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Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts

Monday, 27 January 2020

Researchers develop "living concrete" capable of self-regeneration

Example of self-regenerating concrete. |

American researchers have developed a “living” building material, incorporating many photosynthetic bacteria. The material thus acts like a living organism: it is capable of developing and regenerating at an impressive speed.

“Living concrete”, as it is now called in the press, consists essentially of a mixture of gelatin, sand and cyanobacteria. Developed and tested by scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder (United States), the resulting structure was able to regenerate three times after being cut, suggesting a potential breakthrough in the emerging field of self-healing materials.

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The innovative material, developed in partnership with DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), presents a khaki green color after manufacturing. The initial coloring then fades as the bacteria die.

"It really looks like Frankenstein-like material ," Will Srubar told the New York Times , engineer and project manager at UC Boulder.

An arch molded with living and self-regenerating building material, in the laboratory of Dr. Srubar. Credits: CU Boulder College of Engineering & Applied Science

Even when the color fades, the bacteria survive for several weeks and can be rejuvenated - causing further growth - under the right conditions. The results of the study were published Wednesday in the journal Matter .

"The new material represents an exciting new class of low carbon designer building materials ," said Andrea Hamilton, construction expert at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland.

To develop it, the researchers first tried to introduce cyanobacteria into a mixture of hot water, sand and nutrients. The microbes then absorbed the light and began to produce calcium carbonate, gradually cementing the sand particles together. But the process was slow, and DARPA (the research arm of the Ministry of Defense and the project funder) wanted construction to take place very quickly. This need then accelerated the birth of this new, more efficient version of the material.

Gelatin added to the “mixture”

Dr. Srubar has worked with gelatin in the past, a food ingredient that, when dissolved in water and cooled, forms special bonds between its molecules. It is important to note that gelatin can be used at moderate temperatures which are mild to bacteria. Srubar therefore suggested adding gelatin to strengthen the matrix built by cyanobacteria, intriguing his team, which was impatient to try.

The researchers then bought gelatin (Knox brand) from a local supermarket and dissolved it in the solution containing the bacteria. When they poured the mixture into molds and cooled it, the gelatin formed its bonds. In other words, gelatin had just strengthened the structure and helped the bacteria to do their job, making the material more resistant and accelerating its self-regeneration / development.

The structure of living building material (LBM) is supported by the physically crosslinked hydrogel as well as by precipitation of bacterial calcite. In the event of a drop in humidity, the mechanical properties of the structure are improved. Conversely, the higher the humidity, the more the self-regenerating capacities of the material increase. Credits: University of Colorado (Boulder)

After about a day, the mixture made it possible to form concrete blocks with any mold used by the group, including 5 cm cubes, blocks the size of a shoe box and pieces of trellis. with spacers and cutouts.

The individual 5 cm cubes were strong enough for a person to stand on, although the material was brittle compared to most conventional concrete. The blocks the size of a shoebox, however, have shown that it is possible to make real constructions.

Potential use in space

DARPA is particularly interested in a self-cultivation material that could be used to assemble structures in remote desert areas, even potentially in space. Living concrete could also be useful in harsher environments than the driest land deserts, such as on Mars for example.

If live concrete can reach this level of use, it could reduce the quantity - and the weight - of materials that space agencies will have to send into orbit. " There is no way to transport building materials into space, " said Srubar. " So we will bring biology with us ."


Biomineralization and Successive Regeneration of Engineered Living Building Materials
Chelsea M. Heveran, Sarah L. Williams, Jishen Qiu, Juliana Artier, Mija H. Hubler, Sherri M. Cook, Jeffrey C. Cameron, Wil V. Srubar III

Published:January 15, 2020


Saturday, 25 January 2020

Researchers have developed a camera that captures the “invisible” at a billion frames per second

A new ultra-fast image capture device has been developed by scientists at Caltech. | Caltech

Scientists continue to push the limits of current optical devices, especially when it comes to studying physical or chemical phenomena. Recently, a team of Caltech researchers created a new ultra-fast image capture device (pCUP, from the English phase-sensitive compressed ultrafast photography), capable of taking a billion images per second.

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While this is an absolutely mind-boggling number, this new creation does not set a record. Indeed, some researchers (from the same team) had already developed, in 2018, a camera with a capture frequency of 10 trillion images per second (10,000,000). However, this new device has more than one string to its bow: it can capture transparent objects, as well as other phenomena invisible to the naked eye, such as shock waves for example.

While this incredible technology isn't very useful for vacation videos or Instagram selfies, it promises to have a variety of scientific uses across physics, biology, and chemistry.

The device works using the innovative technique used in the 2018 model, where light intensity measurements are combined with a static image as well as advanced algorithms.

