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A graphene microphone and loudspeaker that operate at up to 500 kilohertz

Practical uses for graphene in breakthrough future products
July 9, 2015

graphene microphone ft

University of California, Berkeley, physicists have used graphene to build lightweight ultrasonic loudspeakers and microphones, enabling people to mimic bats or dolphins’ ability to use sound to communicate and gauge the distance and speed of objects around them.

More practically, the wireless ultrasound devices complement standard radio transmission using electromagnetic waves in areas where radio is impractical, such as underwater, but with far greater fidelity than current ultrasound or sonar… read more

Crowdsourcing neurofeedback data

Crowdsourcing brain data with hundreds of adults could be a new frontier in neuroscience and could lead to new insights about the brain
July 9, 2015

In front of an audience, the collective neurofeedback of 20 participants were projected on the 360° surface of the semi-transparent dome as artistic video animations with soundscapes generated based on a pre-recorded sound library and improvisations from live musicians (credit: Natasha Kovacevic et al./PLoS ONE/Photo: David Pisarek)

In a large-scale art-science installation called My Virtual Dream in Toronto in 2013, more than 500 adults wearing a Muse wireless electroencephalography (EEG) headband inside a 60-foot geodesic dom participated in an unusual neuroscience experiment.

As they played a collective neurofeedback computer game where they were required to manipulate their mental states of relaxation and concentration, the group’s collective EEG signals triggered a catalog of… read more

A graphene-based molecule sensor

One of the first devices to use the unique electronic and optical properties of graphene for a practical application
July 9, 2015

Shining infrared light on a graphene surface makes surface electrons oscillate in different ways that identify the specific molecule attached to the surface (credit: EPFL)

European scientists have harnessed graphene’s unique optical and electronic properties to develop a highly sensitive sensor to detect molecules such as proteins and drugs — one of the first such applications of graphene.

The results are described in an article appearing in the latest edition of the journal Science.

The researchers at EPFL’s Bionanophotonic Systems Laboratory (BIOS) and the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO, Spain) used graphene to improve… read more

Omnidirectional wireless charging up to half a meter away from a power source

July 8, 2015

Omnidirectional wireless-charging system can charge multiple numbers of mobile devices simultaneously in a one-cubic-meter range. Above: charging transmitter; below: a Samsung Galaxy Note with embedded receiver. (credit: KAIST)

A group of researchers at KAIST in Korea has developed a wireless-power transfer (WPT) technology that allows mobile devices in the “Wi-Power” zone (within 0.5 meters from the power source) to be charged at any location and in any direction and orientation, tether-free.

The WPT system is capable of charging 30 smartphones with a power capacity of one watt each or 5 laptops with 2.4 watts.

The research… read more

AI algorithm learns to ‘see’ features in galaxy images

July 8, 2015

Hubble Space Telescope image of the cluster of galaxies MACS0416.1-2403, one of the Hubble “Frontier Fields” images. Bright yellow “elliptical” galaxies can be seen, surrounded by numerous blue spiral and amorphous (star-forming) galaxies. This image forms the test data that the machine learning algorithm is applied to, having not previously “seen” the image (credit: NASA/ESA/J. Geach/A. Hocking)

A team of astronomers and computer scientists at the University of Hertfordshire have taught a machine to “see” astronomical images, using data from the Hubble Space Telescope Frontier Fields set of images of distant clusters of galaxies that contain several different types of galaxies.

The technique, which uses a form of AI called unsupervised machine learning, allows galaxies to be automatically classified at high speed, something previously… read more

Could black phosphorus be the next silicon?

New material could lead to greater transistor density
July 8, 2015

Schematic of the "puckered honeycomb" crystal structure of black phosphorus (credit: Vahid Tayari/McGill University)

An unusual material called “black phosphorus” could emerge as a strong candidate for future energy-efficient transistors, new research from McGill University and Université de Montréal suggests. The material is a form of phosphorus that is similar to graphite (also known as pencil lead and the source of graphene), so it can be exfoliated (separated) easily into single atomic layers known as phosphorene.… read more

Engineers give invisibility cloaks a slimmer, stealthier design

July 7, 2015

An extremely thin cloaking device is designed using dielectric materials. The cloak is a thin Teflon sheet (light blue) embedded with many small, cylindrical ceramic particles (dark blue). (credit: Li-Yi Hsu/UC San Diego)

Electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a new design for a cloaking device that overcomes some of the limitations of existing “invisibility cloaks”: it’s both thin and does not alter the brightness of light around a hidden object.

