First Solid-State Multi-Ion Sensor for Internet-of-Things Applications By Imec & Holst Centre

At last week’s IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) in San Francisco (USA), imec, the world-leading research and innovation hub in nano-electronics and digital technology and Holst Centre debuted a miniaturized sensor that simultaneously determines pH and chloride (Cl-)levels in fluid. This innovation is a must have for accurate long-term measurement of ion concentrations in applications such as environmental monitoring, precision agriculture and diagnostics for personalized healthcare. The sensor is an industry first and thanks to the SoC (system on chip) integration it enables massive and cost-effective deployments in Internet-of-Things (IoT) settings. Its innovative electrode design results in a similar or better performance compared to today’s standard equipment for measuring single ion concentrations and allows for additional ion tests.

Sensors based on ion-selective membranes are considered the gold standard to measure ion concentrations in many applications, such as water quality, agriculture, and analytical chemistry. They consist of two electrodes, the ion-sensitive electrode with the membrane (ISE) and a reference electrode (RE). When these electrodes are immersed in a fluid, a potential is generated that scales with the logarithm of the ion activity in the fluid, forming a measure for the concentration. However, the precision of the sensor depends on the long-term stability of the miniaturized RE, a challenge that has now been overcome.

“The common issue with such designs is the leaching of ions from the internal electrolyte, causing the sensor to drift over time,” stated Marcel Zevenbergen, senior researcher at imec/Holst Centre. “To suppress such leaching, we designed and fabricated an RE with a microfluidic channel as junction and combined it with solid-state iridium oxide (IrOx) and silver chloride (AgCl) electrodes fabricated on a silicon substrate, respectively as indicating electrodes for pH and Cl-. Our tests demonstrated this to be a long-term stable solution with the sensor showing a sensitivity, accuracy and response time that are equal or better than existing solutions, while at the same time being much smaller and potentially less expensive.”

“We are providing groundbreaking sensing and analytics solutions for the IoT,” stated John Baekelmans, Managing Director of imec in The Netherlands. “This new multi-ion sensor is one in a series that Holst Centre is currently developing with its partners to form the senses of the IoT. For each sensor, the aim is to leapfrog the current performance of the state-of-the-art sensors in a mass-producible, wireless, energy optimized and miniaturized package.”

Source: imec

Making An Arduino I2C Digital Clock

Using Adafruit’s 0.56″ 7-segment LED backpack and display and the DS1307 RTC (Real Time Clock) board, this tutorial will guide you to make a simple 4-digit clock that uses only 2 Arduino pins.

The 7-Segment Backpack is a combination of the LED display, header pins, and a PCB which need to be soldered together. The PCB contains a driver chip with a built in clock that multiplexes the display and constant-current drivers for ultra-bright consistent color.

This module uses I2C interface, which means it needs just two data pins to control the 4 digits instead of 14 pin, freeing up Arduino pins for other usages.

DS1307 is a battery-backed real time clock (RTC) that allows a microcontroller project to keep track of time even if it is reprogrammed, or if the power is lost. DS1307 breakout board also comes as a kit of parts to be soldered.

Building the digital clock

It is a simple process, connect the part as shown in the image, the red wire connected with 5V, black wire with GND, orange to A4 (SDA – data), yellow to A5 (SCL – clock).

Both RTC and 7-segment modules have an Arduino library, as normal with libraries, unzip the folders into your Arduino ‘libraries’ directory and then restart the Arduino IDE for it to pick them up.

Paste the following sketch into a new Arduino window and upload it to your board. It will set the RTC to the time at which the sketch was compiled and uploaded. So, if your computer picks up its time from the Internet, that will be pretty accurate.

#include <Wire.h>
#include "Adafruit_LEDBackpack.h"
#include "Adafruit_GFX.h"
#include "RTClib.h"

RTC_DS1307 RTC;

Adafruit_7segment disp = Adafruit_7segment();

void setup()
{
 Wire.begin();
 RTC.begin();
 if (! RTC.isrunning())
 {
   RTC.adjust(DateTime(__DATE__, __TIME__));
 }
 disp.begin(0x70);
}

void loop()
{
 disp.print(getDecimalTime());
 disp.drawColon(true);
 disp.writeDisplay();
 delay(500);
 disp.drawColon(false);
 disp.writeDisplay();
 delay(500);
}

int getDecimalTime()
{
 DateTime now = RTC.now();
 int decimalTime = now.hour() * 100 + now.minute();
 return decimalTime;
}

The full documentation of the project is reachable here.

