Tuesday, December 13, 2011

CERN: 'Don't believe the Higgs-Boson hype'

CERN is pouring cold water on the rumor it's gonna announce the discovery of the Higgs at today's seminar in Zurich. For the uninitiated: the Higgs-Boson is the particle that is believed to give all things mass: it surrounds us, penetrates us and binds the galaxy together. The scuttlebutt is that the ATLAS sensor picked up a Higgs with a mass of 125GeV (gigaelectronvolts) and rated at three-point-five-sigma -- a one sigma barely warrants a mention, a five-sigma is a bona-fide scientific discovery. CERN hasn't confirmed or denied anything, claiming it's still got five inverse femtobarns worth of data (roughly 5 x 70 x 10^12 of individual collisions) to examine before it can be sure, so just chuck the one bottle of champagne into the refrigerator -- better to be safe, eh?

Update: Looks like we don't need to bust out the bubbly, after all. The conclusion from the two-hour presentation is that the ATLAS detector has been able to narrow down the region it believes the Higgs is in to 115.5GeV to 131GeV and that any discovery so-far only has a rating of two point three sigma. The CMS is similarly inconclusive, with results bobbing around the two sigma region. In short, whilst they know where they should look, they haven't been able to find one -- yet.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Aldebaran Robotics announces Nao Next Gen humanoid robot

Aldebaran Robotics' Nao robot has already received a few upgrades from both the company itself andother developers, but it now has a proper successor. Aldebaran took the wraps off its new and improved Nao Next Gen robot today, touting features like a 1.6GHz Atom processor and dual HD cameras that promise to allow for better face and object recognition even in poor lighting conditions. What's more, while robot's outward appearance hasn't changed much, it has also received a number of software upgrades, including Nuance voice recognition, an improved walking algorithm, and a number of other measures to cut down on unwanted collisions. As before, the robot is aimed squarely at researchers and developers, but the Aldebaran's chairman notes that the company is continuing to pursue its goal of providing a Nao intended for individuals -- a goal he notes is being aided by the contributions from itsdeveloper program. Check out the gallery below and the video after the break for a closer look.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

ZOMM Wireless Leash Plus speaks up for abandoned iPhones

ZOMM's Wireless Leash plus is a hockey puck you clip onto your keychain and forget about -- until things start to go wrong. Tethering to your iPhone over Bluetooth, it'll start raising hell if your phone gets too far away from you. It's also a speakerphone (with a noise-canceling microphone) for taking calls on the road, a personal attack alarm, and it'll call the emergency services at the push of a button. Paired to the free myZOMM app, you can geotag your car so you remember where it is in the multi-story lot or check out the last known location of your most precious stuff. It's shipping now for $80 and a further $30 will get you a safe driving kit, not that we need to remind you that driving with a phone in your hand is a bad thing, right?


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Kobot personal EV concept collapses, lets Cat Woman park anywhere she wants

Kobot EVs

We've seen our fair share of folding cars, but here's where those concepts and the Kobot EVs differ -- these might actually come to market. These personal transportation vehicles are already far enough along to be rolling about the floor of the Tokyo Motor Show and Kowa Tmsuk (the joint venture between medical supply company Kowa and robot manufacturer Tmsuk) plan to have the first model out by fall of next year. There were three varieties on display at the show: the sporty, red Kobot ν (nyu) being ridden by Cat Woman in the photo above; the green Kobot β (beta), which collapses to just a 30-inch footprint (a tad under one foot); and the two person Kobot π. The electric "cars" shrink with the tap of a button on a smartphone, only have a top speed of 30 km/h (about 19MPH) and are intended for short urban jaunts where parking is at a premium. Check out the source for a bunch more photos and head after the break for a clip of the personal propulsion pods in action.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Samsung teases flexible, transparent display in concept video

Samsung's flexible display technology isn't slated to hit the market until 2012, but the Korean manufacturer is already giving us a glimpse of how it may transform our lives, with a freshly released concept video. Yes, it's just a concept ad, and a relatively brief one at that, but it still paints a pretty mouth-watering portrait -- one full of transparent, flexible screens, smartphone-tablet hybrids, and augmented reality. Check it out for yourself, after the break.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why smart managers tell stupid lies

U. TORONTO (CAN) —A new study may explain why corporate managers, like those in the Enron scandal, lie about their companies’ earnings, even though it will hurt their own careers and the businesses they work for.

Unless current shareholders also suffer a penalty for earnings manipulation and insider trading, they will encourage unethical and damaging behavior that may harm the company later, a new study suggests.

A limited capacity to see the whole picture—known as “bounded rationality”—combined with a faulty ethical compass are two big reasons, shows a new study from the University of Toronto. The study, reported in the journal Accounting and Public and Policy, also finds that shareholders are just as guilty of the same weaknesses and that insider trading is linked to earnings manipulation.

