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(System concept via University of Kentucky)   Hydrogen is not the abundant, free-energy, source everyone thinks it is. It has to be extracted from other compounds, like water. It takes a large amount of electricity to extract that hydrogen from other compounds. Right now, most of the hydrogen produced/collected in the word comes from non-renewable sources like natural gas and coal. However, this is about to change.   A new semiconductor alloy developed by the University of Kentucky an ...
BY MICHAEL KAWA, Contributing Editor Electronic Products   After spending the day in Canada recently, I headed back to the United States through my local border crossing. At the entry gate, and before looking at my ID, the border patrol agent surprisingly greeted me by name. He then took my ID, gave it a quick glance and asked me some basic security questions before letting me go on my way. While the crossing appeared mostly routine, it was not. This had been my first opportunity to use an ...
Jbasques

Fundamentals: LEDs

Posted by Jbasques Aug 25, 2011
BY STEPHEN EVANCZUK Electronic Products Lighting-emitting diodes (LED) pervade nearly every electrically operated device, broadly serving functions ranging from power-status display to general illumination. With continuing advances in their capabilities and characteristics, LEDs have emerged as the dominant light source not only in electronic equipment but also replacing traditional incandescent and fluorescent lamps in every conceivable application. Electrically, an LED is simply a semicon ...
(Video via Vanderbilt University)   There are several approaches to prosthetic limbs. One is a direct actuation, like a sensor to detect what action the user would like to perform. Another, newer approach, uses a bit of A.I.    A leg prosthetic developed by the Center for Intelligent Mechatronics at Vanderbilt University (VU) is allowing an amputee to walk with almost a perfect gait. It is the world's first pairing of a powered knee and ankle joints that work in unison. Craig Hu ...
(News video courtesy of the BBC)   Chloe Holmes, a 15 year old student, is the youngest to wear the newest type of bionic prosthetic. After contracting streptococcal septicemia during while suffering from chicken pox, she lost a all of her fingers on the left hand, and left with a thumb and half of the index finger on the right. The prosthetic hand she is using by Touch Bionics (Scotland) called the i-LIMB Hand is giving her unprecedented dexterity when compared to traditional prosthetics. ...
BY JIM HARRISON Electronic Products West Coast Editor You can make the most powerful CPU possible, but if you can’t connect to the outside world efficiently, it’s all for naught. This is especially true for real-time systems that can’t afford to wait around to get bytes out. Some processor folks have implemented what’s often called event management This takes the communication load off of the CPU, normally driven by an interrupt. That interrupt usually takes on the order ...
(Not a picture of my surplus electronics, via Stock Photography)   I have boxes full of old surplus electronics. I save them for reasons I question all the time. But when I need a power supply, I reach into a tub of them. I do not think I am the only person who does this. Recently I decided to throw out a bunch of devices and electronic parts I have not touched in years. I have boxes full of old surplus electronics. I save them for reasons I question all the time. (When I need a power sup ...
(Photos by Al Zanyk, courtesy of  Ohio State University)   When was the last time you saw a cell phone with big external antenna? Not in almost 10 years, most likely. Cell phones today have the antenna inside its case, and are just a metal printed on a thin-film, flexible substrate tuned to the particular frequency. Ohio State University has taken this type of antenna technology to another place, clothing.   What makes this system different than cell phone tech, comes from one of ...
  “Military robotic missions save lives, and if possible, it’s better to send the robot in first. Dragon Runner 10 is a practical solution that makes it easier to carry and operate sophisticated robots in theater.” - QinetiQ North America Technology Solutions Group President JD Crouch   In an effort to give all ground warfighters with another level of protection, QinetiQ has created the small, but versatile, Dragon Runner 10 (DR10) robot. This 13.5 x 15 x 5.8 inch ta ...
Gemini-Scout (right - Via Sandia Labs by Randy Montoya)   Search and rescue robotics is a lucrative and popular industry these days. In fact, almost every grant funded robotics project waves the life-safety banner, no matter what the machine was designed to perform. Despite the cliché labeling, Sandia National Laboratories' new search and rescue robot can proudly wear these credentials.   The Gemini-Scout Mine Rescue Robot is a four foot long, two feet high, that can operate in ...
  From the Institute of Industrial Science, University of Tokyo (UT), comes a novel glucose (blood sugar) monitor. A 1mm diameter "light pipe" like device is injected under the skin, and glow more intense as the glucose levels spike.  The fluorescent hydrogel fiber sensor can last up to 140 days, as demonstrated in lab mice. (Hydrogel is made up of 99.9% water with natural and synthetic polymers. The gel is highly absorbent.)   The team from UT boast that this sensor overcomes cu ...
In a discussion last evening, a friend and I were debating over what is true A.I. I stated the simplistic autonomous robots used today is the best accomplished. We both agreed that with the limited number of rules these robots follow, it is more like an algorithm they are following. Our conclusion is modeling the human mind, the most complex machine known to man. On the heels of the talk, I decided to look into specifications of a brain.   The brain transfers data at 10 hertz. The 4+ gigah ...
George C. Devol (right) and Joseph F. Engelberger (left) served by a Unimate robotic arm (lower center) (via the estate of George C. Devol)   George C. Devol (pron. de-VAHL), the creator of the groundbreaking original industrial robot, the Unimate mechanical arm, died on August 11th, 2011 at the age of 99.   In the 1950's Devol came up with the concept of a mechanical arm that could perform repeatable task with precision. He applied for a patent for the design in 1954. During a cockt ...
Nanostructure glass prototype (via University of Southampton)   A new type of light manipulated digital memory has come from research at the University of Southampton. A femtosecond laser (ultra short 10 − 15 second pulses) was used to create nanostructure glass that manipulates the way light then travels through it. The structure creates 'whirlpools' of light that can be read light data through an optical cable.   As a result the team talks of using the breakthrough to create m ...
There are a million ways to review a schematic, so there can be no 'correct' way.  The complexity of the circuit, the risk tolerance and schedule of the project, along with the knowledge and available time of the reviewer will dictate how intense a review can be.  With all of these variables, I won't waste any time with an article on '10 Steps to a Perfect Schematic Review.'  However I will offer some notes on what I've found to work time and time again.   As with much of lif ...
Stephen Hawking is one of the best examples of a Teacher and "Doer"   I recently saw a comment online reiterating a well-known quotation that I hadn’t heard in several years: “Those who can’t do, teach”.  In essence, this statement makes the suggestion that teachers and professors are generally those who have been forced into that position because they failed to succeed in their area of expertise in the general workforce.  Having always admired many of my t ...
Smart Skin circuit (images courtesy of John Rogers and UIUC)   Temporary tattoo are always fun, the staple of any amusement park, and now the inspiration for a leap in medical technology. With the idea, Materials Science and Engineering Professor John A. Rogers, of the University of Chicago in Urbana Champaign, along with a team of multidiscipline collaborators, have created a flexible circuit that can be applied to the skin like temp-tattoo. The circuit stretches, bends, wrinkles with no i ...
    If you take Silly Putty and press it into your hand, then peel it off, you have a lovely impression of your palm print. That's what "GelSight" does digitally only at the 2-micron level. MIT researchers use an elastomer, derived from elastic polymer,  with a thin layer of reflective paint as a sensor. Impression of ink printed on paper (via MIT)   The paint closely conforms to any object pressed against it, which alters the reflective properties of the paint.  P ...
  From researcher Kei Nakatsuma at the University of Tokyo Department of Information Physics and Computing comes a new touch based input system using the back of the hand. The wrist mounted device can detect a 2D position of an input device. Nakatsuma stated, "The advantage for using the back of your hand is that your skin can provide haptic feedback." In other words, this same device can detect other types of gestures such as and input, swipe, or drag command.   The device houses a r ...
A colleague asked me the other day about a circuit I did with a transistor that turned LEDs on and off.  This circuit was a tiny part of the board, just a way to save energy and prevent stray light interfering with optical detectors on other parts of the product.   He asked why we usually tend to use FETs in common source configuration to switch power to LEDs or other loads.  Why not connect the load to the source?  Why use an p-channel transistor on the high-side?  Is ...

