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University Research

Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 24 oct 2019

Concrete is a preferred material, second-most used (about 22 billion ton annually), in the building and construction industry. But, it is also second-largest emitter of Carbon dioxide, as cement manufacturing accounts for 5-7% of annual emissions. According to Lucy Rodgers of BBC News, 'If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter in the world - behind China and the US.' In order to meet the requirements of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, annual cement emissions must fall by 16% by 2030. This situation brings concrete at the cusp of innovation, encouraging architects and scientists to experiment with concrete and help evolve its greener variants. Most innovations in this regard focus on reduction of cement in the concrete mix. MIT researchers developed an experimental method of manufacturing cement while eliminating CO2 emissions. Researchers at Lancaster University in the UK unveiled a novel approach of using nanoplatelets extracted from carrots and root vegetables to enhance concrete mixes. Dr. Sandra Manso-Blanco's approach of 'bioreceptive concrete' has structural concrete layered with materials to encourage the growth of CO2-absorbing moss and lichen. Another alternative mixture becoming mainstream in construction is GFRC (Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete). The material consists of a mortar made of concrete, sand, alkali-resistant glass fiber and water. Plasticity is one of the main qualities of GFRC, enabling the molding of thinner and thus lighter façade pieces. Another novel approach to concrete used by Zaha Hadid Architects is 3D-knitted shell. Termed as KnitCandela, it is inspired by Spanish-Mexican architect and engineer Felix Candela's inventive concrete shell structures. The knitted fabric for KnitCandela was developed at ETH Zurich. ETH Zurich has been at the forefront of a number of innovations concerning concrete. With the intention of maximizing available space and avoiding steep construction costs, researchers from ETH Zurich's Department of Architecture have devised a concrete floor slab that with a thickness of a mere 2 cm, remains load-bearing and simultaneously sustainable. The institute also showcased the potential of robotically 3D printed concrete. Read on...

ArchDaily: What is the Future of Concrete in Architecture?
Author: Niall Patrick Walsh


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 27 aug 2019

Researchers from IIT-Madras (Tamil Nadu, India), Prof. Asokan Thondiyath and research scholar Nagamanikandan Govindan, have designed and developed a multimodal robotic system, termed as 'Grasp Man', that has good grasping, manipulation and locomotion abilities. Their research, 'Design and Analysis of a Multimodal Grasper Having Shape Conformity and Within-Hand Manipulation With Adjustable Contact Forces', is recently published in ASME Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics. The robot is fitted with a pair of graspers that provide morphological adaptation, enabling it to conform to the geometry of the object being grasped, and allowing it to hold objects securely and manipulate them much like the human hand. The two graspers are equipped with a robotic platform that provides behavioural adaptation. The robot will have various industrial applications such as pipe inspection, search-and-rescue operations, and others that involve climbing, holding, and assembling. Prof. Asokan says, 'The motivation behind this research is to realise a robot with a minimalistic design that can overcome the need for task-specific robots that are capable of navigating and manipulating across different environments without increasing the system complexity.' Read on...

YourStory: IIT-Madras researchers design robot with graspers that function like the human hand
Author: Teja Lele Desai


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 26 aug 2019

Research study, 'Onboard Evolution of Understandable Swarm Behaviors', published in Advanced Intelligent Systems by researchers from University of Bristol (Simon Jones, Sabine Hauert) and University of the West of England (Alan F. Winfield, Matthew Studley), brings development of a new generation of swarming robots which can independently learn and evolve new behaviours in the wild a step closer. Researchers used artificial evolution to enable the robots to automatically learn swarm behaviours which are understandable to humans. This could create new robotic possibilities for environmental monitoring, disaster recovery, infrastructure maintenance, logistics and agriculture. This new approach uses a custom-made swarm of robots with high-processing power embedded within the swarm. In most recent approaches, artificial evolution has typically been run on a computer which is external to the swarm, with the best strategy then copied to the robots. Prof. Jones says, 'Human-understandable controllers allow us to analyse and verify automatic designs, to ensure safety for deployment in real-world applications.' Researchers took advantage of the recent advances in high-performance mobile computing, to build a swarm of robots inspired by those in nature. Their 'Teraflop Swarm' has the ability to run the computationally intensive automatic design process entirely within the swarm, freeing it from the constraint of off-line resources. Prof. Hauert says, 'This is the first step towards robot swarms that automatically discover suitable swarm strategies in the wild. The next step will be to get these robot swarms out of the lab and demonstrate our proposed approach in real-world applications.' Prof. Winfield says, 'In many modern AI systems, especially those that employ Deep Learning, it is almost impossible to understand why the system made a particular decision...An important advantage of the system described in this paper is that it is transparent: its decision making process is understandable by humans.' Read on...

Engineering.com: Robots Learn Swarm Behaviors, Aim to Escape the Lab
Author: NA


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 13 jan 2019

Team of researchers from University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (Prof. Timothy F. Scott, Prof. Mark A. Burns, Martin P. De Beer, Harry L. Van Der Laan, Megan A. Cole, Riley J. Whelan) have developed a new approach to 3D printing that lifts complex shapes from a vat of liquid at up to 100 times faster than conventional 3D printing processes. 3D printing could by highly beneficial for small manufacturing jobs without the need for a costly mold. But the usual 3D printing approach of building up plastic filaments layer by layer hasn't been usable in that aspect. Prof. Scott says, 'Using conventional approaches, that's not really attainable unless you have hundreds of machines.' The U. of Michigan innovative 3D printing method solidifies the liquid resin using two lights to control where the resin hardens - and where it stays fluid. This enables solidification of the resin in more sophisticated patterns. The process can make a 3D bas-relief in a single shot rather than in a series of 1D lines or 2D cross-sections. The printing demonstrations from this approach include a lattice, a toy boat and a block M. Prof. Burns says, 'It's one of the first true 3D printers ever made.' By creating a relatively large region where no solidification occurs, thicker resins - potentially with strengthening powder additives - can be used to produce more durable objects. The method also bests the structural integrity of filament 3D printing, as those objects have weak points at the interfaces between layers. Prof. Scott adds, 'You can get much tougher, much more wear-resistant materials.' The research paper, 'Rapid, continuous additive manufacturing by volumetric polymerization inhibition patterning', is to be published in Science Advances. Read on...

