Powered exoskeletons show great promise both for augmenting the abilities of able-bodied users, and for rehabilitating the disabled. That said, they also tend to be hard-bodied contraptions that don’t look particularly comfortable (or light) to wear. Researchers at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute recently demonstrated what they hope will be a more user-friendly alternative – a “soft exosuit.” Read More
While we’re currently witnessing the rise of tiny electronic devices such as biosensors, many of those devices do have one limiting factor – they still require not-so-tiny batteries, which ends up somewhat defeating the whole miniaturization process. Although some devices can get their power from external sources, scientists from Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have come up with an alternative ... functional 3D-printed lithium-ion batteries no larger than a grain of sand. Read More
Though there's much work to be done before miniature robots move exactly like insects, Harvard Microrobotics Lab is making strides with its latest prototypes. It recently demonstrated the Harvard Ambulatory MicroRobot (HAMR), a 4.4 cm quadruped that scurries around at up to 8.4 body lengths per second. Read More
When we think of crystals, most of us probably either picture spiky things like snowflakes, or cube-shaped objects like grains of sugar. Researchers from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, however, have recently coaxed barium carbonate crystals to grow into very miniature replicas of soft, curved flowers. Read More
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
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
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
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
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
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