All About FPGA!

Posted by bluescreen Aug 11, 2011
A special three-part series in Electronic Products take a look at the three main phases of designing FPGAs. Part 1 dives into the fundamental concepts of FPGA. Ranging from the very basic definition of integrated circuits to the special case of microcontrollers, the article provides all the basics for getting started. Part 2 hits the various types of devices that are available from the major vendors, and part 3 published later this month will discuss multiple design and verification techniques u ...
Element14.com’s Ben Heck was featured on ElectronicProducts.com in August both in an interview with editorial director Bryan DeLuca and a summary of Ben’s latest mod automating his house. (http://www2.electronicproducts.com/ Ben_Heck_transforms_his_apartment_into_a_smart_home_in_new_episode_of_element14_s_The_Ben_Heck_Show-article-news01_25_jul2011-html.aspx) In coming weeks, element14.com will provide a full description of exactly how he did it, so you can do it too. In the inte ...
According to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) battery chargers for our handheld devices and laptops are some of the biggest wasters of residential power.  Even when they aren’t charging the device, they are consuming energy like a dripping faucet.  Solar energy systems can have a dramatic affect at reducing that drain on this precious and increasingly expensive resources and a group of design and system engineers at Texas Instruments took a look at how to deal with it ...
Polarizing organic photovoltaic film [red square](via UCLA)   UCLA's "polarizing organic photovoltaic," (POP) takes the concept of recycling energy to the next level. Imagine recovering a percentage of the energy output of a smartphone screen, while at the same time from ambient light sources. At the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science a thin film photovoltaic polarizer has been built directly into an LCD to allow the possibility to harvest energy from multiple sour ...
The nagging pain in my abdomen had reached the point where I finally reached for my phone.  It was time to see a doctor and put an end to whatever was causing so much pain and discomfort.  What followed was a diagnosis, a cure, and some thoughts on the need for engineering troubleshooting in the area of healthcare purchases.   As I scheduled an appointment I inquired about the cost of an office visit.  I was met with uncertainty.  The billing department guessed it would ...
Cabe Atwell

