. Scientific Frontline: Technology
Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts

Monday, June 19, 2023

Clean, sustainable fuels made ‘from thin air’ and plastic waste

Carbon capture from air and its photoelectrochemical conversion into fuel with simultaneous waste plastic conversion into chemicals. 
Photo Credit: Ariffin Mohamad Annuar

Researchers have demonstrated how carbon dioxide can be captured from industrial processes – or even directly from the air – and transformed into clean, sustainable fuels using just the energy from the sun.

The researchers from the University of Cambridge developed a solar-powered reactor that converts captured CO2 and plastic waste into sustainable fuels and other valuable chemical products. In tests, CO2 was converted into syngas, a key building block for sustainable liquid fuels, and plastic bottles were converted into glycolic acid, which is widely used in the cosmetics industry.

Unlike earlier tests of their solar fuels technology however, the team took CO2 from real-world sources – such as industrial exhaust or the air itself. The researchers were able to capture and concentrate the CO2 and convert it into sustainable fuel.

Although improvements are needed before this technology can be used at an industrial scale, the results, reported in the journal Joule, represent another important step toward the production of clean fuels to power the economy, without the need for environmentally destructive oil and gas extraction.

GE Aerospace runs one of the world’s largest supercomputer simulations to test revolutionary new open fan engine architecture

CFM’s RISE open fan engine architecture.
Image Credit: GE Aerospace

To support the development of a revolutionary new open fan engine architecture for the future of flight, GE Aerospace has run simulations using the world’s fastest supercomputer capable of crunching data in excess of exascale speed, or more than a quintillion calculations per second.

To model engine performance and noise levels, GE Aerospace created software capable of operating on Frontier, a recently commissioned supercomputer at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory with processing power of about 37,000 GPUs. For comparison, Frontier’s processing speed is so powerful, it would take every person on Earth combined more than four years to do what the supercomputer can in one second.  

By coupling GE Aerospace’s computational fluid dynamics software with Frontier, GE was able to simulate air movement of a full-scale open fan design with incredible detail.

“Developing game-changing new aircraft engines requires game-changing technical capabilities. With supercomputing, GE Aerospace engineers are redefining the future of flight and solving problems that would have previously been impossible,” said Mohamed Ali, vice president and general manager of engineering for GE Aerospace.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Researchers created a new and improved way to view the mechanics of life

RESORT. A diagram to show the basic overview of the system. Firstly, the sample is labeled with the photoswitchable Raman probe. It’s then irradiated with two-color infrared laser pulses, ultraviolet light, and a special donut-shaped beam of visible light to constrain the area where Raman scattering can occur. As a result, the probe can be detected at a very precise point for high spatial resolution images.
Illustration Credit: ©2023 Ozeki et al.
(CC BY 2.0)

There are various ways to image biological samples on a microscopic level, and each has its own pros and cons. For the first time, a team of researchers, including those from the University of Tokyo, has combined aspects from two of the leading imaging techniques to craft a new method of imaging and analyzing biological samples. Its concept, known as RESORT, paves the way to observe living systems in unprecedented detail.

For as long as humanity has been able to manipulate glass, we have used optical devices to peer at the microscopic world in ever increasing detail. The more we can see, the more we can understand, hence the pressure to improve upon tools we use to explore the world around, and inside, us. Contemporary microscopic imaging techniques go far beyond what traditional microscopes can offer. Two leading technologies are super-resolution fluorescence imaging, which offers good spatial resolution, and vibrational imaging, which compromises spatial resolution but can use a broad range of colors to help label many kinds of constituents in cells.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Navigating underground with cosmic-ray muons

Navigating inside with muons. The red line in this image represents the path the “navigatee” walked, while the white line with dots shows the path recorded by MuWNS.
Illustration Credit: ©2023 Hiroyuki K.M. Tanaka

Superfast, subatomic-sized particles called muons have been used to wirelessly navigate underground in a reportedly world first. By using muon-detecting ground stations synchronized with an underground muon-detecting receiver, researchers at the University of Tokyo were able to calculate the receiver’s position in the basement of a six-story building. As GPS cannot penetrate rock or water, this new technology could be used in future search and rescue efforts, to monitor undersea volcanoes, and guide autonomous vehicles underground and underwater.

GPS, the global positioning system, is a well-established navigation tool and offers an extensive list of positive applications, from safer air travel to real-time location mapping. However, it has some limitations. GPS signals are weaker at higher latitudes and can be jammed or spoofed (where a counterfeit signal replaces an authentic one). Signals can also be reflected off surfaces like walls, interfered with by trees, and can’t pass through buildings, rock or water.

