Technological innovation

  • FirefightingFighting fires with low-frequency sound waves

    A thumping bass may do more than light up a party — it could flat out extinguish it, thanks to a new sound-blasting fire extinguisher by George Mason University undergrads. The fire extinguisher uses low-frequency sound waves to douse a blaze. Their sound-wave device is free of toxic chemicals and eliminates collateral damage from sprinkler systems. If mounted on drones, it could improve safety for firefighters confronting large forest fires or urban blazes.

  • FirefightingTethered robots to be the “eyes” of firefighters in “blind” conditions

    Researchers have developed revolutionary reins which enable robots to act like guide dogs, which could enable that firefighters moving through smoke-filled buildings could save vital seconds and find it easier to identify objects and obstacles. The small mobile robot — equipped with tactile sensors — would lead the way, with the firefighter following a meter or so behind holding a rein. The robot would help the firefighter move swiftly in “blind” conditions, while vibrations sent back through the rein would provide data about the size, shape and even the stiffness of any object the robot finds.

  • Space debrisUsing fishing nets to snag derelict satellites

    The European Space Agency (ESA) is testing the feasibility of removing a large item of debris in orbit — either a large derelict satellite or rocket upper stage – to help control the debris levels in busy orbits. The best method of snagging an uncontrolled, tumbling satellite is still being decided. ESA’s Clean Space initiative to reduce the impact of the space industry on the terrestrial and orbital environments is overseeing studies which include a robotic arm, a harpoon, and an ion beam – but one of humanity’s oldest technologies, the humble fishing net, may yet find a new role in space, as it appears to offer the most effective way to bring down dead satellites.

  • WaterNew membranes deliver clean water more efficiently

    Researchers have developed new membranes or micro-filters that will result in clean water in a much more energy efficient manner. The new membranes will supply clean water for use in desalination and water purification applications. The novel membrane technology uses layer-by-layer polymer assembly.

  • PrivacyThe Brandeis program: Harnessing technology to ensure online privacy

    In a seminal 1890 article in the Harvard Law Review, Louis Brandeis developed the concept of the “right to privacy.” DARPA the other day announced the Brandeis program – a project aiming to research and develop tools for online privacy, one of the most vexing problems facing the connected world as devices and data proliferate beyond a capacity to be managed responsibly.

  • Ray gunLatest version of laser weapon system stops truck in field test

    Lockheed Martin’s 30-kilowatt fiber laser weapon system successfully disabled the engine of a small truck during a recent field test, demonstrating the rapidly evolving precision capability to protect military forces and critical infrastructure. The company says that the ground-based prototype system, — called ATHENA, for Advanced Test High Energy Asset — burned through the engine manifold in a matter of seconds from more than a mile away. The demonstration represents highest power ever documented by a laser weapon of its type

  • Energy“Pee-power” to light refugee camps in disaster zones

    A toilet, conveniently situated near the Student Union Bar at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), is proving pee can generate electricity. The prototype urinal is the result of a partnership between researchers at UWE Bristol and Oxfam. It is hoped the pee-power technology will light cubicles in refugee camps, which are often dark and dangerous places particularly for women. Students and staff are being asked to use the urinal to donate pee to fuel microbial fuel cell (MFC) stacks that generate electricity to power indoor lighting.

  • DetectionCutting the costs of night vision, thermal imaging

    Presently, night vision and thermal imagers are costly, in part because they are made with specialty semiconductor devices or need isolation from the environment.. Researchers have created an electronic device with affordable technology that detects electromagnetic waves to create images at nearly ten terahertz, which is the highest frequency for electronic devices. The device could make night vision and heat-based imaging affordable. The device is created using Schottky diodes in Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) technology.

  • First respondersPrize competition for tracking first responders indoors

    The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) yesterday announced the Department’s first crowdsourced prize competition in support of the first responder community. The Indoor Tracking of the Next Generation First Responder prize competition seeks innovative ideas for solving the challenges of real-time, accurate indoor tracking of first responders during an incident. S&T says it is looking for innovate solutions that will help first responders with basic questions such as “where am I?” and “where is my team?”

  • In the trenchesQuantum radar can detect stealth aircraft

    A prototype quantum radar that has the potential to detect objects which are invisible to conventional systems has been developed by an international research team. The new breed of radar is a hybrid system that uses quantum correlation between microwave and optical beams to detect objects of low reflectivity such as cancer cells or aircraft with a stealth capability. Because the quantum radar operates at much lower energies than conventional systems, it has the long-term potential for a range of applications in biomedicine including non-invasive NMR scans.

  • EnergyNew gear technology makes wave energy more attractive

    Wave energy has been held back in part because of the cost of electricity generation. The amount of steel and concrete needed in order to produce each MWh has simply been too great to make it into a profitable business. In addition, the power of waves presents a problem with reliability, and because waves vary greatly in height and timing, it is difficult to create a conversion system that functions across the full wave spectrum. Swedish researchers have developed a new wave energy system which generates five times more energy per ton of device, at one third of the cost, when compared to competing state-of-the art technologies. Energy output is three to four times higher than traditional wave power systems.

  • Fire detectionImproved fire detection with new ultra-sensitive, ultraviolet light sensor

    Currently, photoelectric smoke sensors detect larger smoke particles found in dense smoke, but are not as sensitive to small particles of smoke from rapidly burning fires. Researchers have discovered that a material traditionally used in ceramics, glass and paint can be manipulated to produce an ultra-sensitive UV light sensor, paving the way for improved fire and gas detection.

  • Explosives detectionLos Alamos leads collaborative effort of explosives detection innovation, education

    The Los Alamos National Laboratory is leading a collaboration of strategic public and private partners focused on the innovations in and education about explosives detection technologies. The Los Alamos Collaboration for Explosives Detection (LACED) site serves as a virtual gateway to world-class expertise and capabilities designed to counter all types of explosives threats, predominantly through enhanced detection capabilities. The site went public online in January and is beginning to attract attention among specialty audiences.

  • In the trenchesU.S. Navy: Investment in new ideas, scientific research needed to keep technological edge

    At the Naval Future Force Science and Technology (S&T) EXPO in Washington D.C., Department of Navy leaders on 5 February called for investment in new ideas and scientific research to keep the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps technologically superior in increasingly uncertain times. Tight budgets at home and technological advances by other nations must be met with a powerful response grounded in innovation from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps S&T community, said Sean J. Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.

  • Nuclear powerScientists develop accident-tolerant nuclear fuels

    The summer of 2014 marked an important milestone toward further innovation in the nation’s nuclear plants regarding the development of light water reactor nuclear fuel with enhanced accident tolerant characteristics. For several years, nuclear researchers have designed, fabricated and tested a host of novel nuclear fuels and fuel cladding materials (enclosed tubes that house the fuel in a reactor) in laboratories across the U.S. Now, testing of promising fuels and materials with enhanced accident tolerant characteristics in a U.S. nuclear test reactor is commencing. Scientists and engineers from research labs and industry have prepared advanced concepts for insertion into Idaho National Laboratory’s Advanced Test Reactor.