Science category

Self-learning neuromorphic chip composes music

Peter Clarke @ reporting:

Research institute IMEC has created a neuromorphic chip based on metal-oxide ReRAM technology that has the ability to self-learn. That self-learning has been applied to music making.

Self-learning neuromorphic chip composes music – [Link]

3D NAND flash 72 layers

SK Hynix Introduces Industry’s Highest 72-Layer 3D NAND Flash

SK Hynix Incorporated introduced the world’s first 72-Layer 256Gb (Gigabit) 3D (Three-Dimensional) NAND Flash based on its TLC (Triple-Level Cell) arrays and own technologies. This company also launched 6-Layer 128Gb 3D NAND chips in April 2016 and has been mass producing 48-Layer 256Gb 3D NAND chips since November 2016. Within 5 months the researchers in SK Hynix developed the new technology of producing 72-layer 3D NAND flash.

3D NAND flash 72 layers
72 layers 3D NAND flash

The technological achievement of this 72-Layer 3D NAND is compared to the difficulty of building approximately 4 billion 72-storied skyscrapers on a single dime. Well, now the question maybe, “Is the difficulty and complexity of this new technology giving any remarkable outcome?”. The answer is a big YES. The 72-layer NAND is said to stack 1.5 times more cells than the 48-layer, achieving 30% more efficiency in productivity and 20% higher read/write performance than a 48-layer 3D NAND chip, the predecessor of this 72-layer .D 256Gb NAND flash.

With this new chips having 30% more efficiency in productivity and 20% higher performance, SK Hynix has been currently developing NAND Flash solutions such as SSD (Solid State Drive) and storage for mobile devices such as smartphones. Having high reliability and low power consumption this 3D NAND flash should be an ideal solution for storage problems of mobile devices.

SK Hynix plans to expand the usage of the product to SSDs and mobile gadgets to further improve its business structure weighted towards DRAM. The vice president Jong Ho Kim said in the press release,

With the introduction of this industry’s highest productivity 3D NAND, SK Hynix will mass produce the 256Gb 3D NAND in the second half of this year to provide this to worldwide business clients for optimum use in storage solutions

According to a market research, 3D NAND flash demand is rapidly increasing across AI(Artificial Intelligence), big data, and cloud storage. The research by Gartner says that NAND Flash market revenue is expected to total USD 46.5 billion in this year and it will grow up to an amount of USD 56.5 billion in 2021.

Affordable DNA Detection Using A Smartphone

Researchers at UCLA have developed an improved method to detect the presence of DNA biomarkers of disease that is compatible with use outside of a hospital or lab setting. The new technique leverages the sensors and optics of cellphones to read light produced by a new detector dye mixture that reports the presence of DNA molecules with a signal that is more than 10-times brighter.

Nucleic acids, such as DNA or RNA, are used in tests for infectious diseases, genetic disorders, cancer mutations that can be targeted by specific drugs, and fetal abnormality tests. The samples used in standard diagnostic tests typically contain only tiny amounts of a disease’s related nucleic acids. To assist optical detection, clinicians amplify the number of nucleic acids making them easier to find with the fluorescent dyes.

Both the amplification and the optical detection steps have in the past required costly and bulky equipment, largely limiting their use to laboratories.

In a study published online in the journal ACS Nano, researchers from three UCLA entities — the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, the California NanoSystems Institute, and the David Geffen School of Medicine — showed how to take detection out of the lab and for a fraction of the cost.

The collaborative team of researchers included lead author Janay Kong, a UCLA Ph.D. student in bioengineering; Qingshan Wei, a post-doctoral researcher in electrical engineering; Aydogan Ozcan, Chancellor’s Professor of Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering; Dino Di Carlo, professor of bioengineering and mechanical and aerospace engineering; and Omai Garner, assistant professor of pathology and medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

The UCLA researchers focused on the challenges with low-cost optical detection. Small changes in light emitted from molecules that associate with DNA, called intercalator dyes, are used to identify DNA amplification, but these dyes are unstable and their changes are too dim for standard cellphone camera sensors.

But the team discovered an additive that stabilized the intercalator dyes and generated a large increase in fluorescent signal above the background light level, enabling the test to be integrated with inexpensive cellphone based detection methods. The combined novel dye/cellphone reader system achieved comparable results to equipment costing tens of thousands of dollars more.

To adapt a cellphone to detect the light produced from dyes associated with amplified DNA while those samples are in standard laboratory containers, such as well plates, the team developed a cost-effective, field-portable fiber optic bundle. The fibers in the bundle routed the signal from each well in the plate to a unique location of the camera sensor area. This handheld reader is able to provide comparable results to standard benchtop readers, but at a fraction of the cost, which the authors suggest is a promising sign that the reader could be applied to other fluorescence-based diagnostic tests.

“Currently nucleic acid amplification tests have issues generating a stable and high signal, which often necessitates the use of calibration dyes and samples which can be limiting for point-of-care use,” Di Carlo said. “The unique dye combination overcomes these issues and is able to generate a thermally stable signal, with a much higher signal to noise ratio. The DNA amplification curves we see look beautiful — without any of the normalization and calibration, which is usually performed, to get to the point that we start at.”