University of Michigan News: 3D printing 100 times faster with light
Authors: Timothy Scott, Mark Burns, Nicole Casal Moore, Kate McAlpine


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 21 oct 2018

According to the report by Prof. Anne Boddington (PVC of Research, Business & Innovation at Kingston School of Art, Kingston University, UK), 'Future of design education in India', India needs to produce 65000 designs annually to satisfy the capacity of indigenous creative industry. The current production is around 5000 per year. Prof. Boddington is working on the development of arts and design education in India and collaborating with Indian Institute of Art and Design (IIAD). She says, 'Design and Art as a field is emerging in India. There is not only a huge opportunity but also a sense of enthusiasm and can-do attitude in Indians for it. But to match-up to the emerging field, there is a need to train teachers first...A design teacher needs to make the student autonomous and increase their level of creativity and understanding.' She recommends that arts and design education should not be limited to creative fields, but should also become part of all fields of learning. She considers critical listening, research, and quality assessment are part of design and art curriculum. According to her, there is a great potential to create interdisciplinary programs where creative skills will be imparted as a part of foundation courses. Read on...

The Times of India: Why India needs new Art and Design curriculum
Author: Shyna Kalra


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 aug 2018

The possibility of eco-friendly biodegradable paper-based batteries is now made a reality by the scientists at Binghampton University (SUNY), Prof. Seokheun 'Sean' Choi from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and Prof. Omowunmi Sadik from the Chemistry Department. Their research titled 'Green Biobatteries: Hybrid Paper-Polymer Microbial Fuel Cells' was recently published in Advanced Sustainable Systems. Prof. Choi engineered the design of the paper-based battery, while Prof. Sadik was able to make the battery a self-sustaining biobattery. The biobattery uses a hybrid of paper and engineered polymers. The polymers - poly (amic) acid and poly (pyromellitic dianhydride-p-phenylenediamine) - were the key to giving the batteries biodegrading properties. Prof. Choi says, 'There's been a dramatic increase in electronic waste and this may be an excellent way to start reducing that. Our hybrid paper battery exhibited a much higher power-to-cost ratio than all previously reported paper-based microbial batteries. The polymer-paper structures are lightweight, low-cost and flexible. Power enhancement can be potentially achieved by simply folding or stacking the hybrid, flexible paper-polymer devices.' Read on...

BingU News: SCIENTISTS CREATE BIODEGRADABLE, PAPER-BASED BIOBATTERIES
Author: Rachael Flores


