Friday, October 31, 2008
Chinese taikonauts orbiting the Earth last month took with them a five-inch electronic paper display made by Hanwang Technology Co. The crew of the Shenzhou-7 orbital flight took notes, read books and listened to recordings on the e-paper display, called the Hanvon eBook, said Bangjiang Wang, general manager of Hanwang Technology (Beijing). The Hanvon N510 used an electrophoretic display from E-Ink Corp. (Cambridge, Mass.). Based on E-Ink's technology, the notepad-size display measures 11-mm thick, weighs six ounces, provides 15 days of standby power. It can be read at any viewing angle using normal reflected light.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 8:49 AM
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Fiber optics for communications have vastly more bandwidth than standards networks, but cannot be manipulated as easily as electrical signals. By inserting crystalline silicon into the core of conventional optical fibers, Clemson University researchers hope to harness the embedded semiconductors to process optical signals. Applications could include multiplying frequencies and providing access to longer wavelengths not currently available when using conventional glass fibers.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 3:08 PM
Serious research into science and technology has a new tool called illumin8 that harnesses semantic searches, which understand the meaning of queries. Unlike the free Google search engine, which merely matches the words in a query against Web pages containing those keywords, Elsevier's illumin8 uses a thesaurus with a half-million pre-defined technology terms to associate semantics—the meaning of the phrases—with queries.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 11:14 AM
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Linking electronics to medical devices like pacemakers and insulin pumps requires the careful monitoring of foreign metallic and semiconducting materials to ensure the body does not reject them. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Univeristy think they have a better idea about how to do this: use self-assembling organic wires made from naturally occuring proteins.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 1:06 PM
Service dogs assist the disabled by fetching medications and opening drawers and doors, but they are expensive--about $16,000 per dog. They also take two years to train and there are not enough service dogs to meet the growing demand. By designing a robot that obeys the same verbal commands as service dogs, Georgia Tech researchers said they are aiming to increase the supply of inexpensive robots to fill the multi-year waiting list for service dogs.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 10:37 AM
Monday, October 27, 2008
Analog Devices has added to its lineup of Blackfin microcontrollers. The new lower-priced, lower-power units target voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephones, mobile handheld devices, automotive- and industrial-controllers.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 7:33 AM
Friday, October 24, 2008
This week our top technology stories include how a new solar materal absorbs more of the Sun's rays, how mobile video-chat is enabled by WiMAX, how Google's Android gets improved security, how new chips can make cars safer, how to soup-up a car with 32-bit microcontroller and how to get warnings about upcoming road hazards.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 1:10 PM
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Ziptronix (Research Triangle Park, N.C.) said the technology can be used for either wafer-to-wafer or chip-to-wafer stacking, further claiming that its 3-D bonding process is low-cost and provides high yields. The details were revealed in U.S. Patent 7,387,944 (on low temperature covalent bonding) and U.S. Patent 6,962,835 (on the direct bond interconnect). Based on through-silicon vias (TSVs), the company claims its low-temperature oxide bond provides a metal-to-metal contact for vias, without the high temperatures necessary when using thermal compression techniques.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 8:27 AM
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
In-car systems that warn drivers of road hazards like taking a curve too fast have been developed in a collaborative agreement between STMicroelectronics and Nokia subsidiary Navteq. The hybrid system embeds GPS in automobiles with or without navigation map displays so that even low-end models can warn drivers of upcoming hazards. Navteq databases feeding ST's GPS-based chips compare a car's current speed to a safe speed for upcoming curves and either issue a verbal warnings, vibrate the steering wheel, flash a warning light or reduce speed. Similar warnings can be issued to adaptive cruise controls that prevent collisions with automobiles, reduce speed automatically on highway exit ramps, limit speeds in urban areas and warn of obscured traffic lights over upcoming hills.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 12:54 PM
