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# Engineers Invent Method to Control Light Propagation in Waveguides

A team of Columbia Engineering researchers, led by Applied Physics Assistant Professor Nanfang Yu, has invented a method to control light propagating in confined pathways, or waveguides, with high efficiency by using nano-antennas. To demonstrate this technique, they built photonic integrated devices that not only had record-small footprints but were also able to maintain optimal performance over an unprecedented broad wavelength range.

Posted in: News, Nanotechnology, Optical Components, Optics, Photonics

# Zinc Oxide Materials Power Tiny Energy Harvesting Devices

Many types of smart devices are readily available and convenient to use. The goal now is to make wearable electronics that are flexible, sustainable, and powered by ambient renewable energy. This last goal inspired researchers to explore how the attractive physical features of zinc oxide (ZnO) materials could be used to tap into abundant mechanical energy sources to power micro devices.

They discovered that inserting aluminum nitride insulating layers into ZnO-based energy harvesting devices led to a significant improvement of the devices’ performance. The group’s findings are expected to provide an effective approach for realizing “nanogenerators” for self-powered electronic systems such as portable communication devices, healthcare monitoring devices, environmental monitoring devices, and implantable medical devices.

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Posted in: News, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, Energy, Energy Harvesting, Renewable Energy, Materials, Metals, Nanotechnology, Semiconductors & ICs

# Wearable Nanowire Sensors Monitor Electrophysiological Signals

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new, wearable sensor that uses silver nanowires to monitor electrophysiological signals, such as electrocardiography (EKG) or electromyography (EMG). The new sensor is as accurate as the “wet electrode” sensors used in hospitals, but can be used for long-term monitoring and when a patient is moving.

Posted in: News, News, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, Medical, Patient Monitoring, Nanotechnology, Semiconductors & ICs, Sensors

# Foldable Material Can Support Many Times its Weight

Researchers at Drexel University and Dalian University of Technology in China have chemically engineered a new, electrically conductive nanomaterial that is flexible enough to fold, but strong enough to support many times its own weight. They believe it can be used to improve electrical energy storage, water filtration, and radio frequency shielding in technology from portable electronics to coaxial cables.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Defense, Energy, Energy Storage, Materials, Nanotechnology, RF & Microwave Electronics

# Imaging Via Nanoparticles Could Monitor Cancer and Other Diseases

MIT chemists have developed new nanoparticles that can simultaneously perform magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and fluorescent imaging in living animals. Such particles could help scientists to track specific molecules produced in the body, monitor a tumor’s environment, or determine whether drugs have successfully reached their targets.

The researchers have demonstrated the use of the particles, which carry distinct sensors for fluorescence and MRI, to track vitamin C in mice. Wherever there is a high concentration of vitamin C, the particles show a strong fluorescent signal but little MRI contrast. If there is not much vitamin C, a stronger MRI signal is visible but fluorescence is very weak.

The researchers are now working to enhance the signal differences that they get when the sensor encounters a target molecule such as vitamin C. They have also created nanoparticles carrying the fluorescent agent plus up to three different drugs. This allows them to track whether the nanoparticles are delivered to their targeted locations. These particles could also be used to evaluate the level of oxygen radicals in a patient’s tumor, which can reveal valuable information about how aggressive the tumor is.

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Posted in: News, Imaging, Medical, Patient Monitoring, Nanotechnology

# Solar Material Converts 90 Percent of Captured Light into Heat

A multidisciplinary engineering team at the University of California, San Diego developed a new nanoparticle-based material for concentrating solar power plants designed to absorb and convert to heat more than 90 percent of the sunlight it captures. The new material can also withstand temperatures greater than 700 degrees Celsius and survive many years outdoors in spite of exposure to air and humidity.

“We wanted to create a material that absorbs sunlight that doesn’t let any of it escape. We want the black hole of sunlight,” said Sungho Jin, a professor in the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Jin, along with professor Zhaowei Liu of the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering professor Renkun Chen, developed the Silicon boride-coated nanoshell material.

The novel material features a “multiscale” surface created by using particles of many sizes ranging from 10 nanometers to 10 micrometers. The multiscale structures can trap and absorb light which contributes to the material’s high efficiency when operated at higher temperatures.

Source

Also: Read more Materials tech briefs.

Posted in: News, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Solar Power, Materials, Nanotechnology

# Fast-Charging Batteries Have 20-Year Lifespan

Scientists at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) have developed ultra-fast charging batteries that can be recharged up to 70 percent in only two minutes.

The new-generation batteries also have a long lifespan of over 20 years, more than 10 times compared to existing lithium-ion batteries.

In the new NTU-developed battery, the traditional graphite used for the anode (negative pole) in lithium-ion batteries is replaced with a new gel material made from titanium dioxide. Titanium dioxide is an abundant, cheap and safe material found in soil.

Naturally found in spherical shape, the NTU team has found a way to transform the titanium dioxide into tiny nanotubes, which is a thousand times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. The development speeds up the chemical reactions taking place in the new battery, allowing for superfast charging.

