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Piezoelectric

Ormia ochracea has excellent hearing, and is hated by crickets everywhere  (Photo: Jpaur)

When it comes to animals with good hearing, flies might not be the first one you'd think of. The Ormia ochracea fly, however, has a unique hearing mechanism that allows it to precisely determine the location of a cricket based on its chirps ... it then deposits its larvae on the cricket, which ultimately consume the poor insect. Scientists at the University of Texas Austin have now duplicated that mechanism, with hopes that it could find use in applications such as next-generation hearing aids.  Read More

A group of researchers has developed a pacemaker powered by an implantable flexible piezoe...

Over the past few decades, cardiac pacemaker technology has improved to the point that pacemakers have become a commonplace medical implant that have helped improve or save the lives of many millions of people around the world. Unfortunately, the battery technology used to power these devices has not kept pace and the batteries need to be replaced on average every seven years, which requires further surgery. To address this problem, a group of researchers from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed a cardiac pacemaker that is powered semi-permanently by harnessing energy from the body's own muscles.  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

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

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