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A friend of mine asked the old question, "where are our flying cars?"   Michael Moshier and Robert Bulaga concept flying car   After a quick search I found a promised flying car from the founders of Trek Aerospace. A brief history of their greatest project to date. The SoloTrek XFV was a single person vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOL). The XFV was able to maintain fright for 2 hours with maximum speeds of 100km/h. Overall, the XFV travelled 200km. The special duct design ...
An LED mounted in a hand written trace of words   Materials Engineering meets Electrical Engineering, a new way of laying circuit traces is born.   University of Illinois professors Jennifer Lewis (materials) and Jennifer Bernhard (electrical) developed a pen that holds "metallic ink" that can be used to draw a circuit trace on paper. "This is an important step toward enabling desktop manufacturing (or personal fabrication) using very low cost, ubiquitous printing tools," said Lewis. ...
Onur Kilic's microphone prototype   Stanford researchers spent years studying marine animals in an effort to develop a better underwater microphone. The orca had the frequency range they wanted, 17 octaves, or 160 decibels. The orca ear works as such: sound brings the tympanic bone, and especially its thin tympanic plate, into vibration. The ossicles in the air-filled middle ear cavity form a bridge from the tympanic plate to the periotic bone connecting the vibrating plate to the oval wind ...
I’ve  been a big fan of Microchip PICs for some time now, possible because I  use them everyday at ebmpapst. My passion for them seams to have not gone on  noticed as Microchip have supplied me we the latested Arduino clone or  look a like - The chipKIT Max 32. However Microchip have been a bit hit  or miss with development kits so I was intrigued to see how well this  would stand up to review especially as they are not developed by  themselves but by Dig ...
Automation has been the target of criticism from unrelated sources in the past few weeks.  Some of it is related to its eliminating jobs, which I believe is actually a good thing. On June 14, IEEE Spectrum published a post on Senator Tom Coburn’s criticisms of NSF-funded robotics research projects.  That same day, President Obama linked automation to economic problems: There are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more e ...
  University of Toronto has successfully made the first layered solar cell that absorbs both visible and infrared solar energy. At the core of the technology is Colloidal Quantum Dots (CQD). The CQDs are used as the cells photovoltaic material.   A quantum dot is a bit of semiconductor matter with electrical characteristics that are closely related to the size/shape of the crystals they are grown in. The smaller the crystal, the larger the band gap of energy, or the difference between ...
One of five Google UGV Prii (7th car is an Audi TT)   “It’s a bug that cars were invented before computers. Your car should drive itself. It just makes sense," says Google's CEO Eric Schmidt.   Google has admitted to having 7 cars that are unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) that have logged a total of 140,000 miles on California roads and highways. Schmidt states the cars have diven, "from our Mountain View campus to our Santa Monica office and on to Hollywood Boulevard. They& ...
  The Infineon Raceway in Sonoma California has recently displayed an ambitious amount of green initiatives. Starting off with the most obvious, 1,652 high efficiency solar panels from Panasonic's Sanyo division have been installed in plain sight on the raceway. This was deliberate to promote green solutions to all the attendees. Panels were strategically placed at the Turn 10 Sound Wall, the Main Grandstand, the administration office and the Raceway Cafe, as well as the Jim Russell Racing ...
  You are a soldier. It is night, only the moon and stars illuminate your path. Something rustles in the shrubbery nearby. Your squad leader starts motioning a hand signal, and your eyes divert to see the command. At that moment you are ambushed from the shrub line. Distraction and night time movement is an everyday problem for soldiers in the field. The Army Research Office (ARO) in North Carolina thinks that removing visual interruption is the solution.   Elmar Schmeisser has been l ...
With my upcoming move out to Denver in the fall and BlueStamp launching before that, I'll be leaving a great gig with my client in Ithaca soon.  While leaving any job for non-job-related reasons is hard, there are some steps that can be taken to make it a much better experience for everyone.  (BTW, if there are any electronics folks near Ithaca that want to work for a great start-up doing all kinds of interesting stuff, check out this job posting!) Disclaimer: These steps apply best ...