Energy Harvesting Via Vibrations: Researchers develop highly durable and efficient device

The principle, structural design, and application of carbon fiber-reinforced polymer-enhanced piezoelectric nanocomposite materials.
Illustration Credit: ©Tohoku University

An international research group has engineered a new energy-generating device by combining piezoelectric composites with carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP), a commonly used material that is both light and strong. The new device transforms vibrations from the surrounding environment into electricity, providing an efficient and reliable means for self-powered sensors.

Details of the group's research were published in the journal Nano Energy.

Energy harvesting involves converting energy from the environment into usable electrical energy and is something crucial for ensuring a sustainable future.

"Everyday items, from fridges to street lamps, are connected to the internet as part of the Internet of Things (IoT), and many of them are equipped with sensors that collect data," says Fumio Narita, co-author of the study and professor at Tohoku University's Graduate School of Environmental Studies. "But these IoT devices need power to function, which is challenging if they are in remote places, or if there are lots of them."

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

UC Irvine scientists create long-lasting, cobalt-free, lithium-ion batteries

“We are basically the first group that started thinking about the supply chain, or the pain point, that nickel will bring to the EV industry in a matter of, I would say, three to five years,” says Huolin Xin, UCI professor of physics & astronomy, lead author of a paper in Nature Energy on a new way to use nickel in lithium-ion batteries.
Photo Credit: Steve Zylius / UCI

In a discovery that could reduce or even eliminate the use of cobalt – which is often mined using child labor – in the batteries that power electric cars and other products, scientists at the University of California, Irvine have developed a long-lasting alternative made with nickel.

“Nickel doesn’t have child labor issues,” said Huolin Xin, the UCI professor of physics & astronomy whose team devised the method, which could usher in a new, less controversial generation of lithium-ion batteries. Until now, nickel wasn’t a practical substitute because large amounts of it were required to create lithium batteries, he said. And the metal’s cost keeps climbing.

To become an economically viable alternative to cobalt, nickel-based batteries needed to use as little nickel as possible.

“We’re the first group to start going in a low-nickel direction,” said Xin, whose team published its findings in the journal Nature Energy. “In a previous study by my group, we came up with a novel solution to fully eliminate cobalt. But that formulation still relied on a lot of nickel.”

A New Magnetizable Shape Memory Alloy with Low Energy Loss, Even at Low Temperatures

Image Credit: Scientific Frontline

Shape memory alloys (SMA) remember their original shape and return to it after being heated. Similar to how a liquid transforms into a gas when boiled, SMAs undergo a phase transformation when heated or cooled. The phase transformation occurs with the movement of atoms, which is invisible to the naked eye.

SMAs are utilized in a diverse array of applications, including as actuators and sensors. However, the need to cool or heat SMAs means there is a delay in their phase transformation.

As a recently invented type of SMA, metamagnetic shape memory alloys (MMSMA) negate this limited response rate thanks to their ability to undergo phase transformation when exposed to an external magnetic field. Yet to date, MMSMAs have failed to solve another common problem with most SMAs: the fact that they lose a large amount of energy when phase transforming - something that worsens substantially in low temperatures.

Towards the New-Space Era with Foldable Phased-Array Transmitters for Small Satellites

A foldable phased-array transmitter for LEO satellites By varying the number of liquid crystal polymer layers, the proposed design incorporates foldable creases, contributing to a smaller form factor and lower weight.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Tokyo Institute of Technology

A new design for a foldable phased-array transmitter can help make satellites lightweight, smaller, and cost-efficient to launch, report scientists at Tokyo Tech. The transmitter is made of stacked layers of liquid crystal polymer and incorporates flexible creases, which provide flexibility and deployability. The new design could make research and implementation of space technologies more accessible to private companies and startups.

By varying the number of liquid crystal polymer layers, the proposed design incorporates foldable creases, contributing to a smaller form factor and lower weight.

There has been a recent shift in the space industry towards what is now called the "new-space era." The term refers to how space is no longer dominated exclusively by government agencies such as NASA but has instead become a playground for many private companies and startups interested in exploring and deploying space technologies. While this opens up a vast ocean of possibilities for space research, exploration, and telecommunications, launching satellites remains an expensive endeavor.

In general, low earth orbit (LEO) satellites are both low cost and low latency. However, modern antenna designs for LEO satellites are heavy, leading to a trade-off between making satellites compact and achieving a large antenna aperture for better performance. Such issues increase launch costs significantly and are regarded as major hurdles to overcome in the new-space era.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

New research could improve performance of artificial intelligence and quantum computers

A University of Minnesota Twin Cities-led team has developed a more energy-efficient, tunable superconducting diode — a promising component for future electronic devices — that could help scale up quantum computers for industry and improve artificial intelligence systems.
Photo Credit: Olivia Hultgren.

