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Clearbot ups its marine-trash-removal game with help from Razer

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Back in January, we covered an autonomous plastic trash collector called Clearbot that was designed to remove waste from areas such as harbors, lakes and canals. Now the startup behind the project has partnered with gaming titan Razer for an updated design.

It is estimated that around 11 million tons of plastic waste enters the ocean each year, and we’ve been following cleanup efforts by the likes of The Ocean Cleanup, the Ocean Conservancy, and others for some time. But it’s a mammoth task that will require all hands on deck to make any headway.

The Clearbot autonomous robot uses AI vision technology to identify and retrieve different types of plastic waste from marine environments, which is then disposed of responsibly. It’s also tasked with gathering data on the kinds of plastic it encounters during operation to feed its database.

As part of its 10-year sustainability roadmap, and the first of many partnerships with sustainability startups, Razer’s team of engineers and designers have donated their time and expertise to help transform the Clearbot prototype into a slick new trash collector that can be scaled up and mass marketed.

The craft seems to follow similar lines to the earlier prototype, where the vessel patrols a preset geofenced area searching for marine trash, which it funnels into its open bow and removes from the water for proper disposal elsewhere. The Clearbot is powered by a solar array, and uses its improved AI smarts to seek out marine plastic waste within two meters of the vessel, even in rough waters, and is able to gather up to 250 kg (550 lb) of the stuff per cycle. But the idea is to deploy swarms of Clearbots to clean up large areas.

“We are extremely happy to have the opportunity to work with a startup focused on saving the environment,” said Razer’s Patricia Liu. “Clearbot’s unique AI and advanced machine learning technology will enable and empower governments and organizations around the world to broaden their sustainability efforts. We urge other innovative startups to reach out to Razer for collaboration opportunities as we strive to make the world a safer place for future generations.”

Beyond the cool render image and high-level overview, no information on the new Clearbot vessel is available at this time, but the startup has put a call out to its supporters to help it gather more data on the plastic problem by uploading photos of waste spotted in open waters to its website, which will be used to help improve the robot’s detection algorithm.

It also hopes to get fleets of autonomous trash collectors in operation around the globe, and reports that marine harbor operations in Asia and NGOs have already shown interest in the technology. You can learn more about the collaboration in the video below.

Razer x Clearbot | OceansDay

Source: Razer

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Source: https://newatlas.com/environment/clearbot-razer-marine-plastic-trash-partnership/

NEWATLAS

Blood-alcohol-measuring earmuff could replace breathalyzers

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When someone is really intoxicated, they may not be very cooperative when told to blow into a breathalyzer. There could soon be a more passive but just as accurate alternative, though, in the form of an earmuff that measures blood alcohol levels.

Breathalyzers work by measuring ethanol levels in a person’s breath, which correspond to levels in their bloodstream. Ethanol is also released through the skin, although the concentrations are too low for an accurate reading on most parts of the body. Additionally, the presence of sweat glands in the skin may skew the readings.

Seeking a more reliable alternative, scientists from Tokyo Medical and Dental University instead looked to the ears. Not only is ear skin known to release more ethanol than skin on areas such as the hands or arms, but it also contains relatively few sweat glands. With these facts in mind, the researchers set about modifying an existing set of off-the-shelf protective earmuffs.

In the resulting experimental system, filtered air is pumped into one of the muffs via a hose that runs into a hole at the top. That air passes through the sealed chamber surrounding the ear, collecting emitted ethanol gas as it does so, and is then drawn out of the muff via a hose at the bottom.

That lower hose runs to a separate device known as a bio-sniffer. When “excited” by ultraviolet light, a sensor within that bio-sniffer fluoresces in the presence of ethanol gas – the greater the concentration of ethanol, the more intense the fluorescence.

In lab tests, the earmuff was placed on three male volunteers who had each consumed a set amount of alcohol. At regular intervals over the next 140 minutes, their blood alcohol levels were checked via both the earmuff and a conventional breathalyzer. The readings of the two devices were found to be consistently similar.

It is now hoped that once developed further, the technology could be utilized as an alternative to breathalyzers, and perhaps also as a means of detecting different skin-released gases associated with diseases.

A paper on the research, which was led by Prof. Kohji Mitsubayashi, has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: Scientific Reports via EurekAlert

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Source: https://newatlas.com/science/blood-alcohol-measuring-earmuff/

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“Bionic” vulture is first bird to receive a permanent artificial foot

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Although there have already been birds that received strap-on artificial legs, scientists are now reporting the first successful integration of a prosthetic foot directly into a stork’s residual leg bone. They’re describing the animal as the world’s first “bionic bird.”

Named Mia, the bird in question is a female bearded vulture, which is the largest type of flying bird in Europe. She’s housed at the Owl and Bird of Prey Sanctuary located in Haringsee, Austria. Mia was initially brought into the sanctuary with a severely injured foot, which ultimately had to be amputated.

While smaller birds might be able to get by with just one foot, such a loss would make it very difficult for heavier birds (like bearded vultures) to land, walk, or hold down their prey. With these problems in mind, a team at the Medical University of Vienna decided to give Mia a permanently attached new foot.

The group was led by Prof. Oskar Aszmann, who was previously responsible for tasks such as outfitting three human amputees with mind-controlled bionic arms.

For the vulture, the team utilized a process known as osseointegration, in which the base of the artificial foot was joined directly to the end of the leg bone in the bird’s residual stump. Mia began attempting to walk within three weeks of the surgery, and was putting her full weight on the foot after six weeks. She is now reportedly walking and landing normally.

