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.
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.
Sometimes, a dozen ravenous zombies just aren't exciting enough to hold a video gamer's interest. The next step in interactive gaming, however, could come in the form of a handheld game controller that gauges the player's brain activity and throws more zombies on the screen when it senses the player is bored.
Passwords, gestures and fingerprint scans are all helpful ways to keep a thief from unlocking and using a cell phone or tablet. Cybersecurity researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have gone a step further. They’ve developed a new security system that continuously monitors how a user taps and swipes a mobile device.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Researchers are working to enable smartphones and other mobile devices to understand and immediately identify objects in a camera's field of view, overlaying lines of text that describe items in the environment. The innovation could find applications in "augmented reality" technologies like Google Glass, facial recognition systems and robotic cars that drive themselves.
Engineers would love to create flexible electronic devices, such as e-readers that could be folded to fit into a pocket. One approach they are trying involves designing circuits based on electronic fibers, known as carbon nanotubes, instead of rigid silicon chips. But reliability is essential.