Microbots in fluid

Posted by Cabe Atwell Aug 10, 2011
Aster moving a glass bead   The fodder for many science fiction stories, robots in the blood stream, has taken a step towards science reality. The bots are not little machines in this case, but a machine made of little ferromagnetic particles. From Argonne National Laboratories comes the "Asters."   Nicknamed by DOE-Argonne's physicists Alexey Snezhko and Igor Aronson. The partners figures a way to coax the particles, suspended in a fluid, to perform a few different operations. Under ...
  Bite Technologies was founded in 2009 after Dr Adam Hoover and Dr Eric Muth of Clemson University developed a device that can count the number of bites one takes while eating. The purpose? A new way to count calories without having to do anything.   Their device, the Bite Counter, is worn like a watch. When activated, the user will turn their wrist down to pick up a food item, and turn the wrist sideways to consume it. In other words the Bite Counter measures the number of times the ...
RFID VIATAG (image via motionID)   The Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML in Dortmund, Germany, has developed an RFID solution to paying parking fees. A RFID chip laden sticker, 1.5 x 10 centimeters, is placed on the windshield. The communication band uses the ultra-high frequency (UHF) range with a maximum distance of 8 meters. As the vehicle passes through a gate, or toll, the ID is read off the tag. The 12 digit code is referenced from a database, and the fees are d ...
  In a dare, Professor James Tour of Rice University produced graphene from a Girl Scout cookie. “I said we could grow it from any carbon source -- for example, a Girl Scout cookie, because Girl Scout Cookies were being served at the time. So one of the people in the room said, 'Yes, please do it. ... Let's see that happen,'" Tour recounted.   Having recently creating graphene from table sugar, doing the same with cookies was going to be easy for Tour. In the experiment he teste ...
High-yield systhesis of Modafinil from Benzhydrol I'm not talking about steroids or human growth hormone, since we are not all pro athletes. But we are professional engineers, using our brains. A lot of people are talking drugs to enhance mental performance. It turns out, according to Scientific American, an ever growing number of students, leaders of the industry, and professors are taking drugs to give themselves a little edge. Energy drinks, coffee and other caffeine delivery products are ...
(Fez Spider dev board with peripherals and Gadgeteer logo via Microsoft)   Microsoft (MS) has just released a platform and toolkit so everyone can build simple electronics projects in a “matter of hours.” The Microsoft .Net Gadgeteer is a toolkit that allows people to build embedded projects using the .Net framework and C/C# Express in an open source environment. Source code and libraries are limited at the moment, but the concept for MS is to let the community expand on the arc ...
  Rice University's Professor Pulickel Ajayan, along with his research team, have discovered a new property of graphite oxide (GO). Simply "drawing" a pattern on a sheet of GO will turn it into a supercapacitor that can be cycled thousands of times.   The teams main discovery that lead to the supercap was how when hydrated GO can hold ions and become a solid electrolyte and an electrically insulating separator. "All you need are a pattern and the electrodes, and you have a device. Of ...
MIT's TPV reactors. Fuel is injected into one of the clear tubes on each, the other is an exhaust. A PV cell would be attached to the bigger sides of the reator to collect the photonic energy. (via MIT)   The concept is an old one. Thermophotovoltaic (TPV) is the direct conversion of heat to electricity via photons. A TPV consists of a thermal emitter connected to a Photovoltaic (PV) diode. Thermal emissions are the spontaneous emission of photons due to thermal motion of charges in a mater ...
Concept home network using optical communication (via OMEGA project)   LED lighting is inspiring many to innovate. As the world moves towards replacing all light fixtures with energy efficient LED lamps, some are looking to utilize the innate digital nature of the technology in a new wireless communication system.   Flickering faster than the human eye can see, the FIT (Fraunhofer Institute of Telecommunications,  Heinrich Hertz Institute HHI in Berlin Germany) LED communication ...

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