A University of Minnesota Twin Cities-led team has developed a new superconducting diode, a key component in electronic devices, that could help scale up quantum computers for industry use and improve the performance of artificial intelligence systems. 

The paper is published in Nature Communications, a peer-reviewed scientific journal that covers the natural sciences and engineering. 

A diode allows current to flow one way but not the other in an electrical circuit. It essentially serves as half of a transistor — which is the main element in computer chips. Diodes are typically made with semiconductors, substances with electrical properties that form the base for most electronics and computers, but researchers are interested in making them with superconductors, which additionally have the ability to transfer energy without losing any power along the way.

Compared to other superconducting diodes, the researchers’ device is more energy efficient, can process multiple electrical signals at a time, and contains a series of gates to control the flow of energy, a feature that has never before been integrated into a superconducting diode.

Nanomaterials: glass printed sintered-free in 3D

The new process can be used to create a wide variety of quartz glass structures on a nanometer scale.
Full Size Image
 Image Credit: Dr. Jens Bauer, KIT

Process developed at KIT manages with relatively low temperatures and enables high resolutions for applications in optics and semiconductor technology - publication in science

Nanometer-fine structures made of quartz glass, which can be printed directly on semiconductor chips, are produced by a process developed at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). A hybrid organic-inorganic polymer resin serves as the starting material for the 3D printing of silicon dioxide. Since the process does not require sintering, the temperatures required for this are significantly lower. At the same time, a higher resolution enables nanophotonics with visible light. The research team reports in the journal Science.

Printing quartz glass consisting of pure silicon dioxide in micro and nanometer-fine structures opens up new possibilities for many applications in optics, photonics and semiconductor technology. So far, however, techniques based on traditional sintering have dominated. The temperatures required for sintering silicon dioxide nanoparticles are above 1,100 degrees Celsius - far too hot for direct separation on semiconductor chips. A research team led by Dr. Jens Bauer from the KIT's Institute for Nanotechnology (INT) has now developed a new process for producing transparent quartz glass with high resolution and excellent mechanical properties at significantly lower temperatures.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Organic light-emitting diodes: the blue shines brighter and longer

Thanks to a new type of molecule, blue OLEDs should shine brighter in the future and fade less quickly.
Photo Credit: Markus Breig, KIT

Two-channel intra / intermolecular exciplex emission enables efficient deep blue electroluminescence.

Organic LEDs, or OLEDs for short, are characterized by energy efficiency and flexibility. But one challenge lies in the production of blue OLEDs - these have so far lacked luminance and stability. Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and at Shanghai University have now developed a new strategy for producing efficient deep blue OLEDs: A specially produced novel molecule enables two-channel intra / intermolecular exciplex emission with electronic excitation, thereby allowing deep blue electroluminescence. The researchers report in the journal Science Advances.

Organic LEDs are already in many smartphones, tablets and large-scale TVs. They do not require additional backlighting and are therefore energy-efficient, can be produced inexpensively using thin-film technology and also work on flexible substrates, which enables flexible displays and variable room lighting solutions. An OLED (stands for: organic light-emitting diode) consists of two electrodes, at least one of which is transparent. In between are thin layers of organic semiconducting materials. The lighting is created by electroluminescence. When creating an electric field, electrons from the cathode and holes (positive charges) from the anode are injected into the organic materials that act as emitters. Electrons and holes meet there and form electron-hole pairs. These then disintegrate into their initial state and release energy that the organic materials use to emit light. All colors are created by mixing the three colors blue, green and red.

Monday, June 5, 2023

PSI researchers use extreme UV light to produce tiny structures for information technology.

The PSI researchers involved at the XIL-II beamline of the SLS. From left to right: Yasin Ekinci, Gabriel Aeppli, Matthias Muntwiler, Procopios Christou Constantinou, Dimitrios Kazazis, Prajith Karadan
Photo Credit: Paul Scherrer Institute/Mahir Dzambegovic

Researchers at PSI have refined a process known as photolithography, which can further advance miniaturization in information technology.

In many areas of information technology, the trend towards ever more compact microchips continues unabated. This is mainly because production processes make it possible to achieve ever smaller structures, so that the same number of information-processing components takes up less and less space. Fitting more components into less space increases the performance and lowers the price of the microchips used in smartphones, smartwatches, game consoles, televisions, Internet servers and industrial applications.