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 27 aug 2018

Apparel production is generally linked to environmental issues like water and air pollution, alongwith the land, water and pesticide use related to growing natural fibers. But now research points at the source of another problem created by apparels made wholly or partially from synthetic textiles. Microfibers, a type of microplastic, are shed during normal use and laundering, and remain in the environment similar to plastic packaging that coats so many of the world's beaches, and they bond to chemical pollutants in the environment, such as DDT and PCB. Moreover, the textiles from which they are shed are often treated with waterproofing agents, stain- or fire-resistant chemicals or synthetic dyes that could be harmful to organisms that ingest them. Also, microfibers are being consumed alongwith food and drink. Research review (Microplastics in air: Are we breathing it in? - Johnny Gasperi, Stephanie L. Wright, Rachid Dris, France Collard, Corinne Mandin, Mohamed Guerrouache, Valérie Langlois, Frank J.Kelly, Bruno Tassin) published last year shows that microfibers suspended in air are possibly settling in human lungs. Research led by Richard C. Thompson from the University of Plymouth (UK) in 2004 (Lost at Sea: Where Is All the Plastic? - Richard C. Thompson, Ylva Olsen, Richard P. Mitchell, Anthony Davis, Steven J. Rowland, Anthony W. G. John, Daniel McGonigle, Andrea E. Russell) documented and quantified the occurrence of microplastics in the marine environment. Research by Mark Anthony Browne, one of Prof. Thompson's graduate student, published in 2011 (Accumulation of Microplastic on Shorelines Woldwide: Sources and Sinks - Mark Anthony Browne, Phillip Crump, Stewart J. Niven, Emma Teuten, Andrew Tonkin, Tamara Galloway, Richard Thompson) found - (1) Samples taken near wastewater disposal sites had 250% more microplastic than those from reference sites and the types of microplastic fibers found in those samples were mainly polymers often used in synthetic apparel, suggesting the fibers were eluding filters in wastewater treatment plants and being released with treated effluent (which is released into rivers, lakes or ocean water). (2) A single polyester fleece jacket could shed as many as 1900 of these tiny fibers each time it was washed. Another 2016 study by researchers from UC Santa Barbara in US (Microfiber Masses Recovered from Conventional Machine Washing of New or Aged Garments - Niko L. Hartline, Nicholas J. Bruce, Stephanie N. Karba, Elizabeth O. Ruff, Shreya U. Sonar, Patricia A. Holden) has shown far higher numbers - 250000 fibers. Rosalia Project, a nonprofit focused on ocean protection, led a study of microfiber pollution across an entire watershed (from the mouth of Hudson River all the way to where the river meets the Atlantic in Manhattan). Rachael Z. Miller, group's director, was surprised to find that, outside of samples taken near treatment plants, there was no statistically significant difference in the concentration fibers from the alpine region to the agricultural center of New York state to the high population areas of Manhattan and New Jersey. This suggested to her that fibers might be entering surface waters from the air and from septic system drainfields in rural areas without municipal sewage systems. According to Textile World, demand for polyester has grown faster than demand for wool, cotton and other fibers for at least 20 years. And by 2030 synthetics are expected to account for 75% of global apparel fiber production, or 107 million tons. All textiles, including carpeting and upholstery, produce microfibers. So do commercial fishing nets. But due to the frequency with which apparel is laundered and the increasing quantities of clothing being purchased throughout the world (thanks at least in part to the so-called fast fashion trend), apparel is the microfiber source on which researchers and policy-makers are focusing attention. Krystle Moody, a textile industry consultant, says, 'Outdoor gear is heavily reliant on synthetic textiles due to their performance profile (moisture wicking) and durability.' Jeffrey Silberman, professor and chairperson of textile development and marketing with the Fashion Institute of Technology at the State University of New York, says, 'Price is the big driver behind the use of synthetics in textiles. A poly-cotton blend is generally far cheaper than a cotton one, but doesn’t look or feel appreciably different to most consumers. The motivation is to get natural-like fibers and still be able to get a price point that people are willing to pay.' Katy Stevens, sustainability project manager for the outdoor gear industry consortium European Outdoor Group (EOG), says, 'Initial research suggested that recycled polyester might shed more microfibers. Are we doing the right thing by using recycled polyester that might shed more? It has added a whole other big question mark.' Other studies have found microfibers in effluent from wastewater plants (Wastewater Treatment Works (WwTW) as a Source of Microplastics in the Aquatic Environment - Fionn Murphy, Ciaran Ewins, Frederic Carbonnier, Brian Quinn), in the digestive tracts of market fish (Ingested plastic transfers hazardous chemicals to fish and induces hepatic stress - Chelsea M. Rochman, Eunha Hoh, Tomofumi Kurobe, Swee J. Teh), throughout riversheds (Mountains to the sea: River study of plastic and non-plastic microfiber pollution in the northeast USA - Rachael Z. Miller, Andrew J. R. Watts, Brooke O. Winslow, Tamara S.Galloway, Abigail P. W. Barrows) and in air samples. Two separate studies released in March 2018 revealed that microfibers are found in bottled water sold all over the world. And a study published weeks later revealed that microplastic - chiefly microfibers - were present in 159 samples of tap water from around the word, a dozen brands of beer (made with Great Lakes water) as well as sea salt, also derived globally. Although most research has focused on synthetics textiles, but Abigail P. W. Barrows, an independent microplastics researcher who has conducted numerous studies on microfibers, says, 'Natural fibers such as cotton and wool, and semi-synthetics such as rayon should not be totally ignored. While they will degrade more quickly than, say, polyester, they may still be treated with chemicals of concern that can move up the food chain if the fibers are consumed before they degrade.' The study she led in 2018 (Marine environment microfiber contamination: Global patterns and the diversity of microparticle origins - Abigail P. W. Barrows, Sara E. Kathey, C. W. Petersen) found that in the surface water samples collected globally while 91% of the particles collected were microfibers, 12% of those were semi-synthetic and 31% were natural. Read on...

GreenBiz: Why are our clothes so bad for the environment?
Author: Mary Catherine O'Connor


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 30 jul 2018

Team of 25 researchers from 7 institutes in Europe, USA and China (Linköping University, Sweden: Shula Chen, Xiao-Ke Liu, Liangqi Ouyang, Yingzhi Jin, Galia Pozina, Irina A. Buyanova, Weimin M. Chen, Olle Inganäs, Fengling Zhang, Feng Gao; Georgia Institute of Technology, USA: Zilong Zheng, Veaceslav Coropceanu, Jean-Luc Brédas; Chinese Academy of Sciences, China: Deping Qian, Huifeng Yao, Sunsun Li, Bowei Gao, Jianhui Hou; École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland: Wolfgang Tress; Imperial College, UK: Thomas R. Hopper, Artem A. Bakulin; The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong: Jing Liu, Shangshang Chen, He Yan; University of Cambridge, UK: Jiangbin Zhang) have come together to develop rules for designing high-efficiency organic solar cells. Their research, 'Design rules for minimizing voltage losses in high-efficiency organic solar cells', was published in Nature Materials. Lead researcher, Prof. Feng Gao of Linköping University, says, 'We have formulated some rational design rules to minimize energy losses in organic solar cells. Following these rules, we present a range of examples with low energy losses and high power conversion efficiencies.' The research provides two fundamental rules to minimize energy losses in organic solar cells - (1) Minimize the energy offset between donor and acceptor components. (2) Make sure that the low-gap component in the blend has a high photoluminescence yield. According to researchers, theoretically the limit for the fraction of the sun's energy that can be obtained in solar cells is around 33%, but laboratory experiments with silicon-based solar cells have achieved 25% at best. Prof. Olle Inganäs of Linköping University, 'But we now know that there is no difference - the theoretical limit is the same for solar cells manufactured from silicon, perovskites, or polymers.' Read on...

