While visiting MIT for graduation, I walked right past a new prototype-scale solar-thermal power plant that a group of students had built in one of the Institute’s outlaying parking lots. Given my recent coverage of the Nevada Solar One power plant (see Nevada Solar One Demonstrates Scalability of Solar Thermal Energy), I could not resist posing for a photo (below).
Fortunately, someone familiar with the project was standing guard to ensure latecomers rushing to park in the lot for gradation did not inadvertently hit the installation. So, I was able to learn a little about the power plant before dashing off to receive my Ph.D.
This solar-thermal plant was specifically designed for use in developing counties and was built using old, recycled automobile parts. The four parabolic mirrors concentrate solar energy on the black-painted pipes that run along the foci of each mirror, heating the fluid inside. In the configuration pictured, the system was set up with a heat exchanger (which I am standing in front of, unfortunately) to deliver hot water. A turbine could also be added to extract energy from the collected heat.
Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. Much of the research these days focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
The IEEE Computer Society has named the top 10 trends for 2014. You can expect the convergence of cloud computing and mobile devices, advances in health care data and devices, as well as privacy issues in social media to make the headlines. And 3D printing came out of nowhere to make a big splash.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.