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


Informative, innovative and interesting articles from our favorite blogs


  1. Electronic devices that can degrade and physically disappear on demand, Bob Yirka, September 4, 2017, TechXplore – New electronic devices can degrade and disappear on demand using just humidity. An international team of researchers used the process of hydrolysis to develop the technique. The team searched for and eventually found a material that’s known to degrade in humid environments – polyanhydride. The researchers integrated the material with electronic components by applying it to thin films. The film allows the components to operate normally until humidity is applied. Manufacturers can pre-program the devices to self-destruct on demand from days to weeks, or indefinitely if desired.  During demonstrations, the team constructed and dissolved resistors, capacitors, transistors and more. Possible applications include dissolving electronic components rather than tossing them in a landfill at the end of their useful life. For more information visit TechXplore.
  2. New technology could revolutionize smartphone use, University of St. Andrews, September 4, 2017, PHYS.ORG – Innovative new technology can enable a smartphone to perform certain tasks, simply by recognizing the surface on which it’s placed. Possible applications include allowing a user’s phone to tell them where to find it and programming the phone to interpret different surfaces as a trigger for action. For example, if the phone rings as it’s placed face down on a laptop, the user could trigger the phone to send a message saying, “sorry, I am in a meeting.” The system, called SpeCam, also allows the way the phone is held to perform tasks, like changing the volume on the TV or playing certain music. The technology works by enabling smartphones to utilize the camera function to recognize exposure to different materials. This would then link up with a previously created database so the phone can “understand” the surface it’s placed on. The program will be presented at the International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services. For the full story visit PHYS.ORG.
  3. South African Team Solves a Solar Puzzle That Even Google Couldn’t Crack, Umer Sohail, September 4, 2017, Wonderful Engineering – A team of engineers have found a way to generate cheap solar electricity. The team used a small-scale array of mirrors to concentrate the sun’s energy at a single point. The system, called Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), can track the sun’s rays and concentrate them onto a central point to heat it up. Once enough heat is generated it can then be converted into electricity. The concept has been applied to several large-scale solar power plants around the world. However, these plants (called heliostats) are very costly to set up and difficult to operate on a smaller scale. With current technology, these plants require expensive wiring and skilled laborers to install. Now, engineers are working on developing plonkable heliostats, which are ready-made panels that could make CSP technology cheaper and easier to implement. The project, dubbed Helio100 is comprised of over 100 heliostats of 2.2 square meters each that can generate 150 Kilowatts of electricity, enough to power about 10 homes. This concept is already cheaper than other fuels. For the full article visit Wonderful Engineering.
  4. A Revolution in Lithium-Ion Batteries is Becoming More Realistic, Henryk Niewodnixzanski Institute, September 5, 2017, ECN – Portable electronic devices, like smartphones, tablets and laptops are all powered by lithium-ion batteries. Now, a team of physicists have found a way to make the batteries smaller, lighter, safer and more efficient. The team found a way to replace the liquid electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries with a solid, thanks to a promising new class of materials. The electrolytes make it difficult to reduce the size of the battery, and they are subjected to leakage and sometimes self-ignition. The material is a breakthrough because it is a new class of ionic compounds where the charge carriers are lithium ions moving in an environment of amine and tertrahydroborate. Physicists have been searching for solid materials capable of replacing liquid electrolytes for years and now they believe they have done it. For the full article check out ECN.
  5. And lastly, the most popular Tektronix download of the week goes to How to Create Direct Synthesis Signals Using Arbitrary Waveform Generators. Our latest application note provides information on math and analysis software packages, like Mathworks MATLAB, which can help bring you a new level of efficiency to the creation of waveforms and functional programs for AWGs.

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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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