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The Lead

Ultra-thin carbon electrodes are powerful tool for studying brain disorders

October 21, 2014 11:34 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Pennsylvania and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have used graphene to fabricate a new type of microelectrode that solves a major problem for investigators looking to understand the intricate circuitry of the brain. The see-through, one-atom-thick electrodes can obtain both high-resolution optical images and electrophysiological data for the first time.

World record in data transmission with smart circuits

October 21, 2014 7:39 am | News | Comments

Fewer cords, smaller antennas and quicker video transmission. This may be the result of a new...

When emotions control objects

October 20, 2014 11:51 am | by Cécilia Carron, EPFL | Videos | Comments

Sensors developed by SmartCardia, a spin-off from EPFL in Switzerland, use various biological...

Energy storage of the future

October 20, 2014 7:55 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

Personal electronics such as cell phones and laptops could get a boost from some of the lightest...

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Sound-powered chip to serve as medical device

October 17, 2014 9:18 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Medical researchers would like to plant tiny electronic devices deep inside our bodies to monitor biological processes and deliver pinpoint therapies to treat illness or relieve pain. But so far engineers have been unable to make such devices small and useful enough. Providing electric power to medical implants has been one stumbling block. Using wires or batteries to deliver power tends to make implants too big, too clumsy—or both.

Superconducting circuits, simplified

October 17, 2014 7:49 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Computer chips with superconducting circuits would be 50 to 100 times as energy efficient as today’s chips, an attractive trait given the increasing power consumption of the massive data centers that power Internet sites. Superconducting chips also promise greater processing power: Superconducting circuits that use so-called Josephson junctions have been clocked at 770 GHz, or 500 times the speed of the chip in the iPhone 6.

Computing with magnetic “tornadoes”

October 16, 2014 10:27 am | News | Comments

Magnetic materials store the vast majority of the 2.7 zettabytes of data that are currently held worldwide. In the interest of efficiency, scientists have begun to investigate whether magnetic materials can also be used to perform calculations. In a recent paper, researchers in the U.K. detail their plan to harness swirling “tornadoes” of magnetization in nanowires to perform logic functions. They plan to soon build prototypes.

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Revving up fluorescence for superfast LEDs

October 14, 2014 9:17 am | News | Comments

Duke Univ. researchers have made fluorescent molecules emit photons of light 1,000 times faster than normal, setting a speed record and making an important step toward realizing superfast light emitting diodes (LEDs) and quantum cryptography. This finding could help make LED technology, which earned a Nobel Prize this year, suitable for use as a light source in light-based telecommunications.

Teams set new records for silicon quantum computing

October 13, 2014 8:55 am | Videos | Comments

Two research teams working in the same laboratories in Australia have found distinct solutions to a critical challenge that has held back the realization of super powerful quantum computers. The teams created two types of quantum bits, or "qubits", which are the building blocks for quantum computers, that each process quantum data with an accuracy above 99%. They represent parallel pathways for building a quantum computer in silicon.

New sensor uses radio waves to detect subtle changes in pressure

October 10, 2014 2:09 pm | Videos | Comments

Stanford Univ. engineers have invented a sensor that uses radio waves to detect subtle changes in pressure. Already used to monitor brain pressure in laboratory mice as prelude to possible use with human patients, this pressure-sensing technology relies on a specially designed rubber and could lead to touch-sensitive “skin” for prosthetic devices.

Two Japanese, one American win Nobel for LED lights

October 7, 2014 9:10 am | by Karl Ritter and Malin Rising, Associated Press | Videos | Comments

Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano of Japan and U.S. scientist Shuji Nakamura won the 2014 Nobel Prize in physics for the invention of blue light-emitting diodes, a breakthrough that spurred the development of light-emitting diode (LED) technology. Scientists had struggled for decades to produce the blue diodes that are a crucial component in producing white light from LEDs when the three laureates made their breakthroughs in the early 1990s.

Google Glass gets speech-to-text update

October 6, 2014 8:20 am | by Jason Maderer, Georgia Institute of Technology | Videos | Comments

A team of Georgia Institute of Technology researchers has created speech-to-text software for Google Glass that helps hard-of-hearing users with everyday conversations. A hard-of-hearing person wears Glass while a second person speaks directly into a smartphone. The speech is converted to text, sent to Glass and displayed on its heads-up display.

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A new dimension for integrated circuits: 3-D nanomagnetic logic

September 30, 2014 1:39 pm | News | Comments

Electrical engineers in Germany have demonstrated a new kind of building block for digital integrated circuits. Their experiments show that future computer chips could be based on 3-D arrangements of nanometer-scale magnets instead of transistors. In a 3-D stack of nanomagnets, the researchers have implemented a so-called “majority” logic gate, which could serve as a programmable switch in a digital circuit.

Pixel-engineered electronics have growth potential

September 29, 2014 8:19 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

A little change in temperature makes a big difference for growing a new generation of hybrid atomic-layer structures, according to scientists. Rice Univ. scientists led the first single-step growth of self-assembled hybrid layers made of two elements that can either be side by side and one-atom thick or stacked atop each other. The structure’s final form can be tuned by changing the growth temperature.

Discovery could pave way for spin-based computing

September 26, 2014 8:48 am | by Joe Miksch, Univ. of Pittsburgh | News | Comments

Electricity and magnetism rule our digital world. Semiconductors process electrical information, while magnetic materials enable long-term data storage. A Univ. of Pittsburgh research team has discovered a way to fuse these two distinct properties in a single material, paving the way for new ultrahigh density storage and computing architectures.

