10-new-auto-tech-products-to-watch-in-2020

The year 2020 is bringing in a slew of innovative products set to transform vehicles themselves, as well as the automotive experience. Here are 10 products to watch.

  • Every year brings plenty of new vehicles, but there are also even more technologies behind those vehicles. Now more than ever technology companies are releasing new technologies to make vehicles safer, more connected, and more autonomous.

    Here are some new innovations – from chips, to headlights, and even sensors for infrastructure – that will be transforming vehicles in 2020 and the years to come.

  • Adasky Viper

    More and more engineers are coming to believe that autonomous vehicles should integrate thermal imagining and sensing capabilities into their sensor array. Adasky has released Viper, a long-wave infrared (LWIR) thermal camera system for autonomous vehicles and ADAS that integrates both an automotive-grade image signal processor and edge-based computer vision algorithms – allowing it to recognize vehicles, pedestrians, animals, and other objects on the road on its own.

    The ISO 26262 ASIL-B ready camera consumes less than 750mW of power, according to the company, and captures VGA images at up to 60 frames per second. Viper can also be integrated directly into vehicles’ headlights – reducing their visible footprint for automotive designers.

    (Image source: Adaksy)

  • Boréas Technologies BOS1211 Haptic Feedback Chip

    Haptic feedback is looking to become the next frontier in automotive interfacing. Touchscreens after all have some of the same disadvantages of a mechanical dashboard. Haptics would allow drivers and passengers easy control of dashboard functions with less distraction.

    Haptic technology developer Boréas Technologies, has announced the BOS1211, a low-power, high-voltage, piezoelectric driver integrated circuit for enabling high-definition haptic feedback in vehicle interfaces such as infotainment screens and steering wheels. Boréas is partnering with TDK to make the BOS1211 compatible with TDK’s PowerHap family of piezo actuators and to meet the standards of the automotive market.

    The BOS1211 is based on the company’s proprietary CapDrive technology, a scalable piezo driver architecture optimized for energy efficiency, low heat dissipation, and rapid response times. Boréas is planning to launch a plug-and-play development kit for automotive haptic feedback in February 2020.

    (Image source: Boréas Technologies)

  • Bosch 3D Display For Automotive

    Bosch captured a lot of attention at CES 2020 with a handful of new automotive new technology announcements. Among the company’s new offerings is a 3D display that uses passive multi-view 3D technology to generate three-dimensional graphics in a vehicle’s cockpit – without the need for 3D glasses or special cameras. Bosch says the 3D effect is visible for multiple people inside the vehicle from multiple angles without shaking or blurring and is adjustable to the user’s preference.

    The company believes its 3D displays can enhance safety by pushing important information and alerts right into a driver’s field of vision and reduce overall driver distraction.

    (Image source: Bosch)

  • Bosch Virtual Visor

    Bosch want to replace your car’s boring, traditional visor with a transparent LCD that can keep the sun out of your eyes without reducing your ability to see the road. The company’s Virtual Visor uses a camera that tracks the driver’s face and eyes and utilizes computer vision technology to only block the portion of the visor where the sun would be hitting the driver’s eyes – leaving the rest of the visor transparent. The result is more of a floating point effect in blocking the light, rather than having a chunk of your windshield completely blocked out.

    (Image source: Bosch)

  • Koito Manufacturing  BladeScan ADB

    High beams are an important safety feature. But we all hate that person who pulls up behind us or comes at us head-on with their high beams blazing.

    Koito Manufacturing‘s Adaptive Driving Beam (ADB) technology is a headlight upgrade that selectively dims and brightens areas of the road to improve driver visibility. Using a camera sensor that provides information to the headlight LEDs, the BladeScan ADB can selectively dim the high beams to low beams for oncoming traffic to prevent glare, for example.

    The BladeScan ADB creates what the company calls a “controlled, high-resolution photometry pattern” in front of the vehicle by emitting LED light onto rotating reflectors (“blades”) and then reflecting it at an angle and pulsing it on and off through a plastic lens and onto the roadway. Doing this the company says BladeScan minimizes the dimmed area in front of the vehicle and can increase the visibility of other vehicles, pedestrians, and other potential road hazards without causing annoying glare to surrounding vehicles.

    BladeScan ADB has already been integrated into the 2020 Toyota Lexus RX.

    (Image source: Kioto Manufacturing)

  • Outsight 3D Semantic Camera

    The 3D Semantic Camera from Outsight aims to “bring full situational awareness to smart machines,” according to the company. The Outsight camera is capable of detecting, tracking, and classifying objects with up to centimeter accuracy and relaying that information to other smart devices – including autonomous and connected vehicles. Utilizing a low-power, long-range broadband laser also allows the camera to identify material composition of objects via hyperspectral analysis under any lighting conditions – adding a new level of confidence to determining what the camera is seeing.

    The camera also uses 3D Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) technology for positional data. Outsight says its camera does all of this via edge-based processing through an onboard SoC that does not rely on machine learning. By taking a machine learning-free approach Outsight says it is able to reduce energy consumption and bandwidth needs and also eliminate the need for massive data sets to train the cameras.

    Outsight’s cameras will be deployed at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport. The company also offers a vehicle-specific version of its cameras.

    (Image source: Outsight)

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon Ride

    Chipmaker Qualcomm has unveiled the first generation of a new SoC targeted at autonomous driving. The Snapdragon Ride platform will come in versions focused on safety and autonomy respectively, with the aim of providing automakers a scalable solution designed to support Level 1 and 2 autonomy – with features including automatic emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, lane keeping assistance, automated highway driving, and self-parking as well as Level 4 and 5 full autonomy.

    The Snapdragon Ride SoCs are capable of performing 30 Tera Operations Per Second (TOPS) for Level 1 and 2 applications and up to over 700 TOPS for Level 4 and 5 applications and are designed for functional safety ASIL-D systems.

    Qualcomm says the platform will be available for pre-development to automakers and Tier-1 supplies in the first half of 2020. The first vehicles to utilize Snapdragon Ride are expected in 2023.

    (Image source: Qualcomm)

  • RoboSense RS-LiDAR-M1 Smart LiDAR

    RoboSense is releasing what it calls the world’s first smart solid-state LiDAR for autonomous vehicles. The company says its RS-LiDAR-M1 line of LiDAR products offer several advantages over mechanical LiDAR systems. The RS-LiDAR-M1 has a 120 x 25-degree field of view, a 15Hz frame rate, and a detection range of up to 150m at 10% NIST target. Its solid-state design also means fewer parts and a more modular design, making it easier for automakers to integrate and scale. In tests conducted by the company, Robosense reports that the RS-LiDAR-M1 met standards of performance for rain and fog and under different light and wind speed conditions and can adapt to all climatic and working conditions. The first version, the RS-LiDAR-M1Simple, is currently available.

