Monday, September 6, 2010

The graceful robotic penguins in the video above were unveiled by German engineering firm Festo this week.


Smell activates robot

By using genetically modified frog cells, you give a robot a sharper sense of smell - according to Shoji Takeuchi, a bioengineer at the University of Tokyo in Japan.

Existing E-Noses use quartz rods designed to vibrate at a different frequency when they bind to a target substance.Takeuchi and his team have developed a living smell sensor. Immature eggs, or oocytes, from the African clawed frog Xenopus laevis are genetically modified to express the proteins known to act as smell receptors. The team then placed the modified cells between electrodes and measured the telltale currents generated when different molecules bound to the receptors.

As a proof of concept, Takeuchi has built a robot that shakes its head when moth pheromones are sensed by the nose.


Edible crystals for storing hydrogen fuel

Researchers have experimented with storing hydrogen inside molecular "cages", made from chains of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms linked by metal ions. These so-called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) only bond weakly with the hydrogen atoms they enclose, so the gas can be recovered simply by heating the material slightly.

Fraser Stoddart of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and colleagues have found a way to make MOFs using simple, readily available materials. Stoddart's molecular cages are cubical, and each side is made of gamma-cyclodextrin, a ring of glucose molecules. Produced by bacteria, this sugary starch is used as an additive in many foods and pharmaceuticals – making Stoddart's MOFs edible.


Mobile chargers for electric cars

Zafer Sahinoglu at the Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and colleagues, are developing a network of portable charging stations, which can be moved to wherever the demand for recharging is greatest. To determine where the stations are needed, in-car sensors would monitor the level of charge in the battery and periodically report this to a central operations center, which would flag areas where most cars run low on juice.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

A breakthrough in electrolyte membranes for fuel cells

Yamaguchi and his colleagues have achieved a breakthrough in electrolyte membranes that could broaden the applicability of direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs). Those fuel cells are strong candidates for new portable power devices. They compare unfavorably in regard to energy density, however, with the lithium-ion batteries now used widely.

Yamaguchi and his colleagues have addressed the problem of methanol crossover in DMFCs with a highly durable pore-filling electrolyte membrane. They make the membrane from porous polyimide substrate and wholly aromatic hydrocarbon. Their pore-filling electrolyte membrane has enabled them to reduce methanol crossover greatly. The crossover is several hundred times less than with commonly used perfluorinated ionomer membranes, such as Nafion, and proton conductivity is steady. The membrane developed by Yamaguchi and his colleagues is also superior to other membranes in regard to durability.


A new human interface based on electromyographic signals

Measuring muscle activity provides a basis for estimating the angles, torques, and impedances in human joints. Koike, Sato, and their colleagues use electromyographic signals generated by neck and wrist muscle activity to control a wheelchair. The wheelchair moves in the direction in which its occupant looks.


Kanagawa Academy of Science and Technology (KAST)

Current Research Projects:

Robot-eyes for producing human-like 3D images of the surroundings

Xiaolin Zhang is at the Precision and Intelligence Laboratory, and inventor of ‘active stereo vision systems’, based on a deep understanding of the cooperative movements of human eyes.

“My robot-eyes-system enable the realization of three dimensional visualization of objects,” says Zhang. “We conducted a thorough analysis of binocular movement based on system control engineering.”

Based on this analysis, Zhang developed a robotic system consisting of two CCD cameras with unique peripheral control mechanisms, enabling unsurpassed 3D imaging. The robotic system is capable of maintaining a constant distance with respect to a target—for example a human face—even when the target is moving.


Superior cathodes for lithium ion batteries

Lithium ion batteries have proven problematic for widespread distribution, because they require expensive and sometimes toxic materials. Zhumabay Bakenov and Izumi Taniguchi at Tokyo Tech’s Department of Chemical Engineering are among the scientists tackling this problem. Much of their research has focused on so-called ‘olivine’ structured phosphates, which could be used to build cathodes that are not only low-cost and non-toxic, but also have high energy densities, and are stable under thermal, electrical or chemical changes. Bakenov and Taniguchi have gone one step further by including carbon when preparing their olivine samples, thereby creating a composite material. The carbon improves the electrical contact between nanoparticles, and prevents the particles from agglomerating into larger chunks which can adversely affect performance. Recently, the researchers created cathodes from a composite of lithium manganese phosphate with carbon. On placing the cathodes in a battery, they recorded a high discharge capacity, and the samples remained stable at voltages up to 4.9 V and temperatures up to 50 °C.


