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Piezoelectric

Someday, simply having your phone in the car while driving could recharge it

While it's already possible to wirelessly recharge smartphones in cars, those cars need to be equipped with a special charging pad that the phone has to be placed on. Thanks to a newly-developed "nanogenerator," however, it might eventually be possible to place the phone anywhere in any car, letting the vehicle's vibrations provide the power.  Read More

The Scent Rhythm watch aims to have people smell the passage of time (Photo: Aisen Caro Ch...

Glancing at a clock face in one form or another has been the de facto way to measure the passage of time. Aisen Caro Chacin though, is exploring a different perspective. She wants to give everyone the ability to tell time using their noses. Her chemical-based watch called the Scent Rhythm emits specially-designed fragrances in minute doses, in tune with circadian cycle of the human body. You get a fragrance of coffee in the morning, the smell of money in the afternoon, a relaxing whiskey scent in the evening, and a soothing chamomile fragrance at night. More than being merely pleasant, each chemically-supplemented scent aims to induce action appropriate to the time of day; the caffeine in the coffee scent, for example, aims to trigger the person into being more active.  Read More

Will the F1 be among the last of McLaren's cars to have windshield wipers? (Photo: McLaren...

Windshield wipers are life-savers, but also can drive one to distraction with their incessant streaking and chattering. Well, the tyranny of the wipers may soon be over. McLaren Automotive’s chief designer Frank Stephenson told The Sunday Times that the performance motoring company is investigating the use of "ultrasonic force fields" to replace windshield wipers in automobiles. While Stephenson referred to a military source for McLaren's tech, there appears to be very little public information on how such force fields might clean a windshield during a storm, so I'm taking a look at the patent history to see how this might be accomplished.  Read More

Cells from rats' retinas have been successfully jetted from an inkjet printer (Photo: Shut...

Imagine if conditions that presently cause blindness could be treated by simply by fabricating new tissue, and using it to replace the defective part of the retina. We may not be at that point yet, but we've definitely taken a step closer, thanks to research being conducted at the University of Cambridge. Scientists there have successfully used an inkjet printer to "print" rats' retinal cells onto a substrate, paving the way for the creation of custom-made eye-repair material.  Read More

The noise of urban environments may help boost the efficiency of solar cells (Image: Shutt...

Increasing the efficiency of a hybrid solar cell simply by placing it near a source of ambient noise or vibration would be a boon for photovoltaics in urban areas, in the military, or on machinery or transportation. Hybrid organic/inorganic solar cells are already a tempting option over silicon because of their lower cost, but they suffer from their own drawbacks of efficiency. However, new research demonstrates that the piezoelectric qualities of the cells' inorganic layer can be used to boost the overall efficiency of hybrid systems, which is promising for wherever sound and sun are together.  Read More

Jake Merrell field-testing his Xonano smart foam

As any coach or sports medicine expert will tell you, when an athlete receives a blow to the head, their saying that they feel OK doesn't mean that they don't have a concussion. Particularly in sports like football, it's important to have an objective method of measuring just how much of a hit a player's noggin has taken. While some people have developed impact sensors that can be attached to players' helmets, a student at Utah's Brigham Young University has devised something less obtrusive – impact-sensing helmet-lining foam.  Read More

UCL graduate student Alice Pyne works on a LEGO-based atomic force microscope (Photo: Inst...

Scanning atomic force microscopes, first introduced into commerce in 1989, are a powerful tool for nanoscale science and engineering. Capable of seeing individual atoms, commercial AFM prices range between US$10K and $1M, depending on the unit's features and capabilities. During the recent LEGO2NANO summer school held at Tsinghua University in Beijing, a group of Chinese and English students succeeded in making a Lego-based AFM in five days at a cost less than $500.  Read More

Kyocera's 'Smart Sonic Sound' lightweight piezo film speaker (the medium-size model pictur...

Japan's Kyocera Corporation has combined a piezoelectric actuator with a special resin film to produce a proprietary, piezo film speaker that is considerably thinner and lighter than conventional electromagnetic speakers, while boasting similar audio levels. The Smart Sonic Sound already provides the audio for LG's 55-inch curved-screen OLED TV and the company hopes it will give designers of future TVs, computers and tablets more scope to place speakers on the front face of products, enabling an overall size reduction and expanding design options.  Read More

Harvard Microrobotics Lab's HAMR is an insect-sized robot capable of high speed legged loc...

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

Initial prototypes of the 'blood pressure watch' with the strap made from piezo-resistive ...

Blood pressure is one of the main vital signs, measuring the pressure of the blood upon the walls of blood vessels as it is pumped around the body by the heart. High blood pressure, or hypertension, places increased stress on the heart and can be an indicator of other potentially fatal health problems, such as stroke, heart attack, and heart failure. Most people will have had their blood pressure tested using a sphygmomanometer on a visit to the doctor, but a new wristband device is set to provide a more convenient and continuous way to keep a watch for signs of trouble.  Read More

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