A Nanoscale Device to Generate High-Power Terahertz Waves – Penetrating paper, clothing, wood and walls, detecting air pollution … THz sources could revolutionize Security and Medical Imaging Systems


Terahertz Waves ananoscalede
The nanoscale terahertz wave generator can be implemented on flexible substrates. Credit: EPFL / POWERlab

Terahertz (THz) waves fall between microwave and infrared radiation in the electromagnetic spectrum, oscillating at frequencies of between 100 billion and 30 trillion cycles per second. These waves are prized for their distinctive properties: they can penetrate paper, clothing, wood and walls, as well as detect air pollution. THz sources could revolutionize security and medical imaging systems. What’s more, their ability to carry vast quantities of data could hold the key to faster wireless communications.

THz waves are a type of non-ionizing radiation, meaning they pose no risk to human health. The technology is already used in some airports to scan passengers and detect dangerous objects and substances.

Despite holding great promise, THz waves are not widely used because they are costly and cumbersome to generate. But new technology developed by researchers at EPFL could change all that. The team at the Power and Wide-band-gap Electronics Research Laboratory (POWERlab), led by Prof. Elison Matioli, built a nanodevice that can generate extremely high-power signals in just a few picoseconds, or one trillionth of a second, which produces high-power THz waves.

The technology, which can be mounted on a chip or a flexible medium, could one day be installed in smartphones and other hand-held devices. The work first-authored by Mohammad Samizadeh Nikoo, a Ph.D. student at the POWERlab, has been published in the journal Nature.

How it works

The compact, inexpensive, fully electric nanodevice generates high-intensity waves from a tiny source in next to no time. It works by producing a powerful “spark,” with the voltage spiking from 10 V (or lower) to 100 V in the range of a picosecond. The device is capable of generating this spark almost continuously, meaning it can emit up to 50 million signals every second. When hooked up to antennas, the system can produce and radiate high-power THz waves.

The device consists of two metal plates situated very close together, down to 20 nanometers apart. When a voltage is applied, electrons surge towards one of the plates, where they form a nanoplasma. Once the voltage reaches a certain threshold, the electrons are emitted almost instantly to the second plate. This rapid movement enabled by such fast switches creates a high-intensity pulse that produces high-frequency waves.

Conventional electronic devices are only capable of switching at speeds of up to one volt per picosecond—too slow to produce high-power THz waves.

The new nanodevice, which can be more than ten times faster, can generate both high-energy and high-frequency pulses. “Normally, it’s impossible to achieve high values for both variables,” says Matioli. “High-frequency semiconductor devices are nanoscale in size. They can only cope with a few volts before breaking out. High-power devices, meanwhile, are too big and slow to generate terahertz waves. Our solution was to revisit the old field of plasma with state-of-the-art nanoscale fabrication techniques to propose a new device to get around those constraints.”

According to Matioli, the new  pushes all the variables to the extreme: “High-frequency, high-power and nanoscale aren’t terms you’d normally hear in the same sentence.”

“These nanodevices, on one side, bring an extremely high level of simplicity and low-cost, and on the other side, show an excellent performance. In addition, they can be integrated with other electronic devices such as transistors. Considering these , nanoplasma can shape a different future for the area of ultra-fast electronics,” says Samizadeh.

The technology could have wide-ranging applications beyond generating THz waves. “We’re pretty sure there’ll be more innovative applications to come,” adds Matioli.


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Record-breaking terahertz laser beam

A Conversation with a ‘Nano – Entrepreneur’ – Advanced Materials Company Veelo Technologies: National Nanotechnology Initiative


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*** Genesis Nanotechnology, Inc. is embarking on a series Interviews and Articles featuring ‘Nano Entrepreneurs’ and University Innovators – their journeys and their stories. To that end we thought to first introduce to our readers the Nanotechnology Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) as resource. You can also Follow Us On Twitter for Updates Twitter Icon 042616.jpg

 

NNI (National Nanotechnology Initiative) is pleased to launch a new community of interest to support entrepreneurs interested in commercializing nanotechnologies. The Nanotechnology Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) brings new and seasoned entrepreneurs together with the people and resources available to support them.

This emerging network will create a forum for sharing best practices for advancing nanotechnology commercialization and the lessons learned along the technology development pathway. Activities are likely to include a monthly podcast series, webinars, workshops, and town hall discussions.

To kick things off, the inaugural podcast in this series features a conversation between NNCO Director Lisa Friedersdorf and Joe Sprengard, CEO and Founder of Veelo Technologies. Joe talks about his journey as an entrepreneur and shares the advice he received when he was getting started. Check back here for more information, and contact nen@nnco.nano.gov if you would like to join the conversation!

We hope you enjoy watching the Video Below:

More About Veelo Technologies: General Nano manufactures Veelo™, a new-class of lightweight, conductive, multifunctional materials that improve the Size, Weight and Power (SWaP) of next generation air vehicles, including aircraft, rotorcraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), satellites, and missiles.

