High-power electrostatic actuators: the future of artificial muscles

Using ferroelectric materials, researchers have been able to create a high-power electrostatic actuator that can generate a strong force at a low driving voltage creating new opportunities for artificial muscles

Electrostatic actuators work by using elective fields, enabling them to move objects. However, until recently, their usage has been limited to moving small devices as a high voltage is needed to generate any significant force.

Researchers from the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) believe they have created a simple yet lightweight device capable of emulating human muscles by generating a strong force at a low driving voltage.

A simple device capable of emulating human muscles

Consisting of two oppositely charged electrodes, the device generates a force whenever an electric field develops between them. By altering the shape of their electrodes along with filling the gap between them with flexible, soft materials, the team from Tokyo Tech have created various configurations for electrostatic actuators in which a force can emulate that of operating muscle.

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Isro develops artificial smart limb to aid amputees

Isro has developed a smart limb using microprocessors that are used in space exploration. 

By India Today Web Desk: The India Space Research Organisation (Isro) has developed an artificial smart limb that could help amputees in walking with a comfortable gait. The artificial limb is a spin-off from space technology that could be manufactured for commercial use soon. The smart is expected to be cheaper by about ten times.

The newly announced smart tech is called Microprocessor-Controlled Knees (MPKs), which offers extended capabilities for the amputee more than those offered by the passive limbs that do not use the microprocessors. Nearly 1.6 kilograms in weight, Isro says the smart limb under development, at the moment, enabled an amputee to walk about 100 meters in the corridor with minimum support.

These smart MPKs are being developed by Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Isro under an MoU with the National Institute for Locomotor Disabilities (NILD), Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya National Institute for Persons with Physical Disabilities, and the Artificial Limb Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO).

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This environmentally friendly quantum sensor runs on sunlight

Light shines through a diamond sensor that is the heart of a sunlight-powered quantum device that measures magnetic fields.

By James R. Riordon


Quantum tech is going green.

A new take on highly sensitive magnetic field sensors ditches the power-hungry lasers that previous devices have relied on to make their measurements and replaces them with sunlight. Lasers can gobble 100 watts or so of power — like keeping a bright lightbulb burning. The innovation potentially untethers quantum sensors from that energy need. The result is an environmentally friendly prototype on the forefront of technology, researchers report in an upcoming issue of Physical Review X Energy.

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Quantum Astronomy Could Create Telescopes Hundreds of Kilometers Wide

By Sierra Mitchell 

A few years ago researchers using the radio-based Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) performed an extraordinary observation, the likes of which remains a dream for most other astronomers. The EHT team announced in April 2019 that it had successfully imaged the shadow of a supermassive black hole in a nearby galaxy by combining observations from eight different radio telescopes spread across our planet. This technique, called interferometry, effectively gave the EHT the resolution, or the ability to distinguish sources in the sky, of an Earth-sized telescope. At the optical wavelengths underpinning the gorgeous pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope and many other famed facilities, today’s interferometers can only combine light from instruments that are a few hundred meters apart at most. That may be set to change as astronomers turn to quantum physicists for help to start connecting optical telescopes that are tens, even hundreds, of kilometers away from one another.

Such optical interferometers would rely on advances being made in the field of quantum communications—particularly the development of devices that store the delicate quantum states of photons collected at each telescope. Called quantum hard drives (QHDs), these devices would be physically transported to a centralized location where the data from each telescope would be retrieved and combined with the others to collectively reveal details about some distant celestial object.

This technique is reminiscent of the iconic double-slit experiment, first performed by physicist Thomas Young in 1801, in which light falls on an opaque barrier that has two slits through which it can pass. The light recombines on the other side of the barrier, creating an interference pattern of bright and dark stripes, also known as an interferogram. This works even if individual photons trickle through the slits one by one: over time, the interference pattern will still emerge.

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Kumulus H2O Generator Solves Problem of 1 Billion People: Threatens Bottled Water Industry

By Cristian Curmei

Imagine for a moment that you live in an area where water is hard to come by. What do you do? The most common occurrence is to travel endless kilometers or miles to the nearest watering hole. Or, you can consider that we live in modern times, and science and technology are now indispensable weapons against age-old problems.

Like most other things humans create, all of it is because of necessity; after all, it’s the mother of invention. Let’s take the Kumulus One as the perfect example of what can be achieved when tech and science are used to attack problems that communities around the world may be facing. In this case, that problem is a lack of drinking water.

