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!
Stable magnetic bit of three atoms
21.09.2017 | Sonderforschungsbereich 668
Drones can almost see in the dark
20.09.2017 | Universität Zürich
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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