“For a long time we’ve asked ourselves, ‘How come smart, rational people carry out short-term schemes that in the long-term undoubtedly are going to sink them?” says author Ramy Elitzur, associate professor of accounting.

“The answer is— we’re not rational. We’re rational only in a limited sense.”

The study bases its findings on a model of the manager-owner relationship over time. The model is also noteworthy for combining principles of game theory—used to predict strategic behavior—with the idea of bounded rationality—that our decisions are always made within the limits of available time, information, and the human capacity to analyze it.

“It tells us, for example, that if we would like to have managers who engage less in earnings manipulation and in insider trading, we should look for managers who are more ethical and suffer less from bounded rationality,” says Elitzur.

That’s not a trivial finding, he says, because the model also shows that choosing less ethical managers may be in the best interests of current shareholders, but not future ones.

Unless current shareholders also suffer a penalty for such a choice, they will encourage unethical and damaging behavior. Some provisions in the U.S. Senate’s Financial Regulation Overhaul bill from 2010 help to guard against these tendencies, the study says.

The case of Enron is well known. The scandal at Satyam Computer Services was dubbed “India’s Enron,” and broke in 2009. Prior to his resignation, Satyam’s chairman Ramalinga Raju admitted to years of systematic inflation of earnings and assets, beginning with small manipulations of account statements that eventually got out of control.

Elitzur says that it took a decade to develop his model and get it published, partly because of initial resistance to his findings.

“Many accountants believed that markets are efficient and as such, a lot of the issues of earnings management would be corrected by the markets,” he says.

“But this belief has changed over time, and we understand better now that earnings manipulation occurs and does indeed affect markets.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New phone battery charges 10x faster

NORTHWESTERN (US) — A new lithium-ion battery not only holds a charge up to 10 times longer than current technology, but can also charge 10 times faster.

By combining two chemical engineering approaches, researchers were able to address two major lithium-ion battery limitations—energy capacity and charge rate—in one fell swoop. In addition to better batteries for cellphones and iPods, the technology could pave the way for more efficient, smaller batteries for electric cars.

Researchers combined two chemical engineering approaches to address two major limitations faced by rechargeable batteries like those found in cellphones and iPods—energy capacity and charge rate—in one fell swoop. The technology could also pave the way for more efficient, smaller batteries for electric cars.

The technology, reported in the journal Advanced Energy Materials, could be seen in the marketplace in the next three to five years, researchers say.

“We have found a way to extend a new lithium-ion battery’s charge life by 10 times,” says Harold H. Kung, professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern University. “Even after 150 charges, which would be one year or more of operation, the battery is still five times more effective than lithium-ion batteries on the market today.”

Lithium-ion batteries charge through a chemical reaction in which lithium ions are sent between two ends of the battery, the anode and the cathode. As energy in the battery is used, the lithium ions travel from the anode, through the electrolyte, and to the cathode; as the battery is recharged, they travel in the reverse direction.

With current technology, the performance of a lithium-ion battery is limited in two ways. Its energy capacity—how long a battery can maintain its charge—is limited by the charge density, or how many lithium ions can be packed into the anode or cathode. Meanwhile, a battery’s charge rate—the speed at which it recharges—is limited by another factor: the speed at which the lithium ions can make their way from the electrolyte into the anode.

In current rechargeable batteries, the anode that is made of layer upon layer of carbon-based graphene sheets, can only accommodate one lithium atom for every six carbon atoms. To increase energy capacity, scientists have previously experimented with replacing the carbon with silicon, as silicon can accommodate much more lithium: four lithium atoms for every silicon atom.

But silicon expands and contracts dramatically in the charging process, causing fragmentation and losing its charge capacity rapidly.

Currently, the speed of a battery’s charge rate is hindered by the extreme thinness of the graphene sheets: just one carbon atom thick, but by comparison, very long. During the charging process, a lithium ion must travel all the way to the outer edges of the graphene sheet before entering and coming to rest between the sheets. And because it takes so long for lithium to travel to the middle of the graphene sheet, a sort of ionic traffic jam occurs around the edges of the material.

Kung and colleagues have combined two techniques to combat both problems. First, to stabilize the silicon in order to maintain maximum charge capacity, they sandwiched clusters of silicon between the graphene sheets, allowing for a greater number of lithium atoms in the electrode while utilizing the flexibility of graphene sheets to accommodate the volume changes of silicon during use.

“Now we almost have the best of both worlds,” Kung says. “We have much higher energy density because of the silicon, and the sandwiching reduces the capacity loss caused by the silicon expanding and contracting. Even if the silicon clusters break up, the silicon won’t be lost.”

Kung’s team also used a chemical oxidation process to create miniscule holes (10 to 20 nanometers) in the graphene sheets—called in-plane defects—so the lithium ions would have a shortcut into the anode and be stored there by reaction with silicon. This reduced the time it takes the battery to recharge by up to 10 times.

