Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Surfaces

In its low-drag configuration, the 'smorph' looks like a golf ball (Image: MIT)

Researchers at MIT have developed a smart curved surface that can morph at will to reduce drag, generating a series of small, evenly spaced dimples that make it resemble the outside of a golf ball. This technology could be used to reduce hurricane damage on some public buildings, as well as increase the aerodynamic and fuel efficiency in cars.  Read More

Researchers at ORNL have created an air- stable water droplet network (Photo: Kyle Kuykend...

Harvesting water out of thin air, might seem like a pipe dream, but the air-stable water droplet networks, currently being developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researchers could prove to be a step in the right direction. Created with the aid of a new technique, these water droplet networks could also potentially find use in membrane research and biological sensing applications.  Read More

Looking back on a year filled with scientific accomplishment

The close of 2013 gives us an excellent opportunity, though satiated with holiday feasts, to look back on a year that has been filled with scientific accomplishment. So it's time to get comfortable on your Binary Chair, sip your hot cocoa from a phase-change mug while your Foodini prints out a batch of cookies and reflect on science stories of note from the past year.  Read More

Scientists have unlocked the secret to scorpions' ability to withstand sand-blasting, and ...

As any graffiti-removal specialist will tell you, sand-blasting is definitely an effective method of removing substances that have bonded onto hard surfaces. Unfortunately, sand or other abrasive particles suspended in air or liquid also have a way of eroding not just spray paint, but pretty much anything they encounter. As a result, items such as helicopter rotor blades, airplane propellers, rocket motor nozzles and pipes regularly wear out and need to replaced. Interestingly enough, however, scorpions live their entire lives subjected to blowing sand, yet they never appear to ... well, to erode. A group of scientists recently set out to discover their secret, so it could be applied to man-made materials.  Read More

Scanning electron microscopy image of nanocomposite film (Image: Rensselaer/Ravindra C.Pan...

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the bacteria responsible for antibiotic resistant infections, poses a serious problem in hospitals, where patients with open wounds, invasive devices and weakened immune systems are at greater risk of infection than the general public. In a move that could significantly reduce this risk, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have created a nanoscale coating for surgical equipment, hospital walls, and other surfaces which safely eradicates MRSA.  Read More

Diagram of the gold monolayering process

We’ve reported on some rather questionable products of gold plating technology before, including a gilded iPhone, Wii gaming system and barbecue. There are legitimate reasons to coat things in gold, however, such as in the production of nanoelectronics and semiconductors. The coatings used in these applications are infinitely thinner than what you would typically use on an iPhone, so it is of the utmost importance that they be as smooth and uniform as possible. Recently, researchers at Troy, New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute announced that they have devised a quick and simple method of producing just such coatings.  Read More

Nanopool's Liquid Glass being applied to a statue at Ataturk's Mausoleum in Turkey

Yep, you read it right, spray-on glass. It could revolutionize the fields of agriculture, medicine, fashion, transportation - really, it would be easier to list where it might not be applicable. The remarkable product, called Liquid Glass, was developed by the German nano-tech firm Nanopool GmbH. Their patented process, known as “SiO2 ultra thin layering” involves extracting silica molecules from quartz sand, adding them to water or ethanol, and then... well, they won’t tell us what they do next, but the end result is a 100 nanometer-thick, clear, flexible, breathable coating that can be applied to almost any surface. We’re told that there are no added nano-particles, resins or additives - the coating is formed using quantum forces. The possible uses are endless.  Read More

Both color and saturation can be controlled

Rather than using e-paper technology just for displays, the research arm of Dutch technology company Philips Electronics has developed a relatively cheap, light, thin and energy efficient means of turning the whole of the surface of a device into a digital canvas. E-skin technology could be used to change the color of a mobile phone when a call comes in, alter the appearance of a kettle when the water is boiling or even be applied to wallpaper so you can redecorate your room at the flick of a switch.  Read More

Roads covered in ice can be difficult and dangerous to drive on

Like most things, ice can be a blessing or a burden depending on the circumstances. It’s perfect crushed in a drink on a hot summer’s day, but can wreak havoc when it collects on roads, power lines and aircraft in freezing temperatures. A University of Pittsburgh-led team has found a way to reduce these dangers by developing a nanoparticle-based coating that can be easily applied to impede the buildup of ice on solid surfaces.  Read More

The humble lotus leaf continues to inspire the scientific world 
 [Images: Flickr Creative...

Finding inspiration from nature in order to refine and advance modern technologies is nothing new; Mercedes’ bionic car was an interesting example and we’ve also seen a new ‘smart fabric’ based on the design of pine cones. Perhaps one of the most inspiring species, certainly in the plant world, is the lotus, which has already contributed to the development of fog-free windscreens and other surfaces along with improving the efficiency of solar cells. Now NASA is looking to the Lotus Leaf to develop a non-stick surface for use on spaceflight equipment.  Read More

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