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article imageMost Human-Like Robotic Hand Shortlisted For MacRobert Prize

By Lenny Stoute     May 13, 2008 in Science
This year's finalists for the Royal Academy of Engineering's MacRobert Award reflect two of global culture's most dynamic engines; the environment and an aging population. The final Four are different enough to make picking a winner a tough call.
The high-tech envelope please...
The nominees for this year's Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award., the UK's highest accolade in the field of engineering, have been narrowed down to four finalists.
They are a freezer system for disease samples, a soot filter for diesel engines, a dime-sized chemical sensor and a bionic hand.
The winner is to be named on June 8 and awarded £50,000, just under a hundred grand Canadian. The awards have been handed out annually since 1969 and are reckoned to represent the finest in U.K. engineering, "Yet again, the MacRobert Award has attracted entries demonstrating an amazing talent for engineering innovation," he said in a statement. "I am delighted to see U.K. companies developing world-leading ideas across such a wide range of engineering activities.", Geoff Robinson, chairman of the judging panel. told the BBC.
The Royston-based Automation Partnership has been nominated for its Polar robotic system, which can retrieve blood and urine samples from the U.K. Biobank. The Biobank holds samples for 25 years at temperatures of -80 degrees Celsius in order to study long-term effects of disease such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Sounds like the ultimate Cold Case and should win the Research sector vote.
Johnson Matthey, also based in Royston, has been nominated for designing a compact filter that fits into a diesel engine. The filter uses heat from the engine to control hydrocarbon, carbon dioxide and soot emissions. The new filter is a significant improvement over previous designs, which were heavy and bulky, especially given the increasing popularity of diesel engines in Europe, the academy said.
This one is the most appealing to the Greens
Cambridge-based Owlstone Ltd. has been nominated for its dime-sized sensor, which can detect trace amounts of a wide variety of chemicals. The chip can detect explosives at airports, protect heavy-industry workers from gas exposure and predict fires before they start from precombustion fumes. So far this one sound to have the most utility and is reportedly cheap to manufacture.
Expect lots of support from the Government funded sector.
Finally, Livingston-based Touch Bionics comes on with its multi-articulating i-Limb, the world's first commercially available bionic hand. The hand looks and acts like the real thing, with five individually powered digits, and "heralds a new generation in bionics and patient care," the academy said.
This dark horse could take it all on a wave of populist support within the Academy encompassing everyone from surgeons to the physical disability industry to forgers, with the massive porn market yet to be heard from.
Check BBC for the thrilling result June 8.
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