Articles from October 2016



Nanocomputer Packed Into a 50 Nanometers Block

In 1959 renowned physicist Richard Feynman, in his talk “Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” spoke of a future in which tiny machines could perform huge feats. Like many forward-looking concepts, his molecule and atom-sized world remained for years in the realm of science fiction. And then, scientists and other creative thinkers began to realize Feynman’s nanotechnological visions.

In the spirit of Feynman’s insight, and in response to the challenges he issued as a way to inspire scientific and engineering creativity, electrical and computer engineers at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) have developed a design for a nanocomputer, with functional nanoscale computing. The concept involves a dense, three-dimensional circuit operating on an unconventional type of logic that could, theoretically, be packed into a block no bigger than 50 nanometers on any side.

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Novel computing paradigms are needed to keep up with the demand for faster, smaller and more energy-efficient devices,” said Gina Adam, postdoctoral researcher at UCSB’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and lead author of the paper “Optimized stateful material implication logic for three dimensional data manipulation,” published in the journal Nano Research. “In a regular computer, data processing and memory storage are separated, which slows down computation. Processing data directly inside a three-dimensional memory structure would allow more data to be stored and processed much faster.

However, the continuing development and fabrication of progressively smaller components is bringing this virus-sized computing device closer to reality, said Dmitri Strukov, a UCSB professor of computer science.  “Our contribution is that we improved the specific features of that logic and designed it so it could be built in three dimensions,” he said.

Key to this development is the use of a logic system called material implication logic combined with memristors — circuit elements whose resistance depends on the most recent charges and the directions of those currents that have flowed through them. Unlike the conventional computing logic and circuitry found in our present computers and other devices, in this form of computing, logic operation and information storage happen simultaneously and locally. This greatly reduces the need for components and space typically used to perform logic operations and to move data back and forth between operation and memory storage. The result of the computation is immediately stored in a memory element, which prevents data loss in the event of power outages — a critical function in autonomous systems such as robotics.

Source: http://www.news.ucsb.edu/

Self-Healable Lithium Ion Battery For Electronic Textile

Electronics that can be embedded in clothing are a growing trend. However, power sources remain a problem. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, scientists have now introduced thin, flexible, lithium ion batteries with self-healing properties that can be safely worn on the body. Even after completely breaking apart, the battery can grow back together without significant impact on its electrochemical properties.

Existing lithium ion batteries for wearable electronics can be bent and rolled up without any problems, but can break when they are twisted too far or accidentally stepped on—which can happen often when being worn. This damage not only causes the battery to fail, it can also cause a safety problem: Flammable, toxic, or corrosive gases or liquids may leak out.

A team led by Yonggang Wang and Huisheng Peng from  Fudan University in Shanghai – China, has now developed a new family of lithium ion batteries that can overcome such accidents thanks to their amazing self-healing powers. In order for a complicated object like a battery to be made self-healing, all of its individual components must also be self-healing. The scientists from Fudan University  the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (South Korea), and the Samsung R&D Institute China, have now been able to accomplish this.

self-healing-batteryThe electrodes in these batteries consist of layers of parallel carbon nanotubes. Between the layers, the scientists embedded the necessary lithium compounds in nanoparticle. In contrast to conventional lithium ion batteries, the lithium compounds cannot leak out of the electrodes, either while in use or after a break. The thin layer electrodes are each fixed on a substrate of self-healing polymer. Between the electrodes is a novel, solvent-free electrolyte made from a cellulose-based gel with an aqueous lithium sulfate solution embedded in it. This gel electrolyte also serves as a separation layer between the electrodes.

After a break, it is only necessary to press the broken ends together for a few seconds for them to grow back together. Both the self-healing polymer and the carbon nanotubes “stick” back together perfectly. The parallel arrangement of the nanotubes allows them to come together much better than layers of disordered carbon nanotubes. The electrolyte also poses no problems. Whereas conventional electrolytes decompose immediately upon exposure to air, the new gel is stable. Free of organic solvents, it is neither flammable nor toxic, making it safe for this application.

