09 October 2015

Biofuels from coffee grounds could help power a City

Used coffee grounds are diverted from landfills and turned into biofuels by London company Bio-bean

That morning cup of joe ahead of your daily commute may end up providing more than just the refreshing boost needed to tackle the day ahead. London-based company, Bio-bean, hopes to turn left-over coffee grounds into biodiesel for vehicles and biomass pellets to heat buildings.

While using recycled coffee grounds to power a car is nothing new, the difference with Bio-bean is its grand ambitions to massively scale up a system of recycling, processing and fueling for a large city, in this case London. Basically, it wants the city’s coffee dispensaries to contribute their leftovers, and then to process the grounds into pellets which can be used to heat homes. And because coffee waste is around 20 percent oil, it can also be processed into ethanol or biodiesel and used in cars and buses capable of burning the fuel.

The company collects coffee waste from industrial coffee factories, coffee shops, offices and transport hubs, including London’s seven largest rail stations. And while their current take amounts to just several hundred tons each week, they plan to scale up to 50,000 tons in 2016, about a quarter of London’s annual coffee waste. Coffee shops and other producers give their grounds to Bio-bean for free, which saves them from otherwise hefty landfill fees.

Coffee pellets are said to produce 150 percent more energy than wood pellets

The coffee remains are dried at Bio-bean's 20,000 square foot (1,860 sq m) facility, then the oil is separated through the biochemical process of hexane extraction. The remaining fiber, some 80 percent, is pressed into pellets which can be burned in boilers for heat, which are said to produce 150 percent more energy than wood pellets, due to a higher calorie content. The solvent used in the extraction process is 99.9 percent recyclable.

Coffee waste as a biofuel feed stock has several advantages. It doesn’t compete with food crops in the same way as first-generation biofuels made from corn or palm oil. And unlike cooking oil, which can also be used to power vehicles, coffee grounds don’t require an expensive filtering process. It’s also in constant and readily available supply, as long as cities throughout the modern world maintain their caffeine habits.

The inspiration for Bio-bean came from founder Arthur Kay, who was tasked in his university architecture program with devising a sustainable closed-loop waste-to-energy system to power buildings. And like any successful startup looking to scale up, Bio-bean has been able to gain top end support, including from Virgin's Richard Branson and London mayor Boris Johnson.

"Bio-bean saves money for customers and creates environmental advantages compared to other forms of waste disposal," says Daniel Crockett, head of communications at the company. "The local government and business community have been extremely supportive in the early stages of our growth."

The goal is to make enough pellets to heat upward of 15,000 homes. The fuel would eventually be used to help power the city’s transport system, which currently makes use of buses that run on biodiesel.

Source: Bio-bean, gizmag

Microfluidic cooling yields huge performance benefits in FPGA processors

FPGAs Microfluidic cooling

As microprocessors have grown in size and complexity, it’s become increasingly difficult to increase performance without skyrocketing power consumption and heat. Intel’s CPU clock speeds have remained mostly flat for years, while AMD’s FX-9590 and its R9 Nano GPU both illustrate dramatic power consumption differences as clock speeds change. One of the principle barriers to increasing CPU clocks is that it’s extremely difficult to move heat out of the chip. New research into microfluidic cooling could help solve this problem, at least in some cases.

Microfluidic cooling has existed for years; we covered IBM’s Aquasar cooling system back in 2012, which uses microfluidic channels tiny microchannels etched into a metal block to cool the SuperMUC supercomputer. Now, a new research paper on the topic has described a method of cooling modern FPGAs by etching cooling channels directly into the silicon itself. Previous systems, like Aquasar, still relied on a metal transfer plate between the coolant flow and the CPU itself.

