Friday, June 10, 2005

Environmentally Friendly NiZn Batteries May Be Coming Soon

While working to create a new battery for an electric scooter, engineers working on an EUREKA project have found a way to make Nickel-Zinc batteries without the charging limit of easier models.

The new design uses a copper foam to protect the delicate zinc electrode which had restricted the batteries to as few as 20 recharge cycles. The new design can be recharged as many as a thousand times.

NiZn batteries have the advantage of low-cost and high power of NiCads but without the using the toxic heavy metal cadmium.

The group is looking for partners to help bring the technology to market.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

S.C. Researchers Develop Enviromental Double Punch: Pollution Eating Bacteria Generate Electricity

"The bacteria are capable of continuously generating electricity at levels that could be used to operate small electronic devices. As long as the bacteria are fed fuel they are able to produce electricity 24 hours a day," says Charles Milliken of the Medical University of South Carolina, who conducted the research with colleague Harold May.

"These bacteria are very diverse in their metabolic capabilities, including the food that they can consume. That means that these bacteria can convert a large number of different food sources into electricity," says Milliken. "The technology could be used to assist in the reclamation of wastewaters, thereby resulting in the removal of waste and generation of electricity."

NanoHorizons Introduces Breakthrough in Photocell Design

NanoHorizons' innovative photocell design will allow for the collection of more light by photocells allowing manufactures to cut costs and increase efficiency.

Current solar cells are a careful balance between absorption and collection. "Layered designs face an inherent paradox," explains co-inventor Dr. Ali Kaan Kalkan, "Thicker light-absorbing layers are needed to capture sufficient light energy, but their thickness makes it difficult for electrons to reach collection layers. Thinner layers reduce loss, but thin layers absorb too little light. What's been needed is a new approach that allows the light absorption path to be optimally long, while simultaneously moving efficient collection much closer to the source of energized electrons."

NanoHorizons' new design breaks the layered approach with columns of "nano-spikes" acting as collectors embedded through the absorption matrix. The spikes cut the distance between absorption and collection meaning that thicker cells can be built which absorb more light and convert more of it to energy. A comparative illustration of the technology is available on the NanoHorizons' website.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Ultra-HighSpeed Inkjets

Brother Industries has unveiled a new inkjet printer design capable of churning out 170 pages per minute. Using an array of fixed, single-color solid-state print heads, which the company is calling Line Heads, the printer applies ink across the sheet paper as it passes underneath.

Different page widths can be achieved by connecting the line heads in parallel. The technology is still a ways away as Brother is looking for a partner to help bring it to market. It is likely that the line head will first appear in products for high-end, high volume print runs.

via Engadget

Low Cost Self-Cleaning Destroys Pesticides and Related Agents On Contact

Researchers at the Naval Research Laboratory's Center for Bio/Molecular Science and Engineering (CBMSE) have invented a low-cost self-decontaminating ultra-thin materials coating that actively destroys pesticides and related chemical agents on contact. Better yet it does while leaving no hazardous residue making it ideal for protective clothing in hazardous environments.

The coating is an ultra-thin layer 500nm thick, which is applied to the threads before weaving, guaranteeing complete coverage. The coating contains enzymes which actively degrade the targeted agents. Different enzyme can be utilized to create a variety of coatings optimized for different uses. The NRL researchers have successfully tested the coating on cotton fabric and glass cloth using pesticides, including the nerve agent simulant methyl parathion.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Open Source Reality

Two researchers from opposite sides of the world have embarked on a project which they hope may change production, economics, and the very fabric of human society forever.

Find out more at my new blog:
Tomorrow Next.

Blue Brain Supercomputer Aims To Model Entire Brain

IBM's Blue Gene and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne have embarked on a project who's eventual goal is to create a functioning computer simulation of the entire human brain. Beginning with a simulation of a column of neurons in the neocortex of a rat brain, the team hopes to eventually expand to cover the whole brain, but they admit they don't yet have the computational power:

"The whole supercomputer is going to act as a single neocortical circuit...We won't have enough computing power in the next 10 years to simulate the whole brain," according to Henry Markram, director of the University's Brain and Mind Institute.

"The neocortical microcircuit is very similar from mouse to man," Markram said. "It's a project that could explain how the human cognitive process works. We'd be able to witness in detail how information is processed, how it is stored and retrieved. And it's going to save an immense amount of animal research."

The IBM Press Release provides more details.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

New Bio-Diesel Process Boosts Yields Dramatically

University of Wisconsin researchers have discovered a new process for making bio-diesel that contains 90% of the energy from the source material. It has the potential to create twice the energy as is created in using corn to make ethanol.

Ethanol production creates 1.1 units of energy for every unit of energy consumed. In the new process, 2.2 units of energy for every unit of energy consumed in energy production.