A research group led by Dimitrios Kazazis and Yasin Ekinci at the Laboratory for X-ray Nanoscience and Technologies at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, in collaboration with researchers from University College London (UCL) in the UK, has now succeeded in making important progress towards further miniaturization in the IT industry. The scientists have demonstrated that photolithography – the method of patterning widely used in the mass production of microchips – works even when no photosensitive layer has been applied to the silicon.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

New transparent augmented reality display opens possibilities to see digital content in real-time

The flexible, transparent polymer-based material will advance how AR is used across a range of industries.
Photo Credit: Cesar Nicolas

The world's first flexible, transparent augmented reality (AR) display screen using 3D printing and low-cost materials has been created by researchers at the University of Melbourne, KDH Design Corporation and the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication (MCN). The development of the new display screen is set to advance how AR is used across a wide range of industries and applications.

AR technology overlays digital content onto the real world, enhancing the user's real-time perception and interaction with their environment. Until now, creating flexible AR technology that can adjust to different angles of light sources has been a challenge, as current mainstream AR manufacturing uses glass substrates, which must undergo photomasking, lamination, cutting, or etching microstructure patterns. These time-consuming processes are expensive, have a poor yield rate and are difficult to seamlessly integrate with product appearance designs.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Cost-effective and Non-toxic Substance Helps in the Extraction of Noble Metals

The new technology will help extract valuable components from complex raw materials.
Photo Credit: Rodion Narudinov

Scientists of the Ural Federal University have found a "solvent" (surfactant), lignosulfonate, which facilitates the transfer of noble metals into solution. Lignosulfonate is a waste product of pulp and paper industry, which is cheap and non-toxic. The scientists have effectively solved two serious problems at once: using a waste product along with processing ores and concentrates. The researchers published a description of the solvent's mechanism of action in the scientific journal Langmuir.

"We investigated the mechanism of action of a very complex surfactant that is at the same time a humectant, dispersant and stabilizer in terms of the surface of the ore concentrate. Lignosulfonate has been used in autoclave metal extraction technologies since the 1970s. However, its efficiency has not been sufficiently studied and the mechanism of action has not been subjectively investigated. Taking into account the fact that today different types of ores are processed, the use of lignosulfonate for processing becomes even more important," says Tatyana Lugovitskaya, co-author of the research, Assistant Professor Researcher of the UrFU Department of Non-Ferrous Metallurgy.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

More research is needed to spread the benefits of electric vehicles equitably

Researchers should focus on equity issues surrounding the spread of electrical vehicles, according to a study by Penn State researchers
Photo Credit: Michael Fousert

Electric vehicles, or EVs, promise to reduce carbon emissions and serve as a tool to help mitigate climate change, but a team of Penn State researchers report there has been little research to determine how equitable the benefits of EVs are and, in fact, whether the technology may unfairly harm some areas and populations.

In a study, the researchers only found 48 papers out of a pool of 9,838 studies that explicitly addressed equity issues of EVs, said Wei Peng, assistant professor of international affairs and civil and environmental engineering, Peng added that the small percentage of papers that addressed equity was telling in itself.

“During that screening process, we began to learn what is over-studied and what is understudied,” said Peng, who is also an associate of the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences. “We highlighted in our paper what we saw as the most understudied: making equity more explicit as research and, second, we saw a need to focus on those emerging markets and parts of the developing world where EVs are going to be more important.”

Unlike vehicles powered by gasoline or diesel fuel, which produce carbon and other chemicals during the combustion process, the electric motors that drive the wheels of an EV do not produce tailpipe emissions. EV owners charge the batteries that are stored on board the EV, rather than add fuel.

New Sensors with the HOTS for Extreme Missions

High Operational Temperature Sensors (HOTS)
Graphic Credit: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

Modern technologies are laden with sensors – a now-customary fact of life in much of the world. On smart watches and phones, and in cars and homes, sensors help monitor health, adjust various settings for comfort, and warn of potential dangers. More widely, sensors are deployed across countless commercial and defense systems, including in the oil and gas sector, the automotive industry, alternative energy sources, geothermal applications, and aviation and aerospace.

In these broader industrial contexts, the capabilities of sensors can be inhibited by thermal limitations. A sensor may theoretically be able to process inputs such as speed, pressure, or the integrity of a mechanical component, but inside a turbine engine, temperatures far exceed what any existing sensor can withstand.