This first successful flight of a military helicopter using a algae-based biofuel was conducted this week. A MH 60S Seahawk was flown on fuel dubbed Solajet HRJ-5 jet fuel, which is a 50/50 blend of Jet-A and algae-based fuels. The fuel was designed by Honeywell UOP and Solazyme in tandem with the US Navy and DLA-Energy. The concept is to just use the fuel in the vehicle without any modification to the engine. The demonstration went off without a hitch.   Solazyme CEO Jonathan Wolfsan said ...
Short video of the material changing solid states (via University of Minnesota)   Over half of all energy produced is lost as waste heat, 55% according to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. A new contender is here to help us recoup a bit of that percentage.   From the University of Minnesota's College of Science and Engineering combined several materials at the atomic level to create an alloy that indirectly converts waste heat to electricity. The result was a multiferroic alloy, ...
A solar roof shopping plaza via solaraerials   The largest rooftop solar initiative is underway. Called Project Amp, the goal is to bring 733 Mega Watts (MW)of additional energy into the USA. The consortium consists of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Bank of America, and a collection of other public and private companies. Partially supported by the 2009 stimulus bill, $1.4 billion USD is already available with a conditional commitment from the DOE, and another $12 billion in reserves. ...
Process digram and professor Narayan Hosmane   In an effort to make single walled carbon nano-tubes, a team at Northern Illinois University (NIU) lead by professor Narayan Hosmane, how a simple way to produce graphene. Producing graphene before this discovery, was always a cumbersome, expensive, or hazardous process. Hosmane's method involves burning magnesium metal in solid state carbon dioxide, also known as dry ice. Their results produced large quantities of graphene up to 10 atoms thick ...
  The United States intelligence branch, the FBI, is going green for their remote field operations. Arista Power has stated that the FBI is purchasing one of their Mobile Renewable Power Stations (MRPS). The MRPS incorporates a unique wind turbine capable of 1 MWh of power, efficient solar cells, fuel cells and a power storage system with the ability to provide AC and DC power connections. The entire package is transportable on a towable trailer. Although not as small as the FBI's common pl ...
  Japanese researchers at the Osaka Medical College and Ryukoku University has created a self propelled endoscope capsule capable of photographing the digestive track as it moves. The device, dubbed the "Mermaid," was first announced at the International Conference on Digestive Diseases in Chicago back in May 2011. Along the development track, the team said it has been tested on dogs in 2009 and since made small. The Mermaid can be swallowed to image the stomach, or inserted rectally for a ...
Meilin Liu holding a button solid oxide fuel cell Solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) performs an electrochemical conversion to electricity by oxidizing a fuel. The high efficiency, stability, low emissions and platinum free low costs make the cell very attractive. However, the biggest motivation for use is its ability to accept a wide variety of fuels, such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, biofuels, and now coal.   Burning coal is still the world's number one source of energy. However, the conti ...
In 1960 DuPont's Walther Grot discovered the synthetic compound Nafion could efficiently conduct ions and water through a network of nano-scale channels throughout the solid. Through research, a prototype fuel cell has been constructed using Nafion along with other organic batteries and a reverse-osmosis water purification. Only speculation have lead to advancements with Nafion due to the uncertainty on how the molecules in Nafion, tetrafluoroethylene based fluoropolymer-copolymer, interact and ...
Rat experiment diagram & Theodore Berger (via USC)   Alzheimer's disease may one day be defeated with a simple "on" switch.   In an experiment, Theodore Berger of USC Viterbi School of Engineering, and his team, was able to make rats remember and forget with a toggle of a switch. Working along with a team lead by Sam A. Deadwyler of the Wake Forest Department of Psychology and Pharmacology, neural transmissions within the rat's hippocampus were the target of the several different ...
