Science and IT news

Boston Dynamics making a new walking, jumping and rolling somewhat humanoid robot

Boston Dynamics has a new robot called Handle. It is a research robot that stands 6.5 ft tall, travels at 9 mph and jumps 4 feet vertically. It uses electric power to operate both electric and hydraulic actuators, with a range of about 15 miles on one battery charge. Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles found in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Wheels are efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs Handle can have the best of both worlds. {source}<iframe width="853" height="480" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source} It can lift 100 pounds. Boston Dynamics builds advanced robots with remarkable behavior: mobility, agility, dexterity and speed. We use sensor-based controls and computation to unlock the capabilities of complex mechanisms. Our world-class development teams take projects from initial concept to proof-of-principle prototyping to build-test-build engineering, to field testing and low-rate production.

12 layers of kevlar in bullet proof origami shield

BYU mechanical engineers have created an origami-inspired, lightweight bulletproof shield that can protect law enforcement from gunfire. The new ballistic barrier can be folded compactly when not in use, making it easier to transport and deploy. When expanded — which takes only five seconds — it can provide cover for officers and stop bullets from several types of handguns. “We worked with a federal special agent to understand what their needs were, as well as SWAT teams, police officers and law enforcement, and found that the current solutions are often too heavy and not as portable as they would like,” said Larry Howell, professor of mechanical engineering at BYU. “We wanted to create something that was compact, portable, lightweight and worked really well to protect them.” In working with law enforcement, BYU researchers learned much of what is currently used hasn’t evolved much from medieval times: shields that are mostly flat, awkward plates that cover only one person. Current barriers are so heavy and cumbersome they make it difficult for officers to move into position. The barrier Howell and his colleagues designed is made of 12 layers of bulletproof Kevlar and weighs only 55 pounds (many of the steel-based barriers in current use approach 100 pounds). The BYU-built barrier uses a Yoshimura origami crease pattern to expand around an officer, providing protection on the side in addition to protecting them in the front. In testing, the barrier successfully stopped bullets from 9 mm, .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum pistols. “Those are significant handguns with power,” Howell said. “We suspected that something as large as a .44 Magnum would actually tip it over, but that didn’t happen. The barrier is very stable, even with large bullets hitting it.” The researchers constructed the barrier prototypes to be extremely stiff and protective throughout, while also maintaining the flexible qualities of Kevlar fabric so they can be folded compactly. Since Kevlar fabric is subject to fraying, abrasion and is sensitive to sunlight and water, the team also made a concentrated effort to reinforce it against the environment. “It goes from a very compact state that you can carry around in the trunk of a car to something you can take with you, open up and take cover behind to be safe from bullets,” said Terri Bateman, BYU adjunct professor of engineering and research team member. “Then you can easily fold it up and move it if you need to advance your position.” {source}<iframe width="853" height="480" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source} In addition to protecting police officers, researchers believe the barrier could be used to protect children in a school or a wounded person in an emergency situation. Although the ballistic barrier is now just in prototype form and not currently in use by any law enforcement agencies, Howell and Bateman have tested it with officers on site. The response has been positive so far. “There are a lot of risks to law personnel and we feel like this particular product can really make a difference and save a lot of lives,” Bateman said. “It makes us feel like we’re really making a difference in the world.”

Commercial drones with flamethrower to burn garbage off of power lines

China has made drones with flamethrowers to clear garbage from power lines. Entrepreneur reports that an electric company in Xiangyang, China is the one that came up with the fiery idea. {source}<iframe width="853" height="480" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source}  

Nanostructured electrode could boost lithium battery storage by 50%

The Nanode is a three-dimensional, nano-structured, porous electrode that will overcome the limitations of today’s batteries by storing as much as 50% more energy than existing technologies. This allows the batteries to last longer between charges while also charging faster. These achievements are due to both the material structure and the use of tin as the active material. Tin is known to have much higher energy density than the current graphite technology, but until now its commercial success has been limited due to its tendency to swell during charging, causing stress in the electrode material and leading to a rapid loss in energy. Current commercial lithium ion batteries employ a foil/particle system as the electrode structure. The capability of such electrodes to deal with volume expansion of high energy materials is limited, because as the particles swell, the electrode expands. The Tin Nanode’s integrated electrode structure contributes to the relaxation of stress associated with electrode materials undergoing high volume expansion. This is possible because thin films of active material are spread over a 3D and porous network of fibres, rather than stacking particles on a flat copper foil. This enables the electrode structure to deal with the volume expansion of the tin while retaining dimensional stability at the electrode level. The major advantage of the Tin Nanode™ is its capacity to store the same amount of energy in a smaller volume, compared to commercial lithium ion batteries. This translates into a reduction in volume and cost of the overall battery. In a cell assembly, a single Tin Nanode can replace both sides of a conventional graphite anode, as well as the current collector foil. This is done by tailoring the active material loading to match the capacity of two cathodes while maintaining the thickness of the Tin Nanode. In this way, the Tin Nanode is able to provide an advantage in volumetric and gravimetric energy densities. By integrating the current collector into the nanostructure, it is possible to eliminate the copper foil, the conductive additives and the binders needed for powder electrodes. In addition, the Tin Nanode may allow for easier wetting of the assembled cell for a number of reasons: the electrode is thinner, the obstruction of the current collector is removed and the liquid can flow freely through the porous structure of the Tin Nanode. Nano-Nouvelle’s manufacturing is based on high volume, low cost methods currently used in other industries. Using water-based (aqueous) processes imparts several key advantages, as the pressures and temperatures are kept within easy to manage ranges, and the resulting nanostructured material is achieved without any handling of nanoparticles. The resulting membranes can be handled similarly to existing metal foils in assembly processes for battery cells or other applications.