    (Image source: RoboSense)

  • Siemens PAVE360 Automotive Digital Twin Platform

    Siemens has announced a new digital twin solution for the automotive industry. PAVE360 allows automakers and OEMs to simulate and validate automotive SoCs and other systems in the context of the vehicle, before the vehicle is built. Developed in collaboration with Arm, PAVE360 is able to model sensors, ICs, as well as other systems related to vehicle dynamics and the overall vehicle environment. Engineers can use the solution to create simulations for systems related to safety, ADAS, infotainment, digital cockpits, V2V and V2X, and even autonomous driving applications.

    (Image source: Siemens PLM)

  • Valerann Smart Roads System

    The emergence of smart cities is rapidly making infrastructure technologies as important as those inside of automobiles. Valerann has developed a sensor, the Valerann Stud, that can replace standard road pavement markers, transforming roads into an IoT sensor network. The solar-powered sensors use LoRA communication to relay information to each other and can track road conditions – including accidents and weather – in real time. The company says it can even track the exact driving pattern of every single vehicle on the road, right down to each vehicle’s specific lane location, in real time.

    The sensors also come equipped with LEDs and can change color to alert drivers of hazardous conditions such as ice, let them know to slow down or stop, and even indicate if they are driving in the wrong direction down a one-way road. The Valerann Smart Roads System is currently deployed various locations in the UK and Europe.

    (Image source: Valerann)

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at   Design News   covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.

nanowire-network-could-advance-design-of-ai

An international group of researchers has made a breakthrough in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) with the design of a nanowire network capable of a complex brain-like functions.

The team of scientists at Japan’s National Institute of Materials Science (NIMS) created what is called a “neuromorphic network” by integrating numerous silver nanowires covered with a polymer insulating layer about 1 nanometer in thickness. The network functions because a junction between two nanowires forms a variable resistive element, or a synaptic element, that behaves like a neuronal synapse.

neuronetwork, Nanowire Network, AI, artificial intelligence, National Institute of Materials Science, NIMS, neuromorphic network
Diagram A shows a micrograph of the neuromorphic network fabricated by a research team at Japan’s National Institute of Materials Science (NIMS). The network contains of numerous junctions between nanowires, which operate as synaptic elements. Diagram B shows a human brain and one of its neuronal networks. (Image source: NIMS)

The network, then, is comprised of a number of these interacting synaptic element to form the larger network, which is triggered when a voltage is applied, causing it to find optimal current pathways—or the most electrically efficient pathways.

Using this network, the team was able to generate electrical characteristics similar to those associated with higher order brain functions unique to humans, such as memorization, learning, forgetting, becoming alert, and returning to calm.

The network is part of a larger scientific aim to improve artificial intelligence through what’s called neuromorphic computing, said Tomonobu Nakayama, research leader and deputy director of the International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics. “Neuromorphic computing has been attracting much interest,” he told Design News, citing some recent developments in the areas such as the development of neural chips such as the Intel’s Nervana and IBM’s True North Chip. “These challenges are based on emulating biological signals in the brain using electric circuits, and beautifully simulate neural network modeling developed so far.”

Creating More Creative AI

The NIMS team has seen limitations in some of the neuromorphic computing work being conducted, however, with “fundamental features of the brain missing,” Nakayama told us.  “The problem here is all AI technology at the moment needs massive sets of data connected to computer systems even for the neural chip-based systems,” he explained. “The. complexity of wiring is one of the issues to be solved, since the brain is allowing a single nerve cell to communicate with 10,000 other cells via 10,000 synapses while present semiconductor technology—lithography–cannot realize such a complex wiring using lithographic techniques.”

Also, the human brain can engage in self-organization and the creation of functions, “so we have associative thinking, creativity, intuition, and so on,” Nakayama said, something that is currently lacking in AI technology.

While the network developed by Nakayama’s team does not solve all of these problems, it does provide a starting point to develop more complex AI as well as introduces a “design-less” approach to neuromorphic nanowire networks that are “naturally emerging without. software programs,” he said. “So now we hope our work might be able to contribute to construct better hypothesis on the origin of our ‘intelligence’ and ‘creativity’ and to find a way to open a new type of information processors.”

Brain-Like Technology

Researchers published a paper on their work in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

The team is currently developing a brain-like memory device using the neuromorphic network material that they hope will operate using fundamentally different principles than those used in current computers. While computers are currently designed to spend as much time and electricity as necessary in pursuit of the most optimal solutions, the new memory device is intended to make a quick decision within particular limits, even though the solution generated may not be the absolutely optimum.

“For example, after we store shapes characters in a network only by providing a part of the shape of a character, the device would suggest possible ones without any programs,” Nakayama explained. “It’s a sort of associative or cognitive information processors; however, since it does not require any programs and computers, it would be energy-efficient processors.”

The network also makes it possible to develop energy-efficient autonomous systems

that dynamically make decisions in response to environmental changes, something AI does not currently. Ultimately, researchers hope their work provides a deeper understanding of how the brain works to inform future technology and applications.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

DesignCon 2020 25th anniversary Logo

January 28-30: North America’s largest chip, board, and systems event, DesignCon, returns to Silicon Valley for its 25th year! The premier educational conference and technology exhibition, this three-day event brings together the brightest minds across the high-speed communications and semiconductor industries, who are looking to engineer the technology of tomorrow. DesignCon is your rocket to the future. Ready to come aboard? Register to attend!

the-12-best-innovations-of-ces-2020

Forget new TVs and smartphones. These are the real game changers introduced at CES 2020.

  • Now that the smoke is cleared from CES 2020, we can take a step back and see which technologies were the real innovations of 2020. Let’s be honest, CES can be a black hole of vaporware, false promises, and concepts intended to be just that.

    We’ve compiled a list of our favorite technologies introduced at CES 2020 – innovations that we’re sure will be having a lasting impact in 2020 and beyond.

  • AerNos AerSIP Gas Sensor

    The AerSIP from AerNos is a 5 x 5-mm, mulit-gas sensing module that combines nanotechnology and machine learning algorithms to monitor indoor and outdoor air quality. The system-in-package (SIP) is an embedded plug-and-play solution that can be integrated into wearables, mobile devices, and other IoT devices and is capable of detecting hazardous gases and other dangers at parts per billion levels.

