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  • richardmitnick 2:12 pm on March 5, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Integrating electronics onto physical prototypes", , Electrical Engineering, In place of flat “breadboards” 3D-printed CurveBoards enable easier testing of circuit design on electronics products.,   

    From MIT News: “Integrating electronics onto physical prototypes” 

    MIT News

    From MIT News

    March 3, 2020
    Rob Matheson

    In place of flat “breadboards,” 3D-printed CurveBoards enable easier testing of circuit design on electronics products.



    (2)CurveBoards are 3D breadboards — which are commonly used to prototype circuits — that can be designed by custom software, 3D printed, and directly integrated into the surface of physical objects, such as smart watches, bracelets, helmets, headphones, and even flexible electronics. CurveBoards can give designers an additional prototyping technique to better evaluate how circuits will look and feel on physical products that users interact with. Image: Dishita Turakhia and Junyi Zhu.

    MIT researchers have invented a way to integrate “breadboards” — flat platforms widely used for electronics prototyping — directly onto physical products. The aim is to provide a faster, easier way to test circuit functions and user interactions with products such as smart devices and flexible electronics.

    Breadboards are rectangular boards with arrays of pinholes drilled into the surface. Many of the holes have metal connections and contact points between them. Engineers can plug components of electronic systems — from basic circuits to full computer processors — into the pinholes where they want them to connect. Then, they can rapidly test, rearrange, and retest the components as needed.

    But breadboards have remained that same shape for decades. For that reason, it’s difficult to test how the electronics will look and feel on, say, wearables and various smart devices. Generally, people will first test circuits on traditional breadboards, then slap them onto a product prototype. If the circuit needs to be modified, it’s back to the breadboard for testing, and so on.

    In a paper being presented at CHI (Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems)[CHI Paper], the researchers describe “CurveBoards,” 3D-printed objects with the structure and function of a breadboard integrated onto their surfaces. Custom software automatically designs the objects, complete with distributed pinholes that can be filled with conductive silicone to test electronics. The end products are accurate representations of the real thing, but with breadboard surfaces.

    CurveBoards “preserve an object’s look and feel,” the researchers write in their paper, while enabling designers to try out component configurations and test interactive scenarios during prototyping iterations. In their work, the researchers printed CurveBoards for smart bracelets and watches, Frisbees, helmets, headphones, a teapot, and a flexible, wearable e-reader.

    “On breadboards, you prototype the function of a circuit. But you don’t have context of its form — how the electronics will be used in a real-world prototype environment,” says first author Junyi Zhu, a graduate student in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). “Our idea is to fill this gap, and merge form and function testing in very early stage of prototyping an object. … CurveBoards essentially add an additional axis to the existing [three-dimensional] XYZ axes of the object — the ‘function’ axis.”

    Joining Zhu on the paper are CSAIL graduate students Lotta-Gili Blumberg, Martin Nisser, and Ethan Levi Carlson; Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) undergraduate students Jessica Ayeley Quaye and Xin Wen; former EECS undergraduate students Yunyi Zhu and Kevin Shum; and Stefanie Mueller, the X-Window Consortium Career Development Assistant Professor in EECS.

    Custom software and hardware

    A core component of the CurveBoard is custom design-editing software. Users import a 3D model of an object. Then, they select the command “generate pinholes,” and the software automatically maps all pinholes uniformly across the object. Users then choose automatic or manual layouts for connectivity channels. The automatic option lets users explore a different layout of connections across all pinholes with the click of a button. For manual layouts, interactive tools can be used to select groups of pinholes and indicate the type of connection between them. The final design is exported to a file for 3D printing.

    When a 3D object is uploaded, the software essentially forces its shape into a “quadmesh” — where the object is represented as a bunch of small squares, each with individual parameters. In doing so, it creates a fixed spacing between the squares. Pinholes — which are cones, with the wide end on the surface and tapering down — will be placed at each point where the corners of the squares touch. For channel layouts, some geometric techniques ensure the chosen channels will connect the desired electrical components without crossing over one another.

    In their work, the researchers 3D printed objects using a flexible, durable, nonconductive silicone. To provide connectivity channels, they created a custom conductive silicone that can be syringed into the pinholes and then flows through the channels after printing. The silicone is a mixture of a silicone materials designed to have minimal electricity resistance, allowing various types electronics to function.

    To validate the CurveBoards, the researchers printed a variety of smart products. Headphones, for instance, came equipped with menu controls for speakers and music-streaming capabilities. An interactive bracelet included a digital display, LED, and photoresistor for heart-rate monitoring, and a step-counting sensor. A teapot included a small camera to track the tea’s color, as well as colored lights on the handle to indicate hot and cold areas. They also printed a wearable e-book reader with a flexible display.

    Better, faster prototyping

    In a user study, the team investigated the benefits of CurveBoards prototyping. They split six participants with varying prototyping experience into two sections: One used traditional breadboards and a 3D-printed object, and the other used only a CurveBoard of the object. Both sections designed the same prototype but switched back and forth between sections after completing designated tasks. In the end, five of six of the participants preferred prototyping with the CurveBoard. Feedback indicated the CurveBoards were overall faster and easier to work with.

    But CurveBoards are not designed to replace breadboards, the researchers say. Instead, they’d work particularly well as a so-called “midfidelity” step in the prototyping timeline, meaning between initial breadboard testing and the final product. “People love breadboards, and there are cases where they’re fine to use,” Zhu says. “This is for when you have an idea of the final object and want to see, say, how people interact with the product. It’s easier to have a CurveBoard instead of circuits stacked on top of a physical object.”

    Next, the researchers hope to design general templates of common objects, such as hats and bracelets. Right now, a new CurveBoard must built for each new object. Ready-made templates, however, would let designers quickly experiment with basic circuits and user interaction, before designing their specific CurveBoard.

    Additionally, the researchers want to move some early-stage prototyping steps entirely to the software side. The idea is that people can design and test circuits — and possibly user interaction — entirely on the 3D model generated by the software. After many iterations, they can 3D print a more finalized CurveBoard. “That way you’ll know exactly how it’ll work in the real world, enabling fast prototyping,” Zhu says. “That would be a more ‘high-fidelity’ step for prototyping.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:56 am on February 26, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Electrical Engineering, Light-emitting defects in materials that may someday enable quantum-based technologies., , Multiscale microscopy, , Scientists have been investigating hexagonal boron nitride which has a significant downside: It emits light in a rainbow of different hues., , The data is very rich and provides a clear classification of quantum defects in this material., The scientists were able to trace the material’s colorful emission to specific atomic defects., We wanted to know the source of the multi-color emission with the ultimate goal of gaining control over emission.   

    From Stanford University: “Stanford researchers shine light on the defects responsible for messy behavior in quantum materials” 

    Stanford University Name
    From Stanford University

    February 24, 2020
    Taylor Kubota

    Researchers are investigating light-emitting defects in materials that may someday enable quantum-based technologies, such as quantum computers, quantum networks or engines that run on light. Once understood, these defects can become controllable features.

    Researchers studied a material capable of emitting bright quantum light. Materials like this could someday enable the creation of quantum computers, which would be much faster and more efficient than current computers. (Image credit: Getty Images)

    In a future built on quantum technologies, planes and spaceships could be fueled by the momentum of light. Quantum computers will crunch through complex problems spanning chemistry to cryptography with greater speed and energy efficiency than existing processors. But before this future can come to pass, we need bright, on-demand, predictable sources of quantum light.

