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Advanced Technology

Updated: 2018-03-05T17:09:00.984-05:00


Surface 3 Tablet


Looking good at $800, if it lives up to the hype.  I may have found my laptop and desktop replacement.

Windows (Phone) 8


So I had one of the earliest windows phone 7 models that came out, the HTC Trophy, and I loved it.  Unfortunately I also broke it.  As my employer was tired of purchasing phones for me, I had to get a tinker-toy phone so I wouldn’t have to pay for the next one myself.  This phone did not remotely compare to the HTC Trophy.  A couple of my co-workers decided to go the android route also, and what I can say is that in all areas except number of apps available the windows phone is far superior.  I could send text messages, email, and make phone calls completely hands free.  Completely. Hands. Free.  Let that sink in.  With any android I’ve seen or played with there is always a button you have to click at some point in these processes, meaning I’m going to die taking my eyes off the road.  When sending texts I could just talk to the windows phone “send text to wife…Honey I’m going to be home late”  The phone would reply with “did you mean send a text message to wife, Honey I’m going to be home late, please say send or retry”, and if the speech recognition got something wrong you could go on in this loop until it got it right, never having to touch the thing, and once it did get it correct, you just said “Send”.  And when the reply came in it would notify you, read it if you wanted, and you could then reply or ignore.  Completely hands free.  Almost 18 months later and Android still hasn’t caught the windows 7 phone there.  Android speech recognition doesn’t remotely compare, it doesn’t recognize that I’m talking at all while the car is on, where the win7 phone rarely missed a beat.  My boss just got his windows 8 phone, I looked at it a bit and turned and ugly shade of green.  I can’t wait till my new every 2 is up in 6 months.  I think Windows 8 on everything is going to be a big game changer, and Microsoft is going to jump back on top of the world again with this one.  My desktop, Surface, and phone, and X-Box are just going to work, and work together.  Amen.

Advanced Technology: Smarter cars - Followup


Advanced Technology: Smarter cars

Following up very close to 5 years later, it's nice to see we are actually getting somewhere on this:

I think the legal issues around who's going to be covering a liability claim when the car was driving and hits someone is going to be one of the biggest hurdles.

Cheap Ethanol - and not from Corn


General Motors announced a partnership with Coskata of Warrenville, IL, a new company that claims it can make ethanol from wood chips, grass, and trash--including old tires--for a dollar a gallon. That's significantly less than it costs to make the biofuel from corn grain, which is the source of almost all the ethanol made in the United States.

Coskata executives, who until the announcement had kept the company's existence and technology under wraps, say they have developed a hybrid approach involving both thermochemical and biological processes for making ethanol. Until now, most researchers have focused on developing either thermochemical or biological methods. Coskata says that besides being cheaper than other ethanol production processes under development, its technology uses less energy and water.

GM will give financial, technical, and marketing support to Coskata to help it scale up its process, which so far has been demonstrated only at the lab scale. Coskata is completing a pilot-scale ethanol production facility and will announce locations for a 40,000-gallon-per-year facility and a 100-million-gallon-per-year commercial-scale plant later this year.

Smarter cars


This is nice, but just give me one that drives itself.

A "smart" dashboard that reduces the amount of information displayed to drivers during stressful periods on the road could be available in just five years, say German engineers.

A team from the Technical University of Berlin found they could improve reaction times in real driving conditions by monitoring drivers' brains and reducing distractions during periods of high brain activity. They were able to speed up driver's reactions by as much as 100 milliseconds. It might not sound much, but this is enough to reduce braking distance by nearly 3 metres when travelling at 100 kilometres per hour, says team leader Klaus-Robert Müller. "In a real life situation this could be enough to prevent an accident or stop someone being injured, or worse," he says. "We now have the brain-interface technology to make this a reality."

