Archive for January, 2011

Elizabeth Lockwood/Health.mil

Elizabeth Lockwood/Health.mil

Virtual reality for high-tech rehabilitation

January 26th, 2011 by Gene
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Soldiers and Marines fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are in the news almost every day. Some are wounded. Badly. We’ll look at how engineers are helping them put their lives back together. Today, on Engineering Works!

It’s one of the goofy things about modern war. Personal armor, air evacuation and better field medicine mean that many wounded who would have died in previous conflicts, live. But they live with the effects of severe burns, brain injuries, blindness, spinal damage, amputations. Since 2001, almost 700 have lost at least one limb.

This is where technology lends a hand. Meet CAREN, the computer-assisted rehabilitation environment. CAREN is a dome that helps soldiers with artificial legs or arms learn to use them in different situations. Walking down a busy street? See other pedestrians around you. See the buildings. Hear and see traffic. A walk in the woods? See the trees, hear the wind and the birds, feel the trail twist and turn under your feet.

Computers linked to sensors on the body move a treadmill to match the ground you’d be walking over and adjust video images all around to what you’d see as you walk. There’s more to CAREN than helping injured troopers learn how to deal with their wounds. Medical researchers also use the simulator to study problems like balance disorders and how stress affects people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

There’s no clever way to end this one. Hang in there, guys. See you next time.

Engineering Works! is made possible by Texas A&M Engineering and produced by KAMU-FM in College Station. Learn more about engineering. Visit us on the World Wide Web.

http://engineeringworks.tamu.edu

Start the discussion: This seems to be a really effective way to get injured people — not just soldiers and Marines — back into the game. Is this idea being used anywhere else, for anything else?

For more:

http://www.aaos.org/news/bulletin/dec07/research4.asp

http://science.dodlive.mil/2010/06/20/coming-soon-virtual-reality-medical-technology-for-troops/#more-2432

http://medgadget.com/archives/2007/02/caren_virtual_r.html

Sandia National Laboratory

Sandia National Laboratory

Power under the hot sun

January 19th, 2011 by Gene
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It looks like big-time solar power is coming to the United States. Find out more. Today, on Engineering Works!

Companies and individuals have been putting solar panels on their roofs for a long time. But big solar power projects have been slow in coming to the United States. According to federal energy statistics, biomass, geothermal, solar, and wind, together, produce only about four percent of electric power in the United States. A $6 billion project in the desert near Blythe, California, may be changing that.

The project is a conglomeration of seven-individual developments that will cover about seven-thousand-acres of federal land. When it’s completed and running at full capacity, planners expect that it will generate three-thousand-megawatts of power. That’s about as much as three of the largest nuclear power plants. Enough to provide power for two-million homes.

The solar generators will use what’s called concentrated solar power, or CSP, to get the heat that eventually generates the electricity. It’s technology that’s been around for years, and we know it works. They’ll collect the sun’s heat with something called parabolic troughs. A parabolic trough is like a big pipe split in half lengthwise that focuses sunlight on glass tubes that run above the trough’s center.

The tubes carry special fluid that’s heated to more than 700 degrees Fahrenheit. The hot fluid turns water into steam that spin turbines that’ll drive electric generators.

Our personal generators are spinning and we’re out of here. See you next time.

Engineering Works! is made possible by Texas A&M Engineering and produced by KAMU-FM in College Station. Learn more about engineering. Visit us on the World Wide Web.

http://engineeringworks.tamu.edu

Start the discussion: Solar energy sounds good, but can it actually produce the volume of electricity we need to get away from fossil fuels?

For more:

http://cleantechnica.com/2010/10/26/worlds-largest-solar-project-in-california-temporarily/

http://www.renewable-energy-news.info/worlds-largest-solar-installation-blythe-ca/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/25/biggest-solar-project-in-_n_773655.html