    Toward this end, a team of Stanford University material scientists, physicists and engineers, in collaboration with labs at Harvard University and the University of Technology Sydney, have been investigating hexagonal boron nitride, a material that can emit bright light as a single photon – a quantum unit of light – at a time. And it can do this at room temperature, making it easier to use compared to alternative quantum sources.

    Unfortunately, hexagonal boron nitride has a significant downside: It emits light in a rainbow of different hues. “While this emission is beautiful, the color currently can’t be controlled,” said Fariah Hayee, the lead author and a graduate student in the lab of Jennifer Dionne, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford. “We wanted to know the source of the multi-color emission, with the ultimate goal of gaining control over emission.”

    By employing a combination of microscopic methods, the scientists were able to trace the material’s colorful emission to specific atomic defects. A group led by co-author Prineha Narang, assistant professor of computational materials science at Harvard University, also developed a new theory to predict the color of defects by accounting for how light, electrons and heat interact in the material.

    “We needed to know how these defects couple to the environment and if that could be used as a fingerprint to identify and control them,” said Christopher Ciccarino, a graduate student in the NarangLab at Harvard University and co-author of the paper.

    The researchers describe their technique and different categories of defects in a paper published in the Feb. 24 issue of the journal Nature Materials.

    Multiscale microscopy

    Identifying the defects that give rise to quantum emission is a bit like searching for a friend in a crowded city without a cellphone. You know they are there, but you have the scan the full city to find their precise location.

    By stretching the capabilities of a one-of-a-kind, modified electron microscope developed by the Dionne lab, the scientists were able to match the local, atomic-scale structure of hexagonal boron nitride with its unique color emission. Over the course of hundreds of experiments, they bombarded the material with electrons and visible light and recorded the pattern of light emission. They also studied how the periodic arrangement of atoms in hexagonal boron nitride influenced the emission color.

    “The challenge was to tease out the results from what can seem to be a very messy quantum system. Just one measurement doesn’t tell the whole picture,” said Hayee. “But taken together, and combined with theory, the data is very rich and provides a clear classification of quantum defects in this material.”

    In addition to their specific findings about types of defect emissions in hexagonal boron nitride, the process the team developed to collect and classify these quantum spectra could, on its own, be transformative for a range of quantum materials.

    “Materials can be made with near atomic-scale precision, but we still don’t fully understand how different atomic arrangements influence their opto-electronic properties,” said Dionne, who is also director of the Photonics at Thermodynamic Limits Energy Frontier Research Center (PTL-EFRC). “Our team’s approach reveals light emission at the atomic-scale, en route to a host of exciting quantum optical technologies.”

    A superposition of disciplines

    Although the focus now is on understanding which defects give rise to certain colors of quantum emission, the eventual aim is to control their properties. For example, the team envisions strategic placement of quantum emitters, as well as turning their emission on and off for future quantum computers.

    Research in this field requires a cross-disciplinary approach. This work brought together materials scientists, physicists and electrical engineers, both experimentalists and theorists, including Tony Heinz, professor of applied physics at Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences and of photon science at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and Jelena Vučković, the Jensen Huang Professor in Global Leadership in the School of Engineering.

    “We were able to lay the groundwork for creating quantum sources with controllable properties, such as color, intensity and position,” said Dionne. “Our ability to study this problem from several different angles demonstrates the advantages of an interdisciplinary approach.”

    Additional Stanford co-authors of this paper include Leo Yu, a postdoctoral scholar in the Heinz lab, and Jingyuan Linda Zhang, who was a graduate student in the Ginzton Laboratory during this research. Other co-authors include researchers from the University of Technology Sydney in Australia. Dionne is also a member of Stanford Bio-X, an affiliate of the Precourt Institute for Energy and a member of the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute at Stanford. Vučković is also a professor of electrical engineering and a member of Stanford Bio-X and of the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute.

    This research was funded by the Department of Energy, Stanford’s Diversifying Academia, Recruiting Excellence Doctoral Fellowship Program, the National Science Foundation and the Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:56 am on February 5, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Electrical Engineering, , The CSAIL team's new system RFocus- a software-controlled “smart surface” that uses more than 3000 antennas to maximize the strength of the signal at the receiver.   

    From MIT News: “A smart surface for smart devices” 

    MIT News

    From MIT News

    February 3, 2020
    Adam Conner-Simons | CSAIL

    Venkat Arun of MIT stands in front of the prototype of RFocus, a software-controlled “smart surface” that uses more than 3,000 antennas to maximize the strength of the signal at the receiver. Photo: Jason Dorfman/CSAIL

    The RFocus platform has more than 3,000 tiny, inexpensive antennas that are used to amplify nearby wireless signals. Photo: Jason Dorfman/CSAIL

    We’ve heard it for years: 5G is coming.

    And yet, while high-speed 5G internet has indeed slowly been rolling out in a smattering of countries across the globe, many barriers remain that have prevented widespread adoption.

    One issue is that we can’t get faster internet speeds without more efficient ways of delivering wireless signals. The general trend has been to simply add antennas to either the transmitter (i.e., Wi-Fi access points and cell towers) or the receiver (such as a phone or laptop). But that’s grown difficult to do as companies increasingly produce smaller and smaller devices, including a new wave of “internet of things” systems.

    Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) looked at the problem recently and wondered if people have had things completely backwards this whole time. Rather than focusing on the transmitters and receivers, what if we could amplify the signal by adding antennas to an external surface in the environment itself?

    That’s the idea behind the CSAIL team’s new system RFocus, a software-controlled “smart surface” that uses more than 3,000 antennas to maximize the strength of the signal at the receiver. Tests showed that RFocus could improve the average signal strength by a factor of almost 10. Practically speaking, the platform is also very cost-effective, with each antenna costing only a few cents. The antennas are inexpensive because they don’t process the signal at all; they merely control how it is reflected. Lead author Venkat Arun says that the project represents what is, to the team’s knowledge, the largest number of antennas ever used for a single communication link.

    While the system could serve as another form of WiFi range extender, the researchers say its most valuable use could be in the network-connected homes and factories of the future.

    For example, imagine a warehouse with hundreds of sensors for monitoring machines and inventory. MIT Professor Hari Balakrishnan says that systems for that type of scale would normally be prohibitively expensive and/or power-intensive, but could be possible with a low-power interconnected system that uses an approach like RFocus.

    “The core goal here was to explore whether we can use elements in the environment and arrange them to direct the signal in a way that we can actually control,” says Balakrishnan, senior author on a new paper about RFocus that will be presented next month at the USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI) in Santa Clara, California. “If you want to have wireless devices that transmit at the lowest possible power, but give you a good signal, this seems to be one extremely promising way to do it.”

    RFocus is a two-dimensional surface composed of thousands of antennas that can each either let the signal through or reflect it. The state of the elements is set by a software controller that the team developed with the goal of maximizing the signal strength at a receiver.

    “The biggest challenge was determining how to configure the antennas to maximize signal strength without using any additional sensors, since the signals we measure are very weak,” says PhD student Venkat Arun, lead author of the new paper alongside Balakrishnan. “We ended up with a technique that is surprisingly robust.”

    The researchers aren’t the first to explore the possibility of improving internet speeds using the external environment. A team at Princeton University led by Professor Kyle Jamieson proposed a similar scheme for the specific situation of people using computers on either side of a wall. Balakrishnan says that the goal with RFocus was to develop an even more low-cost approach that could be used in a wider range of scenarios.

