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March 22, 2006, 10:47 PM CT

Airplanes That Morph

Airplanes That Morph Professors Yet-Ming Chiang, left, and Steven Hall show components of their electrochemically actuated morphing rotor prototype (foreground) as well as a reduced-scale model (background) of a previous technology that uses piezoelectrics as the active materials.
Picture a bird, effortlessly adjusting its wings to catch every current of air. Airplanes that could do the same would have a number of advantages over today's flying machines, including increased fuel efficiency.

Now MIT engineers report they may have found a way for structures -- and materials -- to move in this way, essentially morphing from one shape into another.

The discovery could lead to an airplane that morphs on demand from the shape that is most energy efficient to another better suited to agility, or to a boat whose hull changes shape to allow more efficient movement in choppy, calm or shallow waters.

This science-fiction outcome, in the works for 20 years, has been unobtainable with such conventional devices as hydraulics, which aren't practical for a variety of reasons -- from cost to weight to ease of movement.

MIT's work involves a new application of a familiar device: the rechargeable battery. Papers describing the team's progress appeared earlier this year in Advanced Functional Materials and Electrochemical and Solid-State Letters.

Batteries expand and contract as they are charged and recharged. "This has generally been believed to be something detrimental to batteries. But I thought we could use this behavior to another end: the actuation, or movement, of large-scale structures," said Yet-Ming Chiang, the Kyocera Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE).........

Posted by: Kevin      Permalink         Source

March 22, 2006, 5:56 PM CT

thought Googe Earth Was Cool! Wow Google Mars

thought Googe Earth Was Cool! Wow Google Mars
Link for this post: Google Mars

If Google Mars weren't a well rendered topographic map of what we know so far about our neighboring red planet, it could make a good art project. The colors and textures are awesome. By exploring, you create art at the same time.

There is an About Google Mars section of the site which sums things up:

This map of Mars, published by Percival Lowell in 1895, was the result of a number of years spent carefully studying the Red Planet through his telescope. Now you can do the same through your web browser. In collaboration with NASA scientists at Arizona State University, we've created some of the most detailed scientific maps of Mars ever made.

If you have half as much fun exploring them as we did making them, you're in for a great time.

I agree about the fun and you may also.........

Posted by: Kevin      Permalink         Source

March 21, 2006, 9:52 PM CT

Metal Detector To Study Human Disease

Metal Detector To Study Human Disease Zinc metal
Zinc may be a familiar dietary supplement to millions of health-conscious people, but it remains a mystery metal to researchers who study zinc's role in Alzheimer's disease, stroke and other health problems.

They are just beginning to fathom how the body keeps levels of zinc under the precise control that spells the difference between health and disease.

Scientists now have developed a biochemical metal detector to help crack the mystery. It is a biosensor that has yielded the first measurements of the tiny amounts of zinc ordinarily present inside living cells.

The study appears in the current issue of ACS Chemical Biology, the newest of 34 journals published by the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific organization.

It was conducted by Rebecca A. Bozym and Richard B. Thompson, Ph.D. of the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, and Andrea K. Stoddard and Carol A. Fierke, Ph.D. of the Department of Chemistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

"The question of how much zinc is available in a cell has emerged at the forefront of chemical biology," Amy R. Barrios, Ph.D., of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, wrote in an accompanying Point of View in ACS Chemical Biology.........

Posted by: Sarah      Permalink         Source

March 20, 2006, 8:04 PM CT

Atomic Clock Uses Ytterbium 'Pancakes'

Atomic Clock Uses Ytterbium 'Pancakes' NIST's new optical atomic clock uses two magnetic coils (red rings) and an optical lattice (red laser beam), as well as intersecting violet lasers to cool ytterbium atoms, slowing their motion.
Illustration credit: NIST
Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) working with Russian colleagues have significantly improved the design of optical atomic clocks that hold thousands of atoms in a lattice made of intersecting laser beams. The design, in which ytterbium atoms oscillate or "tick" at optical frequencies, has the potential to be more stable and accurate than today's best time standards, which are based on microwaves at much lower frequencies. More accurate time standards could improve communications, enhance navigation systems, and enable new tests of physical theories, among other applications.