Tibbo Technology Announces TIDE Release 5.03.03 that features TiOS Simulator

New Tibbo IDE (TIDE) release 5.03.03 includes a Tibbo OS (TiOS) Simulator. The Simulator implements a virtual TiOS device incorporating virtual Ethernet interface, virtual EEPROM, virtual flash memory, virtual MD button, buzzer, and status LEDs, as well as virtual LCD and keypad.

The Simulator makes it possible to test-drive TIDE and TiOS, as well as run and debug Tibbo BASIC and C applications, without having to commit to a purchase of a physical Tibbo device.

The Simulator can be found here: WINDOWS START > Tibbo > Tibbo IDE > TiOS Simulator. You can also start TiOS Simulator from within TIDE: Debug > Start TiOS Simulator.

Once the Simulator is running, it appears in the Device Explorer as any other TiOS device would. To write an app for the Simulator, select the SIMULATOR platform and set the Simulator as the debug target.

TIDE 5.03.03 is distributed with a number of test projects written specifically for TiOS Simulator. You can find them here: (My) Documents\TIDE\Samples.

Tibbo Technology Announces TIDE Release 5.03.03 that features TiOS Simulator – [Link]

3-axis magnetic sensor claims highest sensitivity

Graham Prophet discuss about a new 3 axis magnetic sensor @ edn-europe.com:

Memsic (Andover, Massachusetts) has added the MMC5883MA 3 axis magnetic sensor. The newest member of MEMSIC’s Anisotropic Magneto Resistive (AMR) based Magnetic Sensor family, it provides the industry’s highest accuracy, lowest noise and lowest power consumption, all combined in an industry standard small LGA package, and addresses demands of industrial and drone applications.

New Thermoelectric Paint To Convert Heat Into Electricity

Scientists at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a thermoelectric coating that can be directly painted onto any surface to turn it into thermal generator. This new technique can be used to convert waste heat into electricity from objects of almost any shape.

The team created an inorganic thermoelectric paint that possesses liquid-like properties using Bi2Te3 (bismuth telluride) and Sb2Te3 (antimony telluride) particles. These newly developed materials are both shape-engineerable and geometrically compatible so they can be directly brush-painted on almost any surface.

To test the new materials results, the researchers painted alternate p-type and n-type layers of the thermoelectric semiconductor paint on a metal dome, which generates about 4 mW output power per square centimeter.

Compared with some flexible thermoelectric generators, such as KAIST’s wearable device and Northwestern University’s thermoelectric material, the generated power of UNIST materials is just 10% of others, but the most important advantage is that it can be applied on any surface with just a paintbrush.

“By developing integral thermoelectric modules through painting process, we have overcome limitations of flat thermoelectric modules and are able to collect heat energy more efficiently.” said Professor Son of UNIST. “Thermoelectric generation systems can be developed as whatever types user want and cost from manufacturing systems can also be greatly reduced by conserving materials and simplifying processes.”

The UNIST researchers aim to see their invention as a renewable energy source, which will be possible to convert heat and cold to electricity by simply painting the external surfaces of buildings, on roofs, and on the exterior of cars, and open the way to many other materials and devices easily transferred to many other voltage-generation applications.

Comparison of power generation between the conventional planar-structured TE generator and the painted TE generator on a curved heat source.

“Our thermoelectric material can be applied any heat source regardless of its shape, type and size.” said Professor Son. “It will place itself as a new type of new and renewable energy generating system.”

To know more about the results and other information of this research, read its paper in the journal Nature Communications.

Sources: New Atlas, UNIST

3 MilliWatt-Consumption Data Glasses

Data glasses display information to the eye without interfering with the wearer‘s vision but they run energy down very quickly due to the consumption of electronics while processing video images and data. Researchers at  Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP had developed a new data glass that has low-power consumption. Received using a radio link, the glasses is able to display images to the wearer while his/her hands are free.

These glasses also goes bright even the power is somehow low thanks to the OLEDs embedded to a silicon semiconductor which controls the individual pixels. Plus, they have the ability to perceive light from the environment around not only emit it.

