A quantum effect in which excited atoms team up to emit an enhanced pulse of light can be turned on its head to create super-absorbing systems to make the ultimate camera.
Superradiance, a phenomenon where a group of atoms charged up with energy act collectively to release a far more intense pulse of light than they would individually, is well-known to physicists. In theory the effect can be reversed to create a device that draws in light ultra-efficiently. This could be revolutionary for devices ranging from digital cameras to solar cells. But there’s a problem: the advantage of this quantum effect is strongest when the atoms are already 50 percent charged – and then the system would rather release its energy back as light than absorb more.
Where the river meets the sea, there is the potential to harness a significant amount of renewable energy, according to a team of mechanical engineers at MIT.
The researchers evaluated an emerging method of power generation, called pressure retarded osmosis (PRO), in which two streams of different salinity are mixed to produce energy. In principle, a PRO system would take in river water and seawater on either side of a semi-permeable membrane. Through osmosis, water from the less-salty stream would cross the membrane to a pre-pressurized saltier side, creating a flow that can be sent through a turbine to recover power.
By zapping the air with a pair of powerful laser bursts, researchers at the Univ. of Arizona have created highly focused pathways that can channel electricity through the atmosphere.
The technique can potentially direct an electrical discharge up to 33 feet away or more, shattering previous distance records for transmitting electricity through air. It also raises the intriguing possibility of one day channeling lightning with laser power.
Laser physicists have found a way to make atomic force microscope probes 20 times more sensitive and capable of detecting forces as small as the weight of an individual virus.
The technique, developed by researchers in the Quantum Optics Group of the Australian National Univ.’s Research School of Physics and Engineering, hinges on using laser beams to cool a nanowire probe to -265 C.
Your next commuter car could have two seats, three wheels and get 84 miles to the gallon.
Elio Motors wants to revolutionize U.S. roads with its tiny car, which is the same length as a Honda Fit but half the weight. With a starting price of $6,800, it’s also less than half the cost. Phoenix-based Elio plans to start making the cars next fall at a former General Motors plant in Shreveport, Louisiana. Already, more than 27,000 people have reserved one. Elio hopes to make 250,000 cars a year by 2016. That’s close to the number Mazda sells in the U.S.
The first 1,000-robot flash mob has assembled at Harvard Univ.
“Form a sea-star shape,” directs a computer scientist, sending the command to 1,024 little ’bots simultaneously via an infrared light. The robots begin to blink at one another, and then gradually arrange themselves into a five-pointed star. “Now form the letter K.”
The “K” stands for Kilobots, the name given to these extremely simple robots, each just a few centimeters across, standing on three pinlike legs. Instead of one highly complex robot, a “kilo” of robots collaborate, providing a simple platform for the enactment of complex behaviors.
A Purdue Univ. student team has designed, built and tested a critical part of a new a rocket engine as part of a NASA project to develop spacecraft technologies needed to land on the moon, Mars and other cosmic venues.
The students are making a central part of the new engine - called the thrust chamber or combustor — as part of NASA’s Project Morpheus. The project aims to develop a prototype vehicle capable of vertical takeoff and landing using an autonomous system.
Univ. College London scientists have discovered a new method to efficiently generate and control currents based on the magnetic nature of electrons in semi-conducting materials, offering a radical way to develop a new generation of electronic devices.
One promising approach to developing new technologies is to exploit the electron’s tiny magnetic moment, or spin. Electrons have two properties – charge and spin – and although current technologies use charge, it is thought that spin-based technologies have the potential to outperform the charge-based technology of semiconductors for the storage and process of information.
The human brain remains one of the least understood organs in the human body, because of its complexity and the difficulty of studying its physiology in the living body. Tufts Univ. researchers have announced the development of the first reported complex three-dimensional model made of brain-like cortical tissue that exhibits biochemical and electrophysiological responses and can function in the laboratory for months. The engineered tissue model offers new options for studying brain function, disease, trauma and treatment. The National Institutes of Health funded research is reported in PNAS.
Advancing the study of brain trauma, disease and therapeutic treatments is something that the paper’s senior and corresponding author David Kaplan has wanted to pursue for a long time. Kaplan is Stern Family professor and chair of biomedical engineering at Tufts School of Engineering. “There are few good options for studying the physiology of the living brain, yet this is perhaps one of the biggest areas of unmet clinical need when you consider the need for new options to understand and treat a wide range of neurological disorders associated with the brain. To generate this system that has such great value is very exciting for our team,” said Kaplan, who directs the NIH-funded P41 Tissue Engineering Resource Center based at Tufts.
Hemp May Beat Graphene as Ideal Super Capacitor Material
As hemp makes a comeback in the U.S. after a decades-long ban on its cultivation, scientists are reporting that fibers from the plant can pack as much energy and power as graphene, long-touted as the model material for supercapacitors. They’re presenting their research, which a Canadian start-up company is working on scaling up, at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
David Mitlin explains that supercapacitors are energy storage devices that have huge potential to transform the way future electronics are powered. Unlike today’s rechargeable batteries, which sip up energy over several hours, supercapacitors can charge and discharge within seconds. But they normally can’t store nearly as much energy as batteries, an important property known as energy density. One approach researchers are taking to boost supercapacitors’ energy density is to design better electrodes. Mitlin’s team has figured out how to make them from certain hemp fibers — and they can hold as much energy as the current top contender: graphene.
Explosions caused by leaking gas pipes under city streets have frequently made headlines in recent years, including one that leveled an apartment building in New York this spring. But while the problem of old and failing pipes has garnered much attention, methods for addressing such failing infrastructure have lagged far behind.
Typically, leaks are found using aboveground acoustic sensors, which listen for faint sounds and vibrations caused by leakage, or in-pipe detectors, which sometimes use video cameras to look for signs of pipe breaks. But all such systems are very slow, and can miss small leaks altogether.
Manufacturing Method Key to ‘Soft’ Machines, Robots
Researchers have developed a technique that might be used to produce “soft machines” made of elastic materials and liquid metals for potential applications in robotics, medical devices and consumer electronics. Such an elastic technology could make possible robots that have sensory skin and stretchable garments that people might wear to interact with computers or for therapeutic purposes.
However, new manufacturing techniques must be developed before soft machines become commercially practical, says Rebecca Kramer, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue Univ. She and her students are working to develop the fabrication technique, which uses a custom-built 3-D printer. Recent findings show how to use the technique to create devices called strain gauges, which are commonly found in many commercial applications to measure how much something is stretching.
Engineer Jack Marshall held his breath. The “heart” of the James Webb Space Telescope hung from a cable 30 feet in the air as it was lowered slowly into the massive thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
This “heart” of Webb is called the ISIM or Integrated Science Instrument Module, which along with its thermal vacuum test frame and supporting hardware, weighs about as much as an elephant. Within this test frame, ISIM sits inside a big-mirrored cube of cryo-panels and blankets. This process can be seen in a video by a Goddard videographer.
Researchers Create Ultra-thin Wires for Quantum Computing
Take a fine strand of silica fiber, attach it at each end to a slow-turning motor, gently torture it over an unflickering flame until it just about reaches its melting point and then pull it apart. The middle will thin out like a piece of taffy until it is less than half a micron across — about 200 times thinner than a human hair.
That, according to researchers at the Joint Quantum Institute at the Univ. of Maryland, is how you fabricate ultra-high transmission optical nanofibers, a potential component for future quantum information devices, which they describe in American Institute of Physics Publishing’s journal AIP Advances.