Folks, Kumulus One is nothing more than an apparatus that has been designed by a group of people that seek to shape our eco-friendly future. In the process, giving rise to a machine that can harness the power of the Sun and the humidity in the air around it to create pure drinking water. Simple. 

Suppose you haven’t heard of this gadget yet. In that case, it’s because the Kumulus is a rather fresh contraption on the market, having only recently popped up in Tunisia and in a diverse range of fairs and exhibitions. It’s here the Kumulus team raised awareness of the lack of drinking water around the world, why it’s a right to have clean water, and how their solution works. I’m guessing that finding investors is also part of this plan.

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A new plasma boring robot can dig tunnels 100 times faster and 98% cheaper

Earthgrid plans to re-wire grids across the U.S. at record speed and at a fraction of the cost.

By Chris Young

San Francisco-based startup Earthgrid is developing a plasma boring robot that is capable of digging tunnels 100 times faster, and up to 98 percent cheaper than existing boring systems, a report from New Atlas reveals.

The company plans to use its technology to re-wire energy, internet, and utility grids in the U.S.

Meet Earthgrid’s Rapid Burrowing Robot.

Unlike conventional boring machines, which typically use massive cutting wheels to slowly excavate tunnels, Earthgrid’s robot blasts rocks with high temperatures to break and even vaporize them via a process called spallation. 

The machine can run on electricity, meaning it can also be emissions-free, depending on how energy is sourced. Earthgrid also claims that its system, which doesn’t need to come into contact with the rocks directly as it excavates, is so fast and cheap it will open up a whole host of possibilities. In other words, projects that were once deemed economically unfeasible will now be possible.

Earthgrid is currently operating on pre-seed funding, and it is developing its “Rapid Burrowing Robot (RBR)”, a spallation boring robot with several 48,600 °F (27,000 °C) plasma torches mounted on large discs.

When operational, the RBR will fire up those torches and rotate the discs to blast the rocky surface in its way. The torches on the discs are arranged in a Fibonacci spiral, meaning they widen out away from the center for full coverage. Debris is collected in small pushcarts.

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A major breakthrough in quantum sensing technology is being described as an “Edison moment” that could, scientists hope, have wide-reaching implications.

A new study in Nature describes one of the first practical applications of quantum sensing, a heretofore largely theoretical technology that marries quantum physics and the study of Earth’s gravity to peer into the ground below our feet — and the scientists involved in this research think it’s going to be huge.

Known as a quantum gravity gradiometer, this new sensor developed by the University of Birmingham under contract with the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense is the first time such a technology has been used outside of a lab. Scientists say it’ll allow them to explore complex underground substructures much more cheaply and efficiently than before.

While gravity sensors already exist, the difference between the traditional equipment and this quantum-powered sensor is huge because, as Physics World explains, the old tech takes a long time to detect changes in gravity, has to be recalibrated over time, and can be thrown off by any vibrations that occur nearby.

This new type of highly sensitive quantum sensor, on the other hand, is able to measure the minute changes in gravity fields from objects of different sizes and compositions that exist underground — such as human-made structures buried by the eons, tantalizingly — much faster and more accurately.


The World’s Largest Liquid-Mirror Telescope Comes Online

Ask any astronomer, astrophysicist, or cosmologist, and they’ll probably tell you that a new age of astronomy is upon us! Between breakthroughs in gravitational-wave astronomy, the explosion in exoplanet studies, and the next-generation ground-based and space-based telescopes coming online, it’s pretty evident that we are on the verge of an era of near-continuous discovery! As always, major discoveries, innovations, and the things they enable inspire scientists and researchers to look ahead and take the next big step. 

Take, for example, the research into liquid mirrors and advanced interferometers, which would rely on entirely new types of telescopes and light-gathering to advance the science of astronomy. A pioneering example is the newly-commissioned International Liquid Mirror Telescope (ILMT) telescope that just came online at Devasthal Peak, a 2,450 m (8,040 ft) tall mountain located in the central Himalayan range. Unlike conventional telescopes, the ILMT relies on a rapidly-rotating 4-meter (13 ft) mirror coated with a layer of mercury to capture cosmic light. 

