Eye-tracking research is a peek into the future of interacting with mobile devices
Research project lends helping human hand to AI decisionmakers
WAE and ICL supporting Faraday Institution funded BESAFE project to advance the understanding of the initiation and propagation of thermal runaway
When quantum particles fly like bees: Quantum simulator provides insights into the dynamics of complex quantum systems
Purdue, Ivy Tech partner on next-generation microelectronics workforce
New development in digital signal processing improves bandwidth 10-fold
Perfecting the EV battery recycling process
Tips on battery expertise from Chalmers University of Technology
AMPED Consortium Receives NSF IUCRC Planning Grant
The brain’s secret to lifelong learning can now come as hardware for artificial intelligence
Spin-sonics: Acoustic wave gets the electrons spinning
Researchers have detected the rolling movement of a nano-acoustic wave predicted by the famous physicist and Nobel prize winner Lord Rayleigh in 1885. This phenomenon can find applications in acoustic quantum technologies or in so-called “phononic” components, which are used to control the propagation of acoustic waves. The study, published in the journal Science Advances, was conducted by researchers from Purdue University, the University of Augsburg, the University of Münster and the University of Alberta. The team used a nanowire inside which electrons are forced onto circular paths by the spin of the acoustic wave. Acoustic waves are incredibly versatile in modern nanophysics, as they can influence both electronic and photonic systems. For example, minute micro-acoustic chips in computers, smartphones or tablets ensure that the wireless signals received are electronically processed. However, despite wide-ranging uses of nano-acoustic waves, the fundamental property of spin of the nano-acoustic wave had not been detected until this study. “Since Lord Rayleigh’s pioneering work, it has been known that there are acoustic waves which propagate on the surface of solids and which show a highly characteristic elliptical rolling movement,” said Hubert Krenner, a professor of physics, who headed the study at the University of Augsburg and recently moved to the University of Münster. “In the case of nano-acoustic waves, we have now succeeded in observing directly this transversal spin, which is what we physicists call this movement.” In their study, the researchers used an extremely fine nanowire that was positioned on a so-called piezoelectric material, lithium niobate. This material becomes deformed when subjected to an electrical current, and, with the aid of small metal electrodes, an acoustic wave can be generated on the material. On the surface of the material, the acoustic wave generates an elliptically rotating (gyrating) electrical field. This, in turn, forces the electrons in the nanowire onto circular paths. “So far we knew about this phenomenon for light,” said Zubin Jacob, Purdue’s Elmore Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “Now we have succeeded in demonstrating that this is a universal effect, which also occurs in other types of waves such as sound waves on a technologically important platform, lithium niobate.” The research results presented are a milestone: The transversal spin, observed for the first time, can be used specifically to control nano-systems or transfer information. “We observed the movement of electrons in the nanowires, which were made at the Technical University of Munich, through the light emitted by the electrons,” said Maximilian Sonner, a Ph.D. student at the Institute of Physics at the University of Augsburg. Sonner’s colleague, Lisa Janker, added, “We use an extremely rapid stroboscope here, which enables us to practically observe this movement in real time – even at higher frequencies up to the gigahertz range.” Farhad Khosravi, who recently completed his Ph.D. in Jacob’s research group, had transferred his calculations for light directly to the Rayleigh acoustic wave. “It has been known for a long time that light waves and sound waves have similar properties. Nevertheless, the extent of the match for their spin properties is really phenomenal,” Khosravi said. The researchers are convinced that the universal principle of spin-physics underlying this phenomenon will lead to important technological advances. The team is now working to link the transversal spin of acoustic waves with the spin of other waves. “What we need to do next is use this transversal acoustic spin specifically in order to manipulate optical quantum systems or the spin of light, for example,” Jacob said. The project was funded by the German Research Foundation (grants KR3790/6-1 and KO4005/6-1) and the DARPA Nascent Light-Matter Interactions program.