But the device still has a new element, it uses phase contrast microscopy : it is an older photographic technique where changes in the relative positions of light waves, as they pass through different densities , are converted into variations in brightness. This allows transparent objects, such as cells made mainly of water, to be imaged.

" What we have done is to adapt standard phase contrast microscopy so that it provides very fast imaging, which allows us to image ultrafast phenomena in transparent materials ", explains Lihong Wang, electrical engineer at California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

A shock wave created by a laser striking slow-moving water has been captured by new ultra-fast photography technology, capturing a billion frames per second. Credit: Caltech

Namely, that phase contrast microscopy was invented by the Dutch physicist Frits Zernike in the 1930s, and exploits the phase changes of a light wave passing through a material. Thus, these speed changes make materials like glass much easier to spot with this technique.

As for the latest feature of this new device, the Caltech team calls it lossless encoding compressed ultra-fast technology ( LLE-CUP , from English lossless encoding compressed ultrafast technology). This marks the next generation of cameras and scanners, which capture an entire event at one time, recording the timing of light waves.

A pulse of laser light travels through a crystal (seen in slow motion), also captured by new ultra-fast photography technology. Credit: Caltech

Wang's previous work added a new component: a charge coupled device. Now, Wang has combined an improved form of this configuration with microscopy that filters out scattered light to map changes that the human eye cannot see. This type of scientific device, more and more sophisticated, will undoubtedly lead to new discoveries on the world which surrounds us, whether it is by taking snapshots of the human body or by recording quantum entanglement.

In this case, the scientists managed to capture the movement of a shock wave in water, as well as a laser pulse through a crystalline material. In addition, "this device could be used for many other purposes in the future, because it can be combined with several other existing optical imaging systems," said the researchers.

It could for example allow scientists to observe in detail the expansion of the flames in the combustion chambers, or even to record the signals that pass through neurons on a microscopic scale. " When the signals travel through the neurons, there is a tiny dilation of the nerve fibers, which we hope to see. Maybe we could see the communication of a neural network in real time , ”said Wang.


Picosecond-resolution phase-sensitive imaging of transparent objects in a single shot
Taewoo Kim1, Jinyang Liang1, Liren Zhu1 and Lihong V. Wang

Science Advances  17 Jan 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 3, eaay6200
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay6200

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Tesla wants to equip its cars with a laser system to automatically remove dirt from windshields

In recent years, Tesla has been developing a technology that seems to have come out (once again) of a sci-fi film: a laser beam system intended (among other things) for its vehicles, whose function is the automatic elimination of accumulated dirt on the windshield.

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After the announcement of its Cybertruck , the public has more than ever understood the avant - garde trend that the brand has been following since its debut. The "laser washer" system (let's call it that) first lets think of a hoax, but it is not so. This is indeed a serious project that has already been the subject of a patent.

Earlier this year, Tesla filed a patent application entitled "Cleaning Debris Accumulated by Laser Pulse on Vehicle Glass Components and Photovoltaic Assemblies". The document was made public this week.

Phiroze Dalal, a specialist in scientific and industrial imaging at Tesla, considered the inventor of the innovative system, describes the patent :

"A vehicle cleaning system that includes an optical assembly emitting a laser beam for irradiating a region on a vehicle glass member, a debris detection device that detects accumulated debris in the area, and a circuit for detecting command.

The controller calibrates a set of parameters associated with the laser beam emitted by the optical assembly based on the detection of debris accumulated on the glass area. It controls the level of exposure of the laser beam to accumulated debris as a function of the calibration of the set of parameters associated with the beam, in which the exposure level is controlled according to the laser beam pulse at a calibrated rate which limits the penetration to a depth less than the thickness of the detritus, and eliminates them ".

You are granted, based on this description, it is difficult to conceive what could actually look like such a laser system. To help you, here are two first technical drawings from the document.

Technical drawings showing the laser system for windshields. Fig. 2B: distant 3D view. Fig. 2A: close lateral sectional view. Credits: Tesla

Tesla explains that the system could be particularly useful for automatically removing any debris obstructing the camera's autopilot camera lens. In addition, the company plans to take advantage of the system to automatically clean dirt from solar panels on rooftops.

Drawing showing the laser system for photovoltaic panels. Credits: Tesla

However, we remind you that a patent application does not ensure the placing on the market of an associated product. Tesla, like many large corporations, often file patents that end up in the archives without ever being commercially exploited.

As a result, we do not know for sure what will happen to this technology. But knowing the ambitions of Elon Musk, it is likely that the system "washer-ice" laser is installed on future Tesla models.


Monday, 25 November 2019

Cybertruck: Tesla unveils its futuristic bullet-proof pickup, but the windows break during the demonstration

Tesla unveiled its new all-terrain vehicle, the "Cybertruck", which has  some unexpected features, such as bullet-proof windows. However, during the demonstration, the glass panes were broken.

