Electrical Device Plugs Directly Into Trees For Power

Researchers have discovered that there’s enough power in living trees to run an electric circuit.


TREE POWER: Engineers Babak Parviz and Brian Otis demonstrate with students how a device can be plugged into a tree for power. (Photo: University of Washington)

Electrical device plugs directly into trees for power (Mother Nature Network, Sep 10, 2012):

In today’s world of high-tech portable gadgets, iPods and cell phones, we’ve become dependent upon readily accessible electric outlets to power our devices and charge our batteries. But now researchers at the University of Washington have discovered nature’s alternative to the power outlet: living trees.

That’s right, living trees. UW engineers Babak Parviz and Brian Otis have invented an electrical device that can be plugged directly into any tree for power. “As far as we know this is the first peer-reviewed paper of someone powering something entirely by sticking electrodes into a tree,” said Parviz.

The research was based upon a breakthrough study last year out of MIT, when scientists found that plants generate a voltage of up to 200 millivolts when one electrode is placed in a plant and the other in the surrounding soil. Those researchers are already designing devices which act as forest sensors powered entirely by this new method. But until now, no one has applied these findings to the development of tree power.

Read moreElectrical Device Plugs Directly Into Trees For Power

MIT Engineers Develop Fuel Cell For Medical Implants That Runs On Glucose

New energy source for future medical implants: sugar (MIT News, June 12, 2012):

Implantable fuel cell built at MIT could power neural prosthetics that help patients regain control of limbs.

MIT engineers have developed a fuel cell that runs on the same sugar that powers human cells: glucose. This glucose fuel cell could be used to drive highly efficient brain implants of the future, which could help paralyzed patients move their arms and legs again.

The fuel cell, described in the June 12 edition of the journal PLoS ONE, strips electrons from glucose molecules to create a small electric current. The researchers, led by Rahul Sarpeshkar, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, fabricated the fuel cell on a silicon chip, allowing it to be integrated with other circuits that would be needed for a brain implant.

Read moreMIT Engineers Develop Fuel Cell For Medical Implants That Runs On Glucose

All Hail The Robotic Farmers And Pilots Of The Future

All Hail the Robotic Farmers and Pilots of the Future (Wired, May 1, 2012):

NEW YORK — Fighter pilot Mary “Missy” Cummings saw it coming while landing her F/A-18 supersonic jet on a Navy aircraft carrier — the world-changing disruption barreling toward the present.

Instead of landing the multi-million-dollar machine on the small deck of the ship herself in the 1990s, a computer accomplished the tricky feat for her.

“Here the computer was taking off better than I could, landing itself better than I could and doing the mission better than I ever could,” Cummings said Tuesday during the Wired Disruptive by Design business conference. “It was really humiliating. That was what used to make me better than everyone else.”

Eventually Cummings took a step back, told herself the heyday of fighter pilots was over and joined the robots. She’s now an aeronautics professor at MIT working to tackle the monotonous work of flying, farming and other industries with autonomous drones.

Read moreAll Hail The Robotic Farmers And Pilots Of The Future

MIT Study: LED’s Efficiency Exceeds 100%, Reaches An Efficiency Of 230%!

LED’s efficiency exceeds 100% (PhysOrg.com, Mar 5, 2012):

For the first time, researchers have demonstrated that an LED can emit more optical power than the electrical power it consumes. Although scientifically intriguing, the results won’t immediately result in ultra-efficient commercial LEDs since the demonstration works only for LEDs with very low input power that produce very small amounts of light.

The researchers, Parthiban Santhanam and coauthors from MIT, have published their study in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters.

As the researchers explain in their study, the key to achieving a power conversion efficiency above 100%, i.e., “unity efficiency,” is to greatly decrease the applied voltage. According to their calculations, as the voltage is halved, the input power is decreased by a factor of 4, while the emitted light power scales linearly with voltage so that it’s also only halved. In other words, an LED’s efficiency increases as its output power decreases. (The inverse of this relationship – that LED efficiency decreases as its output power increases – is one of the biggest hurdles in designing bright, efficient LED lights.)

In their experiments, the researchers reduced the LED’s input power to just 30 picowatts and measured an output of 69 picowatts of light – an efficiency of 230%. The physical mechanisms worked the same as with any LED: when excited by the applied voltage, electrons and holes have a certain probability of generating photons. The researchers didn’t try to increase this probability, as some previous research has focused on, but instead took advantage of small amounts of excess heat to emit more power than consumed. This heat arises from vibrations in the device’s atomic lattice, which occur due to entropy.

Read moreMIT Study: LED’s Efficiency Exceeds 100%, Reaches An Efficiency Of 230%!

Mind-Control: Harnessing The Power Of Feedback Loops

“As such, it is perhaps the most promising tool for behavioral change to have come along in decades.”

Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops (Wired, June 19, 2011):


The premise of a feedback loop is simple: Provide people with information about their actions in real time, then give them a chance to change those actions, pushing them toward better behaviors. Photo: Kevin Van Aelst

In 2003, officials in Garden Grove, California, a community of 170,000 people wedged amid the suburban sprawl of Orange County, set out to confront a problem that afflicts most every town in America: drivers speeding through school zones.

