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.

27 August 2015

Intel’s new 5×5: Tiny form factor, socketed CPU

intel 5x5

For years, mini-ITX has been the smallest mainstream system form factor that enthusiasts could reasonably buy. Intel wants to change that with its new 5×5 initiative, and it’s offering the new platform with socketed CPUs rather than relying solely on soldered parts. This could prove a potent selling point, since soldered systems are often less attractive to customers who want the option to upgrade the integrated CPU.

Despite the 5×5 name, the board is more like 5.5 by 5.8 inches (HW), but it packs a number of features. The board is capable of handling up to 65W TDP chips, with two SO-DIMM slots for memory, M.2 support for storage, and both wired and wireless networking options. The 5×5 can also use an external DC power supply. Intel says the mounting holes are “standard,” which implies that they conform to existing hardware mounts, but we haven’t seen hardware yet to verify exactly which cases will be able to mount a 5×5 board.

Socket support, higher TDPs improve value proposition

If you consider Intel’s 5×5 in the context of Skylake’s increased graphics performance, the offering makes more sense. Intel’s GPU performance has been growing substantially faster than its CPU performance, but that’s not much of a benefit in a soldered system without PCI-Express slots. With Skylake, Intel is continuing to push the graphics envelope and socketed systems theoretically offer lower-end gamers the ability to buy a CPU today and upgrade later to a higher-performance GPU.


The reason that gain is theoretical, however, is that Intel doesn’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to supporting multiple generations of processor on the same platform. It’s not clear yet if current Skylake motherboards will support Kaby Lake, the 14nm refresh now scheduled for 2016. A solution like this would be more exciting if we knew that Intel would offer multiple products with improved graphics performance integrated into each core especially if those parts would fit into a 65W TDP.

The 5×5 probably won’t revolutionize small system design Intel NUCs and the existing mini-ITX standard fill the low-power market fairly well but the ability to upgrade to a faster socketed processor in the miniature form factor could sell some living room computer enthusiasts on Skylake as a Steam Box processor. Intel claims that the smallest system form factors will fit into 0.85L worth of volume, which should let it slip inconspicuously into a living room or entertainment system.


Extreme pressure reveals new phenomenon in atomic nuclei

Extreme pressure reveals new phenomenon in atomic nuclei
Both the outer "valence" electrons and inner-core electrons of atomic nuclei behave unexpectedly under extreme pressure, which suggests there may be as-yet-undiscovered states of matter (Credit: Shutterstock)

Scientists have long believed that while an atom's outer electrons are highly mobile and often behave somewhat chaotically, the inner electrons close to the nucleus are stable. They move steadily around the nucleus and stay out of each other's way. But new research reveals that if the pressure is really extreme, like double that found at the center of the Earth, the innermost electrons of an atom change their behavior.

The international team of researchers that observed this anomalous, unexpected phenomenon managed to put a metal called osmium, which is almost the densest of all known metals and almost as incompressible as diamond, under static pressure of over 770 gigapascals. That's more than twice as high as the pressure at the center of the Earth and 7.7 million times higher than the mean atmospheric pressure at the sea level.

The scientists were able to do this thanks to a device called a diamond anvil cell, which can put sub-millimeter-sized materials under pressure comparable to that which creates diamonds. The portion of the research team from Bayreuth University in Germany developed synthetic diamonds that could fit between two ordinary diamonds and on each side of the osmium crystal. These synthetic diamonds reduced the area in which the osmium could fit, thereby increasing the pressure to new extremes.

Osmium retained its hexagonal close-packed structure when extremely compressed, but both the inner-core and outer electrons behaved unexpectedly. Despite the extreme pressure, the outer, or valence, electrons behaved as normal, while the electrons in the atomic nuclei which are normally predictable and tightly-bound to their nuclei began to interact with one other. In other words, extreme compression changes the nature of core electrons.