Current solar materials must be chosen to match a specific wavelength of sunlight, but a new hybrid inorganic/organic material could usher in solar cells that absorb all solar wavelengths. The new polymer could also enable much more efficient charge separation since electrons dislodged by light in the material remain free much longer than in conventional solar cells.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
MEMS device growth will experience an impact from the credit crisis, since consumer products make up more than 50 percent of the MEMS market, a new report from The Information Network predicts. Neverthess, The Global MEMS Device, Equipment, and Materials Markets: Forecasts and Strategies estimates that new applications for MEMS in industrial, automotive, and other fields will lead to a 25 percent growth in 2008 to just over 2.5 billion units. On a dollar basis, the market will grow 11 percent, to $7.8 billion. The consumer portion of the total dollar value will exceed $3.5 billion of that $7.8 billion, the study predicts. In 2012, consumer applications of MEMS will reach $7.1 billion, approximately 46 percent of a total market of $15.4 billion.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 9:39 AM
Google Inc. is now has a security software suite from Mocana Corp. available for its Android Mobile Platform. Designed for OEMs using Android specifications for the Open Handset Alliance, Mocana's software suite, called NanoPhone, builds security algorithms into Android smart phones. San Francisco-based Monaca said it aims to add Blackberry-like wireless security to the Android smart phone.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 8:59 AM
Convergence 2008 in Detroit featured the debut of smart image processing chips that could enable future cars to make decisions based on visual information for navigational tasks like collision avoidance, green energy functions like motion-activated dashboards and environment comfort like automatic window tinting. STMicroelectronics (Geneva) announced a smart CMOS image sensor that runs decision-making vision processing software from Mobileye (Amstelveen, Netherlands). Separately, Elmos Semiconductor (Dortmund, Germany) showed an optical motion detection chip that can read hand gestures in 3-D and a sun-angle sensor that does not require an optical focusing mechanism.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 7:50 AM
Monday, October 20, 2008
Souped up 32-bit microcontrollers for both sides of the automobile firewall debuted Monday (Oct. 20) at Convergence 2008 in Detroit. Lowering the cost of "green" engine control and infotainment was the goal of Freescale Semiconductor's new 32-bit microcontrollers. The MPC5674F Power Architecture targets precise engine control of engine needed to lower emissions while increasing mileage. Freescale claimed the device is 30 percent cheaper but 10 times faster than the devices it would replace. The i.MX35 multimedia processor family is said to lower the price of functions like map-based navigation and hands-free control of in-car audio.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 10:59 AM
Mobile video chat will be available in South Korea next year with the rollout of a WiMax-based device from a Korean company that uses a chip set from San Diego-based NextWave Wireless. The M3 mobile Internet device developed by Digifriends (Seoul) will debut in the second half of 2009 using NextWave's NW2000 WiMax chip set.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 6:19 AM
Friday, October 17, 2008
This week my top stories include how electric fields can boost fuel economy by 20 percent, how green microgrids can pervent blackouts, how RFID tags are the first application of silicon ink, how a conductive adhesive could replace solder and how the Cassini space probe is hunting for life on a Saturn moon.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 3:42 PM
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Printing thin-film circuits on flexible substrates may be ready for prime time with the introduction Thursday (Oct. 16) of what is claimed as the first commercial application of silicon ink. Kovio Inc. (Milpitas, Calif.) rolled out its silicon ink printing scheme at the Electronic Product Code conference in Chicago. The initial application will be RFID tags, with future applications ranging from printable sensors and flexible displays. Kovio claims its process can reduce the cost of RFID tags using ink-jet printing by as much as 15 cents to between 5 to 10 cents each. High-volume roll-to-roll printing could further reduce costs to less than a penny.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 8:15 AM
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Virginia Tech researchers want to return to Thomas Edison's concept of local power generation, operating alongside existing large-scale plants connected to transmission networks.
