Aug 11, 2011
INNOVATION LAB: Instant Bricks, Robot Skin & (Missing) Gliders
First up we've got CO2 Structure, a new creation out of Japan designed to help rebuild areas affected by natural disasters like earthquakes. TIS Partners out of Japan discovered that by blowing CO2 into loose silica, the material instantly hardens into whatever shape is chosen, like say, a brick. By adding an organic material like epoxy or urethane, you get a substance that's up to 2.5 times stronger than concrete, requires next to no steel reinforcement and takes about 60 seconds to create. That's compared to up to 28 days for concrete to set into its maximum potential strength. In areas like Japan and California that are not only struck by frequent earthquakes, but also strong aftershocks, CO2 Structure could be a serious game changer when it comes to reconstruction.
Next we've got GelSight, a layer of rubber with a painted skin that will conform to a surface and reveal microscopic details. Originally developed to give robots a more accurate sense of touch, GelSight can be combined with a lit camera to create incredibly detailed 3D models. Obviously the material has the potential for some incredible and varied applications, notably in fields like forensics and ballistics.
Finally, there's today's test launch of DARPA's Falcon Hypersonic Glider, which is designed to be launched into the upper atmosphere then glide down at speeds of up to Mach 20 and launch conventional weapons at any target on the planet within an hour. This is the second test flight for the unmanned Falcon: the first test was last April and it did not go well at all. In fact, the Air Force lost contact with the glider after a mere 9 minutes. Today's test went much better. This time they got a full 36 minutes into the flight before they lost telemetry and the Falcon went off the grid. (Lest you think there's a stray DARPA glider out there waiting to be found, rest assured that the craft has a built in self-destruct mechanism.) The Falcon is an incredibly cool looking ship. Maybe next time they'll actually be able to land the damn thing.