Here’s why that’s so significant. Modern microprocessors generate tremendous amounts of heat, but they don’t generate it evenly across the entire die. If you’re performing floating-point calculations using AVX2, it’ll be the FPU that heats up. If you’re performing integer calculations, or thrashing the cache subsystems, it generates more heat in the ALUs and L2/L3 caches, respectively. This creates localized hot spots on the die, and CPUs aren’t very good at spreading that heat out across the entire surface area of the chip. This is why Intel specifies lower turbo clocks if you’re performing AVX2-heavy calculations.
FPGAs by etching cooling channels

By etching channels directly on top of a 28nm Altera FPGA, the research team was able to bring cooling much closer to the CPU cores and eliminate the intervening gap that makes water-cooling less effective then it would otherwise be. According to the Georgia Institute of Technology, the research team focused on 28nm Altera FPGAs. After removing their existing heatsink and thermal paste, the group etched 100 micron silicon cylinders into the die, creating cooling passages. The entire system was then sealed using silicon and connected to water tubes.

“We believe we have eliminated one of the major barriers to building high-performance systems that are more compact and energy efficient,” said Muhannad Bakir, an associate professor and ON Semiconductor Junior Professor in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “We have eliminated the heat sink atop the silicon die by moving liquid cooling just a few hundred microns away from the transistors. We believe that reliably integrating microfluidic cooling directly on the silicon will be a disruptive technology for a new generation of electronics.”
Could such a system work for PCs?

The team claims that using these microfluidic channels with water at 20C cut the on-die temperature of their FPGA to just 24C, compared with 60C for an air-cooled design. That’s a significant achievement, particularly given the flow rate (147 milliliters per minute). Clearly this approach can yield huge dividends but whether or not it could ever scale to consumer hardware is a very different question.

As the feature image shows, the connect points for the hardware look decidedly fragile and easily dislodged or broken. The amount of effort required to etch a design like this into an Intel or AMD CPU would be non-trivial, and the companies would have to completely change their approach to CPU heat shields and cooling technology. Still, technologies like this could find application in HPC clusters or any market where computing power is at an absolute premium. Removing that much additional heat from a CPU die would allow for substantially higher clocks, even with modern power consumption scaling.

Source: extremetech

25 September 2015

BlackBerry Priv is the company’s first Android smartphone, CEO John Chen confirms

BlackBerry Venice

BlackBerry Venice, the Android-based slider smartphone has been subjected to plenty of leaks. Right from photos to hands-on videos, we’ve seen them all. Now, CEO John Chen has confirmed that BlackBerry is indeed planning on launching the smartphone and it will be called ‘BlackBerry Priv’.

Announced along with company’s financial results for the second quarter, the handset is expected to become available sometime, later this year.

“Today, I am confirming our plans to launch Priv, an Android device named after BlackBerry’s heritage and core mission of protecting our customers’ privacy. Priv combines the best of BlackBerry security and productivity with the expansive mobile application ecosystem available on the Android platform, Chen said.

He further added that Priv could be one of the many handsets that would provide BlackBerry with “modest sequential revenue growth,” in the coming quarters of the financial year. While Priv is a flagship slider smartphone, the company isn’t abandoning its BlackBerry 10 OS. It will be updated to version 10.3.3 around March, next year.

From what we saw in the hands-on video, the BlackBerry Priv runs on stock Android Lollipop with some handy features in tow.

It is expected to flaunt a 5.4-inch QHD display, and will be powered by a Snapdragon 808 hexa-core SoC paired with 3GB of RAM. The smartphone is also expected to sport an 18-megapixel rear camera with dual LED flash and a 5-megapixel front facing selfie unit.

As mentioned above, the smartphone also features a sliding QWERTY keypad. Just like the BlackBerry Passport, the QWERTY keyboard on the Venice also supports capacitive touch to scroll through the page. This feature can come handy while surfing the web.

Source: Blackberry, bgr

Stoptix automatic brake light warns against rear-end collisions before you touch the brakes

Stoptix automatic brake light
Stoptix is designed to detect deceleration and light up regardless whether the brakes are applied or not (Credit: Mech Optix)

Brake lights are there to inform following traffic that the vehicle is slowing down, but what happens if the deceleration is not the result of braking? The Stoptix automatic brake light is designed to alert other road users that deceleration is taking place in front of them even when the brakes have not been applied.

