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Few industries are as fluid as construction when it comes to teaming up with other companies. But what happens when companies sign a teaming agreement and help land a big project, only to get kicked off the team? Can they sue?
A federal court’s new ruling finds that they can sue due to the legally enforceable teaming agreement’s promise to negotiate. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in early June ruled against a motion to dismiss by contractor Amec Foster Wheeler. It was battling a claim brought by a subcontracting team of Delmar, Del.-based Crystal Steel Fabricators and Culpeper, Va.-based Memco Inc. after the companies failed to win work helping to build a part of the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System on the Redzikowo Base in Poland. The project cost was $183 million.
Amec violated a teaming agreement when it went with another sub after landing the work to build the new missile defense complex, the subcontractors contend. The project involves building launcher foundations, apron and crane pads, power-plant facilities, warehouses and affiliated site structures.
|The type of land-based missile defense structure involved in the teaming dispute lawsuit.|
Crystal Steel and Memco contend they spent $150,000 on price proposals and other materials related to Amec’s successful bid to win the project, which was awarded by the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers in 2016.
Firing back, Amec argued the teaming agreement was legally unenforceable in Georgia—calling it an “agreement to agree”—and filed a counterclaim against Crystal Steel for its legal expenses and other damages. In its response to the claims of its spurned subcontractor, Amec points to the teaming agreement signed by both companies, which states, “This Agreement does not represent a guarantee of work to Subcontractor.” It gave few clues about why it didn’t give the job to the Crystal Steel-Memco team.
However, the court argued that while the teaming agreement inked by both firms did not include a guarantee of work, it did include a promise to negotiate in good faith, which can be enforced in court.
“There is ample support for enforcing contracts to negotiate—authority that the Georgia Supreme Court would likely find persuasive,” U.S. District Court Judge Mark H. Cohen wrote. “The case appears to involve an up-front investment of time and resources that might lead parties to enter into a contract to negotiate,” Cohen notes.
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Engineers at Caltech have for the first time developed a light detector that combines two disparate technologies — nanophotonics, which manipulates light at the nanoscale, and thermoelectrics, which translates temperature differences directly into electron voltage — to distinguish different wavelengths (colors) of light, including both visible and infrared wavelengths, at high resolution.
Light detectors that distinguish between different colors of light or heat are used in a variety of applications, including satellites that study changing vegetation and landscape on Earth and medical imagers that distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells based on their color variations.
The new detector, described in a paper in Nature Nanotechnology on May 22, operates about 10 to 100 times faster than current comparable thermoelectric devices and is capable of detecting light across a wider range of the electromagnetic spectrum than traditional light detectors. In traditional light detectors, incoming photons of light are absorbed in a semiconductor and excite electrons that are captured by the detector. The movement of these light-excited electrons produces an electric current — a signal — that can be measured and quantified. While effective, this type of system makes it difficult to “see” infrared light, which is made up of lower-energy photons than those in visible light.
Because the new detectors are potentially capable of capturing infrared wavelengths of sunlight and heat that cannot be collected efficiently by conventional solar materials, the technology could lead to better solar cells and imaging devices.
“In nanophotonics, we study the way light interacts with structures that are much smaller than the optical wavelength itself, which results in extreme confinement of light. In this work, we have combined this attribute with the power conversion characteristics of thermoelectrics to enable a new type of optoelectronic device,” says Harry Atwater, corresponding author of the study. Atwater is the Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech, and director of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP). JCAP is a Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Innovation Hub focused on developing a cost-effective method of turning sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into fuel. It is led by Caltech with Berkeley Lab as a major partner.
Atwater’s team built materials with nanostructures that are hundreds of nanometers wide — smaller even than the wavelengths of light that represent the visible spectrum, which ranges from about 400 to 700 nanometers.
The researchers created nanostructures with a variety of widths, that absorb different wavelengths — colors — of light. When these nanostructures absorb light, they generate an electric current with a strength that corresponds to the light wavelength that is absorbed.
The detectors were fabricated in the Kavli Nanoscience Institute cleanroom at Caltech, where the team created subwavelength structures using a combination of vapor deposition (which condenses atom-thin layers of material on a surface from an element-rich mist) and electron beam lithography (which then cuts nanoscale patterns in that material using a focused beam of electrons). The structures, which resonate and generate a signal when they absorb photons with specific wavelengths, were created from alloys with well-known thermoelectric properties, but the research is applicable to a wide range of materials, the authors say.