Described in two papers in the March 3 issue of Physical Review Letters,* the heart of the clock consists of about 1,000 pancake-shaped wells made of laser light and arranged in a single line, each containing about 10 atoms of the heavy metal ytterbium. The lattice design results in fewer systematic errors than optical atomic clocks using moving balls of cold atoms, and also offers advantages in parallel processing over other approaches using single charged atoms (ions). The optical lattice, created by an intense near-visible laser beam, is loaded by first slowing down the atoms with violet laser light and then using green laser light to further cool the atoms so that they can be captured. Researchers detect the atoms' "ticks" (518 quadrillion per second) by bathing them in yellow light at slightly different frequencies until they find the exact "resonant" frequency (or color) that the atoms absorb best.........

Posted by: Kevin      Permalink         Source

March 20, 2006, 8:01 PM CT

Detector To Aid Nuclear Inspections

Detector To Aid Nuclear Inspections Silicon chip built by NIST researchers with 16 tiny gamma ray detectors that may help nuclear inspectors improve analysis of plutonium and other radioactive materials. Each detector is one millimeter square.
Researchers at the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have designed and demonstrated the world's most accurate gamma ray detector, which is expected to be useful eventually in verifying inventories of nuclear materials and detecting radioactive contamination in the environment.

The tiny prototype detector, described today at the American Physical Society national meeting in Baltimore, can pinpoint gamma ray emission signatures of specific atoms with 10 times the precision of the best conventional sensors used to examine stockpiles of nuclear materials. The NIST tests, performed with different forms of plutonium at Los Alamos National Laboratory,* also show the prototype greatly clarifies the complex X-ray and gamma-ray emissions profile of plutonium.

Emissions from radioactive materials such as uranium or plutonium provide unique signatures that, if accurately measured, can indicate the age and enrichment of the material and sometimes its intended purpose or origin.

The 1-square-millimeter (mm) prototype collects only a small amount of radiation, but NIST and Los Alamos scientists are collaborating to make a 100-sensor array that could be deployed in the field, perhaps mounted on a cart or in a vehicle.

"The system isn't planned as a primary detection tool," says NIST physicist Joel Ullom. "Rather, it is intended for detailed analysis of material flagged by other detectors that have larger collection areas but less measurement accuracy." An array could be used by inspectors to determine, for example, whether plutonium is of a dangerous variety, whether nuclear fuel was made for energy reactors or weapons, or whether what appears to be radium found naturally in the environment is actually explosive uranium.........

Posted by: Kevin      Permalink         Source

March 18, 2006, 10:39 AM CT

Transparent Integrated Circuit

Transparent Integrated Circuit Conventional non-transparent integrated circuit
Scientists at Oregon State University have created the world's first completely transparent integrated circuit from inorganic compounds, another major step forward for the rapidly evolving field of transparent electronics.

The circuit is a five-stage "ring oscillator," usually used in electronics for testing and new technology demonstration. It marks a significant milestone on the path toward functioning transparent electronics applications, which a number of believe could be a large future industry.

A report on the findings has been accepted for publication in a professional journal, Solid State Electronics. The research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Army Research Office, and HP. Recently, OSU also licensed to HP the rights to market new products based on this work, which provides the university a partner to help scale-up and commercialize the technology.

"This is a quantum leap in moving transparent electronics from the laboratory toward working commercial applications," said John Wager, a professor of electrical engineering at OSU. "It's proof that transparent transistors can be used to create an integrated circuit, tells us quite a bit about the speeds we may be able to achieve, and shows we can make transparent circuits with conventional photolithography techniques, the basic patterning methods used to create electronics all over the world".........

Posted by: Kevin      Permalink         Source

March 16, 2006, 10:59 PM CT

Green Chemistry

Green Chemistry
Using the unique properties of new nanometer-scale magnetic particles, scientists have for the first time separated for reuse two different catalysts from a multi-step chemical reaction done in a single vessel.

