Posts Tagged ‘3d’

3D printers make batteries the size of a grain of sand

// June 19th, 2013 // Comments Off on 3D printers make batteries the size of a grain of sand // Recent Research

A 3D printer made this battery. It's smaller than a grain of sand. Credit: Ke Sun, Teng-Sing Wei, Jennifer Lewis, Shen J. Dillon

A 3D printer made this battery. It’s as small as a grain of sand. Credit: Ke Sun, Teng-Sing Wei, Jennifer Lewis, Shen J. Dillon

A battery the size of a grain of sand has been built using 3D printers, scientists announced yesterday.

It’s the century of smalls, where tiny devices are top dog. Computers shrink into tablets, phones are limited only by screen size, and mini-microphones can fit onto a pair of spectacles or atop a tiny flying robot. Why not? If you’re going to bug someone, you may as well use a robot bug.

As microchips become more and more micro, one thing holding us back is the battery. To get a decent battery life, you still need a rather large and heavy battery. Even my humble Nokia (circa 2002, still works like a charm) is half as heavy if you take out the battery. Think how light my pocket could be with a better battery!

Light pockets are one thing, a light heart is another.

Pace makers depend on lithium iodine-polyvinylpyride batteries, and they must be reliable and long-lasting.

“The battery occupies major portion of the pulse generator in terms of weight, volume, and size. The most important factor for a cardiac pacemaker battery is its reliability. Unlike many consumer products, batteries in implantable devices cannot be replaced. They are hard wired at the time of manufacture before the device is hermetically sealed… In general the power source of the implantable device is the only component which has a known predictable service life, which in turn determines the service life of the implanted device itself.” – Mallela, Ilankumaran & Rao “Trends in Cardiac Pacemaker Batteries” Indian Pacing and Electrophysiology Journal.

Don’t get me wrong, batteries have come a long way over the past twenty years. But there’s always more juice to be squeezed, and when it comes to juicy technology you can’t go past the 3D printer.

To make the sand-sized batteries, a team from Harvard University and the University of Illinois printed layers of concentrated lithium oxide-based inks. The 3D printer squeezed out tightly interlacing anodes (red) and cathodes (purple) using a nozzle finer than a human hair. The ink hardened as it was placed. Then they enclosed the stacks of electrodes in a container and filled it with an electrolyte solution.

The tiny battery was built with interlacing stacks of anode and cathode. Credit: Ke Sun, Bok Yeop Ahn, Jennifer Lewis, Shen J. Dillon

The tiny battery was built with interlacing stacks of anode and cathode. Credit: Ke Sun, Bok Yeop Ahn, Jennifer Lewis, Shen J. Dillon

Tests showed some impressive results for battery performance.

“The electrochemical performance is comparable to commercial batteries in terms of charge and discharge rate, cycle life and energy densities. We’re just able to achieve this on a much smaller scale,” Researcher Shen J. Dillon, University of Illinois, said in the press release.

Tiny and powerful batteries could make all sorts of new devices possible. Medical devices used not just for treating illness, but also for sensing infection or blood sugar levels, perhaps. Iron Man suits, now that would be exciting. And wafer-thin laptops, tablets and phones. Maybe I’ll wait until these new batteries hit the market before I update my Nokia…

The research was published in Advanced Materials yesterday, and here’s a video of the 3D printer in action.

ResearchBlogging.org Sun, K., Wei, T., Ahn, B., Seo, J., Dillon, S., & Lewis, J. (2013). 3D Printing of Interdigitated Li-Ion Microbattery Architectures Advanced Materials DOI: 10.1002/adma.201301036

Heaven in a grain of sand

// July 2nd, 2012 // Comments Off on Heaven in a grain of sand // Science Art

Missing Australia! Image by freeaussiestock.com

I’m in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, just next door to the Atacama desert, the highest desert in the world. So what better than a post about sand?

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
– William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

I actually came off my bike in the Valley of the Moon when I hit a patch of sand on the road, so my feelings about the stuff are somewhat ambivalent. However, HOWEVER, science has come to my aid yet again and opened my eyes.

Because under a microscope, sand is actually quite stunning!

Unfortunately I don’t think I can post the pics myself due to the copyright, but these links are worth clicking through.

Geology.com share a gallery of sand microscopy by Gary Greenberg, in promotion for his book. My favourite is the polished pieces of olivine, found on the green Lumahai Beach of Hawaii.

Gary has also photographed samples of moon sand, collected by Buzz Aldrin and Niel Armstrong. The otherworldly images are in his Moon Sand Gallery.

Without atmosphere or water, sand on the moon goes through a very different process to form. Rather than small sea shells and rocks polished by the oceans, the moon sports fine dust created by meteorite microimpacts. Some impacts are so hot they become molten microdroplets. When these collide with existing sand grains, they create wiggly shaped specks called agglutinates.

Filming the invisible world – 3D documentaries

// February 28th, 2011 // Comments Off on Filming the invisible world – 3D documentaries // Science Art, Science Communication, Science in the Movies

We are at a very disturbing point in film production, where we assume the audience has no imagination and no intelligence. Stories are spoon fed and wrapped up with explosions and effects to sell the same tired old plot.

Such is the opinion of Douglas Trumball, who has spent his career in science fiction animation and visual effects. He spoke on Sunday afternoon at the RiAus about the problems with the film industry and how science can save it.

