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Robotic arm con­trolled by thoughts

A new robotic arm is the lat­est in mind­con­trolled gad­gets that could trans­form the lives of paral­ysed and phys­i­cally chal­lenged peo­ple. The tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped at a rS univer­sity makes use of a com­puter con­nected to a sen­sor fit­ted inside the pa­tient’s brain. The sen­sor con­verts com­mands from the brain into elec­tri­cal sig­nals that move the robotic arm.

In a demon­stra­tion of the robotic arm, a woman who had been paral­ysed for ten years was able to feed her­self a drink us­ing the arm. The doc­tors dis­cov­ered that even ten years af­ter some­one has been paral­ysed, the part of the brain that deals with move­ment con­tin­ues to work.

Sci­en­tists say the new tech­nol­ogy is a ‘real dream’ for peo­ple who have lost the use of their limbs. But they say the de­tailed work isn’t fin­ished yet—it still needs to go on for many years be­fore the robotic arm can be­come avail­able to the masses.

Break­through 3D so­lar cell on the way

So­lar3D Inc., based in Santa Bar­bara, Cal­i­for­nia, rSA, is devel­op­ing a 3-di- men­sional (3D) so­lar cell tech­nol­ogy that will max­imise the con­ver­sion of sun­light into elec­tric­ity. The new tech­nol­ogy uses a 3D de­sign to trap sun­light inside a pho­to­voltaic struc­ture where pho­tons bounce around un­til they are con­verted into elec­trons. This next-gen­er­a­tion so­lar cell will be more ef­fi­cient, re­sult­ing in a lower cost per watt, mak­ing so­lar power more af­ford­able.

Ac­cord­ing to Jim Nel­son, CEO of So­lar 3D, the pur­pose of de­velop- ing the 3D so­lar cell tech­nol­ogy is to achieve greater ef­fi­ciency and widean­gle light col­lec­tion, thereby mak­ing it pos­si­ble for the so­lar cell to pro­duce much more power for the cost .

“We are com­plet­ing our pro­to­types and will con­duct a pi­lot run of about R0,000 units next year. Hope­fully, we can go to the mar­ket by the year end,” Nel­son added.

Lithium-sil­i­con bat­tery to last five times longer

Re­searchers at the Stan­ford Na­tional Ac­cel­er­a­tor Lab­o­ra­tory are devel­op­ing a lithium-sil­i­con bat­tery that will de­liver dou­ble and even­tu­ally five times the nor­mal bat­tery life.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port, car­bon nan­otubes have been one of the main rea­sons for the in­cred­i­ble ad­vance­ments in power ef­fi­ciency. Gen­er­ally, lithium-ion bat­ter­ies use graphite an­odes to store charge. Only a sixth of the car­bon atoms are able to bond with lithium ions, which re­sults in in­ef­fi­cient en­ergy den­sity. If sil­i­con is used in­stead, four lithium ions can bind with ev­ery sil­i­con atom, boost­ing the en­ergy den­sity to ten times.

How­ever, the only flip side to this tech­nol­ogy is that when sil­i­con atoms take in the lithium ions, they swell up to four times in size. When the ions are dis­charged, sil­i­con shrinks back to its orig­i­nal size. Dur­ing this process, the en­tire bat­tery will have to ex­pand and contract. This can lead to a de­crease in the bat­tery life or make it com­pletely use­less. To deal with this is­sue, re­searchers are devel­op­ing a de­sign that uses a sil­i­con bat­tery an­ode of dou­ble­walled sil­i­con nan­otubes, which is coated with sil­i­con ox­ide.

New tech­nol­ogy to turn ev­ery­thing into touch­screen

Re­searchers at Dis­ney Re­search and Carnegie Mel­lon rniver­sity have cre­ated a sys­tem that can de­tect a va­ri­ety of touch ges­tures on ev­ery­day ob­jects. Touché ex­plores a novel swept-fre­quency ca­pac­i­tive-sens­ing tech­nique that can not only de­tect a touch event but also recog­nise com­plex con­fig­u­ra­tions of the hu­man hands and body.

In ca­pac­i­tive sens­ing, an elec­tri­cal sig­nal pass­ing through the ob­ject changes when touched by a con­duc­tive ma­te­rial such as a hu­man fin­ger. Ca­pac­i­tive sens­ing is al­ready used in smart­phone touch­screens, but th­ese de­vices use elec­tri­cal sig­nals at only a sin­gle fre­quency. Touché, on the other hand, works with a range of fre­quen­cies.

rse of mul­ti­ple fre­quen­cies al­lows the sys­tem to dis­tin­guish be­tween a sin­gle fin­ger, mul­ti­ple fingers, a full­hand grasp and many other touch ges­tures. All you need is a sin­gle sens­ing elec­trode at­tached to the ob­ject at

Cathy, who hasn’t been able to move any­thing be­low her neck for 15 years, is drink­ing cof­fee with a com­put­erised arm that is wired into her

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