  A cold Euro in a pocket, a little worse for wear after years of being callously handled, floats through lives no different than 3rd century Roman coins of the past (the former European Union). The Royal Dutch Mint now brings 20/21st century requirements to fully use their new Euro coins in celebration of the mint's centennial. On the back of the 5€ and 10€ coins are QR (Quick Response) codes, or 2D scannable codes. Like scanning any other QR code, a related website will pop up ...
  All the information needed is in the title on this one.   UK based mobile phone company Orange has announced a prototype t-shirt that recharges gadgets using a piezoelectric sensor board that is reactive to sound. If you happen to be attending the Glastonbury Festival, in the UK starting June 20th 2011, you may see a few people sporting the shirt in a field test/promotional type of way.   Around the Spirit of 71 stage, Orange will be conducting live tests and to see which acts ...
EMMA ring and ERLP accelerator (via Daresbury & Wikipedia)   In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, many have been searching harder for an alternative to Uranium based nuclear energy generation. Alternative thinking, as a majority, was put aside in the effort to develop technology that could work alongside of, and benefit from research pertaining to, nuclear weapons. Research at UK's Daresbury science park have brought back an old alternative to uranium, thorium.   Thorium, discov ...
BioBolt showing microcircuit film sensor   To have a brain implant that works your brain must be exposed with current technology. Unless you are into hats, then this is not a practical option. University of Michigan has a solution that stays outside the bone. Reading neural signals from the brain as best sensed with direct contact, second best being exo-skull, and least accurate is completely external. Toys may work ok external to the skin, but the skin is a fairly good insulator and preven ...
Dina Katabi and her team at MIT   There are some malicious tech-savvy hackers are out to prove their bonafides and cause trouble, and medical implants may be their next target. It is hard to imagine a person deliberately hurting other people physically just to prove some piece of technology is not secure. In 2008, Harvard Medical School student William Maisel demonstrated that a commercial radio transmitter could be used to modify wireless communications from medical implants, pacemakers to ...
  Over 200 of the best minds will soon converge at the new Argonne National Laboratory Energy Sciences Building just a step outside Chicago to research and invent new technologies to address the world's energy challenges. The future research team will represent many different backgrounds, from nano-science to materials engineering. They hope the free exchange of ideas will spawn the next big revolution. Some of the preliminary goals is to create a battery that can give the 400 mile EV, a 50 ...
(via Renesas Electronics)   The ambient air is saturated with a multitude of broadcasted energy from television signals, WiFi, Cell Phones, and a slew of other sources. Why not use it.   Renesas Electronics has build and demonstrated ultra low power communication system that use other radio waves as a power source. The system is a near field wireless technology, only broadcasting up to 1m, that uses the popular Bluetooth and wireless LAN standards. Energy absorption comes from the onb ...
The FCC granted an extension today on the report on the risks of LightSquared's proposed broadband data network interfering with GPS receivers.  It is clear that the system would cause some interference.  We need to quantify how much and what the design tradeoffs are.   I contacted LightSquared and the Coalition to Save Our GPS (CSOG) yesterday morning with technical questions.  The PR people at LightSquared seemed to want to help but didn't have immediate access to technica ...
Jeremy Blum

What's Next?

Posted by Jeremy Blum Jun 15, 2011
This is the question that constantly irks technophiles.  What is the next major technology going to be?  Can we even conceive what it will be like?  Or, is it so far out that no words in our dictionary can even describe what it will do?  What will the implications be?  How will we get to that point? And most importantly: How soon can I get one?  The following is a “wish list” of upcoming technologies that I think we are actually on track to create in the ...
  Fuel cells may be the energy source of the future, but hydrogen storage is a major issue. Low pressure metal hydride canisters are currently the most popular storage option for fuel cells. There are a plethora of options available, each with their pros and cons. However, the formic acid storage option offers a stable way to hold hydrogen for long periods of time in the chemical HCOOH. A ruthenium catalyst can separate the bonds to form H2 and CO2. Release of carbon dioxide is not an attr ...
