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News Article
Site: phys.org

The integrity of large structures like bridges, high-rise buildings, wind turbines, and large aircrafts is deeply related with security. Nowadays, due to the aging of large structures and the potential concerns about their collapse, interest in structural health monitoring has risen all over the world. Though there has been a great deal of research on the inspection of inaccessible large structures using mobile robots, since most existing robots require the installation of additional infrastructure or use magnetic-based technology or vacuum adhesion, it is difficult to apply those technologies to structures with diverse surface shapes and materials. Professor Hyun Myung in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed CAROS (Climbing Aerial RObot System), which does not require installation of any additional infrastructure and which features maximized mobility and safety as a wall-climbing robot. This robot has higher mobility than existing wall-climbing robots because it can fly. It also has an advantage in that it can restore its pose after an accidental fall due to an unexpected disturbance. Since the robot can stick to the surface, it can perform close inspection and maintenance of the structure. Firstly, the CAROS team designed and analyzed the structure/mechanism of the drone to maximize the flight stability and grip force on walls. Secondly, they developed the algorithms of flying/climbing mode transformation and wall-climbing control, respectively. These algorithms enable the CAROS to change its mode when it meets a wall while flying. To make these algorithms, the forward and backward kinematics are derived and applied to the system. Lastly, the team developed an autonomous navigation algorithm using sensory information to recognize 3D environments. This technology also can be used to assess the situation in a fire disaster. Previously, a mobile robot equipped with a water hose and throwing-type mobile robots were developed to extinguish the fire, but it had a disadvantage when entering and moving through narrow spaces. The CAROS technology can be used as a surveillance robot for use in fires or disasters, as it can pass through narrow indoor environments by changing its mode from wall climbing to flying, and vice-versa, depending on the situation. If CAROS is equipped with a thermal camera, it can detect and track humans through thermal images. In addition, it can transmit environment information by wireless communication. Currently, FAROS (Fireproof Aerial RObot System) is being developed based on the CAROS that can both fly and climb the vertical wall to overcome narrow or destroyed spaces caused by fire. The robot body is covered with aramid fiber to protect its electric components and mechanical parts from the direct effects of the flame. Under the aramid fiber-based armor, there are buffer air layers and a Peltier element-based cooling system that help to maintain the air layer within a specific temperature range. For autonomous navigation, the FAROS estimates its pose by utilizing a 2D laser scanner and an IMU (Inertia Measurement Unit) sensor installed in FAROS. With the localization result and a thermal imaging camera installed on FAROS, the robot can also detect and localize the ignition point by dedicated image processing technology. These technologies are expected to be applied to the inspection or maintenance of structures and objects in remote or inaccessible regions. Such technologies can also be applied to various types of maintenance of urban structures such as inspection of wind turbine blades and cleaning of high-rise buildings and solar panels. Professor Myung said, "As cities become more crowded with skyscrapers and super structures, fire incidents in these high-rise buildings are massive life-threatening disasters. FAROS can be aptly deployed to the disaster site at an early stage of such incidents to minimize the damage and maximize the safety and efficiency of rescue mission." Due to its novelty and potentiality, CAROS and FAROS have received media attention internationally, and the team has applied for related patents. Explore further: Flying robots get off the ground


News Article | March 24, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

With concrete so widely in use today, it seems unimaginable for the world to do away with it. The material is indeed useful but its production, unfortunately, results in about 5 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the planet. That's a lot, so a team of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles set out to develop an alternative that harnesses all of the benefits of concrete in a more sustainable form, calling the result of their work CO2NCRETE. It's because their sustainable concrete relies on carbon captured from smokestacks. By making concrete a green option and utilizing excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the researchers were able to turn something problematic into something valuable. In fact, J.R. DeShazo, one of the researchers, decided to become a part of the project because he saw it as a possible climate policy game-changer. "This technology tackles global climate change, which is one of the biggest challenges that society faces now and will face over the next century," he said. For the research, DeShazo offered economic and public policy guidance that was incorporated into the work of Gaurav Sant, associate professor and Henry Samueli Fellow in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Richard Kaner, professor in chemistry and biochemistry, and materials science and engineering, Laurent Pilon, professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering and bioengineering and Matthieu Bauchy, assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering. While this isn't the first time that scientists have captured carbon emissions released by power plants, the project is the first attempt at turning captured carbon dioxide into something useful. The researchers are optimistic about the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, particularly in areas where coal-fire power plants are commonly used. And if their sustainable concrete proves effective, they can share the development with other countries like China who are significant contributors to the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Having produced CO2NCRETE in the lab, the researchers' next move is to develop it further and make it available commercially, showing sustainable concrete can be used in the real world. According to the researchers, they are not merely trying to come up with a building material. Rather, they are developing a process solution that involves integrating technology to make it possible to go from a primary component like carbon dioxide directly to a finished product, which is CO2NCRETE.


