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The Lead

Neuromorphic computing “roadmap” envisions analog path to simulating human brain

April 17, 2014 11:46 am | by Rick Robinson, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

In the field of neuromorphic engineering, researchers study computing techniques that could someday mimic human cognition. Electrical engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology recently published a "roadmap" that details innovative analog-based techniques that could make it possible to build a practical neuromorphic computer.

Information storage for the next generation of plastic computers

April 17, 2014 9:41 am | by Gary Galluzzo, Univ. of Iowa | News | Comments

Although it is relatively cheap and easy to encode...

Google buys drone maker Titan Aerospace

April 15, 2014 12:26 pm | by Barbara Ortutay, AP Technology Writer | News | Comments

Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones,...

Combs of light accelerate communication

April 14, 2014 11:39 am | News | Comments

In a recent demonstration by researchers in Europe...

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New physical phenomenon on nanowires seen for the first time

April 11, 2014 1:06 pm | News | Comments

For optical communication to happen, it is essential to convert electrical information into light, using emitters. On the other end of the optical link, one needs to translate the light stream into electrical signals using detectors. Current technologies use different materials to realize these two distinct functions, but this might soon change thanks to a new discovery by researchers at IBM.

Physicist wins $1.3M tech prize for data storage

April 10, 2014 5:12 pm | by Matti Huuhtanen, Associated Press | News | Comments

Anyone who uses large data centers, cloud services, social networks or gets music and film online can thank British-American physicist Stuart Parkin. Parkin, who was R&D Magazine’s first Innovator of the Year in 2001, has won the 1 million-euro Millennium Technology Prize this week for discoveries leading to a thousand-fold increase in digital data storage on magnetic disks.

New “switch” could power quantum computing

April 10, 2014 7:54 am | by Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Using a laser to place individual rubidium atoms near the surface of a lattice of light, scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Univ. have developed a new method for connecting particles—one that could help in the development of powerful quantum computing systems.

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Domain walls in nanowires cleverly set in motion

April 8, 2014 12:02 pm | News | Comments

Using a new trick, researchers in Germany have been able to induce synchronous motion of the domain walls in a ferromagnetic nanowire. This is an important breakthrough for controlled movement of domain walls that allows permanent data to be stored using nanomagnets.  The advance involved applying a pulsed magnetic field that was perpendicular to the plane of the domain walls.

Hybrid technology could make Star Trek-style tricorder a reality

April 8, 2014 11:29 am | News | Comments

In the fictional Star-Trek universe, the tricorder was used to remotely scan patients for a diagnosis. A new device under development in the U.K. could perform that function through the use of chemical sensors on printed circuit boards. This would replace the current conventional diagnostic method, which is lengthy and is limited to single point measurements.

Even thinner solar cells through use of nanoparticles

April 8, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

New research shows that nanostructures could enable more light to be directed into the active layer of solar cells, increasing their efficiency. Prof. Martina Schmid of Freie Univ. in Berlin has measured how irregularly distributed silver particles influence the absorption of light. Nanoparticles interact with one another via their electromagnetic near-fields, so that local “hot spots” arise where light is concentrated especially strongly.

Graphene nanoribbons as electronic switches

April 8, 2014 9:29 am | News | Comments

A new theoretical study shows the conductivity conditions under which graphene nanoribbons can become switches in externally controlled electronic devices. The results, obtained by researchers in Argentina and Brazil, yield a clearer theoretical understanding of conductivity in graphene samples of finite size, which have applications in externally controlled electronic devices.

Tetris in the sky: Gamers play on Philly building

April 7, 2014 9:21 am | by Kathy Matheson, Associated Press | News | Comments

Hundreds of Tetris fans who had a little fun Saturday with a big version of the classic video game on the side of the 29-story Cira Centre in Philadelphia. LED lights embedded in the building's glass facade normally display colorful patterns. On Saturday night, images of super-sized shapes "fell" on two sides of the mirrored tower as competitors used joysticks to maneuver them, creating a spectacle against the night sky.

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Optical device could enhance optical information processing, computers

April 7, 2014 7:45 am | by Jo Seltzer, Washington Univ., St. Louis | News | Comments

At St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, a section of the dome called the Whispering Gallery makes a whisper audible from the other side of the dome as a result of the way sound waves travel around the curved surface. Researchers at Washington Univ. in St. Louis have used the same phenomenon to build an optical device that may lead to new and more powerful computers that run faster and cooler.

'Unbreakable' security codes inspired by nature

April 4, 2014 3:20 pm | News | Comments

Inspired by human biology, a revolutionary new method of encrypting confidential information has been patented by scientists. This discovery could transform daily life which is reliant on secure electronic communications for everything from mobiles to sensor networks and the internet.

Nanostructures show promise for efficient LEDs

April 4, 2014 3:05 pm | News | Comments

Nanostructures half the breadth of a DNA strand could improve the efficiency of light emitting diodes (LEDs), especially in the “green gap,” a portion of the spectrum where LED efficiency plunges.               

Researchers develop first phononic crystal that can be altered in real time

April 1, 2014 8:56 am | News | Comments

Using an acoustic metadevice that can influence the acoustic space and can control any of the ways in which waves travel, engineers have demonstrated, for the first time, that it is possible to dynamically alter the geometry of a 3-D colloidal crystal in real time. The crystals designed in the study, called metamaterials, are artificially structured materials that extend the properties of naturally occurring materials and compounds.  