At 72,000,000 psi (500 GPa) hydrogen will undergo a state change to "metallic hydrogen" that exhibits the properties of a metal. 400 GPa is predicted to be the melting point for compressed hydrogen, which would create liquid metal hydrogen. And Neil Ashcroft hypothesized that metallic hydrogen (including liquid metal hydrogen) could be a superconductor at room temperature.  This comes from the fact that when compressed, hydrogen develops a tightly packed lattice structure. However, reaching ...
As copper interconnects reach their limit for transferring data, several solutions are popping up from industry leaders. Photonics seem to be the direction everyone is headed towards. Since fiber-optics have completely taken over for data backbones, optics will eventually reach the smallest interconnect. UCL and the London Centre for Nanaotechnology have created a contender, a quantum dot laser grow in a silicon substrate transmitting 10 Gbits/s at a 1.3 μm wavelength, geared towards being ...
With my experience working for small scale alternative energy companies like Tremont Electric (Kinetic Energy Harvesting) and Voltaic Systems (Solar Generation), I always get two questions when walking around with prototypes: Do those things actually work? How do you know how well they work? The first question is easy.  Yes, they work.  However since they are small scale energy producers, a customer needs to have the right expectations.  If you buy a product with a solar ...
Jellyfish glow iridescently as they float seemingly weightless in the ocean. When exposed to the blue light, Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) in the Aequorea victoria Jellyfish will emit a green hue at around 480nm. Out of curiosity, Malte Gather and Seok-Hyun Yun, from Harvard University, wanted to see if they could make a laser out of this effect. The pair injected a human kidney cell with a specialized loop of GFP DNA. Placing the cell between two mirrors, standard laser configuration, they ex ...
Blaze concept and Emily Brooke, via University of Brighton   You can not hear the bike rider on your right, they lurk in your blind stop, you make a right and the thud of a human being ripples through your car and body.   From the University of Brighton, Emily Brooke has developed a way for bicyclists to be seen when riding along side vehicles. The device, dubbed "blaze," projects a green-laser image onto the ground some distance in front of the bicycle rider, and far enough ahead whe ...
BinCam Facebook app, Camera, and demo-rubbish via Newcastle University   Students from Newcastle University believe people are unaware of their wasteful ways. 5.3 million tons of consumable food is thrown away each year along with 4.9 million tons of recyclable packaging in the UK alone. To solve this issue, they created BinCam, a Facebook connected waste receptacle. (Garbage in the USA, Rubbish in the UK). Every time the lid is opened or closed, a picture is taken and uploaded to the user' ...
Concept and prototype images   Graphene continues on its road to adoption with Intel's demonstration of a Graphene based analog broadband Radio Frequency Mixer. The mixer, a signal summing device, produces an output signal from the mixing of the input frequencies. In other words, adding up the several input signals to produce a single clean and distortion free version of the input.   Intel's graphene mixer operates up to 10GHz at temperatures between 25°C and 125°C with very ...
Cambridge Crude and battery prototype with basic operational diagram of a flow battery     Battery technology continues to improve across all types of cells. Now the low energy density "Flow Battery" is getting a 10x increase from MIT researchers Mihai Duduta and Bryan Ho with professors of materials science W. Craig Carter and Yet-Ming Chiang.   A flow battery works by pumping an electrolyte containing a electroactive material through an electrochemical cell that converts the ch ...
Sodium-ion cell via PNNL   Power grid energy storage is a big problem. Several tried and true methods exist, but all have their downfalls. Ideally, Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries would like to be used for grid storage, the energy density of the battery is very attractive for the application. But like most other options for grid storage, it is far too expensive to be practical. An alternative to Lithium-ion has been Soldium-sulfur batteries that have similar energy density. However, Sodi ...
