Manufacturing Bits: Aug. 20

Lightweight building blocks; entangled communication.

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Child’s Play
MIT has created lightweight composite building blocks that can be snapped together like Legos to create complex shapes. MIT says those structures can be used to assemble everything from airplanes to dikes.

The new material is used to create identical interlocking parts, according to the university. The parts are 10 times stiffer than other ultralight materials, though. And even more important, they can be disassembled and reassembled to repair damage or recycle the parts.

According to MIT, the design combines research in fiber composites, cellular materials and techniques such as 3D printing. The school said that the approach was developed in response to the question, “Can you 3-D print an airplane?” The new approach is more assembly than printing, but it also addresses a key problem in composite manufacturing. Joints between large components tend to be the weakest structural links.

Assemblies of the cellular composite material are seen from different perspectives, showing the repeating "cuboct" lattice structure, made from many identical flat cross-shaped pieces. Photo by Kenneth Cheung/MIT

MIT’s approach uses composite fiber loops, which can distribute stress across a lattice structure. As a result, any failures tend to be more localized and can be repaired, versus composite materials, which tend to breach in large chunks.

Beam Me Up
Physicists at ETH Zurich say they have teleported information about six millimeters across a solid-state device using without actually transporting the object carrying the information.

”Usually, in telecommunication information is transmitted by electromagnetic pulses. In mobile communications, for example, microwave pulses are used, while in fibre connections it is optical pulses,“ said Andreas Wallraff, Professor at the Department of Physics and head of the study, on the university’s Web site. The quantum approach only sends the information, not the information carrier.”

What makes this possible is quantum entanglement between the sender and receiver. That entangled state can remain intact, even over distance. “The information does not travel from point A to point B. Instead, it appears at point B and disappears at point A, when read out at point B,” Walraff said.

The university said that about 10,000 quantum bits can be transported per second using this approach over electronic circuits.

—Ed Sperling