Tough, flexible sensor invented for wearable tech
Researchers have utilized 3D printing and nanotechnology to create a durable, flexible sensor for wearable devices to monitor everything from vital signs to athletic performance. The new technology, developed by engineers at the University of Waterloo, combines silicone rubber with ultra-thin layers of graphene in a material ideal for making wristbands or insoles in running shoes. When that rubber material bends or moves, electrical signals are created by the highly conductive, nanoscale graphene embedded within its engineered honeycomb structure. “Silicone gives us the flexibility and durability required for biomonitoring applications, and the added, embedded graphene makes it an effective sensor,” said Ehsan Toyserkani, research director at the Multi-Scale Additive Manufacturing (MSAM) Lab at Waterloo. “It’s all together in a single part.” Fabricating a silicone rubber structure with such complex internal features is only possible using state-of-the-art 3D printing – also known as additive manufacturing - equipment and processes. The rubber-graphene material is extremely flexible and durable in addition to highly conductive. “It can be used in the harshest environments, in extreme temperatures and humidity,” said Elham Davoodi, an engineering PhD student at Waterloo who led the project. “It could even withstand being washed with your laundry.” The material and the 3D printing process enable custom-made devices to precisely fit the body shapes of users, while also improving comfort compared to existing wearable devices and reducing manufacturing costs due to simplicity. Toyserkani, a professor of mechanical and mechatronics engineering, said the rubber-graphene sensor can be paired with electronic components to make wearable devices that record heart and breathing rates, register the forces exerted when athletes run, allow doctors to remotely monitor patients and numerous other potential applications. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of British Columbia collaborated on the project. The latest in a series of papers on the research, 3D-Printed Ultra-Robust Surface-Doped Porous Silicone Sensors for Wearable Biomonitoring, appears in the journal ACS Nano.
IBS Researchers Developed New Catalyst That Produces Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) Using Only Oxygen and Water
A catalyst has been developed that can increase the production efficiency of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), a key material for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, by up to eight times. The research team with Hyun Teak-hwan (Chair-professor at Seoul National University, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering) and Sung Yeong-eun (Professor at Seoul National University, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering), who are the leader and vice leader of Nanoparticle Research Group of Institute for Basic Science respectively, collaborated with a team of Yoo Jong-seok professor at University of Seoul to develop an electrocatalyst that can produce hydrogen peroxide eco-friendly using only oxygen and water. As a result, hydrogen peroxide can be produced with a catalyst that is more than 2000 times cheaper than the existing noble metal catalyst, so it is evaluated as a ‘killing three birds with one stone’ technology that solves all of the cost, efficiency and environmental issues. ▲ Leader Hyun Teak-hwan (left) and Vice Leader Sung Yeong-eun (right) attended to present the major achievements. Hydrogen peroxide is widely used in household goods such as toothpaste and dish detergent, as well as in medical sites that require sterilization and in semiconductor processes that wastewater treatment and removal of impurities. Industrial hydrogen peroxide is mainly produced by the anthraquinone process. However, the anthraquinone process* uses expensive palladium catalysts, which not only consumes a lot of energy, but also has the limitation that organic substances are generated as by-products and cause environmental pollution. Therefore, as the demand for hydrogen peroxide increases with the development of ultra-precision semiconductors and mechanical parts, there is a need for a sustainable process that can produce hydrogen peroxide with cheap and high efficiency. * Anthraquinone process: A process of producing hydrogen peroxide by sequentially reducing and oxidizing anthraquinone dissolved in an organic solvent in the presence of a catalyst. Expensive palladium catalysts are required in large quantities, and excessive energy is consumed in each step, resulting in low energy efficiency. In addition, since organic solvents are generated as by-products, there is a limit that causes environmental pollution. ▲ Control of catalytic activity through structure control around cobalt atoms (Image provided by IBS) The research team devised an inexpensive catalyst that could electrically produce hydrogen peroxide using water (H2O) and oxygen (O2) without the need for complex steps. The catalyst, developed by the researchers, is in the form of putting a cobalt (Co) atom on two-dimensional graphene. Unlike conventional catalysts, they are inexpensive as they use cheaper cobalt atoms instead of precious metals such as