Tag Archives: power

CompuLab upgrades compact fanless PC designed for harsh industrial use

No moving parts, no maintenance: The Airtop2 fanless PC from CompuLab

Israel’s CompuLab packed a lot of computer power into a compact frame when it released the first Airtop fanless computer back in 2016. Now the company has unveiled the second generation, the Airtop2, that can be had with Intel’s latest Xeon processor, powerful discrete graphics and up to 64 GB of system memory. And it’s designed to work in extreme temperatures.

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Category: Computers


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Catalina tiny house offers flexibility and off-grid freedom

The Catalina is wrapped in board and batten or lap siding, with knotty cedar tongue and ...

The flagship model of Gresham, Oregon-based Tiny Innovations is called the Catalina. The towable dwelling is offered in three different sizes and its layout can be tweaked to suit, including the number of bedrooms required. The tiny house can also run off-the-grid with an optional solar power setup.

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Category: Tiny Houses


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Lesser-known relative of the laser could leave the lab soon

Researchers may have found a way to solve the weakness of a type of light source similar to lasers. The alternative light source could lead to smaller, lower-cost, and more efficient sources of light pulses.

“Sometimes you completely reshape your understanding of systems you think you know…”

Although critical for varied applications, such as cutting and welding, surgery and transmitting bits through optical fiber, lasers have some limitations—namely, they only produce light in limited wavelength ranges.

Now, researchers have modified similar light sources, called optical parametric oscillators, to overcome this obstacle.

Until now, these lesser-known light sources have been mostly confined to the lab because their setup leaves little room for error—even a minor jostle could knock one out of alignment.

Their work, which appears in Physical Review Letters, demonstrates a new way to produce femtosecond pulses—pulses measured by quadrillionths of a second—in desirable wavelength ranges using this light source. The technology could potentially lead to better detection of pollutants and diseases by merely scanning the air or someone’s breath.

Turning knobs

The light source these researchers study consists of an initial step where pulses of light from a traditional laser are passed through a special crystal and converted into a wavelength range that’s difficult to access with conventional lasers. Then, a series of mirrors bounce the light pulses around in a feedback loop. When this feedback loop is synchronized to the incoming laser pulses, the newly converted pulses combine to form an increasingly strong output.

Traditionally, people could not convert much of the initial light pulses into the desired output with such a contraption. But to be effective in real-world applications, the group had to bump up that percentage.

“We needed higher conversion efficiency to prove it was a source worth studying,” says Alireza Marandi, a staff member in the Ginzton Lab at Stanford University. “So we just say, ‘OK, what are the knobs we have in the lab?’ We turned one that made the mirrors reflect less light, which was against the standard guidelines, and the conversion efficiency doubled.” The researchers published their initial experimental results two years ago in Optica.

Cranking up the power in a conventional design usually results in two undesirable outcomes: The pulses lengthen and the conversion efficiency drops. But in the new design, where the researchers significantly decreased the reflectivity of their mirrors, the opposite occurred.

“We were thinking about this regime based on the standard design guidelines, but the behavior we would see in the lab was different,” says Marc Jankowski, lead author of the paper and a graduate student in the Ginzton Lab. “We were seeing an improvement in performance, and we couldn’t explain it.”

In the palm of a hand

After more simulations and lab experiments, the group found that the key was not just making the mirrors less reflective but also lengthening the feedback loop. This lengthened the time it took for the light pulses to complete their loop and should have slowed them too much. But the lower reflectivity, combined with the time delay, caused the pulses to interact in unexpected ways, which pulled them back into synchronization with their incoming partners.

X-ray laser turns molecule into tiny ‘black hole’

This unanticipated synchronization more than doubled the bandwidth of the output, which means it can emit a broader span of wavelengths within the range that is difficult to access with conventional lasers. For applications like detecting molecules in the air or in a person’s breath, light sources with greater bandwidth can resolve more distinct molecules. In principle, the pulses this system produces could be compressed to as short as 18 femtoseconds, which can be used to study the behavior of molecules.

