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‘Candy cane’ structure promises supercapacitor boost

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Cambridge University have developed a polymer electrode that could dramatically improve the performance of supercapacitors.   (Credit: Stoyan Smoukov) According to the team, the electrode is capable of energy storage close to the theoretical limit, while also being flexible and durable over repeat cycles. These properties are a result of the polymer’s ‘candy cane’ structure, whereby the ionically conductive and electrically conductive strands are interwoven on a nanoscale level. “Our supercapacitors can store a lot of charge very quickly, because the thin active material (the conductive polymer) is always in contact with a second polymer which contains ions, just like the red thin regions of a candy cane ar

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Portable diagnostic tool detects disease in 15 minutes

Biomedical engineers have created a portable diagnostic tool that detects disease markers as accurately as the current gold standard, while cutting the waiting time for results to 15 minutes. D4 assay diagnostic tool (Credit: Daniel Joh, Duke University) By inkjet-printing an array of antibodies onto a glass slide with a non-stick polymer coating, the D4 assay diagnostic tool from Duke University is a self-contained test that detects low levels of antigens – the protein markers of a disease – from a single drop of blood. By creating a sensitive, easy-to-use “lab on a chip,” the researchers plan to bring rapid diagnostic testing to areas that lack access to standard lab-based diagnostic technologies. The platform is described in the Proceedings of the National Academy

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Neutron beam adds focus for better welds

A partnership led by WMG at the University of Warwick is using a stream of neutrons from a nuclear reactor in a project to examine safety critical welds in cars made with boron steel. Press-hardened boron steel is an ultra high-strength steel used across a variety of industries, including automotive, where it provides high strength and weight-saving potential, allowing for stronger yet lighter cars, with increased passenger safety. In the automotive industry, a major joining method for boron steel components is resistance spot welding, with several thousand welds being made on a single car. Spot welding exposes the boron steel sheet to very high temperatures, causing the metal to exceed melting temperature and then rapidly solidify on cooling. This results in a heat-affected zone,

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Toyota demonstrates human support robot

A Toyota-developed robot, designed to provide support to mobility-impaired patients within their own homes, has been taken from the lab for trials in a domestic environment. In a newly released video, the Japanese car giant shows how its so-called Human Support Robot has been used to help disabled US war veteran Romy Carmago, who was left paralysed from the neck down after being shot during his service in Afghanistan. The video demonstrates how the robot – which features an articulated arm and telescopic body – has been used to help him with routine tasks like getting a glass of water or opening the door.   Standing at just over 1m tall and weighing 37kg the robot can be controlled either via voice commands or through a tablet or other electronic device. It can also

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Raspberry Pi wins top UK engineering prize

Raspberry Pi, the UK-made microcomputer credited with inspiring a new generation of coders, has won the Royal Academy of Engineering 2017 MacRobert Award. Since its launch in 2012, around 14 million of the devices – which retails for £28 – have been sold, re-engaging people with the power of coding, and helping to ensure that future generations are equipped for the increasingly digital jobs of the future. https://youtu.be/YPDehg1pL9A The technology has also had a major and unexpected impact within industry, with over half of the devices produced used for control applications in a variety of sectors. Based in Cambridge, the organisation behind the device is run as a not for profit firm, and profits are invested in initiatives aimed at teaching people about computing. The de

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Processing innovation opens up new pathway for specialist steel

A method for making low-weight, high-strength steel more manufacturable could have important implications for the automotive sector. Car manufacturers, trying to reduce the weight of vehicles, are interested in low-weight, high-strength grades of steel. But some of these metals have properties which make them difficult to manufacture and process in large quantities. Material scientists at the University of Warwick have now found a way to control the properties of these materials so they can be rolled and formed like conventional steel. The problem up to now has been that strong, lightweight steel alloy grades tend to have brittle phases that make them hard, but stiff and unworkable. Two of these phases, according to the team led by Alireza Rahnama of Warwick Manufacturing group, ar

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New form of carbon is tough and elastic

A joint US-China research team has discovered a new form of carbon that is ultra strong, yet elastic like rubber.    (Photo credit: Timothy Strobel) Developed by engineers at Washington DC’s Carnegie Institute for Science and China’s Yanshan University, the material is also lightweight and electrically conductive. The researchers claim it could have a wide array of applications, ranging from aerospace engineering to military armour. To create it, the team pressurised and heated a structurally disordered form of carbon called glassy carbon. This starting material was brought to about 250,000 times normal atmospheric pressure and heated to around 1,000 degrees Celsius. Under the high-pressure synthesis conditions, disordered layers within the glassy carbon buckle, merg

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AI allows bionic hand to ‘see’ and grip

Biomedical engineers from Newcastle University have developed a computer vision system for prosthetic hands, allowing users to grasp and interact with common objects. Current upper limb prosthetics that can grip are controlled by myoelectric signals from the muscles in the stump, but it’s a skill that takes patience and time to master. Funded by the EPSRC, the Newcastle team created a computer vision system that enables prosthetics to ‘see’ with the assistance of an off-the-shelf camera. The work appears in the Journal of Neural Engineering. “Responsiveness has been one of the main barriers to artificial limbs,” said Dr Kianoush Nazarpour, senior lecturer in Biomedical Engineering at Newcastle University. “For many amputees the reference point is their healthy arm or leg,

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UK pod trials to test public acceptance of driverless vehicles

In the latest phase of a world-leading driverless car study autonomous pods begin operating along a 2km route around the Greenwich Peninsula in south- east London. Developed through the so-called GATEway Project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment), the vehicles will use advanced sensors and autonomy software to detect and avoid obstacles whilst carrying members of the public participating in the study. The initiative, which is led by TRL and funded by government and industry, aims to demonstrate the use of automated vehicles for ‘last mile’ mobility, seamlessly connecting existing transport hubs with residential and commercial areas using a zero emission, low noise transport system. Research findings from the project will guide the wider roll out of automated vehi

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Progress towards bionic eye implants

Silicon nanowires and wireless technology combine to produce potential high-resolution implant to restore sight. Bionic eye technology has long lagged behind the science fictional portrayal. Although some progress has been made towards restoring sight using electronics and implants, the level of sight they can produce is still well below the accepted threshold for blindness. Engineers at the University of California – San Diego and a La Jolla-based start-up company called Nanovision Biosciences now report that they have developed new technology that directly stimulates retinal cells to potentially restore high resolution sight that has been lost owing to neurodegenerative diseases, such as macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and loss of sight owing to diabetes: all major cause

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