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The Lead

The sound of an atom has been captured

September 11, 2014 4:46 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Sweden have shown how to use sound to communicate with an artificial atom, in this case an electric circuit that obeys quantum laws. By coupling acoustic waves to the atom, they can demonstrate phenomena from quantum physics with sound taking on the role of light.

Optical circuit uses record low energy to operate

September 10, 2014 6:07 pm | by Nik Papageorgiou, EPFL | News | Comments

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Wireless experts tap unused TV spectrum

September 10, 2014 8:30 am | News | Comments

Rice Univ. wireless researchers have found a way to make the most of the unused UHF TV spectrum by serving up fat streams of data over wireless hotspots that could stretch for miles. In a presentation today at the Association for Computing Machinery's MobiCom 2014 conference, researchers will unveil a multiuser, multiantenna transmission scheme for UHF, a portion of the radio spectrum that is usually reserved for television broadcasts.

Letting your car find a spot and park itself

September 9, 2014 12:15 pm | by Tom Krisher, AP Auto Writer | News | Comments

Technology being honed by French auto parts maker Valeo uses a dozen ultrasonic sound-wave sensors, 360-degree cameras and a laser scanner to safely park within a few centimeters of other vehicles. Then, when you're done with dinner or a business meeting, the car will return to you after another swipe of the thumb.

Soft robot squirms over fire, ice, and withstands crushing force

September 9, 2014 7:54 am | Videos | Comments

Engineers have created a shape-changing "soft" robot that can tread over a variety of adverse environmental conditions including snow, puddles of water, flames, and the crushing force of being run over by an automobile. The pneumatically powered, fully untethered robot was enabled by the careful selection of materials and composites, including silicone elastomer.

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First graphene-based flexible display produced

September 5, 2014 12:03 pm | Videos | Comments

A flexible display incorporating graphene in its pixels’ electronics has been successfully demonstrated by the Cambridge Graphene Centre and Plastic Logic. The new prototype is an active matrix electrophoretic display, similar to the screens used in today’s e-readers, except it is made of flexible plastic instead of glass. This advance marks the first time graphene has been used in a transistor-based flexible device.

Atomically thin material opens door for integrated nanophotonic circuits

September 4, 2014 12:43 pm | News | Comments

A team of U.S. and Swiss researchers have built a new basic model circuit consisting of a silver nanowire and a single-layer flake of molybdenum disulfide. This new combination of materials can efficiently guide electricity and light along the same tiny wire, a finding that could be a step towards building computer chips capable of transporting digital information at the speed of light.

Changing temperature powers sensors in hard-to-reach places

September 4, 2014 10:04 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | Videos | Comments

A centuries-old clock built for a king is the inspiration for a group of computer scientists and electrical engineers who hope to harvest power from the air. The clock, powered by changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure, was invented in the early 17th century by a Dutch builder. Three centuries later, Swiss engineer Jean Leon Reutter built on that idea and created the Atmos mechanical clock that can run for years.

Scientists shed light on organic photovoltaic characteristics

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

The most familiar photovoltaic (PV) designs use rigid layers of silicon crystal, but recently inexpensive organic semiconductor materials have also been used successfully. At this time, organic PV devices are hindered by low efficiency, in part because quantifying their electrical properties is a challenge. Researchers have now developed a method that allows the prediction of the current density-voltage curve of a photovoltaic device.

A single molecule device for mobile phones

September 3, 2014 8:46 am | News | Comments

Researchers have designed a single molecule which can act as a useful building block in nanometer-size circuits. They found that the molecule functions as a resonant tunneling device, an essential component in mobile phones and WiFi. These devices typically have a complicated design consisting of several layers of different materials.

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Simpler process to grow germanium nanowires could improve lithium-ion batteries

September 2, 2014 12:07 pm | by Andrew Careaga, Missouri Univ. of Science and Technology | News | Comments

As a semiconductor material, germanium is superior to silicon. But it is more expensive to process for widespread use in batteries, solar cells, transistors and other applications. Researchers in Missouri have now developed what they call “a simple, one-step method” to grow nanowires of germanium from an aqueous solution. Their process could make it more feasible to use germanium in lithium-ion batteries.

Sprinkling spin physics onto a superconductor

September 2, 2014 12:03 pm | by E. Edwards, Joint Quantum Institute | News | Comments

Physicists studying the effects of embedding magnetic spins onto the surface of a superconductor recently report that the spins can interact differently than previously thought. This hybrid platform could be useful for quantum simulations of complex spin systems, having the special feature that the interactions may be controllable, something quite unusual for most condensed matter systems.

Copper shines as flexible conductor

August 26, 2014 4:20 pm | News | Comments

Sensors made with copper could be cheap, light, flexible and highly conductive. Making such concepts affordable enough for general use remains a challenge but a new way of working with copper nanowires and a PVA “nano glue” could be a game-changer. Engineers in Australia have found a way of making flexible copper conductors cost-effective enough for commercial applications.

Symphony of nanoplasmonic and optical resonators leads to laser-like light emission

August 26, 2014 11:20 am | by Rick Kubetz, Engineering Communications Office | News | Comments

By combining plasmonics and optical microresonators, researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created a new optical amplifier (or laser) design, paving the way for power-on-a-chip applications. The speed of currently available semiconductor electronics is limited to about 10 GHz due to heat generation and interconnects delay time issues.