The decision to reduce the mirror reflectivity had the surprising consequence of making a formerly persnickety device more robust, more efficient, and better at producing ultra-short light pulses in wavelength ranges that are difficult to access with traditional lasers.

The next challenge is designing the device to fit in the palm of a hand.

“You talk with people who have worked with this technology for the past 50 years and they are very skeptical about its real-life applications because they think of these resonators as a very high-finesse arrangement that is hard to align and requires a lot of upkeep,” says Marandi, who is also coauthor of the paper. “But in this regime of operation these requirements are super-relaxed, and the source is super-reliable and doesn’t need the extensive care required by standard systems.”

This newfound design flexibility makes it easier to miniaturize such systems onto a chip, which could lead to many new applications for detecting molecules and remote sensing.

“Sometimes you completely reshape your understanding of systems you think you know,” Jankowski says. “That changes how you interact with them, how you build them, how you design them, and how useful they are. We’ve worked on these sources for years and now we’ve gotten some clues that will really help bring them out of the lab and into the world.”

Laser turns water into alien ice in nanoseconds

Additional coauthors of the paper are from Stanford University, ETH Zurich, and the US Military Academy at West Point.

The US Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation funded the research.

Source: Stanford University

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Digitized worm brain learns a new trick

C. elegans is a worm whose simple brain has been digitized as a basic neural network, ...

The human brain is an absolute beast of a computer, running on the processing power of 100 billion neurons. Emulating that system could supercharge our supercomputers, but before we can hit those heights we’ll need to start with something a little more simple. And they don’t come simpler than C. elegans, a worm whose basic brain of only 302 neurons has been digitized. Now researchers have taught this virtual worm a new trick, without writing a single line of code.

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Category: Science


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No hills required for this DIY electric air sled

Peter Sripol slippin' and slidin' on his DIY electric air sled

It’s winter in Beaver Creek, Ohio, at the moment, and sub-zero temperatures mean liberal amounts of ice and snow. Kids may be heading for the hills for some sledding fun, but serial tinkerer Peter Sripol can aim for the flats with an electric sled that motors along using a propeller taken from his DIY electric aircraft.

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Category: Outdoors


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Sanitation boosts health, not stunted growth for Bangladeshi kids

Children born into housing compounds with improvements in drinking water quality, sanitation, and handwashing infrastructure were not measurably taller after two years compared to those born into compounds with more contamination, a new study suggests.

Although children who received the interventions were significantly healthier overall, and despite mounting research over the last decade linking poor sanitation to stunted growth in children, sanitation improvements seemingly did nothing to improve growth and development.

The WASH Benefits Bangladesh trial is one of the first to examine what are known as water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions as a way of improving children’s growth in low-income communities.

How well a child grows in the first year can indicate overall well-being and is linked to both survival and brain development. Interventions were proposed as a way of improving child growth and are being implemented in many communities around the world, but haven’t been rigorously tested.

“Part of what we learned is that this problem of stunting is not going to be easily fixed by a little bit of attention to water, sanitation, and hygiene,” says Stephen Luby, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases and geographic medicine at Stanford University.

“Modest efforts to marginally improve environments are not going to be sufficient. If we want children in the lowest-income, most resource-constrained environments to thrive, we’re going to need to make their environments radically cleaner.”

Children in the Bangladesh trial who received nutritional supplements in addition to WASH interventions did grow taller and were less likely to die during the study—but WASH interventions alone didn’t improve growth.

Researchers examined the health and growth of children from over 5,000 pregnant women in rural Bangladesh after two years. The mothers were grouped according to geographic clusters and randomly assigned to one of six interventions or a control group.

“…these interventions, even with high uptake, likely didn’t clean the environment enough to impact child growth…”

The six interventions included: integration of chlorinated drinking water; upgraded sanitation facilities; promotion of handwashing; a combination of chlorinated drinking water, upgraded sanitation, and handwashing promotion (WASH) efforts; nutritional supplements; or WASH and nutritional supplements.

