Robotic hand with a delicate grip – Empire robotics at CES 2015

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In industry, fragile or difficult-to-grip items require a delicate touch. That’s why Empire Robotics, funded by the NSF Small Business Innovation Research program, is bringing the VERSABALL to the marketplace. The VERSABALL is a spherical robotic hand filled with granular material that conforms to and grips objects.   At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, Empire Robotics displayed their innovative soft gripper technology by outcompeting human challengers with precision ping pong...

Snowflakes photographed by new high-speed camera

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In the late 1800's, Wilson Bentley and Gustav Hellmann began photographing snowflakes. Their photos would go on to spark the public's fascination with snowflakes. Today University of Utah engineer Cale Fallgatter and atmospheric scientist Tim Garrett are using a new camera system that photographs free-falling snowflakes. The technology behind the camera that revealed the intricate, imperfect beauty of snowflakes can now expose their potential danger. About three years ago, a new...

Smart vents to save energy – CES 2015

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NSF-funded small business Keen Home has developed a smart vent that opens and closes to reduce uncomfortable hot and cold spots, save energy in unused rooms, and tailor a home’s heating and cooling to fit specific lifestyles. The new wireless system will respond automatically based on users’ habits and presence. Keen Home co-founder Nayeem Hussain explains how the smart vents integrate into daily life. Keen Home is funded through NSF’s Small Business Innovation Research program....

Engineering the spark that starts wildfires

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Hot metal fragments can be created from power lines, overheated brakes, railway tracks, or any other manner of metal-on-metal action in our industrialized society. The particles can reach more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, around the boiling point of most metals. Although these bits cool as they fall to the ground, they can ignite a flame that quickly spreads if they land on a prime fuel source like pine needles or dry grass. At least 28,000 fires occur each year in the U.S. due to...

Heat and motion-powered wearable electronics for improved health - CES 2015

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At NSF-funded Engineering Research Centers across the United States, interdisciplinary university teams turn knowledge into new systems technologies. Working closely with industry and regional stakeholders, the centers ultimately aim to commercialize technological innovations. At International CES 2015, members of the NSF Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) demonstrated nanotech-enabled, wearable health...

Expansion microscopy brings the brain in 3-D into focus

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While most efforts to understand the brain focus on new technologies to magnify small anatomical features, engineers at the MIT-based Center for Brains, Minds and Machines have found a way to make brains physically bigger. The technique, which the researchers call expansion microscopy, uses an expandable polymer and water to swell brain tissue to about four and a half times its usual size, so that nanoscale structures once blurry appear sharp with an ordinary confocal microscope. Expansion...