A New Way to Tune Electronic Energy Levels

March 21, 2017

This new technology could pave the way to a new possibility of tuning electronic energy levels in two-dimensional films comprised of crystal, being the latest discovery made by MIT researchers. It could lead to the development of “valleytronic” devices, harnessing the way electrons gather around two equal energy states, which are known as “valleys”.

However, there are several warnings sent by the engineers with regard to the fact that the limits are reached for the conventional electronic transistors, as these are getting smaller day by day. As a result of this matter, the researchers conducted several investigations in order to learn more about the utility of a property of electrons known as spin, helping at the process of storage and manipulation of data. The above-mentioned technologies are known as “spintronics”.

The limits of the research are represented by the impossibility to control the electrons located in the two valleys, although, luckily, a group of MIT researchers discovered a new way to control the electrons in both valleys in an independent manner. In their latest experiment, it was discovered that by tuning the laser frequency to even further below resonance, along with increasing the intensity, the energy levels of both valleys could be shifted, revealing a very rare physical phenomenon. This can also be achieved by applying a magnetic field, but even very powerful laboratory magnets having a strength of 10 Tesla will only be capable of shifting the valley energy level by around 2 millielectronvolts.

Eventually, the discovery may allow for the enhanced control over valleytronic properties in two-dimensional materials, giving more freedom in tuning the electronic valleys.

Sources:

  1. https://scitechdaily.com/scientists-discover-a-new-way-to-tune-electronic-energy-levels/
  2. https://phys.org/news/2017-03-tune-electronic-energy-valleytronic-devices.html
  3. http://news.mit.edu/2017/toward-valleytronic-devices-data-storage-computer-logic-systems-0309
  4. http://www.phys.org

World’s First Synthetic Chromosome Created

March 20, 2017

A team of researchers from Tianjin University has created two synthetic yeast chromosomes, synV and synX. The results of the research were a part of an international collaboration which released a total of five synthetic chromosomes, have been published in two papers of the Science magazine.

In order to be able to construct the eukaryotic synthetic chromosome, the research team had to overcome significant obstacles. Among these were mutations distributed in a random manner, along with other unpredictable events that were corrected and performed in a similar manner.

This synthetic chromosome is comprised of 272, 871 base pairs, the chemical units that make up the DNA code. To begin the synthesizing process of a yeast chromosome, the team of researchers must plan thousands of changes, some of which will empower them to move around pieces of chromosomes in a fast, high-powered evolution. Some other changes may involve the removal of stretches of DNA code, found to have an unlikely functional role in the process.

Replacing six of the 16 native chromosomes with the synthetic ones did not affect the growth of the yeast, according to the researchers. The process of building chromosomes from scratch will enable scientists to understand the extent to which the genomic organization affects the biology of a cell.

This is an important step in understanding the mechanisms of eukaryotic genomes, along with their design principles, as the synthetic yeast, according to the experts, should have a more stable genome, have the capacity for incorporation of non-standard amino acids, and an approach to remove non-essential genes simultaneously, and select the desired phenotypes.

            The new chromosomes could help answer important science questions, such as gathering knowledge about the purpose of portions of DNA that do not code for genes, as well as for the production of antibodies capable to fight cancer.

Restoring the Freedom of Movement through Brain Implants

March 17, 2017

Grégorie Courtine PhD., is a French neuroscientist and Professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), that made a breakthrough discovery related to the reverse process of paralysis. The achievement is listed as one of the most important discoveries of 2017 in the field of technology and innovation.

The experiment was made on a monkey hunching on a treadmill. Courtine’s team used a blade in order to slice halfway through the spinal cord of the animal, paralyzing its right leg. The scientist wanted to do his best to make the monkey walk again, and along with his team, he installed a recording device beneath the monkey’s skull, in order to connect to the motor cortex, and sutured a pad of flexible electrodes around the animal’s spinal cord, just below the injury. The two devices were joined through wireless technology.

The result of the experiment was a system capable of reading the monkey’s intention to move, transmitting it immediately in the form of bursts of electrical stimulation to the spine. The monkey started walking following the outside stimuli.

This invention can bring a great change in the medical technology, as if it is to be implemented on people, may revolutionize the mechanisms available for cases of paralysis.

Sources:

  1. https://people.epfl.ch/gregoire.courtine/bio?lang=en&cvlang=en
  2. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603492/10-breakthrough-technologies-2017-reversing-paralysis/
  3. http://otd.harvard.edu/explore-innovation/technologies/enhancers-of-synaptic-connectivity-for-treatment-of-neurological-disorders/
  4. http://edition.cnn.com/2016/11/09/health/paralyzed-monkeys-walking-brain-implant/

Paying with Your Face

March 17, 2017

This innovative technology traces from the application named Face ++, making it possible for people to transfer money through Alipay, which is a mobile payment app, currently used by over 120 million people in China. It seems that the technology has a great potential of fighting crimes all around the world, as the local governments are able to use the software in order to identify suspected criminals in video from the surveillance cameras.

Even though facial recognition has existed for decades, now the available technology has made it accurate enough to be used in financial transactions. The versions that were released recently use deep learning, which is an artificial-intelligence technique that proved to be effective in the process of image recognition, due to the fact that it is faster than a regular computer or a camera that might be attached to it.

