3D printing allows the creation of the parts you need and the items you want, instead of settling for for “cookie cutter” off the shelf items. Not everyone has a Maker Shop nearby, or the type of materials they need to print in the way they want. One solution for this, is Shapeways, a marketplace that allows you to request what you need or upload your own plans and have it printed with the right tools (right type of printer) and right materials.
Posted February 17, 2013 – 05:00 by Randy Woods, EarthTechling
There are some fanciful architectural designs that look wonderful, almost dreamlike, in drawings, but you know will almost never get built in the real world.
One design from Italian architect Stefano Boeri, however, appears to be turning that notion on its head with his Bosco Verticale, or “Vertical Forest,” which is growing like a mighty oak in the smoggy city of Milan, Italy.
An article on the project in Jetson Green described Milan as one of the most polluted cities in Europe, with some of the worst air quality in the European Union. It’s only fitting, then, that Boeri’s design of two residential towers that will be plastered with oxygen-spewing trees and other plants was greenlighted a few years ago, if only to help clear the city’s air.
This structure of these 365-foot and 256-foot towers is nearly complete and should be ready to open later this year. The vertical forest aspect is beginning to take shape as crews are starting to hoist the first of the 900 trees, 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 smaller plants that will be planted in terraces that cover nearly every vertical façade of each tower.
The trees will take root in deep concrete planters that are situated in the nearly 97,000 square feet of terrace space around both towers. Irrigation will be partially provided by the collection and reuse of greywater on the site. Renewable energy also will be supplied through passive and photovoltaic solar methods.
Each resident of the towers will have a view of the city through the lush greenery, which will create its own microclimate that can add a number of benefits to daily life besides just aesthetic value. For instance, the plants will help mitigate smog by consuming CO2 and producing oxygen, while also providing new habitat for insects and birds. When the summer temperatures of Milan begin rising past 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the plants will provide shade and help cool the apartments to reduce energy costs. During stormy days, the well-rooted trees will act as a windbreak and will also help muffle the sounds of the streets below.
According to Boeri’s site, the verticality of the project provides both housing and urban forest space in a very compact area. The amount of greenery on the two buildings, he said, will equal an area or more than 107,000 square feet of natural forest land and about 538,000 square feet of living space—all in the space of a city block.
The Bosco Verticale project is part of a larger rehabilitation plan for the historic district between Via De Island Castillia and Confalonieri. According to Jetson Green, Boeri’s design has inspired other vertical forest ideas, including a social housing tower in Spain, called the Torre Huerta, and a “Flower Tower” in Paris, featuring nearly 400 bamboo plants.
By Mat Smith
The high-definition pride of your living room may not want to hear it, but it looks like ultra high-definition TV (or UHDTV) has now taken another step towards reality. While shop-floor products remain years away, experts in the ITU Study Group on Broadcasting Service have made several agreements on technical standards for your (next?) next TV purchase. Increasing pixel count in future sets is also expected to improve viewing angles on glasses-free 3D, which needs more dots to work its lenticular magic. 33 megapixels sounds like it should be enough to work with.
By Darren Quick
Graphene has already brought us the world’s smallest transistor – twice – and now the one atom thick form of carbon that recently won its discoverers the Nobel Prize has been used to create a triple-mode, single-transistor amplifier. The new transistor has the potential to replace many traditional transistors in a typical integrated circuit and its developers say the device could become a key component in future electronic circuits.
Aside from being very strong, nearly transparent and being a very good conductor of electricity, graphene is also ambipolar, meaning it is able to switch between using positive and negative carriers on the fly depending on the input signal. In comparison, traditional silicon transistors usually only use one or the other type of carrier, which is determined during fabrication. It is graphene’s ambipolar property that has allowed the researchers from Rice University and the University of California, Riverside, to develop the new three-terminal single-transistor amplifier.
The triple-mode transistor can be changed during operation to any of three modes at any time using carriers that are positive, negative or both. This provides opportunities that are not possible with traditional single-transistor architectures, said Kartik Mohanram, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice.
Mohanram likened the new transistor”s abilities to that of a water tap. “Turn it on and the water flows,” he said. “Turn it off and the water stops. That”s what a traditional transistor does. It”s a unipolar device – it only opens and closes in one direction. But if you close a tap too much, it opens again and water flows. That”s what ambipolarity is – current can flow when you open the transistor in either direction about a point of minimum conduction.”