News Article
Site: www.rdmag.com

The quadcopter whines in midair, situated inside a room.  A jutting obstacle blocks its path to the room’s other side, only allowing a slim margin for the quadcopter to pass through. But the drone looks too big. It hovers near a wall before the tight gap, and flips on its top, rolling along the wall until it passes to the other side. Developed by researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), the Fireproof Aerial Robot System (FAROS) is a new unmanned aerial vehicle, which is meant to detect and navigate fires in skyscrapers while relaying real-time data to ground crews. “As cities become more crowded with skyscrapers and super structures, fire incidents in these high-rise buildings are life-threatening massive disasters,” said Prof. Hyun Myung, of KAIST’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Dept. “The FAROS can be aptly deployed to the disaster site at an early stage of such incidents to minimize the damage and maximize the safety and efficiency of (a) rescue mission.” The FAROS is an extension of the research team’s Climbing Aerial RObot System (CAROS), created in 2014. Navigated autonomously, the drone uses a 2-D laser scanner, an altimeter, and an Inertia Measurement Unit sensor to explore its surroundings. Image-processing technology allows the vehicle to detect the fire-ignition point, and thermal0imaging camera allows it to identify objects and people. Additionally, the drone’s body is shielded with aramid fibers, which protect the electrical and mechanical components from flames. A buffer of air is situated beneath the aramid fibers, and is maintained with a thermoelectric cooling system based on the Peltier effect, which keeps the air at a specific temperature range. During a fireproof test, the researchers showed the drone was capable of enduring heats over 1,000 C from both butane gas and ethanol aerosol flames for over one minute. The team is currently working to improve the fire resistance of the drone’s sensors, including the 2-D laser scanner and the thermal-imaging camera.


News Article
Site: news.mit.edu

The MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), together with the Lorenz Center and the MIT Alumni Association, are hosting a climate symposium on Jan. 27 in the Kirsch Auditorium of the Stata Center (Room 32-123). While this event is now fully subscribed, the day's proceedings will be available via a live webcast. Taking action on climate change has become a dominating issue — globally, nationally, locally, and even here at MIT. Yet so many questions remain. How much and how quickly will climate change? How will these changes manifest, and where? What are the greatest risks posed by a changing climate and how likely are these worst-case outcomes? What is the science behind climate change, and how can basic research inform our efforts to avert, mitigate and adapt to its impacts? Essential knowledge built through basic climate research lies at the core of all these questions. We would not even recognize that Earth’s climate is changing were it not for the cumulative efforts of climate scientists over the past five decades, many of them here at MIT. And we cannot hope to improve the climate outcome for ourselves and future generations without the vital, ongoing contributions of fundamental climate science research. Touching on everything from the essentials of planetary climate through the complexities of Earth’s climate system to the challenges of finding the will to act on our knowledge to address current climate change, the symposium features talks and discussion by faculty experts from across the spectrum of climate research at MIT, plus keynote speakers Marcia McNutt (editor-in-chief of Science) and Justin Gillis (environmental science writer for The New York Times). Daniel Cziczo, MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences Elfatih A. B. Eltahir, MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Arizona State University Kerry Emanuel, MIT Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences John Fernandez, MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative W. Eric L. Grimson, MIT Chancellor for Academic Advancement Valerie Karplus, MIT Sloan School of Management Thomas Malone, MIT Sloan School of Management John Marshall, MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences David McGee, MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences Ronald Prinn, MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences Sara Seager, MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences Noelle Selin, MIT Institute for Data, Systems and Society and Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences Lawrence Susskind, MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning Dennis Whyte, MIT Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering Maria Zuber, MIT vice president for research For more information and a detailed agenda, visit the EAPS symposium website.