Bionic eyes and Augmented Reality


The first steps have been taken toward providing people with augmentedreality. This is even better than using glasses or goggles to provide it.I don't know how small they can make LED's to get good resolution on this,but you can bet they'll learn to shrink them down. I remember the fictionalad that Sony did for the "PS9" that had nanobots going into the eyes tointerface with the game, this is the first step down that road. By Hannah HickeyNews and InformationContact lenses with metal connectors for electronic circuits were safely worn by rabbits in lab tests. The lenses were manufactured at the microscopic level by researchers at the UW. Contact lenses with metal connectors for electronic circuits were safely worn by rabbits in lab tests. Movie characters from the Terminator to the Bionic Woman use bionic eyes to zoom in on far-off scenes, have useful facts pop into their field of view, or create virtual crosshairs. Off the screen, virtual displays have been proposed for more practical purposes -- visual aids to help vision-impaired people, holographic driving control panels and even as a way to surf the Web on the go. The device to make this happen may be familiar. Engineers at the UW have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights. "Looking through a completed lens, you would see what the display is generating superimposed on the world outside," said Babak Parviz, a UW assistant professor of electrical engineering. "This is a very small step toward that goal, but I think it's extremely promising." The results were presented today at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' international conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems by Harvey Ho, a former graduate student of Parviz's now working at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif. Other co-authors are Ehsan Saeedi and Samuel Kim in the UW's electrical engineering department and Tueng Shen in the UW Medical Center's ophthalmology department. There are many possible uses for virtual displays. Drivers or pilots could see a vehicle's speed projected onto the windshield. Video game companies could use the contact lenses to completely immerse players in a virtual world without restricting their range of motion. And for communications, people on the go could surf the Internet on a midair virtual display screen that only they would be able to see. "People may find all sorts of applications for it that we have not thought about. Our goal is to demonstrate the basic technology and make sure it works and that it's safe," said Parviz, who heads a multi-disciplinary UW group that is developing electronics for contact lenses. The prototype device contains an electric circuit as well as red light-emitting diodes for a display, though it does not yet light up. The lenses were tested on rabbits for up to 20 minutes and the animals showed no adverse effects. Ideally, installing or removing the bionic eye would be as easy as popping a contact lens in or out, and once installed the wearer would barely know the gadget was there, Parviz said. Building the lenses was a challenge because materials that are safe for use in the body, such as the flexible organic materials used in contact lenses, are delicate. Manufacturing electrical circuits, however, involves inorganic materials, scorching temperatures and toxic chemicals. Researchers built the circuits from layers of metal only a few nanometers thick, about one thousandth the width of a human hair, and constructed light-emitting diodes one third of a millimeter across. They then sprinkled the grayish powder of electrical components onto a sheet of flexible plastic. The shape of each tiny component dictates which piece it can attach to, a microfabrication technique known as self-assembly. Capillary forces -- the same typ[...]

Driverless Cars on Horizon


GM, parts suppliers, university engineers and other automakers all areworking on vehicles that could revolutionize short- and long-distance travel.And Tuesday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas GM Chief ExecutiveRick Wagoner will devote part of his speech to the driverless vehicles. "This is not science fiction," Larry Burns, GM's vice president for research anddevelopment, said in a recent interview. The most significant obstacles facing the vehicles could be human rather thantechnical: government regulation, liability laws, privacy concerns and people'spassion for the automobile and the control it gives them. Much of the technologyalready exists for vehicles to take the wheel: radar-based cruise control,motion sensors, lane-change warning devices, electronic stability control andsatellite-based digital mapping. And automated vehicles could dramaticallyimprove life on the road, reducing crashes and congestion. If people areinterested. "Now the question is what does society want to do with it?" Burnssaid. "You're looking at these issues of congestion, safety, energy andemissions. Technically there should be no reason why we can't transfer to atotally different world." GM plans to use an inexpensive computer chip and an antenna to link vehiclesequipped with driverless technologies. The first use likely would be onhighways; people would have the option to choose a driverless mode while theystill would control the vehicle on local streets, Burns said. He said thecompany plans to test driverless car technology by 2015 and have cars on theroad around 2018. Sebastian Thrun, co-leader of the Stanford University teamthat finished second among six teams completing a 60-mile Pentagon-sponsoredrace of driverless cars in November, said GM's goal is technically attainable.But he said he wasn't confident cars would appear in showrooms within a decade."There's some very fundamental, basic regulations in the way of that vision inmany countries," said Thrun, a professor of computer science and electricalengineering. The Defense Department contest, which initially involved 35 teams,showed the technology isn't ready for prime time. One team was eliminated afterits vehicle nearly charged into a building, while another vehicle mysteriouslypulled into a house's carport and parked itself.Thrun said a key benefit of the technology eventually will be safer roads andreducing the roughly 42,000 U.S. traffic deaths that occur annually - 95 percentof which he said are caused by human mistakes. "We might be able to cut thosenumbers down by a factor of 50 percent," Thrun said. "Just imagine all thefunerals that won't take place." Other challenges include updating vehicle codesand figuring out who would be liable in a crash and how to cope with blown tiresor obstacles in the road. But the systems could be developed to tell motoristsabout road conditions, warn of crashes or stopped vehicles ahead and preventcollisions in intersections. Later versions of driverless technology couldreduce jams by directing vehicles to space themselves close together, almost asif they were cars in a train, and maximize the use of space on a freeway, hesaid. "It will really change society, very much like the transition from a horseto a car," Thrun said. The U.S. government has pushed technology to help driversavoid crashes, most notably electronic stability controls that help preventrollovers. The systems are required on new passenger vehicles starting with the2012 model year. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication and technology allowing carsto talk with highway systems could come next.Still in debate are how toaddress drivers' privacy, whether current vehicles can be retrofitted and howmany vehicles would be need the systems to develop an effective network. "Whereit shakes out remains to be seen but there is no question we see a lot ofpotential there," said Rae Tyson, a spokesma[...]

