Shrimp-inspired camera could lead to new underwater technology

Researchers have used technology based off of mantis shrimp to create a new style of underwater GPS.

A new shrimp-inspired camera may help future technology see better underwater, according to new research published in the journal Science Advances.

This discovery comes from researchers at the University of Illinois, who took the expert underwater vision of the mantis shrimp and put it into a special camera. While humans cannot see well beneath the waves — mainly due to our thousands of years on land — many marine creatures can easily peer through the clear liquid.

The team in the study analyzed such creatures in order to understand which ones could see the best. That then led them to the mantis shrimp, which they used to create a brand new bio-inspired camera.

They chose the crustaceans because they can detect the polarization properties of underwater light. That means they are able to read how light refracts as it passes through water and bounces off of individual molecules. Using that as a baseline, the team managed to create a unique style of underwater GPS.

“We collected underwater polarization data from all over the world in our work with marine biologists and noticed that the polarization patterns of the water were constantly changing,” said study co-author Viktor Gruev, a professor at the University of Illinois, in a statement“This was in stark contrast to what biologists thought about underwater polarization information. They thought the patterns were a result of a camera malfunction, but we were pretty sure of our technology, so I knew this phenomenon warranted further investigation.”

In the study, scientists found that the underwater polarization patterns captured by the shrimp-like camera are linked to the sun’s position relative to the location where the recording was made. Using such information, researchers were able to estimate the sun’s heading and elevation angle. As a result, the team found they could calculate their coordinates by only knowing the date and time of filming.

Once they equipped the camera with an electronic compass and tilt sensor they were able to locate their position anywhere on Earth. Though the method is not as accurate at satellite reads, it is the best current GPS method for an underwater device.

Such information could one day help scientists locate missing aircraft or create detailed seafloor maps. There is even a chance it may allow biologists to track and study different marine species.

“Animals like turtles and eels, for example, probably use a slew of sensors to navigate their annual migration routes that take them thousands of miles across oceans,” added Gruev, according to ZME Science. “Those sensors may include a combination of magnetic, olfactory and possibly – as our research suggests – visual cues based on polarization information.”

Scientists developing quantum computing materials

New research on ferrites could pave the way for quantum computing materials.

Scientists from South Ural State University are modifying the properties and structure of ferrites, oxides of iron with other metals’ oxides, according to Phys.org. The research could lead to the development of quantum computing materials.

In particular, the scientists are trying to determine which of the iron’s positions in the lattice of barium hexaferrite is best suited for the new element.

“Nowadays this material has a great potential in absorbing electromagnetic interference (EMI) in the microwave range,” said Denis Vinnik of the Crystal Growth Laboratory at South Ural State University. “Therefore, hexaferrites are applicable for microwave technologies and for data transmission and protection from wave exposure at high frequencies.””

“Our interest to barium ferrites is conditioned by their high functional properties,” said Aleksey Valentinovich, who is also a part of the team. “Chemical stability and corrosion resistance makes these materials environmentally safe and usable fro practically unlimited time

The team is working with many chemical elements, including silicon, wolframium, titanium, aluminum, and manganese. In particular, they are examining how substitutions affect their properties.

But barium hexaferrite is one of the primary fields of study at the laboratory. Thus far, the team has grown nanocrystals that contain properties ideal for use in electronic devices. It could potentially be used for the creation of a quantum computer, which would have the highest performance capacity of all the current options.

Chinese test “death zone” spy drones that are nearly invisible to radar

China is testing new bat-sized spy drones that cost less than $200 per drone, are almost invisible to radar, and fly as high as 12 miles above sea level. This altitude puts them in near space, high enough to evade the anti-aircraft fire that can shoot down other drones.

Chinese scientists are testing new bat-sized spy drones whose small size makes them almost undetectable to radar systems. The scientists hope that these drones could enable China to a region of the atmosphere known as the “death zone.”

The death zone begins at about 12 miles above sea level, an area that researchers call “near space.” It’s the “death zone” to drone operators because most drones fail and crash when they venture into it. At this altitude, the air is so thin that drones have difficulty maintaining their flight paths and is so cold that their electronic systems frequently fail.

Some drones built for near-space flight exist, such as the U.S.-built MQ-9 Reaper and the Chinese Caihong 5, but they cost millions of dollars per vehicle. This new Chinese drone, on the other hand, will cost as little as a few hundred yuan, or less than $200.

 

The new Chinese drones fly higher and more cheaply by having much fewer electronic components and packing much lighter. There are no power motors or onboard cameras—only tiny sensors that can map terrain and locate military installations or activities.

 

The drones launch using an electromagnetic pulse that makes them accelerate from zero to 62 miles per hour at just arm’s length. Prototype drones underwent a successful test launch in Mongolia last month and reached 15 miles above sea level before arriving at targets more than 60 miles away.

“It shot out like a bullet,” said Yang Yanchu, one of the project’s lead scientists.

The drones’ high flight paths make them much harder to shoot down. Anti-aircraft fire hits drones that are flying at normal altitudes, but it doesn’t usually reach death-zone altitudes.