Yonggang Huang who together with Professor John Rogers led the project explained “We designed this device to monitor human health 24/7, but without interfering with a person’s daily activity, what’s important about this device is it is wirelessly powered and can send high quality data about the human body to a computer, in real time”. In a side by side comparison with conventional EKG and EEG monitor skin probes they found the wireless patch performed equally well but was significantly more comfortable and less invasive for patients. In addition to monitoring health and fitness data the sensors could also prove useful in identifying body movements characteristic of the early stages of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s.
“The application of stretchable electronics to medicine has a lot of potential,” Huang said. “If we can continuously monitor our health with a comfortable, small device that attaches to our skin, it could be possible to catch health conditions before experiencing pain, discomfort and illness.”
Photo by John A. Rogers
Smart Band-Aid Wirelessly Monitors Health - [Link]
The electrolyte is also modified with bio-organic nanodots made from peptide molecules. The new battery technology came about as a result of crossover research into Alzheimer’s disease at Tel Aviv University. The work identified organic peptides (amino acids) which are now being used in StoreDot’s bio-organic battery. The nanodots are made from a range of naturally occurring environmentally-friendly bio-organic raw materials and employ a basic biological mechanism of self-assembly, making them cheap to manufacture.
A conventional micro USB connector would not be able to handle the 180 A necessary for a 30 second recharge of a typical cell phone battery. These sort of charge times would remove a significant hurdle in the development of electric vehicles if the technology is transferable. The design is still at its prototype phase; the developers anticipate the final design of the battery and its charger unit will see a significant reduction in size.
Bio-Battery Recharges in 30 Seconds - [Link]
Researchers at Caltech have developed a novel device which uses an integrated optical phased array (OPA) structure to project images electronically, using a single laser diode as the light source with no mechanical moving parts or lenses. From the description it seems to operate in much the same way that phased-array radars steer a radar beam by adjusting the signal phase to each antenna element in the array.
The Caltech device works at optical wavelengths, the lead researcher Ali Hajimiri and his colleagues found out they did not need traditional optics to bend light but could achieve the same result by altering the coherence of light. When two light waves are in phase in the direction of propagation they combine to give twice the amplitude and four times the energy. By changing the relative wave timing they were able to change the direction of the beam.
“Because the direction of the light beam is controlled electronically and not mechanically, it can create a sort of line very quickly,” said Hajimiri. “Since the light draws many times per second, the eye sees the process as a single image instead of a moving light beam.” Researchers said that “In the future, this can be incorporated into a cell phone. Since there is no need for a lens, you can have a phone that acts as a projector all by itself.”
New Solid-State Projector Device - [Link]
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]