Have you HEARD?

INKJET-PRINTED SOLAR PANELS

Polish physicist Olga Malinkiewicz has developed an innovative inkjet printing method for a new and inexpensive generation of solar cells – perovskite, not silicon – that can be manufactured at lower temperatures, reducing the cost of solar panels. Unlike traditional silicon solar cells, which are expensive and fragile, her printing process produces flexible, very thin and light solar panels that can be fixed to surfaces – including cars and building facades – or integrated into any mobile device for wireless charging.

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BACTERIA PREVENT POTHOLES

Sprinkling our roads with salt during the winter months to melt ice and improve traction has a downside: it degrades pavements. Yaghoob Farnam, an assistant professor at Drexel University’s College of Engineering in Philadelphia, is researching how bacteria can be used to prevent cracks. When S. Pasteurii bacteria are added to the concrete mix, exposure to salt yields calcium carbonate or limestone rather than crack-causing calcium oxychloride. The chemical reaction prevents cracks and seals existing damage.

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ELECTRONIC PILL  DELIVERS ON-DEMAND CARE

Researchers at Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, together with Boston’s MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have manufactured a 3D-printed, ingestible capsule that can detect infections and allergic reactions or monitor environmental conditions through core body temperature evaluation, signaling the need to administer medication. The pill, which can survive in the stomach for a month, transmits information to the patient’s or doctor’s smartphone, then responds to electronic instructions. Possible applications include long-term delivery of drugs that otherwise would require injections, or to diagnose early signs of a disease and respond with the appropriate treatment.

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RFID TRACKS BODY  MOVES AND CHANGES IN SHAPE

A research team at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh has devised a battery-free, machine washable method to monitor body movements or changes in the shapes of structures – including bridges and roads – using RFID tags. The team’s algorithm interprets the RFID signals of a single antenna, rather than the multiple antennas used to triangulate a tag’s position. The technology can be used for medical or fitness purposes, to pilot a video game avatar or to monitor an infrastructure’s structural integrity.

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TEMPERATURE MOLDS SHAPE-SHIFTING MATERIAL

Scientists at Rice University in Houston have created a rubbery material that can morph from one form to another on demand. By engineering materials at the molecular level, liquid crystals (and the elastomer they are embedded in) can change shape with shifts in temperature. When cooled, the shape encoded into the liquid crystals is visible; when heated, the crystals relax and flatten out within the flexible elastomer, like ice melts into a puddle of water. Programming liquid crystal elastomers to take on a desired shape has promising applications for soft robotics, biomedical implants and devices that adapt to a body’s changing shape.

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