What’s really lacking is immersion, a story that draws people in and the technology to make it hyperreal.

The technology is certainly improving, there’s no doubt about that. Take the infamous Avatar, which I was completely entranced by. The 3D was so subtle and authentic I honestly felt like I was there, and clapped like an idiot when it finished (much to the chagrin of my friends.)

But apparently, that’s nothing compared to what’s coming. Douglas is experimenting with cameras that capture at 120 frames per second (rather than the 30 they do now), and a projector that displays it at the same rate. For the audience he says it’s like opening a window to a different world. It’s a whole different feeling.

He envisions a cinema with a screen that curves around beyond 120 degrees, so it extends past the corners of your eyes.

And what does he want to do with this set up? Explore space. Vast, infinite and complex, space lends itself to immersive film like nothing else. It quite simply matches big content with big delivery. It needs a story to go with it too, something that captures the imagination of the audience, where they can fill in the blanks and have their own “ah ha” moment of discovery.

Truth is stranger than fiction, and science has some pretty cool stories of its own. Tim Baier is a stereographer who worked on feature films like King Kong and Lord of the Rings, and spoke on the panel about his recent work making science documentaries. I watched a preview of his work “Standing in Amazement” on Sunday, and it was breathtaking.

Image by Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary

In 3D, he captured still pictures and stop-motion of Arkaroola and the Flinders Ranges.

The sun rose on mountain tops encrusted with quartzite. Macroscopic photographs showed the indentations on a snakes head which sense heat, and the pads on gecko feet which let them hang upside down on glass.

It wasn’t just a film, it was a presentation. During the movie, Tim talked about the geology of the Ranges and how the mountains had formed.

He described the van der Waals forces that work on gecko feet. It was visually breathtaking AND intellectually stimulating. The full film lasts for 90 minutes, and is playing at the RiAus this week, Tuesday to Saturday. Session times here.

He thinks there is a lot of untapped potential in 3D science documentaries. I’d agree, particularly in talking about geology. I’m thinking right now about David Attenborough’s Cave episode on Planet Earth, and combining it with Sanctum 3D.

Sunday night I watched a doco with Sir Attenborough (he is EVERYWHERE!) and they showed a stadium-sized machine that could see inside fossilized embryos in 3D. Now that’s my kinda movie!

Avatar sequel to film deep sea in 3D

// September 27th, 2010 // 2 Comments » // Science in the Movies

Say wha-?

There’s gonna be a sequel to Avatar?

Why?

I mean, I think the movie was awesome and all, but when it finished it finished. Finito. No more. No dramatic suspense music to imply the indignity of a sequel. No sudden return of a villain. Nada.

The story was just Pocahontas, after all. And Pocahontas didn’t have a dumb sequel (did it?)

This whole “every successful movie must have a sequel” really pisses me off. It just DETRACTS from the awesomeness of the original. The one exception is Ace Venture.

The good part about this (silver lining Captain, focus on the sliver of silver) is that part of the movie is set in the deep sea. And to make that part of the movie, James Cameron is going to film the deep sea in the Mariana Trench (south of Japan.) 11,000 metres down. Humans have only been down there once, in a hardcore sub that can withstand the excessive water pressure which is 1000 times stronger than atmospheric pressure.

If he can do it, the footage could be supercool scientific data for the abyss that is the deep sea. We know more about the moon than we know about the deep sea, and there’s probably stacks more sweet stuff down there. And James Cameron can do ANYTHING. Where science has so far faltered, James Cameron and his trusty checkbook will succeed. Aw yeah.

Hat tip to Dr M at Deep Sea News, who amazingly did not like the first movie. *blink*

Depth perception – or why pigeons bob their heads

// September 22nd, 2010 // 1 Comment » // How Things Work, Science Communication, Science in the Movies

I’ve been doing some science tricks lately that show the difference between both eyes. Simple one, close your left eye and line your two pointer fingers up with one 10cm behind the other. Get them so they are exactly in line and you can only see one finger. Now open your left eye and close your right eye. Not so in line anymore.

So we have two eyes on the front of our face, and they both see slightly different images of our world. Our smarty pants brain puts the images together, but it also notices the difference between the pictures and uses it for depth perception.

The same thing is used in 3D cinema, which you can see when you take off the glasses. There’s two pictures, and when an object is supposed to look closer the two pictures are further apart from each other (winces and waits for SexyMan to correct me.)

That’s why most predators have eyes on the front of their heads, so they can gauge the depth from prey. Prey animals usually have eyes on the sides, so they have a bigger range of vision and can see danger coming.

But when I was doing the hole-in-the-hand trick, it just didn’t work for me. I get a hole on the side, like a someone has taken a nibble out of my hand, but not through the middle like everyone else. Is their something wrong with my depth perception? Am I missing out on a 3D world that everyone else in enjoying in full spectroscopic vision?

My saving grace is those stereogram books, where a 3D picture is hidden inside a pattern and you have to go semi-crosseyed to see it. I rock at those books. Oh yeah. I can see the rabbit, or at least a 3D blob that could be a rabbit.

So I’m hoping I have 3D vision. But I wiki’d depth perception anyway, and it turns out there are lots of ways you can check depth besides having two forward facing eyes. Pigeons bob their heads to do it. By moving their heads a little they can see how objects around them move. Objects which are close to them move a lot, and objects that are far away stay stationary. Try it at home!






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