Tuesday, October 27, 2009

PETMAN - G.I. Joe here i come


PETMAN is an anthropomorphic robot for testing chemical protection clothing used by the US Army. Unlike previous suit testers, which had to be supported mechanically and had a limited repertoire of motion, PETMAN will balance itself and move freely; walking, crawling and doing a variety of suit-stressing calisthenics during exposure to chemical warfare agents. PETMAN will also simulate human physiology within the protective suit by controlling temperature, humidity and sweating when necessary, all to provide realistic test conditions.

Natural, agile movement is essential for PETMAN to simulate how a soldier stresses protective clothing under realistic conditions. The robot will have the shape and size of a standard human, making it the first anthropomorphic robot that moves dynamically like a real person.

The development program has a 13 month design phase followed by a 17 month build, installation and validation phase, with delivery of the robot taking place in 2011. Boston Dynamics' partners for the program are Midwest Research Institute (MRI), Measurement Technology Northwest, Smith Carter CUH2A (SCC) and HHI Corporation who will construct the chamber.

Forget Laptop its Roll TOP now

The RollTop is a flexible notebook concept that can be folded like a roll of paper allowing the user ultimate convenience of carrying and storing it even in a congested place. It features a 17” flat-screen OLED display when fully rolled out with the multi-touch facility that will offer the ease and functionality of that of an iPhone. Also, when required, it can be folded into a 13” smart tablet pc. Aside from the touch-screen controlling, it features full fledged keyboard like conventional notebooks with which convenient typing can be performed. When folded, this compact notebook takes the size of a water carrier and can easily be hanged over the shoulder with a hanging belt.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Maple seed UAV--- yes you read it right :)

Maple seed UAV :-

University of Maryland UAV:
Over the course of about a year, the U of M students constructed a maple-seed-mimicking UAV, camera and all, from $500 worth of parts. The UAV can take off and land safely by itself, but the camera still needs a little work. It uses a battery to power a little propeller and a camera, and is piloted with a radio controller.

Lockheed Martin SAMARAI:

This is SAMARAI, a UAV that Lockheed Martin has been working on based on a monocopter platform. A monocopter is like a helicopter, except that the entire vehicle consists of a single rotating airfoil, making them somewhat impractical for manned flight. And, from the looks of things, more than a little dangerous, although the project was named SAMARAI not after its efficiency at decapitations but after samara, which are those monocopter seed pod things that fly down off of trees.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

X2 Coaxial Rotor Helicopter

X2 Coaxial Rotor Helicopter:
Members of the X2 team, photographed for Popular Mechanics on July 28 at the Sikorsky Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., where the helicopter is undergoing flight testing. Left to right: Steve Cizewski, Dave Walsh, Ken Arifian, Mark K. Wilson, Kevin Bredenbeck, Steve Weiner, Jim Kagdis. (Photograph by Williams & Hirakawa)

Last year in the town of Horseheads, N.Y., Kevin Bredenbeck became the first pilot to fly Sikorsky Aircraft’s X2 technology demonstrator. The successful test proved that the X2 engineering team had overcome a basic limitation in rotary-wing aero¬dynamics—and had set itself on the path to building the world’s fastest helicopter.

The problem with fast helicopters is a phenomenon called dissymmetry of lift. When a helicopter starts to fly forward, the advancing blade cuts through the air faster, and it generates more lift. At the same time, the retreating blade’s relative velocity and lift decrease. The faster the helicopter goes, the greater the discrepancy. If the speed increases too much, the machine will tend to roll to one side and the retreating blade will stall, generating no upward force at all. The speed limit for any conventional helicopter is about 185 mph. But that wasn’t good enough for Steve Weiner, the X2’s chief engineer: “We wanted to go faster.”

Weiner’s team replaced the single rotor with twin, 26.4-foot-long rotors that spin in opposite directions on the same axis. The rotors both produce dissymmetry of lift, but in countervailing directions. Goodbye, instability. Hello, speed records.

The X2 is the descendant of the XH-59A, a machine with the same stacked rotor configuration that the company built with NASA and the U.S. Army in the 1970s. It was unwieldy, and the project was shelved—but Sikorsky engineers never gave up on it. In recent years, they innovated a new vibration-control system and digital fly-by-wire controls, and added a pusher propeller on the tail to boost speed. (The X2 doesn’t need a tail rotor, which counters a typical helicopter’s tendency to spin in place.)