Read The Full Story Here

Raising Capital for Early Stage Companies in a Post CoronaVirus Market Meltdown


Recent Market Sell-Offs and Volatility Have Investors on a Roller Coaster of a Ride

After ten years of rising US equities prices, many investors are selling (albeit off the highs) but with large capital gains. This sell-off gives investors a chance to rethink their allocation and potentially focus on private investments in earlier stage companies as a long-term hedge.

Anecdotally having met with hundreds investors over the past 24 months, smaller/private deals were more difficult in an era of seemingly predictable source of 8% plus returns in the public markets.

So what is the case for investing in technology at the earliest stage besides the fact that returns are the best and investors are seeking a long term game now? 

What is Your Investor(s) View of the World?

1. Understand the investor type and hypothesis and craft your pitch in response to their view of the world.A high net worth investor who is an angel, likely has public market exposure, capital gains and a fairly large amount of ongoing hypothesis.

Take the opportunity to remind your potential angel investors that this is a great time to move investment dollars out of the volatile public markets and into a business that is values-aligned and run by someone they know and trust.”

Angel investing has generated good returns over time for angels. The link below connects to a dense academic paper, however it is recommended that Early Stage Companies should be comfortable with this analysis so you can understand how your potential angels are thinking about this investment

Prediction and Control Under Uncertainty – Outcomes in Angel Investing

Assessing and Comparing Risk

2. Early stage pre-revenue tech startups become in relative terms less risky. At the early stage, risk doesn’t change much in absolute terms but changes dramatically in relative terms. If you at normal times evaluate a pre-seed startup risk to be, say, 100x higher than that of a later-stage company, at the time of crisis this could become only 20x. this of course assumes the crisis is bounded in time.

Finding and Leveraging Unique Advantages

3. Pre-revenue startups have zero exposure to market, and generally benefit from crises, because they can get cheaper workforce (this assumes employees will still want to join a company with financing risk).

If you expect the crisis will take x number of months, and the startup has >x runway, you know it will survive. There are almost no other variables except in the Coronavirus instance, we don’t know x number of months yet.

There’s always capital for companies that have the product market fit and a strong relationship with a diversified set of customers.

Companies should rework their financial models and capital strategy to ensure they can hold-off on deploying capital until they understand business drivers that enable them to become category-owning companies offering a defensible product or service.

If you are able to organize your company to qualify for opportunity zone funding, that could help your potential investor with the capital gains associated with their most recent public company stock sale. 

Source William Rosellini

New Carbon Membrane Generates a Hundred Times More Power – Opens up New Possibilities for Power Generation, Desalination and More Efficient Fuel Cells


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A new carbon membrane could someday be used in commercial desalination plants

Leiden chemists have created a new ultrathin membrane only one molecule thick. The membrane can produce a hundred times more power from seawater than the best membranes used today. The researchers have published their findings in Nature Nanotechnology.

Thin and porous

When fresh and saltwater meet, an exchange of salt and other particles takes place. A  placed in water is able to harness energy from particles moving from one side to the other. A similar process can also be used to desalinate seawater. Leiden chemists have developed a new membrane that can produce a hundred times more energy than classic membranes and known prototype membranes in scientific literature.

How much power is generated depends on the thickness of the membrane and how porous it is. Researchers were able to create a carbon based membrane that is both porous and thin. That is why it can produce more energy than current membranes, which are either porous or thin, but not both.

newcarbonmem Credit: Xue Liu

To create this new membrane, Xue Liu and Grégory Schneider spread a large number of oily molecules on a water surface. These molecular building blocks then form a thin film on their own. By heating the film, the molecules are locked in place, creating a stable and porous membrane. According to Xue Liu, the membrane can be adapted for specific requirements. Liu: “The membrane we’ve created is only two nanometers thick and permeable to potassium ions. We can change the properties of the membrane by using a different molecular building block. That way we can adapt it to suit any need.”

Graphene

The new carbon membrane is similar to graphene, a large flat membrane made up of only carbon atoms. But according to Grégory Schneider, this new membrane is in a whole different category. Schneider: “When making a membrane, a lot of researchers start out with graphene, which is very thin, but not porous. They then try to punch holes in it to make more permeable. We’ve done the reverse by assembling small molecules and building a larger porous membrane from those . Compared to , it contains imperfections, but that’s what gives it its special properties.”

This new membrane combines the best of both worlds. Schneider: “Much of the research in this field was focused on creating better catalysts, membranes were somewhat of a dead end. This new discovery opens up whole new possibilities for , desalination and for  much more efficient fuel cells.”


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Water desalination picks up the pace


More information: Xue Liu et al. Power generation by reverse electrodialysis in a single-layer nanoporous membrane made from core–rim polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, Nature Nanotechnology (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41565-020-0641-5

Journal information: Nature Nanotechnology

Graphene solar heating film offers new opportunity for efficient thermal energy harvesting


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Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Researchers at Swinburne University of Technology’s Centre for Translational Atomaterials have developed a highly efficient solar absorbing film that absorbs sunlight with minimal heat loss and rapidly heats up to 83°C in an open environment.

The  metamaterial film has great potential for use in solar thermal energy harvesting and conversion, thermophotovoltaics (directly converting heat to electricity), solar seawater desalination, , light emitters and photodetectors.