This research focused on the anode. The next step, Kung says, is to begin studying changes in the cathode that could further increase effectiveness of the batteries and look into developing an electrolyte system that will allow the battery to automatically and reversibly shut off at high temperatures—a safety mechanism that could prove vital in electric car applications.

Compound dissolves HIV on contact

While not a cure for HIV, the compound demonstrates significant potential for use as a preventative, specifically in the form of a topical gel that could be applied in the vaginal canal, explains Zhilei Chen, a professor of chemical engineering at Texas A&M University. (Credit:

The ability of the synthetic compound known as “PD 404,182″ to break apart the AIDS-causing virus before it can infect cells was discovered by Zhilei Chen, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Texas A&M University, and her team of researchers. Their findings appear in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

“This is a virucidal small-molecule compound, meaning that it has the ability to kill a virus; in this case that virus is HIV,” Chen says. “Basically, it acts by breaking the virus open. We found that when HIV comes in contact with this compound, it breaks open and loses its genetic material.

“In a sense, the virus ‘dissolves,’ and its RNA becomes exposed. Since RNA is pretty unstable, once it is exposed it’s gone very quickly and the virus is rendered non-infectious.”

In other words, the compound works by quickly ripping open the virus before it can inject its genetic material into a human cell. What’s more—and perhaps even more important—the compound, Chen explains, achieves this by acting on something within the virus other than its viral envelope protein, meaning that the virus can’t alter its proteins to bolster its resistance—something that’s made HIV notoriously difficult to treat.

“We believe this compound is not working on the viral protein of the viruses but on something else common in all the viruses on which we tested it—some cellular material common in these viruses,” Chen notes. “Because this compound is acting on a component that is not encoded by the virus, it will be difficult for the virus to evolve resistance against this compound.”

While not a cure for HIV, the compound demonstrates significant potential for use as a preventative, specifically in the form of a topical gel that could be applied in the vaginal canal, Chen explains.

“We conducted a number of tests to demonstrate that this compound remains active in vaginal fluid and is not rendered ineffective,” Chen says. “In the form of a vaginal gel, the compound would serve as a barrier, acting almost instantaneously to destroy the virus before it could infect a cell, thereby preventing HIV transmission from one person to another.”

Surprisingly, Chen and her team did not set out to discover an HIV preventative. Instead, they were conducting screenings of molecules for use in potential drug therapies targeting hepatitis C virus, which causes the dangerous and often fatal disease of the liver. Employing a screening system developed by Chen, the team screened thousands of molecular compounds, in search of those that could block aspects of the HCV life cycle.

During the course of the screenings, the team made an interesting discovery—not only was PD 404,182 an HCV inhibitor, it also worked on lentiviruses (the group’s negative control in its experimental procedures). Intrigued by that finding, Chen then tested PD 404,182 on HIV, which itself is a lentivirus and found the compound to be even more effective on HIV than on HCV.

“We believe PD 404,182 acts through a unique and important mechanism,” Chen notes. “Most of the known virucidal compounds interact with the virus membrane, but our compound does not appear to interact with the virus membrane. Instead, it bypasses interaction with the membrane and still compromises the structural integrity of the virus.”

The ability of the compound to avoid interaction with the virus membrane is important because human cells have similar membranes, Chen notes. If the compound were to disrupt the structure of the virus membrane, it could also disrupt and ultimately kill human cells. PD 404,182 doesn’t interact with these membranes and is therefore a more attractive option for clinical treatment.

As is the case with any potential pharmaceutical, several key steps are still needed before it winds up on drug store shelves. In addition to several rounds of animal studies to ensure the compound is safe for humans, further collaborations with chemists are needed to continue to improve the efficiency of the compound. Chen says.

Chen also plans to further explore the mechanism by which PD 404,182 breaks apart HIV. Collaborators include scientists at the Scripps Research Institute.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

New touchscreen home phone

Today we hear about the first move of home phones to touch screen types similar to mobile smartphones. We think you'll agree with us that the Gigaset SL6910A is a real winner if the functions live up to the looks. Gigaset claims that the SL910A will provide 14 hours of talktime and up to 200 on standby. It will go on sale in the UK for around £140 and secondary units will be available for around £120. Up to six units can be connected.

The Gigaset SL910A will be available through John Lewis, Amazon and Currys. See all the details and functions after the jump.

Gigaset’s first home telephone with a full-touch user interface on a large, 3.2” user-friendly capacitive touchscreen. The world of home telephony reaches a new level with this elegant device made with a genuine metal handset frame and charger. Navigate with ease through the three home screens. They conveniently divide functions into dialling, message and customizable information centres. Enjoy home telephony like never before with the touchscreen phone that embodies sophisticated technology and attractive design: the Gigaset SL910.