I love control systems.  So much so that I find myself analyzing the feedback and response mechanisms of everything from the way my body runs to the relationships I have.  I spent Memorial Day fishing for walleye, perch, and small mouth bass on Lake Erie and marveled at the multiple variables angling gear represents.  The rod, reel, and line are all part of a control system that unites the mouth of the fish to my eager hand.  The ability to sense and control the fish is direc ...
Charles Gervasi

ESC Chicago

Posted by Charles Gervasi Jun 7, 2011
ESC Chicago Dr. Hugh Herr’s keynote address started off Tuesday at ESC on an optimistic note.  His talk was about integration of technology into the human body.  He told us the he had both legs amputated at the knee, and he was walking around today on prosthetic legs.  This was a surprise because he walked up to the stage like any person with biological legs.  He showed us how his ankles contained twelve sensors and five microprocess and were powered by a removable ba ...
Today at E3 Microsoft announced a had full of new updates and additional features using the Kinect accessory for the XBOX 360. Some of the features include motion and voice navigation through the menus. Voice search is also mentioned. Another fun feature, scanning real life objects and placing them in the virtual space. Fun and all, but another new, non-Microsoft,  Kinect usage outshines all these latest.   Luis de Matos from the University of Beira Interior has used the Kinect as the ...
The flow of electricity on the grid and the energy market, in the USA, is controlled by Independent System Operators and the Regional Transmission Organization, ISOs and RTO. The ISO-RTOs predict the amount of electricity needed approximately one day in advance. Then various companies make bids to meet that demand. Once the demand is met, the providers are paid what the highest bidder is paid on the scale. When the prediction is wrong, there is often not enough power to provide. Much like power ...
I recently selected a BJT for use in a power supply circuit.  It was nothing complicated, so I used the venerable ‘3904.  The transistor would have to handle 0.5A, so I needed to verify I wouldn’t need a high-power transistor.   I expected the collector-to-emitter voltage to be 0.5V, i.e. almost saturated.  0.5A through a 0.5V drop means 0.25W dissipated in the transistor (not counting power dissipated due to base current).  The part in the SOT-223 package h ...
Meredith Perry (left) and Nora Dweck (right) with the uBeam prototype   Engineering as it is intended. Entrepreneurs, and recent University of Pennsylvania graduates as of May 2011, Meredith Perry and Nora Dweck  are currently contracting partners to manufacture their wireless power charging stations and battery adapters. The pair founded the company uBeam this year and demonstrated their proof of concept at the D9 tech conference. At which the team showed they could send 5V, 50 milliw ...
  Being introduced to the concept of flying in first person, from this post, had me fanticising about moving through the air without truly moving at all. However, I thought the speed and inability to stay motionless would take away from the experience. The German company, Microdrones, has rekindled my dreams to fly.   Using Microdrone's quadrotor MD4-1000, TBS Japan took a series of video in the wilderness of Kenya. The video gives unprecedented angles and views, and gives the impress ...
  My father impressed me, as a child, juggling 3 objects, then 4, then 5, and finally 6. I capped out at 3 trying to teach myself. The speed at which one needs to move for 5 and above takes much effort and time to master. At least for a human being.   A team of students developed The Juggler, a robot capable of handling 5 objects with no problem. Students, Jan Pšenička and Tomáš Němec, developed over 2 masters thesis's at the Department of Control Engineering at P ...
Being born in the early 80's sometimes leaves me with a feeling of being late for the party. I missed, for example, the uninhibited boating culture of Cleveland in the 80's, rafting trips that didn't involve the use of a groover,  and being able to eat all the fish I caught without concerns of heavy metal poisoning.   But the part of our history that I look back at with the most envy is the engineering work completed from the period of the industrial revolution until the 1970s. These e ...
With the development of the Apple iPad I felt that it could potentially be a great interface for the electronic devices I was experimenting with, such as the Bus Pirate tool from Dangerous Prototypes (http://dangerousprototypes.com/bus-pirate-manual/). Instead of having to source touch-screens and design the control electronics I could buy an iPad and write the interface software to connect it to my custom electronics. I made a cursory attempt to get access to the tools and information required ...
