From military shelters and solar arrays to batteries and drones, engineers continue to prove that origami can be the inspiration for more than just paper cranes. The latest creation inspired by the ancient art of paper folding is a new "zippered tube" design that forms paper structures with enough stiffness to support weight, but can be folded flat for shipping or storage. The scaleable technique could be used in anything from microscopic robots and biomedical devices, to buildings and bridges.
The whiskers that help rats find their way around dingy sewers has inspired a tactile sensor that could be used for navigating all manner of dark conditions. Scientists have developed a device capable of generating images of obscured environments by monitoring both air and fluid flow, and which could find its way into biomedical applications.
The field of optogenetics where individual brains cells are made to behave differently when exposed to light has wide-ranging potential. It may one day be used to reverse acquired blindness, alter pain thresholds and even hit the rest button on our biological clocks. With one eye on this emerging area of neuroscience, scientists have developed a device the width of a human hair that can be planted in the brain to deliver light or drugs only where needed, offering better targeted treatments and reduced side effects.
Graphene is the modern go-to material for scientists and engineers looking to create all manner of new electronic devices. From ultra-frugal light bulbs (both big and small), to super-efficient solar cells, flexible displays and much more, graphene is a multi-tasking marvel. However, in all of these instances, graphene in its original form of atom-thin, flat sheets has had to be used with peripheral supports and structures because it lacks a solid shape and form of its own. Now researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have come up with a way of creating 3D objects out of graphene that opens up the possibility of fashioning a whole new range of innovative electronic devices.
Expanding on previous research into electronic devices that dissolve in water once they have reached the end of their useful life, researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a new type of "transient" electronic device that self-destructs in response to heat exposure. The work is aimed at making it easy for materials from devices that usually end up in landfill to be recycled or dissolved completely.
Scientists are increasingly looking at using medication-filled microspheres for targeted drug delivery within the human body. Silicone would
be a particularly good building material for such spheres, as it's
biocompatible, waterproof, and chemically stable. Unfortunately, using
traditional methods, it can't be made into small enough spheres. Now,
however, a new process has allowed for the creation of silicone
microspheres that are about one one-hundredth the size of any previously