Master Card is currently running a pilot project testing a new feature that allows online purchases to be authorized with a snapshot of the user’s face. There is also an application developed for this purpose.

This technology definitely represents a breakthrough in the field of international development and scientific achievement. Thanks to the facial recognition systems, the world can become a safer and more efficient place, capable of reaching unbelievable results in the blink of an eye.

Sources:

  1. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603494/10-breakthrough-technologies-2017-paying-with-your-face/
  2. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603494/10-breakthrough-technologies-2017-paying-with-your-face/
  3. http://northwesternbusinessreview.org/when-your-face-can-pay/
  4. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603494/10-breakthrough-technologies-2017-paying-with-your-face/

The 360̊ Selfie Camera

March 17, 2017

Koen Hufkens, an ecological researcher from Harvard, designed a system that is able to continuously broadcast images from a Massachusetts forest to a website named “VirtualForest.io”. Due to fact that he used a camera that creates 360̊ pictures, visitors can do more than actually watching the feed. Thanks to the new technology, they can use their mouse cursor – on a computer; or finger – on smartphones and tablets, to scroll up and down in order to see the forest along with its surroundings. With a virtual-reality headset, they can rotate the photo by moving their head, intensifying the illusion that they are located within the area of woods.

This innovation is available to the general public, at relatively low prices, and proved to be extremely popular among the journalists from the New York Times and Reuters, enabling them to produce spherical photos and footage that document anything, ranging from hurricane damages produced in Haiti, all the way to a refugee camp located in Gaza.

The camera proved very efficient in the field of medicine, enabling students to perform surgeries assisted by the device, at the same time following the instructions of the surgeon. It is also used in the sports field, as it enables coaches to accurately monitor the moves of the players.

As of today, the spherical cameras represent approximately 4% in the worldwide consumer area, knowing a significant boost compared to 2016, when the figure showed only 1%.

Among the brands that adopted this technology are: Kodak, Nikon, Samsung (Gear 360), and the well-known LG.

Sources:

  1. http://venturebeat.com/2016/09/20/allie-camera-lets-you-take-360-degree-selfies/
  2. https://www.cnet.com/news/360-degree-cameras-2016/
  3. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603496/10-breakthrough-technologies-2017-the-360-degree-selfie/

The Hot Solar Cells

March 17, 2017

A team of MIT scientists has recently built a different sort of solar energy device, that proves to be more efficient than the solar panels. This device successfully uses incentive engineering and advances in scientific materials, in order to capture as much as the sun’s energy as possible.

The trick behind the technology is to first turn sunlight into heat, converting it afterwards back into light. The main difference resides in the fact that the light is focused within the spectrum that solar cells are able to use. Even though researchers have been working for years now to develop solar thermophotovoltaics, this represents the first device to absorb more energy than the photovoltaic cell alone.

This approach has the power to trigger a dramatic increase in efficiency, acting like a light-funnel above the solar cells. The absorbing layer is built from solid black carbon nanotubes that are able to capture all the energy from the sunlight and convert most of it into heat.

In the instance when the temperatures reach 1000 ̊, the adjacent emitting layer will radiate the energy back in the form of light, mostly narrowed to bands that the photovoltaic cells are able to absorb. The emitter is made from a photonic crystal, being a structure designed at a nanoscale to control which wavelengths of light flow through it.

Due to the fact that heat is easier to store than electricity, the possibility to divert excess amounts generated by the device to a thermal storage system could eventually be used to produce electricity even in the absence of the sunlight. If this idea will be developed in the future, the possibility of using solar power at low costs is making a significant advancement to a near reality.

Sources:

  1. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603497/10-breakthrough-technologies-2017-hot-solar-cells/
  2. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v505/n7485/full/505589d.html
  3. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603497/10-breakthrough-technologies-2017-hot-solar-cells/

Self-Driving Trucks – A Traffic Improvement or A Danger to the Labor Market?

March 17, 2017

Many companies are testing the technology of self-driving trucks. Even though there are multiple concerns expressed around the issue, and many technical problems are still to be addressed, proponents claim that the self-driving trucks have a great chance of being safer and more cost-efficient.

It is important to understand that self-driving trucks are not the same as self-driving cars. Due to this aspect, the economic rationale of the self-driving trucks is much stronger. Nowadays, the autonomous trucks are able to coordinate their movements to platoon closely together over long distances, saving fuel and cutting down on wind drag. Another important improvement is represented by the saving of time, as the trucks are able to arrive sooner to their destinations that the ones manipulated by the people.

Moreover, Nvidia is currently partnering with PACCAR to create the innovative technology of the self-driving truck. They announced a collaboration wherein the two companies will work on the development of the self-driving truck system.

The truck is capable of SAE Level 4 autonomy, implying the capacity of self-driving, monitoring the environment and acting as its own fallback in certain driving modes. It is built using the Nvidia’s Drive PX 2, which is a computer built specifically for autonomy.

The rapidly growing market for self-driving technology has eventually attracted companies ranging from Alphabet Inc’s Waymo to Qualcomm.