The Seventh Sense
October 25, 2016

Sensing Skin Detects Cracks, Harmful Chemicals in Structures

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a multi-layered “sensing skin” to detect corrosive or otherwise harmful substances in structures. The skin can also detect cracks and other structural flaws that are invisible to the naked eye. “We’ve created a skin that can be applied to the surface of almost any structure and be used to monitor the structure’s integrity remotely and in real time, identifying potential problems long before they become catastrophic,” says Mohammad Pour-Ghaz, an assistant professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at North Carolina State University and co-author of a paper describing the work.          

The sensing skin consists of three layers, which can be painted onto the surface of a structure or pre-assembled and attached to the surface like wallpaper. The first layer is electrically conductive and is used solely to detect cracks. The second layer serves as a buffer between the first and third layers.

The third layer detects cracks, but is also engineered to detect specific chemicals of interest. This third layer incorporates metal nanoparticles whose conductivity changes in the presence of specific ions. By changing the composition of the metal nanoparticles, this layer can be engineered to respond to any particular chemical.

If users want to monitor for chemicals coming out of a structure – such as leakage of the chemicals out of a containment structure – the third layer would face inward, touching the structure’s surface. To monitor external chemicals, the third layer would face outward.          

How the Sensing Skin Works

Electrodes are applied around the perimeter of a structure. The sensing skin is then applied to the structure, over the electrodes. A computer program then runs a small current between two of the electrodes at a time, cycling through a number of possible electrode combinations.

When the current runs between two electrodes, a computer monitors and records the electrical potential at all of the electrodes on the structure for both the first and third layers of the sensing skin. This data is then used to calculate the sensing skin’s spatially distributed electrical conductivity on both layers. The researchers have developed a suite of algorithms that can use changes in conductivity measured by the first and third layers of the skin to detect and locate both damage and the presence of target chemicals.

In a proof-of-concept study, the researchers applied their sensing skin to reinforced concrete. The researchers exposed the concrete to corrosive elements and subjected the concrete to strain in order to simulate the failure of real-world structures. For this study, the third layer of the sensing skin was engineered to detect chlorides, which can cause corrosion in reinforced concrete.

The researchers are in the process of conducting experiments of the sensing skin on a large-scale structure, more accurately reflecting the size of real-world structures.          

The paper, “A Functionally Layered Sensing Skin for Detection of Corrosive Elements and Cracking,” is published online in the journal Structural Health Monitoring. Lead author of the paper is Aku Seppänen, of the University of Eastern Finland. The paper was co-authored by Milad Hallaji, a former Ph.D. student at NC State. The work was done with support from the Academy of Finland and the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at NC State.

Abstract: In this paper, we propose an electrical impedance tomography (EIT) -based multi-functional surface sensing system, or sensing skin, for structural health monitoring. More specifically, the EIT-based sensing skin is developed for detecting and localizing the ingress of chlorides and cracking – two phenomena which are of concern in many structures, including reinforced concrete structures. The multi-functional sensing skin is made of two layers; one layer is sensitive to both chlorides and cracking, and another layer is sensitive to cracking only. In the experiments, the sensing skin is tested on a polymeric and concrete substrate. The results demonstrate the feasibility of the multi-functional multi-layer sensing skin for detecting and localizing corrosive elements and cracking, and for distinguishing between them.

To get the full paper, CLICK HERE


October 25, 2016

ASU Researchers make breakthrough in 2D heterostructure

Tempe, AZ — A team of ASU engineers, including Sefaattin Tongay, an assistant professor of materials science engineering at the Fulton Schools, is reporting for the first time an extraordinary and tunable interlayer electron-phonon interaction in WSe2/hBN heterostructure. The discovery makes a significant step forward in fundamental understanding of van der Waals heterostructures — two-dimensional atomic crystals — and enables new pathways to engineer electrons and phonons for novel device applications.

An article about the breakthrough, “Interlayer electron–phonon coupling inWSe2/hBN heterostructure,” was published in Nature Physics Magazine.

