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.
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.
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.
To make a better optical fiber for transmitting laser beams, the first idea that comes to mind is probably not a nice long hydrogen bath. And yet, scientists have known for years that hydrogen can alter the performance of optical fibers, which are often used to transmit or even generate laser light in optical devices. Researchers at NIST have put this hydrogen “cure” to practical use.
Nature’s artistic and engineering skills are evident in proteins. Scientists at Rice Univ. have now employed their unique theories to show how the interplay between evolution and physics developed these skills. The team used computer models to show that the energy landscapes that describe how nature selects viable protein sequences over evolutionary timescales employ the same forces as those that allow proteins to fold.
Rutgers Univ. researchers have shown that GPS technology is not needed to show where a driver traveled. A starting point and the driver's speed are enough when using a technique dubbed “elastic pathing”, which predicts pathways by seeing how speed patterns match street layouts. This could cause concerns for privacy, however, since many insurance companies offer discounts in return for customers allowing their driving habits to be monitored.
Visual impairment comes in many forms, and it's on the rise in America. A Univ. of Cincinnati experiment aimed at this diverse and growing population could spark development of advanced tools to help all the aging baby boomers, injured veterans, diabetics and white-cane-wielding pedestrians navigate the blurred edges of everyday life.
A computer algorithm being developed by Brown Univ. researchers lets users instantly change the weather, time of day, season or other features in outdoor photos with simple text commands. Machine learning and a clever database make it possible. A paper describing the work will be presented at SIGGRAPH 2014.
Univ. College London scientists have discovered a new method to efficiently generate and control currents based on the magnetic nature of electrons in semiconducting materials, offering a new way to develop a new generation of electronic devices. One promising approach to developing new technologies is to exploit the electron’s tiny magnetic moment, or spin.
Performing systematic analyses of both known and imagined chemical compounds to find their key properties, Northwestern Univ. engineers have created a database that takes some of the guesswork out of designing new materials. Called the Open Quantum Materials Database (OQMD), it launched in November and is the largest database in the world of its kind, containing analyses of 285,780 compounds and growing.
A fundamental chemical pathway that all plants use to create an essential amino acid needed by all animals to make proteins has now been traced to two groups of ancient bacteria. The pathway is also known for making hundreds of chemicals, including a compound that makes wood strong and the pigments that make red wine red.
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.
For decades, scientists have been trying to use quantum systems for logical calculations, but implementing a system that manages superposition states is challenging. A team of researchers in Austria and Japan has now proposed a new architecture based on microscopic defects in diamond. They are convinced that the basic elements of their newly proposed architecture are better suited to be miniaturized, mass-produced and integrated on a chip.
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.
A team of economists including Esteban Rossi-Hansberg of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs have developed a model that can measure the widespread effects of local industry fluctuations such as sudden closing of a major airline hub. Gauging the power of these fluctuations, or shocks, could be a useful tool when it comes to designing policies to manage past and future shocks.
Russian hackers have stolen 1.2 billion user names and passwords in a series of Internet heists affecting 420,000 websites, according to a report published Tuesday. The thievery was described in a New York Times story based on the findings of Hold Security, a Milwaukee firm that has a history of uncovering online security breaches. For confidentiality reasons, the identities of the affected websites weren't identified by the Times.
By carefully controlling the position of an atomic-scale diamond defect within a volume smaller than what some viruses would fill, researchers have cleared a path toward better quantum computers and nanoscale sensors. These diamond defects are attractive candidates for qubits, the quantum equivalent of a computing bit, and accurate positioning is key to using them to store and transmit information.
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.
Wireless technology is already widespread in the research laboratory and industrial settings, where solutions are supported by WiFi and the advent of smartphones and tablets. Dedicated wireless platforms for scientific instruments, however, are more unusual. The reason for this is economies of scale.
The engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale, nanotechnology refers to the applied part of nanoscience which typically includes the engineering to control, manipulate and structure matter at an atomically small scale. Nanotechnology as a field is nothing less than diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly.
Imagine a world in which your wristwatch or other wearable device communicates directly with your online profiles, storing information about your daily activities where you can best access it—all without requiring batteries. Or, battery-free sensors embedded around your home could track minute-by-minute temperature changes and send that information to your thermostat to help conserve energy.
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.
Editors of photos routinely resize objects, or move them up, down or sideways, but Carnegie Mellon Univ. researchers are adding an extra dimension to photo editing by enabling editors to turn or flip objects any way they want, even exposing surfaces not visible in the original photograph.
A flu virus acts like a Trojan horse as it attacks and infects host cells. Scientists at Rice Univ. and Baylor College of Medicine have acquired a clearer view of the well-hidden mechanism involved. Their computer simulations may lead to new strategies to stop influenza, perhaps even a one-size-fits-all vaccine.
Researchers at MIT, Microsoft, and Adobe have developed an algorithm that can reconstruct an audio signal by analyzing minute vibrations of objects depicted in video. In one set of experiments, they were able to recover intelligible speech from the vibrations of a potato-chip bag photographed from 15 feet away through soundproof glass.