Posts belonging to Category sensors

Green Solar Panels And Other Colors

Researchers from AMOLF, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) have developed a technology to create efficient bright green colored solar panels. Arrays of silicon nanoparticles integrated in the front module glass of a silicon heterojunction solar cell scatter a narrow band of the solar spectrum and create a green appearance for a wide range of angles. The remainder of the solar spectrum is efficiently coupled into the solar cell. The current generated by the solar panel is only  reduced by 10%. The realization of efficient colorful solar panels is an important step for the integration of solar panels into the built environment and landscape.
research has much focused on maximizing the electricity yield obtained from solar panels: nowadays, commercial panels have a maximum conversion efficiency from sunlight into electricity of around 22%. To reach such high efficiency, silicon solar cells have been equipped with a textured surface with an antireflection layer to absorb as much light as possible. This creates a dark blue or black appearance of the solar panels.

To create the colored solar panels the researchers have used the effect of Mie scattering, the resonant backscattering of light with a particular color by nanoparticles. They integrated dense arrays of silicon nanocylinders with a diameter of 100 nm in the top module cover slide of a high-efficiency silicon heterojunction solar cell. Due to the resonant nature of the light scattering effect, only the green part of the spectrum is reflected; the other colors are fully coupled into the solar cell. The current generated by the mini solar panel (0,7 x 0,7 cm2)  is only reduced by 10%. The solar panel appears green over a broad range of angles up to 75 degrees. The nanoparticles are fabricated using soft-imprint lithography, a technique that can readily be scaled up to large-area fabrication.
The light scattering effect due to Mie resonances is easily controllable: by changing the size of the nanoparticles the wavelength of the resonant light scattering can be tuned. Following this principle the researchers are now working to realize solar cells in other colors, and on a combination of different colors to create solar panels with a white appearance. For the large-scale application of solar panels, it is essential that their color can be tailored.

The new design was published online in the journal Applied Physics Letters.


Pilotless Cargo Flights By 2025

Pilotless planes would save airlines $35bn (£27bn) a year and could lead to substantial fare cuts – if passengers were able to stomach the idea of remote-controlled flying, according to new research. The savings for carriers could be huge, said investment bank UBS, even though it may take until the middle of the century for passengers to have enough confidence to board a pilotless plane. UBS estimated that pilots cost the industry $31bn a year, plus another $3bn in training, and that fully automated planes would fly more efficiently, saving another $1bn a year in fuel.

Passengers could benefit from a reduction in ticket prices of about a tenth, the report said. “The average percentage of total cost and average benefit that could be passed onto passengers in price reduction for the US airlines is 11%,” it said, although the savings in Europe would be less, at 4% on average but rising to 8% at RyanairAircraft costs and fuel make up a much larger proportion of costs at airlines than pilot salaries, but UBS said profits at some major airlines could double if they switched to pilotless.

More than half of the 8,000 people UBS surveyed, however, said they would refuse to travel in a pilotless plane, even if fares were cut. “Some 54% of respondents said they were unlikely to take a pilotless flight, while only 17% said they would likely undertake a pilotless flight. Perhaps surprisingly, half of the respondents said that they would not buy the pilotless flight ticket even if it was cheaper,” the report said. It added, however, that younger and more educated respondents were more willing to fly on a pilotless plane. “This bodes well for the technology as the population ages,” it said.


No More Batteries For Cellphones

University of Washington (UW) researchers have invented a cellphone that requires no batteries — a major leap forward in moving beyond chargers, cords and dying phones. Instead, the phone harvests the few microwatts of power it requires from either ambient radio signals or light.

The team also made Skype calls using its battery-free phone, demonstrating that the prototype made of commercial, off-the-shelf components can receive and transmit speech and communicate with a base station.


We’ve built what we believe is the first functioning cellphone that consumes almost zero power,” said co-author Shyam Gollakota, an associate professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the UW. “To achieve the really, really low power consumption that you need to run a phone by harvesting energy from the environment, we had to fundamentally rethink how these devices are designed.”

