Category: News Posts

Robots Can Now Flawlessly Iron Clothes

TEO robot

Ironing clothes is not fun. But someone has to do it. Why not get a robot to get it done?

TEO is a robot with a camera and sensors that can do just that. Once you put a clothing item on its ironing board, TEO uses its camera to create a 3D representation of the garment and calculate the wrinkles local descriptor.




The robot takes into account all wrinkles and works the iron to smooth out each crease. TEO measures 1.8 meters tall, weighing at 80 kilograms.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

People Are Turning Ocean Plastic Wastes From Haiti’s Beaches Into Laptop Packaging

One of the world’s largest electronics manufacturers will incorporate recovered marine plastics into packaging for one product line.

Texas-based Dell will begin using recovered HDPE from the marine environment in a tray for its XPS 13 2-in-1 notebook, which is a combination laptop/tablet.

The tray will be made of 25 percent ocean plastics and 75 percent recycled HDPE food packaging obtained via established recovery systems.

“This is the first time my 10-year-old daughter has gotten excited about what I do,” Kevin Brown, chief supply chain officer for Dell, stated in a press release. “This new packaging initiative demonstrates that there are real global business applications for ocean plastics.”

Dell’s commercial-scale pilot program will use an estimated 16,000 pounds of ocean plastics in 2017. It will produce about 300,000 trays.

Ocean plastics use by the company is expected to scale to 20,000 pounds in 2018, according to Dell.

Dell created a web page with details on the pilot project. It also includes a white paper that explores how other companies can incorporate ocean plastics in their supply chains.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

An Area Of Antarctica Larger Than Texas Partially Melted Last Year

Scientists think strong El Niños, like the one that melted so much surface ice in Antarctica last year, will become more common in the future.

An area of Antarctica larger than Texas partially melted last year, a group of international researchers has found.

And while it’s pretty well known ice at both poles has been melting for a while now, this ice is a bit different. In this case, it was surface ice the scientists were monitoring, not sea ice.

The melting was likely caused by a strong El Niño, something scientists expect will become more common as the climate continues to warm.

Normally, strong westerly winds keep El Niño’s warm weather away from the continent, so the melt that it causes isn’t as bad. But one member of the research team said El Niños seem to be winning the “tug of war” between westerly winds and warmer air.

And combining more frequent air driven warming from above and ocean driven melting from below could spell bad news for those living on the coast. The West Antarctic ice sheet has the potential to raise the sea level by over 10 feet if it were to collapse or fracture.

This time the melting didn’t do any permanent damage. But the scientists are worried it could be a sign of things to come.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

The Coral Reefs Are Showing Signs Of Global Warming Stress But We Can Still Do Something About It

With coral reefs all over the world suffering ongoing bleaching and death at the hands of warming ocean waters from remote coral atolls in the Indian Ocean to Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef, the future of these beloved marine ecosystems appears increasingly grim.

But while experts almost universally agree that global warming will continue to shape the future of the world’s corals, some scientists insist that there’s still hope for them.

In a paper out last Wednesday in the Journal Nature, more than a dozen experts from around the world say that coral reefs are likely to undergo major changes as a result of continued global warming and other human activities, like fishing.

But while future coral ecosystems might look a lot different than they do today, from the species they contain to the places they live, they aren’t necessarily doomed. In fact, accepting this transition and helping them through it might be the best and even only way to save them.

Scientist also recommends an updated approach to the research of coral reefs one that focuses increasingly on the cumulative impact of multiple disturbances working together (for instance, warming waters combined with pollution and over-fishing) instead of focusing on one single factor at a time.

With a commitment to active management and an open mind about what the future of coral reefs might look like, scientists say we can now allow ourselves a little more optimism.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

A Tactical 360° Ball Camera That Can Be Thrown Into Danger

A camera startup called Bounce Imaging has just launched the Explorer, a tactical 360° camera that looks like a black softball with lenses scattered across the surface.

