The basic element of modern electronics, namely the transistor, suffers from significant current leakage. By enveloping a transistor with a shell of piezoelectric material, which distorts when voltage is applied, researchers in the Netherlands were able to reduce this leakage by a factor of five compared to a transistor without this material.
Materials that control heat flow are available with both high and low conductivities, but materials with variable and reversible thermal conductivities are rare. For the first time, researchers at the Univ. of Illinois have experimentally shown that the thermal conductivity of lithium cobalt oxide, an important material for electrochemical energy storage, can be reversibly electrochemically modulated over a considerable range.
The human lymphatic system is a poorly understood circulatory system consisting of tiny vessels spread throughout the body. These vessels are filled with lymph, a clear liquid that lacks the natural contrast needed to show up on CT scanners or MRIs. A new technology developed in Texas can non-invasively image the human lymphatic system using a fluorescent dye, commercial laser dioded, and military-grade night vision devices.
The humble sewing machine could play a key role in creating "soft" robotics, wearable electronics and implantable medical systems made of elastic materials that are capable of extreme stretching. New stretchable technologies could lead to innovations including robots that have human-like sensory skin and synthetic muscles and flexible garments that people might wear to interact with computers or for therapeutic purposes.
One of the reasons we don’t yet have self-driving cars and miniature helicopters delivering online purchases is that autonomous vehicles tend not to perform well under pressure. A system that can flawlessly parallel park at 5 mph may have trouble avoiding obstacles at 35 mph. Part of the problem is the time it takes to produce and interpret camera data.
A new twist on 3-D imaging technology could one day enable your self-driving car to spot a child in the street half a block away or play “virtual tennis” on your driveway. The new system, developed by researchers at the Univ. of California, Berkeley, can remotely sense objects across distances as long as 30 feet, 10 times farther than what could be done with comparable current low-power laser systems.
Deep brain stimulators, devices that zap Parkinson’s disease tremors by sending electrical current deep into nerve centers near the brain stem, may sound like they are cutting-edge, but Rice Univ.’s Caleb Kemere wants to give them a high-tech overhaul.
Scientists from the Biorobotics Laboratory (BIOROB) at EPFL in Switzerland have developed small robotic modules that can change their shape to create reconfigurable furniture. Like Lego bricks, these robotic pieces, or Roombots, can be stacked upon each other to create various structures. Each piece has three motors that allow the module to pivot with three degrees of freedom, and each also has a battery and wireless connection.
Researchers at North Carolina State Univ. have developed new modifications for technology that helps pilots of small aircraft avoid midair collisions. The modified tools significantly improved pilot response times in making decisions to avert crashes. At issue are cockpit displays of traffic information (CDTIs). These are GPS displays used by private pilots to track other aircraft in their vicinity.
Over the past three years, researchers in the Camera Culture group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab have steadily refined a design for a glasses-free, multi-perspective, 3-D video screen, which they hope could provide a cheaper, more practical alternative to holographic video in the short term.
Scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have increased the energy efficiency of a piezoelectric nanogenerator by almost 40 times, moving it closer to commercial flexible energy harvesters that can supply power infinitely to wearable, implantable electronic devices. The technique used to make this improvement, laser lift-off, allows the placement of a high-quality piezoelectric film on a sapphire substrate.
Vanadium dioxide is called a "wacky oxide" because it transitions between a conducting metal and an insulating semiconductor and with the addition of heat or electrical current. A device created by Penn State engineers uses a thin film of vanadium oxide on a titanium dioxide substrate to create an oscillating switch that could form the basis of a computational device that uses a fraction of the energy necessary for today’s computers.
Researchers from The Univ. of Texas at Dallas and the Univ. of Tokyo have created electronic devices that become soft when implanted inside the body and can deploy to grip 3-D objects, such as large tissues, nerves and blood vessels. These biologically adaptive, flexible transistors might one day help doctors learn more about what is happening inside the body, and stimulate the body for treatments.
It looks like a game board and many of its users will find it fun, but there’s serious intent behind a device by Rice Univ. students to test the abilities of cerebral palsy patients. At the heart of the DeXcellence platform is a small peg comfortable enough for a three-year-old to hold. But packed inside are enough electronics to tell a nearby computer, tablet or other Bluetooth-enabled device of how the cylinder is moving in space.
Welcome to the virtual house call, the latest twist on telemedicine. It's increasingly getting attention as a way to conveniently diagnose simple maladies, such as whether that runny nose and cough is a cold or the flu. One company even offers a smartphone app that connects to a doctor. Patient groups and technology advocates are now pushing to expand this approach digital care to people with complex chronic diseases.
While flexible gadgets such as “electronic skin” and roll-up touch screens are moving ever closer to reality, their would-be power sources are either too wimpy or too stiff. But that’s changing fast. Scientists have developed a new device that’s far thinner than paper, can flex and bend, and store enough energy to provide critical back-up power for portable electronics.
Rice Univ. engineering students think it’s a shame to waste energy, especially in space. So a team of seniors invented a device that turns excess heat into electricity. Heat created by electronics onboard the International Space Station (ISS) now gets tossed overboard into the void. But new technology to turn heat into power would make it possible to put it back to work to run the myriad systems onboard.
Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory are seeking ways to synchronize the magnetic spins in nanoscale devices to build tiny yet more powerful signal-generating or receiving antennas and other electronics. Their latest work shows that stacked nanoscale magnetic vortices separated by a thin layer of copper can be driven to operate in unison, potentially producing a powerful signal that could be put to work in new electronics.
Two new "cyberlearning" platforms allow non-artists to create illustrations rivaling the work of expert designers. The platforms sidestep a key creative barrier by eliminating the need for drawing skills in developing new designs. The platforms represent an important step toward replacing or augmenting the use of paper to create designs.
Stanford Univ. bioengineers have developed faster, more energy-efficient microchips based on the human brain—9,000 times faster and using significantly less power than a typical PC. This offers greater possibilities for advances in robotics and a new way of understanding the brain. For instance, a chip as fast and efficient as the human brain could drive prosthetic limbs with the speed and complexity of our own actions.
A Rice Univ. laboratory has flexible, portable and wearable electronics in its sights with the creation of a thin film for energy storage. The laboratory developed a flexible material with nanoporous nickel-fluoride electrodes layered around a solid electrolyte to deliver battery-like supercapacitor performance that combines the best qualities of a high-energy battery and a high-powered supercapacitor without lithium.
Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe Systems have settled a class-action lawsuit alleging they conspired to prevent their engineers and other highly sought technology workers from getting better job offers from one another. The agreement announced Thursday averts a Silicon Valley trial that threatened to expose the tactics deployed by billionaire executives to corral less affluent employees working on a variety of products and online services.
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.
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.
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.