New Prosthetic Hand Recreates Sense of Touch

The prosthetic arm plugs into the patient’s electrode implant to create natural-feeling sensations.
Credit: Russell Lee

Prosthetic limbs help amputees with mobility and functionality, but do not allow one to regain their sense of touch. Scientists and engineers have been attempting to re-create touch for those who have lost limbs for some time now, and they may have found the answer.

A study published in Science Translation Medicine states that long-lasting, natural-feeling sensations are now able to be produced artificially for those with prosthetic limbs. Of course, those using the device cannot physically feel the ball. Although, the patterns of electric singles that are sent by a computer into nerves around the patient’s arm will tell him or her differently.

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ECS Connections to 2014 Physics Nobel Prize

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Shuji Nakamura, a professor at the University of California

Shuji Nakamura, the recipient of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics and former ECS Plenary speaker, is awarded for his invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes.
Credit: Randall Lamb

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Shuji Nakamura, professor of materials and of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California and 2010 ECS Plenary speaker.

The prize is for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes, which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources, and is shared with ECS member Isamu Akasaki of Meijo University and Nagoya University, Japan; and Hiroshi Amano of Nagoya University.

In his plenary talk at the 218th ECS Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, Nakamura described the current status of III-nitride based light emitting diodes (LEDs) and laser diodes. Nitride-based white LEDs have been used for many application such as LCD TV backlight, lighting for inside/outside applications and others.

According to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, when Nakamura, Akasaki and Amono “produced bright blue light beams from their semiconductors in the early 1990s, they triggered a fundamental transformation of lighting technology. Red and green diodes had been around for a long time, but without blue light, white lamps could not be created. Despite considerable efforts, both in the scientific community and in industry, the blue LED had remained a challenge for three decades.”

The LED lamp “holds great promise for increasing the quality of life for over 1.5 billion people around the world who lack access to electricity grids,” the academy continued.

Here’s a list of articles in the ECS Digital Library written by the 2014 Physics Nobel Prize Winners. You can look at them for free:

Hiroshi Amano and Isamu Akasaki

Widegap Column-III Nitride Semiconductors for UV/Blue Light Emitting Devices

Growth and Luminescence Properties of Mg-Doped GaN Prepared by MOVPE

Isamu Akasaki

Epitaxial Growth and Properties of AIxGal.xN by MOVPE

Etching Characteristics and Light Figures of the {111} Surfaces of GaAs

Shuji Nakamura

Piezoelectric Field in Semi-Polar InGaN/GaN Quantum Wells

Read more about Shuji Nakamura’s plenary talk.

Read more about 2014 Nobel Prize winners for Physics.

A Revolution in Renewable Energy

Towering like a beacon of hope in Germany’s North Sea stand wind turbines. Stretching as high as 60-story buildings and standing as far as 60 miles from the mainland, the turbines are part of Germany’s push to find a solution to global warming.

Some call it change. Some call it transformation. We call it a revolution.

According to an article in the The New York Times, it is expected that by the end of the year, scores of new turbines will be set in place – thus allowing low-emission electricity to be sent to German cities hundreds of miles south.

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The researchers at Virginia Tech have successfully demonstrated the concept of a sugar biobattery that can completely convert the chemical energy in sugar substrates into electricity. Credit: Virginia Tech University

The researchers at Virginia Tech have successfully demonstrated the concept of a sugar biobattery that can completely convert the chemical energy in sugar substrates into electricity.
Credit: Virginia Tech University

According to new studies, the future of energy storage and conversion may be something that’s sitting in your kitchen cupboard.

A new breakthrough out of Virginia Tech demonstrates that a sugar-powered biobattery has the potential to outperform the current lithium-ion batteries on many fronts.

Not only is the energy density of the sugar-powered battery significantly higher than that of the lithium-ion battery, but the sugar battery is also less costly than the li-ion, refillable, environmentally friendly, and nonflammable.

This from LiveScience:

This nature-inspired biobattery is a type of enzymatic fuel cell (EFC) — an electrobiochemical device that converts chemical energy from fuels such as starch and glycogen into electricity. While EFCs operate under the same general principles as traditional fuel cells, they use enzymes instead of noble-metal catalysts to oxidize their fuel. Enzymes allow for the use of more-complex fuels (such as glucose), and these more-complex fuels are what give EFCs their superior energy density.

Read the full article here.

The scientists hope to increase the power density, extend the lifetime, and reduce the cost of electrode materials in order for this energy-dense sugar biobattery to become the technology of the future.

Find the full findings in this issue of Nature Communications.

Learn more about this topic by reading a recently published open access article via ECS’s Digital Library.

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