Friday, April 30, 2004

"ANTI-TERROR: Pentagon tests toxin detection and forecast system"
Scott Swerdlin describes how the blimp with the 23-foot-long sensor-studded tether that is now hovering over the Pentagon is about to conduct novel tests of simulated airborne toxins. As the blimp releases a faux poison over the course of the next two weeks, a real-time system designed for first responders will gauge how much of the toxin has been discharged and where, and then predict where the plume will drift and how it will disperse. Results of the effort, which is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, will be incorporated into an umbrella protection regime against chemical, biological and radiological toxins that can be adapted to all Defense Department facilities and foreign embassies. "What we think is really novel about this system, making it the only one in the world, is that it uses what we call multiscale forecasting," said project leader Swerdlin, a software engineer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
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Thursday, April 29, 2004

"MEMS: femtosecond pulsed laser sculpts nanoscale microelectromechanical systems"
Nanoscale sculpting of three-dimensional microelectromechanical systems has been enabled by careful characterization of a femtosecond laser's critical intensity. By varying a femtosecond pulsed laser's intensity, University of Michigan researchers report, materials can be selectively vaporized in 3-D, enabling MEMS ablation tolerances as small as 10 nanometers. "We have MEMS designers beating down our door," said Alan Hunt, an assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering (Ann Arbor). "They bring us these structures they want to make but can't figure out how and we say, sure we can help you make that. We believe our technique will be a real enabler for MEMS."
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Wednesday, April 28, 2004

"ROBOTS: readied to take on search-and-rescue duties"
Microminiaturization has made possible swarms of autonomous robots using nothing more than off-the-shelf parts. But concentrating their wireless chatter and getting them to cooperate to solve problems may be five years away, the National Science Foundation cautions. It's putting $2.6 million into a five-year effort to turn multiple wireless robots into an emergency search-and-rescue team. "We want to help emergency response personnel by sending cooperative robots into an unknown site," said California Institute of Technology researcher Joel Burdick. "My team will be developing software that enables each of them to perform slightly different tasks that together accomplish the goal."
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Friday, April 23, 2004

"CHIPS: sharpened images reveal nature of atomic-scale structure of doping"
Stephen Pennycook describes a team of research scientists that have used an improved electron microscope to confirm a long-held theory concerning the structural nature of doped atomic-scale surfaces. The discovery also promises to give material designers the capability of predicting the composition of materials without having actually to fabricate samples. The scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Pixon LLC and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science recently produced images of an atom at resolutions as fine as 0.7 angstrom, a new world record. In doing so, they found out why trace amounts of dopants have such drastic effects on a material's properties. "It's been one of the world's long-standing unsolved mysteries, how the grains of ceramics form," said ORNL Fellow Stephen Pennycook about the surface of his silicon-nitride test material. "A tiny bit of dopant has a huge effect on a material's properties, but we did not know why."
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Wednesday, April 14, 2004

"POLYMER: conductive plastic could speed electronics manufacturing"
A conductive plastic that mixes electronics-functions into the material before it is cured could make possible products from disposable e-newspapers to large-scale organic LEDs that can be sprayed on walls. The patented plastic, Oligotron, was developed by TDA Research Inc. (Wheat Ridge, Colo.), under a National Science Foundation contract. Unlike earlier materials, it uses noncorrosive solvents to manufacture organic-polymer-based electronics products.
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Friday, April 09, 2004

"NANOSCALE: beads sniff tough-to-find toxins"
A biosensor that uses nanoshells � nanoscale hollow beads � may provide the long-sought technology U.S. homeland security officials have sought to sense arbitrary biotoxins. Researchers at the University of Arizona have continued the pioneering work of a colleague to create the biosensors. Made from cell membrane material with embedded ion channels, the biosensors transduce fluorescence in the presence of nearly any agent, from biotoxins to proteins to other difficult-to-sense organics, even those inside a living cell. Because the nanoshells are so small and can work inside a living cell without disrupting normal activities, as many as 100 can monitor as many as 100 different agents.
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Wednesday, April 07, 2004

"MEMS: friction study reveals nanoscale adhesive force"
As microelectromechanical systems scale down in size, common forces such as surface tension and friction become more dominant. At Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque), friction at the nanoscale is getting close scrutiny that has turned up some surprises, including the discovery of a previously undetected adhesive force. Sandia researcher Maarten de Boer recently announced the early results of a program that uses an "inchworm" (a common device for making precise measurements), downsized for MEMS, as a measuring stick to characterize friction between MEMS surfaces. De Boer found hitherto undetected adhesive forces that result from nanoscale features.
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Friday, April 02, 2004

"NANOTECH: Oregon boosts nanotechnology funding"
Oregon Gov. Theodore Kulongoski said the state will boost nanotechnology research with $20 million in initial state funding to cover infrastructure costs at Oregon's Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute. Kulongoski laid out the state's four-year funding plan Thursday (April 1) at the Innotech 2004 conference here. The institute, also know as Onami, is a building block for even greater potential to be the leader in nanotechnology," Kulongoski said.
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Thursday, April 01, 2004

"SENSOR: tag may combat 'friendly fire' incidents"
Fratricide-the act of killing one's own soldiers, also called "blue-on-blue" incidents-can now be largely prevented through the use of a radar tag sensor developed at Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, N.M.), according to engineers there. "We think we can help prevent friendly fire incidents with our sensor, but there are still many hurdles to get over before they become a part of the U.S. military procurement cycle," said engineer Lars Wells, leader of the group that invented the device. In some recent conflicts, the casualties from "friendly fire" incidents have been higher than those from enemy fire. During a recent test of the radar tag sensor, the Sandia National Laboratories engineers showed that it can return a synthetic radar echo when targeted by radar from U.S. aircraft, thereby alerting the aircraft not to target that "friendly" position. Properly installed on all U.S. and coalition military vehicles and eventually on individual soldiers themselves, the device's inventors believe it can virtually eliminate friendly fire from aircraft (but not artillery) during combat. The sensor is slated to make its debut before U.S. Army procurement officials this fall.
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