    “Smart surfaces give us literally thousands of antennas to play around with,” says Jamieson, who was not involved in the RFocus project. “The best way of controlling all these antennas, and navigating the massive search space that results when you imagine all the possible antenna configurations, are just two really challenging open problems.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:53 am on January 12, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Electrical, Electrical Engineering, , Yury Polyanskiy   

    From MIT News: “Sending clearer signals” 

    MIT News

    From MIT News

    January 11, 2020
    Rob Matheson

    Yury Polyanskiy. Image: M. Scott Brauer

    Associate Professor Yury Polyanskiy is working to keep data flowing as the “internet of things” becomes a reality.

    In the secluded Russian city where Yury Polyanskiy grew up, all information about computer science came from the outside world. Visitors from distant Moscow would occasionally bring back the latest computer science magazines and software CDs to Polyanskiy’s high school for everyone to share.

    One day while reading a borrowed PC World magazine in the mid-1990s, Polyanskiy learned about a futuristic concept: the World Wide Web.

    Believing his city would never see such wonders of the internet, he and his friends built their own. Connecting an ethernet cable between two computers in separate high-rises, they could communicate back and forth. Soon, a handful of other kids asked to be connected to the makeshift network.

    “It was a pretty challenging engineering problem,” recalls Polyanskiy, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, who recently earned tenure. “I don’t remember exactly how we did it, but it took us a whole day. You got a sense of just how contagious the internet could be.”

    Thanks to the then-recent fall of the Iron Curtain, Polyanskiy’s family did eventually connect to the internet. Soon after, he became interested in computer science and then information theory, the mathematical study of storing and transmitting data. Now at MIT, his most exciting work centers on preventing major data-transmission issues with the rise of the “internet of things” (IoT). Polyanskiy is a member of the of the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, and the Statistics and Data Science Center.

    Today, people carry around a smartphone and maybe a couple smart devices. Whenever you watch a video on your smartphone, for example, a nearby cell tower assigns you an exclusive chunk of the wireless spectrum for a certain time. It does so for everyone, making sure the data never collide.

    The number IoT devices is expected to explode, however. People may carry dozens of smart devices; all delivered packages may have tracking sensors; and smart cities may implement thousands of connected sensors in their infrastructure. Current systems can’t divvy up the spectrum effectively to stop data from colliding. That will slow down transmission speeds and make our devices consume much more energy in sending and resending data.

    “There may soon be a hundredfold explosion of devices connected to the internet, which is going to clog the spectrum, and there will be no way to ensure interference-free transmission. Entirely new access approaches will be needed,” Polyanskiy says. “It’s the most exciting thing I’m working on, and it’s surprising that no one is talking much about it.”

    From Russia, with love of computer science

    Polyanskiy grew up in a place that translates in English to “Rainbow City,” so named because it was founded as a site to develop military lasers. Surrounded by woods, the city had a population of about 15,000 people, many of them engineers.

    In part, that environment got Polyanskiy into computer science. At the age of 12, he started coding — “and for profit,” he says. His father was working for an engineering firm, on a team that was programming controllers for oil pumps. When the lead programmer took another position, they were left understaffed. “My father was discussing who can help. I was sitting next to him, and I said, ‘I can help,’” Polyanskiy says. “He first said no, but I tried it and it worked out.”

    Soon after, his father opened his own company for designing oil pump controllers and brought Polyanskiy on board while he was still in high school. The business gained customers worldwide. He says some of the controllers he helped program are still being used today.

    Polyanskiy earned his bachelor’s in physics from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, a top university worldwide for physics research. But then, interested in pursuing electrical engineering for graduate school, he applied to programs in the U.S. and was accepted to Princeton University.

    In 2005, he moved to the U.S. to attend Princeton, which came with cultural shocks “that I still haven’t recovered from,” Polyanskiy jokes. For starters, he says, the U.S. education system encourages interaction with professors. Also, the televisions, gaming consoles, and furniture in residential buildings and around campus were not placed under lock and key.

    “In Russia, everything is chained down,” Polyanskiy says. “I still can’t believe U.S. universities just keep those things out in the open.”

    At Princeton, Polyanskiy wasn’t sure which field to enter. But when it came time to select, he asked one rather discourteous student about studying under a giant in information theory, Sergio Verdú. The student told Polyanskiy he wasn’t smart enough for Verdú — so Polyanskiy got defiant. “At that moment, I knew for certain that Sergio would be my number one pick,” Polyanskiy says, laughing. “When people say I can’t do something, that’s usually the best way to motivate me.”

    At Princeton, working under Verdú, Polyanskiy focused on a component of information theory that deals with how much redundancy to send with data. Each time data transmit, they are perturbed by some noise. Adding duplicate data means less data get lost in that noise. Researchers thus study the optimal amounts of redundancy to reduce signal loss but keep transmissions fast.

    In his graduate work, Polyanskiy pinpointed sweet spots for redundancy when transmitting hundreds or thousands of data bits in packets, which is mostly how data are transmitted online today.

    Getting hooked

    After earning his PhD in electrical engineering from Princeton, Polyanskiy finally did come to MIT, his “dream school,” in 2011, but as a professor. MIT had helped pioneer some information theory research and introduced the first college courses in the field.

    Some call information theory “a green island,” he says, “because it’s hard to get into but once you’re there, you’re very happy. And information theorists can be seen as snobby.” When he came to MIT, Polyanskiy says, he was narrowly focused on his work. But he experienced yet another cultural shock — this time in a collaborative and bountiful research culture.

    MIT researchers are constantly presenting at conferences, holding seminars, collaborating, and “working on about 20 projects in parallel,” Polyanskiy says. “I was hesitant that I could do quality research like that, but then I got hooked. I became more broad-minded, thanks to MIT’s culture of drinking from a fire hose. There’s so much going on that eventually you get addicted to learning fields that are far away from you own interests.”

    In collaboration with other MIT researchers, Polyanskiy’s group now focuses on finding ways to split up the spectrum in the coming IoT age. So far, his group has mathematically proven that the systems in use today do not have the capabilities and energy to do so. They’ve also shown what types of alternative transmission systems will and won’t work.

    Inspired by his own experiences, Polyanskiy likes to give his students “little hooks,” tidbits of information about the history of scientific thought surrounding their work and about possible future applications. One example is explaining philosophies behind randomness to mathematics students who may be strictly deterministic thinkers. “I want to give them a little taste of something more advanced and outside scope of what they’re studying,” he says.

    After spending 14 years in the U.S., the culture has shaped the Russian native in certain ways. For instance, he’s accepted a more relaxed and interactive Western teaching style, he says. But it extends beyond the classroom, as well. Just last year, while visiting Moscow, Polyanskiy found himself holding a subway rail with both hands. Why is this strange? Because he was raised to keep one hand on the subway rail, and one hand over his wallet to prevent thievery. “With horror, I realized what I was doing,” Polyanskiy says, laughing. “I said, ‘Yury, you’re becoming a real Westerner.’”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 3:22 pm on December 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Using computers to view the unseen", , , Electrical Engineering,   

    From MIT News: “Using computers to view the unseen” 

    MIT News

    From MIT News

    December 6, 2019
    Rachel Gordon | CSAIL

    Computational Mirrors: Revealing Hidden Video

    Based on shadows that an out-of-view video casts on nearby objects, MIT researchers can estimate the contents of the unseen video. In the top row, researchers used this method to recreate visual elements in an out-of-view video; the original elements are shown in the bottom row. The effect can be seen in motion in the video below. Images courtesy of the researchers.

