For most people, the cockroach doesn't inspire anything but the shivers and a mild sense of revulsion. For scientists at the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley), however, the insect has inspired a whole new way of thinking about robots. After studying the way in which roaches squeeze through tiny cracks and crevices, the team developed a robot with similar capabilities.
Our sweat contains a bunch of useful information about our bodies, but diving in to retrieve it hasn't always been so straightforward. Eyeing a future where wearables not only track our heart rate and activity, but things like hydration and muscle fatigue as well, Berkeley engineers have developed a flexible sensor that can measure biochemicals in perspiration in real-time to build a more complete picture of our well-being.
According to NASA, the larger Martian moon, Phobos, is spiraling in toward the Red Planet and will eventually be destroyed in tens of millions of years, but it turns out that it may have a second career after its death. University of California, Berkeley Department of Earth and Planetary Science postdoctoral fellow Benjamin Black and graduate student Tushar Mittal have calculated that the doomed satellite will be so torn by tidal forces that its fragments will form a ring like those that encircle Saturn and the other gas giants of the outer Solar System.
Scientists at UC Berkeley have developed a foldable, incredibly thin invisibility cloak that can wrap around microscopic objects of any shape and make them undetectable in the visible spectrum. In its current form, the technology could be useful in optical computing or in shrouding secret microelectronic components from prying eyes, but according to the researchers involved, it could also be scaled up in size with relative ease.
Researchers at UC Berkeley and Taiwan's National Chio Tung University have created a low-cost electronic sensor that's able to wirelessly monitor the freshness of milk. The team created the electronic components for the sensor using a 3D-printing method, which it believes could have a big impact on the industry.
In yet another first for graphene, physicists from the University of California, Berkeley, have employed this versatile material to
create ultra-thin, lightweight ultrasonic microphones and speakers that
enable high-quality, two-way communication in the audio range normally used by the likes
of bats and dolphins.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis and Berkeley have managed to miniaturize low-depth ultrasound technology to create a fingerprint sensor that can scan your finger in 3D. This low-power technology, which could improve on the robustness of current-generation capacitive scanners, could soon find its way to our smartphones and tablets.
Besides simply being fascinating to watch, insect-inspired robots may
someday find use as scouts in search-and-rescue operations. In order
for them to function in such scenarios, however, they'll have to be able
to move through fields of debris. While some scientists have looked at
using sensors and algorithms that let the bots scan their surroundings
and then plot paths around obstacles, researchers at UC Berkley have
developed a much less complex but still effective approach – they've
outfitted a robotic cockroach with a streamlined shell, that lets it
just push its way through.
One potential clean energy future requires an economical, efficient, and relatively simple way to generate copious amounts of hydrogen for use in fuel-cells and hydrogen-powered vehicles. Often achieved by using electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, the ideal method would be to mine hydrogen from water using electricity generated directly from sunlight without the addition of any external power source. Hematite – the mineral form of iron – used in conjunction with silicon has shown some promise in this area, but low conversion efficiencies have slowed research. Now scientists have discovered a way to make great improvements, giving hope to using two of the most abundant elements on earth to efficiently produce hydrogen.
In Africa, the spread of parasitic worms known as Loa loa is seriously hindering the efforts of health care workers to cure particular rampant diseases. Though there are drugs available to treat both river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, if they are administered to a patient who also happens to also be infected with Loa loa the consequences can be lethal. This is complicated further by the inherent difficulties in screening for the worms, but a newly developed mobile phone microscope needing only a drop of blood to automatically detect the parasite promises to make things a whole lot simpler.