Sci-Advent – Flexible and powerful electronics

Researchers at the University of Tsukuba have created a new carbon-based electrical device, π-ion gel transistors (PIGTs), by using an ionic gel made of a conductive polymer. This work may lead to cheaper and more reliable flexible printable electronics.

Organic conductors, which are carbon-based polymers that can carry electrical currents, have the potential to radically change the way electronic devices are manufactured. These conductors have properties that can be tuned via chemical modification and may be easily printed as circuits. Compared with current silicon solar panels and transistors, systems based on organic conductors could be flexible and easier to install. However, their electrical conductivity can be drastically reduced if the conjugated polymer chains become disordered because of incorrect processing, which greatly limits their ability to compete with existing technologies.

Now, a team of researchers led by the University of Tsukuba have formulated a novel method for preserving the electrical properties of organic conductors by forming an “ion gel.” In this case, the solvent around the poly(para-phenyleneethynylene) (PPE) chains was replaced with an ionic liquid, which then turned into a gel. Using confocal fluorescent microscopy and scanning electron microscopy, the researchers were able to verify the morphology of the organic conductor.

“We showed that the internal structure of our π-ion gel is a nanofiber network of PPE, which is very good at reliably conducting electricity” says author Professor Yohei Yamamoto.

In addition to acting as wires for delocalized electrons, the polymer chains direct the flow of mobile ions, which can help move charge-carriers to the carbon rings. This allows current to flow through the entire volume of the device. The resulting transistor can switch on and off in response to voltage changes in less than 20 microseconds — which is faster than any previous device of this type.

“We plan to use this advance in supramolecular chemistry and organic electronics to design a whole arrange of flexible electronic devices,” explains Professor Yamamoto. The fast response time and high conductivity open the way for flexible sensors that enjoy the ease of fabrication associated with organic conductors, without sacrificing speed or performance.

Fast Response Organic Supramolecular Transistors Utilizing In‐Situ π‐Ion Gels. Advanced Materials, 2020; 2006061 DOI: 10.1002/adma.202006061

Bluemix – a set of tools/tutorials for app development

IBM’s Bluemix provides access to a large set of API’s such as Watson services like AlchemyAPI, Natural Language Classifier, Visual Recognition, Personality Insights and more. I have recently started playing with it a bit more. You can set up a free account (free for 30 days) and see what you think.

Check it out:

 Here is what IBM has to say about it:

Bluemix is the latest cloud offering from IBM. It enables organizations and developers to quickly and easily create, deploy, and manage applications on the cloud. Bluemix is an implementation of IBM’s Open Cloud Architecture based on Cloud Foundry, an open source Platform as a Service (PaaS). Bluemix delivers enterprise-level services that can easily integrate with your cloud applications without you needing to know how to install or configure them.Bluemix

I will be happy to hear what you build and how you use bluemix. Keep in touch.

Seven technologies changing the world – Reblog

This is a reblog of an article by Fulvia Montresor, Director, World Economic Forum. See the original here.

The 7 technologies changing your world

Find out how companies are changing their business models and organizational structures in The Digital Transformation of Industries, a live Davos debate taking place at 10.30am on Wednesday 20 January 2016.

From intelligent robots and self-driving cars to gene editing and 3D printing, dramatic technological change is happening at lightning speed all around us.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is being driven by a staggering range of new technologies that are blurring the boundaries between people, the internet and the physical world. It’s a convergence of the digital, physical and biological spheres.

It’s a transformation in the way we live, work and relate to one another in the coming years, affecting entire industries and economies, and even challenging our notion of what it means to be human.

So what exactly are these technologies, and what do they mean for us?


Computing capabilities, storage and access

Between 1985 and 1989, the Cray-2 was the world’s fastest computer. It was roughly the size of a washing machine. Today, a smart watch has twice its capabilities.

As mobile devices become increasingly sophisticated, experts say it won’t be long before we are all carrying “supercomputers” in our pockets. Meanwhile, the cost of data storage continues to fall, making it possible keep expanding our digital footprints.

Today, 43% of the world’s population are connected to the internet, mostly in developed countries. The United Nations has set the goal of connecting all the world’s inhabitants to affordable internet by 2020. This will increase access to information, education and global marketplaces, which will empower many people to improve their living conditions and escape poverty.

Imagine a world where everyone is connected by mobile devices with unprecedented processing power and storage capacity

If we can achieving the goal of universal internet access and overcome other barriers such as digital illiteracy, everybody could have access to knowledge, and all the possibilities this brings.

