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04.10

Tech News Digest

Compiled By IEEE-USA Staff

The following is a roundup of news and notable developments in electrical engineering and computer or information technology reported during March 2010. Items are excerpted from news releases generated by universities, government agencies and other research institutions. Highlighted topics include:

  1. OSTP Considers National Initiative Challenging Students to Develop “Killer Aps” for Broadband

  2. NIST Develops Testing Infrastructure for Health IT Systems Compliance

  3. NIST Workshop To Develop Digital Preservation Standards Roadmap

  4. Scavenging Energy Waste to Turn Water into Hydrogen Fuel

  5. New Imaging Technology Brings Trace Chemicals into Focus

  6. Flexible Device Mark New Wave of Surgical Electronics

  7. Self-Healing Materials Could Lead to Safer Nuclear Reactors

  8. Georgia Tech Researchers Use Improved Nanogenerators to Power Nanoscale Sensors

  9. Researchers Discover World’s Smallest Superconductor

  10. Paintable Electronics?

  11. New Research Funded

1. OSTP Considers National Initiative Challenging Students to Develop “Killer Aps” for Broadband

Responding to the FCC’s release of a National Broadband Plan in mid-March, the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy has posted a request for public input on the role of student-lead innovation in developing “killer-apps” for broadband networks. Noting that students have contributed to some of the most important advances in information and communications technologies — including data compression, interactive computer graphics, Ethernet, Berkeley Unix, the spreadsheet, public key cryptography, speech recognition, Mosaic, and Google, OSTP envisions a national initiative encouraging students to develop new applications that could drive demand for gigabit/second Internet and 4G wireless services.

For more information, see: www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/03/25/role-student-led-innovation-killer-apps-broadband-networks

2. NIST Develops Testing Infrastructure for Health IT Systems Compliance

In late March, NIST released the first of four installments of a new health IT test method and related software designed to help vendors test their health IT products and ensure basic functionality, such as the calculation of body mass index or proper formatting of common electronic health records in XML (eXtensible Markup Language). Starting in 2011, the federal government will provide extra Medicare and Medicaid payments to physicians’ offices that implement health IT systems conforming to specific technical standards and put to “meaningful use,” performing specifically defined functions. Late last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) identified the required standards and provided a concrete definition of “meaningful use.” To help physicians’ offices evaluate possible health IT systems against these requirements, the HHS’s Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) has established a national health IT certification program. ONC has stated its intention to use NIST’s National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) to perform the accreditation of testing laboratories.

For more information, see: www.nist.gov/public_affairs/techbeat/tb2010_0316.htm#hit

3. NIST Workshop To Develop Digital Preservation Standards Roadmap

Experts on digital preservation are gathering at a workshop at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md., 29-31 March, to develop a standards roadmap on preserving the vast and growing amount of digital data over the long term. Attendees at the “U.S. Workshop on Roadmap for Digital Preservation Interoperability Framework” will identify requirements, technologies and best practices for digital preservation standardization to establish a national roadmap. The roadmap will be used to develop a digital preservation standard so that users and systems can access digital content even when preserved on varied equipment by different digital preservation repositories.

For more information, see: www.nist.gov/public_affairs/techbeat/tb2010_0316.htm#workshop

4. Scavenging Energy Waste to Turn Water into Hydrogen Fuel

Materials scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have designed a way to harvest small amounts of waste energy and harness them to turn water into usable hydrogen fuel.

For more information, see: www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-03/uow-sew031110.php

5. New Imaging Technology Brings Trace Chemicals into Focus

Arizona State University scientist N.J. Tao and his colleagues at the Biodesign Institute have hit on a new, versatile method to significantly improve the detection of trace chemicals important in such areas as national security, human health and the environment. Tao's team was able to detect and identify tiny particles of the explosive trinitrotoluene or TNT — each weighing less than a billionth of a gram — on the ridges and canals of a fingerprint by applying a hybrid technique —called electrochemical imaging microscopy — developed in his lab.

For more information, see: www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-03/asu-nit031110.php

6. Flexible Device Marks New Wave of Surgical Electronics

Researchers from Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Pennsylvania are the first to demonstrate a flexible silicon electronics device used for a medical application. The thin device produced high-density maps of a beating heart's electrical activity, providing potential means to localize and treat abnormal heart rhythms. The results are published in the 24 March issue of Science Translational Medicine.

For more information, see: www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-03/nu-hth032410.php

7. Self-Healing Materials Could Lead to Safer Nuclear Reactors

Self-repairing materials within nuclear reactors may one day become a reality as a result of research by Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists, who report a surprising mechanism that allows nanocrystalline materials to heal themselves after suffering radiation-induced damage.

For more information, see: www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-03/danl-snr032510.php

8. Georgia Tech Researchers Use Improved Nanogenerators to Power Nanoscale Sensors

By combining a new generation of piezoelectric nanogenerators with two types of nanowire sensors, researchers have created what are believed to be the first self-powered nanometer-scale sensing devices that draw power from the conversion of mechanical energy.

For more information, see:  www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-03/giot-rui032510.php

9. Researchers Discover World’s Smallest Superconductor

Researchers at Ohio University have discovered the world’s smallest superconductor, a sheet of four pairs of molecules less than one nanometer wide. The Ohio University-led study provides the first evidence that nanoscale molecular superconducting wires can be fabricated, which could be used for nanoscale electronic devices and energy applications.

For more information, see: www.ohio.edu/research/communications/nano_superconductor.cfm

10. Paintable Electronics?

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology are experimenting with organic semiconductors, which may be a viable candidate for creating large-area electronics, such as solar cells and displays that can be sprayed on a surface as easily as paint. The team’s work showed that a commonly used organic transistor material, poly(3-hexylthiophene), or P3HT, works well as a spray-on transistor material because, like beauty, transistors aren’t very deep. When sprayed onto a flat surface, inhomogeneities give the P3HT film a rough and uneven top surface that causes problems in other applications. But because the transistor effects occur along its lower surface—where it contacts the substrate—it functions quite well. While the electronics will not be ready for market anytime soon, the research team says the material they studied could overcome one of the main cost hurdles blocking the large-scale manufacture of organic thin-film transistors, the development of which also could lead to a host of devices inexpensive enough to be disposable.

For more information, see: www.nist.gov/public_affairs/techbeat/tb2010_0330.htm#spray

11. New Research Funded

  • Engineering Careers: Clemson University assistant professor of engineering and science education Julie Martin Trenor received a $415K NSF grant to study social factors that influence underrepresented students' decisions to enter engineering fields. For more information, see: www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-03/cu-cr031210.php
     

  • Cybersecurity: Kansas State assistant professor of computing and information sciences Simon Ou received a $430K NSF grant to enhance his research on enterprise network security and develop techniques for critical infrastructure protection. For more information, see: www.k-state.edu/media/newsreleases/mar10/ouaward31210.html
     

  • Software Security: UC-San Diego professor Terry August received a $530K NSF grant to develop a research framework to analyze the relationship between government policy, economic incentives and software security. The goal is to gain new insight into how the efforts of firms, consumers and government can be coordinated to improve software security.

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