Washington, Aug 4 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Scientists in the United States developed a kind of remotely-controlled soft robots that can move to a targeted position and be reconfigured into new shapes, revealing potential applications in biotechnology and aerospace.
The study published on Friday in the journal Science Advances described the soft robots made of a polymer embedded with magnetic iron microparticles, and controlled by light and magnetic fields.
"We can get it to hold a given shape; we can then return the robot to its original shape or further modify its movement; and we can do this repeatedly," said the paper's corresponding author Joe Tracy, professor of materials science and engineering at North Carolina State University.
The researchers used light from a light-emitting diode (LED) to heat up the material that is relatively stiff under normal conditions, and the polymer became pliable. Then, they demonstrated that the robot's shape can be remotely controlled by applying a magnetic field.
After the robot took a desired shape, the researchers removed the LED light, and then the robot resumed the original stiffness, locking the shape in place.
In an experimental test, the researchers used the soft robot as a "grabber" for lifting and transporting objects. Also, it can be folded into "flowers" with petals that bend in different directions.
In addition, the researchers developed a computational model to fine-tune the robot's shape, polymer thickness, and the size and direction of the required magnetic field, which helps make a prototype design to accomplish a specific task.
Now, they are working to engineer polymers that respond at different temperatures in order to meet the needs of specific applications.
Beijing, July 29 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Chinese scientists have developed a new method to control the population of mosquitoes, the Science and Technology Daily reported Monday.
Scientists from the Sun Yat-Sen University have conducted a four-year field test in controlling the population of the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), one of the world's most invasive mosquito species that carries dengue, the Zika virus and many other devastating diseases.
Through microinjection and radiation, scientists sterilized male mosquitoes and released them into the environment to mate with wild female mosquitoes, resulting in no offspring and a declining population over time. They also exposed male mosquitoes to a strain of Wolbachia bacteria, which rendered the females sterile.
With this method, the mosquito population has been almost eliminated in the field test, with the annual number of wild mosquito species decreasing by about 83 to 94 percent. No mosquitoes were detected for up to six weeks.
The research was published in the journal Nature.
This successful field trial demonstrated that the technique could be used to establish a protected area free of mosquito-borne disease and mosquito harassment, the report cited Xi Zhiyong, the leading researcher as saying.
Los Angeles,Jul 26 (AP/UNB) — Photos transmitted from The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 spacecraft orbiting Earth confirm that it successfully deployed its solar sail.
The spacecraft was launched from Florida last month and images from this week's deployment sequence were downlinked from the orbiter by flight controllers at California Polytechnic State University , San Luis Obispo.
One image shows a large part of the sail with much of Mexico and its Baja California peninsula on the Earth below.
The sail is formed by four triangular sheets of extremely thin, reflective Mylar that form a square about the size of a boxing ring.
The project is an experiment to see if the momentum of photons hitting the sail will accelerate the craft sufficiently to raise its orbit .
Such sails could potentially propel tiny satellites known as CubeSats.
Dhaka, Jul 25 (UNB) - Virgin's Hyperloop One company has signed a deal with the government of Saudi Arabia to build a test track for its futuristic transport concept, reports the BBC.
The hyperloop concept involves a pressurised pod with a vehicle carrying passengers or cargo up to 10 times faster than current rail.
A 35km track will be built, alongside a research and development facility and manufacturing plant, north of Jeddah.
Some remain sceptical that hyperloop travel can become a reality.
Virgin Hyperloop One said the technology could reduce a journey from Riyadh to Jeddah to 76 minutes, compared with more than 10 hours currently.
'Saudi Silicon Valley'
"Our partnership with Virgin Hyperloop One is a matter of pride for us and all of Saudi Arabia," said Mohanud A Helal, Secretary General of the Economic City Authority.
He added that he hoped it would be a "catalyst for a Saudi Silicon Valley effect".
The company showed off a pod travelling at over 100km/h (62mph) in a 500m (1,600ft) vacuum tube in Nevada in July 2017.
Meanwhile, Elon Musk has been running an annual competition at his SpaceX headquarters to test the limits of the technology.
This year's contest was won by an engineering team from the Technical University of Munich.
Afterwards, Mr Musk tweeted the 2020 event would be run in a new 10km curved vacuum tunnel.
New Delhi, Jul 23 (AP/UNB) — India sent a spacecraft to explore water deposits on the far side of the moon in a successful launch Monday after a technical problem caused a week's delay.
Scientists at the mission control center burst into applause as the rocket lifted off in clear weather as scheduled at 2:43 p.m. from Sriharikota in southern India. K. Sivan, head of India's space agency, said the rocket successfully injected the spacecraft into orbit.
The Chandrayaan, the Sanskrit word for "moon craft," is scheduled to land on the lunar south pole in September and send a rover to explore water deposits confirmed by an earlier, orbiting mission. India would become only the fourth nation to land on the moon, following the U.S., Russia and China.
India's first moon mission in 2008 helped confirm the presence of water. The country plans to send its first manned spaceflight by 2022.
India's launch coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission this month. It came at a time when the world's biggest space agencies are returning their gaze to the moon, seen as an ideal testing ground for technologies required for deep space exploration, and with the confirmed discovery of water, as a possible pit stop along the way. The U.S. is working to send a manned spacecraft to the moon's south pole by 2024.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country's lunar program will get a substantial boost, writing on Twitter that the country's existing knowledge of the moon "will be significantly enhanced."
Sivan said at a news conference that the successful launch of the spacecraft was the "beginning of India's historic journey" to the moon.
The launch of the $141 million moon mission last week was called off less than an hour before liftoff because of a "technical snag." Media reports scientists from the Indian Space Research Organization identified a leak while filling helium in the rocket's cryogenic engine. The space agency neither confirmed nor denied the reports, saying instead that the problem had been identified and corrected.
The spacecraft that launched Monday is carrying an orbiter, lander and rover that will move around on the lunar surface for 14 Earth days. It will travel about 47 days before landing on the moon.
India put a satellite into orbit around Mars in the nation's first interplanetary mission in 2013 and 2014.
With India poised to become the world's fifth-largest economy, Modi's ardently nationalist government is eager to show off the country's prowess in security and technology.
India successfully test-fired an anti-satellite weapon in March, which Modi said demonstrated the country's capacity as a space power alongside the United States, Russia and China.