Big data

Each time you run a Google search, scan your passport, make an online purchase or tweet, you are leaving a data trail behind that can be analysed and monetized.

Thanks to supercomputers and algorithms, we can make sense of massive amounts of data in real time. Computers are already making decisions based on this information, and in less than 10 years computer processors are expected to reach the processing power of the human brain.

This means there’s a good chance your job could be done by computers in the coming decades. Two Oxford researchers, Carl Bendikt Frey and Michael A Osborne, estimated that 47% of American jobs are at high risk of automation.

A survey done by the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software & Societyshows people expect artificial intelligence machines to be part of a company’s board of directors by 2026.

Digital health

Analysing medical data collated from different populations and demographics enables researchers to understand patterns and connections in diseases and identify which conditions improve the effectiveness of certain treatments and which don’t.

Big data will help to reduce costs and inefficiencies in healthcare systems, improve access and quality of care, and make medicine more personalized and precise.

In the future, we will all have very detailed digital medical profiles … including information that we’d rather keep private.

Digitization is empowering people to look after their own health. Think of apps that track how much you eat, sleep and exercise, and being able to ask a doctor a question by simply tapping it into your smartphone.

In addition, advances in technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9, which unlike other gene-editing tools, is cheap, quick and easy to use, could also have a transformative effect on health, with the potential to treat genetic defects and eradicate diseases.

The digitization of matter

3D printers will create not only cars, houses and other objects, but also human tissue, bones and custom prosthetics. Patients would not have to die waiting for organ donations if hospitals could bioprint them.

In fact, we may have already reached this stage: in 2014, doctors in China gave a boy a 3D-printed spine implant, according to the journal Popular Science.

The 3D printing market for healthcare is predicted to reach some $4.04 billion by 2018. According to a survey by the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software and Society, most people expect that the first 3D printed liver will happen by 2025.

The survey also reveals that most people expect the first 3D printed car will be in production by 2022.

Three-dimensional printing, which brings together computational design, manufacturing, materials engineering and synthetic biology, reduces the gap between makers and users and removes the limitations of mass production.

Consumers can already design personalized products online, and will soon be able to simply press “print” instead of waiting for a delivery.

The internet of things

Within the next decade, it is expected that more than a trillion sensors will be connected to the internet.

If almost everything is connected, it will transform how we do business and help us manage resources more efficiently and sustainably. Connected sensors will be able to share information from their environment and organize themselves to make our lives easier and safer. For example, self-driving vehicles could “communicate” with one another, preventing accidents.

By 2020 around 22% of the world’s cars will be connected to the internet (290 million vehicles), and by 2024, more than half of home internet traffic will be used by appliances and devices.

Home automation is also happening fast. We can control our lights, heating, air conditioning and security systems remotely, but how much longer will it be before sensors are able to detect crumbs under the table and tell our automated vacuum cleaners to tidy up?

The internet of things will create huge amounts of data, raising concerns over who will own it and how it will be stored. And what about the possibility that your home or car could be hacked?

Blockchain

Only a tiny fraction of the world’s GDP (around 0.025%) is currently held on blockchain, the shared database technology where transactions in digital currencies such as the Bitcoin are made.

But this could be about to change, as banks, insurers and companies race to work out how they can use the technology to cut costs.

A blockchain is essentially a network of computers that must all approve a transaction before it can be verified and recorded.

Using cryptography to keep transactions secure, the technology provides a decentralized digital ledger that anyone on the network can see.

Before blockchain, we relied on trusted institution such as a bank to act as a middleman. Now the blockchain can act as that trusted authority on every type of transaction involving value including money, goods and property.

The uses of blockchain technology are endless. Some expect that in less than 10 years it will be used to collect taxes. It will make it easier for immigrants to send money back to countries where access to financial institutions is limited.

And financial fraud will be significantly reduced, as every transaction will be recorded and distributed on a public ledger, which will be accessible by anyone who has an internet connection.

Source: Financial Times

Wearable internet

Technology is getting increasingly personal. Computers are moving from our desks, to our laps, to our pockets and soon they will be integrated into our clothing.

By 2025, 10% of people are expected to be wearing clothes connected to the internet and the first implantable mobile phone is expected to be sold.

Implantable and wearable devices such as sports shirts that provide real-time workout data by measuring sweat output, heart rate and breathing intensity are changing our understanding of what it means to be online and blurring the lines between the physical and digital worlds.

The potential benefits are great, but so are the challenges.

These devices can provide immediate information about our health and about what we see, or help locate missing children. Being able to control devices with our brains would enable disabled people to engage fully with the world. There would be exciting possibilities for learning and new experiences.