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The bullet-proof windows of the Tesla pickup broke during the official presentation of the vehicle. Indeed, Elon Musk unveiled Tesla's first "Cybertruck", but the demonstration of solidity did not go as planned: during the event, the "bulletproof" windows of the Cybertruck were simply destroyed by a projectile test.

This futuristic armored vehicle, inspired by the worlds of Blade Runner and Cyberpunk, costs an entry-level $ 39,900 USD and aimed at the traditional car manufacturers in Detroit, proving that Tesla could manufacture a credible electric version of the preferred vehicle of Americans, the pickup.

Discover the Tesla Cybertruck 

In a series of demonstrations led by Musk, Tesla staff wanted to demonstrate the strength of the vehicle with tests involving hammers, a simulation of a 9mm bullet strike and heavy metal balls. " We created an exoskeleton, " said Musk during the test. "  The vehicle is literally bullet proof, for a handgun with 9mm bullets  ," he added.

Franz von Holzhausen, chief designer of Tesla, "asked" Musk if he could throw a projectile (ball) metal against the glass of the vehicle. That's where the glass broke ... " Oh my god, ****,  " exclaimed Musk. "  Maybe it was a little too hard ...", he added.

Elon Musk unveils Tesla's first electric pickup, named Cybertruck. Credits: Tesla / Reuters

Von Holzhausen then suggested that he try again, against a second window. " Try on this one? Really ? Asked Musk, moments before the rear window was also broken. "  The metal ball did not go through the window at least, that's positive,  " he added, stunned.

Musk, who sees this vehicle as a "  very futuristic pick-up at the Cyberpunk or Blade Runner  ", tried to alleviate the situation of the incident by making a joke: "  Ah, it's not bad, it still remains the possibility of making improvements  ".

Before the incident happened, spectators of the event were treated to entertainment on the theme of electricity, actors in cyberpunk costumes and stalls selling noodles (a theme of the film Blade Runner).

During the presentation of the vehicle, the windows break  

Tesla also said the production of the Cybertruck should begin by the end of 2021. This leaves time for the company to solve the problem of bulletproof glass ... Also note that Musk has previously tweeted that the design of the Cybertruck was partly influenced by the Lotus Esprit sports car, which served as a submarine in the 1970s, in the famous James Bond movie, " The Spy Who Loved Me  ".

We will see by then how Tesla will manage the improvement of the Cybertruck. With this vehicle, this is the automaker's first foray into the pickup truck, a market dominated by the Ford F-150 and its competitors General and Fiat Chrysler.

Although the demonstration was unconvincing, it did not stop the public from rushing on the vehicle. According to Musk, more than 146,000 pre-orders have already been registered. Note that only 17% would have reserved the entry-level version at 39,900 USD (single propulsion), 42% would have reserved the two-engine version (49'900 USD), and 41% the most expensive version (with three engines) capable of towing up to 7 tons, at a price of 69'900 USD.


Monday, 18 November 2019

New technology makes it possible to project 3D tactile and sound images

The dream of science fiction writers, holograms are now an active field of research, and more and more advanced prototypes have emerged in recent years. If the technology is not yet to match the holographic projectors of the Star Wars franchise, engineers are continually surpassing new limits. This is the case of a recently developed pseudo-holographic technology, based on an ultrasound system, for projecting shapes and touching them.

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Researchers in Sussex have developed a device that projects animated objects in 3D that can interact with viewers. A demonstration showed a butterfly flapping its wings, a countdown detailed by numbers hanging in the air and a planet Earth in rotation and multicolored. Beyond digital signs and interactive animations, scientists want to use it to visualize and better perceive data.

Although the images are similar, the camera is not the kind of holographic projector for Star Wars movies. Instead, he uses a 3D field of ultrasonic waves to levitate a polystyrene bead and model it at high speed to draw shapes in the air. The study was published in the journal Nature .

3D images created with a pearl and ultrasound

The 2 mm wide bead moves so fast, at speeds approaching 20 km / h, that it traces the shape of an object in less than a tenth of a second. At such a speed, the brain does not see the pearl in motion, only the complete form it creates. The colors are added by integrated LEDs on the screen, which illuminate the pearl as it moves.

Diagram describing the projection device used, as well as some forms created by the device. Credits: Ryuji Hirayama et al. 2019

Because images are created in a 3D space, they can be viewed from any angle. And by carefully controlling the ultrasonic field, scientists can make objects talk or add sound effects and musical accompaniments to moving images. Further manipulation of the sound field allows users to interact with objects and even feel them in their hands.

