding a detection method that alerts employees to their presence as quickly and clearly as possible. Scientists at the the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Modular Solid State Technologies may have found a simple answer to that problem in the form of a protective glove that immediately changes color when it comes into contact with hazardous materials. Read More
— Automotive

Compact laser system scans road surfaces at 100 km/h

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques have come up with a car-mounted laser scanner the size of a shoe box, that can survey the contours of road surfaces at speeds of up to 100 km/h (62 mph). The system detects potholes and other road damage in need of repair. According to the Institute, the Pavement Profile Scanner (or PPS) has surveyed 15,000 km of road since mid-2012, in which time it has proven cheaper, faster and more accurate than existing systems which require hefty attachments to the carrier vehicle. Read More
— Electronics

Researchers increase lifespan of lithium-sulfur batteries

Technology has advanced markedly since the dawn of the silicon age, but our portable gadgets and gizmos are still largely held back by the limitations of their power source. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS in Dresden report progress in this regard, with the development of a new longer-lasting lithium-sulfur battery that has the potential to outperform lithium-ion batteries, at a lower cost. Read More