DARPA is funding research at the University of Wisconsin at Madison aiming to develop an energy-efficient, heat-resistant mechanical nanocomputer.
The scientists are essentially trying to create a mechanical version of today’s silicon computer chips that’s able to perform in extreme environments such as space, car engines, and battlefields. Instead of using transistors and other electrical components, a mechanical nanocomputer would rely on gates, pillars, levers, and pistons to perform calculations.
The mechanial parts mean that this computer is more rugged and can operate at much higher temperatures. It also uses less energy, mainly due to the fact that it doesn’t need a power-hungry cooling system as it produces very little heat unlike its electrical counterpart.
Although mechanical computer designs have been around for a while, this is the first attempt to squeeze such a computer into a tiny package. Imagine itty bitty parts moving inside of your cell phone when it needs to calculate something. Although this new tech probably won’t be used in our gadgets, it could prove to be very valuable in demanding space and military applications.
Tags: chip, darpa, efficient, mechanical nanocomputer, space, university of wisconsin
Researchers at GE have found a way to print OLEDs (Organic Light-Emitting Diodes) “roll-to-roll,” much like printing newspapers. The breakthrough, coming as a result of four years of work, will allow manufacturers to create OLEDs at a fraction of the cost.
OLED technology is behind the flexible and e-ink displays popping up daily now, but price has always been a barrier. Now, with some tuning and polishing, the researchers hope they’ll have a working “printing press” set up to manufacture OLEDs at a much cheaper price.
OLEDs are much more energy efficient than traditional lights or displays. As soon as the printing method is perfected, we will see OLED displays quickly taking over current technologies. Just one of the benefits of OLEDs is better battery life for our gadgets, meaning less frequent recharging.
There is now just one major hurdle to jump – improving the lifetime of OLEDs. Since they are made of organic materials, they are very sensitive to outside elements, especially water. As soon as scientists figure out a way to overcome that, expect to see OLEDs everywhere.
Tags: display, e-ink, efficient, green, oled
Researchers in Ireland have developed new micro LEDs which can emit light for a long, long time from a single charge. We’re talking almost a human lifetime here.
Granted, the micro LEDs are much smaller than conventional ones at only 15 microns across (compared to 300 microns), but they could be combined in arrays to compete with ordinary LEDs. Because they are so small, the micro LEDs require only a few billionths of an amp to operate. One of the researchers came up with the 80 year figure by using the amount of power stored in a coin-size battery.
These micro LEDs are also more efficient at turning the power put into them into light, meaning that they produce less heat.
The current plan is to market the device as an alternative to lasers. Some commercial applications are also possible such as inserting the micro LEDs into shoes or tickets to prevent counterfeiting.
It looks like LEDs will be providing our light in the future, and this is yet another step in that direction. Hopefully we’ll see some interesting creations putting these miniature lights to use.
Tags: efficient, led, micro led
Polymer solar cells that are used today to convert sunlight to electricity degrade over time because of ultraviolet light. Scientists at UCLA have found a solution to that problem.
They suggested coating solar cells with a material that converts photons of ultraviolet light into ones of visible light. Such a material would increase the efficiency of the solar cells and reduce damage to them from sunlight, making them last longer.
The material could be made of a liquid, a gel, nanoparticles, or a solid, the researchers claim. They have already performed some experiments which have confirmed their ideas. A patent has, of course, already been filed.
This is another great step toward renewable energy. With innovations like this we can finally start lowering our dependence on fossil fuels and switch to better sources of energy.
Tags: efficient, electricity, energy, patent, solar cell
Honda has unveiled their new heat-harnessing hybrid drive, which, as you may have guessed, is 3.8% more efficient due to the harnessing of heat through a Rankine cycle engine. Exhaust from the car is used to heat water internally, creating steam. The steam is then used to the power an electric generator, which powers the car at low speeds in addition to charging the car battery.
However, Honda has decided to push for more efficiency before using the system in production vehicles. This doesn’t really represent a major advancement in car technology, as the actual system has been around for a while and certainly wasn’t invented by Honda. It is, rather, a major step in the right direction. If all cars used highly efficient engines based around a similar cycle, we’d be spending significantly less money on fuel.
Keep up the good work Honda! It’s great to see a major company making advancements in this area and driving the efficiency standard upwards.
Tags: efficient, engine, green, honda, hybrid electric vehicles
Humans testing hazardous chemicals on live animals could soon turn into robots testing hazardous chemicals on laboratory-grown cells. The advantages of using robots for the tests involve greatly increasing the number of tests that can be performed daily, in addition to greatly lowering the costs because of the exclusion of animal subjects.
Identifying toxic chemicals has classically been a tedious process. Animals are injected or exposed to the chemical, scientists wait, and if the animals get sick or some harm can be identified via microscope then the chemical is deemed unsafe for humans. The method has worked decently well in the past, although it is not always great at identifying if a chemical will be harmful to humans and not lab animals.
The new robot method would allow over 10,000 chemical tests to be performed daily, as opposed to the 10-100 yearly we get now. And, we get to save all of those innocent bunnies!
Tags: efficient, robot
Blu-ray lasers have just gotten smaller and far more efficient, now able to burn Blu-ray content at a much faster 6x write speed.
This is a great improvement for Blu-ray in portable devices and could lead to thinner laptops where the laser won’t be the limiting factor in size.
We can’t wait until these new revisions are in laptops, and better yet, until the technology gets smaller and more efficient once again and we can burn at 12x or even higher.
Maybe some day the MacBook Air will be able to squeeze one of these in.
Tags: blu-ray, efficient, laptop, portable
Texas Instruments has designed a proof-of-concept chip that uses a tenth of the power of modern-day chips. This is a huge innovation that could lead to far better battery life for anything that uses a chip and is powered by batteries including phones, medical devices, and sensors.
The jump in efficiency was attained by reducing the amount of energy flowing round the chip from 1.0 volts to 0.3. There is also a built-in DC-to-DC converter to greatly reduce power consumption without needing an external unit. Enough of the tech jabber and back to real life.
The chip uses so little energy that it can be completely powered by ambient heat sources, such as the body heat of a human. How awesome is that? We would love to see more advancements in this direction so we can ditch our chargers and power all of our gadgetry with body heat.
Tags: battery life, body heat, chip, efficient, energy, texas instruments