University of Michigan

Plasma Thruster Could Send CubeSats Deep Into the Solar System

Exploiting outer space for material resources could eventually become a viable industry, but before that happens investors will want to see some concrete data on where expensive automated systems will be headed. Launching space exploration vessels is the best method to gather hard facts, but such spacecraft are expensive in their own right.

The University of Michigan (UM) has an idea with the potential to solve some of the costs of space exploration within our solar system. University scientists have developed a plasma thruster that can be attached to CubeSats that will enable the small satellites to escape Earth’s gravity and travel deeper into space. To fund the project, the research team has turned to Kickstarter in an attempt to tap the crowd funding scene for science. Continue reading

Competition Looking For Bright IDEAs

The International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) competition is accepting entries for its annual design competition.

Sponsored by the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), the competition honors “design excellence in products, ecodesign, interaction design, packaging, strategy, research and concepts.” This year’s jury includes representatives from Nokia, Feiz Design, Microsoft Mobile, BERG, Procter & Gamble, GE Healthcare, and the University of Michigan. Continue reading

Tokai University Wins World Solar Challenge Race

Japan’s Tokai University took top honors in the 2011 Veolia World Solar Challenge race this past week, averaging 91.54 km/hour, and traveling 2,998 km in 32 hours and 45 minutes in a vehicle powered entirely by solar energy.

The Nuon Solar Team from the Netherlands placed second, while a U.S. team from the University of Michigan came in third (with a time of 35 hours and 33 minutes). The same three teams placed first, second and third in the 2009 event as well.

The annual solar car race pits international teams against each other to see who can travel from Darwin, Australia, to Adelaide in the fastest time. The solar cars are allowed 5 kW hours of stored energy; all other energy for the journey must come from the sun or be recovered from the kinetic energy of the vehicle. Thirty-seven teams competed in this year’s event. Continue reading


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