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StreetDrone autonomous test vehicle aimed at universities

UK start-up StreetDrone has released its first autonomous vehicle, an affordable platform designed to be used as a testbed by student engineers. StreetDrone One, which has been developed by a team of ex-F1 engineers, is based on the Renault Twizy electric vehicle. According to its creators, it will help address the gap in autonomous research that is opening up between industry and academia due to the costs. The vehicle, which will be priced at £49,500, will enable young engineers to test existing software as well as designing their own. “What makes StreetDrone One so unique is that it allows universities to focus on their specific area of interest in the self-driving market and customise the testbed to their requirements,” said Mark Preston, founder and CEO of StreetDrone. 

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UK laser cannon unveiled at DSEI

A key component of a high energy laser cannon being produced under a £30 million contract for the UK Ministry of Defence was unveiled in London this week, at military equipment exhibition DSEI 2017. Under development by an MBDA-led consortium which includes Qinetiq, Leonardo-Finmeccanica, Arke, BAE Systems, Marshall and GKN the so-called Dragonfire system will be a 50kW class directed energy weapon designed for use on both land and sea. Laser weapons have key advantages over traditional systems: the munition is potentially unlimited, and it operates at the speed of light so the time from when you say “fire” to the weapon hitting its target is more or less instantaneous. According to the consortium the weapon – which is being optimised for use on land and

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Jaguar Land Rover to go all-electric by 2020

From 2020, all new vehicles produced by Jaguar Land Rover will be electrified, the firm’s CEO Dr Ralf Speth has claimed. “Every new Jaguar Land Rover model line will be electrified from 2020, giving our customers even more choice,” said Speth. “We will introduce a portfolio of electrified products across our model range, embracing fully electric, plug-in hybrid and mild hybrid vehicles.” Speth’s announcement follows similar news from Volvo and adds to the growing momentum behind electric vehicles. His comments were made at the car firm’s inaugural Tech Fest – a technology showcase at London’s St Martins College – where, as well as hosting debates on the future of mobility, it was also showcasing a number of existing and future electric models. Amongst v

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UK developed functional ink could be used to print 2D electronic devices

An advanced new ink that can be deposited using conventional inkjet printing techniques could be used for the mass manufacture of a host of laser and optoelectronic devices according to a group at Cambridge University. Developed by a team at the university’s Graphene Centre, the ink is made from black phosphorous (BP), a two-dimensional material similar to graphene. A black phosphorus crystal Working with reserachers at Imperial College London, Finland’s Aalto University, and China’s Beihang and Zhejiang Universities, the group carefully optimised the chemical composition of BP to achieve a stable ink through the balance of complex and competing fluidic effects. This enabled the production of new functional laser and optoelectronic devices using high-speed printing. According

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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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