News Article
Site: news.mit.edu

The massive Deonar dumping ground in Mumbai has become the most visible emblem of an increasingly serious nationwide problem for India: what to do with its trash. Deonar’s towers of garbage are tall enough that there are concerns they could affect the flight patterns of airplanes coming and going from India’s financial capital. The dump has caught fire twice so far in 2016, enveloping the city in smoke and raising an outcry from locals. And Mumbai isn’t alone. Nearly every city in India faces waste management challenges that are only expected to grow along with rising population and affluence. A team of researchers at MIT’s Materials Systems Laboratory and Tata Center for Technology and Design wants to help cities understand their waste streams and begin to manage them in ways that are socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable. Led by Randolph Kirchain, principal research scientist in the Materials Processing Center, and Jeremy Gregory, research scientist in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the team is developing a decision-support tool to help Indian cities optimize the way they collect, transport, and treat household waste. “Like many things in India, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution,” Gregory says. “Everyone interacts with the solid waste system, so everyone stands to gain from better management. But to do it right, you have to understand the cultural, socioeconomic, and technical context of a particular city.” For example, every day in the north Indian city of Muzaffarnagar, a complex system goes into action, attempting to deal with the 120 tons of solid waste — glass, plastic, paper, food — generated by the city’s residents. Hundreds of waste collectors fan out across the city pedaling tricycle carts, which they fill with the refuse from approximately 50,000 households before taking it away to be treated or dumped. Meanwhile, informal waste workers such as kabadiwalas (scrap collectors) salvage recyclables and other valuable materials, which they sell to make their living. Finally, waste that goes uncollected is often dumped by the roadside or in bodies of water. Some variation of this largely ad hoc process occurs in dozens of cities across India, where solid waste management is a complex system of public, private, and informal players. The decision-support tool being created at MIT will use a variety of parameters to optimize a waste management system and recommend strategies tailored to a city’s needs, factoring in all the dynamics of a city like Muzaffarnagar. But first, Gregory says, “We need to understand the waste composition and how that composition varies by socioeconomic class.” Kirchain adds, “We anticipate higher waste generation in India not only because of population growth, but because of growing affluence. One motivator for us is to understand how waste might differ across income classes.” They are using Muzaffarnagar as a pilot city, where they have conducted a “waste audit” of six neighborhoods at different socioeconomic levels. “We collected waste door-to-door from 30 households in each of these neighborhoods over a span of eight weeks,” explains Dhivya Ravikumar, a Master’s student in the Technology and Policy Program and a fellow in the Tata Center. “We sorted the waste into different categories, which allowed us to quantify exactly what the composition was and how it varied by income.” Perhaps their most exciting discovery was that roughly 60-70 percent of the total waste was organic — primarily food waste. “As this organic waste is mixed with other waste streams, energy is spent separating the organic waste to extract value from it. What this means is that a lot of value is being lost,” Ravikumar says. “There’s a large potential for organic food waste that is not being tapped.” Various methods exist for converting organic waste into valuable commodities; these methods include biogas production, composting, and pelletization. This creates the potential for cities and private companies to generate additional revenue while reducing the environmental stress of waste dumping. But to take advantage of it, different waste management strategies will be needed. Suggesting what those strategies could be is where the MIT tool comes in. “Maybe you need smaller treatment centers around the city, instead of one central treatment center,” says Ravikumar. “Maybe you need to implement effective municipal policies, or create incentives for people to segregate their organic waste.” The MIT team is not advocating any particular technology. Rather, they want to recommend the most appropriate solution for a specific context, including those that are still in the exploratory stage. “We want to add to our portfolio new technologies coming out of the Tata Center program,” Gregory says, citing a bioreactor being developed by Gregory Stephanopolous, the Willard Henry Dow Professor in Chemical Engineering at MIT, and a torrefaction reactor being developed by Ahmed Ghoniem, the Ronald C. Crane (1972) Professor in Mechanical Engineering at MIT. Their next step is to scale up their audit from those six neighborhoods to the entirety of Muzaffarnagar. Ultimately, they want to identify the key parameters that will make the GIS-based tool applicable across different urban typologies. “It’s not just about designing the system that costs the least,” Gregory says. “You can also design a waste system that encourages employment, social equality, or positive environmental impact. “It’s important to remember that people make their livelihood from this system. There’s an instinct for people from Western countries to say, ‘We should have a Western-style system here,’ but we think that would be a mistake. You have to consider the impact on everyone involved, formally and informally.” The team will return to Muzaffarnagar this summer to explore collection strategies, such as incentivizing households to segregate their food waste, and also to study the impact of municipal policies on waste generation in collaboration with local government and the Shri Ram Group of Colleges.

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