The design for a bus-size vehicle that would repair potholes on the fly at speeds up to 35 mph has received U.S. patent No. 5,746,539. Operated by only the driver, the machine would use a global positioning system to record exactly where and how bad each pothole is. The inventor, Leo M. Mara, of Livermore, CA, is a technician at Sandia National Laboratories, which supports the project. Mara calls his idea the Rapid Road Repair Vehicle. Scanners on the front bumper would detect anomalies on the road surface. High-pressure air would clean and vacuum the spots. On-board image processing would determine if an object is a hole, bump, manhole cover, or crack. If it's a pothole, a phalanx of nozzles would deliver fast-drying filling material to the proper spots. The mixture would be tamped into place, dusted with grit to provide traction, and vacuumed. Finally, another row of scanners would check the quality of the repair. Under ideal conditions, Mara claims, "the vehicle could possibly patch roads at up to 35 mph." Usually, however, he envisions it moving at 10 to 15 mph. "Even at 10 mph," Mara asks, "can you imagine patching 10 miles of road in an hour?" Phone Subra Subramanian at (925) 294-2311.
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.
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.