This means a graphene-based transistor can be “n-type” (negative) or “p-type” (positive), depending on whether the carrier originates from the source or drain terminals, which are effectively interchangeable. When the input from each carrier is equal, a third function appears with the transistor becoming a frequency multiplier. By combining the three modes, the Rice-Riverside team demonstrated such common signaling schemes as phase and frequency shift keying for wireless and audio applications.
“Our work, and that of others, that focuses on the applications of ambipolarity complements efforts to make a better transistor with graphene,” Mohanram said. “It promises more functionality.” The research demonstrated that a single graphene transistor could potentially replace many in a typical integrated circuit, he said. Graphene”s superior material properties and relative compatibility with silicon-based manufacturing should allow for integration of such circuits in the future, he added.
However, technical roadblocks still need to be overcome before that happens. Fabrication steps such as dielectric deposition and making contacts actually disturb graphene’s lattice structure, scratching it and introducing defects, which immediately limits its signal gain and degrades its performance. This means the team has to exercise a lot of care when making the transistors.
But Mohanram is confident these problems can be overcome, saying, “the technology will mature, since so many research groups are working hard to address these challenges.”
A paper detailing the triple-mode transistor appears in the online journal ACS Nano.
By Brian Nade
Tired of the stale cookie-cutter designs that make all laptops look basically alike? You’re not alone. A group of intrepid designers and engineers is doing something about the “sameness syndrome” that permeates notebook design. They’re working on groundbreaking concept designs that not only turn heads but also point to new ways to work and play on the road.
Just as car shows give us a sneak peek into the next big thing in automotive technology, concept and prototype designs provide a crystal ball to see what tomorrow might have in store for mobility.
“Design concepts allow us to stretch our imaginations and ask ‘what if,’ ” says Murali Veeramoney, head of the concept PC program at Intel‘s Santa Clara, Calif., headquarters. “They help us see the future of computing.”
Get ready for a revolution in notebook design, including laptops with multiple screens or slide-out keyboards as well as computers that can be folded into different shapes or even rolled up when not in use. How about a laptop that can be charged without being plugged in? Even the definition of “laptop” is changing, with lines blurring among traditional notebooks, netbooks, convertible tablets, iPad-style slate tablets, smartbooks, e-readers, ultramobile PCs and other mobile Internet devices.
A couple of years back, I took a look at what kind of notebooks we might be using in the year 2015, but they required a technological breakthrough or two to become reality. In contrast, the 12 innovative notebook designs here — some actual working computers, others wooden mockups or CAD drawings — are for the most part producible within the next two years.
“Folding screens, wireless charging, rollup computers — it’s all coming in the next couple of years,” says Leslie Fiering, a research vice president at Gartner. “Designers are getting more and more creative and innovative.”
Here’s a peek at the not-so-distant future.
Four screens, no waiting
What if your next notebook had two, three or even four displays, each capable of making your computing experience more enjoyable and efficient? That’s the idea behind the Tangent Bay laptop created by Veeramoney’s notebook prototype group at Intel.
A full working computer that shows the possibility of fresh thinking on screens, the Tangent Bay has a prominent 15.6-in. main display along with three auxiliary 3.5-in. OLED touch screens, which are usually used on cell phones.
Evenly spaced just above the keyboard, these auxiliary displays can be dedicated to specific tasks so that the main screen doesn’t get crowded with a plethora of panes and menus.
They’re good for anything from showing a reminder note or running a live RSS feed to displaying a clock or Photoshop’s brush menu. With a little programming, Veeramoney says, you could even stash your Windows 7 Gadgets there. Personally, I would use the smaller screens to monitor my e-mail and favorite Web sites without cluttering up the main screen.
“Call it extreme multitasking, but people have multiple things going on,” explains Veeramoney. “If you want to bring any of them to the main screen, just flick it upwards with your finger. Touch is a very exciting concept for us.”
When the Tangent Bay was introduced at last year’s Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco (see video), the response was enormous. People immediately got it and saw that the multiple screens can keep several snippets of information front and center without overwhelming the user.
With an ultra-low-voltage processor inside, Tangent Bay is about as thick as a current mainstream business notebook, but slightly heavier due to the extra displays. The best part is that this system requires no new technology or engineering advances and could be made today.
