How To Harness Heat To Power Computers

One of the biggest problems with computers, dating to the invention of the first one, has been finding ways to keep them cool so that they don’t overheat or shut down. Instead of combating the heat, two University of Nebraska–Lincoln engineers have embraced it as an alternative energy source that would allow computing at ultra-high temperatures. Sidy Ndao, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering, said his research group’s development of a nano-thermal-mechanical device, or thermal diode, came after flipping around the question of how to better cool computers.

thermal diode

If you think about it, whatever you do with electricity you should (also) be able to do with heat, because they are similar in many ways,” Ndao said. “In principle, they are both energy carriers. If you could control heat, you could use it to do computing and avoid the problem of overheating.”

A paper Ndao co-authored with Mahmoud Elzouka, a graduate student in mechanical and materials engineering, was published in the March edition of Scientific Reports. In it, they documented their device working in temperatures that approached 630 degrees Fahrenheit (332 degrees Celsius).

Source: http://news.unl.edu/

A Brain-computer Interface To Combat The Rise of AI

Elon Musk is attempting to combat the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) with the launch of his latest venture, brain-computer interface company NeuralinkLittle is known about the startup, aside from what has been revealed in a Wall Street Journal report, but says sources have described it as “neural lace” technology that is being engineered by the company to allow humans to seamlessly communicate with technology without the need for an actual, physical interface. The company has also been registered in California as a medical research entity because Neuralink’s initial focus will be on using the described interface to help with the symptoms of chronic conditions, from epilepsy to depression. This is said to be similar to how deep brain stimulation controlled by an implant helps  Matt Eagles, who has Parkinson’s, manage his symptoms effectively. This is far from the first time Musk has shown an interest in merging man and machine. At a Tesla launch in Dubai earlier this year, the billionaire spoke about the need for humans to become cyborgs if we are to survive the rise of artificial intelligence.

cyborg woman

Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence,”CNBC reported him as saying at the time. “It’s mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output.” Transhumanism, the enhancement of humanity’s capabilities through science and technology, is already a living reality for many people, to varying degrees. Documentary-maker Rob Spence replaced one of his own eyes with a video camera in 2008; amputees are using prosthetics connected to their own nerves and controlled using electrical signals from the brain; implants are helping tetraplegics regain independence through the BrainGate project.

Former director of the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Arati Prabhakar, comments: “From my perspective, which embraces a wide swathe of research disciplines, it seems clear that we humans are on a path to a more symbiotic union with our machines.

Source: http://www.wired.co.uk/

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/

Algorithm Replicates Perfectly Your Handwriting

In a world increasingly dominated by the QWERTY keyboard, computer scientists from University College London (UCL) have developed software which may spark the comeback of the handwritten word by analysing the handwriting of any individual and accurately replicating it.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEOcomputer-program-replicates-handwriting

The scientists have created ‘My Text in Your Handwriting’, a programme which semi-automatically examines a sample of a person’s handwriting, which can be as little as one paragraph, and generates new text saying whatever the user wishes, as if the author had handwritten it themselves. “Our software has lots of valuable applications. Stroke victims, for example, may be able to formulate letters without the concern of illegibility, or someone sending flowers as a gift could include a handwritten note without even going into the florist. It could also be used in comic books where a piece of handwritten text can be translated into different languages without losing the author’s original style”, said First author, Dr Tom Haines (UCL Computer Science).

Co-author, Dr Oisin Mac Aodha (UCL Computer Science), adds: “Up until now, the only way to produce computer-generated text that resembles a specific person’s handwriting would be to use a relevant font. The problem with such fonts is that it is often clear that the text has not been penned by hand, which loses the character and personal touch of a handwritten piece of text. What we’ve developed removes this problem and so could be used in a wide variety of commercial and personal circumstances.”

Published in ACM Transactions on Graphics, the machine learning algorithm is built around glyphs – a specific instance of a character.

Source: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/

Tiny Diamonds Revolutionize Nanotechnology

Nanomaterials have the potential to improve many next-generation technologies. They promise to speed up computer chips, increase the resolution of medical imaging devices and make electronics more energy efficient. But imbuing nanomaterials with the right properties can be time consuming and costly. A new, quick and inexpensive method for constructing diamond-based hybrid nanomaterials in bulk could launch the field from research to applications. University of Maryland (UMD) researchers developed a method to build diamond-based hybrid nanoparticles in large quantities from the ground up, thereby circumventing many of the problems with current methods.

The process begins with tiny, nanoscale diamonds that contain a specific type of impurity: a single nitrogen atom where a carbon atom should be, with an empty space right next to it, resulting from a second missing carbon atom. This “nitrogen vacancyimpurity gives each diamond special optical and electromagnetic properties. By attaching other materials to the diamond grains, such as metal particles or semiconducting materials known as “quantum dots,” the researchers can create a variety of customizable hybrid nanoparticles, including nanoscale semiconductors and magnets with precisely tailored properties.

nanodiamonds

If you pair one of these diamonds with silver or gold nanoparticles, the metal can enhance the nanodiamond’s optical properties. If you couple the nanodiamond to a semiconducting quantum dot, the hybrid particle can transfer energy more efficiently,” said Min Ouyang, an associate professor of physics at UMD and senior author on the study.