The team of UW computer scientists and electrical engineers eliminated a power-hungry step in most modern cellular transmissionsconverting analog signals that convey sound into digital data that a phone can understand. This process consumes so much energy that it’s been impossible to design a phone that can rely on ambient power sources. Instead, the battery-free cellphone takes advantage of tiny vibrations in a phone’s microphone or speaker that occur when a person is talking into a phone or listening to a call.

An antenna connected to those components converts that motion into changes in standard analog radio signal emitted by a cellular base station. This process essentially encodes speech patterns in reflected radio signals in a way that uses almost no power. To transmit speech, the phone uses vibrations from the device’s microphone to encode speech patterns in the reflected signals. To receive speech, it converts encoded radio signals into sound vibrations that that are picked up by the phone’s speaker. In the prototype device, the user presses a button to switch between these two “transmitting” and “listening” modes.

The new technology is detailed in a paper published July 1 in the Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies.


New Solar System Produces 50 Percent More Energy

A concentrating photovoltaic system (CPV) with embedded microtracking can produce over 50 percent more energy per day than standard silicon solar cells in a head-to-head competition, according to a team of engineers who field tested a prototype unit over two sunny days last fall.

Solar cells used to be expensive, but now they’re getting really cheap,” said Chris Giebink, Charles K. Etner Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, Penn State. “As a result, the solar cell is no longer the dominant cost of the energy it produces. The majority of the cost increasingly lies in everything else — the inverter, installation labor, permitting fees, etc. — all the stuff we used to neglect.

This changing economic landscape has put a premium on high efficiency. In contrast to silicon solar panels, which currently dominate the market at 15 to 20 percent efficiency, concentrating photovoltaics focus sunlight onto smaller, but much more efficient solar cells like those used on satellites, to enable overall efficiencies of 35 to 40 percent. Current CPV systems are large — the size of billboards — and have to rotate to track the sun during the day. These systems work well in open fields with abundant space and lots of direct sun.

What we’re trying to do is create a high-efficiency CPV system in the form factor of a traditional silicon solar panel,” said Giebink.


Move And Produce Electricity To Power Your Phone

Imagine slipping into a jacket, shirt or skirt that powers your cell phone, fitness tracker and other personal electronic devices as you walk, wave and even when you are sitting down. A new, ultrathin energy harvesting system developed at Vanderbilt University’s Nanomaterials and Energy Devices Laboratory has the potential to do just that. Based on battery technology and made from layers of black phosphorus that are only a few atoms thick, the new device generates small amounts of electricity when it is bent or pressed even at the extremely low frequencies characteristic of human motion.


In the future, I expect that we will all become charging depots for our personal devices by pulling energy directly from our motions and the environment,” said Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Cary Pint, who directed the research.
This is timely and exciting research given the growth of wearable devices such as exoskeletons and smart clothing, which could potentially benefit from Dr. Pint’s advances in materials and energy harvesting,” observed Karl Zelik, assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt, an expert on the biomechanics of locomotion who did not participate in the device’s development.

Doctoral students Nitin Muralidharan and Mengya Lic o-led the effort to make and test the devices. When you look at Usain Bolt, you see the fastest man on Earth. When I look at him, I see a machine working at 5 Hertz, said Muralidharan.

The new energy harvesting system is described in a paper titled “Ultralow Frequency Electrochemical Mechanical Strain Energy Harvester using 2D Black Phosphorus Nanosheets” published  by the journal ACS Energy Letters.


SuperPowerful Tiny Device Converts Light Into Electricity

In today’s increasingly powerful electronics, tiny materials are a must as manufacturers seek to increase performance without adding bulk. Smaller also is better for optoelectronic devices — like camera sensors or solar cells —which collect light and convert it to electrical energy. Think, for example, about reducing the size and weight of a series of solar panels, producing a higher-quality photo in low lighting conditions, or even transmitting data more quickly.

However, two major challenges have stood in the way: First, shrinking the size of conventionally used “amorphousthin-film materials also reduces their quality. And second, when ultrathin materials become too thin, they are almost transparent — and actually lose some ability to gather or absorb light.

