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Loser: Fruitless

A strawberry-picking robot won’t be displacing farmworkers anytime soon

5 min read
robot uses a vacuum arm to pick a ripe strawberry
Photo: IAM-BRAIN

This is part of IEEE Spectrum’s SPECIAL REPORT: WINNERS & LOSERS 2009, The Year's Best and Worst of Technology.

robot uses a vacuum arm to pick a ripe strawberryHandle with Care: This robot uses a vacuum arm to pick a ripe strawberry and gently nestle it into a padded container.Photo: IAM-BRAIN

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Caltech Team Launches Experimental Space-Based Solar Array

The satellite will test some of the tech needed to wirelessly beam power from orbit

4 min read
A lightweight gold-colored square frame for a solar power array, seen flying in space with Earth in background.

Artist's conception of Caltech's Space Solar Power Demonstrator in Earth orbit.

Caltech

For about as long as engineers have talked about beaming solar power to Earth from space, they’ve had to caution that it was an idea unlikely to become real anytime soon. Elaborate designs for orbiting solar farms have circulated for decades—but since photovoltaic cells were inefficient, any arrays would need to be the size of cities. The plans got no closer to space than the upper shelves of libraries.

That’s beginning to change. Right now, in a sun-synchronous orbit about 525 kilometers overhead, there is a small experimental satellite called the Space Solar Power Demonstrator One (SSPD-1 for short). It was designed and built by a team at the California Institute of Technology, funded by donations from the California real estate developer Donald Bren, and launched on 3 January—among 113 other small payloads—on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

“To the best of our knowledge, this would be the first demonstration of actual power transfer in space, of wireless power transfer,” says Ali Hajimiri, a professor of electrical engineering at Caltech and a codirector of the program behind SSPD-1, the Space Solar Power Project.

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Industrial Functional Safety Training from UL Solutions

Build knowledge and skills to better navigate today's functional safety landscape

3 min read
Man wearing safety helmet, goggles, and overalls stands near industrial equipment

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UL Solutions

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