Photonics Media: Design Rules for Building Efficient Organic Solar Cells
Author: NA


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 28 jul 2018

Collaborative partnerships between local government, community, nonprofit organizations, academia and businesses can do wonders to enhance the various aspects of localities, cities and regions. An old factory site being rehabilitated as a business park in Lackawanna (New York, USA) is an example of sustainable redevelopment and the impact a local government can have on climate change. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Deputy Executive Maria Whyte and others officials visited Conrnell Universuty campus and discussed the redevelopment project with faculty and shared county initiatives focused on sustainability and economic growth, quality of life and building strong communities. Mr. Poloncarz says, 'Strong partnerships and sustainable practices are essential to progress, giving more people a say in their community and making responsible use of our resources to effect change that benefits generations yet to come.' Basil Safi, Executive Director of the Office of Engagement Initiatives at Cornell, says, 'The event was organized as a launching point to further community-engaged research and learning collaborations with Erie County', seeding ideas for potential projects involving Cornell students and faculty.' Initiatives for a Smart Economy (I4SE) is an economic development strategy Erie County enacted in 2013 and updated last year as I4SE 2.0. It contains 71 initiatives and is focused on inclusion and creating shared opportunities for all residents, to address persistent poverty and underemployment. Max Zhang, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell, says, 'I can envision that students team up with community partners to address specific challenges they are facing.' Rebecca Brenner, a lecturer at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, began a project in spring 2017 in Buffalo (NY) on improving communications during an emergency for that city's diverse, multilingual refugee population, and creating an emergency notification plan with nonprofit resettlement agencies as community partners. Erie County has about 300 current strategic initiatives led by county departments with community partners. They include fostering hiring of disadvantaged residents in high-poverty areas for construction jobs amid Buffalo's building boom; exploring the feasibility of a new convention center to spur tourism; creating an agribusiness park in rural southern Erie County; supporting health and human services agencies and energy programs targeting low-income households; and infrastructure and environmental remediation in county parks. Shorna Allred, associate professor of natural resources at Cornell, says, 'I was quite impressed and intrigued by what they are doing in Buffalo...We are similarly trying to bring together a partnership of people to work on sustainability issues across the city...' Read on...

Cornell Chronicle: Sustainable economic strategies spur engaged research interest
Author: Daniel Aloi


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 may 2018

Researchers at The University of British Columbia (Okanagan, Canada), Prof. Abbas Milani and graduate student Armin Rashidi, are working to solve the issue of wrinkling when it comes to making textile composites. Their research, 'A multi-step biaxial bias extension test for wrinkling/de-wrinkling characterization of woven fabrics: Towards optimum forming design guidelines', was recently published in Materials & Design Journal. According to Prof. Milani, wrinkling is one of the most common flaws in textile composites, which are widely used for prototypes, as well as mass production within prominent aerospace, energy, automotive and marine applications. Researchers have investigated several de-wrinkling methods and have discovered that they can improve their effectiveness by pulling the materials in two directions simultaneously during the manufacturing process. Mr. Rashidi says, 'The challenge was to avoid unwanted fibre misalignment or fibre rupture while capturing the out-of-plane wrinkles. Manufacturers who use these types of composites are looking for more information about their mechanical behaviour, especially under combined loading scenarios.' Prof. Milani, who is director of Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute at UBC Okanagan, says, 'Composite textiles are changing the way products are designed and built in advanced manufacturing sectors. As we continue to innovate in the area of composite textiles to include more polymer resin and fibre reinforcement options, this research will need to continue in order to provide the most up-to-date analysis for manufacturers in different application areas.' Read on...

UBC Okanagan News: Researchers improve textile composite manufacturing
Author: Nathan Skolski


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 24 may 2018

Design as a separate field is getting more recognition in India. Policy initiatives like 'Design in India' and 'Make in India' will give design further impetus and assist in creating a thriving design ecosystem. India now have 30 to 35 design schools, most of them came up in the last few years. Prof. Anirudha Joshi of Industrial Design Centre at IIT-Bombay explores the condition of design education in India and suggests ways to make it better and more in tune with industry. He lists prevalent gaps between academia and industry - what is taught in design schools and what a professional designer need to do - (1) Uninentional gaps: Things that left out in design curriculums. Course duration is shorter than what is needed to become a good designer. (2) Lack of industry/hands-on environment: Certain things are best taught in industry setup and academic setup doesn't suit them. (3) Intentional gaps: Design school is not supposed to prepare students only for industry. Focus is on developing thought leaders having theoretical concepts and not just skills and training. (4) Limited availability of design teachers. (5) Lack of strong tradition in design research. (6) Lack of design education infrastructure. There is demand/supply gap in terms of skilled human resources. As the industry is growing, at least five million designers are required as compared to the current approximately 20000 designers. Many sectors like manufacturing, small scale industries, small printing and publishing houses etc, although have need for designers but can't afford one in the present scenario. Moreover, the focus of current designs is more global and there are few instances of designs that are specific to the Indian market. More emphasis should be given to designers that specifically focus on India. Read on...

PrintWeek: Design education in India
Author: Anirudha Joshi


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 27 dec 2017

According to the website tate.org.uk, 'Emotional architecture is a style of modernist architecture conceived in the 1950s that embraced space, colour and light, creating buildings that encouraged meditation and reflection. It was conceived by the Mexican architect Luis Barragán and the sculptor and painter Mathias Goéritz who were frustrated by the cold functionalism of modernism. In 1954 Barragán and Goéritz published 'The Emotional Architecture Manifesto' in which they argued that architecture needs to be spiritually uplifting.' Emotional architecture emphasises and respects human wants and needs. Researchers Ann Sussman (architect), Janice M. Ward (designer) and Justin B. Hollander (academic at Tufts University), are developing a scientific approach to this strategy, gleaning useful insights on how people look at structures and spaces. According to them the best way to understand what factors catch the eye is to literally study its movements through biometrics. Researchers used the same eye-tracking and facial-expression analysis software used by advertisers, software developers, and automotive designers to study our near-subconscious reactions to what we see. Ms. Sussman says, 'At the moment, biometrics are predominantly used to get people to purchase things. We'd like to use them to improve public welfare, health, and well-being. We want to promote better place-making in the world and ease of walkability.' Read on...