Live long and phosphor: Blue LED breakthrough for efficient electronics

September 25, 2014 8:36 am | News | Comments

Blue organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are one of a trio of colors used in OLED displays such as smartphone screens and high-end TVs. In a step that could lead to longer battery life in smartphones and lower power consumption for large-screen televisions, researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have extended the lifetime of blue organic light emitting diodes by a factor of 10.

Nanotechnology leads to better, cheaper LEDs for phones and lighting

September 24, 2014 10:57 am | by John Sullivan, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Princeton Univ. researchers have developed a new method to increase the power and clarity of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Using a new nanoscale structure made from flexible carbon-based sheet, the researchers increased the brightness and efficiency of LEDs made of organic materials by 57%.

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Low-cost, “green” transistor heralds advance in flexible electronics

September 24, 2014 10:02 am | News | Comments

As tech company LG demonstrated this summer with the unveiling of its 18-in flexible screen, the next generation of roll-up displays is tantalizingly close. Researchers are now reporting a new, inexpensive and simple way to make transparent, flexible transistors that could help bring roll-up smartphones with see-through displays and other bendable gadgets to consumers in just a few years.

Nuclear spins control electrical currents

September 23, 2014 2:47 pm | by Katherine Kornei | News | Comments

An international team of physicists has shown that information stored in the nuclear spins of hydrogen isotopes in an organic light-emitting diode (LED) or organic LED can be read out by measuring the electrical current through the device. Unlike previous schemes that only work at ultracold temperatures, this is the first to operate at room temperature, and could be used to create extremely dense and highly energy-efficient memory devices.

Reflected smartphone transmissions enable gesture control

September 22, 2014 8:52 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Some smartphones are starting to incorporate 3-D gesture sensing based on cameras, but cameras consume significant battery power and require a clear view of the user’s hands. Univ. of Washington engineers have developed a new form of low-power wireless sensing technology that could soon contribute to gesture control by letting users “train” their smartphones to recognize and respond to specific hand gestures near the phone.

Fingertip sensor gives robot dexterity

September 19, 2014 7:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Northeastern Univ. have equipped a robot with a novel tactile sensor that lets it grasp a USB cable draped freely over a hook and insert it into a USB port. The sensor is an adaptation of a technology called GelSight, which was developed at MIT, and first described in 2009.

New algorithms lets owners swap, recharge battery modules in electric cars

September 17, 2014 1:51 pm | News | Comments

Imagine being able to switch out the batteries in electric cars just like you switch out batteries in a photo camera or flashlight. Engineers in California are trying to accomplish just that, in partnership with a local San Diego engineering company. Rather than swapping out the whole battery, which is cumbersome and requires large, heavy equipment, engineers plan to swap out and recharge smaller units within the battery, known as modules.

Toward optical chips

September 17, 2014 9:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Chips that use light, rather than electricity, to move data would consume much less power. Of the three chief components of optical circuits—light emitters, modulators and detectors—emitters are the toughest to build. One promising light source for optical chips is molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), which has excellent optical properties when deposited as a single, atom-thick layer.

For electronics beyond silicon, a new contender emerges

September 17, 2014 8:13 am | by Caroline Perry, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Silicon has few serious competitors as the material of choice in the electronics industry. Yet transistors can’t simply keep shrinking to meet the needs of powerful, compact devices; physical limitations like energy consumption and heat dissipation are too significant. Now, using a quantum material called a correlated oxide, researchers have achieved a reversible change in electrical resistance of eight orders of magnitude.

Want to print your own cell phone microscope for pennies?

September 16, 2014 8:01 am | by Susan Bauer, PNNL | Videos | Comments

At one o'clock in the morning, layers of warm plastic are deposited on the platform of the 3-D printer that sits on scientist Rebecca Erikson's desk. A small plastic housing, designed to fit over the end of a cell phone, begins to take shape. Pulling it from the printer, Erikson quickly pops in a tiny glass bead and checks the magnification.

Bound for robotic glory

September 16, 2014 7:56 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

The fastest land animal on Earth, the cheetah, is able to accelerate to 60 mph in just a few seconds. As it ramps up to top speed, a cheetah pumps its legs in tandem, bounding until it reaches a full gallop. Now, researchers have developed an algorithm for bounding that they’ve successfully implemented in a fully functional robotic cheetah.

“Squid skin” metamaterials project yields vivid color display

September 16, 2014 7:41 am | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

The quest to create artificial “squid skin”—camouflaging metamaterials that can “see” colors and automatically blend into the background—is one step closer to reality, thanks to a breakthrough color-display technology unveiled by Rice Univ. The new full-color display technology uses aluminum nanoparticles to create the vivid red, blue and green hues found in today’s top-of-the-line LCD televisions and monitors.

Optical circuit uses record low energy to operate

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

Optical circuits use light instead of electricity, making them faster and more energy-efficient than electrical systems. Scientists in Switzerland have now developed a silicon-based photonic crystal nanocavity to be used as a first building-block for photonic “transistors”. The new device requires record low energy to operate.

Nanotechnology aids in cooling electrons without external sources

September 10, 2014 1:23 pm | News | Comments

A team of researchers has discovered a way to cool electrons to -228 C without external means and at room temperature, an advancement that could enable electronic devices to function with very little energy. The process involves passing electrons through a quantum well to cool them and keep them from heating.

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