    (Image source: AerNos/CES)

  • AMD Ryzen 4000 Series Mobile Processor

    AMD’s Ryzen 4000 could be a literal game changer for high-end laptops users – particularly gamers and designers. AMD says its new Ryzen 4000 series is the world’s first 7-nanometer laptop processor. Designed for ultra-thin laptops, the Ryzen 4000 series features up to 8 cores and 16 threads and configurable 15W thermal design power. AMD pledges the Ryzen 4000 series offers up to four percent greater single-thread performance and up to 90 percent faster multithreaded performance than its competitors, as well as up to 18 percent faster graphics performance over competing chips.

    (Image source: AMD)

  • Atmosic Technologies M3 Battery-Free Bluetooth 5 SoC

    Atmosic says its M3 Battery-Free Bluetooth 5 SoC uses so little power that it can even eliminate the need for battery power entirely in devices such as wearables, keyboards, mice, asset trackers, beacons, and remotes. The M3 integrates Atmosic’s Lowest Power Radio, On-demand Wake-Up, and Managed Energy Harvesting technologies to deliver what the company says is 10 to 100 times lower power than other SoCs, while still complying with Bluetooth standards. The M3’s radio uses two “ears” – one for listening in a low-power state to perceive incoming commands, and another that only wakes when alerted. The SoC uses energy harvesting technology to gather power from radio frequency, photovoltaic, thermal, and motion.

    (Image source: Atmosic)

  • Bot3 Zen-P VSLAM Deep Learning Module

    Bot3‘s Zen-P VSLAM Deep Learning module integrates visual simultaneous localization and mapping (VSLAM) technology (a version of the same technology used in autonomous vehicles) into mobile robots ranging from industrial machines to smart home products. Bot3’s image processing algorithm, Pascal, allows for autonomous navigation without tracks as well as indoor mapping and positioning. (for instances such as warehouse applications).

    (Image source: Bot3)

  • BrainCo BrainRobotics Prosthetic Hand

    Many companies have been developing mind-controlled prosthetics for amputees and other disabled patients. What separates the prosthetic hand developed by BrainRobotics is the integration of AI technology. The BrainRobotics hand utilizes machine learning to allow the hand and its user to learn from each other over time – leading to more lifelike movements. The company is aiming to provide accurate and reliable prosthetics and at affordable price for all patients. BrainRobotics is a subsidiary of BrainCo, a software developer focused on brainwave measuring and monitoring.

    (Image source: BrainCo/BrainRobotics)

  • Fluent.ai MultiWake Word and Voice Control Engine

    Fluent.ai is a technology company focused on AI for voice interface and speech recognition. The company’s Multi-Wake Word and Voice Control Engine is an edge-based, noise robust, and multilingual speech technology that consumes minimal power and storage, allowing it to be embedded in small devices. The solution is Cortex M4-based and supports four separate wake words and 100 multilingual commands, according to Fluent.ai.

    Fluent.ai has recently partnered with semiconductor designer Ambiq Micro to implement Fluent.ai’s software solutions into Ambiq’s ultra-small footprint, low-power microcontrollers. Ambiq’s MCU supports frequencies up to 96 MHz, and Fluent.ai’s solution requires only 16 MHz from the MCU. The new partnership means Fluent.ai and Ambiq will be releasing MCUs for OEMs looking for an easy way to add speech recognition and voice command functionality to their smart home devices and other products.

    (Image source: Fluent.ai / CES

  • Intel Tiger Lake Chip

    When Intel announces a new chip, the whole world takes notice. The chipmaking giant is launching its latest chip for consumers this year. Dubbed Tiger Lake, the new chip is said to be optimized for AI performance, graphics, and USB 3 throughput. Rather than desktops, the new chips will be focused on mobile devices such as ultra-thin laptops and tablets. The first products featuring Tiger Lake are expected to ship later in 2020.

    (Image source: Intel)

  • Monster MultiLink Bluetooth Technology

    Sometimes its the most straightforward ideas that can make the biggest difference. Most of us love our Bluetooth wireless headphones and earbuds. The problem is they don’t create a sharable experience. What if you want to show your friend the video you’re watching without disturbing the people around you? Monster has debuted a new technology called Music Share that uses MultiLink technology to allow devices to send Bluetooth audio to multiple devices in sync. The technology expands how Bluetooth headphones can be used and opens up new use cases ranging from air travel to fitness classes as well as new avenues for social interaction.

    (Image source: Bluetooth SIG)

  • Murata Coral Accelerator Module

    Working in partnership with Coral and Google, Murata Electronics has developed what it is calling the world’s smallest AI module. The Coral Accelerator Module packages Google’s Edge TPU ASIC into a miniaturized footprint to enable developers to embed edge-based AI into their products and devices. The new module forms an integral part of Coral’s integrated AI platform, which also includes a toolkit of software tools and pre-compiled AI models.

    (Image source: Murata Electronics Americas)

  • Pollen Robotics Reachy Open-Source Robot

    Reachy is a robot developed by Pollen Robotics, in collaboration with the INCIA Neuroscience Institute in France, that is fully open source. The robot, which can be programmed using Python, is modular – employing a variety of 3D-printed grippers – and comes with prepackaged AI algorithms to allow developers to customize it for a variety of applications ranging from customer service and assisting the elderly or disabled.

    Read more about Reachy, and the rise of open-source robotics, here.

    (Image source: Pollen Robotics)

  • VRgineers 8K XTAL Headset

    VRgineers, a maker of premium VR headsets for enterprise applications in industries ranging from automotive to defense and military, has released a major upgrade to its flagship XTAL headset. The latest version of XTAL features 8K resolution (4K per eye), improved lenses with a 180-degree field-of-view, and a new add-on module for augmented reality and mixed reality functionality. The headset also still includes eye tracking as well as integrated Leap Motion sensors to enable controller-free navigation and interactions.

    (Image source: VRgineers)

  • zGlue ChipBuilder

    zGlue is a software company that develops tools for chipmakers and designers. Its latest offering, ChipBuilder 3.0 is a design tool to for building custom silicon chips and accelerating time to market. The software suite features an expansive library of chipsets and allows engineers to capture schematics, route and verify designs, and download netlists. The tool allows engineers to create realistic 3D models and code their own chips and even place orders for physical chips via zGlue’s Shuttle Program.

