Tag Archives: Electronics

X-rays from Copper Source Set New Gold Standard for Measuring Industrial Materials

By Alison Gillespie – Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have produced and precisely measured a spectrum of X-rays using a new, state-of-the-art machine. The instrument they used to measure the X-rays took 20 years to develop, and will help scientists working at the agency make some of the world’s most accurate measurements of materials for use in everything from bridges to pharmaceuticals.

The process of building the instrument for making the new measurements was painstaking. “This new specialized precision instrument required both a tremendous amount of mechanical innovation and theoretical modeling,” said James Cline, project leader of the NIST team that built the machine.

“That we were able to dedicate so many years and such high-level scientific expertise to this project is reflective of NIST’s role in the world of science.” more> https://goo.gl/e0zrET

Updates from Aalto University

Aalto-2 satellite arrived at the International Space Station
By Jaan Praks – The robot arm was operated by US astronaut Peggy Whitson from NASA and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet from ESA.

‘I am glad that I could be a part of docking the Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the Space Station and welcome the QB50 satellites. They will be sent into space in May. One of them is Aalto-2 – the first satellite from Finland! I am very pleased that another European Space Agency member state is becoming “a true space nation”’, greeted Pesquet.

‘The Aalto-2 satellite will now spend a few weeks at the Space Station and wait for its turn to be launched. As the plan stands now, the small satellites will be detached to their orbits either on 8 or 15 May’, says Aalto Professor Jaan Praks, who is in charge of Aalto satellite projects. more> https://goo.gl/28ckbx


Updates from GE

Physicists Are ‘Breeding’ SchröDinger’s Cat, And It Could Reveal The Limits of The Quantum World
By Bec Crew – Physicists have figured out how to ‘breed’ Schrödinger’s cat – an object in a quantum superposition of two states with opposite properties – to produce enlarged versions that could one day reveal the limits of the quantum world.

If they can continue to breed their ‘cats’ even bigger, the experiment could finally reveal the exact point at which objects switch between classical and quantum physics – the divide between the microscopic and macroscopic worlds that physicists have been chasing for decades.

The original Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment states that if you put a live cat in an explosion-proof box with a bomb, until you open the box, you’ll have no idea if the bomb exploded and the cat died. Or maybe the bomb didn’t explode and the cat is still alive.

From our perspective, as long as the box is shut, the cat is occupying two realities. It’s both dead and alive, because we can’t confirm which one, but we know it can’t be neither.

This isn’t just a hypothetical question – in quantum physics, being in two different states at the same time is known as a superposition state, and it’s the entire basis of quantum computing, which is set to revolutionise how we process data in the future. more> https://goo.gl/XMFMB6

Updates from Georgia Tech

Surprising twist in confined liquid crystals: A simple route to developing new sensors
By Karthik Nayani, Jinxin Fu, Rui Chang, Jung Ok Park, and Mohan Srinivasarao – To answer some fundamental questions pertaining to the material’s phase behavior, the researchers used the microscopes to observe the molecules’ textures when they were confined to droplets known as tactoids.

“Surprisingly, we found a configuration that hasn’t been seen before in the 70 years that people have been studying liquid crystals,” said Mohan Srinivasarao, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering. “Historically, liquid crystals in tactoids conform to what is known as a bipolar and a bipolar configuration with a twist. At lower concentrations, we found that these liquid crystals arrange in a concentric fashion, but one that appears to be free of a singular defect.”

The researchers then used a simple model of the aggregation behavior of these molecules to explain these surprising results. Further, spectroscopic experiments using polarized Raman microscopy were performed to confirm their findings.

These new findings add to the growing understanding of how chromonic liquid crystals could be used in sensing applications, Srinivasarao said. more> https://goo.gl/YVq0TE


Turning Back Time: Watching Rust Transform into Iron

By W. Zhu, J.P. Winterstein, W.D. Yang, L. Yuan, R. Sharma and G. Zhou – Using a state-of-the-art microscopy technique, experimenters at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and their colleagues have witnessed a slow-motion, atomic-scale transformation of rust—iron oxide—back to pure iron metal, in all of its chemical steps.

In a new effort to study the microscopic details of metal oxide reduction, researchers used a specially adapted transmission electron microscope (TEM) at NIST’s NanoLab facility to document the step-by-step transformation of nanocrystals of the iron oxide hematite (Fe2O3) to the iron oxide magnetite (Fe3O4), and finally to iron metal.

By lowering the temperature of the reaction and decreasing the pressure of the hydrogen gas that acted as the reducing agent, the scientists slowed down the reduction process so that it could be captured with an environmental TEM—a specially configured TEM that can study both solids and gas. The instrument enables researchers to perform atomic-resolution imaging of a sample under real-life conditions—in this case the gaseous environment necessary for iron oxides to undergo reduction–rather than under the vacuum needed in ordinary TEMs. more> https://goo.gl/8lJIAH

Updates from Aalto University

Launch times draw near for Aalto satellites
By Jaan Praks – The Aalto-2 satellite, designed and built by students, is ready and waiting to be launched inside the Cygnus space shuttle at the Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex in the US.

On 22 March, the shuttle will be launched with an Atlas V booster rocket up to the orbiting international space station, where the astronauts will release it later to orbit independently.

Aalto-2 will take part in the international QB50 Mission, the aim of which is to produce the first ever comprehensive model of the features of the thermosphere, the layer between the Earth’s atmosphere and space. Dozens of satellites constructed in different countries will also be part of the mission.