Architectural Digest: Is Biometric Scanning the Future of Architecture Planning?
Author: Tim Nelson


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 26 jul 2017

Richard J. Weller, professor of landscape architecture at University of Pennsylvania, and team of academics have created an online project called 'Atlas for the End of the World', a collection of maps and graphics to help viewers see where and how urbanization is in conflict with biodiversity. According to Prof. Weller, 'We mapped that interface between urban growth and the world's most valuable diversity...That conflict is bloody, it's disastrous, it's happening all over the world.' The project is an answer to Ortelius's 'Theatrum Orbis Terrarum' (Theatre of the World), printed in 1570 and thought to be the first modern atlas. Prof. Weller hopes that by 'mapping the intricacies of ecological conflict...architects, designers, and others can help create more ecologically sustainable relations between people and the planet.' Read on...

Nonprofit Quarterly: Data Activists Map the World's Ecological Conflict
Author: Cyndi Suarez


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 23 mar 2017

Norimasa Nishiyama of German Electron Synchrotron DESY, and international team of researchers from Germany and Japan (Ryo Ishikawa, Hiroaki Ohfuji, Hauke Marquardt, Alexander Kurnosov, Takashi Taniguchi, Byung-Nam Kim, Hidehiro Yoshida, Atsunobu Masuno, Jozef Bednarcik, Eleonora Kulik, Yuichi Ikuhara, Fumihiro Wakai, Tetsuo Irifune), have created a 2mm diameter disc of transparent silicon nitride, one of the hardest material known. The scientific report titled, 'Transparent Polycrystalline Cubic Silicon Nitride', was recently published in Nature. The transparent ceramic could be used for ultra-tough windows able to withstand extreme conditions. Windows that let users peer into engines and industrial reactors, or protect optical sensors from high pressures or heat are usually made of diamond, an expensive material that becomes unstable at 750°C. On the other hand, transparent silicon nitride ceramic can withstand temperatures upto 1400°C and is much cheaper. Read on...

Chemistry World: Super-hard transparent ceramic looks good
Author: Katrina Krämer


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 20 mar 2017

Team of researchers from IIT-Kharagpur, Prof. Sudip Misra, Prof. N. S. Raghuwanshi, Anandarup Mukherjee and Arijit Roy, has designed India's first indgenous drone, BHIM, that can create a Wi-Fi zone within a nearly 1 km radius when it flies overhead. It is specifically designed for emergency and conflict situations. It has a battery backup of 7 hours, can fly into a disaster zone and create a seamless communication network for those involved in the operation. The automated drone has an actual vision-based guidance with built-in intelligence that helps it identify if an area is crowded or not. It will then fly away and land in a safer place. According to Prof. Sudip Mishra, 'Such advanced built-in intelligence is not available in drones now. The design is completely in-house. The controlling and guiding algorithms of the drone have been developed in our lab.' Internet of Things (IoT) is an important component of the drone. Read on...

The Times of India: IIT-Kharagpur develops superpower drone BHIM
Author: Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 12 mar 2017

Researchers from Hokkaido University (Japan) have created 'fiber-reinforced soft composites' or tough hydrogels combined with woven fiber fabric. The study, 'Energy-Dissipative Matrices Enable Synergistic Toughening in Fabric Reinforced Soft Composites' (Authors - Yiwan Huang, Daniel R. King, Taolin Sun, Takayuki Nonoyama, Takayuki Kurokawa, Tasuku Nakajima, Jian Ping Gong), was recently published in Advanced Functional Materials. Researchers combined hydrogels containing high levels of water with glass fiber fabric to create bendable, yet tough materials, employing the same method used to produce reinforced plastics. They found that a combination of polyampholyte (PA) gels, a type of hydrogel they developed earlier, and glass fiber fabric with a single fiber measuring around 10µm in diameter produced a strong, tensile material. The procedure to make the material is simply to immerse the fabric in PA precursor solutions for polymerization. The developed fiber-reinforced hydrogels are 25 times tougher than glass fiber fabric, and 100 times tougher than hydrogels. Moreover, the newly developed hydrogels are 5 times tougher compared to carbon steel. According to lead researcher, Prof. Jian Ping Gong, 'The fiber-reinforced hydrogels, with a 40 percent water level, are environmentally friendly. The material has multiple potential applications because of its reliability, durability and flexibility. For example, in addition to fashion and manufacturing uses, it could be used as artificial ligaments and tendons, which are subject to strong load-bearing tensions.' Read on...

Hokkaido University News: New "tougher-than-metal" fiber-reinforced hydrogels
Authors: Jian Ping Gong, Naoki Namba


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 23 feb 2017

Society continues to face challenges to construct affordable, high-quality, innovative and future-focused built environments. Many building processes are sub-standard and obsolete, with sustainability concerns. Current research on integration of digital technologies within architectural and construction processes promises substantial contributions to sustainability and productivity. Research connections between diverse fields like architecture, structural design, computer science, materials science, control systems engineering, and robotics are required. Researchers during the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2017 reveal latest developments in digital fabrication in architecture at 1:1 building scale. They explain successful integration of digital technologies in design, planning, and building processes to transform the building industry. (1) On Site Digital Fabrication for Architecture: Prof. Jonas Buchli, Agile and Dexterous Robotics at ETH Zurich (Switzerland), proposes a radical focus on domain specific robotic technology enabling the use of digital fabrication directly on construction sites and in large scale prefabrication. (2) The New Mathematics of Making: Prof. Jane Burry, Director of the Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory at RMIT University in Melbourne (Australia), explores how these opportunities (Digital computation; Linking of design attributes to extraneous factors; Mathematical design models etc) for automation, optimization, variation, mass-customisation, and quality control can be fully realised in the built environment within full scale construction. (3) Building Materials for 3D Printing: Prof. Ronald Rael, Architecture at University of California at Berkeley (USA), reveals the development of new materials that can overcome the challenges of scale and costs of 3D printing on 1:1 construction scale. He demonstrates that viable solutions for 3D printing in architecture involve a material supply from sustainable resources, culled from waste streams or consideration of the efficiency of a building product's digital materiality. Read on...