    (Image source: zGlue / CES)

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at   Design News  covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics

pico-interactive-is-one-of-the-best-kept-secrets-in-vr
The Pico G2 4K (Image source: Design News)

Unless you’ve been deeply entrenched in the VR space for years you might be forgiven for not knowing about Pico Interactive. While big names in VR hardware like HTC and Oculus have only recently shifted their focus to creating standalone headsets (ones that do not need external sensors or a PC to operate), standalone has been Pico’s focus from the very beginning.

The San Francisco-based company, made a quiet, but significant, showing at the 2016 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) with a small, standalone headset called the Pico Neo. The Neo was an Android-based gaming headset that actually boasted some impressive specs for its size. It was based on the same Snapdragon 820 chipset behind the early Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets, offered a 90 Hz refresh rate, and a 110-degree field of view.

When we spoke to Pico in 2016, Ennin Huang, Pico’s VP of Design, said the company’s vision was pretty straightforward – “We really wanted to push VR and make it affordable for everyone without comprising the graphics and experience.”

The way to do that, Huang said, was by offering users a lightweight, untethered experience.

The Pico Neo didn’t make a big splash in the US. But it turned out Huang was right.

In recent years VR hardware makers have pivoted into offering headsets that are not only lighter and more powerful, but, most importantly, standalone. The latest hardware from Oculus, the Oculus Quest, is an all-in-one headset targeted at gaming with six degrees of freedom (6DoF) tracking. The Quest, the less robust Oculus Go, other standalone models such as the HTC Vive Focus, and the (fortunate) death of smartphone-based VR headsets point to one clear trend for future of VR hardware – wireless, standalone, and powerful.

But Pico Interactive hasn’t stood still. In recent years the company has pivoted into targeting its headsets specifically at engineers, designers, and other enterprise users – with the aim of providing a convenient and mobile experience for applications ranging from virtual prototyping and design, to education, and even medical applications.

Design News had a chance to go hands-on with one of Pico Interactive’s flagship enterprise headsets, the G2 4k, and found it to be one of the best overall user experiences to date. The G2 4K is very light (276 grams according to company specs) and very well-balanced. The 4K resolution, comes through crystal clear thanks to LCD displays and the use of fresnel lenses (which also help contribute to the unit’s light weight).

In terms of overall image quality, the G2 4k rivaled high-end PC-based enterprise headsets like HP’s Reverb, despite having a lower-resolution (3840 x 2160, or roughly 1920 x 1080 per eye).

“We conducted a lot of human-factors study for the G2 4K,” Huang told Design News in a recent interview. “There are two main strategies for tackling the overall weight issue: First, the material for the G2 4k is carefully selected to achieve the lightest weight possible while still keeping it affordable for everyone. Second is the weight distribution – we want to make sure the overall center of the mass is somewhere close to the center of the user’s head when the user is wearing the headset. To achieve that we have moved some of the components to the back of the head-padding while still keeping the form factor as compact as possible.”

The G2 4K’s fresnel lenses lend to its light weight and image quality, while its foam face cushion and adjustable Velcro staps support overall comfort. (Image source: Design News) 

With a 101-degree field of view and a 75 Hz refresh rate, the G2 4K does fall below the specs of more entertainment-focused headsets. But then again, enterprise software apps don’t usually require the same high frame rates as, say, the latest action game.

The G2 4K is built on the Snapdragon 835, Qualcomm’s first chipset offering targeted at mobile VR and augmented reality. It’s the same chipset behind the highly-praised Oculus Quest.

Aside from the headset having its own online store (the Pico Store), the company also offers an SDK for the G2 4K that we found supports both Unreal and Unity engines. For those who might be put off by the thought of learning a new SDK or having to purchase apps within a proprietary store, the headset is also compatible with the Wave SDK for the HTC Vive line of headsets and also supports apps from HTC’s Viveport. We tried running a few enterprise apps from Viveport on the G2 4K and didn’t notice any difference in performance.

Where one might find disappointment with the G2 4K is that it is only offers three degrees of freedom (3DoF) tracking for both the controller and the headset, which can significantly limit user mobility depending on the application. Some enterprise users who prefer a more fixed design space won’t notice the difference at all, but someone like an automotive engineer or architect for example, who might prefer to be able to walk through a virtual space at room scale, might be frustrated at having to use point-and-click navigation to move around.

The G2 4K’s controller is compact and comfortable, but only offers 3DoF tracking. (Image source: Design News)

Asked about the decision to give such a visually powerful headset only 3DoF tracking, Huang said the decision came down to offering a product with the right specs for enterprise users but would also provide a comfortable barrier to entry for new users. “We think 3DoF and 6DoF both have their niche in enterprise solutions,” Huang said. “While 6DOF is great for a little more advanced users, the 3DoF VR training and tutorials experience is great for someone who has never had or had a very little VR experience. In fact, many users of our enterprise-customers have never used VR before.”

Very serious enterprise users will probably opt for a PC-based setup along the lines of the HP Reverb or HTC’s Vive Pro. But smaller organizations or those looking to get their feet wet in implementing VR into their workflow, and who hold high value in an untethered experience, could find the G2 4K a more economical option capable of still delivering in terms of image quality and overall performance.

The G2 4K features two external speakers, audio jack, a micro SD card slot, USB-C port, and a built-in microphone. (Image source: Design News) 

Enter the Neo 2

At the time we spoke, Pico Interactive was shipping another headset, the Neo 1, which featured 6DoF head tracking and a 3DoF controller, in Japan, China, and parts of Europe. Huang teased that the company’s R&D team was working on prototypes for headsets that offers 6DoF head and controller tracking, but declined to provide any further details.

However at CES 2020, Pico made another announcement that should please users who demand a 6DoF experience with their VR.

The company’s latest headset, announced at CES 2020, is the Neo 2, a standalone enterprise headset with 4K resolution and 6DoF inside-out tracking. A second version, the Neo 2 Eye, features eye tracking and foveated rendering capabilities courtesy of Tobii, the go-to supplier of eye tracking sensors and analytics technologies for VR.

The Pico Neo 2 debuted at CES 2020. (Image source: Pico Interactive)

Based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 platform, the Neo 2, is a bit heavier than the G2 4K (350 grams, according to specs), and features the same resolution, lenses, and refresh rate. Where the headset takes a step up from previous models in utilizing the 845’s integrated simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) technology for room-scale 6DoF tracking. Both models of the Neo 2 also feature two mono fisheye external cameras.

