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University of Pennsylvania


— Materials

Material one thousand times thinner than paper withstands the squeeze to retain its shape

Ultra-thin and lightweight, yet durable beyond the lab setting. These are the desirable attributes for scientists in pursuit of the next generation of versatile, high-performing wonder materials. Emphasizing one without compromising the others has been a tricky balancing act for engineers, but one team is now claiming a significant breakthrough. Its first-of-its-kind nanoscale plate is one thousand times thinner than paper and still manages to maintain its shape after being bent and twisted by a human hand.

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— Materials

Color-changing polymer to indicate severity of hits to the head

A head trauma can be difficult to diagnose and destroy a life years after the event. Being able to tell immediately if the force someone has suffered is sufficient to result in a traumatic brain injury can make all the difference in limiting the damage. A team from the University of Pennsylvania has developed a material that could one day be incorporated into headgear to instantly gauge the severity of blows and provide a clearly visible indication of injury.

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— Health and Wellbeing

DARPA wants to develop electronic memory-restoring implants

Earlier this year, we heard about how DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) was setting up its new Biological Technologies Office. The goal of that division is to "merge biology, engineering, and computer science to harness the power of natural systems for national security." This week, the agency released details of one of the office's key projects, called Restoring Active Memory. It's aimed at using implantable "neuroprosthetics" to help army veterans and other people recover from memory deficits caused by brain injury or disease. Read More
— Electronics

Quadrotor gets autonomous navigation capabilities with Google's Project Tango

We’ve seen a lot of eye- and brain-catching robotics fun from the GRASP lab at the University of Pennsylvania, including a swarm of nano quadrotors playing the James Bond theme and a quadcopter swooping raptor-like onto prey. Dr. Vijay Kumar now gives us proof of concept of the utility of Google’s Project Tango in aerial systems by outfitting a quadrotor with the device to provide autonomous navigational capabilities. Read More
— Health and Wellbeing

Stem cell-based treatment for baldness a step closer

As one of the follically-challenged, any new breakthroughs in the area of hair regeneration will generally get my attention. When stem cells first started to gain widespread media attention I, no doubt like many others, thought a full head of hair was just around the corner. But despite numerous developments, years later my dome is still of the chrome variety. Providing the latest cause for cautious optimism, researchers have now developed a way to generate a large number number of hair-follicle-generating stem cells from adult cells. Read More
— Science

Scientists grow liquid crystal "flowers" to use as lenses

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have grown liquid crystal flowers, making it possible to create lenses as complex as the compound eye of a dragonfly. When perfected, the technology could allow the growth of lenses on curved surfaces, and structures to be assembled out of liquid crystals to build new materials, smart surfaces, microlens arrays and advanced sensors. Read More
— Good Thinking

2013 James Dyson Award winners announced

A US team from the University of Pennsylvania has taken out the 2013 James Dyson Award with the Titan Arm, an upper body exoskeleton that augments human strength. The team will receive the £30,000 (US$48,260) first prize, with an additional £10,000 (US$16,100) going to the University Of Pennsylvania Engineering department. Competing against 650 international entries, which were whittled down to 20 finalists, the Titan Arm shared the limelight with two runners up, who will each take home £10,000. Read More
— Electronics

Plasmonic nanostructures could prove a boon to solar cell technology

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found a way to harvest energy from sunlight more efficiently, with the help of so-called plasmonic nanostructures. The new findings suggest that plasmonic components can enhance and direct optical scattering, creating a mechanism that is more efficient than the photoexcitation that drives solar cells. The development could therefore provide a real boost to solar cell efficiency and lead to faster optical communication. Read More
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