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IBM invests $3 billion to extend Moore’s law with post-silicon-era chips and new architectures

Pushing limits of chip technology to 7 nanometers and below
July 10, 2014

Graphene Integrated circuit, the first fabricated from wafer-size graphene, announced by IBM in 2011 (credit: IBM)

IBM announced today it is investing $3 billion for R&D in two research programs to push the limits of chip technology and extend Moore’s law.

The research programs are aimed at “7 nanometer and beyond” silicon technology and developing alternative technologies for post-silicon-era chips using entirely different approaches, IBM says.

IBM will be investing especially in carbon nanoelectronics, silicon photonics, new memory technologies, and architectures that support quantum… read more

Red-light-sensitive protein enables noninvasive neuron studies

Also a step toward developing optogenetic treatments for diseases such as epilepsy and retinitis pigmentosa
July 9, 2014

(Credit: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT)

MIT engineers have developed the first light-sensitive protein molecule that enables neurons to be silenced noninvasively. Using a light source outside the skull makes it possible to do long-term studies without an implanted light source.

The protein, known as Jaws, also allows a larger volume of tissue to be influenced at once. The researchers described the protein in Nature Neuroscience.

Optogenetics, a technology that allows scientists… read more

A graphene replacement made from plastic

July 8, 2014

Spin-coating a polymer solution (green) to create a carbon nanosheet with characteristics similar to graphene but without the defects (black) (credit: Nanoscale)

A team of Korean researchers has synthesized hexagonal carbon nanosheets similar to graphene, using a polymer. The new material is free of the defects and complexity involved in producing graphene, and can substitute for graphene as transparent electrodes for organic solar cells and in semiconductor chips, the researchers say.

The research team is led by Han-Ik Joh at Korea Institute of Science and Technology  (KIST),… read more

How to get off the grid for under $10K

July 8, 2014

Beacon 10 Stirling engine (credit: Deka Research)

Inventor Dean Kamen is planning a 2.5 kW home version of his Deka Research Beacon 10 Stirling engine that could provide efficient around-the-clock power or hot water to a home or business, reports Forbes.

Kamen says the current Beacon is intended for businesses like laundries or restaurants that use a lot of hot water. “With commercialization partner NRG Energy, he’s deployed… read more

Possible aircraft technologies of 2040

July 8, 2014

A rescue UAV custom-printed by an aircraft on-board 3D printer (credit: BAE Systems)

Scientists and engineers at BAE Systems have developed concepts for futuristic technologies that could be incorporated in military and civil aircraft of 2040 or earlier:

  • 3D printers so advanced they could print UAVs during a mission;
  • Aircraft parts that can heal themselves in minutes;
  • A new type of long range aircraft which divides into a number of smaller aircraft when it reaches its destination;

read more

A transistor material intended to replace silicon by 2024

July 7, 2014

Hybrid CNT/IGZO circuits fabricated on a polyimide film laminated on a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) substrate (credit: USC Viterbi / Chongwu Zhou)

USC Viterbi School of Engineering researchers have developed a flexible, transparent, energy-efficient, lower-cost hybrid design that could replace silicon as the traditional transistor material used in electronic chips.

The new design, described in a paper recently published in Nature Communications, combines carbon nanotube thin-film transistors with thin-film transistors comprised of indium, gallium and zinc oxide (IGZO).

Electrical engineering professor Dr. Chongwu Zhou and USC… read more

Collaborative learning for robots

New algorithm lets independent agents collectively produce a machine-learning model without aggregating data
July 7, 2014

(Credit: 20th Century Fox)

Researchers from MIT’s Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems have developed an algorithm in which distributed agents — such as robots exploring a building — collect data and analyze it independently. Pairs of agents, such as robots passing each other in the hall, then exchange analyses.

In experiments involving several different data sets, the researchers’ distributed algorithm actually outperformed a standard algorithm that works on data aggregated… read more

Researchers regrow human corneas in mice

July 7, 2014

This is a restored functional cornea following transplantation of human ABCB5-positive limbal stem cells to limbal stem cell-deficient mice. Transplants consisting of human ABCB5-positive limbal stem cells resulted in restoration and long-term maintenance of a normal clear cornea, whereas control mice that received either no cells or ABCB5-negative cells failed to restore the cornea. (Credit: Kira Lathrop, Bruce Ksander, Markus Frank, and Natasha Frank)

A team of Boston medical researchers has identified a way to trigger regrowth of human corneal tissue using stem cells. The finding could restore vision for victims of chemical injury and others with damaging eye diseases.