For its part, Tobii says the foveated rendering technology integrated into the Neo 2 allows it to increase framerates by up to 66 percent and reduces shading loads by up to 72 percent, which gives the headset improved visual performance without sacrificing performance or draining battery life.

The addition of eye tracking also gives Neo 2 users a novel control scheme (navigating apps and menus via eye movement) and can also be used to capture gaze data to assist with training applications as well as capturing user behavior insights.

It’s a pretty big leap for a company that started with mobile gaming, though Huang said Pico hasn’t left its roots behind. And while enterprises may be the first to take note of what Pico is offering, Huang said the company believes first in serving VR users in any application they desire.

“Mobile gaming and entertainment are still part of our focus, and in fact, we have been doing pretty well in Asia in places like Korea, Japan, and China. In addition to the consumer market, we also see great opportunities where Pico can provide enterprise solutions for many of our business partners,” Huang said.

“The motivation behind all the Pico products has always been the same since we’ve started back in 2016; it has always been user-first design.”

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics

new-thin-films-show-promising-properties-for-photovoltaics,-leds

Researchers are constantly searching for new materials that can make electronic devices more efficient and cheaper to build, especially as silicon nears the limits of its performance. To this end, scientists at the University at Buffalo have created new thin films from a little-used but abundant material, the performance of which show promise for use in electronic and optical applications such as photovoltaics and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

This film, University of Buffalo, Photovoltaics, LEDs, nontoxic material, develop films, strong light absorption, charge transport
A barium zirconium sulfide thin film created by a research team at the University at Buffalo that shows novel electronic properties. (Image source: Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo)

The team, led by Hao Zeng–professor of physics in the university’s College of Arts and Sciences–created the films using barium zirconium sulfide, a category of materials known as chalcogenide perovskites. These materials have benefits over others used in electronic and photovoltaic devices, including that they are nontoxic and found naturally and abundantly in the earth. 

Indeed, researchers have been exploring the use of perovskite-based thin films in solar cells for years because of their potential for higher efficiency and less cost in cell production.

The films developed by Zeng’s team combine significant light absorption with good charge transport, which makes them well-suited for applications in which silicon is used today. “For many decades, there have been only a handful of semiconductor materials that have been used, with silicon being the dominant material,” Zeng said. “Our thin films open the door to a new direction in semiconductor research. There’s a chance to explore the potential of a whole new class of materials.”

Old Material, New Use

The researchers were not the first to discover barium zirconium sulfide and its usefulness; the compound has been used in applications dating back to the 1950s, but has been largely overlooked by scientists. “It has existed for more than half a century,” Zeng said. “Among earlier research, a company in Niagara Falls produced it in powder form. I think people paid little attention to it.”

However, powder is not the best form for the applications for which Zeng and his team wanted to use the material, so they set out to explore the material’s potential for thin films. The researchers crafted their films by using a laser to heat up and vaporize barium zirconium oxide, then depositing that vapor on a sapphire surface. This formed a film that was then converted into the final material through a chemical reaction called sulfurization.

The team published a paper on its work in the journal Nano Energy.

Researchers think their films will be especially useful for solar-energy generation, as research suggests this type of perovskite material would be much more efficient at converting sunlight into electricity than traditional silicon-based materials with identical thicknesses, said Haolei Hui, a physics PhD student and one of the team’s researchers. “Semiconductor research has traditionally been highly focused on conventional materials,” he said. “This is an opportunity to explore something new. Chalcogenide perovskites share some similarities to the widely researched halide perovskites, but do not suffer from the toxicity and instability of the latter materials.”

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

new-polymers-bend,-twist,-and-grab

In the past materials tended to remain static. More and more, researchers are developing dynamic materials that can change their shape on the fly.

One of the latest breakthroughs in this type of technology comes from researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and Ohio State University who have developed a magnetic shape memory polymer that can transform into a variety of shapes. Researchers believe the material can be used to create new capabilities in robotics and electronic applications.

shape memory polymer, robotics or electronics applications, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Tech, Ohio State University
Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and The Ohio State University have developed a magnetic shape memory polymer that can transform into a variety of shapes, paving the way for new capabilities in robotics and electronics, they said. (Source: Georgia Tech)

The material—a mixture of three ingredients, each of which contribute unique properties that are integral to its behavior—uses magnetic fields to transform itself, said Jerry Qi, a professor of mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech.  The material is comprised of two types of magnetic particles—one that provides inductive heat and one with strong magnetic attraction—as well as shape-memory polymers that lock the shape changes in place, he said. This combination of materials is what provided researchers their unique result.

“This is the first material that combines the strengths of all of these individual components into a single system capable of rapid and reprogrammable shape changes that are lockable and reversible,” Qi said.

Creating freedom of movement

The new material builds on earlier research the team conducted that outlined actuation mechanisms for soft robotics and active materials, assessing the limitations in current technologies, said Ruike (Renee) Zhao, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Ohio State. “The degree of freedom is limited in conventional robotics,” she said. “With soft materials, that degree of freedom is unlimited.”

To create the material, researchers first distributed particles of neodymium iron boron and iron oxide into a mixture of shape memory polymers. Once the particles were fully integrated, they then create various objects from this mixture to test how the material would perform in various scenarios.

One example the team created to demonstrate their material was a gripper claw, which they fabricated from a t-shaped mold, researchers said. They applied a high-frequency, oscillating magnetic field to the gripper to cause the iron oxide particles to heat up through induction and warm the entire object. This rise in temperature than caused the material to soften, which made it pliable.

Researchers then applied a second magnetic field to the gripper to make its claws open and close, they said. Then, once the gripper cooled back down, whichever position it was in at the time remained locked.

Locking in the shape

The shape-changing process takes only a few seconds from start to finish, and the strength of the material at its locked state allowed the gripper to lift objects up to 1,000 times its own weight. “This process requires us to use of magnetic fields only during the actuation phase,” said Zhao. “So, once an object has reached its new shape, it can be locked there without constantly consuming energy.”

Researchers published a paper on their work in the journal Advanced Materials.

The team also tested other applications for the material, making coil-shaped objects that can expand and retract. This particular function simulates how an antenna could potentially change frequencies when actuated by the magnetic fields.

