A new device that runs on almost zero power can transmit data across distances of up to 2.8 kilometers—breaking a long-held barrier—and could lead to a vast array of interconnected devices.

For example, flexible electronics—such as knee patches that capture range of motion in arthritic patients or patches that use sweat to detect fatigue in athletes and soldiers—hold great promise for collecting medically relevant data.

But today’s flexible electronics and other sensors that can’t employ bulky batteries and need to operate with very low power typically can’t communicate with other devices more than a few feet or meters away. This limits their practical use in applications for medical monitoring, home sensing to smart cities, and precision agriculture.

By contrast, the new long-range backscatter system, which uses reflected radio signals to transmit data at extremely low power and low cost, achieve reliable coverage throughout a 4,800-square-foot house, an office area covering 41 rooms, and a one-acre vegetable farm.

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DataResearchers have developed a new way to alleviate many of the issues that make magnetic data storage for computer hard disks and other data storage hardware problematic, including speed and energy use.

For almost seventy years now, magnetic tapes and hard disks have been used for data storage in computers. In spite of many new technologies that have arisen in the meantime, the controlled magnetization of a data storage medium remains the first choice for archiving information because of its longevity and low price.

As a means of realizing random access memories (RAMs), however, which are used as the main memory for processing data in computers, magnetic storage technologies have long been considered inadequate. That is mainly due to its low writing speed and relatively high energy consumption.

Pietro Gambardella, professor at the materials department of ETH Zurich, and his colleagues, have now shown that using a novel technique, faster magnetic storage is possible without wasting energy.

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Chemical engineers have generated ultra-pure green light for the first time.

The new light-emitting diode paves the way for visibly improved color quality in a new generation of ultra-high definition displays for TVs and smartphones.

Electronic devices must first be able to produce ultra-pure red, blue, and green light in order to enable the next generation of displays to show images that are clearer, sharper, richer in detail, and with a more refined range of colors. For the most part, this is already possible for red and blue light; green light, however, has been at the limits of technology.

This is due mainly to human perception, since the eye is able to distinguish between more intermediary green hues than red or blue ones. “This makes the technical production of ultra-pure green very complex, which creates challenges for us when it comes to developing technology and materials,” says Sudhir Kumar of ETH Zurich, co-lead author of the study.

Ultra-pure green plays a key role in extending the color range, or gamut. Ultimately, new hues arise from the technical mixture of three base colors: red, blue, and green. The purer the base colors, the broader the range of hues a screen can display. The new LED is in line with 97 to 99 percent of the international standard for Ultra HD, Rec.2020. By comparison, the purest color TV displays currently available on the market cover on average only 73.11 to 77.72 percent; none exceeds 80 percent.

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SemiconductorEngineers have created a high-frequency electronic chip potentially capable of transmitting tens of gigabits of data per second, much faster than the fastest internet available today.

Omeed Momeni, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at University of California, Davis, and doctoral student Hossein Jalili designed the chip using a phased array antenna system. Phased array systems funnel the energy from multiple sources into a single beam that can be narrowly steered and directed to a specific location.

“Phased arrays are pretty difficult to create, especially at higher frequencies,” Momeni says. “We are the first to achieve this much bandwidth at this frequency.”

The chip prototyped by Momeni and Jalili successfully operates at 370 GHz with 52 GHz of bandwidth. For comparison, FM radio waves broadcast between 87.5 and 108 MHz; 4G and LTE cellular networks generally function between 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz with up to 20 MHz of bandwidth.

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LightA new device improves on the sensitivity and versatility of sensors that detect doping in athletics, bomb-making chemicals, or traces of drugs. It could also cut costs.

To conduct these kinds of searches, scientists often shine light on the materials they’re analyzing. This approach is known as spectroscopy, and it involves studying how light interacts with trace amounts of matter.

One of the more effective types of spectroscopy is infrared absorption spectroscopy, which scientists use to sleuth out performance-enhancing drugs in blood samples and tiny particles of explosives in the air.

While infrared absorption spectroscopy has improved greatly in the last 100 years, researchers are still working to improve the technology.

