Special Coverage


Modeling for Partitioned and Multicore Flight Software Systems

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California The current flight software approach is monolithic in nature. Every module has tentacles that reach deep within dozens of other software modules. Because of these interdependencies between modules, functionality is difficult to extract and reuse for other missions.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP


Technique Generates Electricity from Mechanical Vibrations

Research scientists at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have demonstrated a new technique for generating electrical energy. The method can be used in harvesting energy from mechanical vibrations of the environment and converting it into electricity. Energy harvesters are needed in wireless self-powered sensors and medical implants, where they could ultimately replace batteries. The technology could be introduced on an industrial scale within three to six years.

Posted in: News, Power Management, Energy Harvesting


New System Could Prolong Power in Mobile Devices

Researchers from The University of Texas at Dallas have created technology that could be the first step toward wearable computers with self-contained power sources or, more immediately, a smartphone that doesn’t die after a few hours of heavy use. The technology taps into the power of a single electron to control energy consumption inside transistors, which are at the core of most modern electronic systems.

Posted in: News, Electronic Components, PCs/Portable Computers, Power Management


Researchers Develop Thinnest Electric Generator

Researchers from Columbia Engineering and the Georgia Institute of Technology made the first experimental observation of piezoelectricity and the piezotronic effect in an atomically thin material, molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), resulting in a unique electric generator and mechanosensation devices that are optically transparent, extremely light, and very bendable and stretchable.“This material—just a single layer of atoms—could be made as a wearable device, perhaps integrated into clothing, to convert energy from your body movement to electricity and power wearable sensors or medical devices, or perhaps supply enough energy to charge your cell phone in your pocket,” says James Hone, professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia and co-leader of the research.Hone’s team placed thin flakes of MoS2 on flexible plastic substrates and determined how their crystal lattices were oriented using optical techniques. They then patterned metal electrodes onto the flakes. In research done at Georgia Tech, a group led by Zhong Lin Wang, Regents’ Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Materials Science and Engineering, installed measurement electrodes on the samples provided by Hone’s group, then measured current flows as the samples were mechanically deformed. They monitored the conversion of mechanical to electrical energy, and observed voltage and current outputs.Ultimately, Zhong Lin Wang notes, the research could lead to complete atomic-thick nanosystems that are self-powered by harvesting mechanical energy from the environment. This study also reveals the piezotronic effect in two-dimensional materials for the first time, which greatly expands the application of layered materials for human-machine interfacing, robotics, MEMS, and active flexible electronics.Source Also: Learn more about a Piezoelectric Energy Harvesting Transducer System.

Posted in: News, Electronic Components, Electronics, Power Management, Metals, Sensors


3D-Printed Power Inverter Enables Lighter Electric Vehicles

Using 3D printing and novel semiconductors, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have created a power inverter that could make electric vehicles lighter, more powerful, and more efficient.At the core of this development is wide bandgap material made of silicon carbide, with qualities superior to standard semiconductor materials. Power inverters convert direct current into the alternating current that powers the vehicle. The Oak Ridge inverter achieves much higher power density with a significant reduction in weight and volume.Using additive manufacturing, researchers optimized the inverter’s heat sink, allowing for better heat transfer throughout the unit. This construction technique allowed them to place lower-temperature components close to the high-temperature devices, further reducing the electrical losses and reducing the volume and mass of the package.The research group’s first prototype, a liquid-cooled all-silicon carbide traction drive inverter, features 50-percent-printed parts. Initial evaluations confirmed an efficiency of nearly 99 percent, surpassing DOE’s power electronics target and setting the stage for building an inverter using entirely additive manufacturing techniques.Building on the success of this prototype, researchers are working on an inverter with an even greater percentage of 3D-printed parts in commercially available vehicles. SourceAlso: See other Electronics tech briefs.

Posted in: News, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Automotive


'Solar Battery' Runs on Light and Air

Ohio State University researchers report that they have succeeded in combining a battery and a solar cell into one hybrid device.Key to the innovation is a mesh solar panel, which allows air to enter the battery, and a special process for transferring electrons between the solar panel and the battery electrode. Inside the device, light and oxygen enable different parts of the chemical reactions that charge the battery.The university will license the solar battery to industry, where Yiying Wu, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State, says it will help tame the costs of renewable energy.“The state of the art is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a cheap battery to store the energy,” Wu said. “We’ve integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost.”During charging, light hits the mesh solar panel and creates electrons. Inside the battery, electrons are involved in the chemical decomposition of lithium peroxide into lithium ions and oxygen. The oxygen is released into the air, and the lithium ions are stored in the battery as lithium metal after capturing the electrons.When the battery discharges, it chemically consumes oxygen from the air to re-form the lithium peroxide. An iodide additive in the electrolyte acts as a “shuttle” that carries electrons, and transports them between the battery electrode and the mesh solar panel. The use of the additive represents a distinct approach on improving the battery performance and efficiency, the team said. The invention eliminates the loss of electricity that normally occurs when electrons have to travel between a solar cell and an external battery.SourceAlso: Learn about Full-Cell Evaluation for New Battery Chemistries.

Posted in: News, Batteries, Electronic Components, Power Management, Energy Storage, Renewable Energy, Solar Power


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, Wireless, Board-Level Electronics, Electronic Components, Electronics, Detectors, Sensors