In addition to the ASU team, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the Japan National Institute for Materials Science, Advanced Materials Laboratory participated in the project. Bin Chen and Xi Fan, both ASU materials science graduate research associates, were responsible manufacturing and synthesis of extremely high quality, defect-free 2D material systems that are necessary for the success of this project.

“We are looking at atomically thin materials in this work,” said Sefaattin. “These materials find new and exciting applications especially when they are placed onto each other. In this work, we are trying to shed further light on how these unique material systems behave when they are stacked onto each other on demand and when they interact rather strongly. We find that atomic vibrations and electrons interact in a way that new properties emerge from these interactions.”

Potential applications of 2D heterostructures include field effect/tunneling transistors, biosensors, light emitting diodes, light detectors, photovoltaic and energy storage devices.

(a) Illustration of interlayer electron–phonon coupling. Red arrows in hBN (bottom) and red/blue clouds in WSe2 (top) show schematically the phonon vibration in hBN and the electron/hole states in WSe2, respectively. Such interlayer electron–phonon interactions can lead to novel electronic and optical properties in the van der Waals heterostructure. (b) Optical microscope image of WSe2 encapsulated in hBN layers. The scale bar corresponds to 5 μm. (c) Illustration of the gate-tunable device. A contact electrode (Au/Ti) is fabricated on the exposed part of WSe2 outside the top hBN layer to allow for electrostatic gating.


October 24, 2016

Do You Need To Be Encouraged To Fuse Your Designs?

At least twice a week I wake up wondering if this is in fact the twenty-first century, and not because of the upcoming presidential elections, although they are playing a part. One of two things happen: there’s a presentation of simple, common-knowledge technology made extremely complicated with a long-winded diatribe, and/or a presentation of highly complicated technology made simple, understandable, and palatable by excellent demonstrators. Although it should be clear which is most favorable, to avoid any confusion, it is the second or latter one if you will.

As an example of a very simple technology, let’s use the fuse. Almost everyone knows what a fuse is and what it does. Not everyone would understand the theory of current flow and how to calculate what value fuse is required in a design. However, most would know that a blown fuse means their device is not working and replacing said fuse might get the device up and running again. And if not, they might know it’s time to either get the unit repaired or replace it.

The fuse, to me, is a no brainer technology, a necessity to protect one and one’s electrical device. A simple device that costs little and can save much, end of story, right? No, you’re not getting off that easy.

Pro Fuse International is a global association that advocates use of fuses and fuse technology. The organization was founded in 1998, a few years shy of a century in which fuses became standard operating equipment, particularly in vacuum-tube-based products. According to the association, and I quote, “The fuse is recognized as a proven technology – yet its evolution is continuous, with ongoing investment in design and engineering in order to adapt the technology for important new applications and emerging market needs.”

The banter continues with, “The benefits of fuses and fuse-based devices are significant for anyone involved with the electrical industry – as well as for its consumers.  The primary benefits are the guaranteed safety of users and assured reliability of the installation - plus cost savings in terms of design, purchase and maintenance.  As well as protecting against over currents and their associated risks, fuses also offer considerable environmental benefits, including their ability to be recycled.”

Just a couple of points and questions to discuss:

Question: Any engineers, designers, hobbyists, and/or consumers out there that do not know this or disagree?

Point: The bit about recycling is not completely true in that not all fuses benefit the environment. Most people chuck those blown fuses into the common trash. Resettable fuses better address environmental issues.

Question: Is an organization necessary that reaffirms the importance of fuses? You decide. To learn about the latest advances in fuse technology, visit



October 21, 2016

Self-Driving Vehicles: Are Americans Ready to Give Up the Driver’s Seat?

Recent Augmented Reality updates
1. nuTonomy won the race of testing the first self-driving taxi in Singapore before Uber, and Grab decides to support the company.
2. Uber is testing its self-driving cars in Pittsburgh.
3. Google’s driverless car implicated in an accident in Mountain View.

Reportlinker Insight published a survey to answer 3 questions :
1. A fully autonomous vehicle is looming on the horizon, but do car buyers actually want this cutting-edge technology?
2. And more importantly, will they be willing to pay for it?
3. People’s motivations and fears with respect to self-driving vehicles.

