Japanese scientists develop “e-skin”

April 22, 2016

Japanese scientists at the University of Tokyo have developed an ultrathin electronic skin or “e-skin” which could allow for human skin to be functionalised like a smartphone screen, according to a report by Live Science.

According to the report, the e-skin employs technology similar to how organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays are manufactured for smartphones and televisions.

The superflexible display is made from organic electronics made from carbon-based polymers. Devices made using these materials are lighter and more flexible than electronics made using inorganic materials. The challenge when working with OLEDs, however, is that these products usually degrade in air and require bulky protective coatings to shield them. This protection means the devices lose some of their flexibility.

For the e-skin, the team at the University of Tokyo developed a new method to protect the electronic components from the air but which allowed it remain flexible. The entire device is just 3 micrometers (millionths of a meter) thick and highly flexible, the researchers said.

The newly developed protective film, called a passivation layer, consists of alternating layers of inorganic silicon oxynitride and organic parylene. It shields the device from damaging oxygen and water vapour meaning it can last several days in contact with the air.

“Our e-skin can be directly laminated on the surface of the skin, allowing us to electronically functionalize human skin,” Takao Someya, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Tokyo, and author of a paper on the new device published in the journal Science Advances, was reported as saying.

“We think that functionalizing the skin may replace the smartphone in the future,” Someya said to Live Science. “When you carry an iPhone, it is a bulky device. But if you functionalize your own skin, you don’t need to carry anything, and it’s easy to receive information anywhere, anytime.”

“The scientists created both digital and analog displays that could be laminated to the skin, and all of the devices were flexible enough to distort and crumple in response to body movement, without losing their functionality,” Live Science said.

According to the researchers, such devices could be used to monitor health in future. His team also created a device consisting of red and green OLEDs and a light detector “that could monitor the concentration of oxygen in a human subject’s blood when the e-skin is laminated to the person’s finger using highly flexible adhesive tape,” the report said.

Source: Live Science

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Volvo to test self-driving cars in China

April 8, 2016

The Swedish car-maker is looking to launch an experiment in which local drivers in China will test up to 100 self-driving cars, a Reuters report said.

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A road in Beijing, China

The experiment will involve local drivers testing the cars on public roads in limited driving situations such as on express roads and highways, company executives were reported to have told Reuters.

Volvo has not yet announced when the experiment will take place but has confirmed that it is already looking for a well-suited city in China in which to conduct the tests. “It has to be a big city where there are lots of consumers… wasting an hour a day in the cars (sitting in traffic),” Chief Executive of Volvo, Hakan Samuelsson, was quoted as saying. “That’s I think realistically where this function can be sold commercially.”

According to Samuelsson, the self-driving cars alert the driver when autopilot mode can be activated, on freeways or in specific zones such as gated neighborhoods or industrial parks, giving the driver the option to maintain or relinquish control.

Volvo’s experiment is part of the company’s efforts to take advantage of the Chinese government‘s recent pledge to embrace futuristic technologies.

Volvo was purchased in 2010 by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group. Since that time, the company has been aiming to increase sales in China. It hopes that by 2020, one quarter of its global sales (200,000 units) will be made in the Asia Pacific region – and the majority of these in China.

The company is also planning a similar test programme in Gothenburg, Sweden, to begin next year.

Tesla, Mercedes, Audi and Alphabet Inc’s Google are among other companies currently developing self-driving cars.

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Tiny inexpensive gravimeter could be a “game-changer”

April 1, 2016

A team of researchers from the University of Glasgow have developed a compact device that measures tiny gravity fluctuations, and could be used to monitor volcanoes or search for oil, BBC news reported.

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The design of the device, which is much smaller and less expensive than existing gravimeters, is based on accelerometers found in smartphones. Commercial gravimeters currently on the market cost around £70,000-plus, which are largely the preserve of wealthy oil companies. The University of Glasgow team’s design, which is around the size of a postage stamp, could be available in a few years for only hundreds, the BBC report said.

Unlike other similar machines, the new compact gravimeter is based on a “microelectromechanical system” similar to that used in smartphone accelerometer.

