engineering

These Silicon Strips Could Make Computers Way, Way Faster

It may not look much, but this tiny piece of etched silicon could make our computers way faster. Designed to split and direct light, it could allow computers to trade electrons for photons — and gain a jump in speed in the process.


This Maglev Gearbox Doesn't Need Teeth

The most inefficient part of a gearing system is also its most vital: the teeth. While they allow the systems to, y’know, work, they also introduce vast quantities of frictional losses and, in turn, mechanical wear — so this new system uses magnetic levitation to do away with them.


How Facebook Is Hacking Together A Better Data Centre 

Data centres are boring. They have to be; these are spaces of control, consistency, security. You wouldn’t expect to find much creativity inside the plain facades of these highly-regulated structures — much less hacked-together experiments involving robotic Blu-ray storage systems and thousands of Mac Minis.


Ultrasound Can Let You Touch And Feel 3D Shapes In Thin Air

Touch feedback has been advancing rapidly of recent time, and now we’ve gotten to the stage where ultrasound can be used to create entire 3D shapes to touch and feel in thin air.


This Is How Touchscreens Actually Work

Touchscreens are everywhere these days, and even though you’ve probably heard people mumble about the relative benefits of capacitive screens compared to resistive ones, you might not actually know how they work. This video explains.


A New Super-Thin Coating Could Cool Buildings Without AC

When it’s hot out, buildings have a hard time staying cool: bombarded with ambient heat and generating yet more inside, their air conditioning systems have to work hard to keep temperatures down. Now, a new super-thin coating developed at Stanford could be applied to buildings to help them cool themselves more effectively.


The Surpisingly Old Origins Of The Fax Machine

Today, we mostly think of the fax machine as an outdated piece of technology. While there are still some uses for it in an office-setting, technological advances are sending the fax machines to the same pasture as pagers, landline telephones and disposable cameras. Even if this is the last we hear of the beeps and bops that echo as an incoming fax is transmitted, the fax machine had a very long life — an amazing 171 years to be exact. Yes, the fax machine was invented in 1843, before the Model-T was even a dream, before the telephone was invented, and even before the American Civil War broke out.


Graphene Foam Sure Looks Stunning Up Close

This isn’t some tortured starfish or CGIed brain synapse. You’re looking at an extreme close-up of graphene foam, captured using an electron microscope.


It's Not Concrete With Measles

Briefly: It’s not concrete with measles. In fact, this is how Olympus uses software to automatically differentiate between safe and unsafe air gaps in porous materials — too many pores, and the samples don’t make the cut. That’s particularly important for new kinds of foamed metals, that are increasingly used in aeroplanes. [Olympus]


The Century-Old Machine That Gave Us MP3s And JPEGs

Back in 1894, Olaus Henrici invented a machine called the Harmonic Analyser. Way ahead of its time, it could pick out all the individual frequencies that make up complex sound waves — a technique we now rely on for everything from compressed audio to digital images.