Construction of the Aalto-2 satellite began in 2012 as a doctoral project when the first students graduated as Masters of Science in Technology after working on the Aalto-1 project.

Since the start of the Aalto-1 project in 2010 and the Aalto-2 project two years later, around a hundred new professionals have been trained in the space sector. The impact is already visible in the growth of space sector start-up companies. more> https://goo.gl/yKLrez


How Does Solar Photovoltaic Energy Work?

Evergreen Solar – The solar photovoltaic cells in your solar panels are the mechanisms which convert sunlight into energy. When you install solar panels on your house, the PV cells convert sunlight into direct current (DC) and an inverter connected to the system is what converts direct current into alternating current (AC) – which is the type of current needed to power your household appliances. This power runs through your electrical panel box, just like electricity you get from the grid, and you can potentially run your entire house on solar power than power taken from the grid.

Most residential solar energy systems are still connected to the grid. This is to allow for uninterrupted electricity in occasions when you don’t have enough solar energy to continue to power your house (e.g., on cloudy days or during the night).

If you generate enough energy from your solar panels such that you have “extra” energy left over, it will get fed back to the grid and you will get credit for this contribution of energy. Termed “net metering,” this transfer of electricity allows some customers to still maintain a $0 electric bill even when using the utility company’s energy from the grid. more> evergreensolar.com

Updates from Georgia Tech

Pioneer of Modern Electronics
By Michael Baxter – The smartphone you peer into, the LED bulb in your desk lamp, the Blu-Ray player that serves up your favorite film – all are here largely because of Russell Dupuis, a professor in electrical and computer engineering at Georgia Tech.

That’s because an essential component of their manufacturing traces back to a process that Dupuis developed in the late 1970s, a process that ushered in a new breed of mass-produced compound semiconductors. These electronic components – particularly those forged of elements from columns III and V in the periodic table — can operate at extremely high frequencies or emit light with extraordinary efficiency. Today, they’re the working essence of everything from handheld laser pointers to stadium Jumbotrons.

The process is known as metalorganic chemical vapor deposition, or MOCVD, and until Dupuis, no one had figured out how to use it to grow high-quality semiconductors using those III-V elements. Essentially, MOCVD works by combining the atomic elements with molecules of organic gas and flowing the mixture over a hot semiconductor wafer. When repeated, the process grows layer after layer of crystals that can have any number of electrical properties, depending on the elements used. more> https://goo.gl/eG2G8e


Make Chips Do More and Last Longer with Embedded FPGA

By Geoff Tate – The cost and the time to design ASSP/ASIC/SoCs keeps rising.

Also, customers are demanding more flexibility in chips so their systems can be upgraded for critical changes (such as protocols/standards), which increases the useful life of their systems and increases their ROI.

For example, in data centers, customers are now seeking reconfigurability. Rather than a fork-lift upgrade when standards evolve, data centers want programmable chips so they can upgrade the data center’s ability during the life of the center without touching the hardware. This also gives the data center the option to customize for added competitive advantage. As Doug Burger of Microsoft said at a recent talk at FPL 2016, (Re)Configurable Clouds will change the world with the ability to reprogram a datacenter’s hardware protocols: networking, storage, security. Adding FPGA technology into the mix is a key in doing this. Embedded FPGA technology is now available to increase performance while lowering cost and power.

Another example is microcontrollers. In older process nodes such as 90nm where mask costs are cheap, a line card can have dozens or hundreds of versions. This offers each customer the small differences in, for example, the number and types of serial interfaces (SPI, I2C, UART, etc). However, now that leading edge microcontrollers are moving to 40nm where masks cost $1M each, microcontroller manufacturers need a programmable way to customize their chips and offer multiple SKUs. Adding this capability also opens the path for their customers to customize the MCUs themselves, similar to how they now write C code for the on-board processors. There are a few microcontrollers today, such as Cypress’ PSoC, which offer some limited customizability. However, only embedded FPGA can provide more and scalable customizability. more> https://goo.gl/9xx7sC

Developing the APTitude to Design New Materials, Atom-by-Atom

By Paul Blanchard – Up to now, our technological progress has largely been a matter of trial and error. We make something new, evaluate its performance, then alter some part of the fabrication process and see whether it performs better or worse, all without direct knowledge of what is changing at the atomic level.

But if we could see what’s going on at that scale—if we could map out each individual atom and understand the role that it plays—we could create new and better materials not through blind experimentation, but through design.

For all that we’ve been able to accomplish while ignoring them, the fact is that individual atoms matter. The speed of a transistor, the efficiency of a solar cell, and the strength of an I-beam are ultimately determined by the configuration of the atoms inside. Today, new and improved microscopy techniques are getting us closer and closer to the goal of being able to see each and every atom within the materials we make—a very exciting prospect.

Over the past three years, I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a team working with one such new and improved microscopy technique, a method called 3-D atom probe tomography, or APT for short. APT is very different from conventional microscopy—at least, the sort of microscopy that I’m accustomed to. In conventional microscopy, we shine a beam of light particles or electrons on our specimen, whatever it is we want to look at, and create a magnified image using lenses or by mapping how our beam bounces off it.

In atom probe tomography, on the other hand, we don’t just look at our specimen—we literally take it apart, atom-by-atom. more> https://goo.gl/c0VdE3