Monday, January 29, 2007

"ENERGY: Engineers turn waste into electricity in Indiana project"

Environmental engineers in Indiana are engaged in a pilot program to build energy-recycling facilities that they claim will significantly lessen U.S. dependence on fossil fuels like gas and petroleum. The program aims to build a $12.5 million industrial waste conversion center, a $5.5 million hog waste conversion facility (including a 2.5-mile pipeline) and a shared methane-to-electricity conversion site. The buildings are due to be operational by 2008. The facilities will be modeled on similar efforts in Europe, where waste is already being converted to methane gas.

Friday, January 26, 2007

"SECURITY: Pentagon readies ray gun"

The Defense Department is ready to deploy its version of a stun gun based on gyrotron energy beam technology. Procurement of the nonlethal weapon has been incorporated into the Pentagon's budget planning cycle. Called the Active Denial System, the gyrotron energy beam is DoD's first nonlethal, anti-personnel, directed-energy weapon. The millimeter-wave energy beam works by heating the skin's surface, invoking an involuntary "flee" response. The beam is less powerful than a microwave beam. The weapon will be adapted for use on tanks and other ground vehicles as well as ships and aircraft.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"MEMS: DLP pioneer tells how TI did it with mirrors"

Solid-state physicist and Texas Instruments Inc. fellow Larry Hornbeck won an Emmy for his invention of the digital micromirror device (DMD), the microelectromechanical system at the heart of TI's digital light processing (DLP) technology for projection displays. In addition to advancing the state of the art for digital cinema, front projectors and HDTV, Hornbeck's MEMS micromirror is enabling 3-D metrology systems that measure with finer detail, confocal microscopes that eliminate the out-of-focus "haze" normally seen around fluorescent samples, and holographic storage systems that write data in three dimensions instead of just two. Hornbeck told EE Times' R. Colin Johnson that TI has still more applications up its sleeve for digital micromirrors.

Monday, January 22, 2007

"ENERGY: Gold is key to ending platinum dissolution in fuel cells"

Brookhaven National Laboratory says it has found a way to keep the platinum used as a catalyst in fuel cells from dissolving and degrading performance. The U.S. Department of Energy thinks the breakthrough could help put the federally mandated Advanced Energy Initiative back on track toward realizing all-electric vehicles by 2020.

"ENERGY: Practical apps in works for wireless energy transfer"

A technology shown at the Consumer Electronics Show that uses wireless energy transfer to power small devices or recharge batteries could be headed to market this year. At Philips Electronics N.V.'s CES booth, Powercast LLC (Ligonier, Pa.) showed its Powercaster energy beacon and several Powerharvester modules powering sensors directly and recharging the batteries in remote controls, iPods and cell phones. Philips plans to announce its first consumer device using paired Powercasters and Powerharvester modules in 2007. Medical implants will also begin using wireless energy transfers in 2007, Powercast said.

Monday, January 15, 2007

"MATERIALS: EEs' p-type nanowires promise next-gen LEDs"

Tomorrow's light-emitting diodes will be made from smaller, cheaper and more-efficient zinc oxide materials rather than the exotic mixes of gallium, arsenide, indium and nitride used today. That's the vision of electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego, who recently announced the world's first p-type zinc oxide nanowires. Until now, zinc oxide has been widely used as an n-type piezoelectric material, which can be fabricated into films or nanowires. But only a few labs have been able to formulate a p-type film from zinc oxide, and none had successfully formulated a p-type nanowire. Wang's group created a p-type nanowire by carefully doping zinc oxide nanowires with phosphorus using standard chemical-vapor deposition techniques. The result is a source of holes, which holds the possibility of being juxtaposed with an n-type zinc-oxide nanowire to create a smaller, cheaper and more highly efficient LED.

"MATERIALS: Metamaterial passes visible wavelengths "

All natural materials bend electromagnetic radiation--from microwaves to visible light--in the same predictable direction: away from a line perpendicular to their surface, or away from "normal." On the other hand, metamaterials--exotic, artificially created materials with optical properties not found in nature--substitute periodic mechanical structures that can force a photon to travel a path where it bends toward normal, thereby enabling a flat lens to nevertheless focus light. For the last few years, researchers have demonstrated that shorter and shorter wavelengths of light can be focused by metamaterials with more and more closely spaced periodic structures. Now, researchers at the Department of Energy's Ames (Iowa) Laboratory say they have demonstrated the world's first metamaterial for visible wavelengths.