1. More than 60% of surveyed Americans say they are somewhat or very positive about autonomous cars.
2. A large majority of Americans are passionate for automobiles and driving. They may not be ready to shift to a new driving paradigm as quickly.
3. Safety is a significant concern. A majority – 63% - of consumers say they won’t feel safe in a fully-automated vehicle.
4. Use of automated features on traditional cars could help to overcome the fear. But ride-sharing services offer also another way to experience AVs.
a. 54% of potential users of self-driving taxis say they would purchase an AV, compared to 41% of non-users.
b. Younger Millennials may pave the way for future growth of AVs as they express more interest in using driverless taxis or buses than older generations.

Contact if you wish to receive the raw data.


October 20, 2016

Newark Company Creates Novel Device to Cut Tailpipe Emissions and Eliminate Testing Lines


Newark Company Creates Novel Device to Cut Tailpipe Emissions and Eliminate Testing Lines


The City’s Universities, Corporations and Non-profits are First to Test its Next-Gen Diagnostics


NEWARK, NJ, October 20, 2016 - 4.0 Analytics, a research and development company in NJIT’s Enterprise Development Center (EDC), has developed a wireless emissions compliance and reporting technology for cars and trucks that alerts automobile owners in real time – on their own smart phone devices or computers – to engine and emission-system malfunctions that can lead to excessive tailpipe releases and poor performance.

By catching these problems early on, drivers should be able to substantially reduce emissions of pollutants, including greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), while spending less on repairs, getting better mileage and prolonging the lives of their cars.

Bringing Transparency to the Heart of the Vehicle

The technology has been greeted enthusiastically by a host of partners in Newark, including NJIT, Rutgers University-Newark, Essex County College, Seton Hall Law School and New Community Corporation, among other non-profit institutions and corporations. A number of collaborators will begin testing it this month in public safety and maintenance vehicles, among others in their fleets.

They are taking part in the pilot demonstration by installing 4.0 Analytics technology, a small interface device that fits under the dashboard of their cars and trucks. The device captures raw data from the vehicle’s engine and emission systems and transmits it in real-time to cloud servers via secure cellular networks, where it is processed into actionable information with a proprietary software algorithm. Fleet managers and other users will then review results from their own accounts on 4.0’s web-based platforms.

“It’s almost impossible to manage something if you can’t measure it,” explains Mark Scotland, the company’s CEO. “Bringing transparency to the heart of the vehicle – its engine and emissions system – and understanding its behavior is the key to preserving the life of a very expensive asset. We do this by extracting raw data and processing results for end-users. We make it easier for fleet operators and motorists to establish baseline behavior, set goals for improvement and measure results against goals.”

Rutgers-Newark Backs 4.0 with Research Funds

Rutgers University-Newark is backing the pilot with $70,000 from its Chancellor’s Seed Grant Program.

“This is an opportunity to reduce emissions and greenhouse gases. While many people feel that’s up to environmentalists and regulators, this technology allows individuals to play a part. We’re beginning with what we can do locally – with Rutgers, NJIT and other Newark institutions,” said Kevin Lyons, the principal investigator of the seed grant and program it funds, the Rutgers-Newark Green Zone 2020 EmCARS™ Initiative.

Lyons, an associate professor in Rutgers’ Department of Supply Chain Management, will assist the company in identifying new markets and support the “Rutgers Green Zone” launch and expansion. “This is a rare chance to be involved at the R & D level – and to practice what we preach about sustainability,” he added.

Two NJIT graduate students, Sandeep Raveeshbabu, who earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 2015, and Krutarth Patel, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in computer science, helped develop the technology.

“We are thrilled that 4.0 Analytics, a rising star in our high technology and life sciences business center, was selected to receive this grant to demonstrate and refine its innovative technology,” said Judith Sheft, associate vice president for technology development at NJIT.  “Mark and his team are exemplary citizens of 21st century Newark, a city on the move with a growing population of future-focused entrepreneurs seeking to leverage the resources of New Jersey’s largest city, with its rich set of academic partners and vibrant tech sector.”

