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A new wrinkle on an old technology – solid-state thermophotovoltaics (TPV) – could provide a high-efficiency alternative for directly converting high-temperature heat from concentrated solar thermal to utility-scale electricity.
New computer modeling suggests that high temperature TPV conversion – which captures infrared radiation from very hot surfaces – could one day rival combined-cycle turbine systems when combined with thermal storage using liquid metal at temperatures around 1,300 degrees Celsius. Advances in high-temperature components and improved system modeling, combined with the potential for conversion costs an order of magnitude lower than those of turbines, suggest that TPV could offer a pathway for efficiently... more
Vibrating footwear could help astronauts and visually impaired earthlings skirt obstacles.
Video of astronauts tripping over moon rocks can make for entertaining Internet viewing, but falls in space can jeopardize astronauts’ missions and even their lives. Getting to one’s feet in a bulky, pressurized spacesuit can consume time and precious oxygen reserves, and falls increase the risk that the suit will be punctured. Most falls happen because spacesuits limit astronauts’ ability to both see and feel the terrain around them, so researchers from MIT’s Department of Aeronautics... more
With the method developed in Aalto University, any picture or text could be inkjet-printed as a solar cell
Solar cells have been manufactured already for a long from inexpensive materials with different printing techniques. Especially organic solar cells and dye-sensitized solar cells are suitable for printing. -We wanted to take the idea of printed solar cells even further, and see if their materials could be inkjet-printed as pictures and text like traditional printing inks, tells University Lecturer Janne Halme. When light is absorbed in an ordinary ink, it generates heat. A photovoltaic ink, however... more
Engineers develop novel hybrid nanomaterials to transform water
Graphene oxide has been hailed as a veritable wonder material; when incorporated into nanocellulose foam, the lab-created substance is light, strong and flexible, conducting heat and electricity quickly and efficiently. Now, a team of engineers at Washington University in St. Louis has found a way to use graphene oxide sheets to transform dirty water into drinking water, and it could be a global game-changer. "We hope that for countries where there is ample sunlight, such as India, you'll... more
Polylactic acid, or PLA, is a biodegradable polymer commonly used to make a variety of products from disposable cups to medical implants to drug delivery systems.
A team of Brown University researchers has shown that by treating PLA at various temperatures and pressures, they can induce a new polymer phase in the material -- one that could possibly decrease the rate at which it degrades. "It's an exciting finding from the standpoint of basic science, in that we've found a new polymer phase and have identified a method for inducing it," said Edith Mathiowitz, a professor of medical science and engineering at Brown. "In terms of applications... more
Nanostructures in material developed at TUM result in lotus effect
Moisture can destroy mortar over time - for example when cracks form as a result of frost. A team of scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has found an unusual way to protect mortar from moisture: When the material is being mixed, they add a biofilm - a soft, moist substance produced by bacteria. Oliver Lieleg usually has little to do with bricks, mortar and concrete. As a professor of biomechanics at the Institute of Medical Engineering (IMETUM) and the Department of Mechanical... more
Method to stack hundreds of nanoscale layers could open new vistas in materials science.
Adapting an old trick used for centuries by both metalsmiths and pastry makers, a team of researchers at MIT has found a way to efficiently create composite materials containing hundreds of layers that are just atoms thick but span the full width of the material. The discovery could open up wide-ranging possibilities for designing new, easy-to-manufacture composites for optical devices, electronic systems, and high-tech materials. The work is described this week in a paper in Science by Michael... more
Soft robots do a lot of things well but they're not exactly known for their speed. The artificial muscles that move soft robots, called actuators, tend to rely on hydraulics or pneumatics, which are slow to respond and difficult to store.
Dielectric elastomers, soft materials that have good insulating properties, could offer an alternative to pneumatic actuators but they currently require complex and inefficient circuitry to deliver high voltage as well as rigid components to maintain their form -- both of which defeat the purpose of a soft robot. Now, researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a dielectric elastomer with a broad range of motion that requires relatively... more
New method is 100 times faster than state of the art
Iron Man's suit. Captain America's shield. The Batmobile. These all could look a lot more realistic thanks to a new algorithm developed by a team of U.S. computer graphics experts. The researchers, led by Professor Ravi Ramamoorthi at the University of California San Diego, have created a method to improve how computer graphics software reproduces the way light interacts with extremely small details, called glints, on the surface of a wide range of materials, including metallic car paints... more
Colorado State University scientists describe their most recent innovation in engineered superomniphobic surfaces
Imagine being able to instantly diagnose diabetes, Ebola or some other disease, simply by watching how a droplet of blood moves on a surface. That's just one potential impact of new research led by Arun Kota, assistant professor in Colorado State University's Department of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Biomedical Engineering. Kota's lab makes coatings that repel not just water, but virtually any liquid, including oils and acids - a property called superomniphobicity... more

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