There are many circumstances that may lead to a vehicle rapidly slowing down; braking is just one of them. Sudden mechanical failure, running out of fuel, collision, downshifting or simply rolling off the throttle can catch the following traffic unaware even more so if those coming from behind fail to keep a safe distance or are distracted.

Mech Optix from Huntsville, Alabama, developed the Stoptix device specifically for these situations where deceleration occurs prior to braking. The time between the moment when a vehicle starts to slow down and the activation of its brake lights may well be the decisive factor that separates a rear-end collision from safe evasive action. For instance, a vehicle travelling at 55 mph (88.5 km/h) covers 80 feet (24.4 m) in one second. In other words, for every second that this driver is unaware of the traffic ahead stopping, he is losing 80 good feet for braking.

Stoptix is designed to detect deceleration and light up regardless whether the brakes are applied or not. An electronic circuit contained within the light bulb includes the deceleration sensor, an LED light and its own power source. The battery can hold its charge for a maximum of three hours, translating to 20 seconds of continuous lighting and quickly recharges when you hit the brakes. In practice this means that once the brake is applied for two or more seconds, Stoptix will be charged and ready to intervene when needed. Needless to say that it will also perform all the typical tasks of a tail/brake light.

Stoptix automatic brake light

Unlike more elaborate systems such as BMW’s dynamic brake light that offers enhanced warning during braking Stoptix requires no modification to the vehicle, as it simply plugs in place of any typical 1154 (US), 1157 (US) or P21/5W bulb. This means that it’s compatible with most motorcycles, cars or other vehicles that use these standard sockets with the exception of rear-loading bulbs. Mech Optix designed Stoptix specifically for motorcycles, but plans to offer similar safety products for the whole automotive field and is also working on a bicycle brake light which will soon launch on Kickstarter.

Stoptix is also weatherproof, shines brighter than the typical incandescent bulb and promises a lifespan of five years or 500,000 working cycles. It is compatible with both 6 and 12 V vehicles and it has even been successfully tested on motorcycles with CAN bus systems. Its operating temperatures range from -22 to 149 degrees Fahrenheit (-30 to 65 degrees Celsius), meaning that there are very few places on Earth where it would fail to operate.

The suggested retail price is US$79.95 (€72) for one bulb or $139.95 (€125) for a pair, although a limited pre-order offer is currently running at $59.95 (€54) per bulb or $99.95 (€89) per pair.

Watch the Stoptix bulb in action in the following video.

Source: Mech Optix, gizmag

20 September 2015

Sensing bionic limbs are here and they work

Bionic limbs

New research from Johns Hopkins University and DARPA shows how far sensing bionic limbs have come, proving that the technology is well on its way to offering real limb replacement. The breakthrough comes by way of patient interaction as much as advanced engineering, as work with real amputees shows how natural bionics sensing can really be.

The researchers recount an episode in which they decided to trick the participant by stimulating two fingers, rather than just one the patient immediately asked if someone was playing a trick on him, by changing the rules of the test. That convinced them that the sensing is both genuine and, more importantly, natural-feeling. The patient had responded to the novel input very quickly, without stopping to interpret the meaning of the signal in the brain.

bionic arm man
Double bionic arms, designed and installed by Johns Hopkins.

Sensing is quickly becoming a limiting factor in bionic control. Fidelity in collecting control information from the brain or elsewhere in the nervous system is important without that you can’t control the arm itself but a limb can only be so accurate so far without feedback information about the results of the movements it makes.

Classically, this refers to the fragile cup scenario, in which a person with a bionic hand must grasp a cup of water firmly enough that it doesn’t fall, but gently enough that it doesn’t break. The only way to do this is to sense how much pressure is being applied. And, crucially, the only way to interpret how much pressure is too much is to relay this information to the brain of a human who can judge the strength of things.

Currently available information is slightly vague about where the brain is being stimulated to produce these touch sensations. But since the volunteers were able to correctly identify the finger being touched with near-100% accuracy in the very first trial, it’s likely that the electrodes are stimulating the sections of motor cortex already associated with finger sensation. This sets the technology apart from current sensing technology, which forces the patient to form new associations between totally new neural activity and familiar sensations. Other teams using a similar approach have achieved stunning preliminary results.

