tech science materials strong lightweight compression engineering biologically_inspired_engineering steel composite

Lighter Than Water, Stronger Than Steel

Researchers in Germany have made a significant advance in creating lightweight, tough materials by taking a note from bone, wood and honeycombs.

A Karlsruhe Institute of Technology team fabricated polymer and alumina composites in a regular framework structure using 3-D laser lithography. Their hierarchical microarchitecture achieved extremely porous materials with strength-to-density ratios higher than bone, aluminum or steel.

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tech science radar engineering italy photonics light aircraft airports marine cargo_ship
Heart Of Laser Light Powers Next-Generation Radar

by Michael Keller

Not long ago, a little red Opel minivan rolled to a stop beside the port of Livorno, a seaside town in Italy’s Tuscany region. A radar dish had been strapped to the vehicle’s roof by the researchers within.

The team removed the dish from the roof, erected it on a tripod and pointed it toward the behemoth freighters lumbering in the nearby water. Then they popped the Opel’s trunk to reveal boxes of electronics crammed inside. An umbilical soon connected the equipment to the dish.

When they turned on the system’s power, they energized what might become the next generation of instruments for locating objects—a fully digital radar whose heart is powered by light.

“We are defining the position, speed and even the shape of big cargo ships in and outside the port,” lead researcher Paolo Ghelfi, an electronics engineer with Italy’s National Inter-University Consortium for Telecommunications (CNIT), tells Txchnologist. “Using a laser instead of traditional radar electronics means we can detect more accurate positions of objects. We can also detect smaller objects farther away because our system produces lower noise in the radar signal.”

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tech engineering waste sewage innovation developing_world toilet solar agriculture biochar climate_change
Fiber-Optic Solar Toilet Turns Sewage To Plant Friend

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by Michael Keller

World Water Day is coming up this Saturday. One of the event’s goals is to bring attention to the billion people who live without access to safe drinking water.

A major obstacle standing before that objective is a lack of the sanitation that would prevent human waste from polluting water supplies. One innovation, a solar-powered, fiber-optic-equipped toilet that requires no water and sanitizes sewage with high heat, is among several that are trying to fix the problem and improve public health.

Developed by engineers at University of Colorado Boulder, the system uses eight parabolic mirrors that focus sunlight onto an area the size of a postage stamp. This energy is then piped through fiber-optic cables to a reaction chamber that heats waste to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. 

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tech science bioplastic plastic materials engineering gif biodegradable manufacturing

This California blackeye pea plant is shown growing over a three-week period in soil enriched with nontoxic, biodegradable plastic made of shrimp shells. 
Scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering made the bioplastic so it can be used to manufacture cell phones, toys and in any other product in which regular plastics are used. Mixing in waste from wood processing called wood flour to prevent shrinkage, the team found that the material could be used in casting and injection-molding processes to make large 3-D objects. It also breaks down in two weeks and releases valuable nutrients into soil when it does, they say.[[MORE]]
Their work on the bioplastic was published at the end of February in the journal Macromolecular Materials & Engineering.
The chitosan that goes into making the bioplastic is a form of chitin, the second most abundant organic material on Earth. It is present in fungi and insect and crustacean shells.
"There is an urgent need in many industries for sustainable materials that can be mass produced," said Dr. Don Ingber, the institute’s founding director, in a statement. “Our scalable manufacturing method shows that chitosan, which is readily available and inexpensive, can serve as a viable bioplastic that could potentially be used instead of conventional plastics for numerous industrial applications.”

This California blackeye pea plant is shown growing over a three-week period in soil enriched with nontoxic, biodegradable plastic made of shrimp shells. 

Scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering made the bioplastic so it can be used to manufacture cell phones, toys and in any other product in which regular plastics are used. Mixing in waste from wood processing called wood flour to prevent shrinkage, the team found that the material could be used in casting and injection-molding processes to make large 3-D objects. It also breaks down in two weeks and releases valuable nutrients into soil when it does, they say.

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