    A new computational imaging method could change how we view hidden information in scenes.

    Cameras and computers together can conquer some seriously stunning feats. Giving computers vision has helped us fight wildfires in California, understand complex and treacherous roads — and even see around corners.

    Specifically, seven years ago a group of MIT researchers created a new imaging system. that used floors, doors, and walls as “mirrors” to understand information about scenes outside a normal line of sight. Using special lasers to produce recognizable 3D images, the work opened up a realm of possibilities in letting us better understand what we can’t see.

    Recently, a different group of scientists from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) has built off of this work, but this time with no special equipment needed: They developed a method that can reconstruct hidden video from just the subtle shadows and reflections on an observed pile of clutter. This means that, with a video camera turned on in a room, they can reconstruct a video of an unseen corner of the room, even if it falls outside the camera’s field of view.

    By observing the interplay of shadow and geometry in video, the team’s algorithm predicts the way that light travels in a scene, which is known as “light transport.” The system then uses that to estimate the hidden video from the observed shadows — and it can even construct the silhouette of a live-action performance.

    This type of image reconstruction could one day benefit many facets of society: Self-driving cars could better understand what’s emerging from behind corners, elder-care centers could enhance safety for their residents, and search-and-rescue teams could even improve their ability to navigate dangerous or obstructed areas.

    The technique, which is “passive,” meaning there are no lasers or other interventions to the scene, still currently takes about two hours to process, but the researchers say it could eventually be helpful in reconstructing scenes not in the traditional line of sight for the aforementioned applications.

    “You can achieve quite a bit with non-line-of-sight imaging equipment like lasers, but in our approach you only have access to the light that’s naturally reaching the camera, and you try to make the most out of the scarce information in it,” says Miika Aittala, former CSAIL postdoc and current research scientist at NVIDIA, and the lead researcher on the new technique. “Given the recent advances in neural networks, this seemed like a great time to visit some challenges that, in this space, were considered largely unapproachable before.”

    To capture this unseen information, the team uses subtle, indirect lighting cues, such as shadows and highlights from the clutter in the observed area.

    n a way, a pile of clutter behaves somewhat like a pinhole camera, similar to something you might build in an elementary school science class: It blocks some light rays, but allows others to pass through, and these paint an image of the surroundings wherever they hit. But where a pinhole camera is designed to let through just the amount of right rays to form a readable picture, a general pile of clutter produces an image that is scrambled (by the light transport) beyond recognition, into a complex play of shadows and shading.

    You can think of the clutter, then, as a mirror that gives you a scrambled view into the surroundings around it — for example, behind a corner where you can’t see directly.

    The challenge addressed by the team’s algorithm was to unscramble and make sense of these lighting cues. Specifically, the goal was to recover a human-readable video of the activity in the hidden scene, which is a multiplication of the light transport and the hidden video.

    However, unscrambling proved to be a classic “chicken-or-egg” problem. To figure out the scrambling pattern, a user would need to know the hidden video already, and vice versa.

    “Mathematically, it’s like if I told you that I’m thinking of two secret numbers, and their product is 80. Can you guess what they are? Maybe 40 and 2? Or perhaps 371.8 and 0.2152? In our problem, we face a similar situation at every pixel,” says Aittala. “Almost any hidden video can be explained by a corresponding scramble, and vice versa. If we let the computer choose, it’ll just do the easy thing and give us a big pile of essentially random images that don’t look like anything.”

    With that in mind, the team focused on breaking the ambiguity by specifying algorithmically that they wanted a “scrambling” pattern that corresponds to plausible real-world shadowing and shading, to uncover the hidden video that looks like it has edges and objects that move coherently.

    The team also used the surprising fact that neural networks naturally prefer to express “image-like” content, even when they’ve never been trained to do so, which helped break the ambiguity. The algorithm trains two neural networks simultaneously, where they’re specialized for the one target video only, using ideas from a machine learning concept called Deep Image Prior. One network produces the scrambling pattern, and the other estimates the hidden video. The networks are rewarded when the combination of these two factors reproduce the video recorded from the clutter, driving them to explain the observations with plausible hidden data.

    To test the system, the team first piled up objects on one wall, and either projected a video or physically moved themselves on the opposite wall. From this, they were able to reconstruct videos where you could get a general sense of what motion was taking place in the hidden area of the room.

    In the future, the team hopes to improve the overall resolution of the system, and eventually test the technique in an uncontrolled environment.

    Aittala wrote a new paper on the technique alongside CSAIL PhD students Prafull Sharma, Lukas Murmann, and Adam Yedidia, with MIT professors Fredo Durand, Bill Freeman, and Gregory Wornell. They will present it next week at the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems in Vancouver, British Columbia.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 3:53 pm on November 2, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Aerospace engineering, , , , College of Science and Engineering, , Electrical Engineering, , , Small Satellite Research Group, SOCRATES cube satellite,   

    From University of Minnesota Twin Cities: “CSE student team builds first University of Minnesota cube satellite for NASA to launch into space” 


    From University of Minnesota Twin Cities

    Olivia Hultgren

    College of Science and Engineering students and Small Satellite Project leaders Kyle Houser and Jenna Burgett pose with a model of the SOCRATES cube satellite displayed in Tate Hall.

    Launching to the International Space Station on November 2, SOCRATES aims to both measure electronic accelerations in solar flares and use astrophysical signals to prove that x-ray-based navigation is possible.

    Multidisciplinary Small Satellite Project will reach for the stars on November 2.

    Jenna Burgett and Kyle Houser can now say their names are written in the stars—etched on the access panels of a small cube satellite in space, that is. The two College of Science and Engineering students are project leaders in the University of Minnesota’s Small Satellite Research Group, an interdisciplinary team building small satellites sponsored by NASA and the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

    Burgett and Houser had the honor of delivering SOCRATES (Signal Opportunity CubeSat Ranging and Timing Experiment System) in person to Houston, where satellite deployment company NanoRacks will launch it into space for NASA. There, they had the opportunity to sign the satellite—with a NASA-approved marker, of course.

    On November 2, the CubeSat will ascend to the International Space Station, which will then release it into Earth’s orbit in January 2020. When launched, SOCRATES will be the first small satellite built by the University of Minnesota Twin Cities to go into space.

    Pitched to NASA in 2016, SOCRATES has two missions. The first involves using pulsars, or astrophysical signals, to facilitate x-ray-based navigation, a means of positioning oneself in space when GPS is not available. The second, investigating electronic accelerations in sun flares in order to understand the science behind the solar anomalies.

    After SOCRATES is in orbit, the team will try to make contact from ground stations across the country, including one in northern Minnesota—with hopes of gathering six months of continuous data from the CubeSat.

    A model of SOCRATES, which will aim to gather data on solar flares and pulsars for x-ray navigation.

    Student-led satellites

    The Small Satellite lab is a joint effort established by aerospace engineering and mechanics professor Demoz Gebre-Egziabher and physics professor Lindsay Glesener. While faculty remain supervisors, the students participate in every level of the project, from grant proposal to satellite design to communicating with industry partners. Burgett and Houser are the team’s project manager and chief engineer, respectively.

    “We’re trying to provide an undergraduate experience on real engineering and physics-based projects,” said Houser, a senior majoring in aerospace engineering and a recipient of the University’s Presidential Scholarship.