Targeted muscle reinnervation
Targeted muscle reinnervation allow natural control through the same neurons that controlled the lost limb.

Of course, having passing this sort of conceptual threshold, it won’t be long before researchers start to improve the numbers involved number that apply to natural human perception as well. Sensation coming from a bionic source does not have to be speed-limited by the diffusion of ions in solution, as are sensory neurons, or temperature-limited by the safety constraints of flesh. Bionic sensation could plausibly let a person put their hand down on a frying pan to test its temperature and to judge it with their brain, the same as they would any reasonable level of heat.

We’re developing the hardware necessary to restore the relationship between the brain and the outside world and in the process developing the hardware necessary to completely change that relationship forever. If your brain is wired up and you’re thousands of miles away on business, why not let your partner run your spare hand over their face, letting you literally feel a little bit of home? And you don’t have to be an amputee to get electrodes put on your brain, which opens up the area of extra mechanical limbs.

DARPA is funding this research because of the incredible potential it has to improve the lives of thousands of wounded veterans but there’s also plenty of emergent military and industrial value to be had, in any project of this type. We live in an age when data is both money and power, and this genuinely altruistic medical research is slowly turning thought into data.

Source: Extremetech

These robotic spider legs could let helicopters land anywhere

robotic spider leg helicopters

When the US finally decided to evacuate its troops, diplomatic officers, and local allies from Vietnam in 1975, the biggest problem was a lack of helicopter landing zones. The country had left the job so late, it had no choice but to conduct the evacuation with choppers that required large, level clearings and the US embassy had nothing of the sort, beyond the roof. Heroic efforts were required to finish the job, including having soldiers chop down trees and even push unneeded helicopters into the ocean. But that was 1975 surely modern technology has come up with something better, by now?

Well, not really. Helicopters offer more control to pilots than ever before, but you’ll still need to be one hell of an ace if you want to put down safely on anything other than a groomed landing strip. That’s a problem if you’re conducting military operations in, say, multiple desert countries, or in ancient, bombed out Mesopotamian cities. These areas are often light on easy landing zones, but strategically require extensive use of helicopters not a good situation.

Now, DARPA has an idea that could let helicopters land on just about anything no matter how uneven.

The idea comes back to DARPA’s favorite new word: autonomy. The idea is to give helicopters four independently controlled, autonomous legs with built-in distance sensors. These legs can see the topology of the ground beneath them, and adjust their height accordingly, to keep the helicopter body level. This could let a chopper set down on the side of a slanted roof, the side of a mountain, or just on a highly irregular surface, like a battlefield pock-marked with mortar holes. And since the legs can fold inward as the chopper descends, they can do some shock absorbing to cushion unavoidable hard landings to reduce the risk of damage or injury to passengers.

helicopter landing problem
Thanks to DARPA, this sort of thing could be unthinkable, very soon.

It could even make helicopters more useful for the Navy, allowing safe landings even during choppy weather with rocking landing decks; it should be able to adjust its orientation while on the ground, potentially swaying with the deck of the ship and keeping the whole from tipping. DARPA’s official statement about the project says it could handle up to a 20 degree grade.

The legs fold up when the helicopter is in flight, like the landing gear on a plane. It’s only been tested with large remote control helicopters, not yet with a full sized version. That full sized version should’t be all that much heavier than regular helicopter landing struts, since they will be hollow, made of metal scaffolding.

This is all part of DARPA‘s Mission Adaptive Rotor (MAR) project an attempt to bring the unique capabilities of helicopters into the next generation. This landing gear initiative would greatly advance the role of helicopters as the versatile alternative to fixed with aircraft but it’s not all DARPA’s been working on. Their vision for the VTVL aircraft would include autonomous, modular cargo carriers that could switch between troop transport, cargo carrying, and even combat roles.