Brighter LED Lights Could Replace Household Light Bulbs Within Three Years


ScienceDaily (Jan. 10, 2008) - Researchers are developing new technology that could replace the household light-bulb within three years.

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), already used in electrical equipment such as computers and mobile phones, are several times more energy efficient than standard light-bulbs. However, because of their structure and material, much of the light in standard LEDs becomes trapped, reducing the brightness of the light and making them unsuitable as the main lighting source in the home.

Now researchers believe they have found a way of introducing a new generation of LEDs into households that are brighter and use even less power than standard energy efficient light-bulbs.

Dr Faiz Rahman, the researcher leading the project at the University of Glasgow, said: "By making microscopic holes on the surface of the LEDs it is possible to extract more light, thus increasing the brightness of the lights without increasing the energy consumption. As yet, LEDs have not been introduced as the standard lighting in homes because the process of making the holes is very time consuming and expensive. However, by using world-class facilities at the University of Glasgow we believe we have found a way of imprinting the holes into billions of LEDs at a far greater speed, but at a much lower cost.

"LEDs not only use less power than current energy efficient light-bulbs but they are much smaller and can last years without needing to be replaced. This means the days of the humble light-bulb could soon be over."

The team of researchers use a technique called nano-imprint lithography to directly imprint the holes, imperceptible to the human eye, onto the LEDs allowing more of the light to escape.

The project is being developed in conjunction with the Institute of Photonics, University of Strathclyde, Mesophotonics Ltd and Sharp Laboratories of Europe, as part of the BERR Technology Programme.

Nanowire battery holds 10 times the charge of existing ones


Stanford researchers have found a way to use silicon nanowires to reinvent the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power laptops, iPods, video cameras, cell phones, and countless other devices.

The new version, developed through research led by Yi Cui, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, produces 10 times the amount of electricity of existing lithium-ion, known as Li-ion, batteries. A laptop that now runs on battery for two hours could operate for 20 hours, a boon to ocean-hopping business travelers.

"It's not a small improvement," Cui said. "It's a revolutionary development."

The breakthrough is described in a paper, "High-performance lithium battery anodes using silicon nanowires," published online Dec. 16 in Nature Nanotechnology, written by Cui, his graduate chemistry student Candace Chan and five others.

The greatly expanded storage capacity could make Li-ion batteries attractive to electric car manufacturers. Cui suggested that they could also be used in homes or offices to store electricity generated by rooftop solar panels.

"Given the mature infrastructure behind silicon, this new technology can be pushed to real life quickly," Cui said.

The electrical storage capacity of a Li-ion battery is limited by how much lithium can be held in the battery's anode, which is typically made of carbon. Silicon has a much higher capacity than carbon, but also has a drawback.

Silicon placed in a battery swells as it absorbs positively charged lithium atoms during charging, then shrinks during use (i.e., when playing your iPod) as the lithium is drawn out of the silicon. This expand/shrink cycle typically causes the silicon (often in the form of particles or a thin film) to pulverize, degrading the performance of the battery.