Other uses for the material are in robotics, Qi said, particularly for scenarios in which machines need to manipulate delicate objects, such as in the food industry or for chemical or biomedical applications.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

DesignCon 2020 25th anniversary Logo

January 28-30: North America’s largest chip, board, and systems event, DesignCon, returns to Silicon Valley for its 25th year! The premier educational conference and technology exhibition, this three-day event brings together the brightest minds across the high-speed communications and semiconductor industries, who are looking to engineer the technology of tomorrow. DesignCon is your rocket to the future. Ready to come aboard? Register to attend!

best-3d-printing-articles-of-2019

2019 was an amazing year for 3D printing. We’ve seen the development of new materials as well as advances in the production capabilities in additive manufacturing. Here’s a quick look at the progress in 3D printing during 2019.

Additive Manufacturing Automation Brings Down Costs; Increases Productivity 

3D printing, additive manufacturing, automation
(Image source: Digital Metal)

This automation technology uses robotics for the most laborious manual step in metal additive manufacturing, which is de-powdering the system after printing. Previously, this step was done by humans using specially designed glove boxes for safety.

Breakthrough 3D Printed Materials Make Strong, Lightweight Structures 

3D printing, additive manufacturing, automation, lightweight structures
(Image source: ETH Zurich / Marc Day)

New materials that take advantage of a new interior structure could be the way forward for new lightweight, strong materials for myriad uses.

LMD Additive Manufacturing Expands in Aerospace 

3D printing, additive manufacturing, automation, LMD additive
 (Source: Form Alloy)

The 3D printing processes of laser metal deposition (LMD) and directed energy deposition (DED) are revolutionizing how the aerospace industry designs and builds high-value components across the manufacturing spectrum from prototyping to production.

Is 3D Printing Ready for Scaled Production? 

3D printing, additive manufacturing, automation, LMD additive, scaled production
(Source: Forecast 3D)

While additive manufacturing has received attention for its promise of mass customization and generative design, not everyone believes it’s ready for large-quantity production.

Why 3D Printing Is Going to Need Blockchain 

3D printing, additive manufacturing, automation, LMD additive, scaled production, Blockchain
(Image source: Pixabay)

Blockchain has the potential to solve 3D printing’s inherent security risks before they become a major issue.

Biorefinery Waste Can Be Used for 3D Printing 

3D printing, additive manufacturing, automation, LMD additive, scaled production, blockchain, biofinery
(Image source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

Researchers at the Department of Energy have used lignin, a byproduct of the biorefinery industry, as part of a new composite material that’s well-suited for 3D printing processes.

Using Light to Control Multimaterial 3D Printing 

3D printing, additive manufacturing, automation, LMD additive, scaled production, blockchain, biofinery
(Image source: A.J. Boydston and Johanna Schwartz)

A new light-based technique developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison allows for more than one material to be printed at a time.

The Untold Truths of 3D Printing You Need to Understand 

3D printing, additive manufacturing, automation, LMD additive, scaled production, blockchain, biofinery
(Image source: Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay) 

With all of the hype surrounding additive manufacturing and 3D printing, it’s easy to forget that, as with all new technologies, there is a learning curve.

3D-Printed Robot Merges Additive and Smart Manufacturing 

3D printing, additive manufacturing, automation, LMD additive, scaled production, blockchain, biofinery, robot
 (Source: HP)

Bastian Solutions worked with Fast Radius to create a shuttle system that uses additive manufacturing to design and construct a custom-designed modular robot system.

3D-Printed Tissues Could Help Heal Serious Sports Injuries 

3D printing, additive manufacturing, automation, LMD additive, scaled production, blockchain, printed tissue
(Image source: Jeff Fitlow)

Researchers have achieved new structures that can mimic the seamless interconnection of bone and cartilage needed to repair serious sports-related injuries.

Ceramics Offer Amazing Diversity for 3D Printing 

3D printing, additive manufacturing, automation, LMD additive, scaled production, blockchain, ceramics
(Image source: Ren Services)

3D-printed ceramics offer many industries a range of applications not found in many other materials.

Researchers Invent New Dynamic Material for 3D Printing 

3D printing, additive manufacturing, automation, LMD additive, scaled production, blockchain, dynamic materials
(Image source: Queensland University of Technology)

The polymer properties of new materials developed by a cross-institutional group of researchers respond dynamically to light and darkness in a novel way.

5 Reasons You’ll Need a 3D Printer on Mars 

3D printing, additive manufacturing, automation, LMD additive, scaled production, blockchain, 3D printing on Mars
(Image source: NASA)

3D printing will play a vital role when we get to Mars. Here are five reasons why.

Harvard’s new multimaterial 3D printer moves at hummingbird speeds 

3D printing, additive manufacturing, automation, LMD additive, scaled production, blockchain, hummingbird speeds
(Image source: Wyss Institute at Harvard University)

A new technique developed at Harvard speeds up multimaterial printing by allowing up to eight different printing materials to fabricate objects.

New Process can 3D Print Living Cells with Precision and Speed 

3D printing, additive manufacturing, automation, LMD additive, scaled production, blockchain, living cells
(Source: TU Wien)

A novel bioink can integrate living cells into 3D scaffolds at a speed of one meter per second, making it possible to study the spread of diseases and produce tailor-made tissue.

Cool and super cool 3D printed projects 

3D printing, additive manufacturing, automation, LMD additive, scaled production, blockchain, cool projects
 

Here’s a look back at several cool hobbyist-level gadgets and a few super cool printed car projects.

(Image Source: 3Deddy, via Thingiverse)

liberty-defense's-radar-can-detect-undetectable-ghost-guns
Hexwave can detect guns and other dangerous items on people in real time and at a walking pace. (Image source: Liberty Defense)

On the day of his 16th birthday, Nathaniel Berhow, a student at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., shot and killed two of his classmates and wounded three others. The tragedy mirrored so many others that have been happening all over the US at an alarming rate in recent years. But one particular detail of the .45 caliber handgun Berhow used in the shooting caught the attention of law enforcement and media.

The gun was a “ghost gun,”so-called because it contained no serial number – making it difficult, if not impossible, to be traced by law enforcement. Ghost gun parts can even come from multiple sources further muddying the the chain of custody for law enforcement.

The gun was assembled from a kit of parts purchased online. Sellers of such kits argue that since they are only selling gun component rather than fully assembled firearms, they are legally in the clear.

Ghost guns can even be assembled using 3D-printed parts, printed by a seller or by the buyer in their own home. Files to print gun parts are readily available on the Internet and their legality is the subject of an ongoing legislative debate.

