11.10 

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11.10

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 October 2010.  Items are excerpted from news releases generated by universities, government agencies and other research institutions. Highlighted topics include:

  1. Microrobotics Challenge Seeks Miniature Medics and Maze Masters

  2. NIST Provides First Programmable AC/DC 10-Volt Standard

  3. Structure of Plastic Solar Cells Impedes Their Efficiency

  4. Researchers Find a Stable Way to Store the Sun's Heat

  5. NIST Identifies “Foundational” Smart Grid Standards

  6. Research to Focus on National Energy Policy and Technology Impacts

  7. “Flat” Batteries Have Potential for Grid-Scale Electrical Storage

  8. ORNL Research to Focus on Smart Grid Security

  9. LLNL Computational Technology to Support National Energy Efficient Building Research

  10. Rapid Processing of Gigapixel Images

  11. DARPA Kicks-Off Transformer (TX) Land/Air Vehicle Program

  12. DARPA Seeks to Invigorate Computer Science Education

  13. Federal Interagency Committee Formed to Coordinate Privacy and Internet Policy

  14. Breakthrough Enables High Speed, High Readability and Low Power e-Display

  15. Progress Made on Graphene-Based “Spin Computer”

  16. Water Could Hold Key to Graphene Nanoelectronics

  17. Engineering an Electrical Link to Living Cells

1. Microrobotics Challenge Seeks Miniature Medics and Maze Masters

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in collaboration with IEEE, is inviting teams currently engaged in microrobotic, microelectronic or microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) research to participate in the NIST Mobile Microrobotics Challenge 2011. The competition will be held as part of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, 9-13 May 2011, in Shanghai, China.  The 2011 competition will pit tiny robotic contestants against each other in two events: a mobility challenge in which microrobots will be required to navigate a planar (two-dimensional) maze having the diameter of a pin head; and a microassembly challenge where the competitors must put together multiple microscale components in a narrow channel to simulate operations within a blood vessel by a future medical applications microbot.

For more information, see:  http://www.nist.gov/el/isd/20101026_microbot.cfm

2. NIST Provides First Programmable AC/DC 10-Volt Standard

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have begun shipping a new 10-volt standard to users around the world. The programmable system measures both direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC) voltages.  The new standard offers unique advantages over previous generations. For DC metrology, benefits include higher immunity to noise (interference), output stability, and ease of system setup and operation. The system also enables a wider range of applications by producing AC waveforms for accurately calibrating AC signals with frequencies up to a few hundred hertz. A key advance is the use of junctions with metal-silicide barriers that produce stable steps and have uniform electrical properties. The system also incorporates new electronics, automation software, and measurement techniques.

For more information, see: http://www.nist.gov/pml/quantum/applied_electrical/20101026_volt.cfm

3. Structure of Plastic Solar Cells Impedes Their Efficiency

A team of researchers from North Carolina State University and the UK has found that the low rate of energy conversion in all-polymer solar-cell technology is caused by the structure of the solar cells themselves.

For more information, see: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-10/ncsu-sop100710.php

4. Researchers Find a Stable Way to Store the Sun's Heat

Researchers at MIT have revealed how a molecule called fulvalene diruthenium, which was discovered in 1996, works to store and release heat on demand. This understanding make it possible to find similar chemicals based on more abundant, less expensive materials than ruthenium, and this could form the basis of a rechargeable battery to store heat rather than electricity.

For more information, see:  http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-10/miot-rfa102510.php

5. NIST Identifies “Foundational” Smart Grid Standards

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has advised the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that it has identified five “foundational” sets of standards for Smart Grid interoperability and cyber security that are ready for consideration by federal and state energy regulators. The standards, produced by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), focus on the information models and protocols important to efficient and reliable grid operations as well as cyber security.

For more information, see: http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/grid_20101013.cfm

6. Research to Focus on National Energy Policy and Technology Impacts

The Ohio State University and the Ohio Supercomputer Center have received a four-year, $1.675 million federal grant to develop a computer tool called the Integrated Computational System for Energy Pricing and Policy, which models the national power grid. The tool will allow researchers, government leaders and the public to study and understand changes in energy-related technology, policy and pricing.

For more information, see: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-10/osc-ngt101410.php

7. “Flat” Batteries Have Potential for Grid-Scale Electrical Storage

Pacific Northwest National Lab researchers have shown that a planar, or flat, sodium-beta battery can deliver 30 percent more power than its cylindrical counterpart. This could be a less expensive, safer alternative to lithium-ion batteries.  The battery's flat components can easily be stacked in a way that produces a much more compact battery, making it an attractive option for large-scale energy storage, such as on the electrical grid.