Friday, January 12, 2007

"QUANTUM: Partners claim gigabit quantum encryption"

Quantum encryption is uncrackable, but depends on communicating individual photons as encryption keys. That physical limit means individual photons take time to communicate, slowing overall data rates. Now quantum cyptography company id Quantique SA (Geneva) has teamed with Australian cyptography company Senetas Corp. Ltd. (Melbourne) to create what the partners claim in the world's first 1- to 10-Gbit/s secure network that combines uncrackable quantum keys with classical encryption.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

"ENERGY: Wireless beacon could recharge consumer devices"

Wireless battery technology unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show by Powercast LLC is destined for a consumer device being readied for release later this year by Philips Electronics N.V. Using the 900-MHz band, Powercast transmists RF energy to a receiver module measuring about half the size of a AAA battery. In beta testing of a wireless sensor network at the Pittsburgh zoo, the Powerharvester receiver module was retrofitted to the battery compartment of a wireless sensor made by Intellisensor (Pittsburgh), extending battery life from under 120 days to several years.

Monday, January 08, 2007

"MEMS: Expediency brought ADI back home again"

When Analog Devices Inc. started looking around for a suitable facility to house its microelectromechanical-systems operation in 1996, it was lucky to find one ready-made in its founding city of Cambridge, Mass. The building, now retooled for MEMS manufacture, brought ADI back to its roots. The company was founded in Cambridge in 1965 by current chairman Ray Stata and Matthew Lorber, who had been roommates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ADI later relocated its corporate headquarters to Norwood, Mass., where it continues to be based.

"MEMS: A MEMS IC developer eyes what's in the mix"

Analog Devices Inc. began microelectromechanical-system development in the late 1980s. Since then, ADI has shipped hundreds of millions of MEMS-based accelerometers for automobile applications, and last year it broke into consumer electronics by shipping more than 1 million three-axis accelerometers for Nintendo's Wii video-game controller. ADI envisions MEMS applications in microphones and acoustics, medical diagnostics and drug delivery, RF devices, and ultrahigh-precision measurement and test equipment. Robert Sulouff, director of business development at ADI's dedicated MEMS facility in Cambridge, Mass., recently spoke with EE Times contributor R. Colin Johnson.

Friday, January 05, 2007

"OPTICAL: Metamaterials for cloaking gain visibility"

What is claimed as the world's first metamaterial for visible wavelengths was demonstrated recently at the U.S. Energy Department's Ames Laboratory. Metamaterials exhibit a negative index of refraction, thereby enabling a flat lens to precisely focus light in place of a concave lens. Such metamaterials may also someday enable applications that cloak objects to make them invisible. Numerous researchers have proven that metamaterials exhibit a negative index of refraction, but only for relatively long wavelenghths such as microwaves and more recently, the near infrared. Various researcher have fabricated metamaterials made from submicron metal rings and rods, thereby enabling exquisite focusing of nanoscale features. Until now, none exhibited a negative index of refraction for visible light.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

"SECURITY: Avian flu chips go commercial"

Avian flu chips validated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could soon be showing up at U.S. medical clinics. The "MChip," a microarray which can quickly identify avian flu, will be used to monitor a possible pandemic. It could also be used to streamline clinical laboratory testing. Quidel Corp. (San Diego) holds an exclusive license to manufacture and distribute avian influenza test kits using the patented MChip.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"CHIPS: Quantum confinement ups optical-film efficiency"

A Washington State University professor recently demonstrated that optical materials could be made up to 30 times more sensitive than the state of the art at the time, after teaming with two WSU colleagues to publish design guidelines for creating highly light-sensitive "designer" molecules. Now researchers in China and Belgium have answered the academics' call with an organic "chromophore" material that is said to be 50 percent more sensitive than anything previously tested. Chromophores have been prime candidates for organic dye-sensitized solar cells, since they emit electrons when light is shone on them. But the new chromophore molecular configuration incorporates quantum confinement into each cell, greatly increasing chromophore efficiency.