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March 5, 2013
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News for Engineering Professionals

  Innovation 
  • Researchers craft a flexible battery
    Researchers in China, South Korea and the U.S. have embedded lithium-ion battery cells in a silicone elastomer, creating a flexible battery that can be stretched up to three times its original length. The research team reports in the Nature Communications journal that further work must be done on the battery's cycle time and its self-discharge issues. Electronics Weekly (U.K.) (3/1)
  • Nanotechnology's next stage seen as the true revolution
    The next phase of nanotechnology will be atomically precise manufacturing, a development that threatens to create radical abundance and alter civilization itself, according to Eric Drexler, the father of nanotech in the eyes of many. "An ordinary printer shows how digital information can be used to arrange small things — pixels — to make a virtually infinite range of images. By doing something similar with small bits of matter, and APM-level technologies can fabricate a virtually infinite range of products," Drexler explains. "A desktop-scale machine could manufacture a tablet computer or a roll of solar photovoltaic cells." Forbes (2/26)
  • "Mechanical lung" to help track emissions from modern cities
    The Megacities Carbon Project is an initiative that aims to monitor carbon emissions in urban centers. On Southern California's Mount Wilson, scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have installed a "mechanical lung" to sense airborne chemicals and a "unique sunbeam analyzer" to scan the skies over the Los Angeles Basin. The project could one day lead to developing an "eagle-eyed satellite" to find "leaks in natural-gas pipes caused by aging infrastructure, or disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. Then cities could prioritize repair crews accordingly," John Metcalfe writes. The Atlantic Cities (2/28)
  • Researcher looks to cockroaches for insight into robotic design
    A robotics specialist at the University of Michigan is studying the behavior of cockroaches as part of an effort to find the most suitable way to design robots that can think on the fly. Using high-speed videos of the insects running, Shai Revzen determined that roaches react to surprises passively, which he says can provide insight into the development of multiple-legged robots. "We shouldn't try so hard to control things actively; we should just build a good passive mechanical system and end up with a robot that's far simpler and more reliable," he said. Popular Science (2/26)
  • PG&E uses wireless robot to inspect gas pipes for safety
    Pacific Gas & Electric Co. this week started using an untethered wireless robot to check "hard-to-reach" natural gas pipelines. The Explorer robot, which sends streaming video from inside the pipes to PG&E engineers, has magnetic sensors that can determine changes in a pipe's thickness. "It's going to become a key tool," said PG&E spokesman Jason King. "We've been searching across the country for cutting-edge technology to enhance the safety of our system." Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) (2/23)
  News Affecting Your Business 
  Technology and Trends 
  • Experts warn of challenges ahead from rising network demand
    The standards and protocols that have powered the Internet since its inception are becoming increasingly taxed because of the exponential increase in the number of networked devices -- which according to one forecast could reach 30 billion by 2020. That's according to a group of experts who met recently to discuss the challenges facing the networking sector and to consider ways to head off looming crises, such as the inevitable depletion of available IPv4 addresses. Network World (3/1)
  • Study: U.S. gas production to increase through 2040
    Natural gas production in the U.S. will continue to increase through 2040, spurred by the development of the Barnett Shale in Texas and other shale formations across the country, according to a report by the University of Texas. The study, which analyzed 15,000 wells in the Barnett, determined that the formation will yield more than 44 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The Wall Street Journal (2/27)
  • SpaceX Dragon overcomes malfunction to link to Space Station
    A blast of helium to clear what appeared to be a clogged thruster was all that was needed to help the SpaceX Dragon capsule rendezvous with the International Space Station on Sunday. The scheduled Saturday linkup was delayed by a "stuck valve or a blockage in the thruster's oxidizer line." After the problem was solved, capsule maneuvers were required to ensure the safety of the ensuing linkup via robotic arm. NBC News (3/3)
  • Real-time location systems gather steam in health care
    Real-time location systems are gaining traction in health care, with a global market value of $325 million, according to a presentation at a Stanford Business forum. The Department of Veterans Affairs recently awarded a $543 million contract to deploy RTLS and RFID in 152 medical centers to track medical and surgical equipment and supplies. Despite the technology's appeal, however, one expert suggests that health groups identify a clear return on investment before deploying RTLS or mobile health tools. Government Health IT online (2/20)
  Editor's Notes 
  SmartQuote 
The man who insists upon seeing with perfect clearness before he decides, never decides. Accept life, and you must accept regret."
--Henri Frédéric Amiel,
Swiss philosopher, poet and critic



 
 
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