After two years, nearly all the interventions reduced diarrhea. Although expected, the result is important because it suggests that families did adhere to the interventions. It also creates hope that WASH interventions could beat back one of the greatest killers of children globally—the World Health Organization estimates 361,000 children younger than 5 years of age die as a result of diarrhea each year.

Of all the interventions, providing nutritional supplements in addition to combined water, sanitation, and handwashing interventions had the greatest effect on curbing mortality, in addition to improving growth. Children receiving this intervention were 38 percent less likely to die compared to children in the control group.

‘Clean’ drinking water in Bangladesh is often unsafe

Past research showed that WASH strategies are effective at reducing diarrhea and improving child health, Luby says, but evidence of the impact of these strategies on child growth and development has been sparse.

In response to this lack of data, Luby began laying the groundwork for the current study more than a decade ago. One of his concerns was ensuring the group developed a rigorous and transparent trial design that included close community partnerships and innovative ways of encouraging village residents to adopt new behaviors. Unless most people in the community adopted the interventions, the results wouldn’t be conclusive.

With the large number of children in the study, good adoption of the interventions, and careful design, the study had the statistical power to detect small effects, so Luby was able to note the absence of growth improvement with WASH interventions was genuine.

“We developed an intervention that the community really liked and were able to achieve really high uptake,” says Luby, who is also director of research for Stanford Global Health. “What this tells us is that these interventions, even with high uptake, likely didn’t clean the environment enough to impact child growth. This is a disappointment, but it also helps to provide direction as a way forward.”

Prenatal lipids boost health of babies in Bangladesh

While a great amount of knowledge has been gained from the primary outcomes data, Luby and his team are continuing to analyze the broader range of health benefits that could have resulted from these successfully integrated WASH strategies, including the impact on bacterial, parasitic, and viral infections, anemia and nutritional biomarkers, and child cognitive development.

Scientists from the University of California, Berkeley; Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; the University of California, Davis; Emory University; the University at Buffalo and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Dhaka, Bangladesh are coauthors of the study, which appears in The Lancet Global Health.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supported the work.

Source: Stanford University

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What Does Amazon Owe Its Second Headquarters City?

Taxes are only part of the story.

Amazon recently announced its 20 finalists for the company’s huge second North American headquarters. My city, New Orleans, failed to make the cut (thank god: the retailer’s arrival would have decimated the local culture and led to a mass exodus of poor and working-class residents), but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The state of Louisiana offered a $6.56 billion package of tax breaks, spread out over 20 years. It’s almost certain the winning proposal will be even more generous. That’s precisely the purpose of this exercise: to leverage the best possible deal, using a very public competition, drawn out for months, creating maximum public relations impact. While undeniably intriguing, there is still something unseemly about the power imbalance. It’s a one-sided mating ritual, an arranged marriage, with Amazon playing the role of the rich and overbearing husband, extorting dowry offers from multiple suitors, all of whom he’s already richer than.

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Dubai to build world's largest waste-to-energy plant

A rendering of the world's largest waste-to-energy plant, which is proposed to be built in Dubai ...

What do you do when you have too much garbage but not enough energy? Convert one into the other. That’s the thinking behind the waste-to-energy plants that are beginning to pop up around the globe, and now the Government of Dubai has announced plans to build the world’s largest.

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Category: Energy


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The Real Story Behind The Crazy Watch Tony Fadell Helped Invent

No other watch has the same photocells that power orbital satellites–and an origin story intertwined with Fadell’s own forgotten experiments in creating a pocketable MP3 player.

Benoit Mintiens was 12 years into his industrial design career when his friend, a diamond dealer, came to him with an unusual problem. The friend had too many diamonds—small, low-quality gems that no one wanted to buy. So he asked Mintiens to design something that would make use of them. It’s rare for any designer to get such a blue-sky commission, and Mintiens took it in stride, eventually designing a watch that would display the time as light refracted through a matrix of tiny diamonds. Bold as the idea was, Mintiens’ friend eventually flitted to other projects and the watch was never realized. But Mintiens had caught a bug. He was now obsessed with designing a wristwatch that he would want to wear.

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