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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Crystal Ball

Wheel deal

Engineers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, US, are developing a robotic system that may offer wheelchair-dependent people powered mobility and the ability to move without assistance. The HLPR chair (for Home Lift, Position and Rehabilitation) draws on mobile robotic technology developed at NIST for defence and manufacturing applications. It is built on an off-the-shelf forklift with a U-frame base on wheel-like casters and a rectangular vertical frame. The user drives the chair using a joystick and other simple controls.

Tiny battery

MIT researchers are putting a tiny gas-turbine engine inside a silicon chip about the size of a quarter. The resulting device could run 10 times longer than a battery of the same weight can, powering laptops, cell phones, radios and other devices. The microengine is made of six silicon wafers. Each wafer is a single crystal with its atoms perfectly aligned, so it is extremely strong. To achieve the necessary components, the wafers are individually prepared using an advanced etching process to eat away selected material. When the wafers are piled up, the surfaces and the spaces in between produce the needed features and functions.

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