May 2016


Image: Melanie Gonick/MIT


Ingestible origami robot
In experiments involving a simulation of the human esophagus and stomach, a research group including members of MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science have demonstrated a tiny origami robot that can unfold itself from a swallowed capsule and, steered by external magnetic fields, crawl across the stomach wall to remove swallowed items or patch a wound (includes video).
Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/ingestible-origami-robot-0512

Lung cancer smartphone ‘breathalyzer’ wins Entrepreneurship Competition
A team of MIT and Harvard University students have invented a smartphone-connected sensor that detects lung cancer from a single breath, taking home a $100K grand prize. Astraeus Technologies won the event with their postage-stamp-sized device called the L CARD that detects gases indicative of lung cancer. When someone blows onto the device, a connected mobile app turns a smartphone screen red if those gases are present, and green if they aren’t.
Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/lung-cancer-breathalyzer-100k-entrepreneurship-...

Science & Tech

Speedy terahertz-based system could detect explosives; Cuts detection time from minutes to microseconds.
Terahertz spectroscopy, which uses the band of electromagnetic radiation between microwaves and infrared light, is a promising security technology because it can extract the spectroscopic “fingerprints” of a wide range of materials, including chemicals used in explosives. But traditional terahertz spectroscopy requires a radiation source that’s heavy and impractical. Researchers from MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics and their colleagues propose a new terahertz spectroscopy system that uses a quantum cascade laser, a source of terahertz radiation that’s the size of a computer chip. The system can extract a material’s spectroscopic signature in just 100 microseconds.
Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/speedy-terahertz-based-system-could-detect-expl...

Researchers find unexpected magnetic effect
A new magnetic effect has taken researchers by surprise, and could open up a new pathway to advanced electronic devices and even robust quantum computer architecture. It’s based on a family of materials called topological insulators (TIs) that has drawn much interest in recent years. The novel electronic properties of TIs may ultimately lead to new generations of electronic, spintronic, or quantum computing devices. But harnessing the materials’ promise still faces numerous obstacles, one of which is to find a way of combining a TI with a material that has controllable magnetic properties. Now, researchers at MIT and elsewhere say they have found a way to overcome that hurdle.
Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/unexpected-magnetic-effect-thin-film-materials-...


Light can ‘heal’ defects in some solar cells
A family of compounds known as perovskites, which can be made into thin films with many promising electronic and optical properties, has been a hot research topic in recent years. But although these materials could potentially be highly useful in applications such as solar cells, some limitations still hamper their efficiency and consistency. Now, a team of researchers at MIT and elsewhere say they have made significant inroads toward understanding a process for improving perovskites’ performance, by modifying the material using intense light.
Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/light-heal-defects-solar-cells-0524