Thursday, 28 August 2014

Material generates steam under solar illumination

A new material structure developed at MIT generates steam by soaking up the sun.

The structure—a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam—is a porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure's surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material's pores, where it evaporates as steam. The brighter the light, the more steam is generated.

The new material is able to convert 85 percent of incoming solar energy into steam—a significant improvement over recent approaches to solar-powered steam generation. What's more, the setup loses very little heat in the process, and can produce steam at relatively low solar intensity . This would mean that, if scaled up, the setup would likely not require complex, costly systems to highly concentrate sunlight.

Hadi Ghasemi, a postdoc in MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering, says the spongelike structure can be made from relatively inexpensive materials—a particular advantage for a variety of compact, steam-powered applications.

"Steam is important for desalination, hygiene systems, and sterilization," says Ghasemi, who led the development of the structure. "Especially in remote areas where the sun is the only source of energy, if you can generate steam with solar energy, it would be very useful."

Ghasemi and mechanical engineering department head Gang Chen, along with five others at MIT, report on the details of the new steam-generating structure in the journal Nature Communications .


Twisting a screwdriver, removing a bottle cap, and peeling a banana are just a few simple tasks that are tricky to pull off single-handedly. Now a new wrist-mounted robot can provide a helping hand -- or rather, fingers.

Mechanical engineers at MIT have developed a robot that enhances the grasping motion of the human hand. The device, worn around one's wrist, works essentially like two extra fingers adjacent to the pinky and thumb. A novel control algorithm enables it to move in sync with the wearer's fingers to grasp objects of various shapes and sizes. Wearing the robot, a user could use one hand to, for instance, hold the base of a bottle while twisting off its cap.

"This is a completely intuitive and natural way to move your robotic fingers," says Harry Asada, the Ford Professor of Engineering in MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering. "You do not need to command the robot, but simply move your fingers naturally. Then the robotic fingers react and assist your fingers."

Ultimately, Asada says, with some training people may come to perceive the robotic fingers as part of their body -- "like a tool you have been using for a long time, you feel the robot as an extension of your hand." He hopes that the two-fingered robot may assist people with limited dexterity in performing routine household tasks, such as opening jars and lifting heavy objects. He and graduate student Faye Wu presented a paper on the robot this week at the Robotics: Science and Systems conference in Berkeley, Calif.

A mechanical engineer went to police station for filing report for his missing wife

Engineer : I lost my wife (misty), she went for shopping and still not reached home yet.

Inspector: What is her height?
Engineer: I never noticed.
Inspector: Slim or healthy?
Engineer: Not slim can be healthy.
Inspector: Color of eyes?
Engineer: Never noticed.
Inspector: Color of hair?
Engineer: Changes according to season.
Inspector: What was she wearing?
Engineer: Saree/suit/ I don’t remember exactly!
Inspector: Was she going in a car?
Engineer: Yes!
Inspector : Tell me the number, name and color of the car.
Engineer: Sir, it was a Black Audi A8 with supercharged 3.0 liter V6 engine, generating 333 horse power teamed with an eight-speed tiptronic automatic transmission with manual mode and it has full LED headlights, which use light emitting diodes for all light functions and has a very thi scratch on the front left door and then the engineer started crying…

Robot writes Torah at Berlin's Jewish Museum

BERLIN (AP) — The robot's quill runs across the paper scroll, from right to left, scribbling down ancient Hebrew letters with black ink. It is penning down the Torah, the Jews' holy scripture, and it is doing it much faster than a rabbi could because it doesn't need to take breaks.

The Torah-writing robot was developed by the German artists' group robotlab and was presented for the first time Thursday at Berlin's Jewish Museum. While it takes the machine about three months to complete the 80-meter (260-foot) -long scroll, a rabbi or a sofer — a Jewish scribe — needs nearly a year. But unlike the rabbi's work, the robot's Torah can't be used in a synagogue.