Cui's battery gets around this problem with nanotechnology. The lithium is stored in a forest of tiny silicon nanowires, each with a diameter one-thousandth the thickness of a sheet of paper. The nanowires inflate four times their normal size as they soak up lithium. But, unlike other silicon shapes, they do not fracture.

Research on silicon in batteries began three decades ago. Chan explained: "The people kind of gave up on it because the capacity wasn't high enough and the cycle life wasn't good enough. And it was just because of the shape they were using. It was just too big, and they couldn't undergo the volume changes."

Then, along came silicon nanowires. "We just kind of put them together," Chan said.

For their experiments, Chan grew the nanowires on a stainless steel substrate, providing an excellent electrical connection. "It was a fantastic moment when Candace told me it was working," Cui said.

Cui said that a patent application has been filed. He is considering formation of a company or an agreement with a battery manufacturer. Manufacturing the nanowire batteries would require "one or two different steps, but the process can certainly be scaled up," he added. "It's a well understood process."

Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Forms


It has been 50 years since scientists first created DNA in a test tube, stitching ordinary chemical ingredients together to make life's most extraordinary molecule. Until recently, however, even the most sophisticated laboratories could make only small snippets of DNA -- an extra gene or two to be inserted into corn plants, for example, to help the plants ward off insects or tolerate drought. Now researchers are poised to cross a dramatic barrier: the creation of life forms driven by completely artificial DNA. Scientists in Maryland have already built the world's first entirely handcrafted chromosome -- a large looping strand of DNA made from scratch in a laboratory, containing all the instructions a microbe needs to live and reproduce. In the coming year, they hope to transplant it into a cell, where it is expected to "boot itself up," like software downloaded from the Internet, and cajole the waiting cell to do its bidding. And while the first synthetic chromosome is a plagiarized version of a natural one, others that code for life forms that have never existed before are already under construction. The cobbling together of life from synthetic DNA, scientists and philosophers agree, will be a watershed event, blurring the line between biological and artificial -- and forcing a rethinking of what it means for a thing to be alive. "This raises a range of big questions about what nature is and what it could be," said Paul Rabinow, an anthropologist at the University of California at Berkeley who studies science's effects on society. "Evolutionary processes are no longer seen as sacred or inviolable. People in labs are figuring them out so they can improve upon them for different purposes." That unprecedented degree of control over creation raises more than philosophical questions, however. What kinds of organisms will scientists, terrorists and other creative individuals make? How will these self-replicating entities be contained? And who might end up owning the patent rights to the basic tools for synthesizing life? Some experts are worried that a few maverick companies are already gaining monopoly control over the core "operating system" for artificial life and are poised to become the Microsofts of synthetic biology. That could stifle competition, they say, and place enormous power in a few people's hands. "We're heading into an era where people will be writing DNA programs like the early days of computer programming, but who will own these programs?" asked Drew Endy, a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the core of synthetic biology's new ascendance are high-speed DNA synthesizers that can produce very long strands of genetic material from basic chemical building blocks: sugars, nitrogen-based compounds and phosphates. Today a scientist can write a long genetic program on a computer just as a maestro might compose a musical score, then use a synthesizer to convert that digital code into actual DNA. Experiments with "natural" DNA indicate that when a faux chromosome gets plopped into a cell, it will be able to direct the destruction of the cell's old DNA and become its new "brain" -- telling the cell to start making a valuable chemical, for example, or a medicine or a toxin, or a bio-based gasoline substitute. Unlike conventional biotechnology, in which scientists induce modest genetic changes in cells to make them serve industrial purposes, synthetic biology involves the large-scale rewriting of genetic codes to create metabolic machines with singular purposes. "I see a cell as a chassis and power supply for the artificial systems we are putting together," said Tom Knight of MIT, who likes to compare the state of cell biology today to that of mechanical engineering in 1864. That is when the United States began to adopt standa[...]

Gate leakage, down and out?