Topological Supramolecule

Topological supramolecule such as rotaxane and catenane, which has mechanically interlocked molecular system, is one of the most intensive research areas in chemistry from interests of molecular switch and motor. The University of Tokyo, Advanced Softmaterials Inc. and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. have cooperatively developed new coating materials with high scratch-resist properties and stretchability based on supramolecular network and slide-ring materials invented by Kohzo Ito and others.


International Joint COE Center for Magnetic Self-Organization

Its main subject is to activate the international and interdisciplinary research of magnetic self-organization in space and laboratory plasmas. Its keys are to solve how the magnetic field lines reconnect with each other and how its local features are connected to global restructuring of magnetic configuration.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Robots that care for us

University of Auckland researcher, Associate Professor Bruce MacDonald, and his team of researchers (both in New Zealand and in South Korea), are creating robots to help care for the elderly. By monitoring vital signs and location, detecting falls and prompting users to take medication, the robots can fill the gap between the number of available caregivers for the elderly and the growth of our aging population.



UQ’s quantum computers make light work of Harvard's chemistry

UQ physicists and Harvard chemists have teamed up to build a quantum computer that could have profound implications for wider science.


The University of Queensland launches iTunes U

The University of Queensland today launched iTunes U to deliver free education content through the iTunes Store for students, staff and community. The University that developed the vaccination for cervical cancer and the next generation jet engine is now on iTunes U.


Queensland Geothermal Energy Centre

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh last year announced a $15 million five-year contribution to a new research and development centre for “hot rocks”, the Queensland Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence.


Monash University Research

Recent research highlights

* Revolutionizing the design of fuel cells used in the latest generation of hybrid cars, which could make the vehicles more reliable and cheaper to build.

* A way to remove stains using sunlight, which means that in a few years, there will be the potential to produce self-cleaning clothes.

* The development of a model for world’s best practice counter-terrorism community policing in collaboration with Victoria Police.

* The use of DNA fingerprinting to identify which embryos implanted after in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) have resulted in the birth of healthy babies.

* Developing a simple and inexpensive testing strip made from paper that instantly identifies a person's blood type.


Silicon chips to enter world of high speed optical processing

Physicists at the University of Sydney have brought silicon chips closer to performing all-optical computing and information processing that could overcome the speed limitations intrinsic to electronics, with the first report published of an on-chip all-optical temporal integrator in Nature Communications today.


Institute of Photonics and Optical Science

The University of Sydney's Institute of Photonics and Optical Science (IPOS) is set to present a year of research breakthroughs in photonics since its inception when it hosts its first symposium tomorrow and Friday.

Professor Ben Eggleton: "One of the most significant directions is the integration of biology with photonics and optics. The breakthrough of the 'optic chip on a strip' is truly life-saving technology."

As well as IPOS researchers, international and national speakers include Professor Demetri Psaltis (Optics Lab, School of Engineering, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland); Professor Fiorenzo Omenetto (Deptartment Biomedical Engineering, Tufts University, USA); Professor. Min Gu (Faculty of Engineering & Industrial Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology); Dr. John Arkwright (Biomedical Fibre Sensors, Materials Science and Engineering, CSIRO); Professor Holger Schmidt (Applied Optics Group, Baskin School of Engineering, University of California USA) and Dr Rod Vance (Optiscan P/L)


Revolutionary thruster set for space launch

An ANU researcher’s revolutionary ‘plasma thruster’ will be developed for launch into space within the next four years, as part of a prototype satellite. It will be the first time in seven years that a piece of Australian hardware will be sent into space and the first time a satellite with a plasma engine will be tested.


Nanotubes help to solve desalination problem

A team of researchers from The Australian National University have discovered a way to remove salt from seawater using nanotubes made from boron and nitrogen atoms that will make the process up to five times faster.