The modular nature of these guns, as well as their plastic components, also means it can be easy to sneak them past metal detectors.

The Saugus High School shooting was only the latest in a series of increasingly high-profile incidents involving ghost guns. But while law enforcement and government agencies are grappling with legislating and tracing ghost guns and 3D-printed guns, other groups and companies are working on the ground level to develop technologies to make these firearms easier to detect.

One such company is Vancouver, British Columbia-based Liberty Defense, a spin-off from MIT’s Lincoln Lab. Liberty Defense has developed a technology it calls Hexwave that combines machine learning and computer vision with an array of radar antennas to detect weapons regardless of their material composition. The goal is to augment existing security systems in airports, malls, stadiums, and other public spaces with a mobile system capable of detecting not only concealed weapons, but bullets, magazines, explosives, and even larger weapon components as well.

3D Printed Gun
A 3D-printed firearm, called “The Liberator,” made nearly entirely of plastic printed parts.

(Image source: Defense Distributed)

Bill Riker, CEO of Liberty Defense, told Design News that Hexwave is aimed at detecting weapons and other articles in dynamic, urban environments – places more chaotic and unpredictable than the queues at airports.

“In the airports and other places, it’s a very rigorous and effective process, but it takes a long time. And you’ve got a very captured audience,” Riker said. “In the urban environment – schools, stadiums, and malls – you’ve got a much less controlled environment, but you have an equally growing need for security.”

Riker said Liberty Defense’s technology allows for both indoor and outdoor detection zones, which is “important because of the need to be able to accommodate a layered defense when you are really trying to buy time for a security operation to proactively prevent a weapon from coming into a facility.” Hexwave can also be deployed covertly via kiosks or other means such as being hidden in walls.

Riker, who has over 35 years of experience working in security systems with Smiths Detention, DRS Technologies, General Dynamics, and the U.S. Department of Defense, likens Hexwave’s sensor technology to an insect’s eye – where a number of eyelets function together as one unit. Here, instead of eyelets, an array of low-frequency radar antennas (200 times lower power than Wi-Fi, according to the company) creates a three-dimensional point cloud of a person – capturing over 400,000 data points, according to Liberty Defense. “Think about it like a child’s coloring book. You’re connecting all the dots, except it’s in three dimensions,” Riker said.

“Part of the great work that MIT did here was to craft a design that can create multiple transmit and receive antennas,” Riker explained. “Typically, an antenna array has its transmitting and receiving off the same dish. This array actually separates them and you’re able to have essentially a multistatic display configured into a monostatic display.”

That point cloud is then converted into an image that a deep learning neural network analyzes to look for weapons and suspicious objects – all done in real time.

“We teach [the AI] a whole different series of weapons and as new weapons occur, we teach it and then we send that out by Wi-Fi into all the different systems to update them on a regular basis,” Riker said. “What’s important here is you don’t have to go from the cloud to a lookup table. All the analysis is done on the unit, therefore it’s super fast.”

Rather than distinguishing specific models or types of guns, what Hexwave looks for is identifiable shapes. “At this point, it’s general, but we can tell the difference between a plastic handgun and a metal metal handgun,” Riker said. “You can see if it’s a revolver or if it’s a semiautomatic pistol. You can also see explosives, including pyrotechnics. In that case you can actually you see the accelerates within the container.”

He continued. “There are all kinds of high-strength polymers that you can build 3D-printed guns out of. We can see that because it’s got a physical form to it, meaning, regardless of the material, there’s going to be some degree of reflectivity there. And so when you’re emitting energy against it that’s going to have a return that gives you that three-dimensional look.”

Once the AI has made its analysis, it can notify a human guard using a tablet. Riker said Hexwave can also be implemented into security systems to control things like door lock systems, video management systems, and command and control in cases where an immediate response is needed.

Hexwave uses an array of antennas to create a 3D point cloud image of people that pass by its towers. (Image source: Liberty Defense)

Liberty Defense says about 1,000 people can pass through a Hexwave-enabled security post. But there are limitations in terms of queuing people through the system. Entrance ways in typical stores, malls, and even schools can be chaotic – with lots of people entering and existing simultaneously in clusters. Hexwave requires each person be scanned one and a time – which means single file lines.

“The radar or the the energy we’re using is non-ionizing. So we’re out of the x-ray side, past millimeter wave, and into a different area,” Riker said. “And so what ends up occurring here is you can’t see through people. But, quite frankly, you can’t see through multiple people with x-ray systems either.”

Riker said the Hexwave system does offer an increased throughput over typical security stations and metal detectors – as well as more accuracy for security personnel – that Liberty Defense believes will ease any burden by requiring people to line up.

“So you get your increased throughput from two things really: Number one, you’re passing through at a walking pace and you typically should not have to divest of your typical articles on your body like a cell phone, a set of keys, or something like that. And then that’s also when it does identify something that’s either a known threat, clearly not a threat, or as an anomaly.

“Let’s say there’s an odd shaped object on you that’s really big that may look like a bar of soap. Why are you carrying a bar of soap on you? That’s kind of an odd thing to have, so the system will say something’s wrong here. It’s an anomaly. But the system also shows where that object is on your body so that a security official can go ahead and say, ‘Okay, please step over here for a second; what is that in your back pocket?’ ”

The real time speed of the system also offers an advantage over systems such as what the public may be used to in airports, for example.

“The airports do a great job. The technology is very effective. Airport scanners or the body scanners are typically using a four-millimeter wave and they are creating an image. It’s just that it’s not in real time. The reason why you can’t have little kids go through it is not because of the emission level. It’s because the kids typically can’t stay still. If you move ,you blur the image.

“For our system, it’s capturing the images several times a second. Little kids, adults, everyone can just keep walking through,” Riker said.

This anomaly detection feature becomes particularly important as criminals will often find ways around any new security system given enough time and experience. Different facilities can instruct the system to flag certain large items that shouldn’t be carried in (think large bags at sports stadiums) and human guards can intervene if something like a radar jammer or scrambler causes interference in the system. “If you’ve got a handgun or something like that in a radar-proof bag, it’s going to see a big bag on your body, flag the anomaly, and trigger the subsequent inspection,” Riker said.

In April 2019, Liberty Defense was granted an experimental license by the FCC to begin testing Hexwave. The company is planning to roll out beta tests in first half of 2020. As of writing 11 site have agreed to participate including Rogers Arena in Vancouver, the University of Wisconsin, and the Virginia state capital building in Richmond, VA. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has committed to testing Hexwave in his state. And the Maryland Stadium Authority will be testing the technology in various sporting venues.

