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University of Washington


— Good Thinking

Crashing rockets could lead to novel sample-return technology

The terms "auger in" and "lawndart" refer to rather exciting and decidedly dangerous methods of recovering a rocket, during which the screaming rocket buries its pointy end deep in the ground. Such over-enthusiastic landings provided a group of research students from the University of Washington (UWash) the inspiration for a new approach to collecting samples from hostile environments, such as the crater of an erupting volcano or a melting nuclear reactor. Read More
— Space

Students crash rockets to develop new asteroid sample collection technique

In what at first glance seems like a terrible sense of direction, in March students from the University of Washington fired rockets from kites and balloons at an altitude of 3,000 ft (914 m) straight into the ground at Black Rock, Nevada: a dry lake bed in the desert 100 mi (160 km) north of Reno. This may seem like the ultimate in larking about, but it's actually a serious effort to develop new ways of collecting samples from asteroids. Read More
— Marine

Cyclops has its eye on the deep blue sea

In three years, if you happen to be 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) beneath the surface of the ocean, keep an eye out for the Cyclops. No, not the hairy giant, but the 5-passenger submersible. Once it’s commercially available in 2016, it should be “the only privately owned deep-water manned submersible available for contracts.” As for why it’s called the Cyclops, just check out its one-big-eye-like 180-degree borosilicate glass observation dome. Read More
— Electronics

Ambient backscatter tech allows devices to communicate, sans batteries

In order for the Internet of Things to become a reality, devices will need to be able to communicate with the internet and with one another. If they have to be powered up in order to so, however, a lot of electricity is going to be wasted. That’s where a new technology known as “ambient backscatter” comes into the picture. Developed by engineers at the University of Washington, it uses ever-present existing TV and cellular signals to provide the power and medium for battery-less communications. Read More
— Science

New material could lead to cheaper, more eco-friendly LEDs

LED light bulbs may be more energy-efficient and longer-lived than their incandescent equivalents, but they’re also considerably more expensive to purchase. This is largely because rare earth elements (REEs) are used in their phosphors. There are hazards involved in the mining and processing of REEs, plus China is responsible for almost the entire world’s supply, so they’re becoming increasingly pricey. Now, however, scientists have come up with a plentiful alternative material that they say is much more environmentally friendly, and that should drive down the price of LEDs. Read More
— Electronics

WiSee system recognizes user gestures in other rooms

By now, even if they’ve never used one themselves, most people are pretty familiar with the idea behind gesture control systems such as the Kinect – the user makes a movement, the device “sees” that movement, and interprets it. However, what would happen if the user was in another room, blocked from the device’s cameras and depth sensors? Well, as long as there was a Wi-Fi signal available, it wouldn’t be a problem ... at least, not if the WiSee system was being used. Read More
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