"In order for the Torah to be holy, it has to be written with a goose feather on parchment, the process has to be filled with meaning and I'm saying prayers while I'm writing it," said Rabbi Reuven Yaacobov. The Berlin rabbi curiously eyed the orange-painted robot as it ceaselessly wrote down the first book of Moses. Yaacobov then showed visitors the traditional way of writing the Torah the way it's been done for thousands of years.

Matthias Gommel from robotlab said the robot initially wrote down the Christian Bible in German, Spanish and Portuguese before it was reprogrammed with the help of an Israeli graphic designer.

Both the robot and the rabbi are part of the exhibition "The Creation of the World" about the significance of Hebrew handwritings in Judaism. The show also presents Hebrew scrolls, wedding contracts and other medieval documents from the Braginsky Collection. The robot will be on show through January 2015 — the rabbi and the scrolls will only be there until Aug.

Improving the stability of clay for construction

Researchers at the Universiti Teknologi MARA mixed clay with various waste materials to enhance its engineering quality. This research set out to improve the engineering quality of clay using waste materials and a secret binder ingredient.

Clay is a natural material composed primarily of fine-grain minerals. It consists of tiny particles that have plastic and adhesive properties . Clay also possesses small voids and pores, so it's capable of retaining water. In this condition, it tends to expand and shrink, which can lead to settlement.

When exposed to increments of water, clay tends to soften and liquefy. Clay often causes difficulties in construction with its low strength and stiffness. This has caused serious problems in geotechnical engineering because weak soil may cause damage to the foundation of buildings and cracks along the road pavement.

Due to the rapid growth development of infrastructures facilities in Malaysia, it is impossible to avoid constructing on clay. Clay makes up 20% of the total soils in Peninsular Malaysia. It can be found in the West and East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. This type of soil is generally classified as marine clay. This clay originates from flooding during ancient times. The sedimentation of seabed was very thick and can be up to 60 metres in depth, or roughly the height of a 20 storey-building. Hence, the construction over clay may experience bearing capacity failure and excessive settlement.

Stabilization of soil using cementitious material becomes optional to solve this problem. Cementitious materials are several binding materials that may mix with water to form a plastic paste.

Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) is used as a common cementitious binding agent. From a previous study, stabilization of soil using cement was one of the soil treatment applied to improve soil plasticity and workability.

Therefore, this research focuses on determination of the strength that can be produced by using waste material ashes as part of the additive mixture. This will decrease the use of Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) to help stabilize clay. By doing this, more economical soil mixes can be produced.

The selected waste materials are bottom ash (BA) and fly ash (FA). They are a byproduct from electric power plant. These waste materials are disposed and generally have no economical value.

BA is physically coarse, porous, glassy, granular, greyish and incombustible materials that are collected from the bottom of furnaces that burned coal whereas FA is grey in colour and dust-like material.

It is found that they have pozzolonic properties which make it possible to replace cement in deep soil mixing. On top of that, a secret ingredient has been added to promote better pozzolonic reactions between the additives and clay.

This research was conducted for soil engineering properties and strength test for various inclusions of ashes into the clay soil. The percentage of additives is 5%, 10% and 15% of each ash. Improvement levels were evaluated from the results of unconfined compression test (UCT) carried out at different curing times.

Other soil characteristics like plasticity, particle density and compaction properties were also monitored.

The results showed that by using these admixtures, the strength development can be increased over time. This proved that these admixtures can be promising ingredients in deep soil mixing. By doing so, a high performance clay cement column can be produced in the near future.

Toyota i-Road recently began limited trials in Tokyo and it looks fun as hell

There have been long-standing concerns that high fuel costs could one day force everybody into driving tiny pod cars instead of the hulking SUVs and pickups America enduringly loves. If the tiny pod cars of the future end up anything like the Toyota i-Road, you can sign me up right now, because it looks fun as hell.

All-electric and with just enough space for two passengers and a few grocery bags, the Toyota i-Road recently began limited trials in Tokyo…and it legit looks fun. It swoops and slices across the road, and even though it isn’t going fast, the active suspension system leans into the turns, allowing it to change direction in a snap. To be specific, the turning radius is…wait for it… less than three feet.