Under federal law all firearms must be able to be detected by a metal detector, and all major components must be detectable by x-ray. The Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 requires guns to be detectable by metal detectors even “after removal of grips, stocks, and magazines,” and the barrel, the slide or cylinder, or the frame or receiver must be detectable by x-ray.

However, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence cautions: “The Undetectable Firearms Act does not specify what portion of the firearm must be detectable by a metal detector. This could allow an individual to create a mostly plastic but technically compliant firearm, using a 3D printer or other technology, that contains metal in an extraneous part of the firearm that could be removed prior to entering a security area.”

Riker said Liberty Defense is hoping to provide the public with a degree of safety and peace of mind that legislation hasn’t been able to. “That peace of mind seems to be eroding right now. So there’s a great potential to help recover that in our society,” he said. “I think we’re pretty confident that we’ll be able to stay ahead of the threat curve”

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.

DesignCon 2020 25th anniversary Logo

January 28-30: North America’s largest chip, board, and systems event, DesignCon, returns to Silicon Valley for its 25th year! The premier educational conference and technology exhibition, this three-day event brings together the brightest minds across the high-speed communications and semiconductor industries, who are looking to engineer the technology of tomorrow. DesignCon is your rocket to the future. Ready to come aboard? 

Register to attend!

ai-enables-design-of-spray-on-coating-that-can-generate-solar-energy

Solar energy is increasingly becoming a source of renewable energy throughout the world. Now researchers have found a way that could make generating energy from the sun even more ubiquitous by creating a spray coating that can be used on bridges, houses, or even skyscrapers so they can be energy self-sufficient.

artificial intelligence, AI, spray-on coating, solar energy, University of Central Florida, machine learning
 

A team from the University of Central Florida used artificial intelligence (AI), or machine learning, to optimize the materials used to make perovskite solar cells, or PSCs. The organic-inorganic halide perovskites material used in PSC converts photovoltaic power into consumable energy.

Perovskite cells in general have long been viewed as the future of solar cells because the material has key advantages over the silicon used to develop this technology today, including higher efficiency and less cost in cell production.

Another benefit of perovskite solar cells is that they can be produced not just in a solid-state form for typical solar panels, but also in a liquid state, which expands the flexibility of how solar-energy-generation technology can be delivered, researchers said. This could ultimately pave the way for any object or structure to generate its own electricity from the sun, which could revolutionize how people use energy.

AI as a solution

Perovskite materials have one major drawback, however—they are difficult to fabricate in a usable and stable material, costing scientists a lot of time just to find the right combination of materials to overcome this limitation while reaping the material benefits. That’s where a new method developed by a team led by Jayan Thomas, an associate professor at the university’s NanoScience Technology Center, can be an effective way to solve this issue.

Thomas’ team reviewed more than 2,000 peer-reviewed publications about perovskites and collected more than 300 data points that they then transferred into a machine-learning system they created, he said. The system analyzed the information and predicated which recipe for perovskites would optimize the material for solar-energy generation.

The results of the study show that AI can be used to craft perovskite materials for the creation of highly efficient technology to make this type of renewable energy more prevalent, Thomas said. “This can be a guide to design new materials as evidenced by our experimental demonstration,” he said. Researchers published a paper on their work in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

Indeed, if the team’s technology lives up to its potential, researchers can create a world standard for PSC, paving the way for spray-on solar cells in the near future. “This is a promising finding because we use data from real experiments to predict and obtain a similar trend from the theoretical calculation, which is new for PSCs,” said Thomas. “Perovskites have been a hot research topic for the past 10 years, but we think we really have something here that can move us forward.”

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

DesignCon 2020 25th anniversary Logo

January 28-30: North America’s largest chip, board, and systems event, DesignCon, returns to Silicon Valley for its 25th year! The premier educational conference and technology exhibition, this three-day event brings together the brightest minds across the high-speed communications and semiconductor industries, who are looking to engineer the technology of tomorrow. DesignCon is your rocket to the future. Ready to come aboard? Register to attend!

food-derived-materials-used-to-make-safer,-stickier-glues

The Purdue University team chose compounds in foods, like plants, nuts and fruits – all of which might have similar chemistry to the adhesives seen in shellfish that stick to rock – to develop new, non-toxic adhesives for single-use applications.. (Image source: Purdue University)

A research team a Purdue University has taken inspiration from natural food sources to develop new, strong adhesive materials from compounds in nuts, fruits, and plants.

Gudrun Schmidt, an associate professor in Purdue’s College of Science, said the researchers hope their materials can replace the glues currently used in electronics and other consumer products, which are typically made from petroleum-based materials and are toxic to the environment.

“Adhesives are used in almost every consumer product that we touch each day,” Schmidt said in a press statement. “We would love to leave this planet a better place for the future generations. It turns out creating new adhesives is one way that we will get there.”

The team is especially interested in developing more eco-friendly adhesives for single-use products, which are those that produce the most waste and thus could significantly benefit from non-toxic adhesives, researchers said.

High performance without toxicity

The materials the researchers focused on are formed from corn zein protein and tannic acid, according to an abstract for a paper published about the work in the journal Advanced Sustainable Systems.

“High-strength adhesive bonding is found when the formulations are optimized with regard to composition, pH, and curing temperature,” the researchers explained in the abstract.

The team tested the bonding of their adhesive on aluminum substrates using lap shear configurations. In these tests, they reported that adhesives formed from these materials, at maximum adhesion, can be as strong as commercial Super Glue “when measured under similar conditions.”

“Adhesion strengths exceed the minimal bonding of zein‐only controls,” they wrote. “The system forms nanometer and micrometer-sized pores throughout the bulk adhesive.”

A low amount of tannic acid and neutral pH of the strongest adhesive make the materials based on corn zein–tannic acid “potentially appealing” for a number of commercial applications. Those include “adhesives used in packaging, cosmetics, and other single-use applications where biomedical grade purity is not required.”

“We found that some combinations of zein protein and tannic acid could be reacted together in order to generate high-performance adhesives that could be alternatives to carcinogenic formaldehyde used in the glues that hold lots of furniture and other household items together,” Schmidt said in a press statement. “It would be a big health benefit if we could switch over to bio-based or even food-based adhesives.”

Other potential applications for the adhesive materials developed by the team include cardboard packaging, cosmetics, and construction materials like plywood, she added.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.