Startup company Aquion Energy gave MIT Technology Review a behind-the-scenes look at their battery manufacturing process. The company’s goal is to make non-toxic, cheap batteries for storing off-grid energy. The batteries will first be sold in regions that don’t have access to an electrical grid, such as rural areas and villages in poor countries.
How to Make a Cheap Battery for Storing Solar Power - [Link]
Google have unveiled an example of smart, wearable technology that could in future prove a life-saver for diabetes sufferers. They have succeeded in integrating a tiny glucose sensor and associated circuitry into a soft plastic contact lens.
With the incidents of diabetes growing in the population it is becoming a major problem for health authorities worldwide. To get a reliable blood-glucose reading today’s diabetics regularly suffer the inconvenience of testing a pin prick of blood in a hand-held glucose monitoring unit. The contact lens sensor in development by Google is powered in much the same way as an RFID tag which uses energy induced in a pickup coil from a close-proximity transmitter to send out its ID information. The Google lens sensor has hair-thin aerial elements around the circumference of the lens which pick up a signal produced, presumably from spectacle frames or Google Glass headwear. The signal is sent at one second intervals and is sufficient to power the glucose sensor and return its measurement taken from the tear solution which bathes the eye. [via]
A Contactless Contact Lens - [Link]
Texas Instruments is one of the most dominant technology companies ever. Behind Intel and Samsung, it is the world’s third largest producer of semiconductors. In addition, they are the largest manufacturer of digital signal processors and analog semiconductors. Young students may just know of TI as producers of their world famous graphing calculators. However, for the older, more experienced students, they quickly learn TI has technology that can be found everywhere. In fact, many of the ICs used for basic electronics are all created by TI.
There is also one additional area TI’s technology excels at. That would be in energy efficient electronics. One of the more popular devices is the MSP 430 microcontroller family. These MCUs allow developers to create embedded applications, which can manage power extremely efficient. The CPU can work with speeds up to 25 MHz or can be lowered to save power in applications. More importantly, the MCU has a low power idle mode. When working in this mode the CPU will draw as little as 1 micro-Amp of current. Along with the low power capabilities, this MCU can also work with all the usual embedded electronics communication protocols and peripherals.
Texas Instruments releases new battery saving technology – MaxLife - [Link]
At the CES 2014 held in Las Vegas Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich’s introduced a PC built into an SD card-sized casing called the Edison. It uses Intel’s Quark chip which was launched last year and is seen as Intel’s answer to the rapidly emerging wearable and ‘Internet of Things’ market.
The Quark is a 22nm low-power dual-core x86 processor that Intel also use in their Galileo (Arduino compatible) development board which they introduced last year. In the Edison this processor chip is combined with some LPDDR2 and Flash memory. Connectivity is catered for by the built-in Bluetooth 4.0 Smart and Wi-Fi capability. The Edison’s SD card format is also used by the Anglo-American startup Electric Imp, which has been offering an SD card-sized, ARM based device for almost a year. The Imp is available as a slot-in SD card or solder-on form but lacks Bluetooth Smart for device-to-device connectivity. It uses its Wi-Fi capability to connect code running on the card to web or app-based user interfaces using the company’s Imp cloud servers. [via]
Honey, I Shrunk the PC - [Link]
By Ashok Bindra,
Over the years, demand for efficient, light, fast-charging, safe, and cost-effective portable power has led to development of many new battery technologies, including nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), rechargeable alkaline, lithium-ion (Li-ion), and lithium-polymer (Li-poly), to name a few. Generally speaking, these new battery chemistries require more sophisticated charging and protection circuitry to maximize performance and ensure safety. Fortunately, equally advanced semiconductor devices to charge and protect them have also been developed.
This article explores the virtues and limitations of the newer battery technologies. It also investigates and reports on new charging solutions for Li-ion batteries from semiconductor suppliers like Maxim Integrated, Linear Technology, and Texas Instruments.
New Battery Charging Solutions for Li-ion Cells - [Link]
Wouldn’t it be ideal if you could just press ‘print’ to produce a printed circuit board? In a paper titled ‘Instant Inkjet Circuits: Lab-Based Inkjet Printing To Support Rapid Prototyping Of Ubicomp Devices’ researchers Yoshihiro Kawahara of the University of Tokyo, Steve Hodges of Microsoft Research and Benjamin Cook, Cheng Zhang and Gregory Abowd of the Georgia Institute of Technology have detailed exactly how it can be done using commercially available products. To start off with take a standard inkjet printer, fill its cartridge with silver nanoparticle ink and using a normal PCB layout program, print the PCB layout onto resin coated paper, PET film, photo paper or just plain paper. Once deposited the traces undergo a chemical sintering process as the pattern dries and they become conductive.
Instant Inkjet Circuits - [Link]
Researchers Steve Dunn at Queen Mary University and James Durrant at Imperial College London have been experimenting with a new design of thin, flexible solar cell made from zinc oxide. Manufacturing costs of the new cells will be significantly lower than conventional silicon based technology. The only disadvantage is their poor efficiency; just 1.2 %, a fraction of that achievable with silicon.
The material also exhibits piezo-electric properties, nanoscale rods of the material generate electricity when they are subjected to mechanical stresses produced by sound wave pressure. Sound levels as low as 75dB, equivalent to that from an office printer, were shown to improve efficiency. Durrant said “The key for us was that certain frequencies increased the solar cell output, we tried our initial tests with various types of music including pop, rock and classical”. Rock and pop were found to be the most effective. Using a signal generator to produce sounds similar to ambient noise they saw a 50 % increase in efficiency, rising from 1.2 % without sound to 1.8 % with sound.
New Solar Cell Shows a Preference for AC/DC - [Link]
Ben writes -
I have finally been successful in creating a conductive, clear layer of indium-tin oxide on a microscope slide. In this video, I show the process and explain how sputtering works.
Intro to sputtering (process to create clear, conductive coatings) - [Link]
In 2011 Prof. Harald Haas (pictured) of the University of Edinburgh demonstrated streaming a hi-def video signal using a light beam as a transmission medium. He went on to explain how this technology might be used to address the growing paucity of free RF bandwidth and suggested that domestic LED lamps may in future provide an internet access point, once the necessary control electronics to modulate the light are integrated into the lamp.
The key to this technique (dubbed LiFi) is a modified type of Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing called SIM OFDM. This splits the serial data stream into thousands of parallel streams, using multiple carrier frequencies to modulate the light source and achieve a high throughput. [via]
LiFi Ready to Go - [Link]
Here is a complete teardown of Samsung Galaxy Note 3. by TechInsights:
In 2011 Samsung defined a new category with its 5.3″ diagonal Galaxy Note phone. The original Note was so large it was considered by many as a phone that aspired to be a tablet, hence the term “phablet” was coined. The Galaxy Note’s monstrous screen was so out of place in the phone marketplace that the competition didn’t event mount a comparable rebuttal for nearly 12 months. Now nearly every manufacturer offers a five-inch plus device. But they all still struggle to unseat the category leader.
With the third iteration of the Galaxy Note, Samsung has refused to add kitschy features. Rather it has focused on improving the human interaction elements in using this device as an all-in-one communications device. First off the “S-Pen” continues to be linked into more of the embedded Samsung software and features, while the new Galaxy Watch (teardown coming shortly) promises further improvements to the ways the user interacts with the device’s proven functionality.
Teardown: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 still the category leader - [Link]