Entries with tag university of california berkeley.

Scientists Create Sensitive Electronic Whiskers

Researchers from the US Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, scientists have developed extremely sensitive sensors inspired by animal whiskers. These tactile sensors, sensitive to even very light pressure, consist of composite carbon-nanotube films and silver nanoparticles applied to fibers. The researchers explain the sensitivity is a product of using elastic fibers that respond to even the slightest amount of pressure. The scientists say the whiskers’ sensitivity and electrical can be tuned by changing the ratio of the components used. Mammals and insects use their hairlike whiskers as sensors for monitoring wind and for navigation. The researchers’ sensors were able to accurately complete 2D and 3D wind-flow mapping. They say their whiskers could also be used for spatial mapping as well as in sensors that measure wearers’ heartbeat and pulse rate. The scientists published their work in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (National Monitor)(University of California Berkeley Research)(Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

New Schools Offer Fast-Track Data-Science Programs

The dearth of data scientists is inspiring universities and companies to create new programs to teach the skills needed to land a job as a data scientist. Universities are offering certificate and degree programs specifically designed to teach people the skills needed to put big data to work for all those businesses seeking to make use of data from a wide and steady stream of sources. For example, the University of California, Berkeley touts its master of information and data science program as the first of its type in the US. Some private businesses—such as the Zipfian Academy—are establishing fast-track training lasting as little as 12 weeks. Zipfian says 220 people applied for only 13 spots in its first class. (Information Week) 

New Fabrication Method Creates Large, Affordable Flexible Displays

A new method for printing large areas of carbon nanotube thin-film transistors on plastic surfaces would enable the creation of flexible displays and sensor networks. Researchers, led by Ali Javey, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, used a conventional printing technology known as gravure printing to make uniform arrays of high-performing transistors from carbon nanotubes on flexible plastic sheets. This is the first time fully printed carbon nanotubes that are also high performance have been demonstrated. They report that their method creates transistor arrays with higher mobility than other, prior carbon nanotube printing technologies. Electron mobility is critical in display technologies. It translates into needing less current for OLEDs, for example. Researchers say the process could lead to  manufacturing large-area, low-power sensor arrays and displays using roll-to-roll printing and are now working on refining their method in hopes of printing more complex circuits. They published their findings in NanoLetters. (Technology Review)(NanoLetters)

Researchers Create Ultrafast Memory Device

Nanyang Technological University and University of California, Berkeley, researchers have constructed a prototype ultrafast, energy-efficient ferroelectric memory device able to use light to read data. Three types of memory chips are commonly available: RAM, ROM, and DRAM, each of which has limitations. Recent research on addressing these limitations has focused on developing an energy-efficient device that is faster and more accurate than RAM. The leading candidate is ferroelectric RAM, which is made with bismuth ferrite and uses magnetic polarization to represent the ones and zeros of binary data. The newly developed FRAM chip uses halogen light to read the polarization.  Shining a light on the material does not disturb its polarization. This would eliminate errors, specifically the erasing of data, that can occur when devices use electricity to read polarization. The researchers claim their device is about 10,000 times faster than DRAM and operates on only 3 volts of electricity, compared to DRAM’s average 15 volts. The next steps toward commercializing the technology include making it smaller. The researchers published their work in the journal Nature Communications. (PhysOrg)(Nature Communications)

UC Berkeley Unit Replaces Passwords with Passthoughts

University of California Berkeley School of Information researchers have developed a new form of user authentication that relies on brainwaves. Employing biosensor technology and a $100 wireless headset, they created a system that utilizes an individual’s unique EEG signals for computer authentication. The NeuroSky Mindset works by having a user perform a mental task they would not object to completing daily to log in, such as counting objects of a specific color or imagining singing a song. The researchers found that even simple actions—such as focusing on breathing or on a thought for ten seconds—resulted in successful authentication. The work was presented during the recent 2013 Workshop on Usable Security at the 17th International Conference on Financial Cryptography and Data Security in Okinawa, Japan. (Mashable)(NBC News)(UC Berkeley School of Information)

Researchers Make Solar Cells from Semiconductor Materials

Researchers from the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley have devised a way to make low-cost, highly efficient solar cells from virtually any semiconductor material. This would let manufacturers use inexpensive materials previously deemed unsuitable for solar cell manufacturing, such as metal oxides, sulfides, and phosphides. The researchers say their technique could stimulate solar energy use. “It’s time we put bad materials to good use,” stated Alex Zettl,  physics professor at UC Berkeley and director of the Center of Integrated Nanomechanical Systems -- who is leading the research. “Our technology allows us to sidestep the difficulty in chemically tailoring many earth abundant, nontoxic semiconductors and instead tailor these materials simply by applying an electric field.” Typically, solar cells are made from expensive photovoltaic materials such as cadmium telluride or copper indium gallium selenide thin films. The researchers’ screening-engineered field-effect photovoltaics method uses an electric field effect, rather than chemical dopants, to alter a semiconductor’s conductive capabilities. The technique also creates devices that perform self-gating functions, which means they do not need external power for gating. These gates can also function as an antireflection coating. The researchers published their work in Nano Letters. (Science Daily)(Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)(Nano Letters)

Lizard-Based Robot Uses Tail for Righting Itself

University of California, Berkeley researchers have modeled a self-stabilizing robot on the ability of lizards to land right-side-up when falling. The scientists studied how the flat-tailed house gecko and green anole fall and right themselves in midair before landing on their feet. They utilize their large tails to rotate their body into position. The researchers used this to construct RightingBot, a simple robot—consisting of a body joined to a tail—that can right itself in midair. The work could also help provide airborne or land-based robots with the ability to recover when they lose their balance. The researchers presented the work at a recent Society for Experimental Biology meeting in Salzburg, Austria. (Science Daily)(EurekAlert)

Researchers Develop Nanoscale Optical Equipment

A team headed by scientists from the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley have developed what they say are world’s smallest 3D optical cavities, components in an optical system that allow a beam to travel through a closed path,  with the potential to generate intense nanolaser beams. The optical cavities could be used in various optical devices, including nanolasers, LEDs, photonic integrated circuits, optical sensors, and photonic communications. The researchers built the optical cavities with an indefinite metamaterial created with ultrathin silver and germanium layers. These materials can bend light backward in some directions, a property known as negative refraction. The material also enabled researchers to make very small optical cavities able to be used in smaller devices and to take advantage of electromagnetic behavior not found in naturally occurring materials. This allows the cavities, for example, to be different sizes, but still have the same resonance frequency. The scientists published their work in Nature Photonics. (Science Daily)(Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)(Nature Photonics)

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