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60 Posts authored by: Cabe Atwell


Russian and European scientists believe T-rays will be faster than electromagnetic fields when running computers. Will T-rays make our computers faster?


No one looks forward to going to the airport and in recent years the experience has been more unpleasant thanks to TSAs. Security is important, but there’s a sense of dread and unease when walking through a body scanner. But while getting scanned to make sure you have the proper sized shampoo, did you ever think the TSA technology could be used to speed up your computer? Russian and European scientists are currently testing the method and published their findings in Nature.


No matter how fast your computer is, it can always be faster. Memory is what keeps our computers from being lightning fast. Memory cells on a PC are switched via an external magnetic field, but it’s not necessarily the fastest method. But this new process proposed by scientists would forego that. Rather it would use terahertz radiation (T-rays), the same ones found on airport bdy scanners. The T-rays could speed up the rate at which cells reset by a factor of 1000. This could then be used to make faster memory.


T-rays (Terahertz-driven anisotropy fields) emit a series of short electromagnetic pulses that hit the cells at high terahertz frequencies making them faster than the average electromagnetic field. But don’t expect to find t-rays blasting through computers any time soon. Scientists are still testing the method. So far they’ve tested it on a weak ferromagnet, thulium orthoferrite (TmFeO) with great success. The results also showed the T-rays’ effect was ten times greater than the external magnetic field making this method faster and more efficient. But the T-rays have yet to be tested on computer memory cells. You’ll have to wait on getting a super speedy computer.


Because T-rays can dish out quick, precise scans of organic and mechanical material, they have other uses as well. Some proposals include looking for weapons inside of luggage, scanning broken microchips, and looking into fragile texts. If this method does actually work on computer memory cells, it would be a huge improvement for high performance computers. Even the tiniest boost could make a big difference depending on the application. Scientists are still working out all the kinks but hopefully we’ll have an update on this development soon.


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A research team at the University of Colorado-Boulder is using wastewater from breweries to help cultivate ion battery electrodes. A diagram of the process researchers use the wastewater (Photo from University Colorado-Boulder)


For some, beer is the ultimate refreshment, but thanks to researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder, it can also be a power source. Researchers have found a way to transform brewery runoff into low-cost lithium-ion battery electrodes. Talk about getting a buzz. This is a great way to recycle the waste. When a brewery makes a single barrel of beer it takes around seven barrels of water to make it. The wastewater then has to be filtered before it’s thrown out, which also costs brewers money. Using the waste to cultivate batteries not only recycles the matter, but it saves money as well.


The process of using the wastewater for ion batteries is similar to beer making according to the Colorado researchers. They cultivate the feedstock in wastewater, which produces Neurosporacrassa, a fast growing fungus. This sugary fungus can then be used to make anodes for the ion batteries. The researchers say the wastewater is ideal for the fungus to grow in. The wastewater also helps researchers note the fungus' chemical and physical processes from the beginning.


Researchers are in the testing phases with the process now, but as long as tests prove successful it has the potential to be used on a wider scale. This process could help breweries limit their wastewater costs and manufacturers would have access to an incubating medium for battery technology components that are cost effective. So far, one brewery is one board with the research team: Avery Brewing in Boulder. This new partnership will allow the team to test the process on a wider scale. The team, led by Tyler Huggins and Justin Whiteley, recently took part in the finals of a US Department of Energy-sponsored incubator competition at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago.


Recycling wastewater to help ion batteries is a great step forward in helping to reduce waste on the planet. This process prevents the waste from just sitting in giant vats in the brewery. It also saves them money and happy breweries make for tastier beer, probably. Who would've thought beer could actually be used to make batteries. And you thought the best thing they did with beer is make fried foods with it.


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Yoyogi National Gymnasium replaced the wooden floor with 400sqm of SEfl LED Video-flooring from Glux. (via rentGlux)


The B. League basketball games in Tokyo have kicked off with the first beginning with Alvark Tokyo against the Ryukyu Golden Kings at Tokyo’s Yoyogi National Gymnasium. The game itself is just like any pro basketball game, however the MVP in this case isn’t the best player but rather the court itself as the traditional wood planks have been replaced by LED display panels.