“The difference between the mobile phone accelerometers and our device is that our springs are very, very thin – about 10 times thinner than a human hair,” Richard Middlemiss, the PhD student who made the new instrument, was quoted as saying. “That means that whereas in a mobile phone, it’ll only be activated by something as big as the Earth – our sensor is… almost at the point where you could detect the gravitational pull of a human when you’re standing next to them.”

In the journal, Nature, the teams reported that their contraption can detect even smaller gravity changes – such as those that would be caused by a tunnel less than 1m across, buried 2m underground. This could help explore for oil and gas.

Why do we get gravitational changes?

Tidal forces, caused by the interacting pull of the Sun and Moon, also slightly squash the Earth’s diameter. For this reason, spots on the earth’s crust could go up and down by about 40cm over the course of 12-13 hours.

“That means that we get a change in gravitational acceleration – so that’s what we’ve been able to measure,” Middlemiss said.

The research team has a patent pending on its design.

So what can a compact gravimeter be used for?

Gravimeters can be used for petroleum and mineral prospectingseismologygeodesygeophysical surveys and other geophysical research, and for metrology.

Multiple devices could be scattered around volcanoes or mounted on drones to conduct subterranean survey, the team suggested. They could even help civil engineers locate pipes under roads, Mr Middlemiss said, to save them digging in the wrong places.

Is this a ‘game-changer’?

According the BBC report, Prof Hazel Rymer, a vulcanologist at the Open University, greeted the Glasgow gadget with huge enthusiasm.

“It is just so exciting,” she was reported as saying. “It’s an absolute game-changer.”

She went on: “they’ve now got a sensor that is sensitive enough to measure the types of gravity changes that I’m interested in – and anybody else that is using gravity meters.”

Source: BBC News

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Language differences don’t affect the way we hear music, study finds

February 26, 2016
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Rhythmic differences in our mother tongues don’t affect the way we perceive music, the study finds

Speakers of languages with a different rhythm do not differ in their perception of non-linguistic sound patterns like music, a new study by SISSA, the International School for Advanced Studies, shows.

The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, was based on the hypothesis that “native listening” (the idea that our mother tongue acts as a sort of auditory “template” and influences the way we perceive the sounds of other languages) also transfers to non-linguistic sound stimuli like music.

In the new study, Alan Langus, research fellow at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste, Marina Nespor, SISSA professor, and colleagues found the opposite: that this “native listening” effect is limited to linguistic sounds.

The research was based on the “iambic–trochaic law”. “The way we group notes within continuous sound sequences is determined by the iambic-trochaic law (ITL),” SISSA explained in its press release, “whereby we tend to pair sounds of varying intensity or pitch into trochees and those of different duration into iambs. An iamb is formed by two elements in which the stronger element follows the weaker one, and a trochee is exactly the opposite.”

“Even the phrasal rhythm of a language follows either iambic or trochaic preferences, and each language has its characteristic rhythm: some prefer a iambic pattern (e.g. Italian) others a trochaic one (e.g. Turkish or Persian).”

In a series of experiments on native speakers of Italian, Persian or Turkish, the researchers tested whether the preferred rhythm of the subjects’ mother tongues also transferred to non-linguistic sounds or even to visual stimuli. However, the experiments provided negative results.

“It is true that the rhythm of spoken language influenced the perception of the sounds of other languages.” SISSA said. “However, we found no transfer of the effect to the other domains of non-linguistic auditory and visual stimuli” concluded Langus.

Source: SISSA

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Nissan invents robotic office chairs that tidy themselves away

February 26, 2016

Fed up of pushing your chair back under the table after a meeting? This quirky invention may be the solution for you…

Nissan Motor Co Ltd, based in Yokohama, Japan, has invented the first “intelligent parking chair”, freeing people from the “troublesome task” of pushing chairs back under desks. With just a clap of your hands, the intelligent self-parking chair automatically moves into a set position.

According to the company, “the chair includes a roller to automatically move 360 degrees paired with a system that indicates the target position. Four cameras placed on the room’s ceiling generate a bird’s-eye view to wirelessly transmit the chair’s position and its route to destination.”