Source: Extremetech

06 September 2015

World's first magnetic "wormhole" produces magnetic monopole

magnetic wormhole device created at UAB

Magnetic field lines (in red) leaving a magnet on the right pass through the wormhole, which in terms of magnetism is undetectable (Credit: Jordi Prat-Camps and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

It may not instantly whisk you to far-flung reaches of the universe like the gravitational wormholes of Stargate, Star Trek and Interstellar, but researchers at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) claim to have created the first experimental wormhole that links two regions of space magnetically.

Using metamaterials and metasurfaces, the scientists for UAB's Department of Physics created a sphere that from the outside is magnetically undetectable. The sphere consisted of an external layer with a ferromagnetic surface and an inner layer made of a superconducting material, while crossing it from one side to the other and forming a tunnel was a cylinder made of a rolled ferromagnetic sheet.

magnetic wormhole device created at UAB

Using this arrangement, the magnetic field from a magnet or an electromagnet at one end of the tunnel passes through the "wormhole" undetected and appears at the other end in the form of an isolated magnetic monopole, which is something that does not exist in nature.

The research follows on from previous work by the same team in 2014 when they built a magnetic fiber capable of transporting a magnetic field from one end to the other. However, the fiber was detectable magnetically whereas the wormhole is a three-dimensional device that is undetectable by any magnetic field.

Although it isn't in quite the same league as connecting two points in spacetime, and the device only creates the illusion of a magnetic field propagating through a tunnel outside the 3D space, the researchers say the technology could have applications in fields where magnetic fields are used, such as medicine. For example, the team suggests the technology could make is possible to take MRI scans of different parts of the body simultaneously, or make such scans more comfortable for patients by distancing them from the detectors.

The team's study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: UAB, gizmag

29 August 2015

Tiny solar cells could soon charge electric vehicles while on the road

solar electric car charging concept

Perovskite solar cells, which are much smaller than traditional panels, could soon revolutionize electric vehicle charging (Credit: Shutterstock)

Researchers claim to have hit on the right combination of solar cell type and battery to charge an electric vehicle battery with higher efficiency than ever before. The team behind the research says the system could soon make it possible to attach small cells to a car that will charge the vehicle while being driven – on a sunny day, at least.

The researchers from Case Western Reserve University wired four perovskite solar cells in series to directly photo-charge lithium batteries with 7.8 percent efficiency, which they believe to be the most efficient configuration reported to date.

"We found the right match between the solar cell and battery... Others have used polymer solar cells to charge lithium batteries, but not with this efficiency," said Liming Dai, the leader of the research team, adding that the coupling appears to have outperformed all other reported pairings of photo-charging components and compatible batteries or super-capacitors.

Perovskite has been one of the most promising solar cell technologies to emerge of late, thanks to its ability to convert a broader spectrum of sunlight to electricity when compared to silicon-based cells. The crystalline material has a structure identical to the mineral of the same name, and its potential for highly efficient power conversion and a quick payback in terms of energy savings over traditional power sources have made it one of the fastest growing sectors in the solar power field. As a sort of added bonus, it has even been found to emit light at night, functioning similar to an LED.

Dai's lab created cells with three layers converted into a single perovskite film and then wired four of the 1 mm square cells in series, achieving a solar-to-electric power conversion efficiency of 12.65 percent.

When hooked up to charge small coin-sized lithium-ion batteries, the team achieved a conversion and storage efficiency of 7.8 percent and maintained it over a number of cycles.

"We envision, in the not too distant future, this is a system that you could have at home to refuel your car and, eventually, because perovskite solar cells can be made as a flexible film, they would be on the car itself," said contributing author Jiantie Xu.

This would seem to make the technology a perfect fit for cars with a more traditional look than the Immortus solar sports car, whose every available sky-facing surface is covered in 7 sq m (75 sq ft) of solar photovoltaic paneling.

The research was published in the most recent issue of Nature Communications.

Source: Case Western Reserve University, Gizmag 

28 August 2015

Self-healing material could patch up damaged spacecraft in under a second

selfhealing material

Space is big and mostly empty, but it’s the small part that isn’t empty that ends up being an issue for space exploration. Even a tiny piece of debris from a derelict satellite or ancient bit of space rock can cause damage to a spacecraft, and that damage can expose your fragile atmosphere-loving body to the harsh vacuum of space in a real hurry. Researchers from the University of Michigan working with NASA have developed a material that might add an extra layer of protection from space debris, a material that can heal itself to seal hull breaches.