“This research is a bridge between two research fields, nanophotonics and thermoelectrics, that don’t often interact, and creates an avenue for collaboration,” says graduate student Kelly Mauser (MS ’16), lead author of the Nature Nanotechnology study. “There is a plethora of unexplored and exciting application and research opportunities at the junction of these two fields.”
The technological future of everything from cars and jet engines to oil rigs, along with the gadgets, appliances and public utilities comprising the internet of things, will depend on microscopic sensors.
The trouble is: These sensors are mostly made of the material silicon, which has its limits. Johns Hopkins University materials scientist and mechanical engineer Kevin J. Hemker has led a team that is now reporting success in developing a new material that promises to help ensure that these sensors, also known as microelectromechanical systems, can continue to meet the demands of the next technological frontier.
“For a number of years, we’ve been trying to make MEMS out of more complex materials” that are more resistant to damage and better at conducting heat and electricity, said Hemker, the Alonzo G. Decker Chair in Mechanical Engineering at the Whiting School of Engineering. Hemker worked with a group of students, research scientists, post-doctoral fellows and faculty at Whiting. The results of their successful experiments are reported in the current issue of the journal Science Advances.
Most MEMS devices have internal structures smaller than the width of a strand of human hair and shaped out of silicon. These devices work well in average temperatures, but even modest amounts of heat — a couple of hundred degrees — causes them to lose their strength and their ability to conduct electronic signals. Silicon is also very brittle and prone to break.
For these reasons, while silicon has been the heart of MEMS technologies for several generations now, the material is not ideal, especially under the high heat and physical stress that future MEMS devices will have to withstand if they are to enable technologies such as the internet of things.
“These applications demand the development of advanced materials with greater strength, density, electrical and thermal conductivity” that hold their shape and can be made and shaped at the microscopic scale, the authors of the paper wrote. “MEMS materials with this suite of properties are not currently available.”
The pursuit of new materials led the researchers to consider combinations of metal containing nickel, which is commonly used in advanced structural materials. Nickel-base superalloys, for example, are used to make jet engines. Considering the need for dimensional stability, the researchers experimented with adding the metals molybdenum and tungsten in hopes of curbing the degree to which pure nickel expands in heat.
In a piece of equipment about the size of a refrigerator in a laboratory at Johns Hopkins, the team hit targets with ions to vaporize the alloys into atoms, depositing them onto a surface, or substrate. This created a film that can be peeled away, thus creating freestanding films with an average thickness of 29 microns — less than the thickness of a human hair.
These freestanding alloy films exhibited extraordinary properties. When pulled, they showed a tensile strength — meaning the ability to maintain shape without deforming or breaking — three times greater than high-strength steel. While a few materials have similar strengths, they either do not hold up under high temperatures or cannot be easily shaped into MEMS components.
“We thought the alloying would help us with strength as well as thermal stability,” said Hemker. “But we didn’t know it was going to help us as much as it did.”
He said the remarkable strength of the material is due to atomic-scale patterning of the alloy’s internal crystal structure. The structure strengthens the material and has the added advantage of not impeding the material’s ability to conduct electricity.
The structure “has given our films a terrific combination, [a] balance of properties,” Hemker said.
The films can withstand high temperatures and are both thermally and mechanically stable. Team members are busy planning the next step of development, which involves shaping the films into MEMS components. Hemker said the group has filed a provisional patent application for the alloy.
The other researchers on the project were Timothy P. Weihs, professor of materials science and engineering; Jessica A. Krogstad, Gi-Dong Sim, and K. Madhav Reddy, who were post-doctoral fellows during various stages of the project; research scientist Kelvin Y. Xie, and current graduate student Gianna Valentino.
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant GOALI DMR-1410301.
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Right now, about 500,000 pieces of human-made debris are whizzing around space, orbiting our planet at speeds up to 17,500 miles per hour. This debris poses a threat to satellites, space vehicles and astronauts aboard those vehicles.
