Electronic Design

From The Labs

Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are investigating an advanced sensor developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The quantum-well infrared photodetector is part of a device called the BioScan System, developed by Omnicorder Technologies Inc. It detects and measures minute changes in the blood supply to cancerous lesions. Doctors can use it to determine if treatment is decreasing the blood flow to the cancer. Meanwhile, the sensor also will be used to examine the severity of radiation in the Van Allen radiation belt.

Sponsored in part by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the U.S. Air Force, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, the SPHERES Project is developing a high-resolution space telescope that surpasses the Hubble Telescope's performance. The program will string miniaturized spacecraft, dubbed Synchronized Position Hold Engage Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES), across the sky with specially outfitted mirrors. No more than the size of a volleyball each, the SPHERES have been successfully tested aboard NASA's KC-135 airplane. Once final testing has been completed, three satellites will fly inside the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS). One of their first missions will research parameters related to formation flying.

Virginia's recently opened "Smart Road" is being billed as the world's first all-weather facility for testing advanced transportation technologies. Designed to carry out research to make highways safer, the 1.7-mile stretch of two-lane road is outfitted with electronic sensors and video cameras for tracking car and driver performance under varying driving conditions. Weather towers along the road can generate rain, snow, or ice. A lighting system simulates various lighting conditions. Financed by the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, and operated by Virginia Tech's Transportation Institute, the facility will examine concepts like adaptive cruise control. Technologies tested here are expected to be commercially available within five or six years.

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have crafted a 7-qubit (quantum bits) computer within a single drop of liquid through nuclear magnetic resonance techniques. Quantum computers can use these methods to manipulate particles in the atomic nuclei of molecules of transcrotonic acid. These molecules consist of six hydrogen and four carbon atoms. Like tiny bar magnets, the particles spin in a magnetic field that can be "lined up" by applying an electromagnetic pulse from the nuclear magnetic resonance device. Positioning the particles either parallel or counter to the magnetic field permits the computer to mimic the information encoding of bits into zeroes and ones. A 30-qubit quantum computer—equal to a conventional computer running at 10 teraops—may be possible within five years.

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