Sheft added, “This pilot program also aligns with our goal to make Newark a test-bed smart city.  We look forward to working with 4.0 Analytics and the other partners on this project and others.”

Taking Diagnostics out of the Test Bay and onto the Road

Robert Gjini, assistant vice president of facility systems for NJIT, has agreed to enroll several university vehicles in the pilot program while also supporting efforts such as reducing idle time (when a vehicle’s engine is left on while in park),  which wastes fuel, adds carbon emissions to the environment and shortens the life of some engine components.  NJIT will help facilitate seminars and workshops on campus to apprise the university community and NJIT vendors about the dangers of vehicle emissions in urban communities.

Rutgers, which is interested in energy savings on its vehicles, will enroll pick-up trucks and vans in the pilot test, according to Patrick Harrity, the director of grounds and fleet operations at Rutgers.

Gloria Cowart, the company’s co-founder and operations director, said the demonstration “should show it is possible to reduce carbon emissions by 200,000 pounds for every 100 vehicles annually, while the timelier maintenance should also save drivers more than 10,000 gallons of gas.”  

The company contends its technology would measure performance more accurately by providing car owners with information not available from garage-based analytics. 

“The complexities of the vehicle’s on-board diagnostic system make it difficult to assess problems while it is in the repair bay and not on the road.  Having access to historical data while the vehicle is operating on the road can more precisely determine problems for a technician,” Scotland noted, adding, “These systems are also armed with anti-tamper mechanisms to prevent practices designed to subvert emissions-testing protocols. We designed our system so it cannot alter the federally mandated on-board computer system. We are able to see, evaluate and cross-reference data, and by doing so, we see anomalies that don’t make sense.”

The state conducts emissions tests to help reduce four pollutants related to vehicle combustion – hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.  “A growing number of studies,” Scotland noted, “conclusively show a correlation between urban areas with a high concentrations of vehicles and higher rates of upper respiratory conditions, heart diseases and cancer.”

Proposing an Alternative to Manual Emissions Testing

New Jersey policymakers are now seeking ways to trim the cost of the program.  The state’s Motor Vehicle Commission (NJMVC), which runs it, and the state Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), which sets some policy parameters, have recently implemented measures such as eliminating pre-1996 vehicles from inspections and requiring cars that fail inspection to re-inspect them at private facilities, Scotland noted.

Through the Rutgers Green Zone project, 4.0 Analytics will present the state with a new, far-reaching option: phasing out manual emission testing entirely.  The plan is designed to save the state millions annually in contractor fees to run the program and add additional revenue by converting to electronic testing.  Motorists would be able to submit their emission compliance report each year from their mobile device, skipping a trip to the inspection facility.

“Our plan reduces costs for the state, is more convenient and less expensive for motorists, and would significantly reduce the carbon footprint. The technology exists today to begin this process,” Scotland said. “According to state figures, we now spend about $41 million a year to test the 88 percent of vehicles that pass inspection. We have shown how the technology can reduce the cost of the state’s program by 70 to 90 percent. How is this possible? Begin by comparing the $20.29 it now costs per test to that of an electronic transmission.”

Federal guidelines are currently in place to allow state governments to transmit emission data remotely. Collaborators at Seton Hall Law School, one of the Green Zone partners, are researching New Jersey regulations to determine how to incorporate 4.0 Analytics’ plan into the state program.  "We’re pleased to work on policies that may help the city of Newark and the State of New Jersey embrace cleaner energy technologies,” said David Opderbeck, director of the Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology at Seton Hall Law School.

Rodney Brutton, director of workforce development at the Newark-based New Community Corporation, said the new technology would give students in the non-profit’s automotive training classes the chance to acquire valuable diagnostic and analytical skills.

“For us, this shows the diversity of jobs in the auto repair industry. The ability to focus on front-end analytics gives our students yet another career path,” Brutton said. “So participating was a natural fit for us.”