The researchers have developed a prototype to demonstrate the photo-thermal performance and thermal stability of the film. They have also proposed a scalable and low-cost manufacturing strategy to produce this graphene metamaterial film for .

“In our previous work, we demonstrated a 90 nm graphene metamaterial heat-absorbing film,” says Professor Baohua Jia, founding Director of the Centre for Translational Atomaterials.

“In this new work, we reduced the film thickness to 30 nm and improved the performance by minimising heat loss. This work forms an exciting pillar in our atomaterial research.”

Lead author Dr. Keng-Te Lin says: “Our cost-effective and scalable structured graphene metamaterial selective absorber is promising for energy harvesting and conversion applications. Using our film an impressive solar to vapour efficiency of 96.2 percent can be achieved, which is very competitive for clean water generation using renewable energy source.”

Co-author Dr. Han Lin adds: “In addition to the long lifetime of the proposed graphene metamaterial, the solar-thermal performance is very stable under working conditions, making it attractive for industrial use. The 30 nm thickness significantly reduced the amount of the graphene materials, thus saving the costs, making it accessible for real-life applications.”


Explore further

Novel form of graphene-based optical material developed


More information: Keng-Te Lin et al. Structured graphene metamaterial selective absorbers for high efficiency and omnidirectional solar thermal energy conversion, Nature Communications (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-15116-z

Journal information: Nature Communications

Unmasking a hidden killer: Successfully detecting cancer in blood of patients undergoing treatment


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Dr Yuling Wang. Credit: CNBP

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal cancers, but difficult to diagnose: few sufferers have symptoms until the cancer has become large or already spread to other organs. Even then, symptoms can be vague and easily misconstrued as more common conditions.

This is why Dr. Yuling Wang is so excited by results of a trial completed in late 2019, which—using plasmonic nanoparticles developed by the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP)—successfully detected signs of the  in  of patients undergoing treatment. The paper was recently published in the journal American Chemical Society—Sensors.

“The test gave a very high signal in the blood for late-stage or very serious tumors, where other techniques cannot detect anything,” said Dr. Wang, an associate investigator at the Centre’s Macquarie University node in Sydney, in work led by Prof Nicolle Packer. “We need to test many more patient samples to validate the approach, but the strength of the signal was very encouraging.”

They did this by developing a method, using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy nanotags, that simultaneously detects three known  cancer biomarkers in blood. Known as extracellular vesicles, or EVs, they contain DNA and proteins for cell-to-cell communication and are shed from pancreatic cancer cells into surrounding body fluids. The CNBP method zeros in on three: Glypican-1, epithelial cell adhesion molecules and CD44V6.

Unmasking a hidden killer

Non-invasive screening of cancer biomarkers from blood with handheld Raman reader. Credit: CNBP

For the experiment, biopsies of healthy donors were provided alongside those of known sufferers of pancreatic cancer, in double-blind tests where the researchers did not know which was which. Nevertheless, the blood of sufferers was easily identified. The technique was so sensitive it could spot EVs as small as 113 nanometres in diameter—or less than 1% the width of a human hair—in every millilitre of blood.

The pancreas is part of the digestive system, secreting insulin into the bloodstream to regulate the body’s sugar level as well as important enzymes and hormones into the  to help break down food. Pancreatic cancer is the fifth biggest cancer killer in Australia and has a 5-year survival rate of 8.7%. More than 3000 Australians are diagnosed annually, and surgery to remove the cancer is a long and complex process, requiring long hospital stays.

Because existing blood tests for the protein biomarkers of pancreatic cancer are unreliable, imaging with endoscopic ultrasound or MRI scans is necessary. Even then, anomalies can only be confirmed with a biopsy of the organ, which is invasive and ultimately relies on a trained pathologist to recognize signs of the cancer under a microscope. As a result, there’s some subjectivity involved and cancer can be present but still be missed.

“Our approach is non-invasive—we don’t need to take tissue from the patient, we just use a  to test blood for targeted biomarkers, which gives a very quick result,” Dr. Wang said. It may also help provide earlier diagnosis of the cancer.

While the work is a proof-of-concept, it was also able to detect colorectal and bladder cancer biomarkers—although not as clearly as those for . Nevertheless, the results are so encouraging that a commercial partner has committed funding to CNBP so it can develop a handheld spectrometer for cancer biomarkers in blood.


Explore further

UK urine test that can detect early-stage pancreatic cancer starts clinical study

MIT and University of Waterloo Lead the Way: Quantum Radar Reliably Demonstrated – Making it useful for Biomedical and Security (Stealth) Applications


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A radar device that relies on entangled photons works at such low power that it can hide behind background noise, making it useful for biomedical and security (stealthy radar) applications.

One of the advantages of the quantum revolution is the ability to sense the world in a new way. The general idea is to use the special properties of quantum mechanics to make measurements or produce images that are otherwise impossible.

Much of this work is done with photons. But as far as the electromagnetic spectrum is concerned, the quantum revolution has been a little one-sided. Almost all the advances in quantum computing, cryptography, teleportation, and so on have involved visible or near-visible light.