Additionally, the authors emphasized that the dye combinations discovered should be able to be used universally to detect any nucleic acid amplification, allowing for their use in a multitude of other amplification approaches and tests.

The team demonstrated the approach using a process called loop-mediated isothermal amplification, or LAMP, with DNA from lambda phage as the target molecule, as a proof of concept, and now plan to adapt the assay to complex clinical samples and nucleic acids associated with pathogens such as influenza.

The newest demonstration is part of a suite of technologies aimed at democratizing disease diagnosis developed by the UCLA team. Including low-cost optical readout and diagnostics based on consumer-electronic devicesmicrofluidic-based automation and molecular assays leveraging DNA nanotechnology.

This interdisciplinary work was supported through a team science grant from the National Science Foundation Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation program.


Source: UCLA

Nanoscale refrigerator helps quantum computers keep their cool

by @

The next big breakthrough for electronics is likely to be quantum computers, which will increase digitized memory capacity exponentially and allow scientists to start tackling problems that our classical computers have no hope of handling right now. Companies like IBM are starting to make some headway, but there are still plenty of hurdles to jump before practical quantum computers become a reality. A team from Aalto University in Finland may have cleared one of those obstacles, developing a nanoscale refrigerator to help cool components down.

Nanoscale refrigerator helps quantum computers keep their cool – [Link]

1 Cent Lab-On-A-Chip For Early Diagnostics

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a way to produce a cheap and reusable diagnostic “lab on a chip” with the help of an ordinary inkjet printer. At a production cost of as little as 1 cent per chip, the new combination of microfluidics, electronics and inkjet printing technology could usher in a medical diagnostics revolution like the kind brought on by low-cost genome sequencing, said Ron Davis, PhD, professor of biochemistry and of genetics and director of the Stanford Genome Technology Center.

Lab on a Chip – Zahra Koochak

The lab on a chip consists of two parts: a clear silicone microfluidic chamber for housing cells and a reusable electronic strip and  a regular inkjet printer that can be used to print the electronic strip onto a flexible sheet of polyester using commercially available conductive nano-particle ink.

“Enabling early detection of diseases is one of the greatest opportunities we have for developing effective treatments,” Rahim Esfandyarpour said, a PhD and an engineering research associate at the genome center. “Maybe $1 in the U.S. doesn’t count that much, but somewhere in the developing world, it’s a lot of money.”

Designed as a multi-functional platform, one of its applications is that it allows users to analyse different cell types without using fluorescent or magnetic labels that are typically required to track cells. Instead, the chip separates cells based on their intrinsic electrical properties:

When an electric potential is applied across the inkjet-printed strip, cells loaded into the microfluidic chamber get pulled in different directions depending on their “polarisability” in a process called dielectrophoresis. This label-free method to analyse cells greatly improves precision and cuts lengthy labeling processes.

Rahim Esfandyarpour helped to develop a way to create a diagnostic “lab on a chip” for just a penny.
Zahra Koochak

The tool is designed to handle small-volume samples for a variety of assays. The researchers showed the device can help capture single cells from a mix, isolate rare cells and count cells based on cell types.The low cost of the chips could democratize diagnostics similar to how low-cost sequencing created a revolution in health care and personalized medicine, Davis said. Inexpensive sequencing technology allows clinicians to sequence tumor DNA to identify specific mutations and recommend personalized treatment plans. In the same way, the lab on a chip has the potential to diagnose cancer early by detecting tumor cells that circulate in the bloodstream.

Via: Stanford Medicine

Reliable molecular switch

by Eric Bogers @

Nanotechnology repeatedly breaks new records in the area of miniaturization. However, there are physical limits when reducing the size of electronic components and these will be reached in the near future. This means that new materials and components will be required – and it is here where molecular electronics will play a role. Researchers from the Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT) have succeeded in developing a molecular toggle switch, which will not only remain in the selected position, but can also be switched as often as desired without any deformation taking place.

Reliable molecular switch – [Link]

Electrons Counter-Intuitive Movement

Our ‘common sense’ would say that when an object moves from point A to point B it necessarily has to also move through all the points between A and B. This is, however, not true for electrons in the quantum world, where these intuitive truths are not valid. Electrons can, for example appear on the first floor and then on the third floor – without ever putting a foot down on the second floor (insofar that electrons have feet, of course).

Exactly this counter-intuitive behavior has been observed by professor Hui Zhao and his colleagues in the Ultrafast Laser Lab of the University of Kansas. In the sample, which consists of three different, ultra thin layers, electrons move from the top layer to the bottom layer without ever having been observed in the middle layer. According to Zhao this efficient form of quantum electron transport could play a key role in so-called Van der Waals materials, which have their uses in solar panels and in electronics in general.

The sample that was the subject of the research comprises three layers of semiconductor materials (MoS2, WS2 and MoSe2), each with a thickness of less than 1 nm. These three materials react to light of different wavelengths (colors).