The technology behind this cloak will have more applications than just invisibility, such as concentrating solar energy and increasing signal speed in optical communications.… read more

Imaging electric fields of molecules or atoms at sub-nanoscale

Opens up highly sensitive electric-potential-field sensing of biomolecules and semiconductor materials, for example
July 7, 2015

Illustration of the measuring principle: depending on the local electric potential field of a nanostructure on the surface of a sample, a single electron jumps from the tip of the microscope to the sensor molecule or back (credit:Forschungszentrum Jülich)

Using a single molecule attached to an atomic force microscope (AFM) as a more sensitive sensor, scientists in Forschungszentrum Jülich in Germany have used a new “scanning quantum dot microscopy” method to image electric potential fields (voltages) of electron shells of single molecules and even atoms with high precision for the first time, providing contact-free information on the distribution of charges.

The breakthrough technique is… read more

Smartphones not so smart for learning?

... unless social media and game apps are removed
July 7, 2015


Smartphones distracted students from school-related tasks in self-reported results of a one-year study of first-time smartphone users at a major research university in Texas.

“Smartphone technology is penetrating world markets and becoming abundant in most college settings,” said Philip Kortum, assistant professor of psychology at Rice and the study’s co-author. “We were interested to see how students with no prior experience using smartphones thought [smartphones] impacted their education.”

The… read more

Surfing the light fantastic

Researchers observe and control light wakes for the first time; could lead to new optical discoveries such as plasmonic holograms
July 6, 2015

Artistic rendition of the superluminal running wave of charge that excites the surface plasmon wakes  (credit: Daniel Wintz, Patrice Genevet, and Antonio Ambrosio)

Harvard researchers have created surface plasmons (wakes of light-like waves moving on a metallic surface) and demonstrated that they can be controlled and steered. Their demonstration was based on the Cherenkov effect, in which a charged particle moving with a velocity faster than the phase velocity of light in the medium radiates light that forms a cone with a half angle determined by the ratio of… read more

Major drug company to market implantable microchips that deliver drugs inside the body

"Artificial gland" replaces injections and pills now needed to treat chronic diseases
July 6, 2015

Microchip-based drug delivery device (credit: Robert Farra et al./Science Translational Medicine)

MIT spinoff Microchips Biotech has partnered with Teva Pharmaceutical, the world’s largest producer of generic drugs, to commercialize its wirelessly controlled, implantable, microchip-based devices that store and release drugs inside the body over a period of years.

Invented by Microchips Biotech co-founders Michael Cima, the David H. Koch Professor of Engineering, and Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor, the… read more

Hidden supermassive black holes revealed

July 6, 2015

An artist’s illustration of a supermassive black hole, actively feasting on its surroundings. The central black hole is hidden from direct view by a thick layer of encircling gas and dust. (credit: NASA/ESA)

Astronomers have found high-energy x-ray evidence for five hidden supermassive black holes in the Universe that were previously clouded from direct view by dust and gas.

The research, led by astronomers at the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy at Durham University, UK, supports the theory that potentially millions more supermassive black holes exist in the Universe, but are hidden from view, according to the astronomers.… read more

Autonomous taxis could be cheaper and improve the environment, says Berkeley Lab study

July 6, 2015

Self-driving car concept (credit: Google)

It’s the year 2030. A fleet of driverless taxis roams throughout your city, ready to pick you up and take you to your destination at a moment’s notice. As a result, greenhouse gases are now 63 to 82 percent lower than with a privately owned hybrid car and 90 percent lower than a 2014 gasoline-powered private vehicle. …

Those numbers are from a new study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory… read more

This is how the universe will end: not with a bang but a rip

First the galaxies are destroyed. Then the solar system breaks apart and the Earth explodes. Finally, the atoms themselves are ripped apart.
July 3, 2015

This is a time line of life of the universe that ends in a Big Rip. (credit: Jeremy Teaford, Vanderbilt University)

Vanderbilt University mathematicians have come up with a new theory of “cosmological viscosity” (how sticky the universe is) that challenges current theories.

For decades, cosmologists have had trouble reconciling the classic notion of viscosity based on the laws of thermodynamics with Einstein’s general theory of relativity, according the the team, which has now come up with a fundamentally new mathematical formulation of the problem that appears to… read more

A solar-energy storage cell that works at night

July 3, 2015

The UT Arlington team developed a new solar cell that is more efficient and can store solar energy even at night (credit: UT Arlington)

A University of Texas at Arlington materials science and engineering team has developed a new “photoelectrochemical” energy cell that can efficiently store solar energy and deliver electrical power 24 hours a day. It can also be scaled up to provide large amounts of energy, limited only by the size of its chemical storage tanks, according to Fuqiang Liu, an assistant professor in the Materialsread more

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