What makes tidying up especially challenging is that the debris exists in space. Suction cups don’t work in a vacuum. Traditional sticky substances, like tape, are largely useless because the chemicals they rely on can’t withstand the extreme temperature swings. Magnets only work on objects that are magnetic. Most proposed solutions, including debris harpoons, either require or cause forceful interaction with the debris, which could push those objects in unintended, unpredictable directions.
To tackle the mess, researchers from Stanford University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have designed a new kind of robotic gripper to grab and dispose of the debris, featured in the June 27 issue of Science Robotics.
“What we’ve developed is a gripper that uses gecko-inspired adhesives,” said Mark Cutkosky, professor of mechanical engineering and senior author of the paper. “It’s an outgrowth of work we started about 10 years ago on climbing robots that used adhesives inspired by how geckos stick to walls.”
The group tested their gripper, and smaller versions, in their lab and in multiple zero gravity experimental spaces, including the International Space Station. Promising results from those early tests have led the researchers to wonder how their grippers would fare outside the station, a likely next step.
“There are many missions that would benefit from this, like rendezvous and docking and orbital debris mitigation,” said Aaron Parness, MS ’06, PhD ’10, group leader of the Extreme Environment Robotics Group at JPL. “We could also eventually develop a climbing robot assistant that could crawl around on the spacecraft, doing repairs, filming and checking for defects.”
Creating a gecko gripper
The adhesives developed by the Cutkosky lab have previously been used in climbing robots and even a system that allowed humans to climb up certain surfaces. They were inspired by geckos, which can climb walls because their feet have microscopic flaps that, when in full contact with a surface, create a Van der Waals force between the feet and the surface. These are weak intermolecular forces that result from subtle differences in the positions of electrons on the outsides of molecules.
The gripper is not as intricate as a gecko’s foot — the flaps of the adhesive are about 40 micrometers across while a gecko’s are 200 about nanometers — but the gecko-inspired adhesive works in much the same way. Like a gecko’s foot, it is only sticky if the flaps are pushed in a specific direction but making it stick only requires a light push in the right direction. This is a helpful feature for the kinds of tasks a space gripper would perform.
“If I came in and tried to push a pressure-sensitive adhesive onto a floating object, it would drift away,” said Elliot Hawkes, MS ’11, PhD ’15, a visiting assistant professor from the University of California, Santa Barbara and co-author of the paper. “Instead, I can touch the adhesive pads very gently to a floating object, squeeze the pads toward each other so that they’re locked and then I’m able to move the object around.”
The pads unlock with the same gentle movement, creating very little force against the object.
The gripper the researchers created has a grid of adhesive squares on the front and arms with thin adhesive strips that can fold out and move toward the middle of the robot from either side, as though it’s offering a hug. The grid can stick to flat objects, like a solar panel, and the arms can grab curved objects, like a rocket body.
One of the biggest challenges of the work was to make sure the load on the adhesives was evenly distributed, which the researchers achieved by connecting the small squares through a pulley system that also serves to lock and unlock the pads. Without this system, uneven stress would cause the squares to unstick one by one, until the entire gripper let go. This load-sharing system also allows the gripper to work on surfaces with defects that prevent some of the squares from sticking.
The group also designed the gripper to switch between a relaxed and rigid state.
“Imagining that you are trying to grasp a floating object, you want to conform to that object while being as flexible as possible, so that you don’t push that object away,” explained Hao Jiang, a graduate student in the Cutkosky lab and lead author of the paper. “After grasping, you want your manipulation to be very stiff, very precise, so that you don’t feel delays or slack between your arm and your object.”
Gecko-inspired adhesive in zero-G
The group first tested the gripper in the Cutkosky lab. They closely measured how much load the gripper could handle, what happened when different forces and torques were applied and how many times it could be stuck and unstuck. Through their partnership with JPL, the researchers also tested the gripper in zero gravity environments.
In JPL’s Robodome, they attached small rectangular arms with the adhesive to a large robot, then placed that modified robot on a floor that resembled a giant air-hockey table to simulate a 2D zero gravity environment. They then tried to get their robot to scoot around the frictionless floor and capture and move a similar robot.
“We had one robot chase the other, catch it and then pull it back toward where we wanted it to go,” said Hawkes. “I think that was definitely an eye-opener, to see how a relatively small patch of our adhesive could pull around a 300 kilogram robot.”