SL910 - Effortless touchscreen navigation and calling
Effortless touchscreen navigation and calling

With the Gigaset SL910’s full-touch user interface, calling becomes a pleasure. Its ample, 3.2” touchscreen is extremely easy to read and navigate. The user interface gives quick access to a wide array of calling functions, making phoning more streamlined than ever. And the high-quality, genuine metal handset and charger create an elegant, pleasant look and feel. With the talk time of up to 14 hours and the standby time of up to 200 hours, you can continue talking and picking up calls for up to three days without recharging on the Gigaset SL910.
Full-touch user interface advantages

The user interface of the Gigaset SL910 contains many smart functions that launch home telephony into the future. Three different home screens make finding the tools you need effortless. Use the dial centre’s touchscreen keypad to easily place calls. Keep track of placed, received and missed phone calls in the message centre. You have total freedom to place whichever features suit your needs best in the fully customizable info centre, which could include the calendar, clock, directory and more. Picture caller ID1 makes incoming callers immediately recognizable. The scrollable address book holds up to 500 vCards, each containing up to 8 telephone numbers. Never miss another appointment with the calendar and alarm clock functions. With all of these features available on the capacitive touchscreen, your home telephony experience reaches a new level on the Gigaset SL910.

Customizable for your convenience
Highly adaptable, the Gigaset SL910 can be adjusted in many different ways to suit your individual requirements. This allows you to express your own personality and style. The Gigaset SL910 lets you customize your ringtone melodies with downloads of sound files. Display a screensaver picture show by downloading photos. A room monitoring function notifies you when a certain noise level has been reached - and makes the perfect baby monitor.

Bluetooth® and mini-USB capabilities
Equipped with Bluetooth® technology, the Gigaset SL910 saves you time and delivers calling comfort. Synchronise your Outlook contacts with the Gigaset SL910 via Bluetooth® or mini-USB. Simply download caller ID1 and screensaver pictures, or music files for ringtones. Bluetooth® also offers hands-free freedom, as you can easily install a wireless Bluetooth® headset to multitask while you talk on the Gigaset SL910.

ECO DECT: Pure energy savings and radiation-free2
The energy-saving power supply of the Gigaset SL910 consumes less electricity3, so it’s kinder to the environment. Like all Gigaset cordless phones, it variably reduces the transmitting power from the handset to base station depending on their distance apart. You can also reduce the transmitting power of the Gigaset SL910 base station by 80%4 simply by selecting the ECO Mode. Furthermore, radiation-free5 ECO Mode Plus turns off the transmitting power when the phone is in standby.

New way to make lighter, stronger steel — in a flash

A Detroit entrepreneur surprised university engineers in Ohio recently, when he invented a heat-treatment that makes steel 7 percent stronger than any steel on record — in less than 10 seconds.
In fact, the steel, now trademarked as Flash Bainite, has tested stronger and more shock-absorbing than the most common titanium alloys used by industry. Now the entrepreneur is working with researchers at Ohio State University to better understand the science behind the new treatment, called flash processing. What they’ve discovered may hold the key to making cars and military vehicles lighter, stronger, and more fuel-efficient.
In the current issue of the journal Materials Science and Technology, the inventor and his Ohio State partners describe how rapidly heating and cooling steel sheets changes the microstructure inside the alloy to make it stronger and less brittle.
The basic process of heat-treating steel has changed little in the modern age, and engineer Suresh Babu is one of few researchers worldwide who still study how to tune the properties of steel in detail. He’s an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Ohio State, and Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for Integrative Materials Joining for Energy Applications, headquartered at the university.
“Steel is what we would call a ‘mature technology.’ We’d like to think we know most everything about it,” he said. “If someone invented a way to strengthen the strongest steels even a few percent, that would be a big deal. But 7 percent? That’s huge.”
Yet, when inventor Gary Cola initially approached him, Babu didn’t know what to think.
“The process that Gary described — it shouldn’t have worked,” he said. “I didn’t believe him. So he took my students and me to Detroit.”
Cola showed them his proprietary lab setup at SFP Works, LLC., where rollers carried steel sheets through flames as hot as 1100 degrees Celsius and then into a cooling liquid bath. Though the typical temperature and length of time for hardening varies by industry, most steels are heat-treated at around 900 degrees Celsius for a few hours. Others are heated at similar temperatures for days.
Cola’s entire process took less than 10 seconds.

Wind turbine design & construction

Wind turbines are designed to exploit the wind energy that exists at a location. Aerodynamic modeling is used to determine the optimum tower height, control systems, number of blades and blade shape. Wind turbines convert wind energy to electricity for distribution. Conventional horizontal axis turbines can be divided into three components.
1) The rotor component, which is approximately 20% of the wind turbine cost, includes the blades for converting wind energy to low speed rotational energy.
2) The generator component, which is approximately 34% of the wind turbine cost, includes the electrical generator, the control electronics, and most likely a gearbox (e.g. planetary gearbox, adjustable-speed drive or continuously variable transmission) component for converting the low speed incoming rotation to high speed rotation suitable for generating electricity.
3) The structural support component, which is approximately 15% of the wind turbine cost, includes the tower and rotor yaw mechanism.
Types of wind turbines include Verticle Axis – VAWT & Horizontal Axis – HAWT
A 1.5 MW wind turbine of a type frequently seen in the United States has a tower 80 meters high. The rotor assembly (blades and hub) weighs 48,000 pounds (22,000 kg). The nacelle, which contains the generator component, weighs 115,000 pounds (52,000 kg). The concrete base for the tower is constructed using 58,000 pounds (26,000 kg) of reinforcing steel and contains 250 cubic yards (190 cubic meters) of concrete. The base is 50 feet (15 m) in diameter and 8 feet (2.4 m) thick near the center.