ETH Zurich Global News: Digital Fabrication in Architecture - The Challenge to Transform the Building Industry
Author: Rahel Byland Skvarc


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 25 jan 2017

Team of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA) (Markus Buehler, Zhao Qin, Gang Seob Jung, Min Jeong Kang), has designed one of the strongest lightweight materials known, by compressing and fusing flakes of graphene, a 2-dimensional form of carbon. The new material, a sponge-like configuration with just 5% the density of steel, can have a strength 10 times more. The findings, published in the journal 'Science Advances', show that critical factor of 3-D form is their unusual geometrical figure, suggesting that similar strong, lightweight materials can be made from other materials by creating similar geometric figures. 2-D materials have exceptional strength alongwith unique electrical proberties. But they are extraordinarily thin. Prof. Buehler says, 'They are not very useful for making 3-D materials that could be used in vehicles, buildings, or devices. What we've done is to realize the wish of translating these 2-D materials into 3-D structures.' Prof. Qin adds, 'Once we created these 3-D structures, we wanted to see what's the limit - what's the strongest possible material we can produce.' According to Prof. Buehler, 'You can replace the material itself with anything. The geometry is the dominant factor. It's something that has the potential to transfer to many things.' Prof. Huajian Gao of Brown University comments, 'This is an inspiring study on the mechanics of 3-D graphene assembly. The combination of computational modeling with 3-D-printing-based experiments used in this paper is a powerful new approach in engineering research. It is impressive to see the scaling laws initially derived from nanoscale simulations resurface in macroscale experiments under the help of 3-D printing. This study shows a promising direction of bringing the strength of 2-D materials and the power of material architecture design together.' Read on...

MIT News: Researchers design one of the strongest, lightest materials known
Author: David L. Chandler


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 17 sep 2016

Researchers from Stanford University [Po-Chun Hsu, Alex Y. Song, Peter B. Catrysse, Chong Liu, Yucan Peng, Jin Xie, Shanhui Fan, Yi Cui] have developed a low-cost, plastic-based textile that, when woven into clothing, has the ability to keep the body cool more efficiently as compared to the natural or synthetic fabrics that are used today. The research was published in journal 'Science' titled, 'Radiative human body cooling by nanoporous polyethylene textile'. According to Prof. Yi Cui of Materials Science and Engineering, 'If you can cool the person rather than the building where they work or live, that will save energy.' The new material cools by letting perspiration evaporate through it, as fabrics normally do. But the other most innovative characteristic of the material's cooling mechanism is that it allows heat that the body emits as infrared radiation to pass through the plastic textile. Prof. Shanhui Fan of Electrical Engineering says, '40-60% of our body heat is dissipated as infrared radiation when we are sitting in an office. But until now there has been little or no research on designing the thermal radiation characteristics of textiles.' Researchers engineered the cooling material by blending nanotechnology photonics and chemistry to give polyethylene, the material used as kitchen wrap, a number of characteristics desirable in clothing material. It allows thermal radiation, air and water vapor to pass right through, and it is opaque to visible light. Prof. Cui says, 'If you want to make a textile, you have to be able to make huge volumes inexpensively.' According to Prof. Fan, 'This research opens up new avenues of inquiry to cool or heat things, passively, without the use of outside energy, by tuning materials to dissipate or trap infrared radiation.' Read on...

Stanford News: Stanford engineers develop a plastic clothing material that cools the skin
Author: Tom Abate


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 03 sep 2016

Multidisciplinary team of researchers lead by Prof. Amin Salehi-Khojin from University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have engineered a process through a solar cell to mimic plants' ability to convert carbon dioxide into fuel, a way to decrease the amounts of harmful gas in the atmosphere and produce clean energy. According to Prof. Salehi-Khojin, 'The artificial leaf essentially recycles carbon dioxide. And it's powered entirely by the sun, mimicking the real photosynthesis process. Real leaves use the energy from the sun and convert carbon dioxide to sugar. In the artificial leaf that we built, we use the sun and we convert CO2 to (synthetic gas), which can be converted to any hydrocarbon, like gasoline.' Describing the process Prof. Salehi-Khojin said, 'The energy of the sun rearranges the chemical bonds of the carbon dioxide. So the sun's energy is being stored in the form of chemical bonds, which can be burned as fuel...Scientists around the world have been studying carbon reduction, as this type of reaction is called, for years.' Prof. Nathan Lewis of California Institute of Technology, who has been studying solar fuels and artificial photosynthesis for more than 40 years, says, 'UIC's development is only a small piece of an eventual solar fuel product that can be widely implemented. There's a lot of steps that need to occur to envision how these things would translate into a commercializable system, but it's a step for building a piece of a full system that may be useful.' Prof. Michael R. Wasielewski of Northwestern University comments, 'UIC's development could push renewable energy technology forward.' The research, 'Nanostructured transition metal dichalcogenide electrocatalysts for CO2 reduction in ionic liquid', was recently published in journal 'Science'. UIC News Center website (news.uic.edu) provides the following information about co-authors and collaborators of this research - Amin Salehi-Khojin, Mohammad Asadi, Kibum Kim, Aditya Venkata Addepalli, Pedram Abbasi, Poya Yasaei, Amirhossein Behranginia, Bijandra Kumar and Jeremiah Abiade of UIC's Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, who performed the electrochemical experiments and prepared the catalyst; Robert F. Klie and Patrick Phillips of UIC's Physics Department, who performed electron microscopy and spectroscopy experiments; Larry A. Curtiss, Cong Liu and Peter Zapol of Argonne National Laboratory, who did Density Functional Theory calculations; Richard Haasch of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who did ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy; José M. Cerrato of the University of New Mexico, who did elemental analysis. Read on...