The International Space Station is the most heavily shielded craft ever built, a necessary distinction as it’s designed to operate for years in orbit. The current design relies on a series of impact shields known as Whipple bumpers or Whipple shields. These bumpers are essentially thin layers of material that stand off from the hull of the station by at least several centimeters. When a small object impacts the station, the impact with the Whipple bumper slows it down and may even cause it to break up. The result is a lower force spread over a larger surface area of the actual hull.

If the bumpers were to fail, the station would have a weak spot that could lead to a hull rupture. The work by U of M scientists might offer an added layer of protection. This new material is composed of a type of liquid resin called thiol-ene-trialkylborane. It’s sandwiched between two polymer panels to form an airtight seal. The resin remains liquid as long as that seal remains unbroken. Should a projectile pierce the hull of a ship that includes this material, it will no longer be sealed. The resin leaks out through the breach, and that’s when the magic (science) happens.

On one side of the breach is vacuum, but as we’ve all learned from TV and movies, the air inside a spacecraft will be sucked out quickly. The air on the inside of the ship reacts with the resin as it leaks out, causing it to harden into a solid plug that stops more atmosphere from escaping. This happens extremely fast as well the video above shows the resin hardening in just a few milliseconds.

The plug only has to hold one atmosphere of pressure inside the ship, so it doesn’t have to be as strong as the undamaged hull. It just needs to be good enough to keep everyone alive while they make proper repairs. While space is the main application, the researchers also say it could be useful in automotive and building technology.


Top 5 Websites to buy Bluetooth Devices Online in India

Bluetooth is a kind of technology setup, in some electronic devices, which facilitates wireless communication in a short range. If someone wants to get rid of the cables connected to electronic devices, then for them Bluetooth technology is like a blessing from God. It’s the best way to replace cables from several electronic devices kept at your home.

With its help you can easily talk to someone on phone via headset. With Bluetooth devices, you can also use wireless mouse by synchronizing your mobile phone to your PC. So it’s the easiest way to talk with ease and comfort while you are walking and doing something else within your home.

There are several Bluetooth devices in the market from an array of brands. If you want them, then you should try searching for them online, as it is the best place for buying them.

Here are the names of some useful sites from where you can buy an array of Bluetooth devices without much effort. These are the leading websites of India and they have a huge customer base and great fan following. Let’s go into the further details of them.

1. Snapdeal

Snapdeal and flipkart - these are the two names in the e-commerce market of India for which we should have lot of appreciation and praise. If they can do so much for uplifting the market of India, can’t we do something for them? If you will use their services then it will be a great favor for them. So if you have to buy something online then it’s better to search on Indian websites rather than giving patronage and undue advantage to others.

2. Flipkart

This name really makes us feel proud for all that it has done for nurturing the e-commerce market of India. It is an ultimate place for buying anything online in India. For electronic devices this is truly a superb place. You can get the things at a lesser price on flipkart. For getting any Bluetooth devices you can certainly rely on flipkart.

3. Shopclues

I always get amazed whenever I go on this website and it’s mainly due to the amazing array of useful products that it has on its portal for the users. For Bluetooth devices too, it’s a wonderful place. It is offering some unbelievable kinds of discounts on some well known brands of Bluetooth devices.

4. Cromaretail

Another credible Indian website for buying any electronic and Bluetooth devices in India is Cromaretail. Samsung, Sony, Nokia, Plantronic are some most favored brands across which you will come on cromaretail. It is also offering some good discounts on several Bluetooth devices.

5. Homeshop18

Be Indian, buy Indian and use the credible services of Indian companies. This is my sincere request to all my readers. However small your help may be but it counts and becomes very important when you think in the larger perspective. So if you are in need of any Bluetooth devices then please go on any of these websites and contribute towards the upliftment of India. Also get extra off on these products by using homeshop18 coupons and for more offer and deal visit CouponzGuru.com.
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