Could the Higgs boson explain the size of the Universe?

The Universe wouldn’t be the same without the Higgs boson. This legendary particle plays a role in cosmology and reveals the possible existence of another closely related particle.

The race to identify the Higgs boson is on at CERN. This Holy Grail of particle physics would help explain why the majority of elementary particles possess mass. The mysterious particle would also help us understand the evolution of the Universe from the moment of its birth, according to a group of EPFL physicists. If their theory is verified with data from the Planck satellite, it would clear up several questions about the Universe, past and future.

The Universe, which today extends over billions of light-years, was incredibly minuscule at its birth. To simultaneously explain this dichotomy of scale and the fact that matter is seemingly distributed in a homogeneous fashion throughout the Universe, physicists have had to resort to a theoretical trick: they added an inflationary phase to the Big Bang, an initial phenomenal expansion in which the Universe grew by a factor of 10^26 in a very short time. Physicists have a hard time, though, accounting for this rapid growth.

In its first moments, the Universe was unimaginably dense. Under these conditions, why wouldn’t gravity have slowed down its initial expansion? Here’s where the Higgs boson enters the game – it can explain the speed and magnitude of the expansion, says Mikhail Shaposhnikov and his team from EPFL’s Laboratory of Particle Physics and Cosmology. In this infant Universe, the Higgs, in a condensate phase, would have behaved in a very special way – and in so doing changed the laws of physics. The force of gravity would have been reduced. In this way, physicists can explain how the Universe expanded at such an incredible rate.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


It’s amazing how Tanya Huang, Designer and Founder of Knot Theory starts off about ties. “Weather you love ties, hate ties, never quite remember how to tie a tie or you are a Tie virgin, I hope you’ll learn something new from this video” Well, yes, we have learned how a Tie can be worn without having to tie the knot as it is ready-made and tailored for you. It’s actually a pretty cool invention and a great help for the bachelors who don’t quite have a lady around to assist them with tying the knot. Another interesting fact is that it is a Unisex Tie, so both men and women can wear them. So the next time you go out for a meeting and happen to forget your tie, you simply borrow one from your colleagues! Well, that can happen only when the product revolutionizes to another level, which I am positive it will, in years to come. You will have to shell out $125-150 for a Tie with matching colored knot.

Power from the people

Plugging gadgets into a socket in the wall, or loading them with batteries - or maybe even unfurling a solar panel - is how most of us think of getting electricity. But what about plugging them into your body?

It may sound far fetched, but under the shadow of the Alps, Dr Serge Cosnier and his team at the Joseph Fourier University of Grenoble have built a device to do just that. Their gadget, called a biofuel cell, uses glucose and oxygen at concentrations found in the body to generate electricity.

They are the first group in the world to demonstrate their device working while implanted in a living animal. If all goes to plan, within a decade or two, biofuel cells may be used to power a range of medical implants, from sensors and drug delivery devices to entire artificial organs. All you'll need to do to power them up is eat a candy bar, or drink a coke.

Biofuel cells could kick-start a revolution in artificial organs and prosthetics that would transform tens of thousands of lives every year.

A new range of artificial, electrically-powered organs are now under development, including hearts, kidneys, and bladder sphincter, and work has begun on fully-functioning artificial limbs such as hands, fingers, and even eyes. But they all have one Achilles heel: they need electricity to run.

Batteries are good enough for implants that don't need much power, but they run out fast, and when it comes to implants, that is more than just an inconvenience, it is a fundamental limitation.

Even devices that do not use much power, such as pacemakers, have a fixed lifespan because they rely on batteries.

They usually need their power packs replaced 5 years after implantation. One study in the US found that one in five 70 year-olds implanted with a pacemaker, survived for another 20 years - meaning this group needed around 3 additional operations after the initial implant, just to replace the battery.

Each operation is accompanied by the risk of the complications of surgery, not something anybody should have to face if it is avoidable.

Other devices such as artificial kidneys, limbs or eyes, would have such high energy demands that users would have to change their power source every few weeks to keep them working. It is simply impractical to use batteries in these devices.

That is where biofuel cells come in. Dr Cosnier and his team are one of a growing number of researchers around the world developing the technology in an attempt to side-step this inherent limitation.
Bodily fluids
Computer model of nanotube and enzymesThe fuel cells are made from a compressed push of enzymes and carbon nanotubes.