Chicago Tribune: UIC researchers develop artificial leaf that turns CO2 into fuel
Author: Ally Marotti


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 12 aug 2016

Team of multidisciplinary researchers from Case Western Reserve University (USA) [Victoria Webster; Roger Quinn; Hillel Chiel; Ozan Akkus; Umut Gurkan; Emma L. Hawley; Jill M. Patel; Katherine J. Chapin], have created a 'biohybrid' robot by combining sea slug materials with 3D printed parts, that can crawl like sea turtle. Scientists suggest that in future, swarms of biohybrid robots could be released for such tasks as locating the source of a toxic leak in a pond that would send animals fleeing. They could also be used to search the ocean floor for a black box flight data recorder, a potentially long process that may leave current robots stilled with dead batteries. According to Ms. Webster, PhD student and lead researcher, 'We're building a living machine - a biohybrid robot that's not completely organic - yet. For the searching tasks, we want the robots to be compliant, to interact with the environment. One of the problems with traditional robotics, especially on the small scale, is that actuators - the units that provide movement - tend to be rigid.' Researchers also explain that if completely organic robots prove workable a swarm released at sea or in a pond or a remote piece of land, won't be much of a worry if they can't be recovered. They're likely to be inexpensive and won't pollute the location with metals and battery chemicals but be eaten or degrade into compost. Read on...

think - CWRU Blog: Researchers build a crawling robot from sea slug parts and a 3-D printed body
Author: Kevin Mayhood


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 30 may 2016

As the need for intensive and intermediate care increases, the hospitals must have spaces that can fulfil the requirement. The multi-organizational collaborative EVICURES project at Seinäjoki Central Hospital in Finland was undertaken to develop a new design model for future intensive and intermediate care needs. The result of research conducted by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland on evidence-based design (EBD) and user orientation were applied to design work. Currently, there are no ICUs with single patient rooms in Finland. According to Kari Saarinen, Project Manager of the EVICURES project and Chief Physician at ICU of Hospital District of South Ostrobothnia, 'The international trend is that the need for intermediate care in particular is increasing. More and more demanding methods are being used for treating patients, and the share of elderly patients is increasing.' Regarding the project, he adds, 'The operations will be more cost-efficient and of higher quality, when the equipment and nursing staff are concentrated into one place. We also expect the solution to have remarkable effects on patient healing.' The hospital staff, management, patients and their families, the hospital district, and other cooperation partners participated in the design work. Tiina Yli-Karhu, Design Coordinator at Hospital District of South Ostrobothnia, says, 'A user-oriented approach was an essential foundation for the whole project. This way we can all together make the major change about to happen easier, when the nursing staff is moving from facilities for multiple patients to working alone in single rooms.' Using the Human Thermal Model tool, VTT performed questionnaire studies and measurements to evaluate the individual thermal sensation and comfort of both the staff and patients, that were utilized in HVAC design. Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences used CAD methods to model a virtual space in accordance with the architectural drawing, which VTT utilised for improving user-friendliness. From this 3D model, VTT developed a Unity3D game for computer and tablet, allowing the staff to move around in the ICU facilities virtually and to experience realistic interactive care situations in the new working area in advance. Finland's first single-patient intensive and intermediate care and cardiac unit designed in accordance with this model will become operational in 2018. Read on...

VTT Research News: A new treatment room design model for future hospitals
Author: Nykänen Esa


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 may 2016

A number of studies have strengthened the common belief that being around trees and close to nature improves one's mental and physical well-being. Research by Prof. Bin Jiang of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (now at University of Hong Kong) and his team, further emboldens the belief regarding the soothing aspects of green environment on stress levels and blood pressure. The study was undertaken to determine the dose-response curve between tree cover density and stress recovery. It included 158 volunteers in mildly stressful situations. The experiment utilized virtual reality headset to view 360-degree videos of an urban space with varying amounts of tree canopy visible. Results obtained from the tests showed a positive linear association between the density of trees and the self reported recovery from stress. Prof. Jiang comments, 'These finding suggest that viewing a tree canopy in communities can aid stress recovery and that every tree matters.' Researchers found that regardless of age, gender, and baseline stress levels the greater the exposure to trees, the less stress the subject felt. Read on...

Total Landscape Care: University study - Stress falls as exposure to trees increases
Author: Jill Odom


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 11 may 2016

Online education is continuously evolving and over the years have gone through many iterations. In recent years, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have been trying to change and tranform online education with active involvement of traditional education providers and their expanded reach to global learners. Although, inspite of their popularity with millions of users, providers are still struggling for success as the learner drop-out rates are high. Instructional designers, faculty members and education providers are experimenting with improvements in learning design environments to provide better value to learners. Prof. Curt Bonk of Indiana University is the author of the book, 'The World is Open', and conducts research in the field of self-directed open learning environments and online motivation. According to him, 'The MOOC is just one idea of many that are causing us to reflect on changes in higher education today. There are a lot of derivatives of MOOCs, and there will continue to be more. Community-building, sharing and peer support are three key aspects of success in building new types of course experiences.' In a video chat hosted by consultant and futurist Bryan Alexander, Prof. Bonk shares his own online learning experiences, his research and explores trends in the design of open courses. He says that in future, the majority of learning is going to be informal and self-directed. But government is still emphasizing on traditional education and less attention is paid to adult learning and informal learning. To better design learning environments it is important to understand self-directed learners and their experiences. According to him, 'Professional development could be what changes the discussion around open education and MOOCs. This could be for doctors, dentists, lawyers and physical therapists. They could take modules in the summer at their own leisure as part of a cohort that does community-building. That is the game changer.' He emphasises on a feedback process, collaborative approach, continous design improvements and redesign, if the need be, for better online course development. Commenting on faculty and their use of technology, he says, 'Instead of focusing on the technologies themselves, focus on what the faculty members want to do to foster feedback, goal setting, relevance or autonomy.' On using videos in learning, he says, 'We are moving from an age of Wikipedia to Videopedia.' Read on...

