Researchers at US university Carnegie Mellon have created a new electrically conductive material that can repair itself, presenting new opportunities for soft robotics and wearable technology. Combining properties of metal and plastic, the supple, stretchy material can be used to make circuits that stay operational even after sustaining physical damage. The discovery opens up the possibility that robots may one day have sensor-laden skin that can repair itself like a human's, or that we could sport ultra-thin wearable devices on our bodies for long periods of time without them degrading. "This could have important applications in areas like wearable computing, where you want circuits you can incorporate into textiles or place on your skin, and just like natural skin if you get bruised or cut, your skin is able to repair itself," says Carmel Majidi, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, in a video produced by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). "Our material also has this property."
A newly released Amnesty International report has found a "staggering" increase in the number of Afghans driven from their homes by the deepening unrest, political instability and economic stagnation in the country. The report, "My Children Will Die This Winter: Afghanistan's Broken Promise to the Displaced," concludes that the most neglected are not necessarily those who've made perilous trips seeking asylum in Europe, but those who've been uprooted and left to wander and seek shelter in their own country. More than 1.2 million Afghans are now displaced – a twofold increase in three years. The report, made public late Monday, said that more than 118,000 have fled in the first four months of 2016 alone. Though the 178,000 Afghans who have sought asylum in Europe over the last year and a half have received steady media attention, those who have sought refuge inside the country have gone largely unnoticed.
The truth is often stranger than fiction is a well-known adage. Whether this is true for science fiction or not is a subject for debate. Science does however tend to move steadily towards a reality that was originally portrayed as science fiction. Solid-state components with semiconducting devices and fixed metallic tracks are used for modern electronic technologies like computers and smart phones. Being able to create truly elastic electronic components is a dream that is slowly but surely being realized.
Cellular behavior and interactions are best modeled in vitro using 3D constructs because they closely mimic in vivo environments. Both scaffold and nonscaffold techniques have been developed, but these methods can be time consuming, expensive, or hard to do reproducibly. Chen et al. show that low-volume droplets, placed inside superhydrophobic coated plates, create a medium in which cells can float freely and rapidly grow into spheroids.
Gallium droplets beat like tiny hearts when activated by electricity and could one day be used to power robot muscles. Xiaolin Wang at the University of Wollongong and his colleagues demonstrated this heartbeat effect by placing a drop of liquid gallium inside a circular electrode. In their video, the gallium droplet initial rests against one side of the electrode, which is tipped at a slight angle. When an electric current is applied, the gallium starts reacting with the surrounding water to form gallium oxide. Because gallium oxide has less surface tension than gallium, the spherical droplet starts to spread out like a pancake.