At heart, biofuel cells are incredibly simple. They are made of two special electrodes - one is endowed with the ability to remove electrons from glucose, the other with the ability to donate electrons to molecules of oxygen and hydrogen, producing water.

Pop these electrodes into a solution containing glucose and oxygen, and one will start to rip electrons off the glucose and the other will start dumping electrons onto oxygen. Connect the electrodes to a circuit and they produce a net flow of electrons from one electrode to the other via the circuit - resulting in an electrical current.

Glucose and oxygen are both freely available in the human body, so hypothetically, a biofuel cell could keep working indefinitely. "A battery consumes the energy stored in it, and when it's finished, it's finished. A biofuel cell in theory can work without limits because it consumes substances that come from physiological fluids, and are constantly being replenished," said Dr Cosnier.
“Start Quote

A bio fuel cell in theory can work without limits because it consumes substances that come from physiological fluids.”Dr Serge CosnierJoseph Fourier University

The idea of powering fuel cells using glucose and oxygen found in physiological fluids was first suggested in the 1970s, but fell by the wayside because the amount of energy early prototypes produced was too little to be of practical use.

However, in the 2002, advances in biotechnology spurred Itamar Willner, a researcher at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, to dust down the idea and give it a fresh look.

In a paper published in the prestigious journal Science, he speculated that thanks to advances in biotechnology, the day would come when devices such as artificial limbs and organs would soon be powered by biofuel cells that create electricity from bodily fluids.

"Since then biofuel cells have received a huge amount of attention," said Dr Eileen Yu, a researcher at Newcastle University, who is part of UK-wide multi-university project to develop biofuel cells.
Nano technology

The key to the recent breakthroughs has been our understanding of rather special biological molecules called enzymes. Enzymes are naturally occurring molecules that speed up chemical reactions. Researchers studying bio fuel cells have discovered that one particular enzyme, called glucose oxidase, is extremely good at removing electrons from glucose. "It is very efficient at generating electrons," said Prof Willner.

Spurred by new developments in enzyme manipulation, and the growth in availability of carbon nanotubes - which are highly efficient electrical conductors - many groups around the world have developed bio fuel cells capable of producing electricity.

Dr Cosnier and his team decided to take things one step further. "In the last 10 years there has been an exponential increase in research, and some important breakthroughs in enzyme research," he said.

He decided it was time to make the first attempt to take the cumulative knowledge of the last decade of research and engineer it into a device the size of a grain of rice that could generate electricity while implanted inside a rat.
Nanotube electrodeTiny bio fuel cells sit inside the body turning glucose and oxygen into power.
In 2010, they tested their fuel cell in a rat for 40 days and reported that it worked flawlessly, producing a steady electrical current throughout, with no noticeable side effects on the rat's behaviour or physiology.

Their system is surprisingly straightforward. The electrodes are made by compressing a paste of carbon nanotubes mixed with glucose oxidase for one electrode, and glucose and polyphenol oxidase for the other.

The electrodes have a platinum wire inserted in them to carry the current to the circuit. Then the electrodes are wrapped in a special material that prevents any nanotubes or enzymes from escaping into the body.

Finally, the whole package is wrapped in a mesh that protects the electrodes from the body's immune system, while still allowing the free flow of glucose and oxygen to the electrodes. The whole package is then implanted in the rat.

"It is an important step towards demonstrating the translation of basic research into a practical device," said Willner. "It shows the feasibility of making an implantable package."

Implantation in a rat was a good proof of concept, said Dr Cosnier, but it had drawbacks. "Rats are so small that the production of energy is insufficient to power a conventional device."

Next he plans to scale up his fuel cell and implant it in a cow. "There is more space, so a larger fuel cell can be implanted, meaning a greater current will be generated."

Dr Cosnier hopes it will be enough to power a transmitter that will be able to beam out of the cow information about the device and control sensors inside the animal.
More power
Stitching fuel cell into meshFuel cells are wrapped in a mesh to prevent the body rejecting them.

There is still a long way to go. Prof Willner explains that, while the enzyme glucose oxidase has performed optimally, the efficiency of the electron-donating enzymes could still be dramatically improved. He is optimistic that breakthroughs will be made.

"Based on the current rate of progress, I am confident we will see exciting developments in the next decade," said Prof Willner.

Dr Cosnier agrees that there is a lot of room for improvement. "Today we can generate enough power to supply an artificial urinary sphincter, or pacemaker. We are already working on a system that can produce 50 times that amount of power, then we will have enough to supply much more demanding devices," he said.

Implants aren't the only place you may find bio fuel cells in the future. The electronics giant Sony recently announced that it had created a biofuel cell fuelled with glucose and water that was capable of powering an MP3 player. "In 10 years time you may see bio fuel cells in laptops and mobile phones," said Prof Willner.