    For Houser, seeing through a real project from start to finish is valuable experience.

    “The biggest impact this has on our future careers is that you set yourself apart by just being on the project and seeing how these things operate,” he said.

    “It’s the students that lead the lab and make a lot of the decisions,” Burgett added. “So, you learn through trial and error the lessons you would learn in your job after you graduate. Having those lessons learned earlier rather than later, you can go into the job field more informed.”

    Burgett, a senior who is double majoring in astrophysics and physics, said this real-world experience is huge, especially for the science majors on the team.

    “Especially on the physics side of things, this project helps you apply the theoretical aspects,” she explained. “Getting that hands-on experience and practical use is something I find very beneficial.”

    Burgett joined the team as a freshman and started off working on the satellite’s x-ray detector, doing a large amount of data analysis and coding.

    “That was huge for me because I never would have seen it anywhere else in my major,” she said. “I got a nice head start in electrical hardware and signal processing.”

    Space for all

    While a multitude of students have worked on SOCRATES over the years, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities’ Small Satellite Research Group currently consists of over 30 students from a wide range of science and engineering majors.

    “We kind of take people from all different majors in STEM and ask, ‘What is it you want to do?’” Burgett said. “We try to help teach them, and a lot of times you get people that are really motivated and will learn those things and help bring the project forward.”

    The Small Satellite Project team comprises over 30 students from a wide range of majors in CSE.

    Aerospace engineering and physics remain bases for the satellite projects, but the team houses every type of student from electrical engineers to math majors. According to Burgett and Houser, this blend of science and engineering is crucial, and communication between the fields is even more important.

    “Having that communication about science and engineering helps the project itself but it also helps everybody get a better product,” Houser said. “It allows the people who make the things and the people who use the things to work together better.”

    For example, while scientists may value data collection more, engineers may value the more technical and hardware aspects of the project. But, Houser said finding a balance between the two is what informs higher quality projects.

    Burgett added that a marriage between theoretical and applied science is exactly what employers are looking for in industry.

    “Bridging that gap between science and engineering is huge,” she said. “When you come from two different learning backgrounds, you think about problems differently.”

    “Having those different mindsets is really beneficial, because then you get to attack the problem at different angles,” Burgett said.

    Shoot for the moon—or the ISS

    Beyond the work itself, Burgett and Houser agree that there’s a necessary “cool” factor that accompanies working with NASA and having a piece of metal with your name on it floating around in space.

    “I’m basically jumping up and down inside all the time,” Burgett said. “I’ll just be sitting around somewhere and think, ‘You know what? That thing I worked on for years is going to be up in space soon.’ It’s unreal.”

    Houser said that regardless of whether the SOCRATES missions are successful, he still views the launch as a huge achievement for the University’s Small Satellite Project.

    “This team is full of very dedicated students from a bunch of different disciplines,” he said.

    “There’s no way that only two people do this,” Housers said. “The lab is the team, and we do a very great job at what we’re trying to accomplish. The amount of people that have cycled through our lab and done great work is incredible.”

    Burgett added that their process is one of constant improvement.

    The University of Minnesota Twin Cities’ Small Satellite Research Group already has two other CubeSats in the pipeline, EXACT (Experiment for X-ray Characterization and Timing) and IMPRESS (Impulsive Phase Rapid Energetic Solar Spectrometer), slated to launch in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

    “All of us here are very excited and very proud of SOCRATES,” she said. “We’ve learned so many lessons from this experience, and all of that experience is going to be put back into this lab. We’re already taking lessons we’ve learned and applying them to the new satellites we’re starting to work on.”

    SOCRATES is flying to the International Space Station with NASA’s Cygnus NG-12 mission. Visit NASA’s mission status website to stay updated on the launch.

    If students are interested in joining the Small Satellite Research Group, they can contact the team at smallsat@umn.edu.

    See the full article here .


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    The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (often referred to as the U of M, UMN, Minnesota, or simply the U) is a public research university in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, MN. The Twin Cities campus comprises locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) apart, and the St. Paul location is in neighboring Falcon Heights. The Twin Cities campus is the oldest and largest in the University of Minnesota system and has the sixth-largest main campus student body in the United States, with 51,327 students in 2019-20. It is the flagship institution of the University of Minnesota System, and is organized into 19 colleges, schools, and other major academic units.

    The University was included in a list of Public Ivy universities in 2001. Legislation passed in 1851 to develop the university, and the first college classes were held in 1867. The university is categorized as a Doctoral University – Highest Research Activity (R1) in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Minnesota is a member of the Association of American Universities and is ranked 14th in research activity, with $881 million in research and development expenditures in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015.

    University of Minnesota faculty, alumni, and researchers have won 26 Nobel Prizes and three Pulitzer Prizes. Notable University of Minnesota alumni include two vice presidents of the United States, Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale.

  • richardmitnick 8:37 am on May 14, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Quantum world-first: researchers can now tell how accurate two-qubit calculations in silicon really are", ...you can only tap into the tremendous power of quantum computing if the qubit operations are near perfect with only tiny errors allowed” Dr Yang says., , “Fidelity is a critical parameter which determines how viable a qubit technology is..., Electrical Engineering, , The researchers say the study is further proof that silicon as a technology platform is ideal for scaling up to the large numbers of qubits needed for universal quantum computing., Two-qubit gate,   

    From University of New South Wales: “Quantum world-first: researchers can now tell how accurate two-qubit calculations in silicon really are” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales – Sidney

    14 May 2019

    Isabelle Dubach
    Media and Content Manager
    +61 2 9385 7307, 0432 307 244

    Scientia Professor Andrew Dzurak
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    After being the first team to create a two-qubit gate in silicon in 2015, UNSW Sydney engineers are breaking new ground again: they have measured the accuracy of silicon two-qubit operations for the first time – and their results confirm the promise of silicon for quantum computing.

    Wister Huang, a final-year PhD student in Electrical Engineering; Professor Andrew Dzurak; and Dr Henry Yang, a senior research fellow.

    For the first time ever, researchers have measured the fidelity – that is, the accuracy – of two-qubit logic operations in silicon, with highly promising results that will enable scaling up to a full-scale quantum processor.

    The research, carried out by Professor Andrew Dzurak’s team in UNSW Engineering, was published today in the world-renowned journal Nature.

    The experiments were performed by Wister Huang, a final-year PhD student in Electrical Engineering, and Dr Henry Yang, a senior research fellow at UNSW.

    “All quantum computations can be made up of one-qubit operations and two-qubit operations – they’re the central building blocks of quantum computing,” says Professor Dzurak.

    “Once you’ve got those, you can perform any computation you want – but the accuracy of both operations needs to be very high.”

    In 2015 Dzurak’s team was the first to build a quantum logic gate in silicon, making calculations between two qubits of information possible – and thereby clearing a crucial hurdle to making silicon quantum computers a reality.

    A number of groups around the world have since demonstrated two-qubit gates in silicon – but until this landmark paper today, the true accuracy of such a two-qubit gate was unknown.

    Accuracy crucial for quantum success

    “Fidelity is a critical parameter which determines how viable a qubit technology is – you can only tap into the tremendous power of quantum computing if the qubit operations are near perfect, with only tiny errors allowed,” Dr Yang says.