Next, Jiang and Parness went on a parabolic airplane flight to test the gripper in zero gravity. Over two days, they flew a series of 80 ascents and dives, which created an alternating experience of about 20 seconds of 2G and 20 seconds of zero-G conditions in the cabin. The gripper successfully grasped and let go of a cube and a large beach ball with a gentle enough touch that the objects barely moved when released.
Lastly, Parness’s lab developed a small gripper that went up in the International Space Station (ISS), where they tested how well the grippers worked inside the station.
Next steps for the gripper involve readying it for testing outside the space station, including creating a version made of longer lasting materials able to hold up to high levels of radiation and extreme temperatures. The current prototype is made of laser-cut plywood and includes rubber bands, which would become brittle in space. The researchers will have to make something sturdier for testing outside the ISS, likely designed to attach to the end of a robot arm.
Back on Earth, Cutkosky also hopes that they can manufacture larger quantities of the adhesive at a lower cost. He imagines that someday gecko-inspired adhesive could be as common as Velcro.
Cornell University materials scientists and bioelectrochemical engineers may have created an innovative, cost-competitive electrode material for cleaning pollutants in wastewater.
The researchers created electro-spun carbon nanofiber electrodes and coated them with a conductive polymer, called PEDOT, to compete with carbon cloth electrodes available on the market. When the PEDOT coating is applied, an electrically active layer of bacteria — Geobacter sulfurreducens — naturally grows to create electricity and transfer electrons to the novel electrode.
The conducting nanofibers create a favorable surface for this bacteria, which digests pollutants from the wastewater and produces electricity, according to the research.
“Electrodes are expensive to make now, and this material could bring the price of electrodes way down, making it easier to clean up polluted water,” said co-lead author Juan Guzman, a doctoral candidate in the field of biological and environmental engineering. Under a microscope, the carbon nanofiber electrode resembles a kitchen scrubber.
The electrode was made by co-lead author Meryem Pehlivaner, currently a doctoral student at Northeastern University, with senior author Margaret Frey, professor of fiber science and an associate dean of the College of Human Ecology. Pehlivaner fabricated the carbon nanofibers via electrospinning and carbonization processes. After a few hours electrospinning, a thick nanofiber sheet — visible to the naked eye — emerges.
Pehlivaner reached out to Guzman and senior author Lars Angenent, professor of biological and environmental engineering, for collaboration in applying the carbon nanofiber electrodes to simultaneous wastewater treatment and production of electrical energy.
The customizable carbon nanofiber electrode was used for its high porosity, surface area and biocompatibility with the bacteria. By adhering PEDOT, the material gets an improved function, according to the researchers.
Guzman said wastewater treatment plants do not employ this method — yet. On a large scale, the bacteria at the electrode could capture and degrade pollutants from the wastewater that flows by it. Such a technology can improve wastewater treatment by allowing systems to take up less land and increase throughput.
Concepts like this happen on campuses where faculty and students want to communicate and collaborate, Angenent said. “This defines radical collaboration,” he said. “We have fiber scientists talking to environmental engineers, from two very different Cornell colleges, to create reality from an idea — that was more or less a hunch — that will make cleaning wastewater better and a little more inexpensive.”
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(NewsUSA) – This fall, like clockwork, Apple, Inc. will launch its iPhone 8, with yet another new operating system. Added to the mix will be the launch of Apple Pay Cash and sending money inside its messenger app, also known as Peer to Peer (P2P).
The problem is that millions of Apple and Android users won’t be able to use it.
The reason is that you must have an iPhone 6 or higher to be compatible with iOS11, which means that of the more than 90 million iPhone users in the United States, approximately 55 million will not have access to Apple Pay Cash and P2P.
This gap in service by two of the largest technology companies in the world could send all of the excluded iPhone and Android users to seek an alternative way to send money and have it loaded to a card.
Enter MovoCash, the brainchild of Eric Solis, which has created a payment platform that allows consumers to link their bank accounts to their MovoCash account for mobile payments with no limitation on the number of supported banks.
Unlike Apple Pay or Android Pay, MovoCash eliminates the need for retailers to buy expensive equipment.
“MovoCash is a transformative way to think about payments,” says Eric Solis, CEO and founder of the company.