"The phenomenon means that we can start searching for brand new states of matter," said project lead Igor Abrikosov. "We're really delighted, and it's exciting as it opens up a whole box of new questions for future research."

A paper describing the research was published in the journal Nature.

Source: Linköping University, gizmag 

25 August 2015

This hydrogen fuel cell-powered iPhone 6 delivers an entire week of battery life

iphone fuel cell
A British firm, Intelligent Energy, has demonstrated a new iPhone 6 fuel cell that integrated seamlessly into the existing chassis and can reportedly run the device for up to a week. The manufacturer won’t directly confirm that it has worked directly with Apple to develop a fuel cell infrastructure for the company’s products, but reporters claim to have glimpsed prototype Macbook Air and iPhone devices.

You can already get various fuel cell chargers that combine lithium ion batteries and their own internal hardware, but what Internal Energy has worked on is (supposedly) quite different. The Telegraph reports that the company’s fuel cell technology can be integrated into an iPhone without any visible changes to the device, save for some additional vents that discharge water vapor. Total iPhone charge time? One week.

How a fuel cell works, courtesy of Geek.com

The infrastructure problem

The current iteration of Intelligent Energy’s hardware reportedly refuels the hydrogen fuel cell via the headphone jack (there’s no information on whether or not the jack remains usable for other purposes) and doesn’t replace the existing lithium-ion battery, only supplements it. There are multiple questions about how such a system would work in deployment. Intelligent Energy wants to license its technology, not produce kits wholesale, which means a phone manufacturer like Apple would need to take a substantial up-front cost and integrate the technology into a new handset run. Doing so would mean the device needs to be tested in a number of scenarios to ensure that the fuel cell doesn’t rupture or that the vents don’t become obstructed when the phone is slipped into various pockets or purses.

power bank

The Upp. The detachable cartridge is just visible at the back

Deal with that problem, and there’s still the question of how device refills are handled and how much it costs to top up the fuel cell. At a few dollars per fuel cell, being able to carry a week’s worth of phone juice would be an amazing feature. Intelligent Energy already has a fuel cell recharger in the market, dubbed Upp, but the hardware is a separate boxy unit that connects to a device via USB. Some of these problems are analogous to those faced by the fuel cell vehicle industry, which currently has a limited market.

Upp’s own website notes that there are no authorized upp resellers within 125km of my own home, which points to the early adopter problems in the hydrogen economy. Right now, it’s difficult to convince people to adopt an additional means of powering devices that relies on external power packs or cartridges when wall power is cheap and sockets aren’t hard to find. Obviously a weeklong battery charge for an iPhone or other smartphone could be a lifesaver in the right conditions, but unless you’re heading out to hike the Appalachian Trail, it’s not a critical need.

Still, if any company can sell consumers on the value of a hydrogen fuel cell over and above the traditional Li-ion battery, it’s Apple. No word yet on whether or not the prototypes IE created will ever come to market, but this is the kind of technology play that could take several years to come to fruition. Sometimes that works out, as when Apple added fingerprint sensors. Others, like the company’s ill-fated sapphire glass venture, later come to naught.


24 August 2015

iPhone user? Samsung’s offering you a free 30-day trial of a Galaxy S6 Edge or Note 5

Samsung’s Galaxy S6

Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and Note 5 both launched in recent months, but sales of the former have been well below expectations. Note 5 sales figures aren’t available yet, but the company is apparently hedging its bets. Samsung has unveiled a new promotion in which it will send you a Galaxy S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, or Note 5 for 30 days, free of charge. It’ll even throw in a SIM card for the network of your choice.