Campus Technology: The Keys to Designing Successful Open Course Experiences
Author: David Raths


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 22 apr 2016

To build human-like machines that can demonstrate ingenuity and creativity, the race is on to develop next generation of advanced AI (Artifical Intelligence). AI is already tackling complex tasks like stock market predictions, research synthesis etc, and 'smart manufacturing' is becoming a reality where deep learning is paired with new robotics and digital manufacturing tools. Prof. Hod Lipson, director of Creative Machines Lab at Columbia University, has embarked upon exploring a higher level of AI and develop biology-inspired machines that can evolve, self-model, and self-reflect - where machines will generate new ideas, and then build them. To build self-aware robots is the ultimate goal. Prof. Lipson explains, 'Biology-inspired engineering is about learning from nature, and then using it to try to solve the hardest problems. It happens at all scales. It's not just copying nature at the surface level. It could be copying the learning at a deeper level, such as learning how nature uses materials or learning about the adaptation processes that evolution uses...We are looking at what I think is the ultimate challenge in artificial intelligence and robotics-creating machines that are creative; machines that can invent new things; machines that can come up with new ideas and then make those very things. Creativity is one of these last frontiers of AI. People still think that humans are superior to machines in their ability to create things, and we are looking at that challenge.' He is working on a new AI termed as 'divergent AI', that is exploratory and involves creating many new ideas from original idea, and is different from 'convergent AI' that involves taking data and distilling it into a decision. ON SELF-AWARENESS IN AI: He says, 'Creativity is a big challenge, but even greater than that is self-awareness. For a long time, in robotics and AI, we sometimes called it the "C" word-consciousness.' ON AI IN MANUFACTURING: He comments, 'When it comes to manufacturing, there are two angles. One is the simple automation, where we're seeing robots that can work side-by-side with humans...The other side of manufacturing, which is disrupted by AI, is the side of design. Manufacturing and design always go hand-in-hand...When AI creeps into the design world through these new types of creative AI, you suddenly expand what you can manufacture because the AI on the design side can take advantage of your manufacturing tools in new ways.' ON TWO COMPETING SCHOOLS OF THOUGHTS IN AI: He explains, 'There's the school of thought that is top-down, logic, programming, and search approach, and then there is the machine learning approach. The machine learning approach says, "Forget about programming robots, forget about programming AI, you just make it learn, and it will figure out everything on its own from data"...I think the machine learning approach has played out perfectly, and we're just at the beginning. It's going to accelerate.' Read on...

Singularity Hub: The Last Frontiers of AI - Can Scientists Design Creativity and Self-Awareness?
Author: Alison E. Berman


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 05 mar 2016

According to American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) survey of 803 US-based landscape architects, people are overwhelmingly concerned with water conservation. Some of the highlights of the survey include the following top 5 trends - (1) 88% reported that clients seemed most interested in rainwater or graywater harvesting elements. (2) Native plants. (3) Native or adaptive drought tolerant plants. (4) Low-maintenance landscapes. (5) Permeable landscapes. Nancy Somerville, CEO of ASLA, says, 'It does reflect a much greater awareness from the population as a whole, about critical issues like water conservation and energy efficiency, as well as water efficiency, and stormwater issues.' James Brown, Governor of California, considering the expected 5th consecutive year of drought, in addition to other measures also ordered that 50-million square feet of state-owned lawns be replaced with drought tolerant landscaping. According to Prof. Mitchell Pavao-Zuckerman, Department of Environmental Science and Technology at the University of Maryland, 'People are starting to think about how their house and property fits into the broader urban landscape context, and how they might contribute to more sustainable built environments than we've had in the past.' The survey also observed that the creative shift towards water conservation is already visible. Lush, maximalist gardens and fountains, are being replaced by cool, sculptured minimalism. Prof. Pavao-Zuckerman adds, 'There are non-profits springing up devoted to teaching homeowners how to install water-saving elements themselves.' Read on...

WIRED: Saving Water Is So Hot Right Now in Landscape Design
Author: Margaret Rhodes


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 feb 2016

According to World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution has become the world's biggest environmental risk, linked to over 7 million deaths a year. A global team of scientists (Farid Touati, Claudio Legena, Alessio Galli, Damiano Crescini, Paolo Crescini, Adel Ben Mnaouer) from Canadian University Dubai, Qatar University, and the University of Brescia (Italy), have developed a technology, known as SENNO (Sensor Node), that enables high-efficiency air quality monitoring, to help promote a cleaner environment and reduce the health risks associated with poor atmospheric quality. The technology promises to make air quality monitoring cost-effective. The research paper, 'Environmentally Powered Multiparametric Wireless Sensor Node for Air Quality Diagnostic', was published in Sensors and Materials journal. Prof. Adel Ben Mnaouer of Canadian University Dubai (CUD), says, 'Sensor networks dedicated to atmospheric monitoring can provide an early warning of environmental hazards. However, remote systems need robust and reliable sensor nodes, which require high levels of power efficiency for autonomous, continuous and long-term use...Our technology harvests environmental energy...it optimises energy use by the sensory equipment, so as to function only for the time needed to achieve the operations of sensor warm-up, sampling, data processing and wireless data transmission, thereby creating an air quality monitoring system that measures pollutants in a sustainable and efficient way.' Read on...

The Gulf Today: Dubai professor develops innovation to combat increasing air pollution
Author: NA

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