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News Release 07-112

New Approach Encourages Engineers to Pursue Paradigm Shifts

Emerging Frontiers program to drive high-risk, high-payoff research

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When researchers alter the environment in which a fruit fly develops, changes result.

Brains are highly complex systems formed by the cooperative interactions of many individual cells called neurons. If the environment around the brain is changed, or mutant, this can alter the way in which the neurons cooperate and the brain may not function properly or develop correctly. The goal of one NSF EFRI project is to understand relationship between environment and individual cells and then use this knowledge to determine the ultimate impact on multicellular networks such as the brain. By understanding this relationship in a model organism such as the fruit fly, we may one day be able to understand and potentially alleviate disorders of the brain and nervous system.

Credit: K. Kim and K. Palter, Temple University


One of the research teams is developing a new kind of robotic system for use in construction.

One of the EFRI teams is developing a new kind of robotic system for use in construction, a system in which available materials and the final structure are not clearly defined at a project's start. The robots sense changes and variables, diagnose them, adapt, and together build themselves into a structure best suited for the environment. Such a system could be a tool not only for future construction challenges, but also for optimizing current construction practices.

Credit: Jonathan Hiller and Hod Lipson, Cornell University; Eric Klavins, the University of Washington; Daniela Rus, MIT; Mark Yim, The University of Pennsylvania

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This high-powered scanning electron microscope image shows the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL.

This high-powered scanning electron microscope image shows the micro-scale architecture of synthetic anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, tissue, with additional cells growing on its surface. The ACL is the same ligament that athletes are prone to injure. One of the EFRI team's will be designing strategies for new ACL implants that are synthesized at the nanoscale, to a precision 100-1,000 times greater than that pictured. The research could have tremendous impact in the field of tissue regeneration.

Credit: C. Laurencin, working with Edward A. Botchwey, Yusuf Khan, Lakshmi Nair, and Nathan S. Swami