While a credit card is required to order, the company only initially taps it for $1. Failure to return the device within 30 days, we imagine, likely leads to an immediate bill so don’t treat this like Netflix where you can sign up for the free trial and forget to cancel thereafter. Samsung’s decision to offer flagship devices for a free 30-day trial is likely driven by slumping sales of its flagship devices and significant loss of market share, as shown in the slide below by Counterpoint Research.

smartphone OEM market share Q2 2015

Samsung has had a bruising 2015, by any standard, despite launching multiple well-reviewed devices. That’s not to say enthusiasts didn’t have reason to be unhappy with the company’s decision to ditch microSD cards and replaceable batteries, but the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Note 5 have received strong marks for performance, thermals, and screen quality. This hasn’t stopped Apple from chewing into the company at the high end, however, while competitors like Xiaomi and Huawei have chewed into it in the low-end space.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

The Galaxy S6 Ege. Well-regarded, but not enough to stem Samsung’s losses.

Given this combination of headwinds, it’s not surprising that Samsung marketing is digging for alternative methods to appeal to new users. As an iPhone user, I’m actually considering the trial myself. I may not have plans to convert to Android any time soon, but it’d be interesting to see how Samsung’s latest and greatest stacks up against the iPhone 6S or whatever Apple calls its next-generation smartphone.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of Samsung’s offer, visit this website with an iPhone. The site will detect that you’re on an Apple device and walk you through the steps to register for a free Samsung device for the 30-day trial. As always, make certain to read the fine print nobody wants to get stuck with a high-end smartphone bill for a device you didn’t actually plan on using. If you do find that the Galaxy S6 or Note 5 meets your needs better than an iPhone, drop in and tell us about it.


New record energy efficiency for artificial photosynthesis

artificial photosynthesis
A new world-record 22 percent conversion efficiency for solar-powered hydrogen production has been claimed by researchers from Australia's Monash University (Credit: Shutterstock)

As the world moves towards developing new avenues of renewable energy, the efficiencies of producing fuels such as hydrogen must increase to the point that they rival or exceed those of conventional energy sources to make them a viable alternative. Now researchers at Monash University in Melbourne claim to have created a solar-powered device that produces hydrogen at a world-record 22 percent efficiency, which is a significant step towards making cheap, efficient hydrogen production a reality.

Efficiency records for solar-powered hydrogen production have continued to rise over the years, and much more rapidly as the technology and techniques improve. Even as late as December last year a report says a solar-driven hydrogen record efficiency at the time of just 12.3 percent, so this new record shows a very healthy 10 percent improvement on that and beats out the previous record of 18 percent.

Splitting water using electricity to produce hydrogen and oxygen has been an established scientific technique for many decades. However, the rate at which hydrogen has been produced in this way has not been commercially viable due to the relatively low conversion rates compared to the input energy costs. Ideally, solar-powered water-splitting would be one of the best ways to produce hydrogen as its energy input cost is effectively zero.

On the downside, however, the low efficiencies of past solar devices have kept this technology largely in its infancy. The Monash researchers believe that may all soon change as increased efficiencies in the process and in the devices themselves improve.

"Electrochemical splitting of water could provide a cheap, clean and renewable source of hydrogen as the ultimately sustainable fuel." said Professor Leone Spiccia from the School of Chemistry at Monash who led the research. "This latest breakthrough is significant in that it takes us one step further towards this becoming a reality."

According to the researchers, the breakthrough is significantly attributable to the leading-edge capabilities of the group in which they work and a growing expertise in tuning the processes and materials used in water splitting.

To help achieve the required solar-input efficiencies, the team utilized the very best commercial-grade multi-junction (indium gallium phosphide, gallium arsenide, and germanium) solar cells available to ensure the maximum sunlight to electricity conversion.

However, an even greater contribution to efficiency was on the material side, where the use of expanded foam nickel electrodes increased the available electrolysis surface area with such efficiency that the electrolyte in which they were immersed was simply local river water with the addition of a standard pH buffer (generally a salt solution containing sodium phosphate and sodium chloride).

In this combination of high-efficiency cells and high-yield electrodes, the team claims the 22 percent record for conventional solar-cell to electrochemical production of hydrogen.