October 14, 2016

Self-Configuring Digital Signal Conditioner Technology Easily Adapts to User Measuring Conditions

By Will Meenan, Kaman Precision Products

More and more industries and manufacturers are requiring sensors for condition monitoring in their machines or processes. New digital signal conditioner technology is now available that simplifies the use of eddy current (inductive) displacement sensors for high precision/high reliability applications. The technology is the best option for monitoring movement, position, vibration, alignment, or deflection, especially where parts operate in high temperatures or within environmental contaminants. Unlike previous versions that required circuit modifications and manual calibration to match the required target, sensor, cable length, and range, the new digital signal conditioners configure themselves in a matter of minutes. In addition, the technology works with a wide variety of sensors.

High performance sensing options needed for condition monitoring

Many sensor options are available for machine condition monitoring, including inductive technology, linear variable differential transformers (LVDTs), laser triangulation, capacitive, and ultrasonic systems, as well air gauging, Hall effect, and optical systems. Each technology has distinct advantages and disadvantages, depending on the application.

Eddy current sensors are generally much more insensitive to environmental contaminants than other options. They operate on the principle of impedance variation caused by eddy currents induced in a conductive target by a sensor coil. The sensor coil is excited by a high frequency oscillator, which generates an electromagnetic field that couples with the target. Signal conditioning electronics sense impedance variation as the gap between sensor and target changes and translates it into a usable displacement signal. This technology provides extremely high (sub-micro inch) resolution.

Eddy current sensors can “see through” non-conductive materials, making these sensors useful in such applications as paint, rubber, and paper thickness. They can also be a good option for operation over a wide variety of temperatures and environments, including dust, oil, gas, diesel fuel, liquid oxygen, and rocket fuel.

Inductive technology is used for many higher performance sensor applications, especially those needing higher frequency responses in challenging environments and temperatures. They allow operators to monitor a machine and determine when it has to be taken offline for maintenance. Conversely, the sensor may indicate that the machine is running well, so maintenance is not yet required. If, for example, the machine in question is a critical pump operating in an inaccessible location, precise information on machine condition can be critical to a company’s bottom line.

High precision inductive sensors can also be used to monitor or control the quality of a process. The sensors provide a real time control signal to the machine or a display to the operators so they can adjust machine performance.

New self-configuring inductive signal conditioner technology

Previous signal conditioner technology required hardware or software configuration to accommodate different sensors, target materials, cable lengths, and range. This was more costly and time consuming to set up.

New digital signal processors, including digiVIT, simplify the use of eddy current sensors for high performance applications.

Calibration is performed by menu options and push buttons on the front panel as opposed to adjustment of analog potentiometers. Reconfiguration, if required, can be performed in a matter of minutes. A highly linear output signal is achieved internally using digital linearization techniques. Temperature compensation of the output signal, desirable to minimize measurement temperature effects, is performed by the internal microprocessor and can be easily set up by the user, in many cases in-situ.

The digiVIT signal conditioner also includes user programmable functions, including:

  • Relay set points for indication of out of tolerance conditions or process control
  • Digital low pass filtering to improve resolution
  • Adjustable sensor sample rate
  • Quick 2-point adjustment instead of full calibration when replacing broken sensors

Examples where digiVIT has been used for applications requiring precision and ease of use

The digiVIT is suitable for applications requiring precision and ease of use at a reasonable price. Some customer examples include:

  1. Metal stamping process – In this metal stamping process, the customer’s feed stock must be checked for straightness and flatness. The metal type was changed several times a day. Eddy current technology was ideal for the oily machine environment, but required recalibration to each different type of metal, which was too time-consuming. With the digiVIT, recalibration took a matter of minutes, making the measurement practical.
  2. Manufacturer with many large assembly machines– For this customer, monthly sensor calibration was required for quality control purposes. The sensors were located far from the signal conditioner making calibration of analog sensors difficult and time consuming. Replacing the analog systems with a digiVIT signal conditioner required only a 2-point calibration adjustment, reducing calibration time significantly.
  3. Paper thickness measuring application combining the digiVIT with a laser – This customer performed a special calibration over a limited range to optimize resolution. Digital filtering and in-situ temperature compensation were enabled to further improve performance. The digiVIT proved very easy for the customer to implement.