    In this study, the team implemented and performed Clifford-based fidelity benchmarking – a technique that can assess qubit accuracy across all technology platforms – demonstrating an average two-qubit gate fidelity of 98%.

    “We achieved such a high fidelity by characterising and mitigating primary error sources, thus improving gate fidelities to the point where randomised benchmarking sequences of significant length – more than 50 gate operations – could be performed on our two-qubit device,” says Mr Huang, the lead author on the paper.

    Quantum computers will have a wide range of important applications in the future thanks to their ability to perform far more complex calculations at much greater speeds, including solving problems that are simply beyond the ability of today’s computers.

    “But for most of those important applications, millions of qubits will be needed, and you’re going to have to correct quantum errors, even when they’re small,” Professor Dzurak says.

    “For error correction to be possible, the qubits themselves have to be very accurate in the first place – so it’s crucial to assess their fidelity.”

    “The more accurate your qubits, the fewer you need – and therefore, the sooner we can ramp up the engineering and manufacturing to realise a full-scale quantum computer.”

    Silicon confirmed as the way to go.

    The researchers say the study is further proof that silicon as a technology platform is ideal for scaling up to the large numbers of qubits needed for universal quantum computing. Given that silicon has been at the heart of the global computer industry for almost 60 years, its properties are already well understood and existing silicon chip production facilities can readily adapt to the technology.

    “If our fidelity value had been too low, it would have meant serious problems for the future of silicon quantum computing. The fact that it is near 99% puts it in the ballpark we need, and there are excellent prospects for further improvement. Our results immediately show, as we predicted, that silicon is a viable platform for full-scale quantum computing,” Professor Dzurak says.

    “We think that we’ll achieve significantly higher fidelities in the near future, opening the path to full-scale, fault-tolerant quantum computation. We’re now on the verge of a two-qubit accuracy that’s high enough for quantum error correction.”

    In another paper – recently published in Nature Electronics and featured on its cover – on which Dr Yang is lead author, the same team also achieved the record for the world’s most accurate 1-qubit gate in a silicon quantum dot, with a remarkable fidelity of 99.96%.


    “Besides the natural advantages of silicon qubits, one key reason we’ve been able to achieve such impressive results is because of the fantastic team we have here at UNSW. My student Wister and Dr Yang are both incredibly talented. They personally conceived the complex protocols required for this benchmarking experiment,” says Professor Dzurak.

    Other authors on today’s Nature paper are UNSW researchers Tuomo Tanttu, Ross Leon, Fay Hudson, Andrea Morello and Arne Laucht, as well as former Dzurak team members Kok Wai Chan, Bas Hensen, Michael Fogarty and Jason Hwang, while Professor Kohei Itoh from Japan’s Keio University provided isotopically enriched silicon wafers for the project.

    UNSW Dean of Engineering, Professor Mark Hoffman, says the breakthrough is yet another piece of proof that this world-leading team are in the process of taking quantum computing across the threshold from the theoretical to the real.

    “Quantum computing is this century’s space race – and Sydney is leading the charge,” Professor Hoffman says.

    “This milestone is another step towards realising a large-scale quantum computer – and it reinforces the fact that silicon is an extremely attractive approach that we believe will get UNSW there first.”

    Spin qubits based on silicon CMOS technology – the specific method developed by Professor Dzurak’s group – hold great promise for quantum computing because of their long coherence times and the potential to leverage existing integrated circuit technology to manufacture the large numbers of qubits needed for practical applications.

    Professor Dzurak leads a project to advance silicon CMOS qubit technology with Silicon Quantum Computing, Australia’s first quantum computing company.

    “Our latest result brings us closer to commercialising this technology – my group is all about building a quantum chip that can be used for real-world applications,” Professor Dzurak says.

    The silicon qubit device that was used in this study was fabricated entirely at UNSW using a novel silicon-CMOS process line, high-resolution patterning systems, and supporting nanofabrication equipment that are made available by ANFF-NSW.

    A full-scale quantum processor would have major applications in the finance, security and healthcare sectors – it would help identify and develop new medicines by greatly accelerating the computer-aided design of pharmaceutical compounds, it could contribute to developing new, lighter and stronger materials spanning consumer electronics to aircraft, and faster information searching through large databases.

    See the full article here .


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    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

  • richardmitnick 7:00 pm on March 21, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A Swiss cheese-like material’ that can solve equations", , , Electrical Engineering, ,   

    From University of Pennsylvania: “A Swiss cheese-like material’ that can solve equations” 

    U Penn bloc

    From University of Pennsylvania

    March 21, 2019


    Evan Lerner, Gwyneth K. Shaw Media Contacts
    Eric Sucar Photographer

    Engineering professor Nader Engheta and his team have demonstrated a metamaterial device that can function as an analog computer, validating an earlier theory about ‘photonic calculus.’

    Nader Engheta (center), the H. Nedwill Ramsey Professor in the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering, and lab members Brian Edwards and Nasim Mohammadi Estakhri conducted the pathbreaking work in Engheta’s lab.

    The field of metamaterials involves designing complicated, composite structures, some of which can manipulate electromagnetic waves in ways that are impossible in naturally occurring materials.

    For Nader Engheta of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, one of the loftier goals in this field has been to design metamaterials that can solve equations. This “photonic calculus” would work by encoding parameters into the properties of an incoming electromagnetic wave and sending it through a metamaterial device; once inside, the device’s unique structure would manipulate the wave in such a way that it would exit encoded with the solution to a pre-set integral equation for that arbitrary input.

    In a paper published in Science, Engheta and his team demonstrated such a device for the first time.

    Their proof-of-concept experiment was conducted with microwaves, as the long wavelengths allowed for an easier-to-construct macro-scale device. The principles behind their findings, however, can be scaled down to light waves, eventually fitting onto a microchip.

    Such metamaterial devices would function as analog computers that operate with light, rather than electricity. They could solve integral equations—ubiquitous problems in every branch of science and engineering—orders of magnitude faster than their digital counterparts, while using less power.

    The demonstration device is 2-foot-square, made of a milled type of polystyrene plastic.

    Engheta, the H. Nedwill Ramsey Professor in the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering, conducted the study along with lab members Nasim Mohammadi Estakhri and Brian Edwards.

    This approach has its roots in analog computing. The first analog computers solved mathematical problems using physical elements, such as slide-rules and sets of gears, that were manipulated in precise ways to arrive at a solution. In the mid-20th century, electronic analog computers replaced the mechanical ones, with series of resistors, capacitors, inductors, and amplifiers replacing their predecessors’ clockworks.

    Such computers were state-of-the-art, as they could solve large tables of information all at once, but were limited to the class of problems they were pre-designed to handle. The advent of reconfigurable, programmable digital computers, starting with ENIAC, constructed at Penn in 1945, made them obsolete.

    As the field of metamaterials developed, Engheta and his team devised a way of bringing the concepts behind analog computing into the 21st century. Publishing a theoretical outline for “photonic calculus” in Science in 2014, they showed how a carefully designed metamaterial could perform mathematical operations on the profile of a wave passing thought it, such as finding its first or second derivative.

    Now, Engheta and his team have performed physical experiments validating this theory and expanding it to solve equations.

    “Our device contains a block of dielectric material that has a very specific distribution of air holes,” Engheta says. “Our team likes to call it ‘Swiss cheese.’”

    The Swiss cheese material is a kind of polystyrene plastic; its intricate shape is carved by a CNC milling machine.