platinum and palladium. When the developed cobalt atom/graphene catalyst is added to an aqueous solution of saturated oxygen and subjected to electricity, hydrogen peroxide can be produced without adding any other compound. This catalyst has produced up to eight times higher productivity than the expensive noble metal catalysts known to be the most efficient. With 1kg of catalyst, it is capable of producing 341.2 kg of hydrogen peroxide per day. In addition, it was confirmed that even after the experiment for continuously producing hydrogen peroxide for more than 110 hours, it maintains more than 98% of the initial performance. “The idea is based on the finding that an inexpensive atom such as iron, cobalt, or nickel effectively mediates electrochemical reactions when stabilized on graphene. It was confirmed that the activity of the catalyst could be controlled at the atomic level and even justified by calculation chemistry. Consequently, by changing the structure around the cobalt atoms, the team was able to develop a catalyst with world-class hydrogen peroxide production ability.” Said Sung Yeong-eun vice leader. ▲ Performance Comparison of Catalysts Developed by Researchers and Conventional Catalysts (Image provided by IBS) The catalyst developed by the researchers is a heterogeneous catalyst**, which is cheaper than a homogeneous catalyst and is eco-friendly because it does not generate waste catalyst and it can be recycled after the reaction. This work means a lot academically in the way of the world's first discovery of a principle for increasing the activity of heterogeneous catalysts at the atomic level. The researchers expect the catalyst to be used in a wide variety of chemical processes as it can synthesize products stably and environmentally at both room temperature and atmospheric pressure. **Heterogeneous catalyst: When a catalyst has the same form with the reactants and products, it is called a homogeneous catalyst. In this time, the reaction proceeds in the form of all catalyst, reactants and products dissolved in solvent. On the other hand, heterogeneous catalysts have the advantage that they can be recovered and recycled after the reaction as the reactants and products differ from each other in the gaseous or liquid state. “Hydrogen peroxide, the world's top 100 industrial chemicals, can now be produced environmentally and economically. It is expected to improve productivity by applying hydrogen peroxide production as well as many chemical reactions using catalysts.” Said Hyun Teak-hwan leader. Meanwhile, the results of the research were published in Nature Materials (IF 39.124), the world's leading journal in materials, on the January 14 in Korean time.
Ultra-small nanoprobes could be a leap forward in high-resolution human-machine interfaces
Machine enhanced humans – or cyborgs as they are known in science fiction – could be one step closer to becoming a reality, thanks to new research from the University of Surrey and Harvard University. Researchers have conquered the monumental task of manufacturing scalable nanoprobe arrays small enough to record the inner workings of human cardiac cells and primary neurons. The ability to read electrical activities from cells is the foundation of many biomedical procedures, such as brain activity mapping and neural prosthetics. Developing new tools for intracellular electrophysiology (the electric current running within cells) that push the limits of what is physically possible (spatiotemporal resolution) while reducing invasiveness could provide a deeper understanding of electrogenic cells and their networks in tissues, as well as new directions for human-machine interfaces. In a paper published by Nature Nanotechnology, scientists from Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) and Harvard University detail how they produced an array of the ultra-small U-shaped nanowire field-effect transistor probes for intracellular recording. This incredibly small structure was used to record, with great clarity, the inner activity of primary neurons and other electrogenic cells, and the device has the capacity for multi-channel recordings. Dr Yunlong Zhao from the ATI at the University of Surrey said: “If our medical professionals are to continue to understand our physical condition better and help us live longer, it is important that we continue to push the boundaries of modern science in order to give them the best possible tools to do their jobs. For this to be possible, an intersection between humans and machines is inevitable. “Our ultra-small, flexible, nanowire probes could be a very powerful tool as they can measure intracellular signals with amplitudes comparable with those measured with patch clamp techniques; with the advantage of the device being scalable, it causes less discomfort and no fatal damage to the cell (cytosol dilation). Through this work, we found clear evidence for how both size and curvature affect device internalisation and intracellular recording signal.” Professor Charles Lieber from the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University said: “This work represents a major step towards tackling the general problem of integrating ‘synthesized’ nanoscale building blocks into chip and wafer scale arrays, and thereby allowing us to address the long-standing challenge of scalable intracellular recording. “The beauty of science to many, ourselves included, is having such challenges to drive hypotheses and future work. In the longer term, we see these probe developments adding to our capabilities that ultimately drive advanced high-resolution brain-machine interfaces and perhaps eventually bringing cyborgs to reality.” Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI at the University of Surrey, said: “This incredibly exciting and ambitious piece of work illustrates the value of academic collaboration. Along with the possibility of upgrading the tools we use to monitor cells, this work has laid the foundations for machine and human interfaces that could improve lives across the world.” Dr Yunlong Zhao and his team are currently working on novel energy storage devices, electrochemical probing, bioelectronic devices, sensors and 3D soft electronic systems. Undergraduate, graduate and postdoc students with backgrounds in energy storage, electrochemistry, nanofabrication, bioelectronics, tissue engineering are very welcome to contact Dr Zhao to explore the opportunities further.
Smart devices could soon tap their owners as a battery source
The world is edging closer to a reality where smart devices are able to use their owners as an energy resource, say experts from the University of Surrey. In a study published by the Advanced Energy Materials journal, scientists from Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) detail an innovative solution for powering the next generation of electronic devices by using Triboelectric Nanogenerators (TENGs). Along with human movements, TENGs can capture energy from common energy sources such as wind, wave, and machine vibration. A TENG is an energy harvesting device that uses the contact between two or more (hybrid, organic or inorganic) materials to produce an electric current. Researchers from the ATI have provided a step-by-step guide on how to construct the most efficient energy harvesters. The study introduces a “TENG power transfer equation” and “TENG impedance plots”, tools which can help improve the design for power output of TENGs. Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI, said: “A world where energy is free and renewable is a cause that we are extremely passionate about here at the ATI (and the University of Surrey) – TENGs could play a major role in making this dream a reality. TENGs are ideal for powering wearables, internet of things devices and self-powered electronic applications. This research puts the ATI in a world leading position for designing optimized energy harvesters.” Ishara Dharmasena, PhD student and lead scientist on the project, said: “I am extremely excited with this new study which redefines the way we understand energy harvesting. The new tools developed here will help researchers all over the world to exploit the true potential of triboelectric nanogenerators, and to design optimised energy harvesting units for custom applications.”
First over-the-air beam hopping test successfully concluded
Rising demand for worldwide mobile communications on land, in the air and at sea calls for satellite coverage tailored to individual needs. As part of the “BEHOP – Beam Hopping Emulator for Satellite Systems” project, initiated and funded by the European Space Agency (ESA), Fraunhofer IIS is collaborating with WORK Microwave and Eutelsat to research technologies that will deliver more flexibility and higher performance in satellite communication. BEHOP is intended to pave the way for beam hopping, a feature that is supported by Eutelsat Quantum, a satellite due to enter into service in 2020. Spot beams with higher data capacity instead of broad coverage At present, most satellites operate spot beams at constant power and with a fixed allocation of capacity over a broad coverage region. Beam hopping, however, allows efficient communication by putting power when and where required. It transmits adjusted beams that enable great flexibility as to how capacity is distributed. Currently, no system in orbit supports beam hopping completely. Beam hopping test via satellite with DVB-S2X In June 2018, Fraunhofer IIS collaborated with WORK Microwave to test beam hopping for the first time using a conventional Eutelsat satellite. To this end, the beam hopping payload emulator developed at Fraunhofer IIS was added to the uplink transmission chain along with WORK Microwave’s beam hopping enabled modulator with integrated synchronization algorithms. In the downlink the corresponding demodulators from Fraunhofer IIS was used as receiver. The transmission technique is based on the DVB S2X standard’s Annex E Super-Framing structure, which enables several innovative technologies such as beam hopping, precoding and interference management solutions. By way of this demonstration, the project partners proved that the beam hopping concept and technology are ready to be implemented. The demonstration validated that data arrives at the satellite in sync with the beam hopping pattern and that the system is able to automatically adjust and update resource allocations whenever capacity requirements may change. This successful test paves the way for a next generation of satellites.
