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Researchers Create Components for Nanodiamond Devices

Vanderbilt University researchers have developed the final component needed to create a device from nanodiamond thin films. This most recent creation involved creating logic gates by making two identical nanodiamond lateral field emission diodes on a silicon-on-insulator wafer, and then using diode-resistor logic to make a device that can operate in extreme environments. The nanodiamond circuits they’ve created are reportedly a hybrid technology combining vacuum tubes with modern solid-state microelectronics. The researchers say the diamond-based devices can operate at higher temperatures than silicon and are “largely immune” to radiation damage. They claim the technology could be used to create failsafe technologies in nuclear power plants. The devices have numerous other attractive attributes that include energy efficiency.  The researchers say roughly one billion devices can be made from a carat of diamond because they are using chemical vapor deposition to create the films. The cost should prove competitive with silicon and devices can be made using conventional fabrication methods. The work related to the logic gate design is published in Electronics Letters. (SlashDot)(Vanderbilt University)(The Institution of Engineering and Technology)

Teachers Turn to Technology for Unbiased Grading

Educators are attempting to end grade inflation by changing how they grade; some academics are employing technology for grading, including the University of Central Florida. Educators there are using software that uses artificial-intelligence techniques to grade essays. Pam Thomas, an instructor of biology at the University of Central Florida, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that she decided to try so-called robot grading because she typically teaches large lecture classes and wanted her students to have more challenging assignments and exams. She also tested her teaching assistants against the computer scoring system and found the TAs made errors after scoring several tests. The application she used is Idea Works’ SAGrader. However, some critics say grading software is generally not a sufficiently mature technology to be widely used yet. (SlashDot)(The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Conference News: YSmart Significantly Reduces Translation Times

A team of researchers recently presented a new approach to handling data analytics in large cluster systems at the 2011 International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems. Large online stores and Web service providers must rapidly process an increasingly large amount of data represented by Web click-streams, user-generated contents, online transaction data, and other activities. YSmart, a correlation-aware SQL-to-MapReduce translator, applies a set of rules to use the minimal number of MapReduce jobs to execute multiple correlated operations in a complex query. YSmart significantly reduces redundant computations, I/O operations and network transfers compared to existing data translators. Results presented by the authors of "YSmart: Yet Another SQL-to MapReduce Translator" show that YSmart can outperform Hive and Pig, two widely used SQL-to-MapReduce translators, by more than four times for query execution. The work earned a Best Paper award at ICDCS 2011.

The paper is available to IEEE Computer Society Digital Library subscribers at

Researcher Analyzes Error-Correction Codes

Error-correcting codes ensure that data can be reconstructed at the receiving end of a transmission despite their corruption by electrical interference or noise. It’s long been assumed that the circuits decoding a transmission are error-free, but a new analysis of this theory shows that information can still be correctly transmitted despite the decoder itself being noisy. Lav Varshney, an MIT researcher, looked at the statistical properties of whole classes of encoders and decoders to reach his conclusion. He is now examining whether the structure of encoding and decoding for data and error correction might be applied to the brain’s information processing patterns, which is also a noisy process. The analysis was described in IEEE Transactions on Information Theory. (“Performance of LDPC Codes Under Faulty Iterative Decoding,” L.R. Varshney, IEEE Transactions on Information Theory, July 2011.)(MIT)

Japanese Rectenna Converts Radio Signals into Power

Nihon Dengyo Kosaku, a Japanese communications company, announced the development of a rectenna – a rectifier-antenna – able to convert radio waves to electricity. The company developed versions of the device designed specifically to convert WiFi and digital terrestrial broadcast signals into electricity. The energy produced by the WiFi version is sufficient to power a small sensor or tag, while demonstrations of the terrestrial version generated  roughly 1.2mV and 0.06µW. Although these are relatively small amounts of power, the researchers say that there might be new devices created specifically to take advantage of the concept. A rectenna could, for example, power LED monitor lights or sensors. ( Crunch)

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