Local authorities had tried many tactics to get people to slow down. They replaced old speed limit signs with bright new ones to remind drivers of the 25-mile-an-hour limit during school hours. Police began ticketing speeding motorists during drop-off and pickup times. But these efforts had only limited success, and speeding cars continued to hit bicyclists and pedestrians in the school zones with depressing regularity.

So city engineers decided to take another approach. In five Garden Grove school zones, they put up what are known as dynamic speed displays, or driver feedback signs: a speed limit posting coupled with a radar sensor attached to a huge digital readout announcing “Your Speed.”

Read moreMind-Control: Harnessing The Power Of Feedback Loops

Scientists To Develop ‘Firewall’ for Medical Implants

Protecting medical implants from attack (MIT News, June 13, 2011):

Millions of Americans have implantable medical devices, from pacemakers and defibrillators to brain stimulators and drug pumps; worldwide, 300,000 more people receive them every year. Most such devices have wireless connections, so that doctors can monitor patients’ vital signs or revise treatment programs. But recent research has shown that this leaves the devices vulnerable to attack: In the worst-case scenario, an attacker could kill a victim by instructing an implantable device to deliver lethal doses of medication or electricity.

At the Association for Computing Machinery’s upcoming Sigcomm conference, researchers from MIT and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass) will present a new system for preventing such attacks. The system would use a second transmitter to jam unauthorized signals in an implant’s operating frequency, permitting only authorized users to communicate with it. Because the jamming transmitter, rather than the implant, would handle encryption and authentication, the system would work even with existing implants.

The researchers envision that the jamming transmitter — which they call a shield — would be small enough to wear as a necklace or a watch. A device authorized to access the implant would send encrypted instructions to the shield, which would decode and relay them.

Read moreScientists To Develop ‘Firewall’ for Medical Implants

New MIT Study: Chain Reactions Must Have Been Burning At The Damaged Fukushima Nuclear Reactors Long After The Disaster Unfolded

Flashback:

On the day the tsunami hit it was known that there was a meltdown going on and the cover-up is still ongoing:

Listen to the interview with the former editor of the Japan Times Yochi Shimatsu on March 12:

Japan: Full Core Meltdown Will Send Radiation Over United States

Japan And US Try To Coverup Nuclear Catastrophe


Radioactive byproducts indicate that nuclear chain reactions must have been burning at the damaged nuclear reactors long after the disaster unfolded

Nuclear reactors produce radioactive by-products that decay at different rates. One common by-product is iodine-131 which has a half life of about 8 days while another is cesium-137 with a half life of about 30 years.

When a reactor switches off, the iodine decays more quickly so the ratio between these two isotopes changes rapidly over a period of days. That’s why measuring this ratio is a good way to work out when the nuclear reactions terminated.

There are some complicating factors, however. The most important of these is that the ratio of iodine-131 and cesium-137 to start with depends on how long the reactor has been operating and so is not constant.

Read moreNew MIT Study: Chain Reactions Must Have Been Burning At The Damaged Fukushima Nuclear Reactors Long After The Disaster Unfolded

Military Engineering Firm Boston Dynamics Gets DARPA Contracts For Cheetah and Atlas Robots

Boston Dynamics, the military engineering firm best known for its four-legged BigDog robot, has been awarded two contracts by DARPA to develop a pair of new robots: an agile humanoid called ATLAS and a speedy, animal-inspired quadruped called CHEETAH.

ATLAS looks like a headless Terminator, with a torso, two legs and two arms, all controlled by an array of servos, pistons and robotic muscles. His killer feature is lifelike agility, and will be able to tackle difficult terrain by walking upright, sidling through narrow passages and using his hands for balance, support and grip.

“ATLAS will walk like a man, using a heel-to-toe walking motion, long strides and dynamic transfer of weight on each step,” explains Rob Playter, the ATLAS principal investigator and VP of Engineering at Boston Dynamics. Dynamic agility systems will allow the robot to use his own momentum to throw or swing himself across gaps and between handholds. It’s not entirely clear why he lacks a head.


CHEETAH, on the other hand, is about pure velocity. Named after the planet’s fastest land animal, Boston’s big-cat-inspired robot will sprint faster than the quickest human athletes. It doesn’t sacrifice maneuverability though, as the robot is being designed to take tighter turns so it can zigzag to chase and evade. “It will accelerate rapidly, starting and stopping on a dime,” says Boston Dynamics in a statement.

Read moreMilitary Engineering Firm Boston Dynamics Gets DARPA Contracts For Cheetah and Atlas Robots

US Scientists Develop Laser Camera That Takes Photos Around Corners


Ramesh Raskar explains how the camera can shoot around corners

A camera that can shoot around corners has been developed by US scientists.

The prototype uses an ultra-short high-intensity burst of laser light to illuminate a scene.

The device constructs a basic image of its surroundings – including objects hidden around the corner – by collecting the tiny amounts of light that bounce around the scene.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology team believe it has uses in search and rescue and robot vision.

“It’s like having X-ray vision without the X-rays,” said Professor Ramesh Raskar, head of the Camera Culture group at the MIT Media Lab and one of the team behind the system.

Read moreUS Scientists Develop Laser Camera That Takes Photos Around Corners