R. Colin Johnson (12/04/2007 10:09 AM EST)

PORTLAND, Ore. — A high-k dielectric process for CMOS transistors promises to turn the International Semiconductor Roadmap into a freeway by eliminating the gate-leakage problem at advanced nodes down to 10 nanometers.
Overheating due to excessive gate leakage is the number one hurdle to reaching advanced semiconductor nodes below 45 nanometer. Now, a process with 1 million times less gate leakage could enable rapid migration to advanced nodes, according to Clemson University researchers.
The rapid-thermal process of atomic layer deposition achieved an effective gate oxide thickness (EOT) of 0.39 nanometers with only 10-12A/cm2.
"This is a process that is robust and manufacturing tools could be developed for it without any fundamental barriers. We are using standard CVD techniques and the same precursors as everybody else," said Rajendra Singh, director of the Center for Silicon Nanoelectronics at Clemson University. "The difference comes from our optimized process chemistry and our use of different kinds energy sources—that's what our patent covers."
As gate oxide thickness were slimmed for 45-nm nodes and below, the industry has moved to using high-k dielectrics. For instance, Clemson's hafnium gate oxide high-k dilectric measured 2.4 nanometers in thickness, but had an EOT of 0.39 nanometers when compared to conventional silicon dioxide.
The semiconductor roadmap calls for high-k dielectrics at the 65-nm node, but most manufacturers, including Intel Corp., have delayed going to high-K dielectrics until the 45-nm node. The reason is that manufacturers would have to solve the problem of higher gate leakages through dielectrics that insulate less well than silicon dioxide.
Clemson's results indicate that such high-k dielectrics were the right way to go, and should take the industry down to the 10-nm node.
"It has signiýcant impact on silicon IC manufacturing industry," said Singh. "Semiconductor manufacturers are currently debating whether its worth the cost to change to larger 450-millimeter wafers, but using our invention eliminates several processing steps resulting in an overall reduction in costs at advanced nodes."

100+ Lumens/watt LED bulbs


LLF claims efficiency record from high-CRI warm-white LED lamp LED Lighting Fixtures Inc (LLF) of Morrisville, NC, USA, which develops LED-based light fixtures for general illumination, says that its LRP-38 lamp has set a new standard for energy-efficient lighting by producing 659 lumens while consuming just 5.8W of wall-plug power (113.6 delivered lumens per watt), compared with 60W for an equally bright incandescent bulb, according to results of steady-state tests by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on LLF’s prototype PAR 38 self-ballasted lamp.
The lamp uses less than 9% and 30% of the energy consumed by incandescent and fluorescent sources, respectively. The lamp emitted a warm-white incandescent-like color of 2760K with a high color rendering index (CRI) of 91.2.
“The results of this prototype clearly demonstrate that LLF’s LED technology will surpass all existing forms of lighting in terms of performance,” says chief technology officer Gerry Negley. “The prototype lamp verifies that the LLF platform can be deployed in any form factor, which will allow full penetration of the global lighting market,” he adds. “We used Cree Inc XLamp and Osram Opto Semiconductors Golden Dragon products in the lamp, which we believe are the best LEDs available to maximize our proprietary system performance.”
The LRP-38 demonstration is the most energy-efficient, high-CRI white lighting solution ever developed, claims LLF’s Hong Kong managing director, Tony van de Ven. “While there is currently no timetable for a production release, this result shows that LLF’s technology with LED light sources has the ability to surpass 100 lumens per watt from a fixture, which is a revolutionary milestone.”
Currently, via 65 lighting sales agents across the USA and Canada (representing over 300 distributors), LLF sells its LR6 six-inch downlight product (designed for 50,000 hours of lifetime) in warm (2700K) and neutral (3500K) white colors.