Google to invest in science "made in Germany" and become a “TUM Partner of Excellence”
Google and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have announced a long-term partnership. The cooperation in Munich will be based on research and innovation in the fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics. As a “TUM Partner of Excellence”, Google will also donate 1 million euros to the TUM University Foundation, primarily to support talented young researchers. Google is the first non-European company to become an official “Partner of Excellence” for TUM. TUM and Google signed a master agreement today for joint research projects. A key aspect of these activities will be artificial intelligence, including the promotion of innovation. UnternehmerTUM, Center for Innovation and Business Creation at TUM and Germany's leading start-up incubator, recently launched the "AppliedAI Initiative" to support founders and companies in developing and especially applying artificial intelligence. Google will invest an additional amount of around 250,000 euros in this initiative over the next three years through its Munich office in the form of direct funding, material resources and personnel. - Partnership in the "home country of all industries" “Automation and robotics are key elements of the fourth industrial revolution that we are currently experiencing through advances in artificial intelligence. The concept of Industry 4.0 was developed here in Germany, the home country of all industries. We're delighted with the opportunity to work in this important area in our partnership with TUM and UnternehmerTUM," said Eric Schmidt, the long-serving Executive Chairman and Technical Advisor of Alphabet Inc. Schmidt, who was in Munich to announce the new partnership, joined TUM President Prof. Wolfgang A. Herrmann in addressing around 1,000 students at the TUM Speakers Series as a side-event of the Munich Security Conference. The former Google CEO gave a talk on technology and innovation and afterwards engaged in discussions with students. "Robotics and artificial intelligence will fundamentally transform all aspects of our lives," said Prof. Herrmann. "Our mission as a university is to think far into the future and to shape technological change so that it serves the common good. We are therefore delighted that we will be working together with one of the world's most innovative and visionary companies. The demonstration of trust by Google in the form of substantial funding for young scientists is an excellent start to this partnership." With its University Foundation, established in 2010, TUM is a trailblazer in endowment fundraising among German universities. Around 120 companies and individuals have contributed to the endowment, which currently amounts to approximately 42 million euros. The proceeds serve in particular to foster outstanding talent at the university. - Isar Valley meets Silicon Valley With TUM and Google, the up-and-coming Isar Valley is teaming up with one of the top companies from Silicon Valley. The arrangement will bring together two partners already known for excellent research in artificial intelligence and machine learning as well as robotics. TUM has an international reputation for the close and intelligent networking of engineering with the natural sciences and medicine as well as social sciences. A new interdisciplinary research center is currently being established with the Munich School of Robotics and Machine Intelligence, headed by Prof. Sami Haddadin, who recently won the German President's Award for Innovation in Science and Technology. TUM's other major strength is the conversion of research into market-ready innovations. Every year TUM spawns more than 70 spinoff companies. Among Google's German locations, Munich is second only to Hamburg. The company has its own office in the Bavarian capital since 2006. A new development center, which opened in 2016, already has more than 500 employees. Its main activities include the development of software products for data protection, data security and cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI). TUM and Google have been engaged in other cooperative activities for years. In the field of augmented reality, for example, a joint team developed ScanComplete, a method for the automatic completion and semantic analysis of 3D scans of enclosed spaces. Google has also been engaged in a research partnership on AI with the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence since 2015.