What the eventual limit of such technologies is a largely moot point at this stage and largely reliant on the increasing efficiency of solar-cell light conversion factors. Advances in such things as perovskite solar-cells may assist in this regard and, compared to some other methods of sunlight-powered water-splitting yet to fully prove their mettle, may achieve the necessary breakthrough point to tip the balance in favor of cheap, abundant hydrogen fuel.

"Hydrogen can be used to generate electricity directly in fuel cells," said Professor Doug MacFarlane, ARC Laureate Fellow and leader of the Energy Program of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science at Monash. "Cars driven by fuel cell electric engines are becoming available from a number of car manufacturers. Hydrogen could even be used as an inexpensive energy storage technology at the household level to store energy from roof-top solar cells."

The results of the research were recently published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.

Source: Monash University, gizmag

23 August 2015

Stanford researchers build fully internal optical brain interfaces

Two prominent Stanford researchers, Ada Poon and Karl Deisseroth, recently teamed up to create a completely wireless optogenetic implant. Instead of relying on fiber optic tethers and bulky headset receivers, their tiny mouse stimulator generates light from LEDs that are powered with an ingenious technique: a 1.5 GHz RF cavity that couples energy to the implant by using the whole mouse as an efficiently matched receiver.

In contrast to more conventional inductive energy transfer systems that need to have direct coupling between two opposed coils, the animal is free to move about anywhere above the energizing lattice in the floor of its chamber. But this is not just some scaled-down version of a subsurface highway charger for electric vehicles. Instead, resonant excitation of a confined electromagnetic field pattern (i.e. its intrinsic mode) can be localized to the mouse independent of its position.

It’s all in a closed-access paper Poon previously published not so long ago. We are not yet sure how to scale this up to humans. But as long as our dielectric properties are similar, the main variable should just be physical dimension. Provided you get that right, and have a way to get a few opto-enabled ion channels preferably the channelrhodopsin 2 (ChR2) variety into select parts of your nervous system, the actual hardware to rectify sufficient power for the LEDs is fairly simple.

In fact, all you need to boost up the raw DC voltage is four Schottky diodes and four capacitors configured into a two-stage doubling circuit. Together with three small turns for the antenna receiver, everything should fit into 10 mm3 package that weighs under 20mg. As the researchers show in their actual experimental paper, that’s small enough to fit nearly anywhere in the central or peripheral nervous system, even just under the skin at sensory nerve endings.

Just to make sure everything is on the up and up, you may initially want to use a bit of exploratory fiber optics anyway. They make for a highly accurate and localized temperature probe. In the course of due diligence, the researchers demonstrated that any incidental temperature rises associated with the stimulation were limited to <1 °C. That presumably includes any heat from LED light itself, the associated electronics, and the more generalized absorption of RF energy. More sophisticated power conversion might even wring a little more efficiency from the micro LEDs. The researchers estimated they were getting about 20% efficiency (emitted light power/input power) while the manufacturer spec sheet indicated that efficiencies up to 60% should be possible. More importantly perhaps, the researchers could generate light pulses as tight as 100 μs. This kind of temporal precision would allow one to exploit the full dynamic range of the channel opsin now available. We have been chronicling the dramatic advances made by both Poon and Deisseroth for several years now. The technological fruits now falling out of their mutual labor, while clearly awesome just to behold, are even more seductive when we can fully view them in their transparent simplicity with an eye to one day possess.


29 July 2015

Microsoft Windows 10 is released here’s how to download it

Windows 10

Our long national nightmare is over Windows 8.1 is no longer the current version of Windows. Now it’s Windows 10, and today’s the day it hits the airwaves for what appears to be as many people as Microsoft can keep the servers running for. For a while, it was expected that only Insiders would get it first, followed by those who request the update, as well as anyone who buys a new machine starting today. It appears that lots of people are getting it right away though, which is a nice surprise.

To install it on your current machine, first check Windows Update; you should see a notification saying that it’s available, assuming you’ve pre-registered for it. If it’s there, then that’s the simplest way, and you can install it right over your current install and preserve all of your existing software and data.