“The goal of our work is commercialization,” adds Veeramoney, although commercial restrictions prevent him from talking about any plans Intel might have to bring this technology to market.
Often, these prototypes are looked over by several notebook manufacturers, which take pieces and ideas and incorporate them into their wares. Tangent Bay probably won’t see the light of day as a single model, but it will likely live on in several future notebooks from multiple makers.
Prime: Although it was designed as the ultimate gaming machine with two processors and a high-end graphics engine, the Prime laptop folds up to the size of a 13-in. notebook. Unfold it and it can be a huge tablet workspace, a clamshell notebook with a 26-in. ultrawide screen or one with a traditional 15-in. 4:3 ratio display. It’s composed of six aluminum wings that slide and hinge to create several different configurations, each suited to a different style of work or play.
On a bender: This machine is testing the electrical properties of a graphene sheet. Korean researchers have incorporated these stretchy electrodes with thin-film nano-generators to make an energy-harvesting screen. Credit: Advanced Materials
Touch-responsive nano-generator films could power touch screens.
Touch-screen computing is all the rage, appearing in countless smart phones, laptops, and tablet computers.
Now researchers at Samsung and Sungkyunkwan University in Korea have come up with a way to capture power when a touch screen flexes under a user’s touch. The researchers have integrated flexible, transparent electrodes with an energy-scavenging material to make a film that could provide supplementary power for portable electronics. The film can be printed over large areas using roll-to-roll processes, but are at least five years from the market.
The screens take advantage of the piezoelectric effect–the tendency of some materials to generate an electrical potential when they’re mechanically stressed. Materials scientists are developing devices that use nanoscale piezoelectronics to scavenge mechanical energy, such as the vibrations caused by footsteps. But the field is young, and some major challenges remain. The power output of a single piezoelectric nanowire is quite small (around a picowatt), so harvesting significant power requires integrating many wires into a large array; materials scientists are still experimenting with how to engineer these screens to make larger devices.
Samsung’s experimental device sandwiches piezoelectric nanorods between highly conductive graphene electrodes on top of flexible plastic sheets. The group’s aim is to replace the rigid and power-consuming electrodes and sensors used on the front of today’s touch-screen displays with a flexible touch-sensor system that powers itself. Ultimately, this setup might generate enough power to help run the display and other parts of the device functions. Rolling up such a screen, for instance, could help recharge its batteries.
“The flexibility and rollability of the nano-generators gives us unique application areas such as wireless power sources for future foldable, stretchable, and wearable electronics systems,” says Sang-Woo Kim, professor of materials science and engineering at Sungkyunkwan University. Kim led the research with Jae-Young Choi, a researcher at Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology.
The same group previously put nano-generators on indium tin oxide electrodes. This transparent, conductive material is used to make the electrodes on today’s displays, but it is inflexible.
To make the new nano-generators, the researchers start by growing graphene–a single-atom-thick carbon material that’s highly conductive, transparent, and stretchy–on top of a silicon substrate, using chemical vapor deposition. Next, through an etching process developed by the group last year, the graphene is released from the silicon; and the graphene is removed by rolling a sheet of plastic over the surface. The graphene-plastic substrate is then submerged in a chemical bath containing a zinc reactant and heated, causing a dense lawn of zinc-oxide nanorods to grow on its surface. Finally, the device is topped off with another sheet of graphene on plastic.
In a paper published this month in the journal Advanced Materials, the Samsung researchers describe several small prototype devices made this way. Pressing the screen induces a local change in electrical potential across the nanowires that can be used to sense the location of, for example, a finger, as in a conventional touch screen. The material can generate about 20 nanowatts per square centimeter. Kim says the group has subsequently made more powerful devices about 200 centimeters squared. These produce about a microwatt per square centimeter. Kim says this is enough for a self-powered touch sensor and “indicates we can realize self-powered flexible portable devices without any help of additional power sources such as batteries in the near future.”
“It’s pretty impressive to integrate all these things in a foldable, macroscale device,” says Michael McAlpine, professor of mechanical engineering at Princeton University. He notes that the potential of zinc oxide nanowires as a piezoelectric sensing material and nanoscale power source was previously demonstrated by Georgia Tech materials scientist Zhong Lin Wang. But integrating these materials over a large area with a flexible, transparent electrode opens up new applications, says McAlpine.