"The fuel we're making stores a considerable amount of hydrogen," says Professor James Dumesic who leads the team. "Each molecule of hydrogen is used to convert each carbon atom in the carbohydrate reactant to an alkane. It's a very high yield. We don't lose a lot of carbon. The carbon acts as an effective energy carrier for transportation vehicles. It's not unlike the way our own bodies use carbohydrates to store energy."

About 75 percent of the dry weight of herbaceous and woody biomass is comprised of carbohydrates. Because the UW-Madison process works with a range of carbohydrates, a wide range of plants, and more parts of the plant, can be consumed to make fuel.

According to the researchers, "The current delivered cost of biomass is comparable or even cheaper than petroleum-based feedstock on an energy basis."

STED Microscopy Breaks Optical Barrier

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen have created a new law explaining how STED microscopy overcomes the limit proposed by Ernst Abbe in 1873 which limited the resolving power of an optical microscopes based on the wavelength of the light used. The new law which describes the resolving power of the researchers STED technique which adds a square-root element allowing theoretically unlimited optical resolution in fluorescence microscopy.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Seduction of Mimicry

How logical are you? Are your views more influenced by those like you than those who are different? Researchers at Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab have been looking into the issue and the results may surprise you.

A computer generated agent was found to be more persuasive if it mimicked the movements of the subject even with just a 4 second delay. The subject rated the agent as more friendly, interesting, honest and persuasive. In fact using the technique resulted in as much as 20% of the variance in whether the subjects were persuaded by the agent who was pushing an Orwellian campus ID system.

An earlier experiment by the lab looking at the effect of morphing a subjects face with either of the two presidential candidates from last year's election found that doing so could swing support dramatically towards a particular candidate with a change seen from 8-12%.

But what does this research mean? With digital printing technology and a database of subscriber's faces, magazines and advertisers could create works which are far more persuasive. Videos playing in the windows of retail stores could be fine tuned to have the maximum psychological effect on the customer. Candidates could morph their visages towards the voter and their opponents away. Even without a phot database the manipulations could be done based on the age, gender and race of the target all of which is currently available in advertising databases.

If videoconferencing finally takes off, telemarketers could use the technique to get that extra edge.

As a defense, software could be created designed to sanitize images removing similarities or reapplying conveyed information to a neutral avatar.

Friday, May 27, 2005

DNA Microarray Printing Technique May Revolutionize Genetic Analysis

A novel nano-printing techniques which produces patterns of DNA dots as little as 200nm in diameter holds the potential for genetic assay devices costing less than $50 each.

The new technique called Supramolecular Nano-Stamping (SuNS) uses single strands of DNA on a surface to act as a master for the biding of complementary pairs. The duplicates can be used as masters as well, allowing the process to proceed exponentially while reproducing complex patterns.

In DNA microarrays as many as 500,000 tiny DNA dots are aligned in a known pattern allowing for the quick assessment of complementary pairs when exposed to a patient's DNA sample. This can be used to identify genetic abnormalities, cancer, and even the presence of specific pathogens.

Currently, microarrays cost in the neighborhood of $500 and require as many as 400 printing steps. According to the researchers, microarrays fabricated with the new process could be manufactured far more simply and for as little as $50.

The wide-scale implementation of such a technology would have massive imlpications both for the cost and quality of medical treatment. Despite modern medicines wonders, diagnosis of pathology remains primarily an art relying on the knowledge and training of the physician. A microarray system would allow for quick and precise diagnoses eliminating many of the costly and potentially deadly complications which ensue from diagnostic errors.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Japanese Researchers Banish Blinking

Don't you hate it? You've snapped picture after picture and someone in the group is always blinking. What do you do about it?

Well Masahide Kaneko and colleagues at the University of Electro-Communications near Tokyo have developed a novel technique that can reduce or eliminate the blinks altogether. By taking a series of 15 shots within half a second, the camera can then scan through the shots and find the ones where the fewest subjects are blinking.

Hopefully they or someone else will take it to the next level and simply merge portions of the shots from multiple frames to eliminate the blinks altogether.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Robotic Controllable Endoscope Available In Europe By The End Of The Year

Japanes company Olympus has developed a robotic endoscope system which it ready to begin marketing by the end of 2005. 26mm long the capsule is designed to be swallowed but is then capable of self-propulsion through the GI tract. Powered externally via magnetic induction, the capsule is capable of sustained duration inside the body.