Sikorsky doesn’t know whether its first clients will be military or commercial or both. For now, the X2 team has set the speed bar high—at 287 mph. “But the physics say we can probably go to 300 knots,” Weiner says. At that speed—nearly 350 mph—a medical transport helicopter could fly 150 miles, pick up a patient and return to a hospital by the time a conventional helicopter simply arrived on the scene. 

Charge your cell phones with Menthol Charger

First ever Menthol fuel-cell charger:-

Toshiba has launched its first direct methanol fuel-cell (DMFC) product: Dynario, an external power source for “mobile digital consumer products”.
Toshiba's Dynario makes power from highly-concentrated methanol
Once filled with an injection of methanol solution, Dynario is able to generate electricity that can be transferred to, say, a mobile phone or MP3 player over a USB connection.
Each fuel cartridge holds 50ml of “highly-concentrated methanol”, yet Toshiba claimed this enables Dynario to generate enough power to charge two mobile phones.
Dynario measures 150 x 21 x 74mm, weighs 280g when empty and has a 14ml fuel tank capacity – meaning that each fuel cartridge will give you at least three full refills.
Squeezy does it
An initial batch of 3000 Dynario units will be available in Japan from today, priced at ¥28,900 (£191/$316/€211) each. If the DMFC gadget proves successful with power-hungry punters then a wider roll-out could follow.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New Technology let drivers see through walls

New Technology let drivers see through walls :

If only drivers could see through walls, blind corners and other dangerous road junctions would be much safer. Now an augmented reality system has been built that could just make that come true.

The prototype uses two cameras: one that captures the driver's view and a second that sees the scene behind a view-blocking wall. A computer takes the feed from the second camera and layers it on top of the images from the first so that the wall appears to be transparent.
This makes it simple to glance "through" a wall to see what's going on behind it. But the techniques needed to combine them were challenging to develop, says Yaser Sheikh of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

Altered images

The view of the hidden scene needs to be skewed so that it looks as if it were being viewed from the position of the person using the system. The system does this by spotting landmarks seen by both cameras: the one seeing the hidden view and the one with the same view as the user.

Ultimately, the team want to build the system into a car. An onboard video processor would tune into a wireless feed from a roadside camera with a view of the hidden scene, such as a stretch of road behind a blind corner, and project the image of the hidden scene onto the windscreen rather than a monitor.

Such a network could be supplemented by images from cameras mounted on many cars. The Carnegie team is working on software that integrates feeds in footage from such sources into the system.
But Thomas adds that several formidable hurdles will have to be cleared before the technology can be used on public highways. Fast, powerful data processing and communication would be required to make the system work usefully in a moving car in real time.

Largest Carbon Sequestration Plant To Pump 3.3 Million Tons Of CO2 Into Ground

Plant To Pump 3.3 Million Tons Of CO2 Into Ground:
Even before a single ounce of natural gas gets burned in a home or power plant, massive amounts of CO2 have already been released. The process of extracting natural gas releases carbon dioxide pent up in the same wells as the gas, thus adding to the climate-changing impact of the fuel.
To help lower the global warming impact of one of the world's largest natural gas fields, General Electric has supplied Chevron, Exxon Mobile and Shell with enough compression "trains"--the pumps and turbines that do the sequestering--to create the world's largest carbon sequestration project. The trains will pump 3.3 million tons of CO2 released from natural gas mining back into the ground every year. That's the equivalent of taking 630,000 cars off the road.
The project, called Gorgon, won't go online for a couple of years, and GE won't begin building the equipment trains for at least another year or two. Once built, the trains will redirect the CO2 back into an underground chamber 1.5 miles under the ocean.
Naturally, this process does not stop the natural gas itself from releasing greenhouse gases when burned for fuel. And why name a project aiming for environmental soundness after a terrifying monster with snakes for hair and a gaze that turns men to stone? Someone at GE needs to get a copy of Bulfinch's Mythology.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shed ice from Transmission Lines: A simple solution

Shed ice from Transmission Lines: A simple solution:

