We’ve all seen those ‘nothing’ keyboards, where the keys themselves are not much more than projected lasers, and users are asked to ritually beat their poor fingertips into the table — which has little give and even less clack. Well, a team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have come up with a way to eschew the keyboard altogether.
Essentially, the user wears a thin, breathable mesh of silver nanowires coated in gold, which is then embedded in a polyurethane coating. The mesh is sprayed onto their forearms and hands on the spot, and the mesh terminates in a small enclosure that is also worn on the skin. This contains a small Bluetooth unit that beams data back to a computer, a machine, or potentially another user wearing the same type of unit.
As the skin stretches and contorts, the mesh senses small electrical changes within. These changes become meaningful with applied AI, which maps the changes to specific gestures and manual tasks. To do this, the team started with teaching it to distinguish between patterns from tasks like typing on a phone, typing on a regular keyboard, and then holding and interacting with six differently-shaped simple objects.
The team isn’t stopping there — they plan to try capturing a larger range of motion by using the nanomesh on multiple fingers. In addition to facilitating communication between humans and machines, this could leave a huge fingerprint on gaming and VR.
There may soon be breakthroughs in the search for dark matter. A new publication in Optics Express reveals a camera consisting of superconducting nanowires capable of detecting single photons, a useful feature for detecting light at the furthest ends of the infrared band. The high-performance camera, developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), boasts some of the best performing photon counters in the world in terms of speed, efficiency, and color detection. The detectors also have some of the lowest dark count rates of any photon sensor, resisting false signals from noise.
The size of the detectors comes out to 1.6mm on each side, packed with 1024 sensors for high resolution imagery and fabricated from silicon wafers cut into chips. The nanowires are made from tungsten and silicon alloy with leads made from superconducting niobium.
In order to prevent the sensors from overheating, a readout architecture was used based on a previous demonstration on a smaller camera with 64 sensors adding data from rows and columns. The research has been in collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which seeks to include the camera in the Origins Space Telescope project.
The eventual goal is to use the arrays to analyze chemical compositions of planets outside of our solar system. By observing the absorption spectra of light passing through an exoplanet’s atmosphere, information can be gathered on the elements in the atmosphere. Currently, large-area single-photon counting detector arrays don’t exist for measuring the mid- to far-infrared signatures, the spectrum range for elements that may indicate signs of life. While fabrication success is high, the efficiency of the detectors remains quite low, although there are plans to extend the current project into an even bigger camera with millions of sensors.
In addition to searching for chemical life on other planets, future applications may include recording measurements to confirm the existence of dark matter.
[Thanks Qes for the tip!]
German researchers have a line on 3D printed circuitry, but with a twist. Using silver nanowires and a polymer, they’ve created flexible and transparent circuits. Nanowires in this context are only 20 nanometers long and only a few nanometers thick. The research hopes to print things like LEDs and solar cells.
Of course, nothing is perfect. The material has a sheet resistance as low as 13Ω/sq and the optical transmission was as high as 90%. That sounds good until you remember the sheet resistance of copper foil on a PCB is about 0.0005Ω.
Continue reading “Transparent And Flexible Circuits”