Dr Cosnier points out that bio fuel cells would be especially useful in places where there is no electricity supply to recharge your batteries. "If you were in a country without electricity, and needed to re-charge a bio fuel cell, all you would have to do is add sugar and water."

Friday, November 25, 2011

Google kills off seven more products including Wave

Sign outside of Google's headquarters

Google has announced that it is dropping seven more products in an effort to simplify its range of services.
The out-of-season "spring clean" brings an end to services including Google Wave, Knol and Google Gears.
It is the third time that the US firm has announced a cull of several of its products at the same time after they had failed to take off.
Experts said the strategy might put off users from signing up to new services.
Google announced the move in its official blog.
"We're in the process of shutting a number of products which haven't had the impact we'd hoped for, integrating others as features into our broader product efforts, and ending several which have shown us a different path forward," said Urs Holzle, Google's vice president of operations.
"Overall, our aim is to build a simpler, more intuitive, truly beautiful Google user experience," he added.
Wave goodbye
The seven latest products earmarked for the chop are as follows:
  • Google Wave - an attempt to combine email and instant messaging for real-time collaboration
  • Google Bookmarks List - a service which allowed users to share bookmarks with friends
  • Google Friends Connect - allowed webmasters to add social features to their sites by embedding a snippet of code
  • Google Gears - much-hyped effort to maintain web browser functionality when working offline
  • Google Search Timeline - a graph of historical query results
  • Knol - a Wikipedia-style project, which aimed to improve web content
  • Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal - a project which aimed to find ways to improve solar power
Google had previously announced its plans to kill off some of the projects on the list.
It has now given details about when the switch-offs will occur. For example Wave will be retired in April, and Knol content will be taken offline in October.
The diverse nature of the list illustrated how Google operated as a company, said Richard Edwards, principal analyst at research firm Ovum.
"Any company with the resources and number of brains that Google has will have ideas, only some of which will fly. Hitting the zeitgeist is tricky to plan or predict," he said.
The steady stream of innovations from the search giant and the open way it announced them had been a welcome change in a tech industry that had traditionally kept its cards close, said Mr Edwards.
But he warned that Google needed to be careful about how it announced new products in future.
"It can hype the bejesus out of new announcements and it can be difficult for people to pick out the substance from the hype," he said.
There were, he said, "lessons to be learned" from firms such as Apple which took a more measured approach, announcing just a handful of new products once or twice a year.
Some experts think that Google is streamlining in order to concentrate on its Facebook rival Google+.
The network gained 10 million users within the first 16 days after its private launch, and 40 million within the first 100 days, making it the fastest-growing social network in the history of the web.
But Mr Edwards was sceptical about how successful the service would be in the long-term.
"There is no likelihood of people flocking away from Facebook at the current time unless it commits some hideous faux pas on privacy," he said.
"Something may displace Facebook but I'm not sure it is likely to be Google+," he added.

UNStudio Unveils Transparent Kutaisi Airport for Georgia

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cisco, Telia to activate 'world's fastest internet connection' at 120Gbps, sounds pretty Swede

If the Swedes can dry a load of laundry on a 40Gbps internet connection, just imagine what they could do with 120Gbps. Melt polar caps? Solve the debt crisis? Dry three loads of laundry? The possibilities may be limitless, but we'll all find out soon enough, because Cisco and Telia are aiming to break the 120Gbps barrier by the end of this weekend. It's all part of this week's DreamHack, a Swedish digital festival that the Guinness Book recognizes as the "world's largest LAN party." This year, the two companies will attempt to set up a 300 kilometer-long connection from Jönköping to Stockholm, designed to serve (in theory, anyway) up to 750,000 people at blazing speeds -- of course, only 20,000 or so will be at DreamHack. The project has been in the works since last summer, with Telia constructing the fiber network, and Cisco handling hardware duties with a pair of power-packed CRS-3 routers. The companies say that the connection, if successful, would set a record for network "capacity utilization," allowing all 750K users to stream music simultaneously and to download an entire movie in just .047 seconds. It'll take us a lot longer to pick up our jaws from the ground.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Solar-powered ‘Energy Bucket’ collects sunshine

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Wouldn’t it be great if you could store just a little bit of sunlight for a rainy day? That’s what designer Stefano Merlo thougt, and while actually storing sunlight might just be a bit too difficult, his solar-powered Energy Bucket, might just be the next best thing.

 Merlo’s inspiration was simple: saving energy is a problem, and the solutions offered are too far removed from what people actually do in real life. He was inspired by the age-old practice of collecting water from the river in buckets. Thus, the Energy Bucket is simply just a plastic bucket that houses 1kw LED lights which are powered by the photovoltaic solar panels installed on the lid of the bucket. Needless to say, he took something as mundane as a bucket and turned it into an opportunity for people to realize that there are simple solutions to big problems.