Death of the cell phone charger

2007-05-21T14:49:30.726-04:00   (Business 2.0 Magazine) -- How much money could you make from a technology that replaces electrical wires? A startup called Powercast, along with the more than 100 companies that have inked agreements with it, is about to start finding out. Powercast and its first major partner, electronics giant Philips, are set to launch their first device powered by electricity broadcast through the air.   Picture your cell phone charging up the second you sit down at your desk, and you start to get a sense of the opportunity. How big can it get? "The sky's the limit," says John Shearer, Powercast's founder and CEO. He estimates shipping "many millions of units" by the end of 2008.   For years, electricity experts said this kind of thing couldn't be done. "If you had asked me seven months ago if this was possible, I would have said, 'Are you dreaming? Have you been smoking something?'" says Govi Rao, vice president and general manager of solid-state lighting at Philips (Charts). "But to see it work is just amazing. It could revolutionize what we know about power."   World's 11 coolest products   So impressed was Rao after witnessing Powercast's demo last summer that he walked away jotting down a list of the industries to which the technology could immediately be applied: lighting, peripherals, all kinds of handheld electronics. Philips partnered with Powercast last July, and their first joint product, a wirelessly powered LED light stick, will hit the market this year. Computer peripherals, such as a wireless keyboard and mouse, will follow in 2008.   Broadcasting power through the air isn't a new idea. Researchers have experimented with capturing the radiation in radio frequency at high power but had difficulty capturing it at consumer-friendly low power. "You'd have energy bouncing off the walls and arriving in a wide range of voltages," says Zoya Popovic, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Colorado who works on wireless electricity projects for the U.S. military.   That's where Shearer came in. A former physicist based in Pittsburgh, he and his team spent four years poring over wireless electricity research in a lab hidden behind his family's coffee house. He figured much of the energy bouncing off walls could be captured. All you had to do was build a receiver that could act like a radio tuned to many frequencies at once.   "I realized we wanted to grab that static and harness it," Shearer says. "It's all energy."Entrepreneur finds 'suite' dreams   So the Powercast team set about creating and patenting that receiver. Its tiny but hyperefficient receiving circuits can adjust to variations in load and field strength while maintaining a constant DC voltage. Thanks to the fact that it transmits only safe low wattages, the Powercast system quickly won FCC approval--and $10 million from private investors.   Powercast says it has signed nondisclosure agreements to develop products with more than 100 companies, including major manufacturers of cell phones, MP3 players, automotive parts, temperature sensors, hearing aids, and medical implants.   The last of those alone could be a multibillion-dollar market: Pacemakers, defibrillators, and the like require surgery to replace dead batteries. But with a built-in Powercast receiver, those batteries could last a lifetime.   "Everyone's looking to cut that last cord," says Alex Slawsby, a consultant at Innosight who specializes in disruptive innovation. "Think of the billion cell phones sold last year. If you could get Powercast into a small perc[...]

Rapid-fire pulse brings Sandia Z method closer to goal of high-yield fusion reactor


An electrical circuit that should carry enough power to produce the long-sought goal of controlled high-yield nuclear fusion and, equally important, do it every 10 seconds, has undergone extensive preliminary experiments and computer simulations at Sandia National Laboratories� Z machine facility.

Practical Holographic Video


The tyranny of two-dimensional computer and TV displays could soon be over. A team of MIT researchers has proposed a way to make a holographic video system that works with computer hardware for consumers, such as PCs with graphics cards and gaming consoles. The display, the researchers say, will be small enough to add to an entertainment center, provide resolution as good as a standard analog television, and cost only a couple hundred dollars.
A holographic video display could provide another way to view medical images such as MRIs and CT scans, as well as sets of complex, multidimensional data and designs for furniture and cars, says V. Michael Bove Jr., director of the consumer electronics program, CELab, at MIT. And the system would be a natural fit for displaying video games and virtual worlds. Most games now have sophisticated three-dimensional models sitting deep within their software, "but you don't see them because [the images are] rendered as a two-dimensional picture," Bove says.
The new system, called Mark III, is the third generation (following Mark I and Mark II) of MIT-designed holographic video displays that date back to the late 1980s. These earlier systems were "loud, finicky, required specialized computing hardware to generate a video signal, and were a general pain in the neck to work with," says Bove. A few years ago, he wondered if he could turn a laboratory-based holographic display system that cost tens of thousands of dollars into an affordable consumer product.
Bove and his team currently have a fourth generation of system lined up, which will be able to display an image as large as a desktop PC monitor; in contrast, the current system's displays are only about the size of a Rubik's Cube. Also, the current display is only capable of monochromatic holograms, but the fourth generation will have a full range of colors, Bove says.

Daily pill to beat genetic diseases


A pill that can correct a wide range of faulty genes which cause crippling illnesses should be available within three years, promising a revolution in the treatment of thousands of conditions.
The drug, known as PTC124, has already had encouraging results in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis. The final phase of clinical trials is to begin this year, and it could be licensed as early as 2009.