Not only does it look fun, but in a crowded city like Tokyo, it is super convenient as well. You can park almost anywhere, just jump in and go, and not have to worry about being rained on like motorcyclists and scooter drivers are. The three-wheeler looks far more appealing than GM’s EN-V pod vehicles .

The best part though is that it returns a sense of “driving” to the car experience, as you’re not insulated from the road by a massive machine. Instead, you lean with the i-Road, and you have more control on the overall experience than you’d find in almost any other production car. As long as Toyota could keep it affordable, I’d say the future is bright for a production version of the i-Road.

Differential The amazing mechanical device

Nissan Wants A Threeway With Tesla and BMW

Just before Elon Musk gave away all of Tesla’s patents, the Silicon Valley automaker was in talks with BMW about sharing its Supercharger technology . Now Nissan wants in on the technology-sharing talks between Tesla and BMW, and could be on the short list to fast track Tesla technology to its own EVs.

A Nissan-Tesla-BMW alliance would cover the Japanese, American, and German markets with the three most serious EV contenders joining forces to promote a new method of mobility. The BMW i3 and i8 are the first serious Nissan Leaf contenders since the little electric car launched in late 2010, and Tesla’s choice to offer different battery sizes appears to have affected Nissan’s future plans for the Leaf EV .

Yet it’s important to keep in mind that Nissan is also heavily involved in promoting the CHaDeMO fast chargers across Europe and Japan, where it recently joined an EV charging alliance with Toyota, Honda, and Mitsubishi.

Nissan has long had its own plans, and I doubt they ever imagined Tesla would just open up its patents to the world . Nissan looks like it is stuck between a rock and a hard place at the moment.

Could we end up with two, or perhaps even three different charging standards based on region? Or will Tesla’s technologically superior (and free) Superchargers be adapted for use in BMW, Nissan, and other vehicles? That is starting to look more and more certain.

HMHS Britannic, Titanic's less famous sister ship.

Workload-sharing robotic limbs by MIT

MIT engineers are designing a limb which will help people to hold objects, share a workload, and streamline the execution of a task. For example situations might include trying to open a door when you need to keep holding something with both hands. If the movements of such supernumerary limbs are tightly coupled and coordinated with their arms, the human users may come to perceive the extra limbs as an extension of their own body,

Liberty Launches Electric Van DELIVER that looks like a discarded sci-fi prop

This funky-looking electric van prototype is built as a new generation of urban delivery vehicles developed by the DELIVER consortium, first shown to the public recently in Masstricht, Netherlands. It is the product of a European design process, which focuses on reducing the environmental impact of light commercial vehicles in urban areas. The acronym stands for Design of Electric Light Vans for Environment-Impact Reduction , and was funded in part by the European Union, and a group of auto and parts makers including Fiat. Volkswagen and Michelin as well as many universities and several European cities.

At present, no production plans for the van have been announced, though there’s nothing really standing between the DELIVER van and actual production. It features a Michelin electric motor, rated at 57 kW, in each rear wheel hub, and there is also a two speed gear case in each rear hub. The prototype has 18% more load carrying capacity than a conventional van of similar wheelbase, thanks to its electric drivetrain, and features a range of 62 miles, with a top speed of more than 60 mph. But the DELIVER is not just about reducing pollution in European cities. It has a clever driver’s compartment designed to increase driver efficiency and reduce fatigue.

The B-pillar is omitted on the curb side of the vehicle, allowing the installation of a step out door for the driver.
This makes it easier to get in and out of the van, reducing delivery times, and because the main entrance faces the curb, the driver is never faced with the perils of oncoming traffic.
The DELIVER van may have a face that only a mother could love, but its emphasis on compact size, greater load carrying capacity, high efficiency, and low environmental impact make it a strong candidate for the delivery van of the future in the Old World.

World's largest hydroelectric dam. Three Gorges Dam, China.

The first gas absorption refrigeration system


You've seen them in science fiction films, but the hoverbike could soon become a commercial reality.

The brainchild of British designer Chris Malloy, "the world's first hoverbike " combines "the freedom of a helicopter with the simplicity of a motorcycle" to offer a whole new way to fly.

