Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Piezoelectric

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

SolePower and its ankle strap battery

Two years ago, University of Wisconsin–Madison engineering researchers Tom Krupenkin and J. Ashley Taylor developed a device designed to harness the power of walking to charge an internal battery. Now, a new product called SolePower is looking to do the same thing, and its designers are turning to Kickstarter to bring it to the masses. The difference between this and other devices is that it comes in the form of a removable insole, so it can be used in different kinds of shoes.  Read More

Belatchew Arkitekter has proposed converting the Söder Torn building in Stockholm into an ...

Despite being the most common renewable energy technologies, solar panels and wind turbines still have their shortcomings. Particularly when it comes to the urban environment. Lack of space and concerns about noise are just two problems with integrating them into city settings in an unobtrusive way. That's why Belatchew Arkitekter wants to try a different approach with its Strawscraper concept, which proposes transforming the Söder Torn building in Stockholm into an urban wind farm by covering it in piezoelectric fibers.  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

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