Such power grid renovation has the potential to minimize the risk of future blackouts by managing a network of privately-owned microgrids that harness renewable energy, according to a four-year, $2 million study being conducted by Virginia Tech.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 8:18 AM
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Researchers have invented a nanotube-based dry adhesive that they propose using instead of solder to assemble components on circuit boards. The adhesive, which has very high electrical and thermal conductivity, models its sticking power on the foot of the gecko lizard. It works without heat or solvents, permitting use in the vacuum environments used to make chips and in space.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 8:24 AM
Friday, October 10, 2008
NASA's Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn made its closest fly-by of the moon Enceladus on Thursday (Oct. 9). Analyzing molecules being ejected from geysers on the moon's surface, Cassini will provide scientists with data on whether water is present on the satellite.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 1:38 PM
This week my top stories include how smart LED-lighting could gain integrated wireless access nodes, how a universal laser could supply all usable frequencies, how to make pacemakers hack-proof, how mechatronics design got simplified and how the DoD handed out a million dollar prize for a fuel-cell-based Wearable Power pack for soldiers.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 9:58 AM
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Fuel economy could be boosted by as much as 20 percent by adding a small device that applies an electric field to fuel before it enters internal combustion engines. Researchers at Temple University (Philadelphia) who invented the device, recently completed six months of road testing with a diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz. The tests increased fuel efficiency from 32 to 38 MPG on highways (a 20 percent boost) and a 12 to 15 percent gain in city-driving mileage. The researchers claim the device could also be adapted to gasoline, biodiesel and kerosene.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 8:13 AM
A "smart lighting" initiative being funded by the government seeks to piggyback wireless communications capabilities onto future LED lighting installations to provide more broadband access points. The $18.5 million, 10-year National Science Foundation program involves more than 30 university researchers from Boston University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York and the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque). The initiative seeks to use visible light beams for communications between wireless devices and LED-based lighting fixtures. The LED-based scheme could also be used to communicate between automobiles that are increasingly using LEDs. The overall goal is to build new communications capbilities into all LED lights while alleviating congestion in current RF bands.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 5:21 AM
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Simplifying the development of mechatronics, the combination of mechanical and electronincs engineering, is the goal of a new design language extension released Wednesday (Oct. 8) by Mathworks Inc.
Mathworks (Natick, Mass.) said its Simscape language extension will ease the modeling of an entire multidomain system--electrical, mechanical, control and software--using a single icon to represent the component in its Matlab simulation environment. Matlab is a widely used tool for algorithm development.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 4:39 AM
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Researchers are designing a prototype pacemaker that could prevent a hacker from sending the implant a potentially fatal signal. The secure implant could detect unwanted signals and notify patients of security breaches. To advance the work, the National Science Foundation has awarded researchers at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) a three-year grant to perfect the design of their secure implant technology.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 5:14 PM
Monday, October 06, 2008
DuPont Fuel Cells and German partner Smart Fuel Cell (SFC) AG have grabbed a $1 million first prize in the Defense Department's Wearable Power Prize competition. DuPont (Wilmington, Del.) and SFC AG (Brunnthal, Germany) entered an advanced prototype of SFC's direct-methanol fuel cell (DMFC) called the M-25 Land Warrior Soldier Power Generator. Second place went to Adaptive Materials Inc. (Ann Arbor, Mich.) for a vest-mounted version of its Amie25, a solid-oxide fuel cell. Third place went to Capitol Connections LLC (Middleburg, Va.) for its DMFC based on SFC's commercial Jenny Portable Power System. All three used a hybrid approach, in which the fuel cell charged batteries, which in turn provided electrical power to devices.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
This week my top stories include how trees can power remote sensor networks, how an underwater robot hovers like a helicopter, how a two-wheeled robot controls posture, how WiMAX chips are spanning all available bands, how an emulator aids wireless R&D and how quantum dots can pentrate the skin causing a possible health hazard.
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Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 2:22 PM
Thursday, October 02, 2008
A new optical fiber material could enable laser-based devices to be built operating at multiple frequencies. The new material--cesium zirconium phosphorus selenium (CsZrPSe6)--can add, subtract and double laser beam wavelengths, enabling devices with two laser sources to produce many usable wavelengths.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 5:07 PM
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Semiconducting nanoparticles known as quantum dots can penetrate the skin with unknown health effects, according to researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center. The New York state researchers warned that engineering personnel handling materials based on quantum dots should take extra care to avoid physical contact with what they called potential "biohazards."
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 12:38 PM