All of the sections of the court, including the center circle and free-throw lines are prominently displayed just like any regulation court but that is where the similarities end as graphics and animations are projected on the floor when something significant happens in the game.


For example- during the tip-off both team names encircle the center circle and explodes away during the jump. A successful 3-pointer will result in number 3 graphic and dunking results in an explosion and/or the player’s bio displayed on the court. What’s more, players can be tracked with tracer lines and circles that follow them as they traverse up and down the court.



The court itself is made up of 1,680 individual displays that are about 20-inches from edge to edge, measuring out at 400sqm. The panels are actually a product of China-based Glux who are known for their creative LED displays, which were prevalent for the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the 2010 Shanghai World Expo and the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympics.



For the Yoyogi Gymnasium, Glux used their SEfl LED Video-flooring, which has a pixel density of up to 36,864 (dots/m2), a refresh rate of 1MHz and a contrast ratio of 2000: 1. Each panel is covered by a transparent PC ABS protective mask and is made using a strong waterproof carbon fiber frame, making it incredibly durable and able to withstand over 1,000 pounds and great for playing basketball on.



Workers installing the SEfl LED flooring, which is done in the same fashion as some anti-static tile floors found in server rooms.


The LED flooring is installed in almost a similar fashion as some modular anti-static floor tiles found in server rooms, which uses aluminum floor beams to connect each panel while metal latches lock them in place, making it easy to switch out panels if problems arise. Each LCD panel also has its own power supply built in as well as a CAT6 port to interlock the panels together for use as massive single display or a ton of smaller ones, all of which can be controlled using a single laptop or PC.


As the video shows, the end result of putting together a bunch of LED floor panels is certainly impressive but I have to wonder if it interferes with the players. Blinding isn’t a problem as each LED display has a film over the ABS protective mask to subdue its brightness and glare but I can’t help wondering if they get motion sickness during animations.


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RR thud-rumble-invader-180816-616x440.jpg
The Invader mixes an old school turntable with a embedded record

(Photo from Thud Rumble)


Hoping to do something similar to this with a Raspberry Pi, but in the meantime....


The art of DJing has been around since the late 70s. Over time the art form has evolved and adapted to new technology. Some find the use of computers in DJing an innovation; others see it as lazy and prefer the old school way. But both methods offer something different the other doesn't have. Isn't there a way to bring the best of both worlds together? A group of DJs may have answered the call with their latest turntable, The Invader, which features a mixer and an embedded computer.


The project is created by DJs Qbert, Yogafrog (Ritche Desuasido), Rich Johnson (DJ Hard Rich), and Killa-Jewel (Julie Fainer). They had the idea four years ago when their company, Thud Rumble, was having an open house and Rich Johnson expressed his desire to make a mixing machine for them. The dream is now a reality. Showing off prototypes at Intel's IDF keynote, The Invader looks like an old school mixer with a touchscreen display running Windows 10. The turntables run on the company's own Traktor mixing software, but any DJ app that runs on Microsoft's OS will work.


The prototypes are pretty tall, but the company wants to make it no taller than two centimeters so it'll easily slip inside a backpack. The turntable has standard features found on most mixing board, like faders in the middle of the board and volume controls for each deck above. There are also eight buttons along the side a DJ can set up to play different cuts in a song. The board runs on Intel i5 and i7 processors, if you couldn't guess, and comes with additional HDMI for video mixing. Currently, there's no soundcard, but the company are working with Native Instruments for a future audio interface.


The Invader is still in the early phase of development and the creators are looking to add more features. The printed circuit board needs to be finalized along with the standard audio ports. These ports allow you to switch to phono so you can scratch actual vinyl. The Invader also gives you some customization choices from laser-etching options to choice of rubber or old school arcade buttons for video game enthusiasts. So what is the price for this new turntable? It'll be priced at $1,699. It sounds like a lot, but compared it to the Pioneer DJ DJM-S9 mixer for Serato, which costs the same without the built-in computer. The Invader will ship at the end of the year.