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Cheap gel film pulls buckets of drinking water per day from thin air

A sample of the new gel film, which can pull huge amounts of drinking water out of thin air

By Michael Irving

Water scarcity is a major problem for much of the world’s population, but with the right equipment drinking water can be wrung out of thin air. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have now demonstrated a low-cost gel film that can pull many liters of water per day out of even very dry air.

The gel is made up of two main ingredients that are cheap and common – cellulose, which comes from the cell walls of plants, and konjac gum, a widely used food additive. Those two components work together to make a gel film that can absorb water from the air and then release it on demand, without requiring much energy.

First, the porous structure of the gum attracts water to condense out of the air around it. The cellulose, meanwhile, is designed to respond to a gentle heat by turning hydrophobic, releasing the captured water.

Making the gel is also fairly simple, the team says. The basic ingredients are mixed together then poured into a mold, where it sets in two minutes. After that it’s freeze-dried, then peeled out of the mold and ready to get to work. It can be made into basically any shape needed, and scaled up fairly easily and at low-cost.

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This new piece of MIT technology uses sugar from the human body to create power

Silicon chip with 30 individual glucose micro fuel cells, seen as small silver squares inside each gray rectangle.

By Gwen Egan

The glucose fuel cell is 1/100 the diameter of a single human hair and could power miniature implants inside the human body.

What if there was a piece of ultrathin technology that was powered by sugar from the human body?

Researchers at MIT and the Technical University of Munich are answering that question with a new piece of mini tech — a tiny, yet powerful, fuel cell. 

This new and improved glucose fuel cell takes glucose absorbed from food in the human body and turns it into electricity, according to MIT News. That electricity could power small implants while also being able to withstand up to 600 degrees Celsius — or 1112 degrees Fahrenheit — and measuring just 400 nanometers thick. 

400 nanometers is around 1/100 of the diameter of a single human hair. 

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Scientists create tattoo-like sensors that reveal blood oxygen levels

A silk film holding a chromophore and implanted under the skin will glow under UV light to reveal levels of oxygen in the blood.

by  Tufts University

People get tattoos to remember an event or a person, to make a statement, or simply as an aesthetic embellishment. But imagine a tattoo that could be functional—telling you how much oxygen you are using when exercising, measuring your blood glucose level at any time of day, or monitoring a number of different blood components or exposure to environmental toxins.

Now engineers at Tufts University have taken an important step toward making that happen with the invention of a silk-based material placed under the skin that glows brighter or dimmer under a lamp when exposed to different levels of oxygen in the blood. They reported their findings in Advanced Functional Materials.

The novel sensor, which currently is limited to reading oxygen levels, is made up of a gel formed from the protein components of silk, called fibroin. The silk fibroin proteins have unique properties that make them especially compatible as an implantable material.

When they are re-assembled into a gel or film, they can be adjusted to create a structure that lasts under the skin from a few weeks to over a year. When the silk does break down, it is compatible with the body and unlikely to invoke an immune response.

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Nuclear-Powered Vessel Named Thor Could Be Next Generation Of Sea Travel

A potential answer to a sustainable cruise ship industry has been announced in the shape of a nuclear-powered vessel named Thor.

By Anamarija Brnjarchevska

A potential answer to a sustainable cruise ship industry has been announced in the shape of a nuclear-powered vessel named Thor.

Norway-based company Ulstein say the eye-catching 149m (489ft) replenishment, research and rescue ship concept is powered by a thorium Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) that can be used to recharge battery-driven cruise ships at sea.

This enables the vessel to operate as a mobile power/charging station for a new breed of battery driven cruise ships.

Ulstein claim Thor’s charging capacity has been scaled to satisfy the power needs of four expedition cruise ships simultaneously. Thor itself would never need to refuel. As such, the ship is intended to provide a blueprint for entirely self-sufficient vessels of the future.

“The vessel concept is capable of making the vision of zero-emission cruise operations a reality,” the firm states.

Ulstein believes the concept may be the missing piece of the zero emissions puzzle for a broad range of maritime and ocean industry applications.

To demonstrate its feasibility, Ulstein has also developed the Ulstein Sif concept, a 100m-long, 160 POB capacity, zero-emission expedition cruise ship. This Ice Class 1C vessel will run on next-generation batteries, utilising Thor to recharge while at sea.

Sif would accommodate up to 80 passengers and 80 crew, offering silent, zero-emission expedition cruises to remote areas, including Arctic and Antarctic waters.

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