The capsule can carry drug payloads for precise delivery and is also capable of extracting small amounts of body fluids for examination upon retrieval. Additionally, the capsule is capable of generating ultrasound from within the body allowing higher quality imaging than with existing ultrasound techniques.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Canadian Researchers Develop Ultra-Thin Camera Lens

Tigran Galstian and Vladimir Presnyakov of Laval University have developed a lens that is five times thinner than a piece of paper. Able to zoom in and out without using mechanical parts, the lens allows for movement of the focal point and can increase the clarity and detail of an enlarged picture.

According to the article:

The lens was created by adding a small amount of photosensitive material to a liquid crystal cell. When exposed to laser light, it forms a network of stable polymers varying in density according to the intensity of exposure.

"The network is like a spider web, with its center dense than its periphery," Galstian said. "When we apply a weak electrical current to it, the crystals in the center realign differently from those in the periphery and thus take on the shape and behavior of a lens."

The lens' focal point can be modified by changing the intensity and frequency of the electrical current.

"The reaction is very fast and doesn't involve any mobile parts or mechanical movements," Galstian said.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Revolutionary MEMS Valve Will Increase MPG

Microstaq has developed a revolutionary MEMS valve technology that has the capability of replacing a heavy, flashlight-sized valve used in vehicles with a tiny silicon-based valve the size of a button. The typical vehicle has as many as 50 valves which could be replaced by the invention. Microstaq plans to begin commercial production in two years.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Revolutionary Game Designer Wil Wright Spawns Another Groundbreaking Game

Next year, Wil Wright's newest creation Spore will be unleashed to the public. Called by some "Sim Everything", the game takes players from working on single-cell organisms to evolving intelligent life, civilizations and galactic colonization. The creatures in the game aren't pre-canned. According to Wright, "the player can create any creature, and then we figure out how it would walk and move and behave."

The advent of procedural design on this level opens the door for the creation of whole new worlds. Using such an approaches, a game could allow you to switch from a strategic god-game view to become a individual soldier in a FPS or an adventurer questing for glory. The game would fill in the details or extrapolate the big picture as needed.

As hardware such as the PS3 becomes more standard, we will no longer worry so much about the realism of games and more about their design and flexibility.

LifeStraw Offers Clean Water to Thirsty World

Designed to filter enough water to meet the annual needs of an individual, LifeStraw offers a low-cost, portable and intuitive system for the developing world. 25cm in length, the LifeStraw uses a number of filters and iodine to filter the water and kill bacteria to a standard which surpasses that of tap water even in some developed countries.

The LifeStraw is currently in field tests, and the group hopes to make it commercially available soon throughout the developing world. It could also find use in developed countries for campers and others who need to get there drinking water from unprocessed sources.

World's First Commercial Wave Farm To Be Built Off Of Portugal

In 2006 Enersis SPGS power company will deploy 3 Pelamis P-750 wave power generators developed by Ocean Power Delivery of Scotland capable of generating 2.25 megawatts of electricity enough to power 1,500 homes. The power plant will be moored 5km offshore and connected via an undersea power cable. If the initial phase is successful the company will order 30 more generators by the end of 2006.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Turbocharger For Your Heart

No, it's not Cupid's dream system. The device, called a C-Pulse, is designed to reinforce the pumping action of a damaged heart. By squeezing the aorta around 20ms after each beat the device helps to propel the blood around the body with greater force. It has been implanted in a New Zealand man and will be implanted in five other patients as part of a pilot study to test the system. If successful, the C-Pulse could aid millions of patients world-wide suffering from moderate heart failure.

Update:
The always excellent New Scientist, provides a more detailed overview of the device.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

WEP Encryption Cracked In 3 Minutes

At the recent ISSA meeting in LA, a team of FBI agents demonstrated the ability to break a 128-bit WEP key in about 3 minutes. The attack used a suite of publicly available software tools running on standard hardware.

The team used a couple of methods. One was an active attack using the deauth command to knock the wireless user off of the access point and then record the reconnection. This method would be easily detectable as the user is alerted to being disconnected and reconnected to the AP. The other method is a reply attack where captured traffic is replayed to the Access Point causing the traffic to be repeated.

This should serve as a wakeup call to be careful about what you do on any shared wireless networks. You should assume that Wireless connection is unsecured, and use appropriate caution. Use multiple levels of encryption such as SSL or a VPN in addition to that used by the WiFi network. If possible, upgrade from WEP to WPA as it provides better security. Run local system firewalls to keep out any intruders. Keep up to date on security patches and firmware upgrades.

Kudzu Dampens Drinking

In an almost surreal turn of events a research study has concluded that Kudzu can reduce the frequency and quantity of imbibement in humans. Supposedly this has been known to Chinese herbalists and had been observed in mice, but this is the first time the effect has been documented by a scientific experiment. Of course, at 14 subjects the study doesn't have enough scale to be definitive.

We've miscalculated once what effect Kudzu would have our land, I shudder to think what could go wrong with this new direction.