This turntable is an innovative way to mix the old school with the new. And best of all, it lets you have the best of both world without having to lug around a laptop. Macbooks may be light, but why risk bringing all that data around with you? The Invader gives you everything you need in this all-in-one turntable. But this doesn't mean it could pose some problems. For one, most DJs use mixers provided by venues. Some may not have an issue with bringing their own mixer, but others may not want to do so. Also, with a laptop you have instant access to your songs and mixes. With this turntable you may have to move your songs to the embedded computer. Hopefully, the songs will be easily accessible. Either way, it's a new way to think about an artform as old as Djing.




hero.png lets users convert their ECAD files into MCAD files online, such as this Arduino Uno 3D schematic. (via


If you’re looking for a quick and simple way to convert your ECAD files into MCAD, you may want to check out (now part of the Autodesk empire). What’s more, users can view and manipulate the models in 3D as well as modify those models in a limited fashion i.e. hiding unwanted objects and changing-out simple components. Once the 3D model manipulation is complete, it can then be downloaded in several different formats for use on most MCAD systems. was actually designed by the creators of CADSoft and wanted a simplistic system for engineers that wouldn’t break the bank, didn’t take forever to install and didn’t require a Ph.D. to use. Their intention was to make the data-language bridge between ECAD and MCAD as simple and straightforward as possible over a web-based platform using desktop or online CAD tools. is capable of reading/writing in a number of different formats in order to be compatible with a number of different ECAD and MCAD systems. As it stands now, reads IDF 2/3 ECAD interchange formats as well as the IPC-2581 format and Cadsoft Eagle files. As far as writing goes, it uses STEP and IGES 3D data exchange file formats, allowing different format files to flow back and forth with relative ease.


It is also compatible with most every CAD system on the planet, including CadSoft Eagle, A host of Mentor suites (BroadStation, Expedition, etc.), SolidWorks and PTC Creo just to name a few. A complete list of systems can be found here ( As far as features go, has a simplified built-in component library and simple tools to help position them on the 3D model. If users need a specific component that is not listed in the library, it will then offer a suitable replacement based on the original components name, size and type. Of course, users can always substitute their own if they prefer and even save them in’s library for future use.


Security for isn’t the best in the world, but it is effective as far as online browser-based platforms go. Is anything online truly secure? Once a model is uploaded, the platform extracts the necessary data from the shape of the PCB and component layout from the file and then deletes it. The board’s data is then compressed and encrypted before being stored for later use. The user can also delete that data file if the need arises.


Is an end-all conversion and manipulation tool for producing ECAD/MCAD models? No and it was never meant to be but it can come in handy, especially when subtle model adjustments and conversions need to be done quickly and remotely. Since it’s browser-based, you can use it anywhere, making it a versatile tool to keep handy when away from home.


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Researchers used a rapid-deposition process to attach an aligned array of carbon nanotubes on a 1-inch X 1-inch substrate. (via WISC)


Materials engineers from the University of Wisconsin have finally developed a process that turns carbon nanotubes into resistors that can outperform traditional silicon or even gallium-based transistors. How much faster are they compared to silicon- 1.9-times faster to be exact, making them a viable candidate for batteries with longer life, faster Wi-Fi and faster processors.


Scientists have been trying for years to replace silicon with carbon but some issues were holding them back, most notably getting pure nanotubes with limited defects and putting them in a structured order. Without those, their performance is limited, disrupting their semiconducting properties- essentially underperforming when compared to using traditional materials. To get the near-perfect nanotubes separated from the subpar tubes, the engineers turned to a solution of polymers to sort-out the imperfect (metallic) tubes, leaving only high-quality carbon semiconducting tubes. The engineers then baked the arrays in a vacuum to get rid of the polymers insulating layer between the nanotubes and the resistor’s electrodes.



To get the nanotubes in alignment and parallel on a wafer, the engineers used a process called floating evaporative self-assembly.


Another problem the engineers needed to tackle was getting the nanotubes in perfect alignment with equal spacing deposited on a substrate. To do this, the team turned to a process known as floating evaporative self-assembly (FESA), which is done by dropping the nanotube solution in a water bath and then vertically dunking the substrate in and out of the bath, This process causes the tubes to self-align with equal spacing when the nanotube solution evaporates.