The technique is described in the June 8 issue of the journal Nature Communications.

Source: http://umdrightnow.umd.edu/

Solar Hubs Provide Clean Water, Electricity & Internet to 3000 people

The Italian company Watly aims to deliver a hat trick of very needful things to the developing world, in the form of both a standalone unit and as a network of units. The team of this ambitious company describes their creation as the “biggest solar-powered computer in the world,” which combines solar photovoltaics (PV) and battery storage for powering the unit (and for charging external devices), with a water filtration system and an internet connectivity and telecommunications hub. The Watly system, which has been in the works for the last few years, and has now attracted the attention of The Discovery Channel, was run as a pilot program at a village in Ghana, where the 2.0 version of the device was successfully deployed to deliver clean drinking water to residents.

watly solar hub

The next step, however, is to build out the Watly 3.0 system, which is the full-sized version of the device, measuring some 40 meters long, and which is expected to be able to provide as much as 5000 liters of water per day, every day, for at least 15 years, along with producing solar electricity and charging services to as many as 3000 people. According to the company, one unit could offset the emissions equivalent of 2500 barrels of oil over the course of those 15 years, along with providing clean water and an off-grid power source. To get to that next step, Watly has turned to – wait for it – crowdfunding with an Indiegogo campaign that seeks to raise money for the installation of the 3.0 version as a pilot program in Africa (location TBD).

Along with the solar power and drinking water, Watly aims to provide an internet/telecom hub for local residents, with an onboard system for connecting to 3G/4G, radio link data systems, and/or satellites, as well as to communicate with other Watly units to act as a node in an “EnergyNet.”

Watly is a powerful communication device that can collect and send any kind of data (videos, images, audios, texts, ratios, etc.) to the Internet as well as to any other compatible communication device. A single Watly is a standing alone machine, but two or more Watlys become a network where each node is auto-powered, self-sustained and multi-functional.

Source: https://watly.co/

Artificial Intelligence: The Rise Of The Machines

In a milestone for artificial intelligence, a computer has beaten a human champion at a strategy game that requires “intuition” rather than brute processing power to prevail, its makers said Wednesday. Dubbed AlphaGo, the system honed its own skills through a process of trial and error, playing millions of games against itself until it was battle-ready, and surprised even its creators with its prowess.

go game

AlphaGo won five-nil, and it was stronger than perhaps we were expecting,” said Demis Hassabis, the chief executive of Google DeepMind, a British artificial intelligence (AI) company.

A computer defeating a professional human player at the 3,000-year-old Chinese board game known as Go, was thought to be about a decade off. The clean-sweep victory over three-time European Go champion Fan Huisignifies a major step forward in one of the great challenges in the development of artificial intelligence—that of game-playing,” the British Go Association said in a statement. The two-player game is described as perhaps the most complex ever designed, with more configurations possible than there are atoms in the Universe, Hassabis says. Players take turns placing stones on a board, trying to surround and capture the opponent’s stones, with the aim of controlling more than 50 percent of the board. There are hundreds of places where a player can place the first stone, black or white, with hundreds of ways in which the opponent can respond to each of these moves and hundreds of possible responses to each of those in turn.

Source: http://phys.org/

Battery Shuts Down When Overheating, Then Restarts

Stanford researchers have developed the first lithium-ion battery that shuts down before overheating, then restarts immediately when the temperature cools. The new technology could prevent the kind of fires that have prompted recalls and bans on a wide range of battery-powered devices, from recliners and computers to navigation systems and hoverboards.

hoverboard

People have tried different strategies to solve the problem of accidental fires in lithium-ion batteries,” said Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford. “We’ve designed the first battery that can be shut down and revived over repeated heating and cooling cycles without compromising performance.

Several techniques have been used to prevent battery fires, such as adding flame retardants to the electrolyte. In 2014, Stanford engineer Yi Cui created a “smart” battery that provides ample warning before it gets too hot. “Unfortunately, these techniques are irreversible, so the battery is no longer functional after it overheats,” said study co-author Cui, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and of photon science. “Clearly, in spite of the many efforts made thus far, battery safety remains an important concern and requires a new approach.”

Bao and her colleagues describe the new battery in a study published in the Jan. 11 issue of the new journal Nature Energy.

Source: http://news.stanford.edu/

Cheaper, High Performing LED

A team of Florida State University materials researchers has developed a new type of light-emitting diode, or LED, using an organic-inorganic hybrid that could lead to cheaper, brighter and mass produced lights and displays in the future. Assistant Professor of Physics Hanwei Gao and Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering Biwu Ma are using a class of materials called organometal halide perovskites to build a highly functioning LED.

LED Florida

Early work suggested perovskites could be a promising material to build LEDs,” Gao said. “But, the performance was not up to their potential. We believed there was significant room for improvement.”

Perovskites are any materials with the same type of crystal structure as calcium titanium oxide. Other researchers experimented with perovskites to build LEDs in the past but could not build particularly effective ones. Gao and Ma believed this organic-inorganic hybrid could perform better, if the formula could be appropriately tweaked. “When we thought about this class of material, we knew it should perform better than this,” Ma said. “We came up with our novel approach to solve some critical problems and get a high-performance LED.”