Limbal stem cells, which reside in the eye’s limbus, help maintain and regenerate corneal tissue. Their loss due to injury or disease is one of the leading causes of blindness.… read more

Nanoshell shields foreign enzymes used to starve cancer cells from immune system

July 3, 2014

The shell’s pores are too small for the enzyme to escape but big enough for diffusion of amino acids that feed cancer cells in and out of the particle. The enzymes remain trapped inside where they deplete any amino acids that enter.  (Credit: Inanc Ortac)

Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a nanoshell to protect foreign enzymes used to starve cancer cells as part of chemotherapy.

Enzymes are naturally smart machines that are responsible for many complex functions and chemical reactions in biology. However, despite their huge potential, their use in medicine has been limited by the immune system, which is designed to attack foreign intruders.

For… read more

A new battery that’s cheap, clean, rechargeable, and organic

Could pave the way for renewable energy sources to make up a greater share of a country's energy generation by economically storing energy at night
July 3, 2014

USC professor Sri Narayan's research focuses on the fundamental and applied aspects of electrochemical energy conversion and storage to reduce the carbon footprint of energy use and by providing energy alternatives to fossil fuel (credit: USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

Scientists at USC have developed a water-based organic battery that is long-lasting and built from cheap, eco-friendly components (no metals or toxic materials).

The new battery is intended for use in power plants, where it could make the energy grid more resilient and efficient by creating a large-scale means to store energy for use as needed.

“The batteries last for about 5,000 recharge cycles, giving them an estimated… read more

Engineered red blood cells could carry therapeutic or diagnostic payloads

July 3, 2014

Human red blood cells supported on a glass slide (credit: Whitehead Institute)

Whitehead Institute scientists and associates have modified red blood cells (RBCs) to carry a range of valuable therapeutic and diagnostic payloads — such as drugs, vaccines, and disease-detecting imaging agents  — for delivery to specific sites throughout the body.

“We wanted to create high-value red cells that do more than simply carry oxygen,” says Whitehead Founding Member Harvey Lodish, who collaborated with Whitehead Member… read more

Muscle-powered bio-bots walk on command

July 2, 2014

Tiny walking “bio-bots” are powered by muscle cells and controlled by an electric field (credit: University of Illinois)

Engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a class of walking “bio-bots” powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical pulses, giving researchers unprecedented command over their function.

The group published its work in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (open access).

“Biological actuation driven by cells is a… read more

An electronic switch just three atoms thick

July 2, 2014

In the top panel, this three-atom thick crystal is shown as semiconductor that is non-conductive. An outward tug on the material (shown in the middle panel) clicks the crystal into a metallic, or conductive state. The third panel shows the crystal back in a non-conductive state. (Credit, Karel-Alexander Duerloo)

Three Stanford researchers have discovered a flexible, switchable material that can form a paper-like sheet just three atoms thick and  behave like a switch.

As noted in articles on KurzweilAI, there’s a lot of interest in developing electronic devices based on such materials, which could enable a cell phone to be woven into a shirt, for example.

The new Stanford material can be mechanically pulledread more

Robot astronaut inspires medicine and manufacturing spinoffs

July 1, 2014

The version of Robonaut currently on the station (credit: NASA)

Robonaut, a human-like robot designed by NASA and General Motors (GM), whose aim is to avoid the scenario in the movie Gravity — and perform other tasks  to free up human crew time and energy — has spun off three other astronaut helpers.

Robonatu has been on the International Space Station since February 2011. Researchers have been testing the robot’s ability to perform… read more

Bio-printing transplantable tissues and organs is now a step closer

July 1, 2014

Blood vessels (credit: University of Sydney)

Scientists from the Universities of Sydney, Harvard, Stanford, and MIT have bio-printed artificial vascular networks mimicking the body’s circulatory system.

These networks are necessary for growing large complex transplantable tissues and organs for people affected by major diseases and trauma injuries.

“Thousands of people die each year due to a lack of organs for transplantation,” says study lead author and University of Sydney researcher Luiz Bertassoni. ”Many more are… read more

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