With that issue out of the way, the engineers then proceeded to turn the nanotubes into a functioning transistor by first coating the new wafer with a PMMA resist (polymeric material) and then patterned using electro-beam lithography. After that process, the unwanted or defective material is etched away from the wafer. Acetone is then used to clear away the rest of the PMMA material and then palladium contacts are added to the nanotubes resulting in a FET (field Effect Transistor.


Don’t expect to see these new nanotube transistors in mobile devices or PCs anytime soon however, as there are many refinements they must undergo before they can be mass-produced, including scaling up the manufacturing process and adapting them to current silicon-based geometries. Still, it will not be that far off before these issues are resolved, making the future look that much brighter and faster.


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HTML’s virtual drum machines are now available for free on all popular browsers. It, Arduino, and littleBits new drum and synth kits make music making easier than ever.


This is a hobby like interest for me - synthesizers and drum machines. Mainly, I am fascinated with them due to the plethora of SBCs I could use to recreate the sound. Or rather, how do I use SBCs to recreate them. Here is some 808 news for you…


If you were thinking of forking over $600 for a drum kit, think again. HTML just released a virtual version of its 808 and 5 Drum Machine via web browser, and it’s free! If it’s a hands-on drum machine you require, consider building your own with littleBits and Arduino. The io-808 is a virtual TR-808 based on the HTML-808 and HTML5 Drum Machine. The interface features all the great controls and functionality of a real drum machine, online. Best yet, it’s free and the quality is intended to match the sound of a physical 808 via Web Audio API.


It’s not perfect, but for free you’ll get to toy around to see if you really need the upgraded infrastructure to record your own rendition of Back-to-Back in your basement. Most of us don’t. But if you do require a kit, consider littleBits and Arduino DIY projects before dishing out your hard-earned money.




For $159, the littleBits Synth Kit makes all electronic music possible. You can build your own electronic instruments, including a DIY keytar (like a guitar, mostly), drum kit, soundboard, mixer, synthesizer, and more. And if you get bored with one design, simply break it down and move onto the next project. The kit even includes an invention booklet with 36 step-by-step ideas for ‘professional grade’ tools. Building with littleBits is child’s play.




And for the true DIYer out there, you can build your own 80s-themed drum machine with spare parts. If you have an extra Arduino board and some spare littleBits parts lying around, you already have all the parts you need.


The Arduino Lo-fi Beat Box is your key to 80s beats. The demo kit features 16 TR-808-like beats, with up to eight instruments per pattern. You can adjust the tempo from 60 BPM to 188 BPM, and even code in your own waveforms, drum kits, and patterns. Mono waveforms are 22,050Hz and 8-bit signed for lo-fi grunge tunes you love. 


Making music has never been so easy. Bookmark these project, or go build your own.


Then again... nothing sound quite like an eight oh eight!




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In honor of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, Analogue and 8bitdo created the Retro Receiver – a Bluetooth receiver that allows the original Nintendo console to work seamlessly with modern Bluetooth controllers. (via 8bitdo)


I am writing about this with an ulterior motive. I wanted to make something like this for the arcade project I had - using a Pi Zero. First, we explore what now exists... and what can be done from here. Is this merely emulating a serial connection?


I want you to try to remember something. Remember the scent of homemade meatloaf entering in wisps from the crack of the kitchen door. You are seated several feet from your family’s huge, tube television, glued to the hard wooden floors because the cord of your original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) controller didn’t reach all the way to the velour coach. But you didn’t care. You sat happily on the floor, shooting ducks and rescuing Princess Peach. Ah, the good old days.



What if I told you the days of sitting directly in front of your 1985 Nintendo system were over? What if you discovered your favorite gaming console now supports wireless controllers? “Can it be?” you ask. It can, and it is, thanks to the Retro Receiver.




The development of the Retro Receiver was a joint effort between Analogue and 8bitdo, and allows the NES to connect with just about any compatible wireless controller over Bluetooth, including the Dual Shock ¾, Wii U Pro and Wiimote. And while it may seem odd the vintage console is still getting new accessories some 30 years after its release date (was 1985 really that long ago?), the original Nintendo is still popular. And if the console still works, why not introduce new features for the favorite classic?


