What’s New in Tech Dec 12, 22
1) Electronic Second Skins Are the Wearables of the Future
The skin is the largest organ in our body, and also the most complex. Peer at it under a microscope and you’ll see thousands of nerve endings that keep the brain connected to the outside world and allow us to feel touch, pressure, and pain. Flexible e-skins could be used to measure wearers’ blood pressure, temperature, and oxygen levels in real time, assisting with diagnoses and health care.
There is an emerging field of electronic skin and has made it her mission to recreate the many functions of human skin for use in prosthetics and robotics. For people who wear artificial limbs, a sense of touch would immeasurably improve their quality of life—enabling them to distinguish soft from hard and to notice the dangerously sharp or the scaldingly hot before they can do any damage.
(2) Dutch use Bitcoin mining to grow tulips
AMSTERDAM – Tulips and Bitcoin have both been associated with financial bubbles in their time, but in a giant greenhouse near Amsterdam the Dutch are trying to make them work together.
As Bitcoin miners as they perform complex sums to earn cryptocurrency, filling the air with a noisy whine along with a blast of warmth. That warmth is now heating the hothouse where rows of tulips grow, cutting the farmers’ reliance on gas whose price has soared since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Bitcoin mining servers in turn are powered by solar energy from the roof, reducing the normally huge electricity costs for mining, and cutting the impact on the environment.
The Netherlands’ love of tulips caused the first stock market crash in the 17th century when speculation bulb prices caused prices to soar, only to later collapse.
The operation is then selling tulips online for Bitcoin via a business called Bitcoinbloem.
Meanwhile, the philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who developed the idea of the unpredictable but historic “black swan” event, has compared Bitcoin to the “Tulipmania” that engulfed the Netherlands nearly 400 years ago. This saw prices for a single bulb rise to more than 100 times the average annual income at the time before the bubble burst in 1637, causing banks to fail and people to lose their life savings.
(3) Turns out coffee also makes semiconductors work faster too
An ingredient that naturally occurs in coffee may be able to make semiconductors run faster according to research from the Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) institute in Japan. The researchers formed a thin layer of caffeic acid on a gold electrode within an organic semiconductor, via a process known as vacuum deposition. This was reportedly able to boost the semiconductor’s current flow by up to 100 times, measured via a process called the Kelvin probe method.
Though this won’t mean that you can spill coffee on your mobile workstation to get a boost to your rendering times, Japanese researchers believe this breakthrough could have some practical applications.
The researchers pointed towards the current implementation of electrode modification layers, which are used to expedite the flow of electric charges within semiconductors, highlighting how using these materials “may adversely affect aquatic organisms”. The use of caffeic acid, which can be derived entirely from plants, could lessen the need to use unsustainable chemicals in semiconductor production as per the researcher’s claims.
(4) US scientists achieve ‘holy grail’ net gain nuclear fusion reaction
US scientists have reportedly carried out the first nuclear fusion experiment to achieve a net energy gain, a major breakthrough in a field that has been pursuing such a result since the 1950s, and a potential milestone in the search for a climate-friendly, renewable energy source to replace fossil fuels. The experiment took place in recent weeks at the government-funded Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, where researchers used a process known as inertial confinement fusion.
The test involved bombarding a pellet of hydrogen plasma with the world’s largest laser to trigger a nuclear fusion reaction, the same process which takes place in the sun. Researchers were able to produce 2.5 megajoules of energy, 120 per cent of the 2.1 megajoules used to power the experiment. The scientific community is abuzz that a net gain fusion reaction has taken place, noting that US energy secretary Jennifer Granholm and US under-secretary for nuclear security Jill Hruby are set to make an announcement from the national laboratory on Tuesday.
“Scientists have struggled to show that fusion can release more energy out than is put in since the 1950s, and the researchers at Lawrence Livermore seem to have finally and absolutely smashed this decades-old goal. This experimental result will electrify efforts to eventually power the planet with nuclear fusion—at a time when we’ve never needed a plentiful source of carbon-free energy more!
(5) A nano-thin layer of gold could prevent fogged-up glasses
It can be more than a little frustrating when your glasses fog up — just ask anyone who has worn a face mask over the past two years of the pandemic. Nanotechnology might soon keep your vision clear, however. ETH Zurich researchers have developed a gold nanocoating that heats glass by up to 46F by absorbing a large amount of infrared radiation, keeping your glasses fog-free in many humid conditions. And unlike conventional approaches, which merely spread water around using hydrophilic molecules, this prevents the condensation from even starting. The 10nm thick coating sandwiches gold between layers of titanium oxide that not only amplify the heating effect through refraction, but protect the gold against wear. The design also won’t lead to overheating in warm weather as it prevents radiation from reaching the other side. ETH is keen to point out that it made the coating using techniques common to manufacturing, such as vacuum-based vapor deposition in a clean room. Companies might not have to revamp their production lines, in other words.
Before you ask: it’s not as expensive as you think. While gold is a pricey material, the amount needed is so small (it’s about 12 times thinner than a typical gold leaf) that it shouldn’t add much to the price of your glasses. Nonetheless, the team plans to study the use of other metals. You may still have to wait a while before finding gold-coated glasses at your local store. Although the discoverers have applied for a patent, there aren’t companies lined up to adopt the invention. It might not be limited to eyewear, thankfully. The research group sees the layer as useful for reducing fog on car windshields, and future implementations could be useful for mirrors, windows and many other transparent surfaces that need to stay warm.
(6) Viagra Lowers the Risk of Alzheimer’s By Almost 70%, Study Says
New research published in Nature suggests that Pfizer’s erectile dysfunction drug Viagra can decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 69%. The research found that the medication has a direct effect on brain health and significantly reduces the toxic proteins that can cause dementia. The study’s findings are so promising that the drug may someday be used to counter dementia. A new team of experts is preparing to conduct another study that builds on this data but tests the generic version of Viagra — sildenafil — in patients suffering from early Alzheimer’s. “Sildenafil, which has been shown to significantly improve cognition and memory in preclinical models, presented as the best drug candidate. Sildenafil may have neuroprotective effects and reduce levels of toxic tau proteins,”