NASA’s Jet Laboratory Helps Determine Extent of California Drought
Jul10

NASA’s Jet Laboratory Helps Determine Extent of California Drought

While the four year long California drought is making headlines worldwide, United States government researchers are trailblazing new ways to measure the scope and scale of the drought. Members of the NASA jet laboratory, the prestigious Jet Propulsion Lab, are using advanced technology to figure out exactly how, where, and why the drought is occurring and experts hope to use this information to predict the duration and severity of the drought Since the Sierra Nevada Mountains are the largest source of freshwater for the state of California, the snowpack levels in the mountains are of particular importance when it comes to monitoring how much fresh water the state can expect to receive each season. Winter levels of snow can help to predict how much water will melt and flow to the low-lands during the hotter seasons. The NASA jet laboratory is using an airplane known as the Airborne Snow Observatory to do flyovers of the snowpack to check levels. The plane is a turboprop Beechcraft King Airplane which has been specially outfitted with numerous devices that help scientists to measure the snowpack levels. The amount of snowpack contributes up to 70% of the total precipitation in California. The aircraft flies almost daily in areas in and around California and the American West. It uses a technology called Lidar—which is laser radar—to determine how deep the snow is at any particular level. The laser is able to scan the land 800,000 times per second. The rate to which the signal bounces back to the plane  is used to determine the depth of the existing snowpack. The depth of the snowpack is then used to figure out how much freshwater there will be. In addition, NASA also measures how much sunlight is being reflected by the snow using an imaging spectrometer. This is a control measure and helps to create more accurate data. Between the two data, NASA can tell water managers how much freshwater will be available and when it will be available. This can help to determine policy changes or cutbacks that may need to be made due to worsening drought conditions or whether commercial and residential areas can loosen those rules. For the first time in history, NASA is able to tell officials how much water will be necessary to end a drought in the US. Launched in 2002, the data collected by its Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites showed that two of California’s main river basins were depleted by 4 trillion gallons of water each year from 2011–2014. Together, the data shows that California will need to replenish roughly 11 trillion gallons of water to recover from...

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3D-Printed Electronics Are the Future
Jul09

3D-Printed Electronics Are the Future

Imagine printing a solar cell in a matter of minutes. Some business owners may think it sounds like something out of a science fiction story, but 3D printing is developing with ever-expanding capabilities including the possibility for 3D-printed electronics. The technology isn’t perfect yet, but researchers are hard at work developing ways for printers to create nanotech components from synthetics. These so-called organic electronics rely on highly conductive materials that break the production mold. A team of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and Technische Universität München (TUM) in Munich have been working to identify and improve upon the electrical properties of synthetic films. The TUM team recently reported that razor-thin polymer electrodes can be created on 3D printers using enhanced synthetic films. Researchers in California can be thanked for these enhanced films. The team at Lawrence Berkeley used X-ray radiation to alter the molecular structure of freshly printed synthetic layers and worked in conjunction with the TUM researchers to determine how different post-printing processes affected the films. The international team plans to publish their results in Advanced Materials, an industry trade journal. These new printing technologies are exciting, but more research is on the horizon. Making organic electronics is incredibly complex. The process will need to be closely observed and understood so that custom applications are possible in the future. Researchers are also working to perfect techniques to create the various layers in electronic components using only one process. This will increase convenience for manufacturers and will allow the large-scale use of 3D printing to create designer electronics. There’s a great deal at stake here for businesses. Projected future markets for these technologies include solar cells, RFID tags, touch screens, glowing films and flexible displays. With future projects in development, such as wallpaper made of OLEDs, it is not surprising that organic electronics are expected to make a big impact on the consumer market thanks to this incredible range of applications. Of course, the ability to print designer electronics on a 3D printer also significantly increases prototyping and bespoke design capabilities for small businesses. Instead of blowing their research and development budgets on electronics manufacturing, businesses will be able to print components in house for immediate testing. It may seem a distant dream now, but the enthusiasm of researchers in California and Munich indicates that printed electronics are closer than many might...

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No Batteries Needed? Ever?
Apr17

No Batteries Needed? Ever?

On April 15th, scientists from Columbia University announced a power solution that could solve our ‘low-battery’ problems. They’ve created a camera powered solely by ambient light; as long as there’s enough light, the camera will go on snapping photos. It uses no batteries, no power cable, and no solar cells. In short, it’s a completely closed system. Presently, the camera is only a prototype, but, according to Shree Nayar of Columbia, the technology may eventually find itself into a myriad of other devices. The current idea is to have the camera power itself, backing up the main battery when not taking photos. Nayar says this is part of the current imaging revolution, making the camera a stand-alone tool within a device. Since the light is converted into energy by the camera’s light sensor (which also takes the picture), the camera is essentially a self-sufficient system. By charging a capacitor, the camera is able to convert the light of an average house lamp into energy sufficient to run the camera. At 200 lux, (average room light level) the camera voltage maintained a steady level, even while snapping photos at a rate of one per second. Nayar says we’re still a long way – and a great deal of money – away from using this technology in our phones or computers. However, the Columbia University team will be showing the findings at the International Conference on Computational Photography. According to the team, they’ll also be looking for potential collaborators, a good sign for the future of power-starved...