The Retro Receiver features an on-board CPU and Flash memory chip, and even allows for firmware upgrades. And while it was created primarily for classic gaming, the device also supports Windows/PC, OS X, PS 3, iOS, and Android gaming.




If you’re a big retro gamer, you can score some retro Bluetooth Nintendo controllers through 8bitdo, but any Bluetooth controller will do.


The Retro Receiver is on sale now through Play Asia for $19.99. But... the Pi Zero is only $5.00... Wireless Atari, Sega Saturn, Dreamcast awaits!


How can we do this?



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Iowa State University’s lithium-ion battery is capable of producing 2.5V and dissolves/dissipates in 30-minutes when exposed to water. (via Iowa State)


Normally, when it comes to lithium-ion batteries we prefer them to be robust and not easily damaged while retaining a long lasting shelf life. A team of scientists from the University of Iowa on the other hand, created almost the exact opposite of what we would consider great features with a Li-ion battery that self-destructs when exposed to water. In other words, it’s not ideally suited for use in today’s smartphones, which have a tendency to wind up in a pool of liquid more often than not.


On the other hand, these types of batteries would be perfect for military applications where sensitive devices would need a self-destructive capability before they wound up in enemy hands. They would most certainly benefit other applications as well, such as environmental sensors that would deteriorate when exposed to rain or even used in implantable medical devices that dissolve over a specific period of time, negating the need to be surgically removed.


The battery is actually part of a new field of study known as ‘transient electronics’, which are essentially electronic devices that can perform a variety of functions but decay quickly when exposed to heat, light or liquids. The team, led by assistant professor of mechanical engineering Reza Montazami designed the first transient battery that could power such devices and maintain the power, shelf life and stability needed for practical applications.


The team designed their battery using the same Lithium-ion chemistry found on the commercial market- carbon for the negative electrode and a silver-metal oxide for the positive electrode with a lithium-salt/organic solvent acting as the electrolyte. All of which was then wrapped in a pair of polyvinyl alcohol-based polymer layers. Don’t let the above picture fool you as the battery measures in at 6-millimeters wide, 5-millimeters long and just 1-millimeter thick.


When dropped in water the liquid causes the casing to swell, thereby breaking apart the electrodes and dissolving away in just 30-minutes. It does have one caveat though- it doesn’t completely disappear as the nano-particles in the electrodes don’t degrade, however they do disperse when the casing breaks apart. Add to the fact that it only produces 2.5V (enough to power a desktop calculator), it doesn’t have much practical applications at this point beyond powering a simple sensor device. The team did state however, that the battery could be made to produce more power but it would increase its size, which in-turn would take longer to dissolve. Chaining several together could also be an option for devices requiring increased power.


For more information on the University of Iowa’s transient battery head here (


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Intel announced a new license with ARM, that may position it to rapidly manufacture nano-sized chips for mobile use. While AMD has had access to ARM technology for a handful of years, it has little room to compete in the mobile space. (via Intel)


Intel dominates the CPU space, but when it comes to mobile, the processor manufacturer falls short. The tech giant has some tricks up its sleeves, however, as it just announced a new license with ARM Holdings that will allow it to use ARM designs in its next model of nano-sized chips, perfect for mobile.


Intel announced the new license at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, California. It said it plans to use its 10-nanometer production lines for the advent of new and improved chips for use in smartphones developed by companies like Qualcomm Inc. and Apple Inc.


It’s a move to remain competitive in an increasingly shifting space. While Intel remains competitive for CPU chips, its other services have not been considerably successful. Intel’s foundry business, for example, has seen few orders, although the new ARM license could change that. If the space were repurposed for ARM production, Intel’s entry into mobile chip development could be magnitudinous. But Intel will have to remain competitive with long-time rival AMD.


AMD is the chip of choice for high-performance functions, such as gaming. While Intel’s chips pack a speedy punch, AMD almost always outprices Intel, which has sustained its business for decades. AMD stock price shot up over 50% in the past few months. Proof in the price.