By combining the new magnetic separation process with traditional gravity-driven separation, the technique could lead to more efficient production of specialty chemicals - and a reduction in waste normally produced by separation processes. The research was reported March 13 in the online preview version of the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

"We have developed a way to do multiple reactions in a single vessel while being able to recover the catalysts in pure form for reuse," explained Christopher W. Jones, an associate professor in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "By doing the reactions in a single vessel, we can cut out two or three separation steps to provide both an economic advantage and an environmentally non-malignant process".

Separations using magnetic catalysts have been limited by a tendency of the nanoparticles to clump together because of their magnetic attraction for one another. The clumping dramatically reduces their catalytic activity.

To overcome this problem, the Georgia Tech scientists used nanometer-scale magnetic particles that are so small (5 to 20 nanometers in diameter) that they no longer exhibit a net magnetic attraction. But these superparamagnetic nanoparticles, developed by the research group of Z. John Zhang in Georgia Tech's School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, are attracted to an external magnetic source, providing a mechanism for separating them in pure form from the reaction vessel.........

Posted by: Sarah      Permalink         Source

March 16, 2006, 10:56 PM CT

Optical-Wireless Convergence

Optical-Wireless Convergence Professor Gee-Kung Chang poses with equipment used to demonstrate a hybrid wired/wired network.
Telecommunications scientists have demonstrated a novel communications network design that would provide both ultra-high-speed wireless and wired access services from the same signals carried on a single optical fiber.

The new hybrid system could allow dual wired/wireless transmission of the same content such as high-definition television, data and voice up to 100 times faster than current networks. The new architecture would reduce the cost of providing dramatically improved service to conference centers, airports, hotels, shopping malls - and ultimately to homes and small offices.

"The same services would be provided to customers who would either plug into the wired connection in the wall or access the same information through a wireless system," explained Gee-Kung Chang, a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "In an airport, for instance, a traveler could watch a movie, talk to a friend and work interactively through a wireless system or by plugging into the wall".

Chang described the network architecture and experimental demonstrations of it March 10th at the OFC/NFOEC optical conference in Anaheim, Calif. Chang, who holds the Byers Endowed Chair in Optical Networks at Georgia Tech, is also a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and a researcher at Georgia Tech Broadband Institute in the Georgia Centers for Advanced Telecommunications Technology (GCATT).........

Posted by: Kevin      Permalink         Source

March 16, 2006, 10:42 PM CT

Robot To Carry Old People

Robot To Carry Old People
love this photo of a human-surrogate robot caring for a mannequin. A Japanese-led research team said it had made a seeing, hearing and smelling robot that can carry human beings and is aimed at helping care for the country's growing number of elderly.

The 100-kilogram (220-pound) robot can also distinguish eight different kinds of smells, can tell which direction a voice is coming from and uses powers of sight to follow a human face.........

Posted by: Kevin      Permalink         Source

March 12, 2006, 10:14 PM CT

Energy-efficient Housing Design

Energy-efficient Housing Design
Funding from the Government of Canada is helping homeowners in Hamilton to conserve energy and reduce peak power consumption during summer heat waves. Today, a new air-handling system makes its debut at a new Hamilton townhouse development.

Developed by Ecologix Heating Technologies Inc. of Cambridge, with $400,000 in support from Natural Resources Canada and the National Research Council, the Zone Comfort System is a simple, inexpensive technology available to all residents. It allows combination-heating systems to operate with greatly improved efficiency year-round.

With its sophisticated compact boiler and forced air handler, there is less energy consumption in both winter and summer, with heating and cooling distributed to different parts of the house when and where needed.

"The Government of Canada is proud to be part of projects like this," said Gary Goodyear, Member of Parliament for Cambridge, on behalf of the Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources. "We are working with industry to bring clean energy technologies to market and lay the groundwork for further innovation in the energy use and comfort of Canadian homes while reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

"In terms of cooling performance, the Zone Comfort System excels," said Ecologix president Steve Davies. "Its airtight, pre-engineered duct system and floor-by-floor airflow control ensures that the cool air produced by the air conditioner gets to where it is needed. A built-in dehumidification cycle delivers superior air-conditioned comfort. Together, these features lead to lower electricity consumption and ultimately savings for the homeowner."........

Posted by: Kevin      Permalink         Source

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