Today that changes thanks to the work of Shabir Barzanjeh at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria and a few colleagues. This team has used entangled microwaves to create the world’s first quantum radar. Their device, which can detect objects at a distance using only a few photons, raises the prospect of stealthy radar systems that emit little detectable electromagnetic radiation.

The device is simple in essence. The researchers create pairs of entangled microwave photons using a superconducting device called a Josephson parametric converter. They beam the first photon, called the signal photon, toward the object of interest and listen for the reflection.

Quantum radar

In the meantime, they store the second photon, called the idler photon. When the reflection arrives, it interferes with this idler photon, creating a signature that reveals how far the signal photon has traveled. Voila—quantum radar!

This technique has some important advantages over conventional radar. Ordinary radar works in a similar way but fails at low power levels that involve small numbers of microwave photons. That’s because hot objects in the environment emit microwaves of their own.

In a room temperature environment, this amounts to a background of around 1,000 microwave photons at any instant, and these overwhelm the returning echo. This is why radar systems use powerful transmitters.

Entangled photons overcome this problem. The signal and idler photons are so similar that it is easy to filter out the effects of other photons. So it becomes straightforward to detect the signal photon when it returns.

Of course, entanglement is a fragile property of the quantum world, and the process of reflection destroys it.  Nevertheless, the correlation between the signal and idler photons is still strong enough to distinguish them from background noise.

This allows Barzanjeh and co to detect a room temperature object in a room temperature environment with just a handful of photons, in a way that is impossible to do with ordinary photons. “We generate entangled fields using a Josephson parametric converter at millikelvin temperatures to illuminate a room-temperature object at a distance of 1 meter in a proof of principle radar setup,” they say.

The researchers go on to compare their quantum radar with conventional systems operating with similarly low numbers of photons and say it significantly outperforms them, albeit only over relatively short distances.

That’s interesting work revealing the significant potential of quantum radar and a first application of microwave-based entanglement. But it also shows the potential application of quantum illumination more generally.

 

A big advantage is the low levels of electromagnetic radiation required. “Our experiment shows the potential as a non-invasive scanning method for biomedical applications, e.g., for imaging of human tissues or non-destructive rotational spectroscopy of proteins,” say Barzanjeh and co.

Then there is the obvious application as a stealthy radar that is difficult for adversaries to detect over background noise. The researchers say it could be useful for short-range low-power radar for security applications in closed and populated environments.

quantum radar 2 2018-05-14-s20_quantuim_radar_stealth_aircraft_entanglement_canada

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1908.03058 : Experimental Microwave Quantum Illumination

University of Waterloo Leads The Way in Canada

Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology (WIN) members, in Professor Zbig Wasilewski partnership with the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC), is developing the next generation of radar, quantum radar. Professor Zbig Wasilewski, from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is fabricating the materials for quantum radar.

The two other co-PIs on this project are Professor Jonathan Baugh and Professor Mike Reimer. Professor Baugh is a member of both WIN and IQC, while Professor Reimer main focus is on quantum photonics as a member of IQC.

In April 2018, the Government of Canada announced they would invest $2.7 million in the joint quantum radar project. The state-ofthe-art facilities in Lazaridis Centre make this project possible. Professor Wasilewski’s Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) lab will grow the quantum material to adequate perfection to meet the challenge. The IQC houses the necessary quantum device processing and photonic labs. This ambitious project is not possible at many research institutions in the world. The MBE lab allows Wasilewski to create quantum structures with atomic precision. These materials will in turn form the foundation of the quantum radar. “Many challenges lie ahead,” said Professor Wasilewski. “Building up quantum illumination sources to the scale needed for quantum radar calls for the very best in material growth, nanofabrication and quantum engineering. We have an excellent interdisciplinary team with the diverse expertise needed to tackle all these challenges. It would be hard to assemble a better one in Canada or internationally.”

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“We have an excellent interdisciplinary team with the diverse expertise needed to tackle all these challenges. It would be hard to assemble a better one in Canada or internationally.”

– Professor Zbig Wasilewski, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo

Professor Jonathan Baugh said, “By developing a fast, on-demand source of quantum light, we hope to bring techniques like quantum illumination from the lab to the real world. This project would not be possible without the right team, and we are fortunate to have a uniquely strong multidisciplinary collaboration based entirely at Waterloo, one which strengthens ties between WIN and IQC.”

The proposed quantum radar will help operators cut through heavy background noise and isolate objects in Canada’s far north. Standard radar systems are unable to detect stealth aircraft in the high-arctic due to the aurora borealis. This natural phenomenon sends electromagnetic energy at varying wavelengths down to Earth.

It is hypothesized that quantum radar works by separating two entangled light particles. You keep one on earth and send the entangled partner into the sky. If the light particle bounces off of your source and back to your detector you have located a stealth aircraft.

Quantum radar’s viability outside of a lab still needs to be determined. The goal of this project is to demonstrate its capability in the field.

The $2.7 million is being invested under the Department of National Defence’s All Domain Situational Awareness (ADSA) Science and Technology program.