Until now, the only answer to frozen lines has been to hope that they don’t break or pull down poles under the weight of the ice. A single ice storm in early December left more than 1.25 million people in Pennsylvania, New England and New York shivering in the dark after ice storms snapped power lines.
Petrenko’s trick is to increase the electrical resistance in cables, something engineers usually avoid because it causes lines to lose energy as heat. Attached to each end of a line, his device switches the wires inside from a standard parallel layout to a series circuit. In normal conditions, the cable works like a standard power line, but flipping the line to series increases resistance, and the wires generate enough heat to shed the ice. The process takes 30 seconds to three minutes and saps less than 1 percent of the electricity running through the lines. Utility companies could switch the lines remotely, and Petrenko says swapping in his cables would cost less than repairing ice damage.
This summer he tested the technology between two transmission towers near Orenburg, Russia; China is considering the device to protect its $170-billion investment in expanding its energy grid. This fall, Petrenko will test a modified version of the tech on an Audi A8 that he expects will de-ice its windshield in two to four seconds. Later, he’ll apply the tech to airplane wings, which could reduce delays and crashes. “A plane that could shed ice in seconds,” he says, “would be a much safer way to fly.”

Scientists Find A Precision Clock Logging the Milliseconds Inside Your Brain

Scientists Find A Precision Clock Logging the Milliseconds Inside Your Brain

Tick Tock Certain neurons in the striatum and prefrontal cortex fire at certain intervals, which MIT researchers have determined to be an internal clock time-stamping sensory experiences for memory just as a digital camera might time-stamp a photo file.
Though we do it without thinking, keeping track of time is integral to the brain's function, keeping our senses and our actions ordered in a chronology that we then recall in the form of memory. But important as it is, researchers have never understood the mechanism by which humans index the happenings of everyday life. Now, two macaque monkeys may have helped MIT researchers solve the time tracking puzzle.
Neuroscientists have theorized for decades that the human brain time stamps events as they happen, just as a camera tags the date and time onto a digital photo file. These stamps keep our memories organized so when called upon, our brains can reach back and pull the correct time-stamped file. While it seems like we do this without thinking, it's actually quite a feat, especially considering that no evidence for these time stamps exists beyond the theoretical.

But after training two macaques to memorize an eye movement task and having them repeat it back, the MIT team thinks it has found exactly where the time-stamping is taking place. Certain neurons in the striatum and the prefrontal cortex -- areas responsible for learning, thought, and mobility -- fired at specific times during the exercises. The macaques were allowed to perform the eye movement task at their own pace, so the movements were not synched with particular movements. Rather, the researchers have determined that the neuron signals were marking intervals of time, ticking off time-stamps down to tens of milliseconds.
Measuring for the subtle signals within small clumps of cells in the brain was itself no easy task, enabled by a new technique allowing the researchers to monitor electrical signals from hundreds of neurons at the same time and then analyze them mathematically, a process involving researchers at both the RIKEN Brain Institute in Japan and Penn State University.
The team suspects other regions of the brain may also keep time, and learning more about the process could lead to breakthroughs in understanding and treating Parkinson's disease, which often manifests itself in symptoms consistent with a disconnect in the brain's timing mechanism. Treating those timekeeping neurons with drugs, or even with chemicals like dopamine already found in the brain, could suppress those symptoms. First, the team must determine exactly how the time-stamping work and its effects on the brain and memory. When things turn slow-mo in an emergency situation or time seems like it's flying by in low-stress environments, it may have less to do with perception and more to do with the tiny clocks inside your brain.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Researchers Create Molecular Diode

