Event Calendar
February 2017

Hydrogels have shown significant potential in everything from wound dressings to soft robots, but their applications have been limited from their lack of toughness – until now. A team of scientists at Hokkaido University have developed a new set of hydrogel composites or "fiber-reinforced soft composites" that combine hydrogels with woven fiber fabric to create a material that is five times stronger than carbon steel.

Composite materials have been around for millennia and the principle is very simple. A very soft substance like mud can be made strong enough to make bricks by adding straw as a tempering material. The same applies to adding crushed pottery to brick, seashells fragments to ceramic, or glass fiber to plastic.

The latter is very similar to the fiber-reinforced hydrogel. Hydrogels are made of hydrophilic polymer chains that absorb up to 90 percent water. They aren't very strong or durable, but by adding glass tiny fibers the researchers created a tough, bendable, stretchable material.

According to the team, the composite hydrogel is remarkably strong, probably due to dynamic ionic bonds between the fiber and hydrogels, and within the hydrogels. In tests using polyampholyte gels and a single glass fiber measuring 10μm in diameter, the material turned out to be 25 times tougher than glass fiber fabric, 100 times tougher than hydrogels, and five times as strong as carbon steel, based on the amount of energy needed to destroy them.

"The fiber-reinforced hydrogels, with a 40 percent water level, are environmentally friendly," says Dr Jian Ping Gong, "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."

Hokkaido University

With its jet-propelled firefighters, million-dollar drone races and plans for its very own Hyperloop, Dubai ain't a bad place to see advanced technologies in action. In the latest example of the city's early-adoption mindset, the local transport authority has revealed that it has been testing Ehang's personal taxi drone, with plans to launch real operations this July.We first laid eyes on the Ehang 184 passenger drone at CES last year. As far as drones go, it's actually much less drone and more automated helicopter, using onboard navigation systems to carry passengers to their desired location without the need for a pilot. It can be ordered via a smartphone application, fly for 30 minutes at a time and take passengers as far as 40 to 50 km (25 to 31 mi) away with a payload capacity of up to 100 kg (220 lb).

This might all sound pretty out-there, but the Chinese company has already signed an agreement with the State of Nevada to conduct flight testing and also teamed up with a biotechnology firm to use its pilotless choppers to deliver artificial organs.

But it looks like both efforts might be beaten to the punch by the UAE, with Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority announcing the plans at the World Government Summit today. It revealed that it has already carried out a test run and has earmarked July 2017 as the launch date for full operations. If anyone seems capable of pulling it off ...

You can check out the RTA's promo video below.

[GWG] LuckyOtter You me both, Red! It might get a bit chilly!
[GWS] RedSpartacus o With the payload of 220 lb I could ride on it without clothing only. So the only valid destination would be a nudist res...

This is a "leaked video" from a recent Boston Dynamics convention. The robot in this video is certinally the stuff of nightmares.

Hydrogen is most commonly found as a gas floating in our atmosphere, but it can take many forms. Many rocket engines, for instance, used ultra-cold liquid hydrogen as a propellant, and cooling the hydrogen even further than that will get it to freeze into a solid form. But some physicists believe that it's possible to get hydrogen to take another form, a metallic solid, by subjecting it to extremely high pressures. One team of physicists claims to have done this, but many experts are doubtful.

While it's relatively easy to get solid hydrogen by cooling it enough, what physicists are after is a solid form of hydrogen that displays the properties of a metal, like being shiny and conducting electricity. It is hypothesized that metallic hydrogen could be stable even at low pressures, as long as it's initially created at high pressure. If such a stable form exists, it could potentially be used as an ultra-dense rocket fuel or a superconductor.

While the existence of metallic hydrogen has never been proven, there may be some evidence of it. Some scientists believe that metallic hydrogen exists in the center of Jupiter due to the extremely high pressures there. The electrical properties of theoretically metallic hydrogen could explain Jupiter's extremely powerful magnetic fields.

However, creating Jupiter-level pressures in the laboratory is extremely difficult, which is why nobody has personally observed metallic hydrogen before. Pressures at this scale, nearly 72 million pounds per square inch, can only be achieved with a powerful diamond anvil. But at that pressure, even the ultrahard diamonds can still shatter if they're not perfectly smooth and virtually flawless.

But one team from Harvard claims they've overcome this hurdle thanks to a new polishing technique, and have used their apparatus to produce real metallic hydrogen. Their research was published in the journal Science.

The team subjected a tiny drop of liquid hydrogen to intense pressures from their diamond anvil. The hydrogen, which was initially clear, turned dark before becoming shiny at around 72 million psi. This, the team says, is a clear sign the hydrogen has turned metallic.

Left: Hydrogen at normal pressure is clear. Middle: Hydrogen at high pressure becomes dark. Right: The Harvard team claims the shiny sample at extreme pressures proves the existence of metallic hydrogen.

Straddling the line between inspired and insane, the Quadrofoil Q2 is a two-seater, four-legged hydrofoil watercraft that has a top speed of 40 km/h (25 mph). Four years in the making and expected to ship early last year, the watercraft is finally reported ready for production.The Quadrofoil Q2 sits on four c-shaped hydrofoil legsThe hydrofoil legs of the Quadrofoil Q2 reduce the area of the craft that is in...

Quadrofoil likens the Q2 to having the agility of a go-kart, with a steering radius of 7 m (23 ft). The firm says it's possible to make sharp turns at high speeds and that the Q2 will hold its line without drifting off course. It is propelled by an electric outboard motor that kicks out 3.7 kW or 5.5 kW depending on the model.

The motor gets its juice from 5.2-kWh lithium-ion battery packs, the number of which vary depending of the model. Charging is reported to take three to four hours and provide 80 km (50 mi) of range, with a battery management system that continuously monitors their usage and uses algorithms to optimize power delivery. The lack of emissions means that the Q2 can be used in places that gas-powered watercraft are not allowed.

The craft's hull, formed of composite materials, is said by Quadrofoil to be "almost unsinkable," by virtue of an airtight upper section. The firm says it was inspired by trimaran speed boats, air fighters and race cars and designed the craft to be stable, to have good hydrodynamic and aerodynamic performance and to help with handling.

The c-shaped hydrofoil legs are made of aluminum alloy so as to be light, strong and resistant to corrosion, and retract at the touch of a button for negotiating shallow water.

Inside, Quadrofoil promises "a high-end ergonomic cockpit," with all basic functions easily in reach and a Formula One-inspired steering wheel that has a color touchscreen display. Seating is designed for comfort and visibility, with the passenger seat positioned behind the pilot's.

The entry level Q2, the Q2A, features the 3.7-kW electric motor and a single 5.2 kWh battery pack. It is 3,532-mm (139-in) long, 2,593-mm (102-in) wide and 2,085-mm (82-in) tall, with a weight of 295 kg (650 lb). The higher-specced Q2S is the same size but weighs 335 kg (739 lb). It also offers more power and a longer range, with the 5.5-kW motor and two 5.2 kWh battery packs.

The delay in bringing the Q2 to production is said to have been due to Quadrofoil's engineers testing, reviewing, upgrading and fine-tuning the original prototype. Now, however, the company says it is ready for production and that deliveries of a Q2S limited edition version will begin in March 2017. Prices begin at €19,950 (US$20,800). The Q2A will follow in early 2018.

The video below shows the Quadrofoil Q2S Electric in action.

[GWS] RedSpartacus o I like rushing to the lake but then I favor this inflatable mini island with the palm tree bobbing on the water.
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