The capacity and charging/discharging properties of a batteryarmband” placed around a doll’s elbow were maintained, even after repeated break/self-healing cycles.

Source: http://eu.wiley.com/

Algorithm helps patients to choose a new nose

Having plastic surgery of any kind is a major decision, but knowing how you’ll look in advance of going under the knife can help dispel some of the anxiety. Surgeons have been using imaging software for some time to help patients visualise the results of prospective work. But researchers from Belgium have developed software they say can help surgeons deliver even better results, while increasing the interaction with their patients.

At the Meaningful Interactions Lab (mintlab), a research group of the University of Leuven (Belgium) and research institute IMEC, they’ve collaborated with a consortium of research partners and companies to develop a 3D tool to accurately simulate the outcome of nose surgery. The tool uses a combination of facial modelling statistics with morphing algorithms. The ‘average nose‘ is used as a baseline, computed based on the characteristics of a couple of hundreds of faces in their database.

noseCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

The new algorithm delivers more realistic results for rhinoplasty, commonly called a nose job. First, a 3D model is built using off-the-shelf components. Once imported into their software, it creates the most appropriate looking nose, using hundreds of previously scanned faces as a baseline.

We combined this with an algorithm that was based on faces that were scanned – a lot of faces were scanned – so that the algorithm could calculate what a realistic nose could look like. So in Photoshop you could very easily make like a Pinocchio nose and that’s really unrealistic, but with this software we’ve managed to keep the boundaries to what’s really realistic“, says Arne Jansen, resarcher at the Mintlab.
The computer-created nose can still be adjusted to the patient’s liking. The team says it also has important applications for designing prosthetic replacements for patients whose noses have been amputated, often due to cancer. It uses facial characteristics to ‘predict‘ a perfectly fitting whole new nose – even though there is no existing nasal structure to base it on. Key landmarks on the face are pinpointed; such as cheekbones, tip of the nose and corners of the eyes to help it design a well-suited nose.  “And the software can look at the same characteristics of the face and use that to calculate a nose that is fitting for this particular face. And so what the software won’t do is make a general nose; make on nose for all – it will make a characteristic nose that you can still alter towards the needs of the patients“, he adds.

Source: https://www.kuleuven.be/

Solar-powered Wireless Charging Station For Electric Bikes

Members of the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in Netherlands have presented the first solar-powered wireless charging station for electric bikes.

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This is a major step forward in terms of sustainable transport and accelerating the energy transition because the combination of solar energy, wireless charging and electric bikes is unique. In this charging station, we charge the DC battery in the bike with the solar energy from the eight solar panels via the DC supply. The charging station can also store 10 kWh of solar energy in the batteries, enabling it to function independently“, sayd  Pavol Bauer, who leads the Direct Current (DC) Systems, Energy Conversion & Storage group at the University.

The charging station is ready for immediate use: it can accommodate four electric bikesan electric scooter and a research bike that are charged wirelessly. The charging station also serves as a living lab, a testbed for further research. In the last two years, ten students have graduated on the strength of their work on the project. For example, a student of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science designed a DC system and created a system to enable the bike to be charged wirelessly, another calculated and determined the output and position of the solar panels, and an Industrial Design Engineering student was responsible for designing the charging station.

The electric research bike is equipped with a dual stand and a small coil. At the charging station, the bike can be parked on the stand on a magnetic tile. The bike is charged directly via the coil. The user can monitor the charging status on a built-in screen on the charging station or on his or her mobile phone. Wireless charging takes around the same time as the ‘conventional‘ charging of electric bikes.

It is anticipated that the eight panels will generate sufficient energy to power the electric bikes and the scooter in winter. In summer, any excess power will be fed to the electricity grid. Pavol Bauer’s group now plans to work on the further development of wireless charging for various bikes and scooters. The ultimate aim is for the charging station to consist solely of several tiles used as a solar panel, which can be cycled on, known as solar roads. Integrating solar cells and the wireless charging system makes an expensive system unnecessary.