AMD’s Opteron ARM A-Series Processors have been around for years. The Opteron A1100 is suited for the enterprise, with SOC delivery, scalable performance, optimized TCO, and superior energy efficiency. The ARM Cortex-A57 chips also deliver high speed, connectivity, and power with 64-bit processing.


AMD’s ARM division, however, targets software and hardware developers, server infrastructure, and data center processing. As such, although AMD’s products may retail for less, the technology is positioned to support back-end processes, not mobile. As such, Intel may still get to the mobile market first, at the nanoscale needed to support rapid production.


Intel works quickly. As it already has a foundry facility with serious production capacity, it might not be long before we see the next generation of Intel chips in the latest iPhone update. And if prices remain competitive, that might not be such a bad deal.


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Glicode uses popular snacks to teach kids programming; a high school in Japan has a class dedicated to drones. Ever thought of using food to learn about coding?

(Photo from Glicode)


It seems Japan really wants to encourage kids to be invested in robotics and coding. Teaching kids how to code is the latest tech fad. Companies approach the topic in various ways, like video games and robotic toys, but only one company is doing it with food. And yes, the company is Japanese. Glico, the maker of popular Japanese snacks like Pocky, has developed an app called Glicode. The app is made to teach kids the basics of coding.


So how does Pocky go from delicious biscuit treat covered in chocolate to computer learning? Kids actually use their favorite snacks by Glico with the app. Talk about playing with your food. Users have to position and arrange the snacks in a certain way, so the app can translate it into digital commands. Send the command to the app by taking a picture. If it's done correctly the character on the app can move through obstacles.


The app is available for Android outside of Japan. The company is currently working on a version for iOS. It's a weird idea; who would've thought of using food to teach coding? But it's pretty smart. It presents a fun, simple, and tasty way for kids to interact with technology. And you have to imagine they get to eat all those tasty snacks when they get things right. It also encourages creativity. Using snacks shows kids that imagination can make anything possible. The closest the US gets to a unique coding app is Apple's Swift Playgrounds. It's an isometric platform game where kids use basic programming to solve puzzles.


Japan doesn't want to only target youngsters, they want the older kids to get in on the action too. Vantan High School, a private school in Japan recently announced a new course dedicated to drones and robotics. The course is a full time three year program that teaches the basics of working and maintaining drones and other robots. The course starts April 2017. And you thought high school shop was cool.


The school started the program because they believe there aren't enough human resources to handle the increasing demand for skilled drone engineers in Japan. Some of the things students will be learning include aviation and radio laws, computer programming for system upgrades, and drone piloting. The course will be open to junior high students and existing Vantan learners. These kids will have a leg up on the competition and the focus on robotics may ensure they get some great jobs by the time they graduate.


But the US isn't left in the dust. Though high school courses dedicated to drones and robotics isn't common, there is one teacher looking to change that. Lee Butterfield is an Anchorage South High School professor who brought drones into the classroom for demonstrations. Shortly after, he decided to create an entire class around teaching students how to operate drones. Butterfield teamed up with Alaska Aerial Media to create the course where students will learn how to operate unmanned aircraft systems. They will also be prepared to pass the FAA test.


More and more classrooms around the country are integrating drones into the curriculam, so it won't be long until we see more courses solely dedicated to teaching kids the basics of robotics. Then maybe we can be as cool as Japan.


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Inspiration abounds in this mini-roundup. The next digital revolution is here, and bringing with it gizmos and gadgets that are faster, smarter, and more powerful than ever.


Harvard’s B2 flow battery



(Image via Harvard)


One such advent is a new battery fashioned by Harvard researchers that is almost identical to the molecular structure of B2 vitamin riboflavin. The scientists were trying to find an organic compound to support the development of flow batteries for renewable energy resources, such as solar energy and wind power. The team wanted to create a high-capacity flow battery that was safer for the environment than current batteries, and stumbled upon riboflavin.


In the human body, riboflavin is responsible for converting carbs into fuel. In a flow battery, it exhibits a similar process, with a few molecular tweaks. The result is a high capacity battery that has a simple synthesis process, and is low cost to manufacture. The team will continue to experiment with other organic compounds, but it is one example of what new science can do.