“This new optical device has the potential to improve our abilities to detect all sorts of biological and chemical samples,” says Qiaoqiang Gan, associate professor of electrical engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at University at Buffalo. Gan is lead author of the study.

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From artificial limbs to cochlear implants, biomedical advancements are opening up new opportunities for health care. Now, researchers from the University of Delaware are working to further improve the lifetime and effectiveness of those biomedical devices by improving communication between the technology and neural tissue.

In order to improve the devices, researchers worked to develop a direct interfacing material to improve communication between the device and the body. For this, the team focused on a conjugated polymer known as PEDOT.

Video credit: Leah Dodd/ University of Delaware

This from University of Delaware:

Compared to other methods, surface modification through electro-grafting takes just minutes. Another advantage is that a variety of materials can be used as the conducting substrate, including gold, platinum, glassy carbon, stainless steel, nickel, silicon, and metal oxides.

Read the full article.

“Our results suggest that this is an effective means to selectively modify microelectrodes with highly adherent and highly conductive polymer coatings as direct neural interfaces,” says David Martin, lead researcher.

ElectronicsNew research demonstrates the development of the first stretchable integrated circuit, made entirely using an inkjet printer.

The team behind this research believes this development could lead to the manufacturing of inexpensive “smart fabric.” Potential applications include wallpaper that can turn an entire wall into an electronic display and electronics that could be scaled up and down easily.

“We can conceivably make the costs of producing flexible electronics comparable to the costs of printing newspapers,” says Chuan Wang, co-author of the paper and former ECS member. “Our work could soon lead to printed displays that can easily be stretched to larger sizes, as well as wearable electronics and soft robotics applications.”

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Cyber Security via IStockA team of researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology recently developed a new form of ransomware that could take over control of water treatment plants. The simulated hacking exercise was able to command programmable logic controls (PLCs) to shut down water valves, increase or decrease the amount of chemicals used to treat water, and churn out false readings.

According to the researchers, simulations were conducted to highlight the vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure. This research comes at a time when cyber security concerns have reached a high point in light of recent cyber attacking and hacking attempts across the globe.

Cyber attacks go far beyond the acquisition of emails and corruption of websites. Any establishment with PLCs is, in theory, vulnerable to hacking. This could range from water infrastructure, as demonstrated here, to electrical dependency.

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Silicon ValleyNearly 100 tech companies have filed an amicus brief condemning U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order concerning immigration.

The legal brief emphasizes what the companies believe to be the importance of immigrants in both the economy and society.

This from the brief:

Immigrants make many of the Nation’s greatest discoveries, and create some of the country’s most innovative and iconic companies. America has long recognized the importance of protecting ourselves against those who would do us harm. But it has done so while maintaining our fundamental commitment to welcoming immigrants—through increased background checks and other controls on people seeking to enter our country.

The brief cites the executive order as illegal, discriminatory, and ultimately damaging for U.S. companies. The complete list of opposing companies follows:

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By: William Messner, Tufts University

Driverless carWhen a May 2016 crash killed the person operating a Tesla Model S driving in Autopilot mode, advocates of autonomous vehicles feared a slowdown in development of self-driving cars.

Instead the opposite has occurred. In August, Ford publicly committed to field self-driving cars by 2021. In September, Uber began picking up passengers with self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, albeit with safety drivers ready to take over.

October saw Tesla itself undeterred by the fatality. The company began producing cars it said had all the hardware needed for autonomous operation; the software will be written and added later. In December, days after Michigan established regulations for testing autonomous vehicles in December, General Motors started doing just that with self-driving Chevy Bolts. And just one day before the end of his term, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx designated 10 research centers as official test sites for automated vehicle systems.

Three of the most significant developments in the industry happened earlier this month. The 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and the North American International Auto Show in Detroit saw automakers new and old (and their suppliers) show off their plans and innovations in this arena. And the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued its report on the Tesla fatality. Together, they suggest a future filled with driverless cars that are both safer than today’s vehicles and radically different in appearance and comfort.

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