Thursday, June 28, 2007

"ENERGY: Vibrations good for harvesting electricity"

By converting vibrations into usable power, researchers are enabling the battery-free operation of ultra-low-power wireless devices for everything from medical implants to that black-box under the seat of new automobiles. If a sensor is needed but it is inconvenient to supply power--from the inside of a jet engine to the heart's aorta valve, for example--energy harvesters are being designed to convert environmental gradients into usable electrical power.
The latest batch of energy harvesters for vibrations use piezoelectric actuators sized to match the energy required by the application, from centimeter-sized fibers ruggedized to supply milliwatts in harsh environments, all the way down to micron-sized actuators fabricated using micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) to supply microwatts to wireless sensors.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"CHIPS: Cell-transistor interface clears biolectronics hurdle"

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute (Munich, Germany) have developed a cell-transistor interface that they believe will usher in a new era of bioelectronics, allowing cells to be manipulated and studied without destroying them in the process.
In a demonstration prepared by institute biochemist Peter Fromherz, living cells were grown atop an array of transistors, thereby enabling the silicon chip to monitor the cell activity directly. The chip was used to test the effect of new drugs on the living cells. The results were then read out instantly from the chip, in an application that the researchers said could hasten drug development.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Freescale's platform pitch: Lose the remote"

The era of the remote control ends today (June 26), according to a presentation on the entertainment control platform (ECP) at the Freescale Technology Forum (Orlando, Fla.).
Using the same wireless radios as ZigBee, Freescale Semiconductor Inc. (Austin, Texas) has defined a simpler networking protocol for controllers and controlled devices that it claims enables wireless interoperability among multiple consumer electronics devices from multiple manufacturers many of which Freescale says will announce ECP-compatible products before Christmas.

"ALGORITHMS: Freescale teams with Mocana to secure network nodes"

Freescale Semiconductor Inc. is bundling its Power quad integrated communications controller (PowerQuicc) embedded microprocessor with Mocana Corp.'s Device Security Framework software. The move is being announced Tuesday (June 26) at the Freescale Technology Forum in Orlando, Fla. Freescale's PowerQuicc -II, -II Pro and -III series microprocessors already have an on-chip encryption/decryption engine, but until now application engineers had to program it themselves. With the Freescale-Mocana bundle, designers working with PowerQuicc will have access to preprogrammed security services that execute asynchronously without loading the main core.

Monday, June 18, 2007

"CHIPS: First military-temperature MRAMs ready to serve"

Freescale Semiconducutor Inc. today is announcing the first Mil-spec extended-temperature-range magnetic RAMs (MRAMs), providing the last piece of the puzzle for the potential customers who have funded much of the memory category's development. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa; Arlington, Va.) has poured millions into MRAM development programs since 1994. Freescale's MRAMs handle a temperatures of -40 to +105 degrees C to serve the military, avionics and space applications for which MRAMs were conceived. To expand its market and drive down costs, Freescale will also aim its extended-temperature offering at automotive electronics, where MRAMs could be used for such applications as self-configuring airbags.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"ENERGY: Heat generates electricity"

Acoustically coupled transducers can directly generate electricity from heat, researchers reported on June 8 during the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America here. The team's so-called thermoacoustic prime mover consists of back-to-back heat exchangers with an intervening stack of materials tuned to a resonant acoustic frequency. When heat goes in, a resonant sound is generated and acoustically coupled to a piezoelectric transducer, which converts the sound into electricity.

Monday, June 11, 2007

"ENERGY: Wireless energy transfer turns on bulb in MIT demo"

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have demonstrated the wireless powering of a light bulb for the first time. They achieved the feat using a technique dubbed WiTricity, which employs magnetically coupled resonance between matched antennas. The MIT team now has demonstrated the concept by remotely powering a 60-watt bulb from a distance of six feet.

Monday, June 04, 2007

"ENERGY: Ramjet designer's new pitch: safe, cheap fusion reactor"

There's a way for fusion reactors to sidestep high-temperature plasmas, steam turbines, neutron radiation and even nuclear waste--and still generate inexhaustible nuclear energy for less money than Google's annual electricity bill. That's the position, and latest mission, of physicist Robert Bussard. In the 1960s, Bussard proposed the ramjet, a paper engine design that would power deep-space vehicles by collecting hydrogen atoms in space and feeding them into a fusion reactor. Now, in a proposal titled "Should Google Go Nuclear?" ( 1996321846673788606), Bussard presents an alternative to thermonuclear fusion. He claims an inertial electrostatic confinement (IEC) reactor can provide fusion power that is simpler, cleaner and cheaper than would be possible under the various routes now being pursued by the Department of Energy.