I just returned from my visit to Sandia National Laboratories, where I saw some amazing new energy technologies. Much of the activity at this National Lab is classified research and development, the so-called “black world”, that cannot be seen by visitors. However, the unclassified research is truly impressive and provides a hint of the amazing developments that must be going on behind closed doors.
The most impressive facility I visited was the MESA Center. MESA stands for “Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications”. According to Sandia, this center is a “computationally-intensive environment for the design, integration, prototype fabrication, and qualification of integrated microsystems into weapon components, subsystems, and systems for the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile”. In other words, MESA engineers apply CMOS processes pioneered by the electronics industry to making sensors and components that enhance the functionality of nuclear weapons. One aspect of this work is energy scavenging to provide power to these microsystems; see my post, The Walls are Crawling with Energy, for more details.
During a teardown of the iPad Air and Microsoft Surface Pro 3 at the Medical Design & Manufacturing Show in Schaumburg, Ill., an engineer showed this "inflammatory" video about the dangers of maliciously mishandling lithium-ion batteries.
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov may have the best rules for effective brainstorming and creativity. His never-before-published essay, "On Creativity," recently made it to the Web pages of MIT Technology Review.
Much has been made over the potentially dangerous flammability of lithium-ion batteries after major companies like Boeing, Sony, and Tesla have grappled with well-publicized battery fires. Researchers at Stanford University may have come up with a solution to this problem with a smart sensor for lithium-ion batteries that provides a warning if the battery is about to overheat or catch fire.
In this new Design News feature, "How it Works," we’re starting off by examining the inner workings of the electronic cigarette. While e-cigarettes seemed like a gimmick just two or three years ago, they’re catching fire -- so to speak. Sales topped $1 billion last year and are set to hit $10 billion by 2017. Cigarette companies are fighting back by buying up e-cigarette manufacturers.
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