This is a schematic for molecular diode. The symmetric molecule (top) allows for two-way current. The asymmetrical molecule (bottom) permits current in one direction only and acts as a single-molecule diode. (Credit: Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University)
Recently, at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute, N.J. Tao and collaborators have found a way to make a key electronic component on a phenomenally tiny scale.The new study compares a symmetric molecule with an asymmetric one, detailing the performance of each in terms of electron transport. "If you have a symmetric molecule, the current goes both ways, much like an ordinary resistor," Tao observes. This is potentially useful, but the diode is a more important (and difficult) component to replicate (Fig 1).
The idea of surpassing silicon limits with a molecule-based electronic component has been around awhile. "Theoretical chemists Mark Ratner and Ari Aviram proposed the use of molecules for electronics like diodes back in 1974," Tao says, adding "people around world have been trying to accomplish this for over 30 years."
Most efforts to date have involved many molecules, Tao notes, referring to molecular thin films. Only very recently have serious attempts been made to surmount the obstacles to single-molecule designs. One of the challenges is to bridge a single molecule to at least two electrodes supplying current to it. Another challenge involves the proper orientation of the molecule in the device. "We are now able to do this—to build a single molecule device with a well defined orientation," Tao says.
The technique developed by Tao's group relies on a property known as AC modulation. "Basically, we apply a little periodically varying mechanical perturbation to the molecule. If there's a molecule bridged across two electrodes, it responds in one way. If there's no molecule, we can tell."
The interdisciplinary project involved Professor Luping Yu, at the University of Chicago, who supplied the molecules for study, as well as theoretical collaborator, Professor Ivan Oleynik from the University of South Florida. The team used conjugated molecules, in which atoms are stuck together with alternating single and multiple bonds. Such molecules display large electrical conductivity and have asymmetrical ends capable of spontaneously forming covalent bonds with metal electrodes to create a closed circuit.
The project's results raise the prospect of building single molecule diodes – the smallest devices one can ever build. "I think it's exciting because we are able to look at a single molecule and play with it, " Tao says. "We can apply a voltage, a mechanical force, or optical field, measure current and see the response. As quantum physics controls the behaviors of single molecules, this capability allows us to study properties distinct from those of conventional devices."
Chemists, physicists, materials researchers, computational experts and engineers all play a central role in the emerging field of nanoelectronics, where a zoo of available molecules with different functions provide the raw material for innovation. Tao is also examining the mechanical properties of molecules, for example, their ability to oscillate. Binding properties between molecules make them attractive candidates for a new generation of chemical sensors. "Personally, I am interested in molecular electronics not because of their potential to duplicate today's silicon applications, " Tao says. Instead, molecular electronics will benefit from unique electronic, mechanical, optical and molecular binding properties that set them apart from conventional semiconductors. This may lead to applications complementing rather than replacing silicon devices.

Holographic Projector Displays on Your Car's Side View Mirrors

Holographic Projector  Displays on Your Car's Side View Mirrors

A new prototype unveiled today is small enough to fit inside a rear-view or wing mirror and display car speed or distance between vehicles in real time.This holographic projection device has a far smaller size than current car HUD systems, which require large liquid-crystal arrays and optics. By contrast, the device developed by Light Blue Optics uses constructive and destructive interference of light to compose its holographic images.

The company designed its prototype to project an image through a two-way mirror, so that information appears superimposed over the reflected road view. The device went on display at the Society for Information Display's Vehicles and Photons 2009 symposium held in Dearborn, Michigan.
Such a device could improve driving safety by allowing drivers to get critical information without having to look away from the road. Light Blue Optics also says that their technology works just as well on forward displays, such as a car windshield. Just don't expect to drive cars with the devices for at least several more years.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Robotic helicopter with intelligent navigation

Robotic helicopter with intelligent navigation 


Advances in autonomous helicopters have been many over the years, but as far as we can tell, there's essentially no limit to how awesome they can get. MIT's recently developed an autonomous, robotic helicopter which is also able to navigate itself intelligently through a changing environment. The helicopter, which is equipped with a dual-camera array and a laser scanner, maps its terrain in real time, identifying changes along the way. An integrated autonomous exploration module allows the heli to interact with the changing, unknown environment it is mapping. The helicopter was shown off at the AUVSI 2009 International Aerial Robotics Competition, completing five missions -- a feat not before seen in the 19-year history of the show.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Robots can now live by eating Insects and leaves

 Robots can survive by eating Insects and herbs.

A new cohort of ’bots that make energy by gobbling organic matter could be the beginning of truly autonomous machines.
This first wave of biomass-munching robots has been designed with safe, slow, long-term vocations in mind, such as surveillance, clearing land mines, or monitoring sewer pipes and other locales too dark for solar cells. Take EcoBot II, the tambourine-size fly-eating machine built by Bristol Robotics Laboratory in England. Engineers hand-feed this robot insects, which it digests in a microbial fuel cell—essentially a tank of sludgy bacteria and oxygen—that converts the insects into electricity. An eight-fly meal can drive it up to seven feet.
he Darpa-funded concept vehicle from Robert Finkelstein of Robotic Technology in Washington, D.C., will use cameras and radar-like sensors to spot twigs and leaves. It will then chop up food and toss it into a combustion chamber built by engineer Harry Schoell (a 2008 PopSci Invention Award winner). Schoell’s steam engine runs on anything that burns and will get EATR around 100 miles per 150 pounds of vegetation. Both the EcoBot and EATR teams are working on software to help the robots conserve energy during lean times, and a full EATR prototype should be scavenging by 2011. 

