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3-D Printer Uses Light To Make Superstiff Materials

by Michael Keller

Engineers report they have made ultralight, ultrastiff materials using a light-based 3-D printing method. 

With a technique called projection microstereolithography, MIT and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers shine a pattern of light onto a pool of liquid resin to form precise lattice structures. This light hardens the liquid where it touches, building layer after layer until the object is completed. So far, the team has used the method to form tiny lattices made of polymer, metal and ceramic.

By determining the exact geometry of the diagonal, horizontal and vertical beams that make up the tiny latticework, the team can design tiny lightweight structures made mostly of air that are incredibly stiff. 

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Manufacturing Begins For Fusion Reactor Parts 

by Michael Keller

The first components of what will become the world’s largest experimental nuclear fusion reactor are now being manufactured around the world. Once it starts operating in 2020, the multinational ITER demonstration power plant will help scientists understand how to fuse hydrogen nuclei together to make energy, the same phenomenon that powers the sun.

At the heart of the project is the 25,400-ton tokamak, a machine that uses magnetic fields to confine a plasma that burns at 150 million degrees Celsius. The giant magnets used to corral the plasma are now being manufactured at a facility in La Spezia, Italy, as seen in the gifs above and video below.

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Polymer Filter Quickly Makes Water Safe To Drink

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by Michael Keller

It’s a thirsty world out there. But with much of the globe’s drinking supply unimproved by treatment systems that can remove animal waste, bacteria, viruses, and chemicals, a clean sip of water is too often a luxury. 

Many researchers and inventors are looking for cheaper and faster ways to get clean drinking water to people who lack it. On the industrial scale, people are refining filtration membranes by using advanced materials like graphene to make more efficient potable water supplies. Others are using architecture to make rain-harvesting buildings. For individuals, one designer has made a solar power distiller to turn saltwater fresh. These are just a few examples of a lot of brainpower going in to help around 780 million people who have limited access to clean water.

Now a Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) team says they have developed a novel personal filtration tool that will contribute to the solution. Using a three-stage system that includes an advanced polymer membrane, they say the device, called DrinkPure, works so quickly that it can filter up to a liter of water a minute.

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Flow Masters

by Michael Keller

Over the last decade, materials scientists have been trying really hard to keep from getting wet. To that end, they’ve made huge strides developing coatings that so thoroughly repel dirt and water, they seem almost magic. Their secret? Recreating the nanoscale structures that some organisms employ to stay clean and dry and to redirect liquid flow. 

Among researchers’ muses from the natural world are the stenocara beetle, lotus and nasturtium leaves, and the wings of butterflies. The National Science Foundation has compiled some compelling visual examples of natural and synthesized superhydrophobic surfaces. See the full video below. 

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