Latte foam: Photo by Piyato via Engineering Physics 

Science of Sloshing: Why Foam is Important

Have you noticed that adding foam to the top of a coffee makes walking with it easier? Foam reduces sloshing in drinks and other liquids. By Kate Stone Most of us know that carrying a full cup of hot coffee can be precarious and just one wrong move could send a wave of java sloshing over the rim. But have you ever noticed that adding a bit of foam to the top of the coffee makes moving with it easier? Scientists have found out why just a few layers of…

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15 Minute Blood Test: A user presses the bulb of the smartphone attachment to initiate the fluid flow. (Tassaneewan Laksanasopin, Columbia Engineering) Engineering Health New Technologies 

Dialing in Blood Tests with a Smartphone

Researchers at Columbia University have developed a low-cost smartphone accessory that tests for infectious diseases — HIV and syphilis — from a finger prick of blood in only 15 minutes. The device replicates all of the functions of a lab-based blood test. Furthermore, it does it all with power from any smartphone. With this little gadget, health workers around the world can quickly perform blood tests without sending vials of blood to a lab. The 15-minute Blood Test The prototype blood test attachment (or “dongle”) is designed to be small…

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Biofuel: Inforgraphic courtesy of Eric Taylor, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Biology Engineering Environment Oceanography 

Fish Food Turned into Two New Biofuels

By Kate S. A common algae commercially grown to make fish food could become a future source of biofuel, according to a new study. The research team, led by Greg O’Neil of Western Washington University and Chris Reddy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has pioneered a technique that uses a single species of algae called Isochrysis to make both biodiesel and jet fuel. The scientists believe that the ability to produce two types of biofuel from one algae holds some promise for future commercialization. They stress that this is only…

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BYU's VuePod is controlled by a Wii remote that interacts through BlueTooth technology with a SmartTrack device. (Mark A. Philbrick) Engineering New Technologies 

VuePod: Powerful New Virtual Reality System

By Kate Stone Since Facebook paid $2 billion to acquire the virtual reality gaming device, Oculus Rift, the 3D industry seems to be booming. Now, Brigham Young University (BYU) has added its own invention to the mix. Principally made for use in engineering, yet powerful enough for gaming, the VuePod is especially exciting because it’s comparatively cheap to build. While the VuePod is certainly not the first immersive visualization system in academia, it might be the most cost effective. Other 3D systems cost as much as $10 million to build…

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Mind-controlled robot arm (Journal of Neural Engineering:IOP Publishing) Engineering Health New Technologies 

Mind-controlled Robotic Arm

A new prototype mind-controlled robotic arm is the latest example of brain-computer interface technology being developed with the ultimate aim of improving the quality of life of people unable to use their own arms. We recently reported on robotic prosthetic arms for amputees. Those prosthetic limbs can be controlled by the users and also deliver a sense of touch. Now, a woman with quadriplegia has been able to remotely move a robot arm with signals from her brain. She has even been able to use the mind-controlled robotic arm to pick up…

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With elastic joints and six legs that function like those of a stick insect, Hector is the only walking robot of its kind. (Bielefeld University) Engineering New Technologies 

World’s First Walking Robot Stick Insect

By Kate Stone A research team at Bielefeld University in Germany has taught the only robot of its kind in the world how to walk. Designed to be stick insect-like, the walking robot is called Hector has elastic joints and an ultralight exoskeleton. Hector is the result of an interdisciplinary project at the Center of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) involving researchers from the fields of computer science, biology, physics, and engineering. The walking robot is equipped with plenty of sensors, enabling it to learn to walk much like a…

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Micro-robots (NSF) Engineering New Technologies 

Micro-robots for Search and Rescue Missions

Imagine an army of tiny robots no bigger than a penny scrambling through the rubble of a disaster site to search for victims and to assess the damage. That is the vision of engineer Sarah Bergbreiter and her research team at the University of Maryland, who are building micro-robots with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The researchers are currently testing a variety of different materials and designs on bigger robots before scaling them down to the final size. But even the larger prototypes of these robots are so…

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The Willow Garage PR2 is a sophisticated research robot designed to work with people. (Claudia Perez D'Arpino, MIT) Engineering New Technologies 

Your Household Robot Is on the Way

A household robot to help with the daily chores is surely every busy person’s dream. But who would want a clumsy robot that’s always getting under your feet? That is the challenge being addressed by researchers at MIT. They have built a sophisticated robot and are teaching it to work together with people. In a recent article, we reported on the robots being put to work at the retail giant Amazon to serve our holiday shopping needs.  But the future may very well have interactive and collaborative robots in our…

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The forces at work when a turkey hops over an obstacle (Oregon State University) Engineering New Technologies Zoology 

Running Robots May Be Inspired by Birds

In preparation for building better running robots, researchers have made useful discoveries about some of nature’s most energy efficient bipeds – running turkeys. Running birds have an impressive ability to run while minimizing energy cost, avoiding falls or injuries, and maintaining speed and direction. Researchers at Oregon State University have been trying to discover exactly how the birds do it. “Birds appear to be the best of bipedal terrestrial runners, with a speed and agility that may trace back 230 million years to their dinosaur ancestors,” says Jonathan Hurst, an…

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