Big, Bad Explosives Detected by Tiny Nanosensor
From a bulletproof car to an aerial sports drone to an electric Harley to an aerodynamic World Cup ball, this week, it's all about the action. Above: Bruise Pants were designed by students at London's Imperial College and The Royal College of Art, who were inspired by British paralympian skier Talan Skeels-Piggins, who said he does not often know when he is hurt. The pants contain pressure-sensitive plastic film loaded with colored dye that rises to the surface upon a sharp impact. The size and darkness of the color provides an indication of how badly the area might be injured.
The Shield DR3 doesn't just have a bulletproof shell and windows, but everything about this car is built to withstand gunfire and even IEDs. For example, the "cockpit" is made from carbon-fiber composite, Kevlar and a ballistic gel that work together to withstand a rocket hit. Chimney-like channels divert the energy from a bomb. And it has a second drivetrain that deploys if the primary one becomes disabled. Where is James Bond when you need a driver?
With its new Free-Form Display, Sharp is showing that computer screens don't have to be rectangular. The electronics company has found an alternative way of organizing the circuits on liquid crystal displays. Any shape could be possible, including oval, round, squiggly. Sharp says it plans to commercialize irregularly shaped displays in 2017.
Chan Yeop Jeong
No soap is required for this laundry. With the Pecera Robot Fish Washing Machine, tiny robotic fish nibble and suck away the dirt from clothing without damaging the fabric. The concept was developed by Korean designer Chan Yeop Jeong for the2014 Electrolux Design Competition
Go-Pro cameras are nice and all, but what if you want an aerial view of yourself in action? Get the AirDog. The tiny quadcopter drone pairs with a wrist-worn device to follow you around. A GoPro camera is attached to the drone with a gimball mount that rotates smoothly 360 degrees. A smartphone app lets you adjust a variety of settings, including altitude and camera tilt.
This week, American motorcycle company Harley-Davidson introduced its first electric motorcycle, the LiveWire. Powered by a lithium-ion battery, the LiveWire generates 75 horsepower and can go from zero to 60 m.p.h. in four seconds, topping out at a speed of 90 m.p.h.
NASA's Ames Research Center
This year's World Cup ball, the Adidas Brazuca, was tested at NASA Ames' Fluid Mechanics Laboratory to ensure the ball was supremely aerodynamic. Here, smoke and lasers are used to reveal the airflow pattern, which indicated the Brazuca would offer a more predictable flight path than the 2010 Jabulani, which knuckled at 50 miles per hour.
David Ryder/Getty Images
This week, Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos presented the company's first smartphone, the Fire Phone.
Get your sniff on with the odorific Ophone, which lets a person transmit a scent across the Internet. In fact, the first-ever transatlantic "scent message" was transmitted this week between New York City and Paris by the oPhone's inventors, David Edwards Rachel Field.
Markus Pillhofer/Coop Himmelb(l)au
Because the CHBL Jammer Coat is woven through with “metallized fabrics,” it behaves like a Faraday Cage and block all radio waves, Wi-Fi and cellular transmissions. It was developed by Austrian design firm Coop Himmelb(l)au and comes with many built-in pockets for multiple handheld devices.
A new electronic chip with microscopic chemical sensors can detect explosives in the air at concentrations as low as a few molecules per 1,000 trillion, say its Israeli developers.
The nanodevice can identify several different types of explosives in real time, even at a distance of several meters from the source, they write in the journal Nature Communications. The gadget, still in the prototype phase, is small enough to be portable yet so sensitive it can pick out explosives traces that would otherwise be masked by stronger chemicals.
"Different explosives species display a distinctive pattern of interaction with the nanosensing array, thus allowing for a simple and straightforward identification of the molecule under test," writes Professor Fernando Patolsky and colleagues from Tel Aviv University and nanotechnology company Tracense.
Existing detection methods often require bulky equipment and tedious sample preparation by a trained operator, say the study's authors. They can detect few explosive types and only at higher concentrations.
Nanomaterials, on the other hand, "offer the ability of incorporating multiple sensors capable of detecting numerous chemical threats simultaneously on a single miniature array platform."
The team built a prototype chip using clusters of nano-sized transistors that are extremely sensitive to chemicals -- causing changes in their electrical conductance upon surface contact.
The researchers tested the device's reaction to explosives like TNT, RCX and HMX used in commercial blasting and military applications, as well as peroxide-based ones like TATP and HMTD which are commonly used to build homemade bombs but are hard to detect with existing methods.
Some tests were done under "highly contaminated" conditions, like heavy cigarette smoke, to demonstrate the chip's accuracy. TATP particles could be detected five meters from the source, said the team, and TNT four meters. Only five seconds of air sample collection was required through a paper filter.
"These promising results demonstrate the potential capability of our sensing platform for the remote detection of explosive species," they write.
"The development of novel approaches for the sensitive and rapid detection of these hazardous molecules is of great importance in the field of homeland security."