Technological innovation

  • Wireless device converts wasted energy into electric power

    Using inexpensive materials configured and tuned to capture microwave signals, researchers have designed a power-harvesting device with efficiency similar to that of modern solar panels. The device wirelessly converts the microwave signal to direct current voltage capable of recharging a cell phone battery or other small electronic device.

  • UAV developer CyPhy Works raises $7 million to build flying robots

    Danvers, Massachusetts-based CyPhy Works, a developer of advanced UAVs, the other day announced the close of a $7 million financing round led by Lux Capital, with participation from General Catalyst Partners, Felicis Ventures, and several undisclosed angel investors. As part of the financing, Lux Capital Partner Bilal Zuberi will join the CyPhy Works board of directors. The company says it targets 24/7 “persistent” operations.

  • “Hybrid” nuclear plants could make a dent in carbon emissions

    Combining nuclear with artificial geothermal, shale oil, or hydrogen production could help slow climate change, study shows. MIT’s Charles Forsberg proposes marrying a nuclear powerplant with another energy system, which he argues could add up to much more than the sum of its parts.

  • Pyreos, ultra‐low power consumption IR sensor specialist, secures $4 million investment

    Edinburgh, Scotland-based Pyreos Limited, a specialist in ultra‐low power consumption infrared sensor technology, the other day announced plans for international expansion after securing a further funding round of $4 million. It is possible to use Pyreos sensor arrays in many applications, among them border security, where they can identify human movement at distances of several kilometers.

  • Cool technology from DHS

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employs more than 240,000 people in a variety of areas and activities, from border security and aviation to emergency response and cybersecurity, plus everything in between. Many may not be aware of the fact that DHS has also been busy developing some cool, high-tech, life-saving gear to protect people before, during, and following disasters and emergencies.

  • Detecting threats in a crowd

    Around a military camp situated close to a built-up area there are always people moving about. Scientists at FOI, the Swedish Defense Research Agency, have created a multi-sensor system designed to be able to detect threats by identifying unusual patterns of movement involving individuals or groups.

  • Planet’s arable land rapidly degrading

    Great civilizations have fallen because they failed to prevent the degradation of the soils on which they were founded. The modern world could suffer the same fate. A new study describes how the productivity of many lands has been dramatically reduced as a result of soil erosion, accumulation of salinity, and nutrient depletion.

  • U.S. policy should encourage foreign Ph.D. students to stay: study

    Attracting more talented foreign students to study at U.S. universities and encouraging them to launch entrepreneurial ventures here could help “revitalize innovation and economic growth” in this country, three economists conclude in a new study. The researchers have found that high-performing foreign-born Ph.D. students improve the “creation of knowledge” in U.S. universities. When knowledge is created, it tends to drive entrepreneurial investment and economic growth.

  • Best way to stop a killer asteroid? Form a committee

    The United Nations (UN) has adopted several recommendations of a new asteroid defense plan, the first steps in preventing Earth from being struck by an asteroid. The recommendations were a response to an asteroid strike earlier this year in Chelyabinsk, Russia. This object injured thousands and was around seventeen meters across. We have only found 1 percent of these “killer” asteroids, meaning there are hundreds of times more out there than we know of. One of them, sooner or later, will have our name written on it. For a global threat we need a global response, as well as a global share of the blame if it goes wrong.

  • Urban underground water can be used for sustainable energy

    Vast energy sources are slumbering below big cities. Sustainable energies for heating in winter and cooling in summer may be extracted from heated groundwater aquifers. Researchers developed an analytical heat flux model and found that increasing heat in the underground is mainly caused by an increase in surface temperatures and heat release from buildings.

  • Helping first responders identify chemical, biological, and radiological agents

    The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has expanded the reach and capabilities of its rapid urban plume modeling and hazard assessment system, CT-Analyst, by providing a commercial license to Valencia, California-based Safe Environment Engineering (SEE) for the fields of use of public safety, industrial safety and monitoring, and environmental monitoring. CT Analyst is a tool designed to provide first responders with fast and accurate predictions of chemical, biological, and radiological agent airborne transport in urban environments. CT Analyst will be integrated into the existing product line of SEE’s Lifeline MultiMeterViewer software suite.

  • Video imaging system for remote detection of hidden threats

    By adapting superconducting technology used in advanced telescope cameras, researchers have built a prototype video imaging system for detecting hidden weapons and other threats at distances up to twenty-eight meters away.

  • Dolphin-inspired radar system detects hidden surveillance, explosive devices

    Scientists, inspired by the way dolphins hunt using bubble nets, have developed a new kind of radar that can detect hidden surveillance equipment and explosives. The twin inverted pulse radar (TWIPR) is able to distinguish true targets, such as certain types of electronic circuits that may be used in explosive or espionage devices, from clutter (for example, other metallic items like pipes, drinks cans, or nails) which may be mistaken for a genuine target by traditional radar and metal detectors.

  • New spectrometry standard for handheld chemical detectors

    When it comes to detectors for dangerous chemicals, toxins, or nefarious germs, smaller and faster is better. Size and speed, however, must still allow for accuracy, especially when measurements by different instruments must give the same result. The recent publication of a new standard provides confidence that results from handheld chemical detectors can be compared, apples-to-apples.

  • Squeezing light improves performance of MEMS sensors

    Microelectromechanical systems, known as MEMS, are ubiquitous in modern military systems such as gyroscopes for navigation, tiny microphones for lightweight radios, and medical biosensors for assessing the wounded. Such applications benefit from the portability, low power, and low cost of MEMS devices. The use of MEMS sensors is now commonplace, but they still operate many orders of magnitude below their theoretical performance limits, due to two obstacles: thermal fluctuations and random quantum fluctuations, a barrier known as the standard quantum limit.