Now, in a nanoscale photodetector that combines both a unique fabrication method and light-trapping structures, a team of engineers from the University at Buffalo (UB) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) has overcome both of those obstacles. The researchers — electrical engineers Qiaoqiang Gan at UB, and Zhenqiang (Jack) Ma and Zongfu Yu at UW-Madison — described their device, a single-crystalline germanium nanomembrane photodetector on a nanocavity substrate, in the July 7, 2017, issue of the journal Science Advances.

This image shows the different layers of the nanoscale photodetector, including germanium (red) in between layers of gold or aluminum (yellow) and aluminum oxide (purple). The bottom layer is a silver substrate

We’ve created an exceptionally small and extraordinarily powerful device that converts light into energy,” says Gan, associate professor of electrical engineering in UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and one of the paper’s lead authors. “The potential applications are exciting because it could be used to produce everything from more efficient solar panels to more powerful optical fibers.”

The idea, basically, is you want to use a very thin material to realize the same function of devices in which you need to use a very thick material,” says Ma, the Lynn H. Matthias Professor and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in electrical and computer engineering at UW-Madison, also a lead author. Nanocavities are made up of an orderly series of tiny, interconnected molecules that essentially reflect, or circulate, light.

The new device is an advancement of Gan’s work developing nanocavities that increase the amount of light that thin semiconducting materials like germanium can absorb. It consists of nanocavities sandwiched between a top layer of ultrathin single-crystal germanium and a bottom, reflecting layer of silver.


Solar Nanotechnology-based Desalination

A new desalination system has been developed that combines membrane distillation technology and light-harvesting nanophotonics. Called nanophotonics-enabled solar membrane distillation technology, or NESMD for short, the development has come from the Center for Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT), based at Rice University. The system works whereby hot salt water is flowed across one side of a porous membrane and cold freshwater is flowed across the otherWater vapor is naturally drawn through the membrane from the hot to the cold side, and because the seawater doesn’t need to be boiled, the energy requirements are less than they would be for traditional distillation, according to the researchers. However, the energy costs are still significant because heat is continuously lost from the hot side of the membrane to the cold.

Unlike traditional membrane distillation, NESMD benefits from increasing efficiency with scale,” said Rice’s Naomi Halas, a corresponding author on the paper and the leader of NEWT‘s  nanophotonics research efforts. “It requires minimal pumping energy for optimal distillate conversion, and there are a number of ways we can further optimise the technology to make it more productive and efficient.

The distillation membrane in the chamber contained a specially designed top layer of carbon black nanoparticles infused into a porous polymer. The light-capturing nanoparticles heated the entire surface of the membrane when exposed to sunlight. A thin half-millimeter-thick layer of salt water flowed atop the carbon-black layer, and a cool freshwater stream flowed below.

Rice scientist and water treatment expert Qilin Li said the water production rate increased greatly by concentrating the sunlight: “The intensity got up 17.5 kilowatts per meter squared when a lens was used to concentrate sunlight by 25 times, and the water production increased to about 6 liters per meter squared per hour.”

In the PNAS study, researchers offered proof-of-concept results based on tests with an NESMD chamber about the size of three postage stamps and just a few millimeters thick.


Use The Phone And See 3D Content Without 3D Glasses

RED, the company known for making some truly outstanding high-end cinema cameras, is set to release a smartphone in Q1 of 2018 called the HYDROGEN ONE. RED says that it is a standalone, unlocked and fully-featured smartphone “operating on Android OS that just happens to add a few additional features that shatter the mold of conventional thinking.” Yes, you read that right. This phone will blow your mind, or something – and it will even make phone calls.

In a press release riddled with buzzwords broken up by linking verbs, RED praises their yet-to-be smartphone with some serious adjectives. If we were just shown this press release outside of living on RED‘s actual server, we would swear it was satire. Here are a smattering of phrases found in the release.

Incredible retina-riveting display
Holographic multi-view content
RED Hydrogen 4-View content
Assault your senses
Proprietary H3O algorithm
Multi-dimentional audio

  • There are two models of the phone, which run at different prices. The Aluminum model will cost $1,195, but anyone worth their salt is going to go for the $1,595 Titanium version. Gotta shed that extra weight, you know?

