MIT Invents Mini Transformable Robots

No, not that kind of transformer, as much as I’d like to lead this story with, “Autobots. Roll out.” Neil Gershenfeld, head of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, visiting scientist Ara Knaian and postdoctoral associate Kenneth Cheung, have created miniature robots that can be reconfigured into different shapes.

The robots are called “milli-motein,” and were inspired by a protein’s natural ability to reshape itself into nearly any form. In theory, the milli-motein bots could potentially provide the building blocks of any non-organic object. Continue reading

Breakthrough Could Double the Battery Life of Your Smartphone

I very nearly titled this piece “Play Angry Birds Longer.” From what I’ve heard (a friend told me …), Angry Birds eats smartphone power at a pretty rapid pace. While plenty of other apps are guilty of the same thing, I still wonder how many lost calls are the direct result of flinging birds at pigs.

A new startup called ETA Devices, founded by Joel Dawson and David Perreault, a pair of electrical engineering professors from MIT, hopes to decrease smartphone power consumption by up to half. The key to this breakthrough is improved power amplifier efficiency. Continue reading

MIT Develops Microthrusters for CubeSats

Not every satellite is a massive hunk of plastic and metal spinning in the sky. Constructing those kinds of satellites is very expensive and can be more machine than is needed for many different projects. Organizations with smaller amounts of funding have turned to one-use satellites, called CubeSats or nanosatellites, that are (no surprise) about the size of a Rubik’s Cube.

Most CubeSats are launched into low orbit where they perform the function for which they were intended before suffering orbital decay and burning up in the lower atmosphere. Some two dozen CubeSats are regularly in orbit around the Earth.

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Scientists Create Wormbot

When I think of robots I generally picture them looking like Wall-e or maybe the killing machines from The Terminator. Just from writing for this site, I realize plenty of other styles of robots exist, but I can’t help being something of a child of pop culture. The last thing I think of when thinking of robots is worms.

Scientists from MIT, Harvard and Seoul National University (SNU) have combined talents to create an autonomous robot that looks and moves like a worm. The group has dubbed their new creation the “Meshworm,” named after the nickel and titanium mesh material that forms its body.

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Fuel Cells on the Brain

The next time you’re thinking about alternative power sources, stop to consider the fact that one potential source could be the fluid that surrounds the brain with which you’re doing all that thinking.

A team of MIT researchers are developing a platinum-coated fuel cell that runs off the glucose found in cerebrospinal fluid, the stuff that keeps your brain from slamming into the side of your skull. The fuel cells could be implanted in the liquid pockets of the brain and used to operate low-power neural prosthetic components that could help paralyzed patients move their limbs.

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