For years I have been wanting a new type of interface for computers. The infamous scene in the film Minority Report showed a multi-touch multi-gesture interface that everyone wanted, and still desires. Years later, we have multitouch cell phones and tablets. The interface is good but the ability of those platforms to do large amounts of work is lacking. Where desktops and laptops allow the user to do so much more in comparison, but the interface is not as quickly traversed. Something in between ...
Raspberry Pi computer running Ubuntu 9.04 and the PCB for size comparison   The Raspberry Pi Foundation, a UK registered charity founded by David Braben, seeks to provide children with a low cost computer system. Their "Raspberry Pi Computer" (RPC) is a $25 USD PC on a USB key. There is a USB port on one end and an HDMI port on the other. The simplest configuration is to connect the RPC to a HDMI port on a television, and a USB keyboard/mouse. A more advanced setup places the RPC at the cen ...
Sample Toyota Friend site and logo   Social media websites have outstripped legacy website, google.com, as the most visited on the internet. They take up everyone's time, connects us all, helps push social movements, and generally changes the world. Now Toyota wants in on the scene. Partnering with Salesforce.com, Toyota plans on creating a private social network for anyone with an electric or hybrid vehicle. Toyota has injected $5 million with Salesforce's $3 million, with an additional $4 ...
  In an effort to create a machine without any "hard bits," Iain Anderson of Auckland Bioengineering Institute in New Zealand, has started work on a "soft technology" motor. Some of Anderson's students were working in secret on an artificial muscle. Anderson explains, "They were working on this quietly amongst themselves. When they got it running they showed me. This had a rigid central orbiting bearing that was pushed side to side by one membrane and up and down by another... So we could g ...
    Eatable RFID tags, already used for medical purposes, may find its way to mainstream someday soon. Concept/protoype "Nutrismart" from design engineering student Hannes Harms, of Royal College of Art in London, shows the potential of RFID and food. Uses will be able to track the food from its start to their stomach. Combined Harms's "Smart Plate" users would be able to track their caloric intake, see potential allergy issues (the hidden peanut in the blend), and allow vegetarians/ve ...
  Like something worn by a future dystopian police force, comes the Armstar BodyGuard 9XI. The apparatus is a hands-free electronic deterrent device. In other words, a taser. Inventor and founder of Armstar, Dave Brown, was inspired to create this device to protect himself while out in the wilderness. In Brown's home town several people were either killed or mauled by a mountain lion. Two years later, the product was finished. It was soon endorsed by the Los Angeles law enforcement. It late ...
What happens when the brains of a thermal engineer from NASA and a professor from Chicago's Illinois Institute of Technology synergize? An electrohydrodynamic (EHD)-based thermal control system is born.   Jeffery Didion, a thermal engineer at the NASA Goddard space flight center, and Dr. Jamal Seyed-Yagoobi, a professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, with technical partnerships with the U.S. Air Force and National Renewable Energy Laboratory have collaborated and creat ...
Alexander Malaver on the QUT Gardens roof with the sensor   The jury is still out on the major cause of Global Climate Change. Is CO2 the biggest concern? Or is it the less talked about pollutants that really push the world's natural balance? QUT School of Engineering Systems master student, Alexander Malaver, wants to find out. He has built a solar powered environmental monitoring system to chart the concentrations of three pollutants: Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) : from combustion engines Nit ...
Until the past year, the tightest PCB trace separation I have had to use is 5 mils [0.13mm].  Typically I try to use 8 mils [0.20mm] or 10 mils [0.25mm] if possible to reduce PCB costs.   I recently did a board that required 4-mil [0.10mm] minimum trace separation.  Many PCB fab houses consider 4 mil traces with 4 mil gaps between them (i.e. 4/4) to be a standard technology.   At these tight clearances, soldermask spacing becomes an issue.  My CAD software’s cons ...

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