Those are snippets from just the first three sections, of which there are nine. I get hyping a product, but this reads like a catalog seen in the background of a science-fiction comedy, meant to sound ridiculous – especially in the context of a ficticious universe.

Except that this is real life.

After spending a few minutes removing all the glitter words from this release, it looks like it will be a phone using a display similar to what you get with the Nintendo 3DS, or what The Verge points out as perhaps better than the flopped Amazon Fire Phone. Essentially, you should be able to use the phone and see 3D content without 3D glasses. Nintendo has already proven that can work, however it can really tire out your eyes. As an owner of three different Nintendo 3DS consoles, I can say that I rarely use the 3D feature because of how it makes my eyes hurt. It’s an odd sensation. It is probalby why Nintendo has released a new handheld that has the same power as the 3DS, but dropping the 3D feature altogether.

Anyway, back to the HYDROGEN ONE, RED says that it will work in tandem with their cameras as a user interface and monitor. It will also display what RED is calling “holographic content,” which isn’t well-described by RED in this release. We can assume it is some sort of mixed-dimensional view that makes certain parts of a video or image stand out over the others.


Nanoweapons Against North Korea

Unless you’re working in the field, you probably never heard about U.S. nanoweapons. This is intentional. The United States, as well as Russia and China, are spending billions of dollars per year developing nanoweapons, but all development is secret. Even after’s June 6, 2016 headline, “US nano weapon killed Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, scientists say,” the U.S. offered no response.

Earlier this year, May 5, 2017, North Korea claimed the CIA plotted to kill Kim Jong Un using a radioactive nano poison, similar to the nanoweapon Venezuelan scientists claim the U.S. used to assassinate former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. All major media covered North Korea’s claim. These accusations are substantial, but are they true? Let’s address this question.

Unfortunately, until earlier this year, nanoweapons gleaned little media attention. However, in March 2017 that changed with the publication of the book, Nanoweapons: A Growing Threat to Humanity (2017 Potomac Books), which inspired two articles. On March 9, 2017, American Security Today published “Nanoweapons: A Growing Threat to Humanity – Louis A. Del Monte,” and on March 17, 2017, CNBC published “Mini-nukes and mosquito-like robot weapons being primed for future warfare.” Suddenly, the genie was out of the bottle. The CNBC article became the most popular on their website for two days following its publication and garnered 6.5K shares. Still compared to other classes of military weapons, nanoweapons remain obscure. Factually, most people never even heard the term. If you find this surprising, recall most people never heard of stealth aircraft until their highly publicized use during the first Iraq war in 1990. Today, almost everyone that reads the news knows about stealth aircraft. This may become the case with nanoweapons, but for now, it remains obscure to the public.

Given their relative obscurity, we’ll start by defining nanoweapons. A nanoweapon is any military weapon that exploits the power of nanotechnology. This, of course, begs another question: What is nanotechnology? According to the United States National Nanotechnology Initiative’s website,, “Nanotechnology is science, engineering, and technology conducted at the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers.” To put this in simple terms, the diameter of a typical human hair equals 100,000 nanometers. This means nanotechnology is invisible to the naked eye or even under an optical microscope.


Artificial Intelligence Checks Identity Using Any Smartphone

Checking your identity using simulated human cognition aiThenticate say their system goes way beyond conventional facial recognition systems or the biometrics of passwords, fingerprints and eyescans.


We need to have a much greater level of a certainty who somebody actually is. In order to answer that question, we appealed to deep science, deep learning, to develop an AI method, artificial intelligence method, in other words to replicate or to mimic or to simulate the way that we as humans, intuitively and instinctively go by recognizing somebody’s head, is very different to the conventional traditional way of face recognition, finger print recognition, for that reason really represents the next generation of authentication technologies or methods,” says AiTthenticate CEO André Immelman.

aiDX uses 16 distinct tests to recognise someone – including eye prints using a standard off the shelf smart phone to access encrypted data stored in the cloud it can operate in active mode – asking the user taking a simple selfie or discreetly in the background.

