The Tek Pulse: The latest and greatest engineering and science posts

Informative, innovative and interesting articles from our favorite blogs


1. ‘Smart’ Transformers Could Make Reliable Smart Grid a Reality, North Carolina State University, July 10, 2017, Wireless Design & Development – A new study shows that a smart grid could become a reality in the very near future. This smart grid, made from Smart Solid-state Transformers (SSTs), could improve efficient use of renewable energy and storage. SSTs can perform all the functions of a traditional transformer and redirect power as needed. For example, they can scale down voltage for use in homes and scale up voltage from solar panels to feed power back into the grid. For the study, researchers developed a complex model that simulates the behavior of a power distribution system to predict how well it would work with the SSTs.  Now that the team knows the grid would work, their next step is to develop a corresponding algorithm that would allow the SSTs to make split-second decisions. For more information, visit Wireless Design & Development


2. New Photodetector Can Enable Optoelectronics Advances, University of Wisconsin-Madison, July 10, 2017, Research & Development – Engineers have overcome two major hurdles in efforts to reduce the size of optoelectronic devices. The first obstacle was finding a way to shrink the size of conventionally used thin-film materials. The second was getting around the fact that when ultrathin materials are too thin, they become nearly transparent and lose some ability to gather or absorb light. The solution is a nanoscale photodetector that combines a unique fabrication method and light-trapping structures. The device itself consists of nano-cavities sandwiched between a top layer of ultrathin single-crystal germanium and a reflecting layer of silver. This thin, yet effective, light-absorbing photodetector is a building block for the future of optoelectronics. Possible applications include reducing the size and weight of solar panels, producing a higher-quality photo and transmitting data more quickly. For more information, visit Research & Development.


3. New way to predict when electric cars and home batteries become cost effective, Imperial College London, July 10, 2017, TechXplore – With a large database and a new analysis tool, researchers can now predict how much consumers will have to pay for energy storage technologies based on cumulative installed capacity, current cost and future investment. For example, the team predicted that electric cars could rival petrol, or gasoline, by 2022. The device also showed that batteries used to store power from solar panels in individual homes could become competitive in 2030. This new research reveals that energy storage technologies, including pumped hydroelectric storage, rechargeable batteries and fuel cells, could soon become much cheaper, with electric cars leading the way as battery technology costs fall. To build the tool, the team collated data on the capacity and price of current energy storage technologies to see how costs fall as capacity increases. Then, they used the trends to calculate how fast costs would fall based on future investments. This tool enabled researches to answer questions like, how electricity storage could revolutionize the electricity generation sector. For more information check out TechXplore.


4. Breakthrough in spintronics, Julius-Maximilian-Universitat Wurzburg, July 10, 2017, Science Daily – Physicists have developed a promising new material based on topological insulators, which are currently the focus of international solids research. Topological materials are electrically insulating and conductive due to quantum effects. These insulators could make an old dream a reality: direct spin-based processing or “spintronics.” However, there has been one major obstacle to use this material for practical applications. As the temperature of a topological insulator increases, all quantum effects are washed away. Therefore, they need to be cooled at below freezing temperatures – down to minus 270 degrees Celsius. These cold temperatures are not practical for applications like ultra-fast electronics or quantum computers. Now, the latest breakthrough is based on ultra-thin film materials that acts as a topological insulator and can be used at room temperature. For the full article visit Science Daily.


5. And lastly, the most popular Tektronix download of the week goes to 11 Power Consumption Measurement Techniques. Our e-guide describes the top 11 power management challenges that you may face when designing, validating or testing your IoT device, and offers tips on how to simplify the process.


Download your copy today!


Do you have a great article, blog or idea that you’d like to see featured in our series? Please be sure to share in the comments below. Stay tuned next week for another installment of The Tek Pulse, featuring more trending articles from the engineering, technology and science worlds.


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