When I think of robots I generally picture them looking like Wall-e or maybe the killing machines from The Terminator. Just from writing for this site, I realize plenty of other styles of robots exist, but I can’t help being something of a child of pop culture. The last thing I think of when thinking of robots is worms.
Scientists from MIT, Harvard and Seoul National University (SNU) have combined talents to create an autonomous robot that looks and moves like a worm. The group has dubbed their new creation the “Meshworm,” named after the nickel and titanium mesh material that forms its body.
The next time you’re thinking about alternative power sources, stop to consider the fact that one potential source could be the fluid that surrounds the brain with which you’re doing all that thinking.
A team of MIT researchers are developing a platinum-coated fuel cell that runs off the glucose found in cerebrospinal fluid, the stuff that keeps your brain from slamming into the side of your skull. The fuel cells could be implanted in the liquid pockets of the brain and used to operate low-power neural prosthetic components that could help paralyzed patients move their limbs.
Innovations in medical technology are zipping along with the same speed of other technologies, even if not everyone is aware of it. The field of prosthetics has advanced as well, but most prosthetics are still dumb (i.e. unpowered) and not really all that different from what was being used a century ago. A company named iWalk hopes to change that.
iWalk has created what is says is the first truly bionic prosthetic. The internally powered BiOM brings energy to the prosthesis with a high tech foot and ankle that propel the user forward, rather than requiring the user to give energy to the prosthetic. This reversal of the norm for prosthetics should help to reduce the chronic lower back pain and joint degradation suffered by many amputees.
Solar energy is one alternative to energy production that we’ve covered here before. The sun isn’t likely to run out any time soon, and, even better, doesn’t require spending money on transportation to use, which makes it green as a blade of grass.
But it has its challenges. One of the problems with the technology is the size of solar panels required to power anything useful. Enter MIT’s three-dimensional solar panel design. In place of the usual flat design, the MIT research team has created stacks of photovoltaic cells that are able to capture more sunlight, particularly in areas that are frequently cloudy or during the winter.
While it might sound like something straight out of steam punk, researchers at MIT have been looking at new ways to create supersonic aircraft and have settled on the biplane as the best choice for form and function. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the basics of the design were created by German engineer Adolf Busemann in the 1950s.
Busemann’s design managed to eliminate one of the most egregious flaws of supersonic aircraft, namely the sonic boom produced as they travel. It was this flaw–along with rising fuel prices–that eventually saw the most famous supersonic plane, the Concorde, grounded. Read a DE feature article here on the impact a “boomless” supersonic aircraft could have.