Tag Archive | "MIT"

MIT report warns Mars One hopefuls that death would come quickly

For the 1,058 remaining Mars hopefuls, worrying news came for their chances of short-term survival after MIT published a detailed scientific report showing how they’ll likely die within two months.

Published online under the title, An Independent Assessment of the Technical Feasibility of the Mars One Mission Plan, the research looked at all aspects needed for the four initial astronauts who will be based as part of the Dutch non-profit mission.

Expected to land on Mars’ surface in 2024, the team are aware that this will be a one-way trip, but if MIT’s research is correct, the lack of native resources to aide in the survival of the astronauts could see the first astronaut fatality occur by day 68 of their trip.

This they attribute to “suffocation from too low an oxygen partial pressure within the environment”, while there would also be an added danger that the molar fraction of the oxygen within their sealed environments would most likely exceed 30pc making it a fire hazard.

A breakdown of the amount of mass that would be needed to travel on each Mars One mission as estimated by the MIT researchers. Image: MIT

In the crews’ attempts to grow their own crops within the same environment they lived in, the temperature would get rather balmy to say the last with a predicted humility level of approximately 100pc.

In their final conclusions of their deep research into the possibility of a successful Mars One mission, the researchers said that “technology development will have to focus on improving the reliability of ECLS systems, the TRL of ISRU systems, and either the capability of Mars in-situ manufacturing and/or the cost of launch. Improving these factors will help to dramatically reduce the mass and cost of Mars settlement architectures.”

Meanwhile, CEO of Mars One, Bas Lansdorp, has spoken out about the new report criticising the researchers’ findings claiming that their “lack of time for support from us combined with their limited experience results in incorrect conclusions.”

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MIT team develops most efficient solar panels to date

A team of researchers from MIT have reportedly developed a new solar absorption material that is close to ideal maximum efficiency at a reasonable cost.

To make the most efficient solar panel possible, developers need to make sure it reaches the ‘goldilocks zone’ of absorption of the spectrums of light, but not enough that the energy levels would be so strong as to reradiate that energy back into the atmosphere.

Now, according to MIT researchers, this new material is made of a two-dimensional metallic dielectric photonic crystal which has the additional benefits of absorbing sunlight from a wide range of angles and withstanding extremely high temperatures.

Based off the solar-thermophotovoltaic (STPV) model which turns the heat generated by the sun’s light into energy, the new material will be used to fill the hollow found in the traditional STPV devices, which are less efficient.

Speaking of his team’s findings, MIT post-doc Jeffrey Chou said the researchers were surprised it hadn’t been tried before.

“(The STPV devices) were empty, there was air inside. No one had tried putting a dielectric material inside, so we tried that and saw some interesting properties.”

In the team’s tests so far, its material has been able to withstand temperatures of around 1,000°C for 24 hours without signs of degradation.

While the process of production uses currently available methods, the next step is to prove other cheaper materials can be used to create the team’s solar absorber as its current metal, ruthenium, is rather expensive.

After more testing is completed, the team expects to have a commercially available product within five years.

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US researchers develop optical sensor that gives robot unprecedented dexterity

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Northeastern University in the US have equipped a robot with a tactile sensor that lets it grasp a USB cable and insert it into a USB port.

The sensor uses a technology called GelSight and, though not as sensitive as the original GelSight sensor (which was developed in 2009), it’s small enough to fit on a robot’s gripper and processes algorithm faster, allowing the robot to receive feedback in real time. According to researchers, this level of dexterity is unprecedented.

“People have been trying to do this for a long time and they haven’t succeeded because the sensors they’re using aren’t accurate enough and don’t have enough information to localize the pose of the object that they’re holding,” Robert Platt, an assistant professor of computer science at Northeastern, told the MIT news office.

Researchers allowed a 3mm margin in where the robot took hold of the USB plug. Despite this, the machine was able to measure its position accurately enough to insert the plug into a port that allowed approximately a millimeter’s error. The team have presented their results at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.

MIT have produced a short video that details the new GelSight sensor and USB demonstration.

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How coughs and sneezes float much farther than you think

The next time you feel a sneeze coming on, raise your elbow to cover up that multiphase turbulent buoyant cloud you’re about to expel.