A step towards next-generation visual entertainment

Sriram Subramanian, team director, explains that besides digital signage, the display could also be used for new forms of visual entertainment. " Let's say you want to create a Harry Potter experience. You can reach out to cast a spell and, as you move it, you can see and feel a glowing ball grow in your palm, and we could also have a sound coming out of it . "

Ryuji Hirayama, who participated in the construction of the screen, says that making such a device was a long-time dream. But he considers that "the display of multimodal acoustic traps" is a step towards more sophisticated systems. " I think that in the future, such screens will allow us to interact with our family and friends as if they were nearby, so we can see them, touch them and hear them ."

Sound and tactile images

The images are created between two horizontal plates dotted with small ultrasonic transducers. These create an inaudible 3D sound field containing a tiny pocket of low pressure air that traps the polystyrene bead.

Move the pouch slightly changing the output of the transducers and the pearl moves with it. The most basic version of the display creates 3D color animations, but the authors describe how they improved the display to produce sounds and tactile responses.

Technology can create a variety of colorful 3D shapes, accompanied by sounds and a tactile response. Credits: Ryuji Hirayama et al. 2019

Speech and other sounds, such as musical accompaniment, were added by vibrating the polystyrene bead when it was around it. Vibrations can be tuned to produce sound waves across the entire range of human hearing, creating, for example, clear, clear speech. Another trick is making touch display by manipulating the ultrasound field to create a virtual "button" in suspension.

Towards advanced holographic technology for everyone

The prototype uses a single bead and can create images in an air cube 10 cm wide. But future displays could use more powerful transducers to create larger animations and use multiple beads at once.

Subramanian stated that existing computer software could be used to prevent small pearls from colliding with each other, although the choreography of lighting several beads in the air is another problem. If technology can be improved, it could transform 3D printing by building objects from tiny droplets of different levitating materials.

" What's interesting about the tactile content is that it was created using ultrasonic waves. Unlike the simple vibrations that most people experience via smartphones or game consoles, ultrasound moves through the air to create precise patterns against the hands. This allows for multimedia experiences where the objects you feel are as rich and vibrant as the ones you see on the screen, "says Euan Freeman of the University of Glasgow.

Julie Williamson, also from Glasgow, says that levitating screens are a first step towards truly interactive 3D displays. " I imagine a future where 3D displays can create experiences that are indistinguishable from the physical objects they simulate ."

This video summarizes the work of researchers and shows technology in action:


Article: A volumetric display for visual, tactile and audio presentation using acoustic trapping

Authors: Ryuji Hirayama, Diego Martinez Plasencia ', Nobuyuki Masuda' & Sriram Subramanian



Friday, 1 November 2019

New Lithium Ion Battery Could Charge Electric Car in Just 10 Minutes

In recent years, electric cars have become popular, to the point of today investing a certain share of the automotive market. If they are more and more common, their charging time still repels many potential users. To remedy this, a team of engineers from Penn State University has developed a new battery that can charge in just 10 minutes, thanks to a rapid heating process, increasing the rate of ion transport.

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The key to making electric cars more commercially attractive is the development of batteries that can reach 80% charge (or a range of about 300km) in 10 minutes, explains Chao-Yang Wang of Penn State University . But this requires that batteries quickly absorb 400 kilowatts, which is not possible with those currently available on the market.

When the batteries are charged quickly - the phase in which the lithium ions move from the positive electrode to the negative electrode - the lithium tends to form on the surface of the electrode deposits in the form of plates, likely to reduce the life of the battery.

Heat the battery to minimize the formation of lithium plates

Wang and his colleagues thought they could minimize this problem by first heating the battery to a temperature too high to allow the formation of lithium plates. To test this, they took a commercially available industrial battery and inserted micron nickel sheets into a stack of electrode layers.

Charged at a temperature of 20 ° C, lithium plates gradually appear on the electrodes. But the higher the charging temperature, the less the plates develop. At 60 ° C, no plaque is formed. Credits: Wang et al. 2019

This structure allows the electrode to heat in less than 30 seconds, thereby creating the conditions for ions to move rapidly in the negative electrode without causing plaque formation on its surface. They then tested cell function when charged at 40 ° C, 49 ° C or 60 ° C and compared their performance to that of a control battery charging at 20 ° C.

High temperature charge: optimized performance

They found that at 20 ° C, the battery could maintain a fast charge for only 60 cycles before lithium plating caused problems that significantly reduced performance. In contrast, heating the electrode to 60 ° C allowed the battery to recharge for 2500 cycles without forming lithium plating. This equates to 14 years of use or approximately 750,000 kilometers. The results were published in Joule magazine .

This calls into question the old idea that lithium batteries should not be charged at high temperatures because they would degrade. Instead, the results suggest that the benefits of a brief, high-temperature surge greatly outweigh the disadvantages, Wang explains.