Scientists create ‘most effective anti-coronavirus spray’


Coronavirus cases continue to climb, with 120,000+ cases and 4,000+ deaths confirmed around the world. Now a revolutionary spray has arrived, guaranteed to completely sanitise home surfaces for five years.

Coronavirus is a hardy virus capable of lingering on surfaces for a week at the very least. But the release of a revolutionary new anti-coronavirus product promises to prevent the spread of the deadly pathogen.

Antimicrobial spray MVX Protex uses the latest nanotechnology to protect homes and hospitals against the growing coronavirus threat. The spray, developed in Japan by nanotechnology company Nanotera Group, has just been licensed in the UK.

Saba Yussouf, Director of NanoTera Group revealed how the patented and proved tech works. She said: “This technology is a spray that coats any hard or soft surface except human skin, and it can kill bacteria fungus and viruses.

“After you spray our solution on a surface and wait an hour to wait for it to dry, any pathogen – any bacteria, virus or fungus – when it touches the surface cannot spread any further and dies. We don’t go into the cell of the bacteria or the virus and kill it, which is far more complicated.”

“What we do is actually destroy their ability to attach to a host cell, which is how viruses, bacteria and fungus spread. “They need a host cell to get inside this membrane, but we don’t allow that to happen.”

The technology, which is being increasingly used by dental practices in London can be used on various surfaces including furniture, digital devices and textiles. Once the EPA-certified nanocoating has been sprayed, there is no need to disinfect it for another five years. The cost is $3,000 per hundred square metres, which when split over five years, is approximately $600 a year.

Ms Yussouf added: “It’s alarming so few locations in the UK are using this spray to sanitise and help prevent life-threatening viruses such as coronavirus.”

Dr Jeremy Ramsden, Professor of Nanotechnology at The University of Buckingham’s Clore Laboratory, said: “The recent outbreaks of Coronavirus with the prospect of a far more serious epidemic, highlights the need to diminish the environmental burden of viruses.

“It is a relief that the UK has joined other countries and licensed this spray but we certainly need to educate people on the ease of being able to keep surfaces continuously sterile without the need for further intervention.”

Ms Yussouf believes this spray should be the first line of defence, should the coronavirus outbreak become a pandemic, as some experts fear.

She said: “The NHS should make this tool available on the NHS considering we’re on the verge of a pandemic. If it’s not contained properly, it could keep going for a long time even when an antiviral shot arrives, because there are many strains and mutations.”

“We should start with making it compulsory in NHS hospitals, I think that’s a good start as there are many very old and young people in these hospitals. It’s recommended staff decontaminate surfaces five times a day and that’s a lot of costs and a lot of labour. So, imagine not needing to do it at all for a fraction of the time and fraction of the cost, which is where we can come in and help.”

A New Electric Turbine could Revolutionize the Future of Electric Cars


Conceptual futuristic sports car - design is generic and custom made.

        A Look Into the Future of Electric Turbine Cars

In the past two years, companies have promised electric motors producing far more torque density, measured in kilowatts per kilogram. Avid said its Evo Axial Flux motor makes “one of the highest usable power and torque densities of any electric vehicle motor available on the market today.” Equipmake says its motors develop “class leading power densities.” Yasa claims its “electric motors … provide the highest power/torque density available in their category.”

Enter Linear Labs, which says it has a motor to beat all. The company declares its Hunstable Electric Turbine (HET), perhaps with unintentional shades of Ayn Rand, “The Motor of the World.”

Watch The Video

 

The company told Autoblog, “The defining characteristic of this motor [is that] at very low RPMs … [for] the same size, same weight, same volume, and the same amount of input energy into the motor, we will always produce – at a minimum, sometimes more, but at a minimum – two to three times the torque output of any electric motor in the world, and it does this at high efficiency throughout the torque and speed range.”

“Hunstable” comes from the two principals: Fred Hunstable, an engineer who spent years designing the electrical infrastructure for nuclear power plants in the United States; and Brad Hunstable, Fred’s son and an ex-tech entrepreneur who helped found the streaming service Ustream, sold to IBM in 2016 for $150 million.

Linear Labs began as a father-son project to create a linear generator surrounding the shaft of an old-fashioned windmill that would provide reliable power (as well as clean water) to impoverished communities. The challenge was designing a generator able to produce sufficient power from the shaft’s low-speed, high-torque reciprocating movement. Brad said his father cracked the code about four years ago, resulting in “a linear generator that produced massive amounts of electricity from a slow-moving windmill.” What’s more, the breakthrough was modular, leading to a family of motors that has been issued 25 patents so far.

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What is the Hunstable Electric Turbine?

Electric motors are well into their second century, having barely changed since Nikola Tesla patented his innovations with the modern three-phase, four-pole induction motor between 1886 and 1889. While all motors consist of similar fundamental components – copper wire coils known as windings, and magnets – the way in which those components interact is slightly different. In a radial flux motor, one component spins within the other – imagine a small can spinning inside a larger stationary one. In an axial flux design, the components spin next to each other, like two flywheels sandwiching a central, stationary plate.