André Immelman explains: “It has applications in the security sense, it has applications in a customer services sense, you know this kind of things the bank calls you up and says: this is your bank calling, please, where you live, what is your mother’s name, what’s your dog favourite hobby, whatever the case it may be. It takes that kind of guess work out of the equation completely and it answers the, “who” question to much greater levels of confidence or certainty, than what traditional or conventional biometrics have been able to do in the past.”

Billions of dollars a year are lost to identity theft globally. aiThenticate hope their new system can help stop at least some of that illegal trade.


Building Brain-Inspired AI Supercomputing System

IBM (NYSE: IBM) and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) today announced they are collaborating on a first-of-a-kind brain-inspired supercomputing system powered by a 64-chip array of the IBM TrueNorth Neurosynaptic System. The scalable platform IBM is building for AFRL will feature an end-to-end software ecosystem designed to enable deep neural-network learning and information discovery. The system’s advanced pattern recognition and sensory processing power will be the equivalent of 64 million neurons and 16 billion synapses, while the processor component will consume the energy equivalent of a dim light bulb – a mere 10 watts to power.
IBM researchers believe the brain-inspired, neural network design of TrueNorth will be far more efficient for pattern recognition and integrated sensory processing than systems powered by conventional chips. AFRL is investigating applications of the system in embedded, mobile, autonomous settings where, today, size, weight and power (SWaP) are key limiting factors. The IBM TrueNorth Neurosynaptic System can efficiently convert data (such as images, video, audio and text) from multiple, distributed sensors into symbols in real time. AFRL will combine this “right-brain perception capability of the system with the “left-brain” symbol processing capabilities of conventional computer systems. The large scale of the system will enable both “data parallelism” where multiple data sources can be run in parallel against the same neural network and “model parallelism” where independent neural networks form an ensemble that can be run in parallel on the same data.


AFRL was the earliest adopter of TrueNorth for converting data into decisions,” said Daniel S. Goddard, director, information directorate, U.S. Air Force Research Lab. “The new neurosynaptic system will be used to enable new computing capabilities important to AFRL’s mission to explore, prototype and demonstrate high-impact, game-changing technologies that enable the Air Force and the nation to maintain its superior technical advantage.”

“The evolution of the IBM TrueNorth Neurosynaptic System is a solid proof point in our quest to lead the industry in AI hardware innovation,” said Dharmendra S. Modha, IBM Fellow, chief scientist, brain-inspired computing, IBM Research – Almaden. “Over the last six years, IBM has expanded the number of neurons per system from 256 to more than 64 million – an 800 percent annual increase over six years.’’


Farming in Brooklyn

Erik Groszyk used to spend all day at his desk working as an investment banker. Now he cultivates his own urban farm out of a 40-foot shipping container in a Brooklyn parking lot.

I just found myself not satisfied and kind of yearning for more,’ says Erik Groszyk.  The Harvard grad is one of 10 ‘entrepreneurial farmers,’ selected from a batch of 500 applicants, working with Square Roots, an indoor urban farming company launched in November that grows local food year-round in the heart of New York City. Now, six months into the program, Groszyk said his training in farming, artificial lighting, water chemistry and nutrient balance allows him to harvest roughly 15 to 20 pounds of produce each week.


People have lost trust in the food system, right? They want real food where they know their farmer, they know where their food is coming from, and they trust their food,‘ explains Tobias Peggs, Square Roots co-founder. He, along with his co-founder Kimbal Musk, the younger brother of Tesla‘s Elon Musk, aim to spread out to as many American cities as they possibly can in the next five to 10 years.

By 2050 there will be nine billion people on the planet and 70 percent will leave in urban areas. These people need feeding, and they will want local, real food,” he adds.
Square Roots sells food locally. It also plans to launch more urban farms, for others to operate, and will own a share in those farms’ revenues as well. Peggs says the company, by getting hyper-local, is looking to join a global food revolution. ‘America’s is the world’s great, greatest exporter. Right? We exported rock and roll, we exported Levi’s jeans. We also exported obesity. And the feeling is, if we can solve that, in America, through initiatives like Square Roots, bringing real food to everyone, getting more people on a healthy, low-cost, sustainable food system, that we’ll also be able to export that solution.’