Technology News Roundup

Laser Record, Robotic Hand and the Electrical Field

Laser Record Broken: LLNL smashes record with 500 terawatt laser shot

During the summer of 2012, a team at the Lawrance Livermore National Laboratory's (LLNL) National Ignition Facility (NIF) took a shot millions of times more powerful than the one heard around the world. The lab's laser system of 192 beams produced more than 500 terawatts of power and 1.85 megajoules of ultraviolet laser light to its target.

To put this in perspective, 500 terawatts of power is 1,000 times more power than the United States uses at any instant in time. 1.85 megajoules of energy is about 100 times more than any other laser regularly produces today.
According to physics experts, this breakthrough will lead the way to study materials in these extreme conditions and in duplicating the actual phenomena that occur in a nuclear reaction. Combining extreme levels of energy and peak power on a target in the NIF is a critical requirement for achieving one of physics' grand challenges – igniting hydrogen fusion fuel in the laboratory and producing more energy than that supplied to the target.

These are important steps toward achieving ignition and providing experimental access to user communities for national security, eliminating the need for underground nuclear testing, understanding the universe and the quest for clean and sustainable fusion energy.

Read the laser record story here.

Life-like robotic hand invented

European researchers announced they had developed the world's first real-sized, five-fingered robotic hand able to grasp and manipulate objects with human-like dexterity in August 2012. The team from Italy and Germany built a hand using strings that are twisted by small, high-speed motors in five fingers, each with three segments, modeled on the human hand.

The device, Dexmart Hand, was able to handle both a delicate egg and lift a heavy load. Light sensors were used to calculate the force required for the fingers to grasp an object without squashing it or losing its grip.

"This provides the ultimate example of dexterous manipulation," said Claudio Melchiorri, researcher from Italy's University of Bologna.
Read the robotic hand story here.

Dartmouth students reveal proto-type device that uses body's electrical field for identification

Ph. D students Cory Cornelius and David Kotz's research group from Dartmouth College have developed a bracelet that measures electrical impedance in people to help verify who is wearing it.

Cornelius and colleagues presented a prototype sensor at the Usenix Advanced Computing System Association workshop in Bellevue, Washington, in early August. Individual impedance varies because each person's wrist, for example, is a unique jumble of bone, flesh, and blood vessels.

Dubbed the "Amulet," the device would confirm the identity of a person using small electrodes to measure how the body's tissue reacts to the alternating current, which changes from person to person. It's a lock that's keyed into your biology; when it's set up with the device, it only unlocks it for you.

A system like this could be used to better monitor a person's health; a single device attached directly to the body could monitor that person from anywhere, without causing wireless security concerns. But researchers are conceding that a better way of reliably interpreting the data coming from the sensor will still take time, and reliability is more than a little important for something like this.

Read the electrical field story here.
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