The word "plastic" originally characterized only the material's qualities: It is malleable, pliable, and deformable. Now, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed plastics that change shape when the researchers expose them to specific wavelengths and return to their original shape when the researchers expose them to other wavelengths.
Although materials that deform and return to original shape in response to temperature have been available for many years, such thermoplastics are not sensitive to light. The new class of plastics could find use in light-driven medical devices that change to their final shape after implantation into a body and then become active using light and an optical fiber.
The light-sensitive plastic uses photosensitive polymer switches in a film, which the researchers stretched with external stress and then exposed to UV light. The light causes the switches to cross-link, or bind, to each other. The cross links remain when a user turns off the light and change their structure when light energizes the links.
In a bid to boost the viability of lithium-based electric car batteries, a team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed a chemistry that could possibly double an EV’s driving range while cutting its battery cost in half.
Using Siemens NX software, a team of engineering students from the University of Michigan built an electric vehicle and raced in the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. One of those students blogged for Design News throughout the race.
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.
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.