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Scaling up semiconductors: A new processor provides a significant increase in problem-solving speed

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Annealing processors were specifically made to deal with combinatorial optimization problems, such as finding the best solution from a small set of possible outcomes. These findings have practical consequences for handling logistics, allocating resources, and identifying medications and commodities.

Within the realm of CMOS, a specific category of semiconductor technology, it is imperative that the constituent elements of annealing processors exhibit complete interconnection. Nevertheless, the intricacy of this interconnection has a direct impact on the scalability of the processors.

Professor Takayuki Kawahara from Tokyo University of Science has conducted a recent study in IEEE Access. The researchers have successfully created and evaluated a scalable processor that distributes the calculation across numerous LSI chips. On January 25, 2024, the idea was also showcased at the IEEE 22nd World Symposium on Applied Machine Intelligence and Informatics (SAMI 2024).

The goal, according to Professor Kawahara, is to develop sophisticated information processing capabilities at the edge rather than relying on cloud-based systems or performing preprocessing at the edge for cloud-based operations. It was possible to create a fully connected Large Scale Integration (LSI) on a single chip using 28nm CMOS technology with the aid of the distinctive processing architecture that the Tokyo University of Science introduced in 2020. Additionally, a scalable strategy made use of parallel-operating chips, and the use of Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) in 2022 demonstrated its viability.

The team created a scalable annealing processor. A total of 36 22nm CMOS calculation LSI (Large Scale Integration) processors and one control FPGA were employed in the system. This technological advancement facilitates the fabrication of extensive, interconnected semiconductor systems according to the Ising model, a mathematical framework for magnetic systems, encompassing a total of 4096 spins.

 

As Editor here at GeekReply, I'm a big fan of all things Geeky. Most of my contributions to the site are technology related, but I'm also a big fan of video games. My genres of choice include RPGs, MMOs, Grand Strategy, and Simulation. If I'm not chasing after the latest gear on my MMO of choice, I'm here at GeekReply reporting on the latest in Geek culture.

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Bionics

Highly efficient in energy usage and exceptionally precise – A novel frequency comb has been developed by researchers at Stanford University

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Researchers at Stanford University have introduced a novel frequency comb, a highly accurate measurement tool. This device exhibits distinctive characteristics such as its compact size, great energy efficiency, and remarkable accuracy. Through ongoing advancements, this revolutionary “microcomb,”  as outlined in a paper published in Nature, has the potential to serve as the foundation for widespread implementation of these devices in common electronic gadgets.

Frequency combs are laser devices designed to produce lines of light that are uniformly distributed, resembling the teeth of a comb or, more accurately, the tick marks on a ruler. Over the course of around 25 years, these “rulers for light” have brought about significant advancements in several fields of precise measurement, ranging from timekeeping to molecule detection through spectroscopy. However, due to the need for huge, expensive, and energy-intensive equipment, the usage of frequency combs has primarily been restricted to laboratory environments.

The researchers found a solution to these problems by combining two distinct methods for reducing the size of frequency combs onto a single, readily manufactured, microchip-style platform. The researchers anticipate a range of uses for their adaptable technology, including the development of sophisticated handheld medical diagnostic gadgets and the implementation of ubiquitous greenhouse gas monitoring sensors.

According to Hubert Stokowski, a postdoctoral scholar in the laboratory of Amir Safavi-Naeini and the primary author of the paper, the design of our frequency comb incorporates the most advantageous aspects of emerging microcomb technology within a single device. “Our new frequency microcomb has the potential to be scaled up for compact, low-power, and cost-effective devices that can be deployed in virtually any location.”

Safavi-Naeini, an associate professor in the Department of Applied Physics at Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences and senior author of the study, expressed great enthusiasm regarding the recently showcased microcomb technology. This technology has shown promise in developing innovative precision sensors that are compact and highly efficient, potentially suitable for integration into mobile devices in the future.

The process of manipulating light
An Integrated Frequency-Modulated Optical Parametric Oscillator, commonly referred to as FM-OPO, is a novel device.

The tool’s intricate nomenclature suggests that it integrates two methodologies for generating the spectrum of unique frequencies, or hues of light, that comprise a frequency comb. One approach, known as optical parametric oscillation, entails the reflection of laser light beams within a crystal medium, resulting in the formation of coherent and stable wave pulses. The second method uses laser light to enter a cavity, then modifies the phase of the light. This modulation is accomplished by applying radio-frequency signals to the device, resulting in the generation of frequency repetitions that function as light pulses.

The utilization of these two microcomb methods has been limited due to their inherent limitations. The aforementioned concerns encompass energy inefficiency, restricted capacity to modify optical parameters, and inferior comb “optical bandwidth” characterized by the gradual fading of comb-like lines as the distance from the comb’s center rises.

The researchers adopted a novel method to address the difficulty by focusing on a very promising optical circuit platform utilizing thin film lithium niobate as a material. The material possesses favorable characteristics in comparison to silicon, which is the prevailing material in the industry. Two advantageous characteristics of this material are its “nonlinearity,” which enables the interaction of light beams of different hues to produce new colors or wavelengths, and its ability to transmit a wide variety of light wavelengths.

The components of the new frequency comb were fabricated by the researchers through the utilization of integrated lithium niobate photonics. These technologies for controlling light are based on advancements made in the well-established field of silicon photonics, which focuses on the production of optical and electronic integrated circuits on silicon microchips. Both lithium niobate and silicon photonics have built upon the semiconductors used in traditional computer processors, which originated in the 1950s.

According to Safavi-Naeini, lithium niobate possesses distinct characteristics that are not present in silicon, rendering it indispensable for the fabrication of our microcomb device.

Remarkably exceptional performance
Subsequently, the researchers integrated components from optical parametric amplification and phase modulation methodologies. The researchers held specific performance expectations about the new frequency comb system on lithium niobate chips; nonetheless, the observed outcomes beyond their initial expectations.

In general, the comb generated a consistent output instead of brief pulses, allowing the researchers to decrease the necessary input power by roughly ten times. The device also produced a comb that was comfortably flat, indicating that the comb lines located further away from the center of the spectrum did not diminish in intensity. This characteristic enhances the accuracy and applicability of the device in many measurement applications.

Safavi-Naeini expressed astonishment at the comb’s unexpected nature. “Despite our initial intuition that we would observe comb-like behaviors, our intention was not to create a comb of this exact nature. It took us several months to create the simulations and theory that elucidated its primary characteristics.”

In order to get additional understanding of their surpassing device, the researchers sought the expertise of Martin Fejer, who holds the esteemed positions of J. G. Jackson and C. J. Wood Professor of Physics, as well as a professor of applied physics at Stanford University. Fejer, in collaboration with his colleagues at Stanford University, has made significant contributions to the advancement of contemporary thin film lithium niobate photonics technologies and the comprehension of the crystal characteristics of this material.

Fejer (year) established a significant correlation between the fundamental physical principles that underlie the microcomb and the concepts explored in scientific literature during the 1970s. This connection is particularly relevant to the ideas put forth by Stephen Harris, a retired professor of applied physics and electrical engineering at Stanford University.

With additional refinement, the novel microcombs may be easily produced at traditional microchip foundries and have numerous practical uses, including sensing, spectroscopy, medical diagnostics, fiber-optic communications, and wearable health-monitoring systems.

“Our microchip has the capability to be integrated into any device, and the overall size of the device is contingent upon the size of the battery,” stated Stokowski. “The technology we have showcased has the capability to be integrated into a compact personal device, comparable in size to a phone or even smaller, and can be utilized for various practical functions.”

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Bionics

A hydrogel bonding method developed by Harvard University opens up possibilities for novel biomaterials solutions

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An innovative method for the rapid and effective adhesion of hydrogels has the potential to greatly advance the progress of creating new biomaterials, meeting many unmet therapeutic needs.

The versatility of hydrogels has led to their growing prevalence in diverse biomedical domains. Biomaterials, composed of water-swollen molecular networks, can be tailored to mimic the mechanical and chemical properties of various organs and tissues. This enables individuals to engage with both the internal and external surfaces of the human body without causing harm to even the most fragile regions of human anatomy.

In clinical practice, hydrogels are currently employed for the purpose of therapeutically delivering medications to combat pathogens. Additionally, they find application in ophthalmology as intraocular and contact lenses, as well as corneal prostheses. Furthermore, hydrogels find utility in bone cement, wound dressings, blood-coagulating bandages, and 3D scaffolds within the field of tissue engineering and regeneration.

Nevertheless, the rapid and robust attachment of hydrogel polymers to each other has remained an unresolved and unmet requirement. Conventional approaches frequently yield diminished adhesion during prolonged adhesion durations and necessitate intricate procedures. The rapid adhesion of polymers has the potential to facilitate various new applications. These include the development of hydrogels with adjustable stiffness to better fit specific tissues, the ability to encapsulate flexible electronics on demand for medical diagnostics, and the creation of self-adhesive tissue wraps for difficult-to-bandage body parts.

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a straightforward and adaptable technique for rapidly and efficiently joining layers composed of hydrogels and other polymeric materials. This method involves the utilization of a thin layer of chitosan, a fibrous, sugar-based substance obtained from the processed outer skeletons of shellfish. Their new method worked well to solve a number of unresolved medical problems, including cooling tissues precisely, sealing vascular lesions, and stopping “surgical adhesions” between internal body surfaces that are not wanted. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the results have been published.

According to David Mooney, Ph.D., a senior author and Founding Wyss Institute Core Faculty member, chitosan films possess the capacity to efficiently assemble, finely adjust, and safeguard hydrogels within the human body and other environments. This presents a multitude of novel prospects for the development of devices in the fields of regenerative medicine and surgical care. “Their high versatility as tools and components for in vivoassembly processes in surgeries, as well as the fabrication of complex biomaterial structures in manufacturing facilities, is due to their speed, ease, and effectiveness.” At SEAS, Mooney holds the esteemed position of Robert P. Pinkas Family Professor of Bioengineering.

Developing a novel bond

In recent years, Mooney’s team at the Wyss Institute and SEAS has created a set of regenerative medicine techniques called “Tough Adhesives.” These techniques involve the use of stretchable hydrogels to promote wound healing and tissue regeneration. They achieve this by firmly adhering to wet tissue surfaces and adapting to the mechanical properties of the tissues. The development of precisely made tough adhesives and non-adhesive hydrogels presents novel prospects for enhancing patient care, both for ourselves and other researchers. “However, in order to enhance their capabilities to a greater extent, our objective was to integrate multiple hydrogels into intricate structures and to accomplish this efficiently, securely, and through a straightforward procedure,” stated Benjamin Freedman, Ph.D., co-first author and former Wyss Research Associate, who led various advancements in Tough Adhesive alongside Mooney. We now know that the current methods for quickly bonding hydrogels or elastomers have major problems because they rely on dangerous adhesives, changing the chemicals on the surfaces of the materials, or other complicated steps.

The team utilized a biomaterial screening method to identify bridging films composed entirely of chitosan. Chitosan, a polymer with a high sugar content, can be readily synthesized from the chitin shells of shellfish and has already been extensively utilized in several industrial contexts. As an illustration, it is presently employed for seed treatment and as a biopesticide in the field of agriculture, as well as for the prevention of spoilage in winemaking, self-healing paint coatings, and medical wound management.

The researchers saw that chitosan films bonded with hydrogels more quickly and strongly than other methods. This is because they had different chemical and physical interactions than other methods. A slight pH change does not cause the sugar strands in chitosan to form new chemical bonds through mutual electron sharing (covalent bonds). Instead, they quickly absorb the water present between hydrogel layers and become entangled with the polymer stands of hydrogels. This leads to the formation of multiple bonds through electrostatic interactions and hydrogen bonding (non-covalent bonds). As a result, compared to conventional hydrogel bonding techniques, the adhesive forces between hydrogels are much stronger.

Initial applications

In order to showcase the extensive capabilities of their novel approach, the researchers focused their attention on a diverse range of medical obstacles. The researchers demonstrated that the incorporation of chitosan films into tough adhesives facilitated their application as self-adhering bandages, specifically designed for the purpose of enhancing wound care. The use of chitosan-bonded hydrogels, which have a high water content, enables local cooling of the underlying human skin. This has the potential to pave the way for alternative burn therapies in the future.

The hydrogels, which were modified with thin chitosan films, were effectively encased around colon, tendon, and peripheral nerve tissue by the researchers without establishing any direct bond with the tissues. This method presents the potential to efficiently isolate tissues from one another during surgical procedures, thereby preventing the formation of fibrotic adhesions that can lead to severe outcomes. According to Freedman, the prevention of this issue remains an unmet clinical need that commercial technologies are now unable to effectively address.

In a different scenario, a slender chitosan layer was applied over a durable gel that had been previously applied to a damaged pig aorta outside of the body. This improved the bandage’s overall toughness because it would be more resistant to the repeated mechanical pressures that the blood would apply inside the vessel.

According to Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., the Founding Director of Wyss, who holds the positions of Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, as well as the Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Bioinspired Engineering at SEAS, the study conducted by Dave Mooney’s group presents a multitude of potential applications in the field of biomedical hydrogel devices. These advancements have the potential to address pressing unresolved issues in regenerative and surgical medicine, offering valuable solutions that could be beneficial to a significant number of patients.

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Bionics

This woman’s bionic arm is fused to her bones and nervous system

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A woman with a pioneering bionic hand that integrates her bones, nerves, and muscles is the subject of a new study. This case study shows how this tech can improve people’s lives despite its many challenges.

Over 20 years ago, Karin lost her right arm in a farming accident. Her prosthetic limb was cumbersome, and she still had excruciating phantom limb pain.

Karin stated, “It felt like I constantly had my hand in a meat grinder, which created high stress and I had to take high doses of various painkillers.”

A few years ago, she was offered a novel bionic hand surgically modified to fit her body.

A new human-machine interface developed by an international team of scientists, surgeons, and engineers allows the prosthesis to be directly attached to the user’s skeleton and connected to her nerves and muscles via implanted electrodes.

The neuromusculoskeletal implant lets the patient mentally control the prosthetic hand, picking up objects and fiddling with her fingers.

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This work has been very successful. Karin now uses the bionic hand for 80% of her daily tasks and feels much less pain.

Better prosthesis control, but most importantly, less pain. I need less medication now, she said.

I value this research because it improved my life.

Researchers like the results too. Osteointegration was used to connect the natural bone to the artificial hand, a major project challenge.

Titanium is strong and bonds with bone matter, creating a strong mechanical connection. The team fused the bionic hand to the radius and ulna, the forearm bones, using biocompatibility to load and align them evenly.

„Karin was the first person with below-elbow amputation to receive a highly integrated bionic hand that can be used independently and reliably. Professor Max Ortiz Catalan, lead researcher and head of neural prosthetics research at the Bionics Institute in Australia and founder of the Center for Bionics and Pain Research (CBPR) in Sweden, said that her ability to use her prosthesis comfortably and effectively in daily activities for years is a promising sign of the potential life-changing capabilities of this novel technology for limb-loss patients.

The EU Commission-funded DeTOP project includes Karin and three other patients. Researchers hope this high-tech prosthetic will eventually be available to everyone.

“Osteointegration, reconstructive surgery, implanted electrodes, and AI can restore human function like never before. Below elbow amputations present unique challenges, but the achieved functionality is significant for advanced extremity reconstructions, according to Professor Rickard Brånemark, MIT research affiliate, Gothenburg University associate professor, and Integrum CEO.

 

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