High precision but easy to use

No other signal conditioner allows users to easily work with such a wide variety of measuring system configurations and operating conditions. For applications where high performance is a must, the new digital signal conditioner technology is an attractive option.


October 13, 2016

Discover Blue NY Showcases Bluetooth Innovations For the Home, Office, Road, And Soul

For the past couple years, the Roosevelt Hotel on East 45th Street in NYC has hosted the Discover Blue NY expo. It’s a rather intimate event with about twenty or less exhibitors. This year there were 17 exhibitors demonstrating their Bluetooth enabled creations. Don’t let the small size of this one-room event mislead your opinions as some formidable companies attend and exhibit, the likes of Texas Instruments, STMicro, GE Appliances, and Wilson Sports Equipment, to name a few.

Although many of the products on display target consumers, they all are unique in that they conquer some of the challenges associated with Bluetooth wireless, such as effective working distances, latencies in activation, power consumption, and, as always, space constraints. Products were available for the home, the car, the office, the Bluetooth developer, and for the artistic muse, or soul if you prefer. Here’s what we saw.

Security And Safety On The Tip Of A Finger

BeON Home demonstrated a key fob accessory for its home protection system that makes protection activation even simpler and more intuitive. The key fob allows users of all ages to instantly activate the BeON system without the need for a smart phone or tablet.

The device has two buttons: one for quick activation of “Away Mode”, which activates the preventative security features of the system and one for “Welcome Home”, which turns on lights in the home upon arrival and takes the system out of security mode and into home safety mode. Learn more about the fob and the system at

Bluetooth Router Provides Versatile Control

A clever multi-tasker, the Cassia Hub is described as the world’s first Bluetooth router that uses a new technology to redefine what’s possible with Bluetooth. For example, with the hub you can stay connected with a Bluetooth speaker even if you move your phone into another room.

Capable of networking and controlling up to 22 Bluetooth devices, the router extends the range of Bluetooth communications to 1,000 feet open space, reportedly more than 30 times the standard operating range. For more details, visit

Frames And App Make Parking Safer and Easier

Easy to install and use, the FenSens device is designed for the everyday driver, allowing them to retrofit backup sensors on any car in less than five minutes with only a screwdriver. The license plate frame, with embedded ultrasonic sensors, detects objects in the driver’s blind spots and notifies them via audio, visual, and vibration alerts on their smartphone. No wiring or professional installation is needed.

After the Bluetooth-enabled smart license plate frame is installed via four security screws (to prevent theft), an Android mobile application will automatically launch when the user starts backing up. Watch a short VIDEO DEMO. For pricing and other info, go to

Bluetooth Speaker Withstands Ocean Splashes

JLab Audio’s Crasher XL Bluetooth speaker delivers 30W of clear, powerful audio via one high-fidelity neodymium driver, two low-fidelity drivers, and two passive subwoofers. Designed for any outdoor activity, its IPX6 splash-proof rating means it can endure pool or ocean splashes, party fouls, and a rinse off under running water.

Weighing a little over one-half pound, its durable metal body will help protect against damage from accidental drops. Other features include a 13-hour battery life (5200 mAh / Charge time: 6 hours) and Bluetooth 4.0 with a 30-foot range. For more information, visit

Bluetooth Football Scores A Touchdown

The Wilson X Connected Football puts a new spin on the concept of a forward pass.  Designed to bring professional-football fans closer to the game, it employs a tiny, undetectable sensor embedded in the football. The sensor, which connects via Bluetooth to the Wilson X Connected Football app on any mobile device, tracks throw distance, velocity, spiral efficiency, spin rate, and if the football was caught or dropped.

Players also receive their very own quarterback ranking score. Once in the app, users can create their own male or female NFL quarterback avatar, selecting from any of the League’s 32 teams. More details are available at

LED Lighting System Enlists Bluetooth For Efficient And Reliable Control

SMARTMESH, the latest LED lighting system for the smart home from French designer and manufacturer Smart & Green, employs groundbreaking Bluetooth technology that enables its LED lights to talk to each other. The combination of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and mesh functionality allows users to command an almost limitless number of products, whether one-by-one or in a group and close by or at a distance.