© Photo Fraunhofer FEP

Another reason to high power consumption in data glasses is loading the data stream, but FEP researchers have came up with a new way to reduce it by changing only objects that are changed and keep the constant ones,

“We now control the chip so that the entire video image is not constantly renewed, rather only that part of the display in which something changes.” – Project manager Philipp Wartenberg “For example, if an actor runs through a room in a movie, only his position changes, not the background. In applications such as a navigation system for cyclists, in which only arrows or metre information is displayed, it is unnecessary in any case to constantly renew the whole picture, to put it simply, we have now adapted the circuit so that it only lets through that portion of the data stream which changes.”

FEP data glasses requires an output of 2-3 milliWatts, a fraction of the output need for ordinary displays – around 200 milliWatts.

The new display was presented at the electronica trade fair in Munich on November 08-11, 2016 and its developers hope to see it used by athletes and private clients. You can read more about it at the press release.

These tiny batteries can be charged in seconds and last for a week

Battery anxiety is a modern day problem for many of us. Mobile phone and wearable technologies are getting developed rapidly, but battery issues seem to be neverending. As phones and wearables are getting thinner, there needs to be a trade-off between battery life and design. Scientists are searching for a way to make a battery that’s tiny yet capable of holding the charge for a long time. So, what’s the solution? Supercapacitor.

Flexible Laser Scribed Graphene Supercapacitor
Flexible Laser Scribed Graphene (LSG) Supercapacitor

Scientists have been researching on the use of nanomaterials to improve supercapacitors that could enhance or even replace batteries in electronic devices. But it’s not an easy task. Considering a typical supercapacitor, it must be a large one to store as much energy as a Li-ion battery holds.

To tackle the battery issue, a team of scientists at the University of Central Florida (UCF) has created a tiny supercapacitor battery applying newly discovered two-dimensional materials with only a few atoms thick layer. Surprisingly, the new process created at UCF yields a supercapacitor that doesn’t degrade even after it’s been recharged/discharged 30,000 times. Where a lithium-ion battery can be recharged less than 1,500 times without significant failure.

So, what else makes the supercapacitor special apart from their tiny size? Well, let’s hear it from Nitin Choudhary, a postdoctoral associate who conducted much of the research :

If they were to replace the batteries with these supercapacitors, you could charge your mobile phone in a few seconds and you wouldn’t need to charge it again for over a week.

Supercapacitors are not used in mobile devices for their large size. But the team at UCF has developed supercapacitors composed of millions of nanometer-thick wires coated with shells of two-dimensional materials. A highly conductive core helps fast electron transfer for fast charging and discharging. And uniformly coated shells of two-dimensional (2D) materials produce high energy and power densities.

Nanowire Supercapacitor Made of Capacitive 2D WS2 Layers
Nanowire Supercapacitor Made of Capacitive 2D WS2 Layers

Scientists already knew 2D materials held great promise for energy storage purpose. But until the UCF developed the process for integrating those materials, it was not possible to realize that potential. Nitin Choudhary said,

For small electronic devices, our materials are surpassing the conventional ones worldwide in terms of energy density, power density, and cyclic stability.

Supercapacitors that use the new materials could be used in phones, wearables, other electronic gadgets, and electric vehicles. Though it’s not ready for commercialization yet. But the research team at UCF hopes this technology will soon end the battery problem of smartphones and other devices. So let’s wait awhile, and at the end of this year maybe you’ll be using a new smartphone that can be charged in seconds and lasts for a week, who knows!

30 Minutes HIV Detection Using USB Stick

In partnership with DNA Electronics,  Imperial College London researchers had developed a revolutionary USB stick that can detect HIV in the bloodstream.

In order to detect the virus, it’s enough to use a drop of blood. Then the USB stick generates an electrical signal that can be read by a computer, laptop or handheld device.

“We have taken the job done by equipment the size of a large photocopier, and shrunk it down to a USB chip” – Dr Graham Cooke, study author

This detection is useful for HIV patients for managing their treatment and to maintain their health. The longer the detection of HIV virus the harder to treat it, because antiretroviral treatment that is used for HIV may stop changing the status due to the resistance built by the virus to the medicine. This what the USB stick is working to solve, providing accurate results in a surprisingly short time.

To implement this, researcher had worked on “a novel complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) chip based, pH-mediated, point-of-care HIV-1 viral load monitoring assay that simultaneously amplifies and detects HIV-1 RNA”.

