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March 3rd, 2008
The wired car, for example, is an effort to test more detailed diagnostic systems, with sensors that detect changes in the system's electrical signature—and maybe even warn you before the starter motor fails. And the modifications made to the alternator would let it run at 30 percent greater efficiency, with a smoother electrical system translating to about 1 mpg in improved mileage. Researchers estimate that the increased cost for the manufacturer would be about $5.
One of the most promising experiments here is tucked away in what appears to be the messiest part of the entire lab, a small room littered with hand tools and testing gear. Joel Schindall, the associate director of LEES, pulls a tray out of a cabinet and flips it open. Inside are four black squares, like overturned tiles from a Magnetic Poetry set. If my job was to clean out this lab, I would probably take one look at these unassuming little things and fling the entire tray into the nearest trash can. Because unless they're under an electron microscope, vertically aligned carbon nanotube arrays don't look like much.
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