A team of researchers at Brown University (USA) has concluded that graphene, a material touted to replace silicon in future semiconductor devices, disrupts functions of living cells. If the results of the study are confirmed by others, graphene could end up in the same hazardous material category as carbon nanotubes.
Graphene has many unique properties, but from a toxicology perspective the most important is that it is often made as a dry powder with the potential for inhalation exposure. Graphene fragments that make up the powder have sharp, pointy edges that can penetrate cell walls and allow the rest of the fragment to be drawn into the cell.
The researchers started with toxicity studies of graphene, which showed that it did in fact disrupt cell functions. To discover why, atomically detailed computer simulations of the graphene material interacting with a living cell were created. The simulations indicated the same results as the toxicity experiments. After the simulations follow-up studies were performed on human lung, skin, and immune cells in Petri dishes, and they confirmed that graphene fragments as large as 10 microns can pierce and be swallowed up by living cells. [via]
Graphene a Possible Health Hazard? - [Link]
A team at the University of Illinois has unveiled a battery design which offers 10 times the energy density and 1000 times faster recharge time compared to current cell technology according to a paper in the Journal Nature Communications.
The battery uses a LiMnO2 cathode and NiSn anode but the real innovation is in the novel electrode design. The electrodes are fabricated using a lattice of tiny polystyrene spheres which are coated with metal. The spheres are then dissolved to leave a 3D-metal scaffold onto which a nickel-tin alloy is added to form the anode, and the mineral manganese oxyhydroxide forms the cathode. In the last stage the glass surface is immersed into a liquid heated to 300˚C (572˚F). The resulting structure massively increases the electrode surface area and reduces the clearance between the electrodes. [via]
New Battery Technology Charges 1000 Times Faster - [Link]
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has discovered that pure crystalline carbon–graphene–sandwiched between two ferroelectric layers results in devices with built-in memory that operate in the terahertz range, potentially opening the door to next-generation applications: [via]
Terahertz Graphene Ferroelectrics Debut at MIT – [Link]
Inspired by trees scientists at the University of Maryland have developed a nanobattery that uses tin-coated wood fibers to store liquid electrolytes. Replacing the lithium found in many rechargeable batteries by sodium makes the battery environmentally benign. Sodium doesn’t store energy as efficiently as lithium, so you won’t see this battery in your cell phone – instead, its low cost and common materials would make it ideal to store huge amounts of energy at once, such as solar energy at a power plant.
Existing batteries are often created on stiff bases, which are too brittle to withstand the swelling and shrinking that happens as electrons are stored in and used up from the battery. The researchers found that wood fibers are supple enough to let their sodium-ion battery with an initial capacity of 339 mAh/g last more than 400 charging cycles. This puts it among the longest lasting nanobatteries. [via]
Rechargeable Wooden Battery - [Link]
New Si50x CMEMS® Oscillators Leap Ahead of Quartz-Based Timing Devices with Superior Frequency Stability, Reliability and Programmability
Silicon Labs has developed a new low-drift, single-die MEMS oscillator fabricated using a CMOS process. By porting low-temperature MEMS technology to the SMIC foundry, they managed to build a SiGe structure on top of the passivation layer of a CMOS logic chip using an existing CMOS production line. The drift problems of dual-die devices are eliminated by selecting specific materials to counteract thermal drift. The programmable oscillators operate at up to 100 MHz with frequency stability down to 20 ppm. Higher speed devices are planned, according to a Silicon Labs’ source.
CMOS MEMS (CMEMS) technology allows data sheet performance for frequency stability to be guaranteed for ten years, including solder shift, load pulling, supply voltage variation, operating temperature range, vibration and shock. This is ten times longer than typically offered by comparable crystal and MEMS oscillators. The oscillators tightly couple the MEMS resonator with CMOS temperature sensing and compensation circuitry, ensuring a highly stable frequency output despite thermal transients and over the full industrial temperature range. [via]
New MEMS Oscillators Boast Long-term Stability - [Link]
3D printing a battery itself is a remarkable achievement. A 3D printing a battery as small as a grain of sand is a giant hurdle forward in both, 3D printing and battery technologies. That is exactly what researchers working at University of Illinois and Harvard have done. To achieve this process the researchers had to create their own custom 3D printing technology. Although there are many types of materials 3D printers can use, most print objects using small liquid droplets, which build upon one another to create the object from the bottom up. For the researchers this process was not sufficient to achieve their goals. Therefore, they designed a 0.03mm nozzle, which releases the liquid materials continuously in a fashion, which is similar to toothpaste being squeezed from its tube. In addition, the researchers also invented a 3D printing material that is electrochemically active, which ultimately allowed the printed battery to store and release charges.
Micro-battery is 3D printed - [Link]
Grenoble, France and Cambridge, UK – 10th June 2013 – ISORG and Plastic Logic have co-developed the first conformable organic image sensor on plastic, with the potential to revolutionise weight/power trade-offs and optical design parameters for any systems with a digital imaging element. First mechanical samples will be publicly unveiled at LOPE-C 2013 (ISORG / CEA booth B0-509) from 12 to 13 June in Munich, Germany.
The collaboration is based on the deposition of organic printed photodetectors (OPD), pioneered by ISORG, onto a plastic organic thin-film transistor (OTFT) backplane, developed by the technology leader, Plastic Logic, to create a flexible sensor with a 4×4 cm active area, 375um pitch (175um pixel size with 200um spacing) and 94 x 95 = 8 930 pixel resolution.
The backplane design, production process and materials were optimised for the application by Plastic Logic to meet ISORG’s requirements. The result, a flexible, transmissive backplane, represents a significant breakthrough in the manufacture of new large area image sensors and demonstrates the potential use of Plastic Logic’s unique flexible transistor technology to also move beyond plastic displays. Combined with ISORG’s unique organic photodetector technology, it opens up the possibilities for a range of new applications, based around digital image sensing, including smart packaging and sensors for medical equipment and biomedical diagnostics, security and mobile commerce (user identification by fingerprint scanning), environmental, industrial, scanning surfaces and 3D interactive user interfaces for consumer electronics (printers, smartphones, tablets, etc.).
ISORG and Plastic Logic co-develop the world’s first image sensor on plastic - [Link]
Research on graphene-based sensors at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore has yielded a new type of image sensor able to detect light over a broad spectrum, from the visible to mid-infrared, with very high sensitivity. In addition to being 1,000 times more sensitive to light than current low-cost imaging sensors used in compact cameras, it also uses 10 times less energy because it operates at a lower voltage. [via]
Graphene Photosensor is 1000x More Sensitive - [Link]
On May 17, 1902, a Greek archeologist noticed precision gear wheels embedded in an ancient artifact of corroded bronze and wood. The device would come to be known as the Antikythera mechanism, the oldest known complex scientific instrument.
Discovered in 1900 on the wreck of an ancient Roman merchant vessel near the island of Antikythera, the 2000-year-old device was designed to calculate astronomical positions, predict eclipses, and calculate the timing of the ancient Olympics. It is now regarded as the world’s first mechanical computer.
Gears are discovered on the Antikythera mechanism, May 17, 1902 - [Link]
Here’s an amazing new DNA testing chip by Panasonic together with the Belgium-based research institution IMEC. It delivers DNA results within an hour:
This is the chip we’ve actually developed. As you can see, it’s less than half the size of a business card. It contains everything needed for testing DNA. Once a drop of blood is inserted, the chip completes the entire process, up to SNP detection.
New chip delivers DNA results within an hour - [Link]