That’s right: A novel study by MIT researchers shows that coughs and sneezes have associated gas clouds that keep their potentially infectious droplets aloft over much greater distances than previously realized.

“When you cough or sneeze, you see the droplets, or feel them if someone sneezes on you,” says John Bush, a professor of applied mathematics at MIT, and co-author of a new paper on the subject. “But you don’t see the cloud, the invisible gas phase. The influence of this gas cloud is to extend the range of the individual droplets, particularly the small ones.”

Indeed, the study finds, the smaller droplets that emerge in a cough or sneeze may travel five to 200 times further than they would if those droplets simply moved as groups of unconnected particles — which is what previous estimates had assumed. The tendency of these droplets to stay airborne, resuspended by gas clouds, means that ventilation systems may be more prone to transmitting potentially infectious particles than had been suspected.

With this in mind, architects and engineers may want to re-examine the design of workplaces and hospitals, or air circulation on airplanes, to reduce the chances of airborne pathogens being transmitted among people.

“You can have ventilation contamination in a much more direct way than we would have expected originally,” says Lydia Bourouiba, an assistant professor in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and another co-author of the study.

The paper, “Violent expiratory events: on coughing and sneezing,” was published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics. It is co-written by Bourouiba, Bush, and Eline Dehandschoewercker, a graduate student at ESPCI ParisTech, a French technical university, who previously was a visiting summer student at MIT, supported by the MIT-France program.

 The researchers used high-speed imaging of coughs and sneezes, as well as laboratory simulations and mathematical modeling, to produce a new analysis of coughs and sneezes from a fluid-mechanics perspective. Their conclusions upend some prior thinking on the subject. For instance: Researchers had previously assumed that larger mucus droplets fly farther than smaller ones, because they have more momentum, classically defined as mass times velocity.

That would be true if the trajectory of each droplet were unconnected to those around it. But close observations show this is not the case; the interactions of the droplets with the gas cloud make all the difference in their trajectories. Indeed, the cough or sneeze resembles, say, a puff emerging from a smokestack.

“If you ignored the presence of the gas cloud, your first guess would be that larger drops go farther than the smaller ones, and travel at most a couple of meters,” Bush says. “But by elucidating the dynamics of the gas cloud, we have shown that there’s a circulation within the cloud � the smaller drops can be swept around and resuspended by the eddies within a cloud, and so settle more slowly. Basically, small drops can be carried a great distance by this gas cloud while the larger drops fall out. So you have a reversal in the dependence of range on size.”

Specifically, the study finds that droplets 100 micrometers � or millionths of a meter � in diameter travel five times farther than previously estimated, while droplets 10 micrometers in diameter travel 200 times farther. Droplets less than 50 micrometers in size can frequently remain airborne long enough to reach ceiling ventilation units.

A cough or sneeze is a “multiphase turbulent buoyant cloud,” as the researchers term it in the paper, because the cloud mixes with surrounding air before its payload of liquid droplets falls out, evaporates into solid residues, or both.

The cloud entrains ambient air into it and continues to grow and mix,” Bourouiba says. “But as the cloud grows, it slows down, and so is less able to suspend the droplets within it. You thus cannot model this as isolated droplets moving ballistically.”

 The MIT researchers are now developing additional tools and studies to extend our knowledge of the subject. For instance, given air conditions in any setting, researchers can better estimate the reach of a given expelled pathogen.

“An important feature to characterize is the pathogen footprint,” Bush says. “Where does the pathogen actually go? The answer has changed dramatically as a result of our revised physical picture.”

Bourouiba’s continuing research focuses on the fluid dynamics of fragmentation, or fluid breakup, which governs the formation of the pathogen-bearing droplets responsible for indoor transmission of respiratory and other infectious diseases. Her aim is to better understand the mechanisms underlying the epidemic patterns that occur in populations.

“We’re trying to rationalize the droplet size distribution resulting from the fluid breakup in the respiratory tract and exit of the mouth,” she says. “That requires zooming in close to see precisely how these droplets are formed and ejected.”

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qqHOKUXY5U

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The original article was written by Peter Dizikes. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Lydia Bourouiba, Eline Dehandschoewercker, John W. M. Bush. Violent expiratory events: on coughing and sneezingJournal of Fluid Mechanics, 2014; 745: 537 DOI: 10.1017/jfm.2014.88

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