X-rays of Mia's leg with its prosthetic foot
X-rays of Mia’s leg with its prosthetic foot

Medical University of Vienna

“This concept offers a high degree of embodiment, since osseoperception provides direct intuitive feedback, thereby allowing natural use of the extremity for walking and feeding,” says Aszmann. “For the first time we have now successfully bionically reconstructed the limb of a vulture.”

A paper on the procedure – which also involved Rickard Branemark from San Francisco’s Center for Osseointegration Research – was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: Medical University of Vienna

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Source: https://newatlas.com/medical/vulture-permanent-artificial-foot/

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Extraordinary new material shows zero heat expansion from 4 to 1,400 K

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Australian researchers have created what may be one of the most thermally stable materials ever discovered. This new zero thermal expansion (ZTE) material made of scandium, aluminum, tungsten and oxygen did not change in volume at temperatures ranging from 4 to 1400 Kelvin (-269 to 1126 °C, -452 to 2059 °F).

That’s a wider range of temperatures, say scientists from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), than any other material demonstrated to date, and it could make orthorhombic Sc1.5Al0.5W3O12 (catchy name, eh?) a very handy tool for anyone engineering something that needs to work in extremely varied thermal environments.

Examples of where this might come in handy include things like aerospace design, where components are exposed to extreme cold in space and extreme heat at launch or on re-entry. Famously, the SR-71 Blackbird was designed to expand so much at its Mach 3.4 top speed that it would liberally drizzle fuel on the runway at ground temperatures; the fuel tanks wouldn’t even fully seal until they heated up. This new material stays exactly the same volume from close to absolute zero all the way up to comfortably over the heat you’d expect to get on the wing of a hypersonic aircraft traveling at Mach 5.

Or there’s things like medical implants, where the range of expected temperatures isn’t so varied but even a small amount of thermal expansion can cause critical issues.

The UNSW team made the discovery more or less by accident: “We were conducting experiments with these materials in association with our batteries-based research, for unrelated purposes, and fortuitously came across this singular property of this particular composition,” says Associate Professor Neeraj Sharma.

Measurements of the new material were conducted using the Echidna high-resolution powder diffractometer
Measurements of the new material were conducted using the Echidna high-resolution powder diffractometer

ANSTO

After measuring the material using the Echidna high-resolution powder diffractometer at ANSTO’s Australian Synchrotron and the Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering, the team found an incredible degree of thermal stability. At the molecular level, materials usually expand because an increase in temperature leads directly to an increase in the length of the atomic bonds between elements. Sometimes it also causes atoms to rotate, resulting in more spacious structures that affect the overall volume.

Not with this stuff, which the team observed across that huge temperature spectrum demonstrating “only minute changes to the bonds, position of oxygen atoms and rotations of the atom arrangements.” The team says the exact mechanism behind this extreme thermal stability isn’t totally clear, but that perhaps bond lengths, angles and oxygen atom positions are changing in concert with one another to preserve the overall volume.

“Which part’s acting at which temperature, well, that’s the next question,” says Sharma, who adds, “the scandium is rarer and more costly, but we are experimenting with other elements that might be substituted, and the stability retained,”

The other ingredients, however, are widely available, and bond together using a “relatively simple synthesis,” so the team believes this material should present no impediments to large-scale manufacturing.

The paper is available at the journal Chemistry of Materials, and the video below provides an overview of the material.

Advanced material has zero thermal expansion

Source: ANSTO

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Source: https://newatlas.com/materials/thermally-stable-zte-advanced-material/

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Perseverance rover begins first science mission in Mars’ Jezero Crater

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After a pretty eventful start to life on Mars that has included capturing the first ever audio recordings on the planet, producing the first ever oxygen on another world and supporting the Ingenuity helicopter throughout its history-making flights, NASA’s Perseverance rover is ready to get down to business. The robot has now departed its landing site for the Jezero Crater to begin its primary science mission, where it will comb an old lakebed in a search for signs of ancient microbial life.

Perseverance left its Octavia E. Butler landing site on June 1 and started heading south toward the Jezero Crater, where its first stop will be a low-lying scenic lookout. From here, mission scientists will survey the crater’s oldest geological features, and switch on the last remaining navigation and sampling systems.

“We are putting the rover’s commissioning phase as well as the landing site in our rearview mirror and hitting the road,” says Jennifer Trosper, Perseverance project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California. “Over the next several months, Perseverance will be exploring a 1.5-square-mile (4-sq-km) patch of crater floor. It is from this location that the first samples from another planet will be collected for return to Earth by a future mission.”

A map detailing the road trip ahead for the Mars Perseverance Rover
A map detailing the road trip ahead for the Mars Perseverance Rover

NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

To best understand the geology and past habitability of the Jezero Crater, Perseverance will explore two sections of it that contain its deepest and most ancient layers of exposed bedrock, along with other interesting geological features. Called the Crater Floor Fractured Rough (CF-Fr) and Séítah, Perseverance will comb these units for four locations with the most scientific potential for sample collection.

“Starting with the Crater Floor Fractured Rough and Seitah geologic units allows us to start our exploration of Jezero at the very beginning,” says JPL’s Kevin Hand. “This area was under at least 100 meters (328 ft) of water 3.8 billion years ago. We don’t know what stories the rocks and layered outcrops will tell us, but we’re excited to get started.”

Once this first science campaign is complete, Perseverance will return to the landing site with as many as eight of its 43 sampling tubes filled with Martian rock and dust. It will then set off toward Three Forks, the starting point for its second science campaign. This leg of the journey will see Perseverance explore the Jezero Crater’s delta region, which is expected to be particularly rich in carbonates, which are minerals that can preserve fossilized evidence of ancient life.

Source: NASA

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Source: https://newatlas.com/space/perseverance-rover-first-science-mission-mars-jezero-crater/

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