As of 2018, there has been numerous developments in the field of mechanical engineering, far too many to count. Here are a few handpicked ones:

Controlling Nano motors:

A Nanomotor is a device that can convert energy into movement. It operates at nanoscale or molecular levels and is capable of generating forces in piconewtons. As of September 2018, engineers at the University of Texas developed a technique to control nanomotors using light as stimulus. Donglei Fan, associate professor and Zexi Liang exhibited the development where they increased, reversed and stopped the rotation of silicon nanomotors in an electric field by adjusting the intensity of simple visible light. By studying the interaction between light, electric field and semiconductor nanoparticle in a water-based solution, the researches stumbled on this discovery where they could use light as the switch for mechanical motion of nanodevices.

Nanomotors have already been researched with adjustable speeds but controlling their motion using light is the first discovery of its kind. By tuning the intensity of light from visible to infrared spectrum from a light projector, they were able to manipulate the motion of nanomotors. The effects of simple light as a stimulus and the physical properties behind that have been exposed for the first time. Using light to adjust mechanical motion has extensive applications in nanotechnology because the method is simple, instantaneous and effective.

The ability to alter the behaviour of nanodevices in this way — from passive to active — opens the door to the design of autonomous and intelligent machines at the nanoscale” — Donglei Fan

The original article can be found here

Nanotube skin that displays strain:

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A strain sensing, two polymer layered skin developed by researchers at Rice University is capable of showing areas of stress when exposed to laser light. This smart skin has a layer of carbon nanotubes with another layer of protective polymers that will turn fluorescent depending on the wavelength of light and strain subjected on them. This could help engineers study structural weaknesses. It can also help to predict and detect potential damage due to stress and strain on structures before the damage can lead to catastrophic failures.

The smart skin has been tested on aluminium bars with weakened spots that are invisible to human eyes. Upon testing, they indicated the weakened areas by illuminating when under tension. This finding is unique as standard strain sensors can only provide average readings over several millimetres whereas smart skin can differentiate between areas that a millimetre apart.

“But it has advantages that will prove useful when other methods can’t do the job,” he said. “I expect it will find use in engineering research applications, and in the design and testing of structures before they are deployed in the field.”  – Bruce Weisman, Chemist.

The invention is believed to benefit the aircraft industry where structural failure is quite common. It is also believed to be beneficial to other areas of engineering like mechanical, civil etc.

More information can be found on this link

Space debris elimination:

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Since the exploration of space began, there has been an ongoing issue with the space debris. Earth is currently surrounded by space junk that has been accumulating for decades. In some cases, space crafts have collided with this junk resulting in further debris and damage to space crafts. Although there have been many attempts to solve this problem, the recent plasma thruster prototype developed by the Australian National University and Tohuku University at Japan sounds more promising in future.

The ion beam shepherd ejects an argon plasma beam to transmit a force to the debris. This causes them to decelerate into the earth’s atmosphere and burn up. However, this can have a reaction on the satellite and make it accelerate in the opposite direction. Hence, it has been proposed that the satellite be mounted with another propulsion system so that it can eject bi-directional plasma and remove the debris effectively.

“If you can throw the gas out as a plasma, or charged gas, you can throw it out very quickly and make much better use of the fuel. You throw out less of it, because it’s thrown out very fast.” – Professor Rod Boswell, ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.

Original article can be found using this link

Shock absorbing material for ship hulls:

A group of researchers from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid developed a new shock-absorbing material that would protect the hulls of watercrafts from damage due to high levels of water impact. This material contains thin, honeycomb shaped, polymer hexagons. It is viscoelastic and would be placed between composite layers to absorb and fade the energy caused by impacts.

Tests have shown that this system can reduce the frequency of repair of damaged hulls by three times, increase the lifespan of the watercraft and strengthen the safety of the cruisers.

The image and the original article can be found by using this link

3D printed cement:

In nature, anthropoids like lobsters and beetles have shells that gets tough under stress. The exoskeletons of such insects have a crack propagation that gets tougher when cracked. Engineers have bio mimicked this feature to create 3D printed cement paste that would get stronger under pressure.

“Nature has to deal with weaknesses to survive, so we are using the ‘built-in’ weaknesses of cement-based materials to increase their toughness,” – Jan Olek, Professor, Purdue’s Lyles School of Civil Engineering.

This discovery could let us exploit the weakness of the material to be its strength. It can make structures more resilient in times of natural disasters and structural damage/failure. the design would control the damage spread between the material. Can you imagine how hard it is to break a bunch of sticks instead of a single stick? That’s the idea researchers are working on at Purdue University.

The image and the original article can be found by using this link

While researching on this topic, I also came across a multitude of other researches that were mind-blowing. It seems that in this era, as one man’s curiosity is satiated with a discovery, another rises up with new ideas – leading to further advances technologically. This invariable means that today’s students are expected to be more knowledgeable as each day passes by. If you are interested in expanding your horizons to tailor the needs of the present day’s world, Skill-Lync is the place for you. At Skill-Lync, we train our students in such a way that they can grow beyond the good grades that they carry and be relevant to the world’s progress. You can visit our website (https://courses.skill-lync.com/) and our project’s interface (https://blog.skill-lync.com/featured-student-projects/) for more details.