The recent fatal crash of a Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft is forcing officials to take a closer look at the airplanes safety system. The accident—which happened just minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 passengers aboard the Ethiopian Airline—is suspected of being a result of a faulty sensory system built to stabilize the aircraft in flight, known as Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), according to USA Today.

Why was the MCAS added?

Boeing had originally added the MCAS after redesigning its 737 platform for the Max, changing the placement and size of the aircraft’s engines, consequently altering how the jet handled in flight. As a result, the Max tended to raise its nose in flight; a movement called pitch. If a plane pitches too high, it could lead to crashing or stalling of the aircraft—something the MCAS was installed to detect and prevent. (more…)

Credit: Ma et al./Current Biology

Hollywood has long toyed with the idea of superhuman powers, as seen in the 2013 science fiction thriller movie Riddick, where the lead character uses his extraordinary night vision to survive a hostile world. It is one supernatural ability that may be closer to becoming a reality.

According to ScienceDaily, scientists have now made it possible for mice to pick up infrared light with the help of nanotechnology, creating the ability for night vision.

The procedure

It works with a single injection of photoreceptor-binding particles that is inserted into the mice’s eyes, converting photons to high-energy forms that allow the mice to develop infrared vision for up to 10 weeks. The procedure results in minimal side effects and causes no changes to normal vision. (more…)

According to some scientists, humans are born with an innate sixth sense. And no, it’s not the ability to see ghosts like in the 1999 horror film. It’s the sense of proprioception: the perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body. This sense is what helps us coordinate our movements. For example, if you close your eyes, there remains a sense of awareness of where your muscles and body parts are located, the distance between them, and the perception of how they’re moving relative to one another, according to SingularityHub.

This complex sense is one that is difficult to recreate in robots, as solid state sensors traditionally used in robotics are unable to capture the high-dimensional deformations of soft systems. However, embedded soft resistive sensors have the potential to address this challenge. Using this approach, scientists are getting closer to overcoming the challenge with new techniques that involve an array of sensory material and machine-learning algorithms. (more…)

Cheap, Renewable Hydrogen is Coming

Hydrogen gas: it’s storable, can refuel a car in minutes (versus batteries which can take hours to recharge), and its waste product is water. It is the holy grail of clean-energy advocates.

The only problem is that the electrolyzers that make hydrogen from renewable energy are quite expensive. But, that soon may change, according to Ars Technica.

According to a new paper in Nature Energy, researchers from universities in Germany and at Stanford University have created a financial model for a wind farm connected to a hydrogen electrolyzer. (more…)

Shirley Meng: Becoming an Engineer

Shirley Meng

Shirley Meng

Inspired by her father, motivated by her curiosity, and driven by her passion for connecting people, Shirley Meng, a professor of nanoengineering at the University of California, San Diego, discovered her love for science.

Although, she had originally thought her interests would lead her to pursue another path, particularly law.

However, because of the instability of the law system in China, where Meng is originally from, her father encouraged Meng to pursue other opportunities. That’s when she began considering a career in the sciences. (more…)

Chuanfang (John) Zhang, Valeria Nicolosi, and Sang-Hoon Park. Credit: Naoise Culhane

Have you ever wished you could increase your cellphone battery life? Well, that technology may very well already be here.

Researchers from AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering, at Trinity College Dublin, have announced the development of a new material which offers the potential to improve battery life in everyday electronics, like smartphones, according to Irish Tech News.

The discovery could mean that the average phone battery life, roughly 10 hours of talk time, could increase to 30-40 hours.

MXenes, an ink-based nanomaterial, not only significantly improves battery life, but it also offers its batteries the flexibility to become smaller in size, without losing performance. (more…)

A researcher at Georgia Tech holds a perovskite-based solar cell. Credit: Rob Felt, Georgia Tech

Perovskite-based solar cells are all around great. They offer energy efficiencies similar to those of traditional silicon-based cells, are lightweight, simple and cheap to produce, and offer physical flexibility that could unlock a wide new range of installation methods and places, according to Georgia Teach Research Horizons.

The only problem: figuring out how to produce perovskite-based energy devices that last longer than a couple of months.

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology, University of California San Diego, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology may be closer to solving that problem. (more…)

Vitamin C Helps Gold Nanowires Grow

Gold nanowires grown in the Rice University lab. Credit: Zubarev Research Group/Rice University

Vitamin C offers countless benefits. It helps protect against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, can strengthen hair, and helps prevent wrinkles. Not to mention, it can also turn stubby gold nanorods into gold nanowires of impressive length.

According to ScienceDaily, scientists at Rice University recently discovered that all it takes is a dose of vitamin C to promote gold nanowires growth, making the wires valuable for sensing, diagnostic, imaging, and therapeutic applications.

According to Eugene Zubarev, a Rice lab chemist who worked on the study, and Bishnu Khanal, a Rice chemistry alumnus and lead author of the study, nanorods measured 25 nanometers thick at the start of the process, maintaining their widths as they grew in height. An important point, as the wires’ aspect ratio—length over width—dictates how well they absorb and emit light and how they conduct electrons. (more…)

Lead engineers, Xiaobo Yin and Ronggui Yang.
Image credit: Glenn Asakawa/CU-Boulder

According to Forbes, engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder have created a new material that works like an air conditioning system for structures—cooling rooftops with zero energy consumption.

The material, about the same thickness as aluminum foil, is rolled across the surface of a rooftop, reflecting incoming solar energy back into space while simultaneously purging its own heat. Adding to its appeal, the material is adaptable and cost-effective for use in large-scale residential and commercial applications, as it can be manufactured on rolls. (more…)

New fabric developed by UMD scientists.
Credit: Faye Levine, University of Maryland

When the temperature drops, we layer up. It’s the natural thing to do—until now. According to ScienceDaily, researchers at the University of Maryland have engineered a new fabric that can automatically change its properties to trap or release heat depending on external conditions.

The textile, made from synthetic yarn with a carbon nanotube coating, is activated by temperature and humidity: making it the first of its kind. When conditions are warm and moist, such as those near a sweating body, the fabric allows heat to pass through. When conditions become cooler and drier, the fabric reduces the heat that escapes. Acting like blinds, the individual strands of yarn open and close to transmit or block heat.

(more…)

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