IBM Research was established with the 1945 opening of the Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory at Columbia University. This was the first IBM laboratory devoted to pure science and later expanded into additional IBM Research locations in Westchester County, New York starting in the 1950s, including the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in 1961.
IBM Research’s global network of scientists work on a range of exploratory research projects in search of innovations that advance the capabilities of technology, as well as applied research projects, to help clients, governments and universities apply scientific breakthroughs to solve real-world business and societal challenges.
IBM Research research articles from Innovation Toronto
- IBM Scientists Achieve Storage Memory Breakthrough – May 17, 2016
- IBM Just Put A Quantum Computer On The Cloud For Anyone To Use – May 5, 2016
- Georgia Tech trains Watson AI to ‘chat,’ spark more creativity in humans – November 14, 2015
- IBM Scientists Find New Way to Shrink Transistors – October 2, 2015
- IBM Discloses Working Version of a Much Higher-Capacity Chip – July 9, 2015
- IBM Scientists Find New Way to Shrink Transistors – October 2, 2015
- Futuristic components on silicon chips – June 8, 2015
- IBM Scientists Achieve Critical Steps to Building First Practical Quantum Computer – May 3, 2015
- Mayo Clinic and IBM Task Watson to Improve Clinical Trial Research and Patient Care – September 8, 2014
- IBM Develops a New Chip That Functions Like a Brain – August 10, 2014
- IBM Wants to Invent the Chips of the Future, Not Make Them – July 10, 2014
- New experimental polymers could deliver cheaper, lighter, stronger and recyclable materials ideal for electronics, aerospace, airline and automotive industries – May 16, 2014
- Introducing a new feature of IBM’s Watson: The Debater – May 12, 2014
- IBM Research unveils new chip architecture inspired by the human brain
- Breakthrough converts PET into non-toxic, biocompatible material to attack fungal infections
- Filmmaking Magic With Polymers
- High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal: Harness the Energy of 2,000 Suns
- IBM integrates optics and electronics on a single chip
- Researchers Demonstrate Initial Steps toward Commercial Fabrication of Carbon Nanotubes as a Successor to Silicon
- The IBM Augmented Reality Personal Shopping Assistant
- Air-Breathing Lithium Batteries Promise Recharge-Free Long-Range Driving
- Multitouch floor may someday detect your heart attack
- IBM: It Is Time to Start Creating Quantum Computing Systems
- IBM touts quantum computing breakthrough
- Breakthrough research paves way for nanomanufacturing in healthcare applications
- Inside IBM’s cognitive chip
- IBM demonstrates multi-bit phase-change memory chip
- Steeper project hopes to make electronic devices more energy efficient
- Single molecule’s stunning image
- When Will We Be Able to Build Brains Like Ours?
A new study by an international team of researchers led by the University of Minnesota highlights how manipulation of 2D materials could make our modern day devices faster, smaller, and better.
The findings are now online and will be published in Nature Materials, a leading scientific journal of materials science and engineering research.
Two-dimensional materials are a class of nanomaterials that are only a few atoms in thickness. Electrons in these materials are free to move in the two-dimensional plane, but their restricted motion in the third direction is governed by quantum mechanics. Research on these nanomaterials is still in its infancy, but 2D materials such as graphene, transition metal dichalcogenides and black phosphorus have garnered tremendous attention from scientists and engineers for their amazing properties and potential to improve electronic and photonic devices.
In this study, researchers from the University of Minnesota, MIT, Stanford, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, IBM, and universities in Brazil, UK and Spain, teamed up to examine the optical properties of several dozens of 2D materials. The goal of the paper is to unify understanding of light-matter interactions in these materials among researchers and explore new possibilities for future research.
They discuss how polaritons, a class of quasiparticles formed through the coupling of photons with electric charge dipoles in solid, allow researchers to marry the speed of photon light particles and the small size of electrons.
“With our devices, we want speed, efficiency, and we want small. Polaritons could offer the answer,” said Tony Low, a University of Minnesota electrical and computer engineering assistant professor and lead author of the study.
By exciting the polaritons in 2D materials, electromagnetic energy can be focused down to a volume a million times smaller compared to when its propagating in free space.
“Layered two-dimensional materials have emerged as a fantastic toolbox for nano-photonics and nano-optoelectronics, providing tailored design and tunability for properties that are not possible to realize with conventional materials,” said Frank Koppens, group leader at the Institute of Photonic Sciences at Barcelona, Spain, and co-author of the study. “This will offer tremendous opportunities for applications.”
Others on the team from private industry also recognize the potential in practical applications.
“The study of the plasmon-polaritons in two-dimensions is not only a fascinating research subject, but also offers possibilities for important technological applications,” said Phaedon Avoruris, IBM Fellow at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center and co-author of the study. “For example, an atomic layer material like graphene extends the field of plasmonics to the infrared and terahertz regions of the electromagnetic spectrum allowing unique applications ranging from sensing and fingerprinting minute amounts of biomolecules, to applications in optical communications, energy harvesting and security imaging.”
The new study also examined the possibilities of combining 2D materials. Researchers point out that every 2D material has advantages and disadvantages. Combining these materials create new materials that may have the best qualities of both.
“Every time we look at a new material, we find something new,” Low said. “Graphene is often considered a ‘wonder’ material, but combining it with another material may make it even better for a wide variety of applications.”
