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New Solder for Semiconductors Creates Manufacturing Possibilities

A research team led by the University of Chicago has demonstrated how semiconductors can be soldered and still deliver good electronic performance. The team developed compounds of cadmium, lead, and bismuth that can be applied as a liquid or paste to join two pieces of a semiconductor by heating them to several hundred degrees Celsius, which is mild by industry standards. The paste or our liquid converts cleanly into a material that will be compositionally matched to the bonded parts, and that required development of new chemistry. Special molecules were designed that fulfill this requirement so they do not contaminate the material. After application as a liquid or paste, they decompose to form a seamless joint. The technology could enable 3D printing of semiconductors, and could lead to the development of less expensive, solution-processed semiconductors needed for entry into new markets. Among these markets are printable electronics, 3D printing, flat-panel display manufacturing, solar cells, and thermoelectric heat-to-electricity generators for the Internet of Things. Source:

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Rubber Production Techniques Could Improve Tires, Reduce Pollution

People have been making rubber products, from elastic bands to tires, for centuries, but a key step in this process has remained a mystery. Scientists from the Kyoto Institute of Technology in Japan have described this elusive part of rubber production that could have major implications for improving the material and its uses. Their findings, if used to improve tire performance, for example, could mean higher gas mileage for consumers and less air pollution. A chemical process called vulcanization has been critical for the manufacturing of quality rubber since the second half of the 1800s. Chemists have improved the process, but progress has largely plateaued in recent years. If scientists could gain insight into the details of vulcanization, they could further tweak it to make even better rubber. Using the latest analytical techniques, the researchers discovered a previously unknown structure that forms during vulcanization. The new observation could contribute to making the ubiquitous material even better. Source:

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Compact 3D Printer-Scanner is All-In-One Part Maker

Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) start-up Blacksmith Group launched a compact 3D printer that can also scan items into digitized models. Named the Blacksmith Genesis, this user-friendly device allows users without much knowledge of 3D software to scan any item, then edit the digitized model on the computer, and print it out in 3D.  Housed in a black aluminum casing, the device features a 2-inch LCD display, Wi-Fi, an integrated SD-card reader, and a USB connection for instant printing. Blacksmith Genesis uses an innovative rotary platform for its printing and scanning, unlike other commercial 3D printers. The revolving platform allows for true 360-degrees scanning. Blacksmith Genesis is also the first to feature remote live monitoring and automatic error detection, thanks to its in-built camera. This allows users to monitor and control the printing process on their smartphone from anywhere in the world through the Internet. Source:

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New Method Generates High-Resolution, Moving Holograms in 3D

The 3D effect produced by stereoscopic glasses used to watch movies cannot provide perfect depth cues. Furthermore, it is not possible to move one’s head and observe that objects appear different from different angles — a real-life effect known as motion parallax. Researchers have developed a new way of generating high-resolution, full-color, 3D videos that uses holographic technology. Holograms are considered to be truly 3D, because they allow the viewer to see different perspectives of a reconstructed 3D object from different angles and locations. Holograms are created using lasers, which can produce the complex light interference patterns, including spatial data, required to re-create a complete 3D object. To enhance the resolution of holographic videos, researchers used an array of spatial light modulators (SLMs). SLMs are used to display hologram pixels and create 3D objects by light diffraction. Each SLM can display up to 1.89 billion hologram pixels every second. Source:

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Rover Selfie Shows Key Mars Sites

A sweeping view of the "Pahrump Hills" outcrop on Mars, where NASA's Curiosity rover has been working for five months, surrounds the rover in Curiosity's latest self-portrait. The selfie is assembled from dozens of images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the rover's robotic arm. The component images for this self-portrait were taken in late January, while Curiosity was at a drilling site called Mojave 2. Curiosity took previous self-portraits with the MAHLI camera at three sites it explored before reaching the base of Mount Sharp. Source:

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Video Game Technology Helps Navigate Self-Driving Cars

A new software system developed at the University of Michigan uses video game technology to help solve one of the most daunting hurdles facing self-driving and automated cars: the high cost of the laser scanners they use to determine their location. The technology enables the cars to navigate using a single video camera, delivering the same level of accuracy as laser scanners at a fraction of the cost. The system builds on the navigation systems used in other self-driving cars, using 3D laser scanning technology to create a real-time map of the environment, then comparing that real-time map to a pre-drawn map stored in the system. By making thousands of comparisons per second, they're able to determine the vehicle's location within a few centimeters. The software converts the map data into a 3D picture much like a video game. The car's navigation system can then compare these synthetic pictures with the real-world pictures streaming in from a conventional video camera. Source:

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New Technique “Despeckles” Views of Saturn’s Moon

During 10 years of discovery, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has pulled back the smoggy veil that obscures the surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Thanks to a recently developed technique for handling noise in Cassini's radar images, these views now have a whole new look. The technique, referred to by its developers as "despeckling," produces images of Titan's surface that are much clearer and easier to look at. Typically, Cassini's radar images have a characteristic grainy appearance. This "speckle noise" can make it difficult for scientists to interpret small-scale features or identify changes in images of the same area taken at different times. Despeckling uses an algorithm to modify the noise, resulting in clearer views that can be easier for researchers to interpret. Despeckling Cassini's radar images has a variety of scientific benefits, including the ability to produce 3D maps, called digital elevation maps, of Titan's surface with greatly improved quality. With clearer views of river channels, lake shorelines, and windswept dunes, researchers are also able to perform more precise analyses of processes shaping Titan's surface. Source:

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