The breakthrough has a wide-ranging impact on all industries, especially for electric vehicles, where consumers are put off by the long recharge times and its limited battery life.

Source

Also: Learn about a Screening Technique for New Battery Chemistries.

Posted in: News, Batteries, Electronics & Computers, Power Management, Green Design & Manufacturing, Materials, Nanotechnology, Automotive, Transportation

# Tiny Wireless Sensing Device Alerts Users to Telltale Vapors Remotely

A research team at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) has developed a small electronic sensing device that can alert users wirelessly to the presence of chemical vapors in the atmosphere. The technology, which could be manufactured using familiar aerosol-jet printing techniques, is aimed at a variety of applications in military, commercial, environmental, healthcare and other areas.

Posted in: News, Communications, Wireless, Board-Level Electronics, Electronic Components, Electronics, Electronics & Computers, Nanotechnology, RF & Microwave Electronics, Semiconductors & ICs, Detectors, Sensors

# 3D Printer That Could Build a Home in 24 Hours Wins Global Design Competition

New York, NY – Contour Crafting, a computerized construction method that rapidly 3D prints large-scale structures directly from architectural CAD models, has been awarded the grand prize of $20,000 in the 2014 "Create the Future" Design Contest. Contour Crafting automates the construction of whole structures and radically reduces the time and cost of construction. The large-scale 3D printing technology is revolutionary to the construction industry and could lead to affordable building of high-quality, low-income housing; the rapid construction of emergency shelters; and on-demand housing in response to disasters. NASA is looking at the technology for building moon and Mars bases. Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor at University of Southern California, who invented Contour Crafting, views this invention as a proven concept. “Bringing 3D printing to construction is bringing a concept to a proven application. For many years, building has been done in layers – concrete foundation blocks, brick laying, structural framing, etc.” “I am very happy to receive this award and find it to be very timely as I am in the process of fund raising and I think this recognition will help me greatly in furthering the project,” said Khoshnevis. Contour Crafting was among the 1,074 new product ideas submitted in the 12th annual design contest, which was established in 2002 to recognize and reward engineering innovations that benefit humanity, the environment, and the economy. This year’s design contest was co-sponsored by COMSOL (www.comsol.com) and Mouser Electronics (www.mouser.com). Analog Devices and Intel were supporting sponsors. In addition to the grand prize of$20,000, first-place winners (of Hewlett-Packard workstations) were named in seven categories:

*Aerospace & Defense:

The Polariton Interferometer - a Novel Inertial Navigation System

Frederick Moxley

A stealth navigation system that provides precise course-plotting while operating independently from GPS.

*Automotive/Transportation:

Continuously Variable Displacement Engine

Steve Arnold

A continuously variable stroke engine that operates at 30% better fuel efficiency than conventional thick stroke engine designs.

*Consumer Products:

NanoFab Lab...in a Box!

An educational kit that brings nanomanufacturing out of the cleanroom and into the classroom.

*Electronics:

A Paradigm Shift for SMT Electronics

Micro-coil springs that provide flexible electrical interconnections for integrated circuit packages, preventing connection breaks due to heat and vibration.

Automatic Eye Finder & Tracking System

Real-time point-of-gaze eye tracking system that allows users to control computer input through "Look and Click" applications.

*Medical:

HemeChip for Early Diagnosis of Sickle Cell Disease

A biochip that can rapidly, easily, and conclusively identify the hemoglobin type in blood to diagnose Sickle Cell Disease in newborns.

*Sustainable Technologies:

Ecovent Systems - Making Every Room the Right Temperature

A system of wireless vents and sensors that makes any forced air heating and cooling system smarter by directing conditioned air where it’s needed most.

Finalists were selected by senior editors at Tech Briefs Media Group and judged by an independent panel of design engineers. Visitors to the contest Web site could vote on entries, with the 10 most popular designs awarded a Sphero mobile game system by Orbotix. For more information, visit www.createthefuturecontest.com.

Posted in: News, Automotive, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, Green Design & Manufacturing, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Diagnostics, Medical, Nanotechnology, Automation, Semiconductors & ICs, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Software

# 'Squid Skin' Metamaterial Yields Vivid Color Display

The quest to create artificial "squid skin" — camouflaging metamaterials that can "see" colors and automatically blend into the background — is one step closer to reality, thanks to a color-display technology by Rice University's Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP).

The new full-color display technology uses aluminum nanoparticles to create the vivid red, blue, and green hues found in today's top-of-the-line LCD televisions and monitors.

The breakthrough is the latest in a string of recent discoveries by a Rice-led team that set out in 2010 to create metamaterials capable of mimicking the camouflage abilities of cephalopods — the family of marine creatures that includes squid, octopus, and cuttlefish.

LANP's new color display technology delivers bright red, blue, and green hues from five-micron-square pixels that each contains several hundred aluminum nanorods. By varying the length of the nanorods and the spacing between them, LANP researchers Stephan Link and Jana Olson showed they could create pixels that produced dozens of colors, including rich tones of red, green, and blue that are comparable to those found in high-definition LCD displays.

Posted in: News, Displays/Monitors/HMIs, Imaging, Materials, Nanotechnology