Conventional ways to test HIV may take several days, but this device is promising to give results in less than 30 minutes! In addition, the detection can be done remotely, which allows faster detection for patients by themselves, and for some areas that don’t have advanced lab tests.

“This is a great example of how this new analysis technology has the potential to transform how patients with HIV are treated by providing a fast, accurate and portable solution. At DNAe we are already applying this highly adaptable technology to address significant global threats to health, where treatment is time-critical and needs to be right first time.” – Professor Chris Toumazou, DNAe’s Founder, Executive Chairman and Regius Professor at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial College London

Partnering with DNA Electronics was a great step for the researchers since this company is using similar technology to develop devices for detecting bacterial and fungal sepsis and antibiotic resistance. Right now, researchers are now looking for possibilities to advance their work and to check the ability that the device can detect other viruses such as hepatitis.

This research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Imperial Biomedical Research Centre and it was published in Scientific Reports. You can learn more about it by checking the article “Novel pH sensing semiconductor for point-of-care detection of HIV-1 viremia” and the press release.

Flex Sensor to bargraph monitor using PIC16F886

Tiny Bar-Graph display provide a Red color, bright, easy to read display which is proportional to the force applied on the FLEX sensor surface.  This Bar-Graph has 20 segments in single color and display Force applied on FLEX sensor. The Barograph force monitor is based on PIC microcontroller with 10 Bit resolution ADC.  This high performance measurement provides unique capabilities and can be used in various applications. Each LED output provided with Solder- jumper for output set point, which can be configured for output control, alarm, Relay.

Force sensing resistors are polymer think film devices which exhibits a decrease in resistance with an increase in the force applied to the active surface. Its force sensitivity is optimized for use in human touch control of electronic devices.
Flex Sensor to bargraph monitor using PIC16F886 – [Link]

Smart IoT Postbox with Arduino, ESP-01, and idIoTware Shield

When you are waiting for a very important letter to come, it’s really bothersome to go and check the postbox again and again. The problem gets worse when you are not at home and anxiously thinking if the letter arrived or not. Well, now IoT or Internet Of Things is your savior.

Following this project by CuriosityGym, you can make your own smart IoT postbox that sends you an email as soon as a letter is dropped into it.

Requirements :

  1. Arduino UNO
  2. idIoTware shield
  3. USB cable (A to B)
  4. Esp 8266 – 01 programmed with ESP-link firmware
  5. One jumper
  6. One Postbox (You can make it yourself)
  7. External 9v 1A Power adapter
  8. Double sided sticky tape
  9. Arduino UNO code (Download it)

Description :

The concept is not complicated at all. The idIoTware Shield has a set of RGB LED and an LDR. The RGB LED always emits white light and it’s received by the LDR. As soon as a letter is dropped, there is an interruption in light. The change in light intensity is sensed by LDR and processed by Arduino. Finally, ESP 8266 connects to IFTTT network and sends an email to a saved email ID.

IdIoTware Shield For ArduinoUNO
idIoTware Shield For ArduinoUNO

IFTTTIFTTT is a free web-based service that allows users to create chains of simple conditional statements, called “applets”, which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. IFTTT is an abbreviation of “If This Then That”.

This can be explained using a simple analogy: “If the battery is empty then charge it”.

Watch this video for more information on IFTTT.

Procedure :

Simply place the idIoTware shield on Arduino UNO and Connect the esp8266(01) module to the ESP-01 header on the top right, such that the antenna is facing outside (See the image given below). It’s important to connect a jumper to CH_PD pin on the shield.

Smart IoT Postbox using Arduino and IdIoTware Shield
Smart IoT Postbox using Arduino and IdIoTware Shield

To make an IFTTT applet, go to IFTTT.com and make an account. Then, you need to make an applet as “If Maker then Gmail“. So, select Maker by searching and add your Maker channel (in URL field). Now, search for Gmail and select it. Define whom to and what to mail. Finish your applet, and you are all set.

Finally, upload the code to ArduinoUNO. Once the code is uploaded,  place the Arduino with double sided sticky tape inside the postbox. Don’t forget to insulate the Arduino from metallic body of the postbox.

Testing :

Power the Arduino from a 9V adapter and connect it to a serial monitor. Now post a letter in the postbox and you will see the message “New Letter!!” in the serial monitor. When you check your mail you will find a mail saying the same.

For a better understanding, watch the video: