Robot Tuna, MIT Pencil & the Chainless E-Bike

Technews in the Making


Robot Tuna Recruited by Homeland Security

It's a bird, it's a plane, no, it's a robot tuna! You may already think the US Department of Homeland Security is all wet, but now they're betting money on development of this tuna look-alike.

The " BIOSwimmer " robot features faithfully replicated fins and a flexible tail to pull off quick maneuvers like the real-life fish, one of the fastest, most maneuverable animals on the planet. Made in Waltham, Mass. by Boston Engineering Corporation , Homeland Security recently decided to fund the robot hoping to be used for patrolling U.S. harbors, exploring the flooded areas of ships, or inspecting oil tankers.

"It's called 'biomimetics," said David Taylor, program manager for the BIOSwimmer at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. "We're using nature as a basis for design and engineering a system that works exceedingly well." BIOSwimmer

The tuna has a speedy, sleek and very flexible shape, able to squeeze into tight spaces like flooded bilges and tanks of ship interiors, so the tuna was a natural prototype. The Tuna Robot is externally controlled by a laptop and the unmanned underwater vehicle also has an onboard computer for navigation, processing sensor data and communications.

MIT Pencil Draws a Sensor Circuit Directly onto Paper

MIT Pencil A team of chemists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created a carbon nanotube "lead" that can be used to draw freehand electronic circuits using a standard, mechanical pencil. A few scribbled lines on paper can instantly create a sensor for detecting dangerous gases.

MIT chemist, Katherine Mirica and her colleagues pulled off the amazing trick by using a special material called carbon nanotubes to replace the normal graphite pencil lead. Best of all, the special pencil lead is fairly cheap and easy to use, according to the MIT researchers. The new method of compressing powdered nanotubes into pencil lead is also safer than the usual sensor-manufacturing method of dissolving the nanotubes in hazardous chemicals. The carbon nanotubes are tiny cylinders of rolled-up carbon sheets that are thousands of times thinner than a human hair.

The sensor, described in the science journal Angewandte Chemie , detected minute amounts of ammonia gas, an industrial hazard but the sensors could be adapted to detect nearly any type of gas. The MIT team hopes to create "drawn" sensors that can detect ethylene levels, for monitoring the ripeness of fruits being shipped or stored, and sulfur compounds, which could warn of natural gas leaks in homes or businesses.

"The beauty of this is we can start doing all sorts of chemically specific functionalized materials," said Timothy Swager, the John D. MacArthur Professor of Chemistry and leader of the research team. "We think we can make sensors for almost anything that's volatile."

See video detailing how the amazing pencil was created.
Chainless e-Bike iPhone of Cycling

Mando's chainless e-bike iPhone of cycling

Korean auto part maker set to send Footloose bike to Europe

The Mando Footloose is unlike any other electric bicycle. It has a hybrid drive system and is chainless. The pedals directly power the alternator that generates the electricity that keeps the electric motor running - no more dying batteries along your ride!

It's the bike's design that trend-watchers are calling the " iPhone of cycling." Sleek and minimalist like the Apple we all know, the Footloose is also easily and neatly foldable for handy storage. MIT Pencil

Footloose uses a lithium-ion batter and integrated sensors to recognize speed and slope and an automatic gear changer that monitors terrain. The bike also has a detachable handle bar display for distance traveled, speed and amount of electricity produced. Cyclists can power the bike up to 18.6 miles (30 km) with the motor alone or they can use the pedals for more range.

Mando, a Korea-based auto part maker, says Footloose is due to hit the marketplace in Europe next year.

Checkout the super sleek bike in this video.

LED: Brilliant at 50!

The celebration of the LEDs' 50th anniversary slipped silently by last month. Back in 1962 Nick Holonyak was working in General Electric's semiconductor lab on lasers and what he stumbled upon would become a big ubiquitous deal. The invention of the light-emitting diode or LED, was not readily appreciated by Holonyak's peers.

"They're sophisticated and they got good methods and all that, and here comes this punk electrical engineer who's fooling around with some simple screwy kind of ideas. And they're swearing at me with their nice New York street language" Holonyak said in an interview on National Public Radio.

LED Inventor Nick HolonyakLED Inventor Nick Holonyak

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