By sending a signal to one light, others can then be controlled. This means users can manage lights all over the house (including outdoors) or a public venue. Brightness can be increased or decreased and settings can be programmed in advance from a smartphone. Additionally, BLE technology increases the battery life of Smart & Green cordless lighting products, which means reduced consumption and a low energy environment. Learn more at

Learning Guitar Gets Even Easier With Bluetooth Connectivity

The Fretlight guitar learning system has been around for a while and is now wireless thanks to a Bluetooth interface. The system consists of a Fretlight guitar, a PC or smartphone, and an app. The guitar has LEDs implanted all over the fretboard that light when triggered by the app to show the user where to place his or her fingers on the strings. The app can be used on either a smartphone or a PC.

FG-621 Electric Guitar

FG-629 Wireless Acoustic

The wireless Bluetooth interface eliminates the standard guitar cable, freeing the user to play and learn anywhere. There are two guitars types available: the FG-621 Electric Guitar that features a stratocaster-style alder body with a Stratabond birch neck and the FG-629 Wireless Acoustic with a spruce top and a full-size concert style body with light walnut back and sides. Learn more at

It looks like Bluetooth is going strong and getting into more designs and providing a reliable interface for many wireless sensor applications. It will be interesting to see what’s happening at Discover Blue NY 2017. ~MD


October 7, 2016

It’s 10 O’clock, Do You Know Where Your Robot Is?

One might think, or be misled into believing that in the age of both social and anti-social media, we all would have more than the necessary level of virtual interaction. According to one recent report, some people have more friends and acquaintances on social media platforms they’ve never physically met, and most likely never will, than everyday face-to-face relationships. However, if hundreds of virtual friends are good, then one more can’t hurt.

On that thought, Toyota a small robot called Kirobo Mini that acts as a virtual companion. The mechanical pal listens and responds to conversations between humans in any social, or other, situation.

Kirobo works kind of like a two-way radio with the user’s smartphone acting as a transceiver and interface between the robo-friend and Toyota’s cloud service. Audio from Kirobo's microphone gets sent to a smartphone running an app. The phone transmits audio to the cloud where it is processed by voice recognition algorithms and an appropriate response is generated. The response is then sent back to the smartphone and on to Kirobo. 

Of course, Kirobo does a bit more, such as turning its head towards whoever is speaking to it. I’d personally like to sit Kirobo down in front of a TV during the election debates. Its head may just pop off. It also moves its arms and hands about when speaking. My Sicilian mother would’ve loved that aspect, enhancing conversation with the hands.

Ah, there is more…would you expect anything less? Kirobo has the ability to learn things about its owner via conversations. It can learn personal preferences, like calling the owner by his or her preferred name, or with a prefix, i.e., Mr., Mrs., Ms., Master, etc. On a road trip, Kirobo can link with the car's IT system and deliver comments on the trip such as, “Are we there yet?, Are we lost?, I need a lube job”, etc. If you plan on taking your robobuddy on a long trip, it will be able to talk for up to 2.5 hours on batteries.

One can only imagine what they are talking about.

Toyota has begun selling Kirobo Mini at dealerships in Tokyo and its home prefecture of Aichi. Price is $392, about the same as a pretty decent acoustic guitar that does not require batteries. Naturally, there's also a monthly fee for using the Toyota cloud service. Ah yes, the gift that keeps on taking. By the way, did you hug your robot today? ~MD

For more details, CLICK HERE


October 6, 2016

Gauze Helps Wounds Heal Faster In Space

Astronauts operating space stations perform a great deal of tactile tasks, which inevitably lead to an injury or two. Cuts and bruises, minor to substantial occur and, as replacement crewmembers are somewhat limited in space, a fast healing time is most desirable and downright critical.

For just these situations, NASA has developed a gauze-like material that can help wounds heal faster. The technology was specifically developed to help astronauts heal while traveling in space, however the gauze could also prove useful right here on earth. As NASA has it’s priorities in the heavens, it is attempting to work with companies to develop it further for use on earth.