Plastic solar cell efficiency breaks record at WFU nanotechnology center


The global search for a sustainable energy supply is making significant strides at Wake Forest University as researchers at the university�s Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials have announced that they have pushed the efficiency of plastic solar cells to more than 6 percent.
In a paper to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Applied Physics Letters, Wake Forest researchers describe how they have achieved record efficiency for organic or flexible, plastic solar cells by creating �nano-filaments� within light absorbing plastic, similar to the veins in tree leaves.  This allows for the use of thicker absorbing layers in the devices, which capture more of the sun�s light.
In order to be considered a viable technology for commercial use, solar cells must be able to convert about 8 percent of the energy in sunlight to electricity.  Wake Forest researchers hope to reach 10 percent in the next year, said Carroll, who is also associate professor of physics at Wake Forest.

Scientists are creating artificial bones using a modified version of an inkjet printer.


The technology creates perfect replicas of bones that have been damaged and these can then be inserted in the body to help it to heal.

The process will revolutionise bone graft surgery, which currently relies on either bits of bone taken from other parts of the body or ceramic-like substitutes.

Original Aritcle

neuroArm: Exploring the Depths of Neurosurgery


neuroArm is an MRI-compatible, ambidextrous robot capable of performing the most technically challenging surgical procedures. Its dextrous components are two image-guided manipulators with end-effectors that mimic human hands and are capable of interfacing with new microsurgical tools. It has tremor filters that eliminate unwanted hand tremors seen under the microscope.
Each end-effector is equipped with a three-dimensional (3D) force-sensor providing the robot with its sense of touch. A surgeon, seated at a surgical workstation, controls the robot using force feedback hand-controllers. Combined with a 3D visual display of the surgical site and 3D MRI displays with superimposed 'virtual' tools, the workstation recreates the sight and sensation of microsurgery. Surgical simulation software on the workstation allows the surgeon to calculate the optimal incision site, plan a path that avoids critical structures and permits risk-free rehearsal of rare or complex procedures. To ensure safety, redundant computer systems continuously monitor and control neuroArm's movements.

Geordi come home


Software that can be taught to refine the information sent from a bionic eye to its wearer is being trialled in Germany.
Retinal implants can restore some vision to blind or partially blind people by taking over the job of turning light into signals transmitted to the brain. So far, about 10 people in Germany and 15 in the US have been fitted with such implants although expanded US trials are planned.
Eckmiller says the secret to improving these implants is to match the signals they produce with the signals that a healthy eye sends to the brain. One team in California, US, is trying to do that by building a copy of the retina's neurons in silicon. Eckmiller, along with colleagues Oliver Baruth and Rolf Schatten, plan to use learning software instead.

Original Article

Flexible Batteries That Never Need to Be Recharged


Mobiles phones, remote controls, and other gadgets are generally convenient--that is, until their batteries go dead. For many consumers, having to routinely recharge or replace batteries remains the weakest link in portable electronics. To solve the problem, a group of European researchers say they've found a way to combine a thin-film organic solar cell with a new type of polymer battery, giving it the capability of recharging itself when exposed to natural or indoor light.

Building the Bionic Man


Once the realm of science fiction, bionics is slowly but surely becoming a reality. Advances in medical prostheses and computer technology are making the dream of building a bionic human a reality.

Ways to Lure Viruses to Their Death


There are only a few basic ways to fight viruses. A vaccine can prime the immune system to attack them as soon as they invade the body. If a virus manages to establish itself, a doctor may be able to prescribe a drug to slow down its spread. And if all else fails, a doctor may quarantine a patient to head off an epidemic.
Now some scientists are exploring a fundamentally different strategy to fight viruses. They want to wipe them out by luring them to their destruction, like mice to mousetraps.

Fantastic Voyage: from science fiction to reality


Under the direction of Professor Sylvain Martel, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Micro/Nanosystem Development, Construction and Validation, and in collaboration with researchers at the Centre hospitalier de l'Universit� de Montr�al (CHUM), the Polytechnique team has succeeded in injecting, propelling and controlling by means of software programs an initial prototype of an untethered device (a ferromagnetic 1.5- millimetre-diameter sphere) within the carotid artery of a living animal placed inside a clinical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system.

Encouraged by these results, staff at the Polytechnique NanoRobotics Laboratory are currently working to further reduce the size of the devices so that, within a few years, they can navigate inside smaller blood vessels.

Original Article