At the Photonics West conference in San Francisco this week, the Germany-based company Nanoscribe showcased the world’s fastest 3D printer of micro- and nanostructures. With this printer, small 3D objects, often smaller than the diameter of a human hair, can be manufactured with minimum time consumption and maximum resolution. The printer is based on a new laser lithography method.
In Germany, a project called MEMS2015 is underway which has the ultimate goal of developing the first-ever universal design methodology for microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS. The effort, a joint government and industry project coordinated by the Robert Bosch corporation, will improve sensors and actuators, and plug the gaps between electronics and mechanics design, manufacturing, and subsequent integration into products.
Iridescence, or sheen that shifts color depending on your viewing angle, is pretty in peacock feathers. But it's been a nuisance for engineers trying to mimic the birds' unique color mechanism to make high-resolution, reflective, color display screens. Researchers at the University of Michigan have found a way to lock in so-called structural color, which is made with texture rather than chemicals. The finding could lead to advanced color e-books, electronic paper, and screens that don't need their own light to be readable.
Organic semiconductors hold promise for making low-cost flexible electronics—if they can perform in spite of frequent flexing and sharp bending. Scientists have recently demonstrated extremely flexible organic semiconductors that withstood multiple bending cycles in which the devices were rolled to a radius as small as 200 μm. The scientists worked with numerous crystalline devices they made and found no degradation in their performance.
Researchers at Columbia University are attempting to build self-powered systems using nanoscale devices that can transmit and receive wireless signals using so little power that their batteries never need replacing. Some of the chips built so far are 100 times more energy efficient than most standard technologies, and they rely on tiny bits of ambient solar energy to recharge themselves.
Scientists from the University of Cambridge, U.K., have created, for the first time, a new type of microchip which allows information to travel in three dimensions. The chip’s design relies on spintronics, a technology that makes use of an electron's tiny magnetic moment, or “spin”, to store information. Currently, microchips can only pass digital information in a very limited way—from either left to right or front to back.
Researchers in Japan and Germany have recently demonstrated a device that can focus and steer terahertz beams electrically. Based on an array of metal cantilevers which can be micromechanically actuated by electrostatic forces, the device can create tunable gratings that may be crucial in future terahertz wavelength communication systems.
Advanced electronics are indispensable in modern warfare, but locating and tracking them all on the field of battle is almost impossible. To prevent valuable and strategic technology from falling into enemy hands, DARPA has announced the Vanishing Programmable Resources program, which has the aim of improving “transient” electronics, or electronics capable of dissolving into the environment around them.
Rice University scientists have taken an important step toward the creation of 2D electronics with a process to make patterns in atom-thick layers that combine a conductor and an insulator. The materials at play—graphene and hexagonal boron nitride—have been merged into sheets and built into a variety of patterns at nanoscale dimensions.
A team of scientists have designed and fabricated ultrasmall devices for energy-efficient electronics. By finding out how molecules behave in these devices, a ten-fold increase in switching efficiency was obtained by changing just one carbon atom. These devices could provide new ways to combat overheating in mobile phones and laptops, and could also aid in electrical stimulation of tissue repair for wound healing.
NASA scientists and engineers are working now to lay the groundwork for the Aerosol-Cloud-Ecosystem (ACE) mission, which will change what we can learn about clouds and aerosols. To that end, the Polarimeter Definition Experiment (PODEX) in Southern California will soon commence, testing a new class of polarimeters that are especially suited for finding the type, shape, and size of particles in the upper atmosphere.
The world's love affair with gadgets—many of which contain hazardous materials—is generating millions of tons of electronic waste annually. Now, Purdue and Tuskegee universities are leading an international effort to replace conventional electronics with more sustainable technologies and train a workforce of specialists to make the transition possible.
Electronics devices are a mainstay of our daily lives. But the expectation that the next shopping season will inevitably offer an upgrade to more-powerful gadgets largely depends on size, and developers who employ top down manufacturing methods are running into expensive roadblocks as the domain shrinks to the nanoscale. To go further, some researchers looking at a bottom up method, coaxing individual molecules to self-arrange into patterns.
Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Microsystems Technology Laboratories presented a p-type transistor with the highest "carrier mobility" yet measured. By that standard, the device is twice as fast as previous experimental p-type transistors and almost four times as fast as the best commercial p-type transistors.
In the effort to pile more power atop silicon chips, engineers have developed the equivalent of miniature skyscrapers in 3D integrated circuits and encountered a new challenge: how to manage the heat created within the tiny devices. But a team of University of Texas at Arlington researchers is working first to minimize the heat generated and then to developing nanowindows that will allow the heat to dissipate before it damages the chip.
Computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego have built a small fleet of portable pollution sensors that allow users to monitor air quality in real time on their smartphones. The sensors could be particularly useful to people suffering from chronic conditions, such as asthma, who need to avoid exposure to pollutants.
Information and communications technology (ICT) continues to evolve into various form factors, platforms, and system configurations. Its expanding applications base includes increasingly high-performance and cloud-based computing systems, a massive infrastructure of mobile communications, global networks of sensing systems, military and defense networks, Internet-based control systems, and many more.
By using electric voltage instead of a flowing electric current, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles have made major improvements to an ultrafast, high-capacity class of computer memory known as magnetoresistive random access memory, or MRAM. The team's improved memory, which they call MeRAM for magnetoelectric random access memory, has great potential to be used in future memory chips for almost all electronic applications.
Inductors are essential components of integrated circuits. The sprawling metal spirals store magnetic energy, acting as a buffer against changes in current and modulating frequency. However, because inductance depends on the number of coils, they take up a lot of space. Researchers have recently build a 3D rolled-up inductor with a footprint more than 100 times smaller without sacrificing performance.
Light isn’t always cooperative, and one it’s least favorite things to go around corners. In photonics chips, direction changes are crucial for manipulating light for the purpose of carrying information. Researchers recently have devised a solution—an irregularly-shaped waveguide— that tricks light into thinking it’s going in a straight line.
Using an electronic “leaf” that is able to detect when leaves receive moisture, a team of researchers working in Costa Rica’s cloud forests have discovered that tropical montane cloud forest can augment their water intake by drinking directly from the clouds. In dry but otherwise foggy areas, this ability to drink water through leaves is an essential survival strategy.
After more than a decade of research, chip engineers at IBM Research have built a scalable, fab-ready microchip that successfully integrates a complete optical package built from silicon. This silicon nanophotonics breakthrough allows the new chip, which is built on an existing high-performance 90-nm CMOS fabrication line, to exceed a transceiver data rate of 25 Gbps per channel.
A secret agent is racing against time. He knows a bomb is nearby. He rounds a corner, spots a pile of suspicious boxes in the alleyway, and pulls out his cell phone. As he scans it over the packages, their contents appear onscreen. In the nick of time, his handy smartphone application reveals an explosive device, and the agent saves the day. Sound far-fetched? In fact it is a real possibility, thanks to tiny inexpensive silicon microchips developed at the California Institute of Technology.
Silicon's crown is under threat: The semiconductor's days as the king of microchips for computers and smart devices could be numbered, thanks to the development of the smallest transistor ever to be built from a rival material, indium gallium arsenide. The compound transistor, built by a team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, performs well despite being just 22 nm in length.
For the first time, a silicon-based optical fiber with solar cell capabilities has been developed that has been shown to be scalable to many meters in length. The research opens the door to the possibility of weaving together solar cell silicon wires to create flexible, curved, or twisted solar fabrics.