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Harvard

Kepler-76b was identified using the BEER effect (Image: Dood Evan)

Due to their relative faintness compared to their parent stars, most known exoplanets have been discovered using indirect detection methods – that is, detecting the effects they have rather than observing them directly. There are numerous indirect methods that have proven useful in the detection of exoplanets and now yet another, which relies on Einstein’s special theory of relativity, has joined the list with the discovery of an exoplanet known as Kepler-76b.  Read More

Harvard's RoboBees could one day work together in search and rescue operations (Photo: Kev...

Almost since the beginning of their existence, robots have taken inspiration from one of nature's wonders: insects. Technological limitations typically prevent these robots from matching the small size of their many-legged muses, resulting in gargantuan examples like Festo's BionicOpter dragonfly. In stark contrast is Harvard's RoboBee, which is the first in the world to demonstrate controlled flight by an insect-sized robot.  Read More

TakkTile is an inexpensive tactile sensor that incorporates a conventional MEMS barometer

A lot of time and energy is currently going into developing technologies that give robots a sense of touch. In particular, scientists are developing things like artificial skin that lets robots know how much pressure they’re exerting on an object – this allows them to firmly grip rugged objects, while being more delicate with fragile items. Although most such technologies are fairly complex and expensive, researchers have now developed a cheap tactile sensor that could bring touch sensitivity to consumer and hobbyist applications.  Read More

The intestinal worm Pomphorhynchus laevis has provided the inspiration for a new system of...

You’ve gotta love those Pomphorhynchus laevis worms. Although the parasites may feed on fish by attaching themselves to the inside of the host animal’s intestines, they’ve also provided the inspiration for a new system of keeping skin grafts secured over wound sites.  Read More

Scientists have created a material that can be continuously tweaked between hydrophobic an...

Last year, a group of Harvard University scientists led by Dr. Joanna Aizenberg announced the development of a highly-hydrophobic (water-repellant) material known as SLIPS, or Slippery Liquid Porous Surfaces. The material is remarkable, in that it repels virtually any liquid. Now, Aizenberg and colleagues have created a new material inspired by human tears, the repellency of which can be fine-tuned for different applications.  Read More

Harvard's spleen-on-a-chip blood filtration device

The spleen’s job is to filter our blood. When people are critically ill or have received traumatic injuries, however, the spleen alone is sometimes not able to remove enough of the pathogens on its own – potentially-fatal sepsis is the result. In order to help avert such an outcome in those situations, scientists from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University are developing a device known as the spleen-on-a-chip.  Read More

Harvard's soft-bodied robot jumps up to 30 times its own height using internal gas explosi...

Most robots are built out of rigid materials, but a DARPA initiative to build soft-bodied robots that can squeeze into hard-to-reach places has led to the development of new types of the mechanical marvels. Harvard's Whitesides Research Group is working on a soft-bodied solution and has produced a squishy three-legged bot that can jump 30 times its height using the power of internal explosions.  Read More

The Bastard Hogberry was one of the inspirations for the color-changing fibers

Materials scientists at Harvard University and the University of Exeter have invented a new class of polymer fibers that change color when stretched. As is often seen in nature, the color is not the result of pigments, but rather comes from the interference of light within the multilayered fiber. Inspired by Margaritaria nobilis – also known as the Bastard Hogberry – the new fibers may lead to new forms of sensors, and possibly to smart fabrics whose color changes as the fabric is stretched, squeezed, or heated.  Read More

Blue light has been used to kill potentially-lethal Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria (pictu...

Over the past few years, blue light has allowed us to understand heart problems, control brain functions, and activate muscle tissue. Now, another biomedical function can be added to its list – because it’s known to have antimicrobial qualities, it’s been used to stop infections of the skin and soft tissues.  Read More

One hundred Kilobots move towards a light source

Robots by the dozen are prohibitively expensive, so actually testing how large swarms would work together is often limited to computer simulations. That's where Harvard's Kilobots are beginning to bear fruit – at a cost of US$14 each in batches of a thousand, they're a tenth the cost of their cheapest competitor. At such bargain-basement prices, Michael Rubenstein, Christian Ahler, and Radhika Nagpal at the Self-Organizing Systems Research Group have begun to build their own little robot army.  Read More

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