Have you HEARD?
TRANSLATING BRAIN SIGNALS INTO WORDS
Scientists at Stanford University in California have developed technology that detects brain signals to move a cursor over a digital keyboard. The team outfitted a monkey with a multi-electrode brain array that reads the signals that direct hand and arm movements. Using advanced algorithms that translate the signals into movements, the monkey can re-type a document at a rate of 12 words per minute using only its thoughts. The team is running a clinical trial in conjunction with a neurosurgeon to test the technology on humans, offering hope for people who have lost both speech and hand control.
Researchers from Colas, a French transport infrastructure company, and the INES (French National Institute for Solar Energy) have generated electricity by applying photovoltaic cells on road surfaces. Wattway delivers clean, renewable energy, is sturdy enough to support all types of traffic and can be installed on new roads or on existing pavement. Tests indicate that 20 square meters (215 square feet) of Wattway panels provide enough electricity to power the average French home, not including heating, for a year. Germany is conducting similar research at the RWTH Institute of Highway Engineering.
A SOFT APPROACH TO ROBOTICS
Researchers at Harvard University have developed design and fabrication techniques to build the world’s first entirely soft, autonomous robot. The proof-of-concept octobot, inspired by the movements of a real octopus, is powered by pressurized gas and functions without rigid parts. Unlike metal or plastic robots, these design and fabrication techniques could be used to build soft robots that can squeeze through small spaces or adjust to hold objects of any shape. One promising application is in the medical sector, where rigid surgical robots could damage delicate tissue.
FABRIC THAT COOLS THE SKIN
Why waste money and energy on air conditioning when your clothes could do the job? Researchers at California’s Stanford University have engineered a nanoporous fabric that combines nanotechnology, photonics and chemistry and that cools by allowing the heat generated by living things to escape rather than being absorbed into the fabric of clothes. The nanoporous polyethylene (nanoPE), with pores between 50 and 1,000 nm in diameter, can keep the skin 2.7°C cooler than cotton clothing.
SUBMARINING ON TITAN
Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is the only body in our solar system besides Earth with exposed liquid seas – but they’re filled with liquid methane at least 300 m deep. Scientists and engineers, eager to determine if biological activity can develop in liquid methane, have designed a concept submarine capable of exploring Kraken Mare, Titan’s largest sea (1,100 km long). Incoming data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will enable engineers to adjust the sub’s design and possibly win funding to mature the concept, proposed for launch as early as 2029.