World’s lightest solid material,

known as ‘frozen smoke’,

gets even lighter

By Grant Banks

22:48 January 13, 2011


Researchers have created a new aerogel that boasts amazing strength and an incredibly large surface area. Nicknamed ‘frozen smoke’ due to its translucent appearance, aerogels are manufactured materials derived from a gel in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with a gas, resulting in a material renowned as the world’s lightest solid material. The new so-called “multiwalled carbon nanotube (MCNT) aerogel” could be used in sensors to detect pollutants and toxic substances, chemical reactors, and electronics components.

Although aerogels have been fabricated from silica, metal oxides, polymers, and carbon-based materials and are already used in thermal insulation in windows and buildings, tennis racquets, sponges to clean up oil spills, and other products, few scientists have succeeded in making aerogels from carbon nanotubes.

The researchers were able to succeed where so many before them had failed using a wet gel of well-dispersed pristine MWCNTs. After removing the liquid component from the MWCNT wet gel, they were able to create the lightest ever free-standing MWCNT aerogel monolith with a density of 4 mg/cm3.

MWCNT aerogels infused with a plastic material are flexible, like a spring that can be stretched thousands of times, and if the nanotubes in a one-ounce cube were unraveled and placed side-to-side and end-to-end, they would carpet three football fields. The MWCNT aerogels are also excellent conductors of electricity, which is what makes them ideal for sensing applications and offers great potential for their use in electronics components.

A report describing the process for making MWCNT aerogels and tests to determine their properties appears in ACS Nano.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

TERRAIN GUIDANCE SYSTEM FOR WHEELCHAIRS

Many of the greatest civilian innovations can be traced back to military origins. Penicillin, radar, satellites and the Internet, just to name a few. So it is not uncommon for technologies developed for fighting wars to be found to have wider applications. The following idea is an example of this adaptation and is inspired by the important need of disabled veteran soldiers for independence and mobility. By using terrain sensing control systems designed for the guidance of autonomous vehicles on the battlefield, researchers have begun developing a system that will allow wheelchair users to access more areas than ever before.

Certain terrain types that able bodied people take in their stride can be difficult or even impossible for those in a wheelchair to navigate. Steep hills or ramps, mud, snow, and uneven ground can be dangerous obstacles for a disabled person. Researchers at the Florida A&M University-Florida State University College of Engineering are working on technology able to detect hazardous terrain and automatically adjust control settings of an electric-powered wheelchair to allow a safer transit without the need for assistance.

“This technology will provide electric-powered wheelchair users with an increased degree of independence that may significantly increase their ability to participate in recreational and functional activities,” Army Major Kevin Fitzpatrick, director of Walter Reed’s wheelchair clinic, said.

Inspiration for the research began when Professor Emmanuel Collins, director of Florida State University’s Center for Intelligent Systems, Control and Robotics, heard a presentation by Professor Rory Cooper, director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories and chairman of Pitt’s rehabilitation science and technology department. Cooper has used a wheelchair since receiving a spinal cord injury in 1980 during his service in the Army. In his presentation, Cooper noted the need for terrain sensing electric-powered wheelchair assistance. The two began developing the idea and along with collaborators at the National Science Foundation-sponsored Quality of Life Technology Center, the concept started taking shape.

“I’m inspired by the idea of applying technology originally meant for the battlefield to improve the quality of everyday life for injured soldiers and others,” Collins said.

Automatic terrain-sensing controls for military robotic vehicles, and four-wheel-drive automobiles have now been on the market for almost a decade. Collins adapted a device known as a laser line striper, originally developed for military use for use in the project. The end result is a system that enables electric-powered wheelchairs to detect hazardous terrain and implement safe driving strategies avoiding wheel slip, sinkage or vehicle tipping.

Collins said that, to his knowledge, no one else is working on this type of application. He estimated that if the team obtains commercial backing the technology could come to fruition in about five years.

The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center has observed the promise in this research and has provided funding and guidance. The project now forms part of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology sub-portfolio within the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center’s Advanced Prosthetics and Human Performance research papers

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Personal sensors creating “civilian scientists”

The way it is presently, most scientific data must be gathered by scientists, who have to go out in the field and set up sensors or other data recording devices. Within five years, however, a lot of that data could be gathered and transmitted by sensors in our phones, cars, wallets, computers, or just about anything else that is subjected to the real world. Such sensors could be used to create massive data groups used for everything from fighting global warming to tracking invasive species. IBM also sees custom scientific smartphone apps playing a part in “citizen science,” and has already launched an application called Creek Watch, that allows us citizens to update the local water authority on creek conditions.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Customized commuting

Just as Mapquest is valuable and other online mapping services are to many of us, apparently it’s just the tip of the iceberg. In the not-so-distant future, says IBM, sensors and other data sources (such as the aforementioned citizen scientists, perhaps?) will provide a continuous stream of information on traffic conditions, road construction, public transit schedules, and other factors that could affect your commute. When you inquire about the quickest way of getting from A to B, computer systems will do more than simply consulting a map – they will also take into account all the variables unique to that day and time, combine them with mathematical models and predictive analytics technologies, and advise a route accordingly. It is also possible that, utilizing such data, traffic management systems could learn traffic patterns, and self-adjust themselves to minimize congestion.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

IS CHEATING IN GAMES OK?

A new meaning to keeping your eye on the ball

USE YOUR PHONE TO CONTROL THE BALL

Entrepreneur’s Edge: Orbotix (1:58)

Reuters Small Business presents expansion pitches from upstarts across the country. Robotic gaming startup Orbotix has developed technology that lets people control a ball with their smartphone. Here’s the pitch:

Video

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

5. The TSA needs a Barry White theme song


It’s unlikely that John Pistole, the Transportation Security Agency’s dour chief who once warned that terrorism must “always be considered imminent,” expected such public vilification over his agency’s new airport screening procedures.

But a protest that began with a few bloggers has, since Pistole announced the pat-down or body-scan policy in a one-paragraph note on TSA.gov a few weeks ago, become something closer to public execration. TSA screeners have been twitted by Saturday Night Live, Grammy-winning musician Steve Vaus, and cartoonist Tom Tomorrow. The agency itself has been rebuked by some of the same politicians who voted unanimously to create it a decade ago.

The surprise is that, beyond exempting flight attendants and pilots, the TSA has remained unyielding and impenitent. All Pistole would tell CBS News this week is that he’ll continue asking: “How can we be better informed if we modify our screening? Then, what are the risks that we deal with?” That’s Washington-ese for “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby.”

Photo by TSA

Read more: http://news.cnet.com/2300-1001_3-10005691-7.html?tag=mncol#ixzz17JchrIzJ

Received & published by Henry Sapiecha
High-precision digital humidity sensor

Sensirion now launches a high-precision version of the world’s smallest digital humidity & temperature sensor. The fully calibrated SHT25 offers an improved accuracy while maintaining all other features of the standard version SHT21: I2C interface, excellent stability, low power consumption, smallest size. Free samples of the standard version SHT21 can be ordered online!

More Information

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha