That bar code on your cereal box holds information read by a laser scanner. Its not much information, but its enough to let the supermarket take your money, keep track of inventory, follow trends in customer preference, and restock its shelves. Scanners and bar codes speed up checkout, but theyve got a few limitations. The scanning laser needs a direct line of sight to the bar code, and the bar code itself needs to be reasonably clean and undamaged – one reason your cashier might have to swipe that bag of spuds four or five times before the scanner reads it.
Now theres something better, and it comes out of an Office of Naval Research program that goes back four decades. Very small electric crystal chips can now be embedded into products to provide up to 96 bits of information when theyre read by an electromagnetic scanner. (Thats roughly 6 times as much as bar codes hold. It also meets the new industry standard developed by the MIT-led Auto-ID Center.) These new radio-frequency scanners, unlike the optical ones in most supermarkets today, can read the chip whether they have direct line-of-sight to it or not. And dirt? Ordinary dirt matters not at all.
The chips themselves are so small (less than an inch long with the antenna attached, and only about as thick as a pencil lead) and so simple that they dont need a power source--it all comes from the scanner. The new chips store enough information to uniquely tag just about every individual manufactured item. In effect, the scanner reads not only the category and model number, but a serial number for the particular item that bears the tag. The tags can be used for all kinds of marking, supply, tracking, inventory management, and logistical tasks. Imagine checking out by just pushing your cart through the supermarkets door--thats one of the new possibilities some major retailers are looking at.
Gail Cleere | EurekAlert!
Construction of practical quantum computers radically simplified
05.12.2016 | University of Sussex
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29.11.2016 | University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
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In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
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In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
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