    “Controlling the interactions of electromagnetic waves with this Swiss cheese metastructure is the key to solving the equation,” Estakhri says. “Once the system is properly assembled, what you get out of the system is the solution to an integral equation.”

    “This structure,” Edwards adds, “was calculated through a computational process known as ‘inverse design,’ which can be used to find shapes that no human would think of trying.”


    The pattern of hollow regions in the Swiss cheese is predetermined to solve an integral equation with a given “kernel,” the part of the equation that describes the relationship between two variables. This general class of such integral equations, known as “Fredholm integral equations of the second kind,” is a common way of describing different physical phenomena in a variety of scientific fields. The pre-set equation can be solved for any arbitrary inputs, which are represented by the phases and magnitudes of the waves that are introduced into the device.

    “For example,” Engheta says, “if you were trying to plan the acoustics of a concert hall, you could write an integral equation where the inputs represent the sources of the sound, such as the position of speakers or instruments, as well as how loudly they play. Other parts of the equation would represent the geometry of the room and the material its walls are made of. Solving that equation would give you the volume at different points in the concert hall.”

    In the integral equation that describes the relationship between sound sources, room shape and the volume at specific locations, the features of the room — the shape and material properties of its walls — can be represented by the equation’s kernel. This is the part the Penn Engineering researchers are able to represent in a physical way, through the precise arrangement of air holes in their metamaterial Swiss cheese.

    “Our system allows you to change the inputs that represent the locations of the sound sources by changing the properties of the wave you send into the system,” Engheta says, “but if you want to change the shape of the room, for example, you will have to make a new kernel.”

    The researchers conducted their experiment with microwaves; as such, their device was roughly two square feet, or about eight wavelengths wide and four wavelengths long.

    “Even at this proof-of-concept stage, our device is extremely fast compared to electronics,” Engheta says. “With microwaves, our analysis has shown that a solution can be obtained in hundreds of nanoseconds, and once we take it to optics the speed would be in picoseconds.”

    Scaling down the concept to the scale where it could operate on light waves and be placed on a microchip would not only make them more practical for computing, it would open the doors to other technologies that would enable them to be more like the multipurpose digital computers that first made analog computing obsolete decades ago.

    “We could use the technology behind rewritable CDs to make new Swiss cheese patterns as they’re needed,” Engheta says. “Some day you may be able to print your own reconfigurable analog computer at home!”

    Nader Engheta is the H. Nedwill Ramsey Professor in the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.

    The research was supported by the Basic Research Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering through its Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship program and by the Office of Naval Research through Grant N00014-16-1-2029.

    See the full article here .


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    Academic life at Penn is unparalleled, with 100 countries and every U.S. state represented in one of the Ivy League’s most diverse student bodies. Consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the country, Penn enrolls 10,000 undergraduate students and welcomes an additional 10,000 students to our world-renowned graduate and professional schools.

    Penn’s award-winning educators and scholars encourage students to pursue inquiry and discovery, follow their passions, and address the world’s most challenging problems through an interdisciplinary approach.

  • richardmitnick 2:10 pm on December 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Dongkeun Park: Winding his way to medical insights, Electrical Engineering, FBML-Francis Bitter Magnet Laboratory, High-field superconducting magnets are vital for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, , MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, , Nuclear magnetic resolution spectroscopy, , Research Engineer Dongkeun Park, The stronger the NMR magnet the greater the detail and resolution in imaging the molecular structure of proteins providing researchers with the information they may need to develop medications for com   

    From MIT: “Dongkeun Park: Winding his way to medical insights” 

    MIT News
    MIT Widget

    MIT News

    December 22, 2017
    Paul Rivenberg | Plasma Science and Fusion Center

    Francis Bitter Magnet Lab researcher continues a decades-long pursuit to create a revolutionary magnet for nuclear magnetic resolution spectroscopy.

    Research Engineer Dongkeun Park (right) and his colleague Juan Bascuñán wind a double-pancake coil with high-temperature superconductor. Photo: Paul Rivenberg/PSFC

    Assisted by postdoc Jiho Lee, Dongkeun Park inspects the wiring of a completed HTS coil in preparation for testing it in liquid helium. Photo: Paul Rivenberg/PSFC

    In the completed 1.3 GHz magnet, the three HTS coils (pink) that make up the H800 magnet are nested within the LTS coils composing the L500 (blue). Image courtesy of PSFC

    Research Engineer Phil Michael transfers liquid helium to the cryostat in preparation for testing the middle of the three HTS coils as Dongkeun Park looks on. Park and his colleagues expect to test the three-coil assembled H800 magnet in early in 2018. Photo: Paul Rivenberg/PSFC

    Research engineer Dongkeun Park watches a thin, coppery tape of high-temperature superconductor (HTS) wind its way from one spool on his plywood worktable to another, cautiously overseeing the speed and tension of the tape’s journey.

    When completed, in about half a day, this HTS double-pancake (DP) winding will look like two flat coils, one atop the other, but they will be one, connected internally, leaving both terminal ends on the outside. Park has been managing this process on and off for eight years, knowing that every turn of the coil creates a stronger magnet. This is just one of 96 double pancake coils that have been wound over the past five years for an 800 MHz HTS insert coil, the H800, being built in the Francis Bitter Magnet Laboratory (FBML) at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center.

    High-field superconducting magnets are vital for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, a technology that provides a unique insight into biological processes. The stronger the NMR magnet, the greater the detail and resolution in imaging the molecular structure of proteins, providing researchers with the information they may need to develop medications for combating disease.

    Park joined the laboratory as a postdoc in 2009. He traces his interest in superconductivity, and MIT, to a lecture given by visiting FBML magnetic technology division head Yuki Iwasa at Yongsei University in Seoul, South Korea. Park says that as a graduate student in electrical engineering, “I wanted to make something by hand, not only by calculation.”

    When Park first arrived at FBML, the lab had been working on high-resolution HTS-based NMR magnets since 1999 as part of a program sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to complete a 1-GHz NMR magnet with a combination of low temperature superconductor (LTS) and HTS double-pancake insert coils. The lab’s work on LTS-based NMR began several decades earlier.

    At the time of his arrival, NIH and MIT had recently agreed to increase the target strength of the magnet being developed from 1 GHz to 1.3 GHz. To reach this strength, FBML planned to create an H600 magnet and nest it inside a 700 MHz LTS (L700) magnet, which could be purchased elsewhere. Park notes that this combination translates to a magnetic field strength of 30.5 Tesla, “which would make it the world’s strongest magnet for NMR applications.”

    One responsibility given to Park, along with his colleague research engineer Juan Bascuñán, was to wind each DP, then test it in liquid nitrogen. The DPs would then be stacked, compressed, joined together and retested as a finished coil. Finally, this stacked coil would be over-banded with layers of stainless steel tape to support the much larger electromagnetic forces generated during high-current operation in liquid helium. Park and his colleagues needed to create two of these coils, one slightly larger than the other, and nest them inside a series of LTS coils to create the final magnet. The combined coils would create a magnet that could provide the sharpest imaging yet for investigating protein structure, possibly three times the image resolution from FBML’s current 900-MHz NMR.

    In December 2011, Park and his colleagues had virtually finished the preliminary DP windings, and were looking forward to stacking them for further testing. But returning from MIT’s winter recess, they discovered that the coils were missing. The 112 double pancake coils they had carefully crafted and wound for the H600 had been stolen.