Chips inspired by human brain process optical information

March 28, 2014 12:21 pm | News | Comments

Although neural networks have been used in the past to solve pattern recognition problems such as speech and image recognition, it was usually in software on a conventional computer. Researchers in Belgium have manufactured such a small neural network in hardware, using a silicon photonics chip. This chip is made ​​using the same technology as traditional computer chips but uses light instead of electricity as information carrier.

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Rainbow-catching waveguide could revolutionize energy technologies

March 28, 2014 11:50 am | by Cory Nealon, Univ. at Buffalo | News | Comments

More efficient photovoltaic cells. Improved radar and stealth technology. A new way to recycle waste heat generated by machines into energy. All may be possible due to breakthrough photonics research at the Univ. at Buffalo. The work explores the use of a nanoscale microchip component called a “multilayered waveguide taper array” that improves the chip’s ability to trap and absorb light.

Controlling electron spins by light

March 27, 2014 2:16 pm | News | Comments

Topological insulators are considered a very promising material class for the development of future electronic devices because they are insulators inside but conductors at the surface. A research team in Germany has discovered how light can be used to alter the physical properties of the electrons in these materials by using it to alter electron spin at the surface.

Desktop human “body” could reduce need for animal drug tests

March 26, 2014 1:13 pm | News | Comments

Call it “homo minutus”. A team at Los Alamos National Laboratory is developing four human organ constructs (liver, heart, lung and kidney) that will work together to serve as a drug and toxicity analysis system that can mimic the actual response of human organs. Called ATHENA, for Advanced Tissue-engineered Human Ectypal Network Analyzer, the system will fit neatly on a desk.

Micro systems with big commercial potential featured in SPIE journal

March 26, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

Commercial demand is driving high-tech research and development in micro-optoelectromechanical systems (MOEMS) for diverse applications such as space exploration, wireless systems, and healthcare. A new special section on Emerging MOEMS Technology and Applications in the current issue of the Journal of Micro/Nanolithography, MEMS, and MOEMS discusses these recent breakthrough achievements.

Source-gated transistor could pave the way for flexible gadgets

March 25, 2014 1:06 pm | News | Comments

Existing transistors act as electronic switches, altering current flow through a semiconductor by controlling the bias voltage across the channel region. A new electronic component, called a source-gated transistor, has been developed in the U.K. and exploits physical effects such as the Schottky barriers at metal-semiconductor contacts. This innovation could improve the reliability of future digital circuits used within flexible gadgets.

Getting rid of bad vibrations

March 20, 2014 9:25 am | News | Comments

Scanning electron microscopes are extremely sensitive and even subtle movements going on around them can affect their accuracy. Vibration control tables already exist to dampen these sometimes barely perceptible disturbances. But now a new kind of isolation platform for the first time integrates sensors and actuators into the mount, resulting in a platform that is more cost-effective and compact than its predecessors.

Tiny transistors for extreme environs

March 20, 2014 7:47 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Utah electrical engineers fabricated the smallest plasma transistors that can withstand high temperatures and ionizing radiation found in a nuclear reactor. Such transistors someday might enable smartphones that take and collect medical x-rays on a battlefield, and devices to measure air quality in real time.

New airborne GPS technology for weather conditions takes flight

March 19, 2014 9:19 am | News | Comments

In 2010, researchers demonstrated for the first time that atmospheric information could be captured by an airborne GPS device. Now, a new technique led by a researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography stands to improve weather models and hurricane forecasting by detecting precise conditions in the atmosphere through a new GPS system. A first-time demonstration using this system has captured key meteorological data from aircraft.

NIST chips help South Pole telescope find direct evidence of universe origin

March 19, 2014 9:16 am | News | Comments

Earlier this week, a team of U.S. cosmologists using the BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole said they have discovered the first direct evidence of the rapid inflation of the universe at the dawn of time. The finding was made possible, in part, by superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs) designed at NIST.

Graphene light detector first to span infrared spectrum

March 18, 2014 8:04 am | by Kate McAlpine, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

The first room-temperature light detector that can sense the full infrared spectrum has the potential to put heat vision technology into a contact lens. Unlike comparable mid- and far-infrared detectors currently on the market, the detector developed by Univ. of Michigan engineering researchers doesn't need bulky cooling equipment to work.

Nanoscale optical switch breaks miniaturization barrier

March 14, 2014 10:15 am | by David Salisbury, Vanderbilt Univ. | News | Comments

An ultra-fast and ultra-small optical switch has been invented that could advance the day when photons replace electrons in the innards of consumer products ranging from cell phones to automobiles. The new optical device can turn on and off trillions of times per second and consists of tiny individual switches made of a metamaterial that uses vanadium dioxide.

Making sense of big data

March 13, 2014 12:56 pm | by Wallace Ravven, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Ben Recht, a statistician and electrical engineer at the Univ. of California, Berkeley, looks for problems. He develops mathematical strategies to help researchers, from urban planners to online retailers, cut through blizzards of data to find what they’re after. He resists the “needle in the haystack” metaphor for big data because, he says, people usually don’t know enough about their data to understand the goal.

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