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What is it? »Robotic therapy helps stroke patients regain function
MIT robots can deliver high-intensity interactive physical therapy.
April 19, 2010

Stroke patients who received robot-assisted therapy were able to regain some ability to use their arms, even if the stroke had occurred years earlier, according to a study published April 16 in the online issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

The study, which examined the effectiveness of a class of robotic devices developed at MIT, found that in chronic stroke survivors, robot-assisted therapy led to modest improvements in upper-body motor function and quality of life six months after active therapy was completed; these improvements were significant when compared with a group of stroke patients who received the traditional treatment. Moreover, the robotic therapy — which involves a more intense regimen of activity than traditional stroke therapy — did not increase total health-care costs per stroke patient, and could make intensive therapy available to more people, say the researchers who led the study.


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What is it? »Toward more efficient wireless power delivery
Latest research shows that efficiency improves when multiple devices are charged at once.
April 13, 2010

In 2007, MIT researchers announced that they had discovered a novel way of transmitting electricity without the use of wires. Now, the researchers have demonstrated that the system’s efficiency at transmitting energy improves significantly when it is used to charge multiple devices at the same time.

The new work, reported in a paper in Applied Physics Letters earlier this year, has also demonstrated a system much closer to one that could be used to power typical consumer electronic devices. In the original proof-of-concept in 2007, both the transmitter and receiver consisted of coils that were about two feet across. These two units were placed more than six feet apart and were used to light a 60-watt bulb — even with people sitting in between. But the new system uses a slightly larger transmitter, with receivers that are only about a foot across – moving closer to a size that could eventually be built into a PC or a television set. The transmitting coil could be built into a wall or ceiling, the researchers say, and the transfer of power has been shown to work over distances comparable to the size of an ordinary room.


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What is it? »Slideshow: Solar power, shaped up
3-D shapes covered in solar cells could produce more power than flat panels, MIT researchers find.
April 8, 2010

Flat solar photovoltaic panels are becoming more widespread, but the power they produce varies over the course of the day as the sun’s position changes — unless the panels are mounted on tracking systems to keep them pointed sunward, which adds complexity and expense.


 

 

 

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What is it? »Slideshow: Mini robotic muscles
Shape-memory alloys yield mechanical devices that produce more torque but weigh much less than comparably sized electric motors.
April 6, 2010

MIT researchers have found a new way to use shape-memory alloys — metals that change shape when heated — to create small mechanical “muscles” for electronic devices. The mechanical muscles — or actuators — can produce three to six times as much torque as electric motors of similar size but weigh no more than one-20th as much.


 

 

 

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What is it? »Charting a course toward cleaner cars
MIT team recommends strategy for reducing automotive fuel use, emissions
April 1, 2010

The emissions from cars and light trucks account for 16 percent of the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, and these vehicles use 47 percent of all the petroleum consumed in this country. Without strong action, those numbers are expected to keep rising, but reducing the nation’s impact on global climate change and dependence on oil imports has presented a daunting task. Now, a new MIT report outlines a set of policies that could accomplish that goal in the next few decades.


 

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What is it? »Pushing droplets around
MIT researchers find a way to make drops on a surface move in just one direction, with possible applications ranging from biology to electronics.
March 29, 2010

Controlling the way liquids spread across a surface is important for a wide variety of technologies, including DNA microarrays for medical research, inkjet printers and digital lab-on-a-chip systems. But until now, the designers of such devices could only control how much the liquid would spread out over a surface, not which way it would go.

New research from mechanical engineers at MIT has revealed a new approach that, by creating specific kinds of tiny structures on a material’s surface, can make a droplet spread only in a single direction.

A report on the new work, by Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Evelyn N. Wang and graduate students Kuang-Han Chu and Rong Xiao, was published on March 28 in the journal Nature Materials.


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