After months of experiments using synthetic chemistry to fine-tune the material properties and device engineering to control the device architectures, they ultimately created an LED that performed even better than expected. The material glowed exceptionally bright. It is measured at about 10,000 candelas per square meter at a driving voltage of 12Vcandelas are the unit of measurement for luminescence. As a benchmark, LEDs glowing at about 400 candelas per square meter are sufficiently bright for computer screens. “Such exceptional brightness is, to a large extent, owing to the inherent high luminescent efficiency of this surface-treated, highly crystalline nanomaterial,” Gao said. It was also quick and easy to produce.

They lay out their findings in the journal Advanced Materials.

Source: http://news.fsu.edu/

Ultrathin Electronics At Nano Scale

Semiconductors, metals and insulators must be integrated to make the transistors that are the electronic building blocks of your smartphone, computer and other microchip-enabled devices. Today’s transistors are miniscule—a mere 10 nanometers wide—and formed from three-dimensional (3D) crystals.

But a disruptive new technology looms that uses two-dimensional (2D) crystals, just 1 nanometer thick, to enable ultrathin electronics. Scientists worldwide are investigating 2D crystals made from common layered materials to constrain electron transport within just two dimensions. Researchers had previously found ways to lithographically pattern single layers of carbon atoms called graphene into ribbon-like “wires” complete with insulation provided by a similar layer of boron nitride. But until now they have lacked synthesis and processing methods to lithographically pattern junctions between two different semiconductors within a single nanometer-thick layer to form transistors, the building blocks of ultrathin electronic devices. Now for the first time, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ONRL) have combined a novel synthesis process with commercial electron-beam lithography techniques to produce arrays of semiconductor junctions in arbitrary patterns within a single, nanometer-thick semiconductor crystal.

scalable arrays of semiconductor junctions

We can literally make any kind of pattern that we want,” said Masoud Mahjouri-Samani, who co-led the study with David Geohegan. Geohegan, head of ORNL’s Nanomaterials Synthesis and Functional Assembly Group at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, is the principal investigator of a Department of Energy basic science project focusing on the growth mechanisms and controlled synthesis of nanomaterials.
Millions of 2D building blocks with numerous patterns may be made concurrently, Mahjouri-Samani added. In the future, it might be possible to produce different patterns on the top and bottom of a sheet.

Source: http://www.ornl.gov/

Graphene Boosts By 30 Percent Chips Speeds

A typical computer chip includes millions of transistors connected with an extensive network of copper wires. Although chip wires are unimaginably short and thin compared with household wires, both have one thing in common: in each case the copper is wrapped within a protective sheath. For years a material called tantalum nitride has formed a protective layer around chip wires.

Now Stanford-led experiments demonstrate that a different sheathing material, graphene, can help electrons scoot through tiny copper wires in chips more quickly.

Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a strong yet thin lattice. Stanford electrical engineer H.-S. Philip Wong says this modest fix, using graphene to wrap wires, could allow transistors to exchange data faster than is currently possible.  And the advantages of using graphene could become greater in the future as transistors continue to shrink.

graphene Stanford

“Researchers have made tremendous advances on all of the other components in chips, but recently there hasn’t been much progress on improving the performance of the wires,” he said.

Wong, the Willard R. and Inez Kerr Bell Professor in the School of Engineering, led a team of six researchers, including two from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who will present their findings at the Symposia of VLSI Technology and Circuits in Kyoto, Japan, a leading venue for the electronics industry. Ling Li, a graduate student in electrical engineering at Stanford and first author of the research paper, will explain why changing the exterior wrapper on connecting wires can have such a big impact on chip performance.

Source: http://engineering.stanford.edu/

Super-Efficient Light-Based Nanocomputers

Stanford electrical engineer Jelena Vuckovic wants to make computers faster and more efficient by reinventing how they send data back and forth between chips, where the work is done.

In computers today, data is pushed through wires as a stream of electrons. That takes a lot of power, which helps explain why laptops get so warm.

Several years ago, my colleague David Miller carefully analyzed power consumption in computers, and the results were striking,” said Vuckovic, referring to David Miller, the W.M. Keck Foundation Professor of Electrical Engineering. “Up to 80 percent of the microprocessor power is consumed by sending data over the wires – so-called interconnects.”

In a Nature Photonics article whose lead author is Stanford graduate student Alexander Piggott, Vuckovic, a professor of electrical engineering, and her team explain a process that could revolutionize computing by making it practical to use light instead of electricity to carry data inside computers.

infrared lightIn essence, the Stanford engineers want to miniaturize the proven technology of the Internet, which moves data by beaming photons of light through fiber optic threads

Optical transport uses far less energy than sending electrons through wires,” Piggott said. “For chip-scale links, light can carry more than 20 times as much data.”

Theoretically, this is doable because silicon is transparent to infrared light – the way glass is transparent to visible light. So wires could be replaced by optical interconnects: silicon structures designed to carry infrared light.
Source: http://engineering.stanford.edu/