The iMo: If Apple Designed Electric Cars…

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No, Steve Jobs has not decided to tackle the automobile market. This concept electric vehicle is the work of French designer Anthony Jannarelly who conducted an independent study for a future robotic car that just happens to bear the iconic bitten apple. Dubbed the iMo, the car is not really a car at all but a fully automated buggy that is intelligent enough to drive and park all by itself. Jannarelly, who has an MA in automotive design from Britain’s Coventry University, has clearly used Apple’s style as inspiration for the iMo, but we must stress that this compact 2+1 seater has nothing to do with the computer giant.

 On Jannarelly’s website, he theorises that his robot design could be released in 2024. Fully sustainable, the iMo adopts Segway’s two-wheel gyroscopic technology and is completely electric once charged through a socket on its rear end.

 Anthony Jannarelly iMo, apple car iMo, iMo concept art, shape shifting car, apple electric car, steve jobs, iMo Anthony Jannarelly, iMo electric car, electric car, green car, electric vehicle, apple, apple car, green vehicle, alternative transportation
The iMo’s website also states that as well as having a body made from fully recyclable aluminium and polycarbonate, safety and communication sensors and an artificial intelligence system, the smart ride can also shape-shift!

How, you ask? Well according to the designer himself, the car’s shape memory alloy (SMA) is made of Nitinol wire meshes. “The deformations occur when an electric current is applied to the wires. In iMo, several layers of this Nitinol fabric are used to perform the complex deformations controlled by the powerful on-board processor.”

The website states that the iMo is “more than just an urban car,” but a robot that will be the “best artifical companion” in your day to day life. You will even be able to communicate with your iMo requesting for it to come and pick you up from work or take your kids to school.

While we’re not quite sold on the idea of a car playing babysitter, it is a striking and intriguing design. One must wonder if Steve Jobs has seen it and whether it has got his brain whirling…

+ iMo

Inhabitat's Week in Green: LA Auto Show, tidal energy farm and Japan's futuristic eco-city

It was a big week for green cars, as Inhabitat scoured the floors of the LA Auto Show to search for the latest and greatest in green auto design and innovation. We were excited to check out Audi's hybrid-diesel E-Tron Spyder concept car, Croatia's first electric vehicle prototype the DOK-ING XD, and Honda's hotly anticipated 2013 electric version of their popular Fit. Honda also made waves at the west coast auto show with their Civic Natural Gas car, which took home the title of 'Green Car of the Year' -- the Civic is the cleanest running internal combustion car certified by the EPS. Meanwhile, Ford announced that their EVOS plug-in hybrid will be hitting the market next year, FlyKly's ultra-modern electric bikes have become a choice ride in New York City, a German museum decided to recreate an operable version the world's oldest electric car, and the US Navy successfully sent a test-ship out on a 117 hour voyage using a 50 percent algae-derived fuel.

There were also some exciting announcements in clean energy technology this week, including a recent report completed by leading scientists that predict giant orbiting solar power plants could supply all the earth's energy needs by 2041. We also learned that France will open the world's largest tidal energy farm in 2012, and GE will provide the turbines for a $100 million wind farm in Mongolia. Also for Mongolia, a local geo-engineering firm is making plans to battle the capital's scorching hot summers by cooling it down with gigantic manmade chunks of ice that mimic naleds. London's audacious mayor came up with an equally ambitious idea -- his plan is to curb pollution by spraying the city's roads with a sticky calcium-based adhesive able to catch airborne pollutants. We also got the inside scoop from Panasonic's Energy Solution Business Director, Haruyuki Ishio, on the futuristic eco-city that is being planned for Fujisawa, Japan.

However, it was in the lab where we found one of the most bizarre experiments being conducted, with a Dutch scientist undertaking a quest to create the world's first lab-grown hamburger. If a success, this burger will ring up at a cool $345,000 -- not coming to a McDonald's near you anytime soon. We saw a remarkable leap in materials innovation as researchers from the University of California Irvine developed a material that is as strong as metal, 100 times lighter than Styrofoam, and composed of 99.9% air. Scientists were also hard at work at Duke University studying sensor equipped dragonflies to aid in the development of better flying robots. And while not quite as cutting-edge as flying robots, these cool"Volt" self-heating winter boots are still quite an achievement, and one that gets us excited about winter weather. Each Volt boot comes with its own on-board ignition switch, a heating plate, and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery for dual-source charging -- they a perfect cold-weather compliment to these ingenioustexting gloves which feature conductive fingertips that allow you to use any mobile touchscreen outdoors without having to remove your precious hand-warmers and expose your fingers to frigid air.

In other practical technology news, Panasonic just debuted their new LED bulb which looks exactly like an old-school incandescent, so you can be all nostalgic and make like Thomas Edison if you want, while only using a fraction of the energy of an incandescent. Apparently there is a market for this. If you're a parent or know parents of baby gadget geeks, check out our top ten iPhone and iPad apps for kids. On that note, we're also giving away 15 free downloads of the new Oddballz Circus kids app, and you can enter to win ithere.