Artificial Black Hole created in Chinese lab

Artificial Black Hole created in Chinese lab

Just because most black holes are solar-system-sized maelstroms with reality-warping gravitational pulls doesn't mean you can't have one in your pocket! That's right, just in time for the holidays comes the pocket black hole. Designed by scientists at the Southeast University in Nanjing, China, this eight-and-a-half-inch-wide disk absorbs all the electromagnetic radiation you throw at it, with none of the pesky time dilation and Hawking radiation associated with the larger, interstellar versions.
Unlike a regular black hole, which traps light using the gravitational pull of the dead star at its core, this simple metal disc uses the geometry of 60 concentric rings of metamaterials to lock up light for good. The metamaterial "resonators" that make up the rings affect the magnetic properties of passing light, bending the beams into the center of the disc, and trapping them in the etched maze-like grooves.
But wait, there's more! These discs don't destroy the energy of the trapped light, and emit heat when trapping ambient radiation. That means these metamaterial black holes could serve as the basis for solar panels that capture every wavelength of the electromagnetic spectrum. And do so near-perfectly, to boot.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Endoscope Camera in a Pill(How it works)

The tiniest endoscope yet takes 30 two-megapixel images per second and offloads them wirelessly. See how it works inside the body in an animation.

Sayaka Endoscope Capsule In situ, in your gut Medi-Mation

Pop this pill, and eight hours later, doctors can examine a high-resolution video of your intestines for tumors and other problems, thanks to a new spinning camera that captures images in 360 degrees. Developed by the Japanese RF System Lab, the Sayaka endoscope capsule enters clinical trials in the U.S. this month.

How the Pill Films Your Innards

Easy Pill to Swallow: The Sayaka is 40 percent smaller than previous endoscope cameras  Luis Bruno
Down the Hatch
The patient gulps down the capsule, and the digestive process begins. Over the next eight hours, the pill travels passively down the esophagus and through roughly 20 to 25 feet of intestines, where it will capture up to 870,000 images. The patient feels nothing.

Power Up
The Sayaka doesn’t need a motor to move through your gut, but it does require 50 milliwatts to run its camera, lights and computer. Batteries would be too bulky, so the cam draws its power through induction charging. A vest worn by the patient contains a coil that continuously transmits power.
Start Snapping
When it reaches the intestines, the Sayaka cam begins capturing 30 two-megapixel images per second (twice the resolution of other pill cams). Fluorescent and white LEDs in the pill illuminate the tissue walls.
Spin For Close-Ups
Previous pill cameras place the camera at one end, facing forward, so the tissue walls are visible only in the periphery of their photos. Sayaka is the first that gets a clearer picture by mounting the camera facing the side and spinning 360 degrees so that it shoots directly at the tissue walls. As the outer capsule travels through the gut, an electromagnet inside the pill reverses its polarity. This causes a permanent magnet to turn the inner capsule and the image sensor 60 degrees every two seconds. It completes a full swing every 12 seconds—plenty of time for repeated close-ups, since the capsule takes about two minutes to travel one inch.
Offload Data
Instead of storing each two-megapixel image internally, Sayaka continually transmits shots wirelessly to an antenna in the vest, where they are saved to a standard SD memory card.
Deliver Video
Doctors pop the SD card into a PC, and software compiles thousands of overlapping images into a flat map of the intestines that can be as large as 1,175 megapixels. Doctors can replay the ride as video and magnify a problem area up to 75-fold to study details.
Leave the Body
At around $100, the cam is disposable, so patients can simply flush it away.

"Spider Pill" You swollow and doc will follow

"Spider Pill"

A tiny camera will be swallowed by patients and inspect their intestines

People who dislike having medical cameras snake through their body on the ends of long tubing now have a fun alternative. A new remote-controlled spider bot can scuttle around inside the colon or intestine and perform a medical inspection instead.

Rest assured that the experience sounds much more pleasant than Neo's icky encounter with an electronic bug in The Matrix. Italian scientists have tested the device inside pigs, controlling the spider bot wirelessly to diagnose serious conditions such as cancer.Pill cameras have come up before, and a German device allowed physicians to steer a pill by moving a magnetic remote control over a patient's body. But the spider bot concept seems to kick the camera pill up a notch. Fantastic voyage ahoy!

Earth Life Headed for Mars Moon

Earth Life Headed for Mars Moon

Water bears, the tiny creatures that have already been proven to survive direct exposure to the vacuum of space, were slated for launch to a Martian moon this month. But Russian officials chose to delay their first interplanetary mission in more than a decade due to safety and technical issues, until the next launch window opens in 2011.

The Planetary Society hopes that its small payload experiment can help test the theory ofpanspermia, and see whether life can survive the long journey between Earth and other parts of the solar system. Toward that end, researchers packed representatives from all three kingdoms of Earth life into a small container meant to hitch a ride aboard Russia's Phobos-Grunt mission.

Tiny eight-legged creatures known as tardigrades, or water bears, are perhaps the stars of the Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment. Some water bears flew on an earlier spacecraft experimentin 2007, and managed to survive both vacuum and harsh radiation. The new mission will test whether the critters can perform a similar survival feat during the 34-month journey to Mars.

Scientists fought through red tape and engineering challenges alike.The team tested its BioModule's durability by vibrating it violently on a shake table and shooting it out of an air cannon -- after all, the package must ensure its contents' survival during a 4,000-g landing on Phobos.

Perhaps such tiny space pioneers may help pave the way for human space exploration. But the water bears presumably won't complain of boredom to mission control.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Space route of al the Space missions Ever in a Single MAP

National Geographic has plotted the route of every space mission carried out over the last 50 years onto a map of the solar system, giving a nice visual look at the history of space travel.
Go to the LINK below to see the full picture.http://www.flickr.com/photos/adamcrowe/4002050596/sizes/o/

Each line represents a different space mission, highlighting notable missions, including those from different countries, those of historical significance, and those which have failed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Researchers Develop a Penny-Sized Nuclear Battery

Researchers Develop a Penny-Sized Nuclear Battery

A tiny nuclear energy source could help power micro- and nanomachines of the future

Micro Nuclear Battery Nuclear packages can still pack a lot in small sizes, said Moneypenny University of Missouri

Nuclear power has long provided steady energy sources for everything from homes to deep space probes. Now researchers have begun developing a tiny nuclear battery the size of a penny that could provide power in a smaller, lighter, and more efficient package.

Most people probably think of nuclear power that involves fission and the splitting of atoms. But nuclear power can also come from the natural radioactive decay of isotopes such as plutonium-238 -- a much gentler process that has powered nuclear generators aboard spacecraft such as NASA's Cassini probe.

Nuclear batteries have also powered more familiar devices on Earth, such as pacemakers. The higher cost of the batteries represents the tradeoff for a long-lasting power source that provides more energy for its size than chemical batteries.

"The radioisotope battery can provide power density that is six orders of magnitude higher than chemical batteries," said Jae Kwon, an electrical and computer engineer at the University of Missouri.

 Kwon and colleagues want to miniaturize such batteries to power micro-devices and nanotech systems. The batteries won't pose any fission-related threats, but engineers do face a challenge in preventing the radioactive decay from damaging sensitive parts of the batteries.
"The critical part of using a radioactive battery is that when you harvest the energy, part of the radiation energy can damage the lattice structure of the solid semiconductor," Kwon noted.
The researchers hope to get around that problem by using a liquid semiconductor rather than a solid semiconductor. Eventually they also want to boost battery power, shrink its size, and eventually end up with a battery thinner than a human hair.

Scaly BMW Concept Car Collects Solar Power

Scaly BMW Concept Car Collects Solar Power, Then Raises Panels to Brake

It must be fun to be a car designer. Unless, of course, your name becomes synonymous with a specific styling trend that very few seem to appreciate... but we digress. It definitely seems that 24-year-old Pforzheim University graduate Anne Forschner had a good time coming up with her BMW Lovos concept, which can alternatively look either like a frightened porcupine or svelte salmon, depending on its needs at the time.

The exterior of the Lovos – which stands for Lifestyle of Voluntary Simplicity – concept is theoretically constructed from just one fully exchangeable part that recurs 260 times. Each exterior piece is covered in solar photovoltaic cells and can hinge on a substructure underneath to follow the sun or act as individual airbrakes. We can only assume the concept would be powered by electricity.



Anyone who's been through a prolonged power outage knows that it's an extremely trying experience. Within an hour of losing electricity, you develop a healthy appreciation of all the electrical devices you rely on in life. A couple hours later, you start pacing around your house. After a few days without lights, electric heat or TV, your stress level shoots through the roof.

But in the grand scheme of things, that's nothing. If an outage hits an entire city, and there aren't adequate emergency resources, people may die from exposure, companies may suffer huge productivity losses and millions of dollars of food may spoil. If a power outage hit on a much larger scale, it could shut down the electronic networks that keep governments and militaries running. We are utterly dependent on power, and when it's gone, things get very bad, very fast. An electromagnetic bomb, or e-bomb, is a weapon designed to take advantage of this dependency. But instead of simply cutting off power in an area, an e-bomb would actually destroy most machines that use electricity. Generators would be useless, cars wouldn't run, and there would be no chance of making a phone call. In a matter of seconds, a big enough e-bomb could thrust an entire city back 200 years or cripple a military unit.