UT Delft’s hard drive with 500x the storage capacity



UT Delft’s nano hard drive (image via UT Delft)


Another recent development is Delft University of Technology’s new hard drive that has a storage capacity 500 times greater than existing hard drives of its size. The technology relies on a unique atom positioning technique that uses chlorine atoms as data bits. This measure allows the hard drive to store up to 1KB of information per 100 nanometers of width, which equates to 62.5TB of information storage per square inch.


The technology can currently only survive in freezing temperatures (77 kelvin) and environments that are extremely clean. The researchers are continuing to expand its capabilities, and believe it could make insufficient data storage on mobile phones and devices a thing of the past.


Quantum computers out think us all


(Image via Google.)


On Google’s research blog, quantum software engineer Ryan Babbush noted the successful development of quantum computing has not only opened the door to artificial development of organic structures, but has also enabled rapid computing.


Complex chemical problem solving, such as determining the specific reaction rate for propane, can take as long as 10 days for even the smartest chemists to computer. In various trials across quantum labs in the nation, researchers have found quantum qubits can estimate such reactions accurately within a fraction of the time. This allows researchers to expedite ongoing research studies, and even compute seemingly impossible equations, such as the successful development of high-temperature superconductivity. 


These are only a few of the technology advances popping up every day. The future is here, so hold your hats and strap in.


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The Maker Movement isn’t just gaining in popularity with adults, children are also joining the trend. With a $5-plus billion STEM education initiative backed by the government, and an endless array of making toys dedicated solely to kids, it’s never been easier to teach your kids how to make (and it’s never been more important). (Image via Make Magazine)


It’s no secret that the Maker Movement is on the rise. With the market expected to reach a record $6 billion in value next year, makers everywhere are focused to ensure the next generation has the skills necessary to build our future world. And there’s no better place to start than with kids, our own, to be exact. As MakerPro - working engineers, it’s our duty to teach the next generation.


In 2013, The Obama Administration rolled out its Five Year Strategic Plan for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education. The federal plan outlined a $5-plus billion initiative to revolutionize the entire U.S. education system by enhancing STEM education from kindergarten through university. The initiative began when a study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found U.S. students ranked in the middle-to-lower range in K-12 STEM education globally, compared to students from 32 other countries.


In an effort to ensure the United States continued to act as a world leader in technology and innovation, the President proposed the Federal STEM plan, and the nation followed suit. The plan called for the restructuring of K-12 and university programs to increase STEM education and make learning about science and technology fun. Programs like Gever Tulley’s Tinkering School were founded, and a case study conducted by the school found children viewed tinkering as fun, and as a result were more engaged and learned more than using traditional pedagogy methodologies.


In fact, another study conducted by researchers at Iowa State University found students retained more information when teaching was supplemented with creative problem solving challenges – exactly the kind of play at the heart of engineering education. In a recent survey conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found employers prefer to hire engineering and other liberal science majors, due to the curriculums’ emphasis on solving complex problems. And now parents are teaching their kids those skills at home, too.



Via: Fisher-Price


While we all learned to tinker alongside our parents in the garage, the new generation of kids has an endless aisle of tinkering toys at its disposal, no matter the age. The Fisher-Price Code-A-Pillar introduces toddlers to the concept of coding by enabling kids to build their own robotic caterpillar. What it can do depends entirely on which body segments are used, but it is simple enough for a toddler to understand. The BoseBuild Speaker Cube allows kids to build their very own high-quality speaker from scratch (and hey, adults can build it, too).



Via: Kiwi Crate


For more hands-on learning, there are mail-order making kits like Kiwi Crate, which engage kids with a new STEM-based maker project each month. Maker Shed allows more advanced kids and adults alike to follow along with weekly making tutorials. And programs like Maker Ed and Maker Camp provide spaces where kids can learn together in a hands-on environment.



Via: Twitter: @MakerEdOrg


Overall, even if your kids decide not to become professional makers or engineers-by-day, an engineering education gives kids an invaluable skill: problem solving. We face problems every day. The better we can equip our children to solve life’s problems creatively, the more assured we could rest that we have raised successful adults.