But how would it affect our personal privacy, data security and our personal relationships? In the future, will it ever be possible to be offline anymore?

 

2015 – International Year of Light

2015 has been declared the International Year of Light (IYL 2015) and with me being an optics geek, well, it was difficult to resist to enter a post about it. The IYL 2015 is a global initiative adopted by the United Nations to raise awareness of how optical technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to worldwide challenges in areas such as energy, education, communications, health, and sustainability.

There will be a number of event and programs run throughout the year and the aim of many of them is to promote public and political understanding of the central role of light in the modern world while also celebrating noteworthy anniversaries in 2015 – from the first studies of optics 1000 years ago to discoveries in optical communications that power the Internet today.

You can find further information from the well-known OSA here and check out the International Year of Light Blog.

Here are some pictures I took a couple of years ago during CLEO Europe in relationship to the International Year of Light.

Apple Notes and Gmail Notes

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I accidentally ended up creating some notes in the Gmail Notes inside my iDevice only to be completely confounded by the fact I could not see them in my desktop. I tried to find some resolution by looking at the instructions for the Apple notes, but got frustrated with the lack of information.

So, here it is how I solved my issue:

It seems that as an Apple Notes user, one can select to have the Notes saved “On my iPhone/iPad/Mac” or synced to any email account of one’s choice. If you chose the first option, then no issues there, but the “fun” part comes with the latter. In that case the application will send notes from the device via Gmail to the Gmail servers, or for that matter to the email account you designated under IMAP. This means that your notes are therefore treated as normal email and labelled as “Notes”. Not only that, they are automatically archived on arrival. The initial transfer is one-way only and this implies that the notes can’t be restored from Gmail to the device. In order to find your Notes in Gmail you have to search for the “Notes” label!

If you call up your note on your device, the application access it from Gmail and displays it. But if you deleted it, as many of us do, then the app gets confused as it does not know where they are… If they are deleted from the device removes the label in Gmail and thus they cannot be accessed by the device and they get zombiefied in Gmail! They will still be present in All Mail, but without label.

How to fix this… well it depends. If the Notes have been deleted from the Gmail account from the web interface they will still be there in the Trash for 30 days. You can “restore” then during that time and will be showing in the Notes App on the device.

If the Notes folder was deleted using the Mail App on the device, the notes will (probably) still be there under “All Mail” but without a label. You can search for them and re-apply the label!

My advice would be not to use the synching at all… it has caused more pains than it should be. Let me know if this helps.

Grace Hopper Doodle

 

Hopper

Once again Google puts out a doodle worth mentioning. This time they celebrate the 107th birthday anniversary of computer scientist Grace Hopper.
In case you do not know who Hopper is, well, let me smile say that she is the amazon woman behind COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language), which is still very much used today.

Grace Hopper was born in  New York in 1906  and studied Mathematics and Physics (of course) at Vassar College where she graduated in 1928. She then obtained a master’s degree at Yale in 1930 and a PhD in 1934.

Hopper joined the US Navy reserve during World War two and she was assigned to the Bureau of Ordinance Computation Project at Harvard University where she was only the third person to program the Harvard Mark I computer. She continued to work at Harvard until 1949 when she joined the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation as a senior programmer.

She helped to develop the UNIVAC I, which was the second commercial computer produced in the US. In the 1950s Hopper created the first ever compiler, known as the A compiler and the first version was called the A-O.

Hopper continued to serve in the navy until 1986 when she was the oldest commissioned officer on active duty in the United States Navy.

She died in Arlington, Virginia in 1992 at the age of 85.

Grace Hopper behind my keyboard
Grace Hopper behind my keyboard (Photo credit: Alexandre Dulaunoy)

 

Happy 306th birthday Euler!

In celebration of the Euler’s birthday, Google has created a doodle today. The doodle includes:

  • The formula for the Euler characteristic, V-E+F=2 , which relates the number of vertices, edges and faces of a spherical polyhedron and it shows some of these polyhedra.
  • It would not be a celebration of Euler without the identity that bears his name: exp[i pi]=-1, it is probably one of my most favourite identities! The doodle includes a geometrical interpretation of the formula too.
  • The second “o” in the doodle is a 3D representation of a sphere and it is animated!! This makes reference to Euler angles to describe the orientation of a rigid body.
  • Finally, they also make reference to the ‘Seven bridges of Königsberg‘ problem. With this problem, Euler effectively pioneered the area of mathematics known as graph theory.

Enjoy, and happy birthday Euler!

Euler doodle
Euler doodle