The device is designed to help law enforcement scope out risky environments before entering them, capturing a spherical panorama to reveal hidden dangers.

On the outside of the Explorer is a thick rubber covering and six lenses pointed in different directions. There are also powerful 240W white LED lights that illuminate the scene and disorient potential attackers.

After being tossed into a location, the camera snaps several photos per second simultaneously with all six cameras. The images are then stitched together into a spherical panorama in the camera and beamed to an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet on the police officer.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

A Dutch Designer Has Designed A 3D Printed Pedestrian Bridge

Dutch designer Joris Laarman has designed a pedestrian bridge for Amsterdam that will be 3D printed by robots.

The ornate metal structure, which will span a canal in the Dutch city, will be printed in-situ by robotic arms. The location of the bridge will be announced soon and completion is set for 2017.

The versatile six-axis robots which are able to rotate their arms along six different planes of movement will print a load-bearing structure that will support their own weight as they work.

This will allow them to start on one bank of the canal and work their way across to the other side, printing steel as they go.

The project has been developed by MX3D, a technology startup launched by Joris Laarman Lab to investigate ways of printing large, sophisticated structures.

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Pass it on: Popsci

The Toughest Ceramic Is Made From Mother-Of-Pearl Mimic

scientist

Biomimicry, technological innovation inspired by nature is one of the hottest ideas in science but has yet to yield many practical advances.

Scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have mimicked the structure of mother of pearl to create what may well be the toughest ceramic ever produced.

Through the controlled freezing of suspensions in water of an aluminum oxide and the addition of a well known polymer, polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), a team of researchers has produced ceramics that are 300 times tougher than their constituent components.




The team was led by Robert Ritchie, who holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and the Materials Science and Engineering Department at the University of California, Berkeley.

Mother of pearl, or nacre, the inner lining of the shells of abalone, mussels and certain other mollusks, is renowned for both its iridescent beauty and its amazing toughness.

Nacre is 95-percent aragonite, a hard but brittle calcium carbonate mineral, with the rest of it made up of soft organic molecules. Yet nacre can be 3,000 times (in energy terms) more resistant to fracture than aragonite.

ceramic

No human-synthesized composite outperforms its constituent materials by such a wide margin. The problem has been that nacre’s remarkable strength is derived from a structural architecture that varies over lengths of scale ranging from nanometers to micrometers.

Two years ago, however, Berkeley Lab researchers Tomsia and Saiz found a way to improve the strength of bone substitutes through a processing technique that involved the freezing of seawater.

This process yielded a ceramic that was four times stronger than artificial bone. When seawater freezes, ice crystals form a scaffolding of thin layers.

ceramic

These layers are pure ice because during their formation impurities, such as salt and microorganisms, are expelled and entrapped in the space between the layers. The resulting architecture roughly resembles that of nacre.

In this latest research, Ritchie, working with Tomsia and Saiz, refined the freeze-casting technique and applied it to alumina/PMMA hybrid materials to create large porous ceramic scaffolds that much more closely mirrored the complex hierarchical microstructure of nacre.

To do this, they first employed directional freezing to promote the formation of thin layers (lamellae) of ice that served as templates for the creation of the layered alumina scaffolds.

ceramic

After the ice was removed, spaces between the alumina lamellae were filled with polymer.

For ceramic materials that are even tougher in the future, Ritchie says he and his colleagues need to improve the proportion of ceramic to polymer in their composites.

The alumina/PMMA hybrid was only 85-percent alumina. They want to boost ceramic content and thin the layers even further. They also want to replace the PMMA with a better polymer and eventually replace the polymer content altogether with metal.

ceramic

Such future composite materials would be lightweight and strong as well as tough, he says, and could find important applications in energy and transportation.

This research was supported by DOE’s Office of Science, through the Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering in the Basic Energy Sciences office.

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Pass it on: New Scientist