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.


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.


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.”


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.


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:


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.


E-Waste Volume Hits New Peak

E-wasteAs the demand for newer, faster electronics rises, so does the amount of e-waste across the globe.

E-waste refers to discarded electrical and electronic equipment, the amount of which has risen by 63 percent in just the past five years. Globally, it’s observed that the volume of e-waste has hit an astonishing new peak, totaling in at over 40 tons – seven percent of which includes communication devices such as smartphones and computers.

The challenge of rising levels of e-waste is a global issue. A report from U.N. think tank, United Nations University, shows that in 12 Asian countries, the volume of e-waste increased by nearly two-thirds between 2010 and 2015. Hong Kong, for example, produced nearly 48 pounds per person in digital trash. To compare, the average waste from Europe and the Americas is approximately 34 pounds per person.

Because Asia buys about half of all electronics on the market, the uptick in e-waste is expected. However, the infrastructure to recycle and the laws that mandate such actions do not exist in these countries. In the United States, however, states such as New York have implemented bans on disposing of unwanted electronics, posing fines to those who do not properly recycle their devices.

E-waste shows both great potential and hazards for the world. On one hand, it’s estimated that in the United States alone, the over $50 billion is wasted in the form of digital trash that can be recycled for alternative uses.

Additionally, e-waste – which includes components such as lithium-ion batteries – if not properly disposed of, could lead to substantial amounts of health-threatening toxins such as mercury, cadmium, chromium, and ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons.

By: Jeff Inglis, The Conversation

Editor’s note: The following is a roundup of archival stories.

Net neutralityWith the selection of Ajit Pai to chair the Federal Communications Commission, President Trump has elevated a major foe of net neutrality from the minority on the commission to its head. Pai, already a commissioner and therefore needing no Senate approval to become its chair, would need to be reconfirmed by the end of 2017 to continue to serve.

But what is net neutrality, this policy Pai has spent years criticizing? Here are some highlights of The Conversation’s coverage of the controversy around the concept of keeping the internet open:

Public interest versus private profit

The basic conflict is a result of the history of the internet, and the telecommunications industry more generally, writes internet law scholar Allen Hammond at Santa Clara University:

Like the telephone, broadcast and cable predecessors from which they evolved, the wire and mobile broadband networks that carry internet traffic travel over public property. The spectrum and land over which these broadband networks travel are known as rights of way. Congress allowed each network technology to be privately owned. However, the explicit arrangement has been that private owner access to the publicly owned spectrum and rights of way necessary to exploit the technology is exchanged for public access and speech rights.

The government is trying to balance competing interests in how the benefits of those network services. Should people have unfiltered access to any and all data services, or should some internet providers be allowed to charge a premium to let companies reach audiences more widely and more quickly?


By: David Danks, Carnegie Mellon University

Autonomous driverless carIn 2016, self-driving cars went mainstream. Uber’s autonomous vehicles became ubiquitous in neighborhoods where I live in Pittsburgh, and briefly in San Francisco. The U.S. Department of Transportation issued new regulatory guidance for them. Countless papers and columns discussed how self-driving cars should solve ethical quandaries when things go wrong. And, unfortunately, 2016 also saw the first fatality involving an autonomous vehicle.

Autonomous technologies are rapidly spreading beyond the transportation sector, into health care, advanced cyberdefense and even autonomous weapons. In 2017, we’ll have to decide whether we can trust these technologies. That’s going to be much harder than we might expect.

Trust is complex and varied, but also a key part of our lives. We often trust technology based on predictability: I trust something if I know what it will do in a particular situation, even if I don’t know why. For example, I trust my computer because I know how it will function, including when it will break down. I stop trusting if it starts to behave differently or surprisingly.

In contrast, my trust in my wife is based on understanding her beliefs, values and personality. More generally, interpersonal trust does not involve knowing exactly what the other person will do – my wife certainly surprises me sometimes! – but rather why they act as they do. And of course, we can trust someone (or something) in both ways, if we know both what they will do and why.

I have been exploring possible bases for our trust in self-driving cars and other autonomous technology from both ethical and psychological perspectives. These are devices, so predictability might seem like the key. Because of their autonomy, however, we need to consider the importance and value – and the challenge – of learning to trust them in the way we trust other human beings.

Autonomy and predictability

We want our technologies, including self-driving cars, to behave in ways we can predict and expect. Of course, these systems can be quite sensitive to the context, including other vehicles, pedestrians, weather conditions and so forth. In general, though, we might expect that a self-driving car that is repeatedly placed in the same environment should presumably behave similarly each time. But in what sense would these highly predictable cars be autonomous, rather than merely automatic?