The methods used to make the nano-generators are compatible with large-scale manufacturing, according to Kim. His group is working to boost the power output of the films–the main obstacle is the quality of the electrodes. One possible solution is to improve the connection between the nanowires and the electrodes by eliminating flaws in the structure of the graphene. The Korean group is also experimenting with adding small amounts of impurities to the material, a process called doping, to improve its conductivity.
The new generation of e-book reading gadgets will transform the troubled book, magazine, and newspaper industries. But it’s uncertain what that transformation will look like.
By Wade Roush
For serious readers, products like Amazon’s Kindle 2, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and Sony’s Daily Edition are a godsend. It’s not just that these electronic reading devices are handy portals to hundreds of thousands of trade books, textbooks, public-domain works, and best-sellers, all of which can be wirelessly downloaded at a moment’s notice, and to scores of magazines and newspapers, which show up on subscribers’ devices automatically. They’re also giving adventurous authors and publishers new ways to organize and market their creations. A California startup called Vook, for example, has begun to package cookbooks, workout manuals, and even novels with illustrative video clips, and it’s selling these hybrids of video and text to iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch owners through Apple’s iTunes Store.
Unfortunately, you can’t get away with charging hardcover prices for an e-book, which makes it hard to see how traditional publishers will profit in a future that’s largely digital. As a result, book publishers are facing a painful and tumultuous time as they attempt to adapt to the emerging e-book technologies. The Kindle, the iPad, and their ilk will force upon print-centric publishers what the Internet, file sharing, and the iPod forced upon the CD-centric music conglomerates starting around 1999–namely, waves of cost cutting and a search for new business models.
Publishers are lucky in one way: the reckoning could have come much sooner. From 1999 to 2001, I worked for NuvoMedia, a Silicon Valley startup that developed a device called the Rocket eBook. The Rocket and its main rival at the time, the Softbook Reader from Softbook Press, prefigured the current generation of e-book devices. Owners could shop for books from major publishers online, download the publications to their PCs, and then transfer them to the portable devices, which had monochrome LCD screens that showed one page of text at a time.
But three factors conspired to kill these first-generation e-readers. First, book publishers, fearing that digital sales would cannibalize print sales, offered only a limited catalogue of books in electronic form and charged nearly as much for Rocket and Softbook editions as they did for hardcovers. Not surprisingly, consumers demurred, which in turn discouraged publishers from offering more titles digitally. Second, the technology wasn’t quite ready for mass adoption. The devices weren’t small or thin enough to be truly portable, and the book-buying process was convoluted. Third, NuvoMedia and Softbook Press were acquired and then combined by a larger company, Gemstar, that was distracted by other issues and let its new e-book division languish, eventually closing it down.
Business conditions are very different today. For one thing, there are more big players with an interest in seeing the e-book business blossom, including Sony, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and now Apple. Using their pull with publishers, these companies have assembled huge catalogues of e-books–Amazon has nearly half a million commercial titles–and they’ve kept prices lower, in the $10-to-$15 range for new trade books.
Just as important, mobile computing technology has improved drastically. Cheap 3G data access is the biggest advance. Now that readers can browse, purchase, and download e-books and periodicals directly on their devices, they can access new material almost instantaneously, without having to be near a desktop or laptop computer with an Internet connection. Having owned a Kindle 2 since May 2009, I can testify to the allure of this feature: I’ve bought a couple of dozen more e-books for my Kindle than I would ever have ordered from Amazon in print form in the same period.
Today’s wireless e-reading devices fall into two groups, each with its strong points. The “electronic ink” devices all use black-and-white electrophoretic displays manufactured by Prime View International. (The Taiwanese display maker acquired the company that developed the technology, MIT spinoff E Ink, in 2009.) The $259 Kindle 2 is the best-known of these products, but Barnes and Noble’s identically priced Nook and the $400 Sony Reader Daily Edition offer similar functions. The Kindle DX ($489) and the forthcoming Plastic Logic Que proReader (expected this summer, starting at $649) have larger screens and are intended mainly for reading textbooks and business documents. The Prime View screens on these devices depend on reflected ambient light, which gives them two advantages: they’re easier on the eyes than backlit LCD screens, and they use far less power. Their batteries can last for days, and sometimes weeks, between charges.
Article Continues -> http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/25117/