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Nanotech To Fight Counterfeiters

Researchers have made a new type of watermark that remains invisible until a person’s breath reveals it. Engineers envision the technology being used as labels to fight the sale of counterfeit goods. 

"One challenge in fighting counterfeiting is the need to stay ahead of the counterfeiters," said Nicholas Kotov, a University of Michigan chemical engineering professor who led the team that created the labels, in a statement. ”You can verify that you have the real product with just a breath of air.”

Learn more and see a video on the innovation below.

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Robot Self-Assembles And Walks

by Michael Keller

Roboticists have developed a flat machine that can fold itself into an operational form and take a walk. 

Built mostly from paper and polystyrene plastic that shrinks into a memorized shape when heated, the robot can assemble in around four minutes. It can crawl at roughly 2 inches per second and make turns. The work by Harvard and MIT engineers represents the first time that a robot has self-assembled and performed a function without humans needing to intervene.  

“Here we created a full electromechanical system that was embedded into one flat sheet,” said Harvard Microrobotics Lab researcher and doctoral student Sam Felton. “Imagine a ream of dozens of robotic satellites sandwiched together so that they could be sent up to space and then assemble themselves remotely once they get there–they could take images, collect data and more.”

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Satellite Meets Comet In Historic Rendezvous

This is a comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. A satellite called Rosetta rendezvoused with it today, Aug. 6, after traveling 4 billion miles for more than 10 years.

The European Space Agency craft now sits 62 miles from the icy 2.5-mile-long comet (see a visualization of the mission here) about midway between Mars and Jupiter. The two will travel together on the comet’s orbit as it approaches the sun. 

Rosetta, which also includes a number of NASA instruments, will for the first time in history study a comet up close, put a lander on the surface and monitor changes as it approaches the sun. Among other science to be done, the craft’s Philae lander will drill almost 8 inches into 67P, another first. 

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This Isn’t Your Grandparents’ Machine Lubricant

by Michael Keller

Gears, actuators and whirring machine parts are all around us. The modern automobile alone can have upwards of 50 electric motors—from electric windshield wipers to alternators—whose guts include pieces of metal rubbing against other parts.

The only thing that keeps these components from grinding away into powder is a liquid lubricant, a substance typically made of a petroleum-derived base oil mixed with additives that reduce friction between moving parts. 

Now researchers in Germany say they have made a breakthrough in developing the next generation of lubricants. Their new liquid formulation, they say, lets small gears run with virtually no friction. The source of this wear-reducing elixir? The liquid crystals inside your computer and TV screen.

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