The U.S. military has been pursuing the idea of an e-bomb for decades, and many believe it now has such a weapon in its arsenal. On the other end of the scale, terrorist groups could be building low-tech e-bombs to inflict massive damage on the United States.

The Basic Idea

The basic idea of an e-bomb -- or more broadly, an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapon -- is pretty simple. These sorts of weapons are designed to overwhelm electrical circuitry with an intense electromagnetic field.

If you've read How Radio Works or How Electromagnets Work, then you know an electromagnetic field in itself is nothing special. The radio signals that transmit AM, FM, television and cell phone calls are all electromagnetic energy, as is ordinary light, microwaves and x-rays.

For our purposes, the most important thing to understand about electromagnetism is that electric current generates magnetic fields and changing magnetic fields can induce electric current. This page from How Radio Works explains that a simple radio transmitter generates a magnetic field by fluctuating electrical current in a circuit. This magnetic field, in turn, can induce an electrical current in another conductor, such as a radio receiver antenna. If the fluctuating electrical signal represents particular information, the receiver can decode it.

A low intensity radio transmission only induces sufficient electrical current to pass on a signal to a receiver. But if you greatly increased the intensity of the signal (the magnetic field), it would induce a much larger electrical current. A big enough current would fry the semiconductor components in the radio, disintegrating it beyond repair.

Picking up a new radio would be the least of your concerns, of course. The intense fluctuating magnetic field could induce a massive current in just about any other electrically conductive object -- for example phone lines, power lines and even metal pipes. These unintentional antennas would pass the current spike on to any other electrical components down the line (say, a network of computers hooked up to phone lines). A big enough surge could burn out semiconductor devices, melt wiring, fry batteries and even explode transformers.

There are a number of possible ways of generating and "delivering" such a magnetic field. In the next section, we'll look at a few possible EMP weaponry concepts.


The Nuclear EMP Threat

E-bombs started popping up in headlines only recently, but the concept of EMP weaponry has been around for a long time. From the 1960s through the 1980s, the United States was most concerned with the possibility of a nuclear EMP attack. This idea dates back to nuclear weapons research from the 1950s. In 1958, American tests of hydrogen bombs yielded some surprising results. A test blast over the Pacific Ocean ended up blowing out streetlights in parts of Hawaii, hundreds of miles away. The blast even disrupted radio equipment as far away as Australia.
Researchers concluded that the electrical disturbance was due to the Compton effect, theorized by physicist Arthur Compton in 1925. Compton's assertion was that photons of electromagnetic energy could knock loose electrons from atoms with low atomic numbers. In the 1958 test, researchers concluded, the photons from the blast's intense gamma radiation knocked a large number of electrons free from oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the atmosphere. This flood of electrons interacted with the Earth's magnetic field to create a fluctuating electric current, which induced a powerful magnetic field. The resulting electromagnetic pulse induced intense electrical currents in conductive materials over a wide area.

During the cold war, U.S. intelligence feared the Soviet Union would launch a nuclear missile and detonate it some 30 miles (50 kilometers) above the United States, to achieve the same effect on a larger scale. They feared that the resulting electromagnetic burst would knock out electrical equipment across the United States.
Such an attack (from another nation) is still a possibility, but that is no longer the United States' main concern. These days, U.S. intelligence is giving non-nuclear EMP devices, such as e-bombs, much more attention. These weapons wouldn't affect as wide an area, because they wouldn't blast photons so high above the Earth. But they could be used to create total blackouts on a more local level.

Non-nuclear EMP Weapons

 The United States most likely has EMP weapons in its arsenal, but it's not clear in what form. Much of the United States' EMP research has involved high power microwaves (HPMs). Reporters have widely speculated that they do exist and that such weapons could be used in a war with Iraq.

Most likely, the United States' HPM e-bombs aren't really bombs at all. They're probably more like super powerful microwave ovens that can generate a concentrated beam of microwave energy. One possibility is the HPM device would be mounted to a cruise missile, disrupting ground targets from above.

This technology is advanced and expensive and so would be inaccessible to military forces without considerable resources. But that's only one piece of the e-bomb story. Using inexpensive supplies and rudimentary engineering knowledge, a terrorist organization could easily construct a dangerous e-bomb device.

