The flubber of the future? It's under development at the University of North Texas (UNT). The so-called "smart gel" has become the catch phrase for water-based, gelatin-like polymers created in labs. The gels have physical properties that change in response to temperature, light, pH and acidic balances, and electric fields. Dr. Zhibing Hu, an associate professor of physics at UNT, heads the research. His work incorporates different materials on a hydrogel surface so that it can change into a specific pattern when induced by a certain stimulus. Gels made to date show lattice or other surface patterns that remain visible or invisible by simply switching between room and body temperature. Possible future uses for this type of gel include acting as an optical gauge that monitors environmental conditions, such as metal ions in water, or as a miniature sensor that can detect enzyme activity. Toys or signs with designs and wording that appear and disappear in response to changing temperatures also would be a possibility. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
From home enthusiasts to workers on the manufacturing floor, everyone's imagination is captured by the potential of 3D printing. Prototyping, spare parts creation, art delivery, human organ creation, and even mass product production are all being targeted as current and potential uses for the technology.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.