science + technology news

A $74 PC

May 21, 2012

allwinner_a10_android_4.0_mini_PC_MK802

A Chinese manufacturer has introduced the Model MK802, a $74 USB thumb-drive sized computer, liliputing reports, beating the FXI Cotton Candy PC on a stick to market (it will be available soon for $200).

The MK802 is available from AliExpress for $74, or less if you order in bulk. It has a 1.5 GHz Allwiner A10 processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of storage, USB… read more

A 99% biodegradable computer chip

May 29, 2015

A cellulose nanofibril (CNF) computer chip rests on a leaf. (credit: Yei Hwan Jung, Wisconsin Nano Engineering Device Laboratory)

University of Wisconsin-Madison and U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researchers have jointly developed a wood chip in an effort to alleviate the environmental burden* of electronic devices.

Well, actually, a wood-substrate-based semiconductor chip. They replaced the silicon substrate portion in a conventional chip with environment-friendly cellulose nanofibril (CNF). CNF is a flexible, biodegradable material made from wood, as the researchers note in an… read more

A Minority Report interface for the rest of us

November 17, 2010

Toscanini's on-screen interface

Toscanini, free software that runs on Texas Instruments’ “Wireless Watch Development Tool” — an accelerometer-equipped, programmable sports watch that costs $50 — provides a bridge between your movements and digital instruments like synthesizers and keyboards, or anything else you can control from your computer through a MIDI connection.

See the video here.

A bandwidth breakthrough

October 23, 2012

Speed test (credit: Speedtest.net)

Academic researchers have improved wireless bandwidth by ten times — not by adding base stations, tapping more spectrum, or cranking up transmitter wattage, but by using algebra to banish the network-clogging task of resending dropped packets, Technology Review reports.

By providing new ways for mobile devices to solve for missing data, the technology not only eliminates this wasteful process but also can seamlessly weave data streams from… read more

A Bang, a Whimper, and Another Bang?

April 16, 2008

The relatively quiet black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy could one day reignite, spewing forth so much radiation that the sky would never darken.

That grim scenario has become more likely based on a new survey by Liverpool John Moores University astronomers. They used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to survey spectral lines from 360,000 relatively nearby galaxies. Nearly 20% showed active galactic… read more

A baseball cap that reads your mind

May 19, 2008
(Chin-Teng Lin, et al./IEEE)

A team of researchers from Taiwan has designed a non-invasive mobile and wireless EEG-based brain-computer interface (BCI) system for continuously monitoring high-temporal resolution brain dynamics without requiring conductive gels applied to the scalp.

The system has online EEG signal acquisition and real-time signal processing. It can be used in many applications, such as alerting drivers to drowsiness.

The cap contains five embedded dry electrodes on the… read more

A battery alternative to costly, rare lithium

October 13, 2015

Potassium ions (purple) are compatible with graphite electrodes (black) and can function in a charge-discharge cycle, researchers have shown (credit: Oregon State University)

Overturning nearly a century of a scientific dogma, Oregon State University chemists have now shown that  potassium could potentially replace rare, costly lithium in a new potassium-ion battery.

“For decades, people have assumed that potassium couldn’t work with graphite or other bulk carbon anodes in a battery,” said Xiulei (David) Ji, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of chemistry… read more

A battery made of wood: long-lasting, efficient, environmentally friendly

June 23, 2013

wood_fibers

University of Maryland researchers have developed and tested a battery with anodes made of tin-coated wood that are a thousand times thinner than a piece of paper.

Using sodium instead of lithium (which is used in many rechargeable batteries) makes the battery environmentally benign. Also, while sodium doesn’t store energy as efficiently as lithium, its low cost and use of commonly available materials would make… read more

A battery made up of billions of nanoscale batteries

November 11, 2014

A billion nanopores could fit on a postage stamp. (Credit: NEES, a DOE Energy Frontier Research Center)

Imagine a battery made up of billions of nanoscale batteries — the ultimate miniaturization of energy storage.

That’s what researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) have invented, using a structure based on a nanopore: a tiny hole in a ceramic sheet that holds electrolyte to carry the electrical charge between nanotube electrodes at either end.

The researchers note in a paper in Nature Nanotechnology that such a… read more

A battery that shuts down at high temperatures and restarts when it cools

Good news for future hoverboard and laptop users
January 11, 2016

Stanford researchers have developed a thin polyethylene film that prevents a lithium-ion battery from overheating, then restarts the battery when it cools. The film is embedded with spiky nanoparticles of graphene-coated nickel. (credit: Zheng Chen)

Stanford researchers have invented a lithium-ion battery that shuts down before overheating to prevent the battery fires that have plagued laptops, hoverboards and other electronic devices. The battery restarts immediately when the temperature cools.

The design is an enhancement of a wearable sensor that monitors human body temperature invented by Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford. The sensor is made of a plastic material… read more

A battery you never have to replace

New nanowire-based battery material can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times
April 21, 2016

all-nanowire capacitor ft

University of California, Irvine researchers have invented a new nanowire-based battery material that can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times, moving us closer to a battery that would never require replacement.

It could lead to commercial batteries with greatly lengthened lifespans for computers, smartphones, appliances, cars, and spacecraft.

The design is based on nanowires, which are highly conductive and feature a large surface area for… read more

A Battery-Free Implantable Neural Sensor

November 6, 2009

(Brian Otis, University of Washington)

Electrical engineers at the University of Washington have developed an implantable neural sensing chip that needs less power, drawing power from a RFID reader radio source up to a meter away.

The NeuralWISP is a collection of smaller, more low-power components, such as a specialized signal amplifier, on a circuit board just over two centimeters long. A future version will integrate all components onto a single chip that’s one… read more

A battery-free origami robot powered and controlled by external magnetic fields

September 22, 2017

Wirelessly powered and controlled magnetic folding robot arm can grasp and bend (credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University)

Harvard University researchers have created a battery-free, folding robot “arm” with multiple “joints,” gripper “hand,” and actuator “muscles” — all powered and controlled wirelessly by an external resonant magnetic field.

The design is inspired by the traditional Japanese art of origami (used to transform a simple sheet of paper into complex, three-dimensional shapes through a specific pattern of folds, creases, and crimps). The prototype device is capable of complex,… read more

A batteryless cardiac pacemaker based on self-winding wristwatch

September 2, 2014

The energy harvesting device is sutured directly onto the myocardium (credit: European Society of Cardiology)

A new batteryless cardiac pacemaker controlled by a self-winding wristwatch mechanism that is powered by heart motion has been developed by researchers in the Cardiovascular Engineering Group at ARTORG, University of Bern, Switzerland.

The device was presented at European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress 2014 by Adrian Zurbuchen a PhD candidate.

“Batteries are a limiting factor in today’s… read more

A Better Artificial Skin

January 12, 2007

University of Cincinnati scientists have grown artificial skin cells, using collagen scaffolds. They could ultimately produce a type of artificial skin that can sweat, tan, and fight off infection more effectively.

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