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Leatherman Tread Puts a Spin on Functional Fashion
Jan29

Leatherman Tread Puts a Spin on Functional Fashion

The wearable tech industry is a new, fast growing segment of technology. With the ability to carry valuable tools around with us in portable form, it’s no wonder these gadgets generate a lot of excitement. Leatherman is wasting no time making waves in this trend, releasing the Leatherman Tread this coming summer. This intriguing deviation is unique within the industry: it combines the mobility of a wrist adornment with the utility of a multi-tool. The band comprises of a series of links, each providing 2-3 working tools, with over 25 distinct uses. The design is something quite ingenius. Not only is the bracelet completely adjustable, but it can be customized by re-building the links using a slot fastening system. You can put in or take out tools, shrink or expand the length, and even use the chain clasp to open bottles or act as a square driver. In addition, it includes phillips and flathead screwdrivers, hex drivers, more than one type of box wrench, a SIM grabber, and more. If the aforementioned features weren’t enough, the makeup of this handy device is molded stainless steel (via metal injection). That means you don’t have to worry about breakage, as is common with other small tools. While the naked bracelet is rugged and fun, there will also be an alternative available later this year: a quartz powered movement option. You might be wondering if this is TSA approved, especially if you’re a frequent traveller. The answer is yes. In fact, that idea was what prompted the original idea for this device: a useful all-in-one tools that would pass safety checks at airports. Leatherman’s new bracelet is slated to be available in stores and online in early May or late April, and the basic option (steel) should run $150. More expensive options could run as high as $200, $500, and beyond depending on the movement and material. One thing’s for certain: Leatherman has done their research and The Tread is posed to create an entirely new category for wearable...

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Charge Your Cellphone in 30 Seconds?
Dec11

Charge Your Cellphone in 30 Seconds?

Store Dot, company based in Tel Aviv, Israel, has announced technology with the ability to fully charge a cell phone within seconds. Created using nanotechnology, the new batteries are built on nanodots, which are “bio-organic peptide molecules.” These nanodots change the way a battery absorbs a charge and allow it to hold power for longer periods of time.  The current version is too big for a mobile phone, but the company hopes to release a slimmer model by 2016.  The nanotechnology will eventually be expanded to car batteries as well, allowing them to charge in a matter of minutes rather than hours. Store Dot has received two rounds of funding. According to the company, a portion of the money was provided by a leading Asian cell phone manufacturer. This poses no real surprise since it is estimated that the number of mobile phones in use worldwide will number 1.75 billion by the end of the year, creating an enthusiastic market for quick-charging batteries.  Phones that utilize the new batteries will cost up to $150 more than the current market price but would last up to three years or 1,500 power...

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World’s First Integrated Circuit Prototype Remains Unsold after Auction
Jun27

World’s First Integrated Circuit Prototype Remains Unsold after Auction

Christie Auctions the World’s First Integrated Circuit Prototype The world’s first integrated circuit prototype was created by Texas Instruments, Jack Kilby in 1958. The microchip was designed by Kilby’s co-workers, relatives of Tom Yeargen. When a decision was made to sell the circuit prototype, Christie, a top auction house, announced the sale. Christie’s spokeswoman, Sun Hee Park, indicated in an interview that there had been much “pre-sale interest.” However, the world’s first integrated circuit prototype remains unsold after auction. One of the reasons might be related to the auction price tag at between one to two million dollars.   Jack Kilby, Texas Instruments Integrate Circuitry Jack Kilby was a leading Texas Instruments electrical engineer. Texas Instruments is a top US semi-conductor business that has produced a diverse line of instrumentation for hi-tech use. Although, Jack Kilby passed away in 2005, in 2000, he was a recipient of a Nobel Prize in physics.   Failure to Sell at Auction May Lead to Private Sale Many times when Christie’s auctions items of great value that don’t appeal to bidders, it can be purchased by private buyers or may be subject to sale at a future auction. Several of the original circuit prototypes have been circulated prior to the sale. One of these can be found at the Smithsonian. Texas Instruments has also kept one of these originals in their possession. Who Will Be a Potential Buyer? The appeal of purchasing at auction the world’s first integrated circuit prototype would mainly lie with buyers with an interest in hi-tech instrumentation or possibly collectors of originals. Since there are other original circuit prototypes, the price to purchase one may not be as appealing. Bidders at auctions prefer to be “sole owners” of unusual items that have the distinction of being the first and only of its kind....

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