In late September 2001, Popular Mechanics published an article outlining this possibility. The article focused on flux compression generator bombs (FCGs), which date back to the 1950s. This sort of e-bomb has a fairly simple, potentially inexpensive design, illustrated below. (This conceptual bomb design comes from this report written by Carlo Kopp, a defense analyst. The design concept has been widely available to the public for some time. Nobody would be able to construct a functioning e-bomb from this description alone).

The bomb consists of a metal cylinder (called the armature), which is surrounded by a coil of wire (the stator winding). The armature cylinder is filled with high explosive, and a sturdy jacket surrounds the entire device. The stator winding and the armature cylinder are separated by empty space. The bomb also has a power source, such as a bank of capacitors, which can be connected to the stator.

Here's the sequence of events when the bomb goes off:

A switch connects the capacitors to the stator, sending an electrical current through the wires. This generates an intense magnetic field.
A fuze mechanism ignites the explosive material. The explosion travels as a wave through the middle of the armature cylinder.
As the explosion makes its way through the cylinder, the cylinder comes in contact with the stator winding. This creates a short circuit, cutting the stator off from its power supply.
The moving short circuit compresses the magnetic field, generating an intense electromagnetic burst.

Most likely, this type of weapon would affect a relatively small area -- nothing on the order of a nuclear EMP attack -- but it could do some serious damage.

E-Bomb Effects

 The United States is drawn to EMP technology because it is potentially non-lethal, but is still highly destructive. An E-bomb attack would leave buildings standing and spare lives, but it could destroy a sizeable military.

There is a range of possible attack scenarios. Low-level electromagnetic pulses would temporarily jam electronics systems, more intense pulses would corrupt important computer data and very powerful bursts would completely fry electric and electronic equipment.

In modern warfare, the various levels of attack could accomplish a number of important combat missions without racking up many casualties. For example, an e-bomb could effectively neutralize:
vehicle control systems
targeting systems, on the ground and on missiles and bombs
communications systems
navigation systems
long and short-range sensor systems

EMP weapons could be especially useful in an invasion of Iraq, because a pulse might effectively neutralize underground bunkers. Most of Iraq's underground bunkers are hard to reach with conventional bombs and missiles. A nuclear blast could effectively demolish many of these bunkers, but this would take a devastating toll on surrounding areas. An electromagnetic pulse could pass through the ground, knocking out the bunker's lights, ventilation systems, communications -- even electric doors. The bunker would be completely uninhabitable.

U.S. forces are also highly vulnerable to EMP attack, however. In recent years, the U.S. military has added sophisticated electronics to the full range of its arsenal. This electronic technology is largely built around consumer-grade semiconductor devices, which are highly sensitive to any power surge. More rudimentary vacuum tube technology would actually stand a better chance of surviving an e-bomb attack.

A widespread EMP attack in any country would compromise a military's ability to organize itself. Ground troops might have perfectly functioning non-electric weapons (like machine guns), but they wouldn't have the equipment to plan an attack or locate the enemy. Effectively, an EMP attack could reduce any military unit into a guerilla-type army.

While EMP weapons are generally considered non-lethal, they could easily kill people if they were directed towards particular targets. If an EMP knocked out a hospital's electricity, for example, any patient on life support would die immediately. An EMP weapon could also neutralize vehicles, including aircraft, causing catastrophic accidents.

In the end, the most far-reaching effect of an e-bomb could be psychological. A full-scale EMP attack in a developed country would instantly bring modern life to a screeching halt. There would be plenty of survivors, but they would find themselves in a very different world.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Wind Turbine(without gears)

Noise, bulk and inconsistent winds have hampered the adoption of wind turbines by homeowners, but a new design could change that. Imad Mahawili, a chemical engineer and long-time wind-energy consultant, has reimagined the technology to take advantage of even light breezes. In a typical wind turbine, air moves the blades, which turn gears to spin a generator and produce a current. Those mechanical linkages siphon off a good deal of wind energy before it can be converted to electricity. Mahawili’s system, the Honeywell Wind Turbine, eliminates the separate generator, and therefore the gearing. The blades are tipped with magnets and enclosed in a wheel that contains coiled copper—in other words, the turbine itself is the electrical generator. With conventional designs, “It takes 7 to 8 mph to overcome the resistance of gears,” Mahawili says. The new system, which weighs 165 pounds and costs about $5500, works in 2-mph winds.

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