    Park’s current PSFC colleague, research scientist Phil Michael, suggests that the theft, though traumatic to the project, “ultimately made the magnet better.” To save money, MIT and NIH decided that instead of purchasing an L700 magnet to surround the H600 coils as originally planned, they could use an L500 coil already on hand at FBML, and create for it a higher strength HTS magnet: the H800.

    With new security measures in place, Iwasa’s group set out to accomplish this goal by adopting a new HTS magnet technology known as no-insulation winding, developed by Park along with former FBML research engineer Seungyong Hahn. All previous coils had been created from HTS tape insulated with plastic film or high resistive metal. The new coils would be made without the insulation, allowing them to become more compact and mechanically robust, with increased current density.

    Park did not take part in the early production of the H800. In February of 2012, he decided to pursue an opportunity to make a new commercial magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) magnet for Samsung Electronics in South Korea and the UK. In 2016 he happily returned to MIT as a research engineer, his hiatus having provided him an appreciation for the benefits of an academic environment.

    “A company’s objective is to make a profit. So you must always be concerned with reducing costs,” he says. “This is very different from exploring basic science and engineering on innovative ideas at MIT.”

    Although many coils for the H800 had been wound in his absence, he returned in time to complete and test more than half the required DP coils, along with team members Bascuñán, Phil Michael, Jiho Lee, Yoonhyuck Choi, and Yi Li. As 2018 approaches the three HTS coils necessary to create the H800 are nearly completed. Only Coil 3 remains to be finally tested in liquid helium. As the new year begins, the coils will be combined and tested as the H800.

    But even after the H800 is nested in the L500 coils and the target 1.3 GHz magnet is created, there will still be three to four years of work to ready it for the high-resolution NMR spectroscopy that will provide new insights into biological structures. Until then, Park will remain patient as he looks to other projects he is overseeing, including one developing an MRI magnet for screening osteoporosis.

    And yes, his new project requires superconducting coils. Park is always ready to start winding.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 3:28 pm on August 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Electrical Engineering, ,   

    From Princeton: “Laser device may end pin pricks, improve quality of life for diabetics” 

    Princeton University
    Princeton University

    August 20, 2014
    John Sullivan, Office of Engineering Communications

    Princeton University researchers have developed a way to use a laser to measure people’s blood sugar, and, with more work to shrink the laser system to a portable size, the technique could allow diabetics to check their condition without pricking themselves to draw blood.

    “We are working hard to turn engineering solutions into useful tools for people to use in their daily lives,” said Claire Gmachl, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering and the project’s senior researcher. “With this work we hope to improve the lives of many diabetes sufferers who depend on frequent blood glucose monitoring.”

    In an article published June 23 in the journal Biomedical Optics Express, the researchers describe how they measured blood sugar by directing their specialized laser at a person’s palm. The laser passes through the skin cells, without causing damage, and is partially absorbed by the sugar molecules in the patient’s body. The researchers use the amount of absorption to measure the level of blood sugar.

    Sabbir Liakat, the paper’s lead author, said the team was pleasantly surprised at the accuracy of the method. Glucose monitors are required to produce a blood-sugar reading within 20 percent of the patient’s actual level; even an early version of the system met that standard. The current version is 84 percent accurate, Liakat said.

    “It works now but we are still trying to improve it,” said Liakat, a graduate student in electrical engineering.

    A new system developed by Princeton researchers uses a laser to allow diabetics to check their blood sugar without pricking their skin. Members of the research team included, from left, Sabbir Liakat, a graduate student in electrical engineering; Claire Gmachl, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering; and Kevin Bors, who graduated in 2013 with a degree in electrical engineering. (Photos by Frank Wojciechowski for the Office of Engineering Communications)

    When the team first started, the laser was an experimental setup that filled up a moderate-sized workbench. It also needed an elaborate cooling system to work. Gmachl said the researchers have solved the cooling problem, so the laser works at room temperature. The next step is to shrink it.

    “This summer, we are working to get the system on a mobile platform to take it places such as clinics to get more measurements,” Liakat said. “We are looking for a larger dataset of measurements to work with.”

    The key to the system is the infrared laser’s frequency. What our eyes perceive as color is created by light’s frequency (the number of light waves that pass a point in a certain time). Red is the lowest frequency of light that humans normally can see, and infrared’s frequency is below that level. Current medical devices often use the “near-infrared,” which is just beyond what the eye can see. This frequency is not blocked by water, so it can be used in the body, which is largely made up of water. But it does interact with many acids and chemicals in the skin, so it makes it impractical to use for detecting blood sugar.

    Mid-infrared light, however, is not as much affected by these other chemicals, so it works well for blood sugar. But mid-infrared light is difficult to harness with standard lasers. It also requires relatively high power and stability to penetrate the skin and scatter off bodily fluid. (The target is not the blood but fluid called dermal interstitial fluid, which has a strong correlation with blood sugar.)

    The breakthrough came from the use of a new type of device that is particularly adept at producing mid-infrared frequencies — a quantum cascade laser.

    The new monitor uses a laser, instead of blood sample, to read blood sugar levels. The laser is directed at the person’s palm, passes through skin cells and is partially absorbed by sugar molecules, allowing researchers to calculate the level of blood sugar.

    In many lasers, the frequency of the beam depends on the material that makes up the laser — a helium-neon laser, for example, produces a certain frequency band of light. But in a quantum cascade laser, in which electrons pass through a “cascade” of semiconductor layers, the beam can be set to one of a number of different frequencies. The ability to specify the frequency allowed the researchers to produce a laser in the mid-infrared region. Recent improvements in quantum cascade lasers also provided for increased power and stability needed to penetrate the skin.

    To conduct their experiment, the researchers used the laser to measure the blood sugar of three healthy people before and after they each ate 20 jellybeans, which raise blood sugar levels. The researchers also checked the measurements with a finger-prick test. They conducted the measurements repeatedly over several weeks.

    The researchers said their results indicated that the laser measurements readings produced average errors somewhat larger than the standard blood sugar monitors, but remained within the clinical requirement for accuracy.

    “Because the quantum cascade laser can be designed to emit light across a very wide wavelength range, its usability is not just for glucose detection, but could conceivably be used for other medical sensing and monitoring applications,” Gmachl said.

    Besides Liakat and Gmachl, researchers included Kevin Bors, Class of 2013, Laura Xu, Class of 2015, and Callie Woods, Class of 2014, who worked on the project as undergraduate students majoring in electrical engineering; and Jessica Doyle, a teacher at Hunterdon Regional Central High School.

    Support for the research was provided in part by the Wendy and Eric Schmidt Foundation, the National Science Foundation, Daylight Solutions Inc., and Opto-Knowledge Systems. The research involving human subjects was conducted according to regulations set by the Princeton University Institutional Review Board.

    See the full article here.

    About Princeton: Overview

    Princeton University is a vibrant community of scholarship and learning that stands in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations. Chartered in 1746, Princeton is the fourth-oldest college in the United States. Princeton is an independent, coeducational, nondenominational institution that provides undergraduate and graduate instruction in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering.

    As a world-renowned research university, Princeton seeks to achieve the highest levels of distinction in the discovery and transmission of knowledge and understanding. At the same time, Princeton is distinctive among research universities in its commitment to undergraduate teaching.

    Today, more than 1,100 faculty members instruct approximately 5,200 undergraduate students and 2,600 graduate students. The University’s generous financial aid program ensures that talented students from all economic backgrounds can afford a Princeton education.

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