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

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

Researchers Build Water Droplet-Based Computer

A group of bioengineers led by Dr Manu Prakash of Stanford University has developed a synchronous computer that operates using the physics of moving water droplets.

Stanford University bioengineers have developed a computer that operates on water droplets. Image credit: Kurt Hickman.
Because of its universal nature, the water-droplet computer can theoretically perform any operation that a conventional electronic computer can crunch, although at significantly slower rates. Dr Prakash’s team, however, has a more ambitious application in mind.
“We already have digital computers to process information. Our goal is not to compete with electronic computers or to operate word processors on this. Our goal is to build a completely new class of computers that can precisely control and manipulate ph… Read more

Physicists Create Ultrasensitive Magnetometer

A team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed an ultrasensitive magnetic-field detector that could lead to smaller devices for medical and materials imaging.

Laser light enters a synthetic diamond from a facet at its corner and bounces around inside the diamond until its energy is exhausted; this excites the NVs that can be used to measure magnetic fields. Image credit: H. Clevenson / MIT Lincoln Laboratory.
Synthetic diamonds with nitrogen vacancies (NVs) have long held promise as the basis for efficient, portable magnetometers (magnetic-field detectors).
A diamond chip about 1/20 the size of a thumbnail could contain trillions of the NVs, each capable of performing its own magnetic-field measurement. The problem has been aggregating all those measurement… Read more

New Low-Cost Method Can Detect Sewage Pollution in Streams, Rivers

A team of scientists at the University of Sheffield, UK, has developed and tested a promising novel method that uses inexpensive samplers (cotton tampons) to identify where wastewater is polluting our streams and rivers.

Pasig River, Manila, Philippines. Image credit: Bar Fabella / CC BY 2.0
“More than a million homes have their wastewater incorrectly connected into the surface water network, which means their sewage is being discharged into a river, rather than going to a treatment plant. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to detect where this is happening, as the discharge is intermittent, can’t always be seen with the naked eye and existing tests are complex and expensive,” said Prof David Lerner of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, the senior auth… Read more

Imperfect Graphene Could Lead to Better Fuel Cells, Water Filters

A group of scientists headed by Dr Franz Geiger of Northwestern University has found that slightly imperfect graphene shuttles protons, and only protons, from one side of the graphene membrane to the other in mere seconds. The membrane’s speed and selectivity are much better than that of conventional membranes, offering researchers a new and simpler mechanism for design of fuel cells, water filtering and desalination membranes.

Proton transfer channel across a quad-defect in graphene. Image credit: Murali Raju / Penn State.
“Imagine an electric car that charges in the same time it takes to fill a car with gas,” said Dr Geiger, who is the senior author of the paper published in the journal Nature Communications .
“And better yet – imagine an electric car that uses hydrogen as fuel, not fossil fuels or et… Read more

Scientists Discover How to ‘Uncook’ Egg Whites

In research that could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments and food production, a team of chemists from Australia and the United States, led by Prof Gregory Weiss of the University of California, Irvine, has developed a way of ‘unboiling’ hen egg whites.

Scientists have found a way to unboil eggs. Image credit: Eugene Kim / CC BY 2.0.
“Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg,” said Prof Weiss, who is the senior author of a paper published online in the journal ChemBioChem .
“In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold.”
“We start with egg whites boiled for 20 minutes at 90 degrees Celsius and return a key protein in the egg to working order.”
Prof Weiss and his collaborators have struggled to produce or recycle valuable molecular proteins… Read more

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