To watch a video showcasing the technology, CLICK HERE. For further details visit the NASA website.


October 4, 2016

Nano-Fiber Fabric Thwarts Chemical Agents

As these seem to be the days of unethical warfare, one never knows what to expect. Explosives and guns are just the tip of the knife of terrorists who are willing to use whatever they have at hand to cause havoc and damage. Chemical weapons are certainly not off the table.

Perhaps in response to the possibility, or inevitability, of chemical attacks, researchers at North Carolina State University have created a fabric material containing nanoscale fibers capable of braking down chemical warfare agents (CWAs). The team synthesizes what they call uniform coatings of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) on top of nanofibers. These form structures that look like meatballs on a skewer or shish kebabs. Essentially, it’s the MOFs that break down the CWAs and render them harmless.

Junjie Zhao, lead author of a paper on the work, points out that “Current technologies for addressing CWAs rely on carbon-based materials, but these carbon materials can only adsorb hazardous compounds, they can’t degrade them. Our goal was to develop new materials that can detoxify these CWA compounds, and we’ve been successful. Previous research found that MOFs can be effective at degrading CWAs. However, MOFs normally come in the form of a powder. We wanted to see if we could grow MOFs as functional coatings onto fibers, so that they could be used in masks, filters and protective garments.”          

The process starts by depositing a thin film of titanium oxide onto a fabric made of nanoscale fibers using vapor-phase technology called atomic layer deposition. The titanium oxide serves as a nucleation layer, which enables the researchers to apply various zirconium-based MOFs onto the nanofibers in an evenly distributed way.

The MOF-functionalized fabric is then tested against both a CWA simulant and the nerve agent soman. The research team found that, when exposed to the nano-kebab fabric, the half-life of the CWA simulant was as brief as 7.3 minutes. The half-life of the soman was as short as 2.3 minutes.

A paper titled “Ultra-Fast Degradation of Chemical Warfare Agents Using MOF–Nanofiber Kebabs” is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition. Corresponding authors of the paper are Parsons and Gregory Peterson of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center. The paper was co-authored by Dennis T. Lee, Heather F. Barton, and Ian R. Woodward of NC State; Robert Yaga and Howard Walls of RTI; and Morgan Hall of Edgewood. The work was done with support from Edgewood, under grant number W911SR-07-C-0075, and the U.S. Army Research Office, under grant number W911NF-13-1-0173.

ABSTRACT: “Ultra-Fast Degradation of Chemical Warfare Agents Using MOF–Nanofiber Kebabs”

Authors: Junjie Zhao, Dennis T. Lee, Heather F. Barton, Ian R. Woodward, Christopher J. Oldham, and Gregory N. Parsons, North Carolina State University; Robert W. Yaga and Howard J. Walls, RTI International; Morgan G. Hall and Gregory W. Peterson, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center

Published: Sept. 21, Angewandte Chemie International Edition

DOI: 10.1002/anie.201606656

Abstract: The threat associated with chemical warfare agents (CWAs) motivates the development of new materials to provide enhanced protection with a reduced burden. Metal–organic frame-works (MOFs) have recently been shown as highly effective catalysts for detoxifying CWAs, but challenges still remain for integrating MOFs into functional filter media and/or protective garments. Herein, we report a series of MOF–nanofiber kebab structures for fast degradation of CWAs. We found TiO2 coatings deposited via atomic layer deposition (ALD) onto polyamide-6 nanofibers enable the formation of conformal Zr-based MOF thin films including UiO-66, UiO-66-NH2, and UiO-67. Cross-sectional TEM images show that these MOF crystals nucleate and grow directly on and around the nanofibers, with strong attachment to the substrates. These MOF-functionalized nanofibers exhibit excellent reactivity for detoxifying CWAs. The half-lives of a CWA simulant compound and nerve agent soman (GD) are as short as 7.3 min and 2.3 min, respectively. These results therefore provide the earliest report of MOF–nanofiber textile composites capable of ultra-fast degradation of CWAs.

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