Particles so small that only the newest and most sensitive instruments can see and study them are being used to create new materials and devices that could revolutionize everything from drug delivery to sunscreens. That encouraging revelation comes from Robert W. Hunt, a professor of materials science and engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY). Hunt heads a committee for the World Technology Evaluation Center that the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies have contracted to conduct a two-year, $400,000 study of nanotechnology around the world. Nanotechnology, a rapidly expanding scientific field, is in an early stage of development not unlike that of computer and information technology in the 1950s. Siegel, who coined the phrase "nanophase" materials, explains that new tools are letting scientists and engineers characterize and manipulate materials at the nanoscale level. For instance, he works with materials comprised of common atoms arranged in grains less than 100 nm in diameter--10,000 times smaller than grains in conventional materials. Researchers use them as building blocks to create materials with entirely new properties. Recently, members of Siegel's committee spent a week in Japan and in western Europe visiting sites conducting research on such materials. A report on their findings is due out this spring. E-mail email@example.com.
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.
Solar and wind energy are becoming more viable as a source of energy on the electric grid. For decades, the major drawback to solar and wind was that they’re temperamental. A cloudy day kills solar and a still day renders the wind turbines useless. Automation tools, however, are providing a path to help these renewables become practical.
In honor of Earth Day, the National Security Agency has launched the STEM Recycling Challenge in Maryland schools to encourage kids to think about where the garbage they throw out every day actually goes. The agency has also introduced “Dunk,” a muscular blue cartoon recycling bin wearing shorts and sneakers.
Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones used to fare quite well in the repairability department, but last year's flagship S5 model took a tumble, scoring a meh-inducing 5/10. Will the newly redesigned S6 lead us back into star-studded territory, or will we sink further into the depths of a repairability black hole?
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