Researchers Create Robotic Water Strider

A team of researchers and engineers, led by Dr Kyu-Jin Cho of Seoul National University in Korea, has created an insect-like robot that can jump on water surfaces.

This image shows a water strider together with robotic insects that can jump on water. Image credit: Seoul National University.
As Dr Cho and co-authors watched the water strider jump on water surfaces using high-speed cameras, they noticed that the long legs accelerate gradually, so that the water surface doesn’t retreat too quickly and lose contact with the legs.
Using a theoretical model of a flexible cylinder floating on liquid, the scientists found that the maximum force of the water striders’ legs is always just below the maximum force that water surface tension can withstand.
They used a torque reversal catapult mechanism that gener… Read more

3D Boron Nitride Could Help Keep Gadgets Cool

A team of researchers at Rice University has completed the first analysis of how 3D boron nitride might be used as a tunable material to control heat flow in small electronics.

A 3D structure of hexagonal boron nitride sheets and boron nitride nanotubes could be a tunable material to control heat in gadgets. Image credit: Rouzbeh Shahsavari / Navid Sakhavand / Rice University.
In its 2D form, hexagonal boron nitride (otherwise known as white graphene) looks just like the atom-thick form of carbon known as graphene. One well-studied difference is that the hexagonal boron nitride is a natural insulator, where perfect graphene presents no barrier to electricity. But like graphene, the hexagonal boron nitride is a good conductor of heat, which can be quantified in the form of phonons.
“Typically in all el… Read more

Scientists Discover New Dangerous Subtype of Streptococcus pyogenes

A team of scientists led by Imperial College London has discovered a new subtype of emm89 Streptococcus pyogenes that has contributed to a rise in disease cases in the United Kingdom over the last two decades.

Streptococcus pyogenes under the electron microscope (false color). Image credit: Vincent Fischetti, Rockefeller University / CDC.
The human pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes (Group A Streptococcus ) causes around 600 million infections per year worldwide. Severe infections can cause necrotizing fasciitis, pneumonia, sepsis, or toxic shock.
The researchers noticed a sharp rise in infections caused by one particular strain of Streptococcus pyogenes , called emm89, from 1998 to 2009.
To investigate why, they sequenced the genomes of bacterial samples… Read more

Black Phosphorus: Alternative to Silicon for Future Electronics

A new study led by Dr Thomas Szkopek of McGill University suggests that black phosphorus could help researchers surmount one of the big challenges for future electronics – designing energy-efficient transistors.

The black phosphorus crystal structure is composed of puckered honeycomb layers with an interlayer distance of 0.5 nm. Image credit: V. Tayari et al.
In 2004, researchers at the University of Manchester, UK, isolated and explored the remarkable properties of graphene, a one-atom-thick layer of carbon.
Since then scientists have rushed to investigate a range of other 2D materials. One of those is black phosphorus, a form of phosphorus that is similar to graphite and can be separated easily into single atomic layers, known as phosphorene.
Black phosphorus is the second known elemental al… Read more

Robotic Taxis Could Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Scientists Say

According to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change , per-mile greenhouse gas emissions of an electric vehicle deployed as an autonomous taxi in 2030 would be 87 to 94% lower than a 2014 gasoline-powered private vehicle and 63 to 82% lower than a 2030 privately owned hybrid vehicle. Almost half of the savings is attributable to right-sizing, where the size of the robotic taxi deployed is tailored to each trip’s occupancy needs.

Taxis in New York City. Image credit: Prayitno Hadinata / CC BY 2.0.
“When we first started looking at autonomous vehicles, we found that, of all the variables we could consider, the use of autonomous vehicles as part of a shared transit system seemed to be the biggest lever that pointed to lower energy use per mile,” said study first author Dr Jeff Greenblatt of the… Read more

Seahorse’s Square Tail Could Inspire Future Breakthroughs in Biomedicine, Robotics

Researchers studying the seahorse’s tail have found that square-shaped tails are better when both grasping and armor are needed. The finding could lead to building better robots, defense systems and medical devices.

The seahorse’s tail is made up of about 36 square-like segments, each composed of four L-shaped corner plates that progressively decrease in size along the length of the tail. Image credit: Shellac / CC BY 2.0.
Seahorse tails are organized into square prisms surrounded by bony plates that are connected by joints. Many other creatures, ranging from monkeys to rodents, have cylindrical tails.
An international team of scientists led by Dr Michael Porter of Clemson University wanted to know whether the square-prism shape gives seahorse tails a functional advantage.
“Almost all animal t… Read more