Typically, the way to create more torque is to send more current into a motor or build a larger motor. Linear Labs has found another way: by combining axial and radial flux designs in a single motor.

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Images: Stators and Rotors

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Copper Windings Inside the Huntstable Electric Turbine: Illustrations by Linear Labs

The HET is four rotors surrounding a stator. A central rotor spins inside a stator, creating one source of flux. A second rotor spins outside the stator, creating a second source of flux. Two additional rotors lie at the left and right ends of the stator, essentially forming an AF motor. That’s two more sources of flux, making four in total. It’s essentially two concentric radial motors bookended by two axial ones.

Linear Labs says all the HET generates all torque in the direction of rotor motion. In a promotional video, Fred Hunstable said, “We call it circumferential flux, sort of like a torque tunnel.”

Generating more torque in a given volume, and having all of that torque move in the direction of rotor motion, is how the Hunstables claim, “two to three times the torque for that size envelope compared to any other motor out there. It doesn’t matter what kind [of motor] it is, we will always out-produce it.”

Furthermore, by using discrete rectangular coils inset into the stator poles, the HET needs 30% less copper than a motor of similar size. The design also eliminates end windings – lengths of copper that lie outside the stator in a typical motor, generating wasted magnetic field and heat.

 

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Illustration by Linear Labs

What the HET could mean for future electric cars

So far, Linear Labs has inked deals with a scooter maker, with Swedish electric drive system firm Abtery, and with an unnamed firm designing a hypercar to be released within two years, utilizing four HETs. However, Brad Hunstable thinks the HET could have applications in the electric vehicle space, since the HET’s torque comes at RPMs that match the end use. Current EV motors spin much faster than the wheels, so most EVs use a reduction gear to connect a motor spinning at several thousand RPM with wheels spinning at anywhere from one to perhaps 1,800 RPM. If the HET generates the necessary torque at RPMs that match wheel speed, a carmaker could theoretically discard the reduction gear, reducing weight and improving powertrain efficiency.

Brad said testing has shown the HET in direct-drive configuration works in applications normally served by a 6:1 reduction gearbox, and it’s possible that the ratio is even higher. The downstream effects could be significant, according to Hunstable. That weight savings – the lower operating speed of the HET means fewer and lighter electronics, the company says – and efficiency gain could be used to reduce the size of the battery and thus the weight of the vehicle, saving cash and letting the manufacturer use lighter-duty components – perhaps enough to make a significant difference to the bottom line, Hunstable thinks.

The HET can also take over the role of a component known as a DC/DC boost converter, used in some EVs in situations in which the vehicle needs to trade torque for horsepower, such as during hard acceleration at highway speeds. By doing so, they use additional energy that can’t be put towards range. In general terms, EVs that emphasize performance use a boost converter, like the Tesla Model S, while ones that emphasize efficiency don’t, like the Hyundai Ioniq EV. (It should be noted that some hybrids, such as Toyota and Lexus hybrids, utilize boost converters to goose acceleration.)

Linear Labs says the HET does the job of the DC/DC boost converter on its own by changing the relative position of one or more of its four rotors, analogous to the variable cam system on an ICE, altering position depending on load needs. Combining the extra torque, reduced weight and complexity possible without a gearbox or boost converter, and lighter ancillaries, Linear Labs claims the HET could increase range by 10%.

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A carmaker says …

No automaker will address claims by a company it has never heard of about a component it has never used. Still, we wanted to get OEM commentary to compare to Linear Labs’ statements. We contacted ChevroletTesla, and Hyundai. Only Hyundai agreed to a Q&A, connecting us with Jerome Gregeois, a senior manager at a Hyundai Group powertrain facility, and Ryan Miller, the manager for Hyundai’s electrified powertrain development team.

Gregeois said OEMs invest so much in batteries because they’re “so much more expensive than any of the [other] components,” and there’s so much more efficiency to be extracted from battery chemistry. Therefore, “The only way to reach competitive pricing compared to internal combustion engines or hybrids is really to get battery costs lower and lower.”

Concerning motors, Miller said, “Our focus and the industry’s focus on motors has been transitioning to silicon-carbide-based motor inverters.” The motor inverter converts the battery pack’s direct current (DC) into the alternating current (AC) used to power the electric motors that provide drive to the vehicle. Under regenerative braking, the motor inverter does the opposite – turning AC from the motors back into DC to recharge the battery. Silicon carbide technology, which the IEEE called “Smaller, faster, tougher,” is seen as enabling something like a 50% reduction in inverter volume.

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View photos Illustration courtesy Hyundai

Miller told us the permanent magnet motor in the Hyundai Ioniq is about 50 kilograms, or 110 pounds. The gearbox, which contains a final drive and a differential, is about 70 pounds. “It’s not light,” he said, “because gears are generally steel.” As for volume, the gearbox occupies about 70% of the volume of the motor.

We asked Gregeois and Miller if a direct-drive motor that allowed elimination of the gearbox would make an enormous difference in cost or complexity of the powertrain. Said Gregeois, “We think cost-wise that gearbox is going to be cheaper than two motors.” Miller added, “Steel and aluminum is very cheap.”