For more information, see:  http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-10/dnnl-pp101110.php

8. ORNL Research to Focus on Smart Grid Security

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been awarded $7M over the next three years to develop systems to guard against power outages caused by man or nature. Involved in this effort are a number of technologies, including advanced radio frequency technology and cybersecurity vulnerability detection of smart grid components and systems.

For more information, see:  http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-10/drnl-ohk100710.php

9. LLNL Computational Technology to Support National Energy Efficient Building Research

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's expertise in integrated multiphysics modeling will be an integral part of a new national effort in energy efficient building research. The goal of the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficiency Buildings is to establish the Navy Yard in Philadelphia and the surrounding area as the national center for energy efficient buildings research, education, policy and commercialization.

For more information, see: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-10/dlnl-lcc100110.php

10. Rapid Processing of Gigapixel Images

University of Utah computer scientists developed software that quickly edits "extreme resolution imagery" — huge photographs containing billions to hundreds of billions of pixels or dot-like picture elements. Until now, it took hours to process these "gigapixel" images. The new software needs only seconds to produce preview images useful to doctors, intelligence analysts, photographers, artists, engineers and others.

For more  information, see: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-10/uou-gtb102610.php

11. DARPA Kicks-Off Transformer (TX) Land/Air Vehicle Program

On 12 Oct., the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced the kick-off of the Transformer (TX) program,  which seeks to combine the advantages of ground vehicles and helicopters into a single vehicle equipped with flexibility of movement.  The TX program aims to develop a robust ground vehicle that can transform into an air vehicle with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability, while offering significant operational flexibility with the ability to efficiently travel 250 nautical miles on land and in the air, or any combination, while carrying up to 1,000 pounds.

For more information, see: http://www.darpa.mil/news/2010/transformer.pdf

12. DARPA Seeks to Invigorate Computer Science Education

On 7 Oct., DARPA announced a $14.2M, three year program to increase the number of computer science graduates.    The CS-STEM Education program will increase the size of the talent pool of applicants available to secure U.S. DoD networks and accelerate the rate of CS innovation by encouraging students to enroll in college level CS programs. To accomplish this, the program will create compelling activities and opportunities for middle and high school students to apply science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) that will increase in complexity as the student grows to achieve a long term, positive impact on the lives of the students and the nation’s talent pool.

For more information, see: http://www.darpa.mil/news/2010/CSSTEMReleaseFINAL.pdf

 13. Federal Interagency Committee Formed to Coordinate Privacy and Internet Policy

In October, the National Science and Technology Council launched a new Subcommittee on Privacy and Internet Policy. Populated by representatives from more than a dozen Departments, agencies and Federal offices, and co-chaired by the two of us, the subcommittee will develop principles and strategic directions with the goal of fostering consensus in legislative, regulatory, and international Internet policy realms.

For more information, see:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/10/24/white-house-council-launches-interagency-subcommittee-privacy-internet-policy

14. Breakthrough Enables High Speed, High Readability and Low Power e-Display

A new electrofluidics design from the University of Cincinnati and start-up company Gamma Dynamics promises to dramatically reshape the image capabilities of electronic devices.  The design uses reflective electrodes embedded between two liquid layers that acts like a mirror, reflecting ambient light to create bright, color-saturated images.

Importantly, this new "zero power" e-Design can be manufactured with existing equipment and technology.

For more information, see: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-10/uoc-bem100510.php

15. Progress Made on Graphene-Based “Spin Computer”

Physicists at the University of California, Riverside have taken an important step forward in developing a "spin computer" by successfully achieving "tunneling spin injection" into graphene.   An electron can be polarized to have a directional orientation, called "spin." This spin comes in two forms — electrons are said to be either "spin up" or "spin down" — and allows for more data storage than is possible with current electronics. Spin computers, when developed, would utilize the electron's spin state to store and process vast amounts of information while using less energy, generating less heat and performing much faster than conventional computers in use today.

For more information, see: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-10/uoc--urp101310.php

16. Water Could Hold Key to Graphene Nanoelectronics

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute developed a new method for using water to tune the band gap of the nanomaterial graphene, opening the door to new graphene-based transistors and nanoelectronics.

For more information ,see:  http://news.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=2783

17. Engineering an Electrical Link to Living cells
 
Researchers at Berkeley Lab have designed an electrical link to living cells engineered to shuttle electrons across a cell's membrane. This direct channel could yield cells that can read and respond to electronic signals, or efficiently transfer sunlight into electricity.

For more information, see: http://newscenter.lbl.gov/feature-stories/2010/10/20/electrical-link-to-living-cells/

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