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University of Michigan

Environment

Kirigami-inspired solar cells twist to track the sun

One of the challenges facing designers of traditional flat solar panels is the fact that the sun doesn't conveniently stay in one place. This means that in order for a panel to receive as much sunlight as possible, it has to pan with the sun as it moves across the sky. While there are motorized assemblies designed to do just that, they add complexity, weight and expense to photovoltaic systems. Now, however, University of Michigan scientists have developed a simpler alternative – and it's based on the ancient Japanese cut-paper art of kirigami.Read More

Space

Self-healing material could plug holes in space ships

As the movies have shown us, space travel is an intimidating prospect, what with the possibilities of running out of air, the rocket engines conking out, or the shipboard computer deciding to bump off the crew. Another danger is fast-flying orbital debris piercing the hull. Scientists may be on their way to a solution to that one, however, in the form of a new self-healing material.Read More

Automotive

Mcity opens as a first-of-its-kind sandbox for autonomous and connected vehicles

Mcity at the University of Michigan is defined by over 28 acres (11 hectares) of fake buildings, purposefully defaced road signs, and pedestrians pointedly standing in roadways. While this could tax any human driver, the Mcity simulation is designed to test the university's fleet of connected and autonomous vehicles as they interact with an everchanging research facility that's the first of its kind.Read More

Energy

Kevlar-reinforced lithium-ion batteries shouldn't catch fire

While lithium-ion batteries may outperform their older, lower-tech counterparts, they do have one drawback – occasionally, they catch fire. This can happen when fern-like metal structures known as dendrites form between the battery's two electrodes, causing a short circuit. Now, however, researchers at the University of Michigan have used Kevlar nanofibers to create a barrier between the electrodes, which is impervious to those nasty dendrites. Read More

Medical

Freedom Driver allows man with artificial heart to await transplant at home

Heart failure patients awaiting organ transplants normally find themselves anchored to the hospital bed by a washing machine-sized device that keeps blood pumping through their veins. But for Stan Larkin, a patient at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center, a new form of wearable technology is allowing him to keep on the move. The Freedom Driver is a compact, mobile version of the same machine that allows patients like Larkin to go about their normal lives while they wait for a matching donor heart to arrive. Read More

Environment

Hitachi developing reactor that burns nuclear waste

The problem with nuclear waste is that it needs to be stored for many thousands of years before it’s safe, which is a tricky commitment for even the most stable civilization. To make this situation a bit more manageable, Hitachi, in partnership with MIT, the University of Michigan, and the University of California, Berkeley, is working on new reactor designs that use transuranic nuclear waste for fuel; leaving behind only short-lived radioactive elements.Read More

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