The invention was inspired by the company’s latest “Intelligent Park Assist” technology. “The system of the Intelligent Park Assist uses four cameras on the car body (the front, rear, and both wing mirrors). The system converts video footage from thecameras and composites a virtual bird’s-eye view imagethat allows automatic steering,” the company said.

Like the car’s parking system, the “Intelligent Parking Chair” also uses four cameras placed on each corner of the room’s ceiling. “The cameras will locate the chair’s current position, while the system alculates the chair’s route to return to its original position,”Nissan explained.

The company doesn’t mention any plans to sell the chairs.

The news of the “self-parking chair” comes just after news that Nissan’s self-driving  electric LEAF car had been successfully tested at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

“For the past year, NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and automaker Nissan have been collaborating on the development of autonomous driving technologies that could one day be used in future consumer vehicles, robotic rovers on Mars and other space exploration missions,” NASA said its their website.

Source: Japan Today; NASA; Nissan 

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Japanese snacks manufacturer to open factory in Wales

October 31, 2014

Japan’s largest manufacturer of savoury snacksCalbee Inc, will open a factory in North Wales, creating 100 jobs over 5 years.

Wales’ Economy Minister Edwina Hart and Chairman and CEO of Calbee, Akira Matsumoto, made the announcement in Japan today, following a meeting to finalise the deal.

The expansion into Wales marks the company’s first investment in Europe. Calbee (UK) Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Calbee Inc., and was established in February this year. The new site, located on Deeside Industrial Park will produce savoury snacks  for the UK and European markets. 

Mr Matsumoto, CEO of Calbee commented: “We are very excited to establish our first European factory in Wales.

“We are making a long-term commitment to grow our business from this important base in Deeside.”

Ms Hart said: “I am delighted to announce this important new inward investment for Wales.”

“Calbee is the latest in a long line of highly prestigious Japanese companies that have invested in Wales and I welcome their decision to establish their first European plant in Wales.”

The Calbee UK factory will initially produce its well-known pea-based snacks (“Snapea Crisps”) in a range of flavours. In addition to the manufacturing of the snacks, distribution and some R&D activities will also take place on site.

Production is set to commence in the first half of 2015.

The UK savoury snack market estimated to be worth around £3bn, and is the largest in Europe.

Source: Wales OnlineBBC

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Italy to run on 0.6% biofuel by 2018

October 16, 2014

From 2018, 0.6% of petrol and diesel used in Italy will be made up of advanced biofuels, the BBC reports. This is set to increase to 1% by 2022.

The Italian government is the first in Europe to take a stand on biofuels. The ministerial decree is in line with the European Parliament target for 2.5% of energy used within the transportation sector to consist of advanced biofuels (made of seaweed and waste) by 2020.

The European Council then downgraded this to a non-binding target of 0.5% advanced biofuels by 2020.
The measures are part of the EU energy directive, which requires renewable energy sources to provide 10% of transportation fuel by 2020.

The use of fuels made from crops has been a source of controversy within the EU for some years. Many claim the growing of crops used for first generation biofuel production, including sugar, cereals and oilseed, take up land space needed to grow food. In addition, there are worries surrounding the volume of carbon emissions generated by biofuels. Despite this, a number of new second generation biofuels plants have recently opened.

The biofuel industry has also been lobbying hard to promote the use of biofuels within the EU.
A commercial scale advanced biofuels plant was opened in Crescentino near Turin, in Italy last year. The plant produces approximately 75 million litres of biofuel from waste and energy crops, grown on marginal land.

Plans to open three further plants in the south of the country are also in motion.

Chris Malins from the the International Council on Clean Transportation commented on the Italian decree: “This is quite an exciting time, things are finally starting to happen,”

“This shows Italy taking a real leadership role in Europe. It will be an example and a signal to other countries that are interested in this.”

Sources: BBC; The Green Optimistic

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TJC offers an extensive global network of professional & experienced multilingual translators, proof-readers and interpreters. We also have academic researchers, specialists and speakers, who are all native speakers of over 100 languages. Our expert translators and interpreters are based all over the globe and can assist you with projects of all kinds.

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