In a recent student interview conducted by ECN, Abigail May Spohn, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Dayton, said she appreciated the STEM education she received because more than anything, it taught her how to problem solve. And there’s no situation in life where that is not helpful.


If your child does decide to pursue a STEM degree, there is no time like the present. The U.S. Department of Education estimates the need for STEM jobs will succeed the number of trained workers. The need for STEM professionals in Biomedical Engineering and Systems Software Developers, for example, is expected to increase by 62 percent and 32 percent, respectively. And that means there is a need to educate our children, now.


STEM education and engineering professionals shape our world. Those with the ability to make have the power to create any future they envision. That, truly, is the power of making at its core.


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Segments of DNA can perform basic computing functions (NAND), and code the answer by emitting green flourescent protein (GFP) (image via Nature)


What happens when the world runs out of silicon? Biological circuits could replace minerals as storehouses of computing power. So far, it’s been much easier to store lots of information using DNA and programming that allows translation between DNA and binary code. What if cells could be programmed to activate certain genes? With the ongoing developments of analogue and digital programming in microbes, that may well happen soon thanks to an effort by MIT.


That takes some tinkering, though, because silicon circuits are much easier to design and many more transistors can be packed onto a chunk of silicon than within a single cell. But we’re working on it! So far, researchers at MIT have developed biological circuitry which allows a cell to convert analogue signals into digital ones, with a range of responses. A cell could detect the concentration of acid in the stomach, for example, which triggers different responses based on the intensity of the stimulus. Essentially, the living circuit is composed of a threshold module, which detects a range of analogue signals, and subsequently controls the expression of a recombinase gene, which is turned on or off by inverting it.


Expression of the gene regulates the response of the cell to the stimulus. A bacterium could be designed to detect a range of acid concentration, and respond within a certain preprogrammed range using this circuit design.


What kind of stimuli would a bacterial circuit be used for? Current investigations underway are to detect the levels of inflammation in the body, levels of glucose in the blood, and treat diseases of the gut with specially designed probiotics. Microbes are already used to produce medically important substances, such as penicillin and morphine. The gene circuitry under development would allow a microbe to produce insulin only in the presence of high blood glucose, for example, which could potentially change medicine in a powerful way.


Unlike silicon computer chips, however, microbes reproduce and exchange genes with each other. Engineering microbes to respond to environmental challenges could unleash a host of unforeseen consequences.


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The ridges and bumps of the OLED, when mimicking the firefly, enhance its luminescent efficiency (via American Chemical Society, 2016)


Who knew that a firefly’s rear end contained the secret to efficient lighting? When aeronautic engineers designed plane wings with structures that imitated a bird’s wing, they reduced turbulence and continue to be used in modern aircraft. Such biomimicry is now enhancing the world of fluorescent lighting and design. Up until recently, fluorescent lights have been designed much like the conventional light bulb, with smooth curvature. Upon examining the structures in the tail of fireflies belonging to the species Pyrocoelia rufa, researchers at the Korean Advanced Institute for Science and Technology initially noticed marked ridges and nanostructures that give the firefly’s organic light-emitting diode (OLED) console the appearance of honeycomb rather than a smooth bulb.


Because the firefly has such an efficient lighting capability, the researchers designed a synthetic replica and tested its efficiency. Using a scanning electron microscope, spectroscopy, and numerical analysis, the team was able to assess the structure of a firefly’s lantern. The synthetic replica was made using micromolding and  polydimethylsiloxane oxidation, which recreated the asymmetrical nano ridges.


When tested, the external quantum efficiency had increased 61%. The nanostructures also reduced reflection, which contributed to the increase in light transmission.


While the fluorescent lighting and design industry has yet to catch up with mass-marketed  designs that incorporate this research, the efficiency of such a design makes that highly attractive. The cost of making the materials may make scaling production up for a mass market unfeasible currently, but it’s only a matter of time. Advances in molding technology and increased efficiency in the design of synthetic polymers often occur in tandem with other technologies. It may be just a few years before lights designed on the humble firefly appear in our homes. Read more about this effort in the KAIST paper after this link.


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