Windows 10 ISO image page

The better news is that if you want to do a clean install of Windows 10 say, if you’re a stickler for a super-clean machine like we are you can do it starting today with a new Windows 10 ISO file, which you can download straight from Microsoft’s website and install on a USB key.

Several of us have already given our thoughts on the roller-coaster ride that was Insider Preview. Our sister site PCMag has a full review up, which we encourage you to read, as well as we own continuing coverage of the Windows 10 launch including how to turn off Microsoft’s automatic WiFi password sharing, why Windows 10 even has the name it does, and more.

And as Microsoft has made clear over and over, it looks at Windows 10 as a living, breathing document, er, operating system meaning that even though this is the final release version, the company will continue to patch it often, and even prefers to abandon the idea of version numbers altogether.

So which of you are upgrading to Windows 10, and which are holding off for now? I can tell you that on the Devil’s Canyon mini-ITX machine I literally just built a month ago, I somehow managed to scrog the Windows 7 install. It’s throwing .DLL errors on bootup and explorer.exe crashes, even though all I’ve installed on it are Steam and some audio applications. I may reformat with Windows 7 and try again, or I may try again with Windows 10 to see how it goes this way I can write about how I regret it and have to go back to Windows 7. I’m kidding, I think. Anyway, let us know your thoughts on all this in the comments below.


26 July 2015

New production process makes PLA bioplastic cheaper and greener

Researchers in Belgium have developed a simpler process for the production of PLA bioplastic (Credit:Shutterstock)

Polylactic acid (PLA) is a biodegradable bioplastic that is already used to produce a variety of everyday items, such as cups, trays, bowls and vegetable wrapping foil. Unfortunately, the current PLA production process is expensive and produces waste. Researchers at the KU Leuven Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis in Belgium have now developed a new production technique that is cheaper and greener and makes PLA a more attractive alternative to petroleum-based plastics.

PLA boasts a number of advantages over petroleum-based plastic. It is one of the few plastics suitable for use in 3D printers, it is biocompatible, making it suitable for medical use, and it biodegrades in a few years in certain environments, and is industrially compostable and recyclable. But when it comes to cost, PLA can't compete with petroleum-based plastics due to the intermediary steps required to produce it.

As its name suggests, lactic acid is a main building block of PLA. This can be obtained by the fermentation of sugar that can be sourced from renewable resources such as corn starch, tapioca and sugarcane.

"First, lactic acid is fed into a reactor and converted into a type of pre-plastic under high temperature and in a vacuum," explains Professor Bert Sels from the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis. "This is an expensive process. The pre-plastic a low-quality plastic is then broken down into building blocks for PLA. In other words, you are first producing an inferior plastic before you end up with a high-quality plastic. And even though PLA is considered a green plastic, the various intermediary steps in the production process still require metals and produce waste."

To develop a more efficient and economical route to PLA, the researchers have borrowed a petrochemical concept that uses a zeolite (a porous mineral composed of aluminium, silicon, and oxygen) as a catalyst in the reactor to guide the chemical process that converts lactic acid into lactide.

"By selecting a specific type [of zeolite] on the basis of its pore shape, we were able to convert lactic acid directly into the building blocks for PLA without making the larger by-products that do not fit into the zeolite pores,” said postdoctoral researcher Michiel Dusselier.

In practice, this means the intermediary steps that require metals and produce waste are eliminated from the production process, while providing higher yields of lactide. A patent for the new technique has already been bought by a chemical company that intends to scale up the production process to an industrial capacity.

While admitting that biodegradability isn't a desirable property for all plastics, (toilet drain pipes, for example), and the team isn't aiming to promote disposable plastic, Dusselier says that products that are made from PLA have the potential to become cheaper and greener thanks to the this new technique.

Details of the team's research were published in the journal Science.
Source: KU Leuven, gizmag 

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