“It always bugged me that companies like Apple would roll out a product that is so hard to use. You have to have a newer iPhone, you have to have a card that supports Apple Pay, you have to go to a merchant that supports Apple Pay. At the end of the day, so many consumers are locked out of the digital economy. We fixed all of that with MovoCash,” says Eric Solis, founder of the company.
To that point, MovoCash allows users (and even non-users) to send money to a friend instantly. And that friend can then turn around and buy a latte.
Some of the many advantages of Movocash compared to Apple Pay are that:
* Apple Pay can only be used by iPhone owners. With Movo- Cash, you can send money to anyone who has a smart phone.
* Only about 1 in 3 retailers support Apple Pay, while MovoCash is supported by more than 99.9 percent of retailers.
* Apple Pay can be spent where Apple Pay is accepted (usually not online) or sent to your bank. MovoCash, on the other hand, can be spent at nearly 100 percent of merchants. You can also get cash at an ATM, cash back with a purchase, pay bills, send someone a check, or shop online.
Consider this: according to Gartner, Inc., an American research and advisory firm providing information technology-related insight, of the 431 million smart phones sold worldwide in 2016, 352 million were Android devices and 77 million were iPhones. This is important because MovoCash has plans to expand globally.
As for the domestic market, there are 107 million Android smart phones in the United States and 90 million iPhones, of which 55 million are iPhone 5 or older. This means that a total of 142 million smart phone users in the United States will be blocked from using Apple Pay Cash. Alternatively, MovoCash works across all devices and has plans for global expansion.
“We are thrilled with the capabilities created with MovoCash,” says Solis.
“Our technology is available now and has many more features that make managing your money much easier than any other tool on the market.”
For more information, visit https://movo.cash/.
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CT The stumps and roots of coniferous trees contain extractives which can be processed into highly valuable products. In his doctoral dissertation on chemistry at the University of Helsinki, Harri Latva-Mäenpää studies methods which could be used to harvest these precious molecules from biomass.
The dissertation indicates that the bark of the Norway spruce, particularly the large roots close to the trunk, contain considerable amounts of bioactive compounds. The stumps of Scots pines were also found to contain similar compounds. The most well-known and the most studied stilbene compound is resveratrol, which has also been proposed as one of the active components in red wine and lingonberries. Such compounds could be used in products promoting health and wellbeing, such as medication, nutritional supplements and cosmetics.
The stilbenes isolated from wood could protect cells from the excessive oxidisation which leads to the destruction of cells. “From a health perspective, oxidative stress in the cells causes different types of damage in the body, for example, skin ageing or various infections, contributing to illnesses such as arthritis and Alzheimer’s,” says Harri Latva-Mäenpää.
According to the dissertation, the root neck between the roots and the stump of a Norway spruce is a particularly rich source for polyphenolic lignans, such as hydroxymatairesinol, which is already used in various health-promoting nutritional supplements.
Protective substances for construction materials
In addition to their antioxidant properties, these compounds have been found to have antimicrobial effects, which means that they could be used as protective substances in wood or other construction materials.
The research also examined the behaviour of stilbene molecules extracted from biomass in various conditions, and found that they changed under UV light. The properties of these new, altered molecules pose interesting topics for future research.
Potential for the bioeconomy
Current harvesting methods are already collecting stumps, but they are typically sent to be burned for energy. The research indicates that in addition to cellulose, wood biomass and its by-products, such as stumps and bark, could be used to produce new compounds known as extractives, which have been found to have interesting properties. The next steps will be further biomass research, product development and commercialisation. Product development will have to consider the legislation relating to the biomass used as raw material as well as the end products.
In addition to the commercialisation potential, this work provides new information on the protective mechanisms of wood extractives from a perspective of plant physiology. The dissertation was completed in a joint project of the University of Helsinki and Natural Resources Institute Finland intended to generate new information for the development of bioproducts.
MSc Harri Latva-Mäenpää defended his dissertation entitled “Bioactive and protective polyphenolics from roots and stumps of conifer trees (Norway spruce and Scots pine)” at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Science on 9 June 2017 at 12.00.
The dissertation is also available in electronic form through the e-thesis service: “Bioactive and Protective Polyphenolics from Roots and Stumps of Conifer Trees (Norway spruce and Scots pine)” https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/186254