DARPA’s new High Operational Temperature Sensors (HOTS) program will work toward developing microelectronic sensor technologies capable of high-bandwidth, high-dynamic-range sensing at extreme temperatures.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

NUS scientists develop a novel light-field sensor for 3D scene construction with unprecedented angular resolution

Prof Liu Xiaogang (right) and Dr Yi Luying from the NUS Department of Chemistry capturing a 3D image of a model using the light-field sensor.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of National University of Singapore

Color-encoding technique for light-field imaging has potential applications in fields such as autonomous driving, virtual reality and biological imaging

A research team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Science, led by Professor Liu Xiaogang from the Department of Chemistry, has developed a 3D imaging sensor that has an extremely high angular resolution, which is the capacity of an optical instrument to distinguish points of an object separated by a small angular distance, of 0.0018o. This innovative sensor operates on a unique angle-to-color conversion principle, allowing it to detect 3D light fields across the X-ray to visible light spectrum.  

A light field encompasses the combined intensity and direction of light rays, which the human eyes can process to precisely detect the spatial relationship between objects. Traditional light sensing technologies, however, are less effective. Most cameras, for instance, can only produce two-dimensional images, which is adequate for regular photography but insufficient for more advanced applications, including virtual reality, self-driving cars, and biological imaging. These applications require precise 3D scene construction of a particular space.

Monday, May 8, 2023

A new at­las il­lus­trates how the hu­man ret­ina is de­vel­op­ing.

De­tail of a cross-​section of a ret­inal or­ganoid. Dif­fer­ent tis­sue struc­tures are made vis­ible with dif­fer­ent colors.
Pho­to­ Credit: Wahle et al. Nature Bi­o­tech­no­logy 2023

What cell types are found in which hu­man tis­sue, and where? Which genes are act­ive in the in­di­vidual cells, and which pro­teins are found there? An­swers to these ques­tions and more are to be provided by a specialized at­las – in par­tic­u­lar how the dif­fer­ent tis­sues form dur­ing em­bryonic de­vel­op­ment and what causes dis­eases. In cre­at­ing this at­las, re­search­ers aim to map not only tis­sue dir­ectly isol­ated from hu­mans, but also struc­tures called or­ganoids. These are three-​dimensional clumps of tis­sue that are cul­tiv­ated in the labor­at­ory and de­velop in a way sim­ilar to hu­man or­gans, but on a small scale.

“The ad­vant­age of or­ganoids is that we can in­ter­vene in their de­vel­op­ment and test act­ive sub­stances on them, which al­lows us to learn more about healthy tis­sue as well as dis­eases,” ex­plains Bar­bara Treut­lein, Pro­fessor of Quant­it­at­ive De­vel­op­mental Bio­logy at the De­part­ment of Biosys­tems Sci­ence and En­gin­eer­ing at ETH Zurich in Basel.

To help pro­duce such an at­las, Treut­lein, to­gether with re­search­ers from the Uni­ver­sit­ies of Zurich and Basel, has now de­veloped an ap­proach to gather and com­pile a great deal of in­form­a­tion about or­ganoids and their de­vel­op­ment. The re­search team ap­plied this ap­proach to the or­ganoids of the hu­man ret­ina, which they de­rived from stem cells.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

The world’s first wood transistor

Isak Engquist, senior associate professor and Van Chinh Tran, PhD student at the Laboratory for Organic Electronics at Linköping University.
Photo Credit: Thor Balkhed

Researchers at Linköping University and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology have developed the world’s first transistor made of wood. Their study, published in the journal PNAS, paves the way for further development of wood-based electronics and control of electronic plants.

Transistors, invented almost one hundred years ago, are considered by some to be an invention just as important to humanity as the telephone, the light bulb or the bicycle. Today, they are a crucial component in modern electronic devices, and are manufactured at nanoscale. A transistor regulates the current that passes through it and can also function as a power switch.

Researchers at Linköping University, together with colleagues from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, have now developed the world’s first electrical transistor made of wood.

“We’ve come up with an unprecedented principle. Yes, the wood transistor is slow and bulky, but it does work, and has huge development potential,” says Isak Engquist, senior associate professor at the Laboratory for Organic Electronics at Linköping University.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Perovskite solar cells' instability must be addressed for global adoption

Photo Credit: Chelsea

Mass adoption of perovskite solar cells will never be commercially viable unless the technology overcomes several key challenges, according to researchers from the University of Surrey. 

Perovskite-based cells are widely believed to be the next evolution of solar energy and meet the growing demand for clean energy. However, they are not as stable as traditional solar-based cells.  

The Surrey team found that stabilizing the perovskite "photoactive phases" – the specific part of the material that is responsible for converting light energy into electrical energy – is the key step to extending the lifespan of perovskite solar cells.  

The stability of the photoactive phase is important because if it degrades or breaks down over time, the solar cell will not be able to generate electricity efficiently. Therefore, stabilizing the photoactive phase is a critical step in improving the longevity and effectiveness of perovskite solar cells. 

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