One automaker example doesn’t negate the benefits of the Hunstable Electric Turbine, and Brad Hunstable believes the savings are there. “Every drivetrain can be designed and engineered multiple ways,” he said. “But if you have two motors that produce twice the torque in half the size as one conventional motor that must utilize a gearbox, then there is no comparison. HET wins. Of course, for the short-term mass-market vehicle, one motor driving directly into the differential is the most likely scenario, still eliminating the standard … gearbox.”

And automakers are throwing money at improving their motors. Honda improved the electric motor in the Accord Hybrid by using square copper wires for the stator windings, and three magnets instead of two on the rotor. The changes are said to have added 6 pound-feet of torque and 14 horsepower.

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View photos Illustration by Linear Labs

The First Inning

We asked Brad how long he thought it would be before we’d see an HET in a car like the Chevrolet Bolt. “Three or four, some say five years out … There are longer lead cycles to get into production for big companies, [but] we are in joint development agreements, we are testing with [automakers].”

There have been so many charlatans in the EV space that many of the stories we’ve read about the HET end in commenters attacking it like hyenas disemboweling a wildebeest.

“There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in the motor space,” Brad acknowledged. “The difference in this one: We’ve built them. At the end of the day you can’t argue with something that’s built right in front of you.”

“We’re literally in the first inning of this technology,” he continued, “so there’s more things that we’ll continue to do that that’ll make this even better. But the first motors that we’re producing in the market are literally a quantum leap on everything that’s out there.”

The question, then, is whether that quantum leap makes sense from a cost and packaging perspective for the spectrum of EV manufacturers, or does it make sense primarily for luxury EV makers who can justify the HET’s cost. Can this one more efficient-yet-expensive component be countered and justified by removing a not-especially expensive thing (the gearbox) and removing some of these pretty expensive and heavy things (batteries)? Hyundai’s representatives weren’t so sure, but if this really is just the first inning for HET, perhaps more development and actual access by major manufacturers will provide the answer as the game goes on.

 

 

 

Mind Reading and Mind Control Technologies Are Coming – Are We Ready?


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” … What’s more, five minutes of monitoring electrical activity flowing through your brain, while you do nothing but let your mind wander, can reveal how your individual brain is wired.”

We need to figure out the ethical implications before they arrive

The ability to detect electrical activity in the brain through the scalp, and to control it, will soon transform medicine and change society in profound ways. Patterns of electrical activity in the brain can reveal a person’s cognition—normal and abnormal. New methods to stimulate specific brain circuits can treat neurological and mental illnesses and control behavior. In crossing this threshold of great promise, difficult ethical quandaries confront us.

MIND READING

The ability to interrogate and manipulate electrical activity in the human brain promises to do for the brain what biochemistry did for the body. When you go to the doctor, a chemical analysis of your blood is used to detect your body’s health and potential disease. Forewarned that your cholesterol level is high, and you are at risk of having a stroke, you can take action to avoid suffering one. Likewise, in experimental research destined to soon enter medical practice, just a few minutes of monitoring electrical activity in your brain using EEG and other methods can reveal not only neurological illness but also mental conditions like ADHD and schizophrenia. What’s more, five minutes of monitoring electrical activity flowing through your brain, while you do nothing but let your mind wander, can reveal how your individual brain is wired.

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Tapping into your wandering mind can measure your IQ, identify your cognitive strengths and weaknesses, perceive your personality and determine your aptitude for learning specific types of information. Electrical activity in a preschooler’s brain be used to can predict, for example, how well that child will be able to read when they go to school. As I recount in my new book, Electric Brain (BenBella, 2020), after having brainwaves in my idling mind recorded using EEG for only five minutes, neuropsychologist Chantel Prat at the University of Washington, in Seattle, pronounced that learning a foreign language would be difficult for me because of weak beta waves in a particular part of my cerebral cortex processing language. (Don’t ask me to speak German or Spanish, languages that I studied but never mastered.) How will this ability to know a person’s mind change education and career choices?

Neuroscientist Marcel Just and colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University are using fMRI brain imaging to decipher what a person is thinking. By using machine learning to analyze complex patterns of activity in a person’s brain when they think of a specific number or object, read a sentence, experience a particular emotion or learn a new type of information, the researchers can read minds and know the person’s specific thoughts and emotions. “Nothing is more private than a thought,” Just says, but that privacy is no longer sacrosanct.

Armed with the ability to know what a person is thinking, scientists can do even more. They can predict what a person might do. Just and his team are able to tell if a person is contemplating suicide, simply by watching how the person’s brain responds to hearing words like “death” or “happiness.” As the tragic deaths of comedian Robin Williams and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain show, suicide often comes as a shock because people tend to conceal their thoughts of suicide, even from loved ones and therapists.

Such “brain hacking” to uncover that someone is thinking of suicide could be lifesaving. The technique applied to the Columbine high school mass murderers might have prevented the horror of two troubled teens slaughtering their classmates and teachers, as well as their own suicides. But this insight into suicidal ideation is gleaned by judging that the pattern of brain activity in an individual’s brain deviates from what is considered “normal” as defined as the average response from a large population. At what point do we remove a person from society because their brain activity deviates from what is considered normal?