The bike is currently available as a 1/3 scale hoverbike drone, which is listed on crowdfunding website Kickstarter as a means of funding the full-size version. The inventors claim the drone will allow users to see and feel exactly what flying the hoverbike would be like.

Featuring a multipurpose platform suitable for transporting a variety of objects, the drone comes with colorful LED lights framing its wheels.

The full-sized hoverbike, currently in the final prototype stages, could be flown manned or unmanned, whilst its smaller version can fly on a pre-determined fight path as well as ‘follow' and ‘loiter.'

The drone versions of the hoverbike are expected to ship this November.

Question for you: Guess the expected price.

(Hint: Between $1000 to $25000).

[Answer will be posted in comment after 50 replies]

Let's see who will be close enough

A Drone Saved an Elderly Man Who Had Been Missing for Three Days

After three fruitless days of extensive searching by authorities, an amateur drone pilot located a missing elderly man in a mere 20 minutes.

On Sunday, David Lesh helped save Guillermo DeVenecia, an 82-year-old man who had gone missing for three days in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, last week. Search and rescue teams had been looking for him for all that time, using helicopters, search dogs, and hundreds of volunteers, according to the WMTV .

Then Lesh, who owns a ski and snowboard outerwear company in Colorado but was in the area on vacation, volunteered to help using his drone — and found DeVenecia in 20 minutes.

"We weren't really sure what we would find or what kind of shape he would be in if we did find him... I don't think any of us expected to find him," Lesh told WMTV, the local NBC affiliate.

Lesh flew the drone across a 200-acre field where the man was believed to be and at a certain point, through the flying robot's camera, he saw him.

"As we were making the last turn to fly it, we noticed a man out in the field sort of stumbling, looking a little disoriented," Lesh said.

Arthur Holland Michel, the founder of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, said that this story proves how useful drones can be in search and rescue situations.

Mega Machines

200 MPH Houston-Dallas Bullet Train Planned

A 200 mph Houston-Dallas bullet train is being planned by a private company called Texas Central Railway. The company’s CEO is Richard Lawless, who lived in Tokyo when he was a C.I.A officer in the 1980s and rode the Shinkansen bullet train. This train covers about 300 miles between Tokyo and Osaka averaging well over 100 mph for each trip.

Currently, the Texas bullet train project is gradually shaping up , with an environmental impact study under way. It has been very quietly progressing over the last four years or so.

A website for Texas Central Rail says the plan is to have a high-speed rail route that is competitive with flying and faster than driving. When we hear of monumental plans such as this one, we may tend to think of government subsidies and the cost to taxpayers. This project is completely set up to be funded by private interests. The cost has been estimated at around $ 10 billion.

Japan’s JR Central railway is one of the Texas company’s backers,so there is more than Lawless’s own Japanese rail riding experience and vision that is connected to Japan.

How long will it take to create a Texas bullet train?It might be by 2021 at the earliest that the Houston-Dallas high-speed route is up and running.

The Tōkaidō Shinkansen bullet train began service in 1964 and in just three years had transported about 100 million passengers. In the contemporary era, the bullet train saves about 15,000 tons of CO2 per year. Bullet trains in Japan allow two pieces of luggage per passenger. Bicycles are acceptable as well.

This not to say the same conditions will be in place for a potential Texas bullet train, but if they were, passengers seeking an alternative to flying might find them attractive.

The launch of a bullet train in Texas would undoubtedly draw some tourists as well. In 2013, Texas had about 233 million domestic visitors and over eight million from other countries. A very fast train connecting two of the states largest cities would likely increase tourism.

Would you ride the Texas bullet train?

All-in-one energy system offers greener power for off–grid homes, farms and businesses

An innovative 'trigeneration' system fuelled entirely by raw plant oils could have great potential for isolated homes and businesses operating outside grid systems both in the UK and abroad.

Developed by a consortium led by Newcastle University and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through the RCUK Energy Programme, the small-scale combined cooling, heat and power system has been designed to provide dependable electricity without the need for a mains connection.