C2D2 fighting corrosion

August 26, 2014 8:48 am | by Anna Maltsev, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Bridges become an infrastructure problem as they get older, as de-icing salt and carbon dioxide gradually destroy the reinforced concrete. A new robot called C2D2 (Climbing Corrosion Detecting Device) is now in use in Switzerland and can check the condition of these structures, even in places that people cannot reach.

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Razor-sharp TV pictures

August 25, 2014 1:24 pm | News | Comments

The future of movie, sports and concert broadcasting lies in 4K definition, which will bring cinema quality TV viewing into people’s homes. With its 3840 x 2160 resolution, 4K Ultra HD has four times as many pixels as today’s Full HD. The new HEVC video compression standard now allows broadcasters to transmit live video in the 4K digital cinema standard, and was used recently to broadcast a soccer game in Germany.

Laser device may end pin pricks for diabetics

August 22, 2014 8:07 am | by John Sullivan, Office of Engineering Communications, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Princeton Univ. researchers have developed a way to use a laser to measure people's blood sugar, and, with more work to shrink the laser system to a portable size, the technique could allow diabetics to check their condition without pricking themselves to draw blood.

Engineers take step toward photonic circuits

August 20, 2014 8:35 am | by Richard Cairney, Univ. of Alberta | News | Comments

The invention of fiber optics revolutionized the way we share information, allowing us to transmit data at volumes and speeds we’d only previously dreamed of. Now, electrical engineering researchers at the Univ. of Alberta are breaking another barrier, designing nano-optical cables small enough to replace the copper wiring on computer chips.

Laser “lightning rods” channel electricity through thin air

August 19, 2014 8:49 am | News | Comments

By zapping the air with a pair of powerful laser bursts, researchers at the Univ. of Arizona have created highly focused pathways that can channel electricity through the atmosphere. The new technique can potentially direct an electrical discharge up to 10 m away or more, shattering previous distance records for transmitting electricity through air. It also raises the intriguing possibility of one day channeling lightning with laser power.

Molecular engineers record an electron’s quantum behavior

August 15, 2014 12:09 pm | by Jane Marie Andrew, Univ. of Chicago | News | Comments

A Univ. of Chicago-led team of researchers has developed a technique to record the quantum mechanical behavior of an individual electron contained within a nanoscale defect in diamond. Their technique uses ultrafast pulses of laser light, both to control the defect’s entire quantum state and observe how that single electron state changes over time.

Can our computers continue to get smaller and more powerful?

August 14, 2014 9:09 am | News | Comments

Chip designers are facing both engineering and fundamental limits that have become barriers to the continued improvement of computer performance. Have we reached the limits to computation? In a review article in Nature, Igor Markov of the Univ. of Michigan reviews limiting factors in the development of computing systems to help determine what is achievable, identifying "loose" limits and viable opportunities for advancements.

Tattoo biobatteries produce power from sweat

August 13, 2014 12:45 pm | Videos | Comments

In the future, working up a sweat by exercising may not only be good for your health, but it could also power your small electronic devices. Researchers report that they have designed a sensor in the form of a temporary tattoo that can both monitor a person’s progress during exercise and produce power from their perspiration.

New research to develop next-generation “race track memory” technology

August 13, 2014 9:02 am | News | Comments

Inspired by the discovery of “race track memory” by IBM researchers, scientists at the Univ. of California, Davis, with the support of the Semiconductor Research Corp., are investigating complex oxides that could be used to manipulate magnetic domain walls within the wires of semiconductor memory devices at nanoscale dimensions. This research may lead to devices that displace existing magnetic hard disk drive and solid state RAM solutions.

Scientists make cheap, fast self-assembling robots

August 7, 2014 3:51 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Borrowing from the ancient Japanese art of origami, children's toys and even a touch of the "Transformers" movies, scientists and engineers at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created self-assembling, paper robots. These complex machines transform themselves from little more than a sheet of paper and plastic into walking automatons.

Artificial retina: Physicists develop an interface to the optical nerve

August 7, 2014 9:49 am | News | Comments

Graphene has excellent biocompatibility thanks to its great flexibility and chemical durability, and its conducting properties suggest uses for prosthetic devices in humans. Physicists are now developing key components of an artificial retina made of graphene. These retina implants may one day serve as optical prostheses for blind people whose optical nerves are still intact.

The Preferred Method for Electronic Test

August 6, 2014 9:40 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

Oscilloscope technology is developing at a fast pace with more features packed into smaller and less expensive packages, providing engineers with more choices in the expanding marketplace. Recent market analysis from TechNavio notes the global oscilloscope market will grow at a 20% CAGR through 2016.

Thin diamond films provide new material for micro-machines

August 5, 2014 6:12 pm | by Jared Sagoff, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Most MEMS are made primarily of silicon for reasons of convenience, but they wear out quickly due to friction and they are not biocompatible. Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory and a handful of other institutions around the world have directed their focus on ultrananocrystalline diamond (UNCD), which are smooth and wear-resistant diamond thin films. Recent work opens the door to using diamond for fabricating advanced MEMS devices.

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