MIND CONTROL

The ability to control electrical activity in brain circuits has the potential to do for brain disorders what electrical stimulation has accomplished in treating cardiac disorders. By beaming electrical or magnetic pulses through the scalp, and by implanting electrodes in the brain, researchers and doctors can treat a vast array of neurological and psychiatric disorders, from Parkinson’s disease to chronic depression.

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But the prospect of “mind control” frightens many, and brain stimulation to modify behavior and treat mental illness has a sordid history. In the 1970s neuropsychologist Robert Heath at Tulane University inserted electrodes into a homosexual man’s brain to “cure” him of his homosexual nature by stimulating his brain’s pleasure center. Spanish neuroscientist José Delgado used brain stimulation in monkeys, people and even a charging bull to understand how, at a neural circuit level, specific behaviors and functions are controlled—and to control them at will by pushing buttons on his radio-controlled device energizing electrodes implanted in the brain. Controlling movements, altering thoughts, evoking memories, rage and passion were all at Delgado’s fingertips. Delgado’s goal was to relieve the world of deviant behavior through brain stimulation and produce a “psychocivilized” society.

The prospect of controlling a person’s brain by electrical stimulation is disturbing for many, but current methods of treating mental and neurological disorders are woefully inadequate and far too blunt. Neurological and psychoactive drugs affect many different neural circuits in addition to the one targeted, causing wide-ranging side effects. Not only the brain but every cell in the body that interacts with the drugs, such as SSRIs for treating chronic depression, will be affected.

At present, drugs available for treating mental illness and neurological conditions are not always effective, and they are often prescribed in a trial-and-error manner. Psychosurgery, notoriously prefrontal lobotomy, also has a tragic history of abuse. Moreover, while any surgeon faces the prospect of losing the patient on the operating table, neurosurgeons face the unique risk of saving a patient’s life but losing the person. Surgical removal of brain tissue can leave patients with physical, cognitive, personality or mood dysfunctions by damaging healthy tissue, or failing to remove all the dysfunctional tissue. Electroconvulsive stimulation (ECT), to treat chronic depression and other mental illnesses, rocks the entire brain with seizure; in the wake of the electrical firestorm, the brain somehow resets itself, and many patients are helped, but not all, and sometimes there are debilitating side effects or the method fails to work.

Rather than blasting the whole brain with bolts of electricity or saturating it with drugs, it makes far more sense to stimulate the precise neural circuit that is malfunctioning. Following the success of deep brain stimulation in treating Parkinson’s disorder, doctors are now applying the same method to treat a wide range of neurological and psychiatric illnesses, from dystonia to OCD. But they are often doing so without the requisite scientific understanding of the disorder at a neural circuit level. This is especially so for mental illnesses, which are poorly represented in nonhuman animals used in research. How electrical stimulation is working to help these conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, is not fully understood. The necessary knowledge of where to put the electrodes or what strength and pattern of electrical stimulation to use is not always available. Such doctors are in effect doing experiments on their patients, but they are doing so because it helps.

Noninvasive means of modifying brainwaves and patterns of electrical activity in specific brain circuits, such as neurofeedback, rhythmic sound or flashing light, ultrasonic and magnetic stimulation through the scalp, can modify neural activity without implanting electrodes in the brain to treat neurological and mental illnesses and improve mood and cognition. The FDA approved treating depression by transcranial magnetic stimulation in 2008, and subsequently expanded approval for treating pain and migraine. Electrical current can be applied by an electrode on the scalp to stimulate or inhibit neurons from firing in appropriate brain regions.

The military is using this method to speed learning and enhance cognitive performance in pilots. The method is so simple, brain stimulation devices can be purchased over the internet or you can make one yourself from nine-volt batteries. But the DIY approach renders the user an experimental guinea pig.

New methods of precision brain stimulation are being developed. Electrical stimulation is notoriously imprecise, following the path of least resistance through brain tissue and stimulating neurons from distant regions of the brain that extend axons past the electrode. In experimental animals, very precise stimulation or inhibition of neuronal firing can be achieved by optogenetics. This method uses genetic engineering to insert light sensitive ion channels into specific neurons to control their firing very precisely using laser light beamed into the brain through a fiber-optic cable. Applied to humans, optogenetic stimulation could relieve many neurological and psychiatric disorders by precision control of specific neural circuits, but using this approach in people is not considered ethical.

CROSSING THE THRESHOLD

Against the historical backdrop of ethical lapses and concerns that curtailed brain stimulation research for mental illnesses decades ago, we are reaching a point where it will become unethical to deny people suffering from severe mental or neurological illness treatments by optogenetic or electrical stimulation of their brain, or to withhold diagnosing their conditions objectively by reading their brain’s electrical activity. The new capabilities of being able to directly monitor and manipulate the brain’s electrical activity raise daunting ethical questions from technology that has not existed previously. But the genie is out of the bottle. We better get to know her.

By R. Douglas Fields for The Scientific American