Ideally suited for small-holdings and businesses, and particularly applications in the developing world, the waste heat that is produced by the system is used for cooling and heating in order to recover the maximum amount of energy.
At the same time, the team have incorporated advanced electrical storage into the system to make it even more efficient and more able to cope with the daily fluctuating demand for electricity.

The consortium also included researchers from University of Leeds, University of Ulster, and three Chinese universities.

Robotic suit gives shipyard workers super strength

Workers building the world’s biggest ships could

soon don robotic exoskeletons to lug around 100-
kilogram hunks of metal as if they’re nothing AT A sprawling shipyard in South Korea, workers
dressed in wearable robotics were hefting large
hunks of metal, pipes and other objects as if they
were nothing. It was all part of a test last year by Daewoo
Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, at their facility
in Okpo-dong. The company, one of the largest
shipbuilders in the world, wants to take production
to the next level by outfitting staff with robot
exoskeletons that give them superhuman strength. Gilwhoan Chu, the lead engineer for the firm's
research and development arm, says the pilot
showed that the exoskeleton does help workers
perform their tasks. His team is working to improve
the prototypes so that they can go into regular use
in the shipyard, where robots already run a large portion of a hugely complex assembly system. The exoskeleton fits anyone between 160 and 185
centimetres tall. Workers do not feel the weight of
its 28-kilogram frame of carbon, aluminium alloy
and steel, as the suit supports itself and is
engineered to follow the wearer's movements. With
a 3-hour battery life, the exoskeleton allows users to walk at a normal pace and, in its prototype form, it can lift objects with a mass of up to 30 kilograms. To don the exoskeleton, workers start by
strapping their feet on to foot pads at the base of
the robot. Padded straps at the thigh, waist and
across the chest connect the user to the suit,
allowing the robot to move with their bodies as it
bears loads for them. A system of hydraulic joints and electric motors running up the outside of the
legs links to a backpack, which powers and
controls the rig. Frames designed for individual tasks can be
attached to the backpack, with some arcing over a
person's head like a small crane. As well as
boosting raw lifting ability, the suit helps workers
manipulate heavy components precisely: it takes
most of the weight, so the user is effectively handling light objects. Chu says worker feedback from the trial has been
mostly positive. Testers were pleased that the
exoskeleton let them lift heavy objects repeatedly
without strain, but everyone also wanted it to move
faster and be able to cope with heavier loads. Chu is
working on it. "Our current research target of the lifting capacity is about 100 kilograms," he says

Self-assembling origami robot is world's first Transformer

Harvard scientists have built the world's first working Transformer robot, inspired by the ancient Japanese paper folding art origami.

The alien robots that feature in the Transformer movies conceal their true nature by taking on the form of cars and trucks. The scientists' robot has yet to reach that level of technical deception and disguises itself – for now, at least – as a robot that has been flattened.

Footage from the researchers' laboratory shows a sheet of paper and plastic mounted with batteries and motors that folds itself into a working machine without human intervention and then scuttles out of shot.

The flat-pack robot uses "shape memory polymers" that contract like muscles when they are heated. The robot takes about four minutes to assemble from scratch and can walk at a speed of around 5cm per second.

TECHNOLOGY INSIDER How Does 3D Printing Work

In the past few years we’ve heard much about “3D printing” and the many uses of this emerging technology. But how does 3D printing work? How is it different from other manufacturing processes? In this post, I'm trying to explain these things. Don't forget to add your points via comment section.


Making things usually involves a subtractive process: you start with a block of material — aluminium for instance — which you then machine (that is, remove material) until you get the shape and size you’re after.

But 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, does the process in reverse. Instead of removing material, the “printer” dispenses it. The technology gradually deposits the material via a controlled nozzle, layer by layer, building up to a fully formed product. The material used can either be plastic (usually ABS ), or a metal. The process is typically based on a computer-designed model of the object or machine part in question, and can produce relatively complex shapes.

Steps of 3D printing are shown in picture.

Rooftop Pool, Singapore


Baby Born With Amniotic Sac Intact

Skógafoss Iceland

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

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