The researchers used a laser pulse with a duration of 100 femtoseconds to knock a few electrons from the topmost MoSe2 layer so that they were able to move freely. With a laser pulse of the correct color for the bottom MoS2 layer (which, thanks to the difference in path length of 0.3mm, arrives one picosecond later than the first pulse), the appearance of the electrons in the bottom layer could be demonstrated. It appeared that the electrons on average needed 1 ps to move from the top layer to the bottom layer.

With a third laser pulse the middle layer was monitored – but no electrons on their way from the top to the bottom were ever observed there. Apparently the electrons ‘jumped over’ the middle layer – a behavior that has also been confirmed through simulations by theoretical physicists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Source: Elektor

Send & Receive Radio With A Single Chip

Fitting transmit and receive capabilities of radio signals into one device may be impossible without using a significant filter, which is needed to isolate sent and received signals from each other.

The major obstacle to achieve that is the weakness of the received signal compared with the much stronger transmitted signal. However, researchers from Cornell University found their way to jump over this obstacle and created a two-way transceiver chip.

Alyosha Molnar, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering (ECE), and Alyssa Apsel, professor of ECE, had come up with a new solution to separate the signals. They made the transmitter consist of six sub-transmitters hooked into an artificial transmission line. Each one sends a weighted signal at regular intervals which combined with others such as a radio frequency signal in the forward direction, and at the same time they cancel each other in the opposite direction (towards to receiver).

The programmability of the individual outputs allows this simultaneous summation and cancellation to be tuned across a wide range of frequencies, and to adjust to signal strength at the antenna.

“You put the antenna at one end and the amplified signal goes out the antenna, and you put the receiver at the other end and that’s where the nulling happens,” Molnar said. “Your receiver sees the antenna through this wire, the transmission line, but it doesn’t see the transmit signal because it’s canceling itself out at that end.”

This research is based on a research reported six years ago by a group from Stanford University, which demonstrated a way for the transmitter to filter its own transmission, allowing the weaker incoming signal to be heard.

One of the sub-transmitter concept enhancements is that it will work over a range of frequencies, and instead of using a filter for every band, signal separation can be controlled digitally.

“You could have a single device that can be anything,” Apsel said. “You wouldn’t have to buy a new piece of equipment to have the newest version of it.”

You can find the full research at the IEEE Journal of Solid State Physics.

InGaAs TFET, a potential alternative to MOSFET in future ultralow power chips

by Graham Prophet @

Belgian researchers from imec, at a conference** dedicated to compound semiconductor technology, are to present promising device results with a InGaAs-only TFET (tunnel field-effect transistor) that achieves a sub-60 mV/decade sub-threshold swing at room temperature.

The New Light-responsive Nano LEDs

A team of researchers from the US and South Korea reported a unique type of NanoLEDs with unprecedented brightness levels, that excess 80,000 cd/m2, and also can operate both as light emitters and light detectors.

These new LEDs are about 50nm long and 6nm in diameter. As described in the paper, they included quantum dots of two different types, one of which can enhance radiative re-combinations (useful for LEDs) while the other type leads to efficient separation of photo-generated carriers.

Low- and high magnification scanning transmission electron microscopy images of DHNRs (right) magnified image of the region within the white dotted box on the left.

The research of this invention had been published in a paper titled “Double-heterojunction nanorod light-responsive LEDs for display applications“. The researchers consider the dual-mode LEDs will pave the way to new types of interactive displays.

As we head toward the “Internet of things” in which everything is integrated and connected, we need to develop the multi-functional technology that will make this happen. Oh et al. developed a quantum dot-based device that can harvest and generate light and process information. Their design is based on a double-hetero-junction nano-rod structure that, when appropriately biased, can function as a light-emitting diode or a photodetector. Such a dual-function device should contribute to the development of intelligent displays for networks of autonomous sensors.

The device can reach a maximum brightness in excess of 80,000 cd/m2 with a low turn-on voltage (around 1.7 V). It also exhibits low bias and high efficiencies at display-relevant brightness. The research team reports an external quantum efficiency of 8.0% at 1000 cd/m2 under 2.5 V bias.

Energy band diagram of DHNR-LED along with directions of charge flow for light emission (orange arrows) and detection (blue arrows) and a schematic of a DHNR.

One of the experiments was operating a 10×10 pixel DNHR-LED array under reverse bias as a live photodetectors, combined with a circuit board that supplied a forward bias to any pixel detecting incident light. And by alternating forward and reverse bias at a sub-millisecond time scale, light-detecting pixels could be “read out” as they illuminated the array.

Future applications of the DNHR LEDs include:

  • Translate any detected signal into brightness adjustments;
  • Automatic brightness adjustment in response to external light–intensity change;
  • Direct imaging or scanning at screen level;
  • Display-to-display data communication.
  • Displays can harvest or scavenge energy from ambient light sources without the need for integrating separate solar cells.

Sources: elektor, EETimes

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