Source: http://www.tudelft.nl/

How To Stop The Spread Of Breast Cancer

A breakthrough technology that harnesses manmade nanoparticles could one day become an important new weapon in the fight against cancer. The technique, which appeared to successfully stop the spread of breast cancer in mice, was unveiled by scientists from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Stony Brook University, and a host of other research institutions in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Next-generation cancer fighting therapies on the market today use the body’s immune system to combat tumors, as does experimental technology like CRISPR gene-editing. But the new nanotech has a different target: The cells that actually help cancer metastasize and spread throughout the body. These immune cells, which are meant to ward off infections, create structures called neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) that help them fight bacteria. But NETs can actually wind up helping spread the cancer by creating tissue openings that cancerous cells can exploit, study co-author Mikala Egeblad explained.

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A high magnification of an intact neutrophil (yellow arrow) and a NET (white arrow)

So the researchers created a new particle coated with a special enzyme that can kill these cells before the cancer can use them to metastasize. The results were modest, but promising: Three out of the nine mice given the nanoparticle showed no evidence of breast cancer progression, while all mice in the control group continued to worsen.

New Perovskite Solar Cell Outperforms Silicon Cells

Stanford and Oxford have created novel solar cells from crystalline perovskite that could outperform existing silicon cells on the market today. This design converts sunlight to electricity at efficiencies of 20 percent, similar to current technology but at much lower cost. Writing in the journal Science, researchers from Stanford and Oxford describe using tin and other abundant elements to create novel forms of perovskite – a photovoltaic crystalline material that’s thinner, more flexible and easier to manufacture than silicon crystals.

perovskite solar panelCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

Perovskite semiconductors have shown great promise for making high-efficiency solar cells at low cost,” said study co-author Michael McGehee, a professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford. “We have designed a robust, all-perovskite device that converts sunlight into electricity with an efficiency of 20.3 percent, a rate comparable to silicon solar cells on the market today.”

The new device consists of two perovskite solar cells stacked in tandem. Each cell is printed on glass, but the same technology could be used to print the cells on plastic, McGehee added.

The all-perovskite tandem cells we have demonstrated clearly outline a roadmap for thin-film solar cells to deliver over 30 percent efficiency,” said co-author Henry Snaith, a professor of physics at Oxford. “This is just the beginning.”

Previous studies showed that adding a layer of perovskite can improve the efficiency of silicon solar cells. But a tandem device consisting of two all-perovskite cells would be cheaper and less energy-intensive to build, the authors said.

Source: http://news.stanford.edu/

How To Produce Music Hits With The Help Of Artificial Intelligence

Sony is developing a new software system containing algorithms that create songs based on existing music and help their arrangement and performance..

It sounds like The Beatles…..but wasn’t written by the Fab Four.  ‘Daddy’s Car‘ was created by Sony‘s artificial intelligence system Flow Machines, with the aim of sounding like Lennon and McCartney. It was written using algorithms at Sony‘s Computer Science Lab in Paris.

the-beatlesCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

What the algorithm will do is always try to cope with your constraints, with what you are imposing to the system, to the score, the lead sheet – and the algorithm will always try to repair if you want, or generate stuff that is at the same time compatible with what you imposed and in the same style of the training song set“, says computer scientist Pierre Roy.

Each song‘s starting point is the machine’s database of sheet music from 13,000 existing tracks. Users choose a title whose sound or feel they like. The machine does the rest. Professional musician Benoit Carre recorded ‘Daddy’s Car‘, along with this track, ‘Mister Shadow‘. He insists the music created isn’t devoid of feeling, despite being artificially created.

We can find a soul in whatever type of music, including that generated by a computer. 1980s music was generated by a synthesiser. Music is what the person makes of it. It doesn’t exist alone. Each song is a partition sheet, with a lot of things around it“, comments Benoit carré, music composer from the band Liliclub.

After the song is created, musicians can write their own parts to broaden the sound. The  British rock star Peter Hook doesn’t like the idea: “Nearly every song I’ve written, in New Order and outside of New Order, has been with somebody else, and that is the beauty of it. Writing with a machine – what feedback, what buzz, are you going to get from a machine? All machines do is drive you crazy. You’re forever turning them off and on. So not for me, mate. I’ll stick with people.”

Sony wants to launch albums with songs created entirely by algorithm – one based on Beatles music. It says the algorithms ensure songs are unique and avoid plagiarism….but admit the issue of songwriting credits could be tricky to determine.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

Gold Nanoparticles Fight Pancreatic Cancer

A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is often a death sentence because chemotherapy and radiation have little impact on the disease. In the U.S. this year, some 53,000 new cases will be diagnosed, and 42,000 patients will die of the disease, according to the National Institute of Health. But research now being reported in ACS Nano could eventually lead to a new type of treatment based on gold nanoparticles.

pancreas2Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive, often fatal condition, but researchers are looking to gold nanoparticles to develop new treatments

Scientists from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHCS) have previously studied these tiny gold particles as a vehicle to carry chemotherapy drug molecules into tumors or as a target to enhance the impact of radiation on tumors. In addition, Priyabrata Mukherjee and colleagues previously found that gold nanoparticles themselves could limit tumor growth and metastasis in a model of ovarian cancer in mice.

Now, the team has determined that the same holds true for mouse models of pancreatic cancer. But interestingly, the new work revealed details about cellular communication in the area surrounding pancreatic tumors. By interrupting this communication — which is partly responsible for this cancer’s lethal nature — the particles reduced the cell proliferation and migration that ordinarily occurs near these tumors. Gold nanoparticles of the size used in the new study are not toxic to normal cells, the researchers note.

Source: https://www.acs.org/

Electric Car: Graphene Is The Next Revolution

Henrik Fisker, the famed automotive designer known for his work on iconic vehicles such as the Aston Martin DB9, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and the BMW Z8, did not do well in an electric car venture that he launched in 2007. Fisker Automotive was a rival to Tesla Motors in the early days of the electric car industry, but it was not able to deliver its promised vehicles and had to declare bankruptcy in 2013. However, it seems that Fisker has not pushed electric cars out of his mind, as it was recently reported that he is returning to the electric vehicle scene with a new company named Fisker Inc. that will be taking form next year.

With rival Tesla Motors now the perceived leader in the industry, Fisker Inc. is looking to make a splash. It seems that the new company would be able to do so, as Fisker revealed that instead of the traditional lithium-ion batteries, Fisker Inc. vehicles will be powered by a new kind of battery known as graphene supercapacitors.

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It was earlier reported that the luxury electric car that Fisker Inc. is working on will have a full-charge range that will reach over 400 miles, which is significant because the longest range that Tesla Motors offers through its vehicles is 315 miles on the high-end version of the Model S. The 400-mile range is said to be made possible by the usage of graphene in electric car batteries, with the technology being referred to by Fisker as the “next big step” in the industry.

According to Michigan Technological University assistant professor Lucia Gauchia, graphene has a higher electron mobility and presents a higher active surface, which are characteristics that lead to faster charging times and expanded energy storage, respectively, when used for batteries.

Graphene, however, has so far been associated with high production costs. Fisker is looking to solve that problem and mass produce graphene through a machine that his battery division, named Fisker Nanotech, is looking to have patented. Through the machine, 1,000 kilograms of graphene can be produced at a cost of just 10 cents per gram.

Our battery technology is so much better than anything out there,” Fisker said, amid the many improvements that his company has made on the material’s application to electric car batteries.

Fisker also said that the first Fisker Inc. electric car is being planned to be unveiled in the second half of next year. The luxury electric vehicle will only have limited production, and will be in the price range of the higher-end models of the Model S. However, Fisker said that he will then be producing consumer-friendly electric vehicles that will be even cheaper compared with the Tesla Model 3 and the Chevrolet Bolt, following the footsteps of its rival.

Source: http://www.techtimes.com/

NanoRobots With Grippers Travel Through the Bloodstream To Capture Cancer Cells

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used in a variety of applications, including microscopic actuators and grippers for surgical robots, light-powered micro-mirrors for optical telecommunications systems, and more efficient solar cells and photodetectors.

nanorobotsThis is a new area of science,” said Balaji Panchapakesan, associate professor of mechanical engineering at WPI and lead author of a paper about the new material published in Scientific Reports, an open access journal from the publishers of Nature. “Very few materials are able to convert photons directly into mechanical motion. In this paper, we present the first semiconductor nanocomposite material known to do so. It is a fascinating material that is also distinguished by its high strength and its enhanced optical absorption when placed under mechanical stress.”

Tiny grippers and actuators made with this material could be used on Mars rovers to capture fine dust particles.” Panchapakesan noted. “They could travel through the bloodstream on tiny robots to capture cancer cells or take minute tissue samples. The material could be used to make micro-actuators for rotating mirrors in optical telecommunications systems; they would operate strictly with light, and would require no other power source.”

Like other semiconductor materials, molybdenum disulfide, the material described in the Scientific Report paper, is characterized by the way electrons are arranged and move about within its atoms.

Source: https://www.wpi.edu/

Smart Textile Senses And Moves Like A Muscle

The ARC Center of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES – Australia) researchers have for the first time, developed a smart textile from carbon nanotube and spandex fibres that can both sense and move in response to a stimulus like a muscle or joint.

Lead researcher Dr Javad Foroughi explains that the key difference between this, and previous ACES work, is the textile’s dual functionality.

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We have already made intelligent materials as sensors and integrated them into devices such as a knee sleeve that can be used to monitor the movement of the joint, providing valuable data that can be used to create a personalised training or rehabilitation program for the wearer,” Dr Foroughi said. “Our recent work allowed us to develop smart clothing that simultaneously monitors the wearer’s movements, senses strain, and adjusts the garment to support or correct the movement,” he adds.

The smart textile, which is easily scalable for the fabrication of industrial quantities, generates a mechanical work capacity and a power output which higher than that produced by human muscles. It has many potential applications ranging from smart textiles to robotics and sensors for lab on a chip devices. The team, having already created the knee sleeve prototype, is now working on using the smart textile as a wearable antenna, as well as in other biomedical applications.

Source: http://www.electromaterials.edu.au/

The Glove That Gives You Super-Human Strength

The Bioservo or Soft Extra Muscles (SEM) glove mimics the human hand by using artificial tendons, motors and sensors for added muscle strength. The Swedish company is partnering with GMNASA to develop a glove to be used in manufacturing and other industrial applications.

GM-NASA Space Robot ‘Power’ Glove Finds New Life on EarthCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

In 2012, General Motors and NASA developed a technology that could be used by both auto workers and astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Using actuators, artificial tendons, and sensors to mimic and multiply the function of the human hand, the battery-powered RoboGlove was designed to alleviate the stress and muscle fatigue of repetitive mechanical work in space. Now, according to The Verge, GM has licensed the RoboGlove to Bioservo Technologies, a Swedish medical tech company, so that it can finally be used to help workers here on Earth. Bioservo will fuse the RoboGlove technology with its own Soft Extra Muscle (SEM) Glove technology in order to make gloves for industrial use, according a press release from GM. “Combining the best of three worlds—space technology from NASA, engineering from GM and medtech from Bioservo—in a new industrial glove could lead to industrial scale use of the technology,” comments Tomas Ward, CEO of Bioservo Technologies.

Factory workers are about to get super-human strength. The glove helped scientists control Robonaut 2, a humanoid that provided engineering and technical assistance on space mission just like Star Wars’ R2-D2. But now it has been given power-boosting technologies.
Being a combination of sensors that function like human nerves, muscles and tendons the new Power Glove has the same dexterity of the human hand – but with mammoth strength. The ground-breaking muscle-mimicking technologies could help employees in health care. The glove could slash the amount of force an assembly operator needs to hold a tool during an operation in half.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/