Narrowing the gap between biological brains and electronic ones
SINCE nobody really knows how brains work, those researching them must often resort to analogies. A common one is that a brain is a sort of squishy, imprecise, biological version of a digital computer. But analogies work both ways, and computer scientists have a long history of trying to improve their creations by taking ideas from biology. The trendy and rapidly developing branch of artificial intelligence known as “deep learning”, for instance, takes much of its inspiration from the way biological brains are put together.
The general idea of building computers to resemble brains is called neuromorphic computing, a term coined by Carver Mead, a pioneering computer scientist, in the late 1980s. There are many attractions. Brains may be slow and error-prone, but they are also robust, adaptable and frugal. They excel at processing the sort of noisy, uncertain data that are common in the real world but which tend to give conventional electronic computers, with their prescriptive arithmetical approach, indigestion. The latest development in this area came on August 3rd, when a group of researchers led by Evangelos Eleftheriou at IBM’s research laboratory in Zurich announced, in a paper published in Nature Nanotechnology, that they had built a working, artificial version of a neuron.
Neurons are the spindly, highly interconnected cells that do most of the heavy lifting in real brains. The idea of making artificial versions of them is not new. Dr Mead himself has experimented with using specially tuned transistors, the tiny electronic switches that form the basis of computers, to mimic some of their behaviour. These days, though, the sorts of artificial neurons that do everything from serving advertisements on web pages to recognising faces in Facebook posts are mostly simulated in software, with the underlying code running on ordinary silicon. That works, but as any computer scientist will tell you, creating an ersatz version of something in software is inevitably less precise and more computationally costly than simply making use of the thing itself.
Learn more: Artificial neurons – You’ve go a nerve
IBM scientists have developed a new lab-on-a-chip technology that can, for the first time, separate biological particles at the nanoscale and could enable physicians to detect diseases such as cancer before symptoms appear.
As reported today in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the IBM team’s results show size-based separation of bioparticles down to 20 nanometers (nm) in diameter, a scale that gives access to important particles such as DNA, viruses and exosomes. Once separated, these particles can potentially be analyzed by physicians to reveal signs of disease even before patients experience any physical symptoms and when the outcome from treatment is most positive. Until now, the smallest bioparticle that could be separated by size with on-chip technologies was about 50 times or larger, for example, separation of circulating tumor cells from other biological components.
IBM is collaborating with a team from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to continue development of this lab-on-a-chip technology and plans to test it on prostate cancer, the most common cancer in men in the U.S.
In the era of precision medicine, exosomes are increasingly being viewed as useful biomarkers for the diagnosis and prognosis of malignant tumors. Exosomes are released in easily accessible bodily fluids such as blood, saliva or urine. They represent a precious biomedical tool as they can be used in the context of less invasive liquid biopsies to reveal the origin and nature of a cancer.
The IBM team targeted exosomes with their device as existing technologies face challenges for separating and purifying exosomes in liquid biopsies. Exosomes range in size from 20-140nm and contain information about the health of the originating cell that they are shed from. A determination of the size, surface proteins and nucleic acid cargo carried by exosomes can give essential information about the presence and state of developing cancer and other diseases.
exosomes of size 100 nm and larger could be separated from smaller exosomes, and that separation can take place in spite of diffusion, a hallmark of particle dynamics at these small scales. With Mt. Sinai, the team plans to confirm their device is able to pick up exosomes with cancer-specific biomarkers from patient liquid biopsies.
“The ability to sort and enrich biomarkers at the nanoscale in chip-based technologies opens the door to understanding diseases such as cancer as well as viruses like the flu or Zika,” said Gustavo Stolovitzky, Program Director of Translational Systems Biology and Nanobiotechnology at IBM Research. “Our lab-on-a-chip device could offer a simple, noninvasive and affordable option to potentially detect and monitor a disease even at its earliest stages, long before physical symptoms manifest. This extra amount of time allows physicians to make more informed decisions and when the prognosis for treatment options is most positive.”
North Star BlueScope Steel, a steel producer for global building and construction industries, today announced that it is applying IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) technology and wearable devices to pioneer novel approaches to help protect workers in extreme environments. The IBM Employee Wellness and Safety Solution, a research project that analyzes data collected from sensors in workers’ wearables, provides data to North Starmanagement in real time when the technology senses potentially problematic conditions.
Employees working in extreme environments face a daily risk from conditions that include everything from high heat and toxic gas to open flames and heavy-machinery accidents. Overexertion and falls account for more than $25 billion in U.S. workers’ compensation costs a year, according to the Liberty Mutual Research Institute 2014 Workplace Safety Index1, yet there is currently no practical way to verify that mandatory safety controls and personal protective equipment are being used in hazardous environments. In fact, nearly 3 million nonfatal occupational injuries were recorded in 20142.
“Our global economy relies on hundreds of millions of workers who do their jobs under extreme environmental conditions, and now we are exploring ways to apply the Internet of Things and cognitive computing to help organizations prevent accidents and to keep their employees safer,” said Harriet Green, general manager, IBM Watson IoT, Commerce and Education. “We use the IoT to gather, integrate and analyze sensor data from wearable devices. When coupled together with innovative cognitive capabilities and data from important external sources such as the environment and weather, it creates enormous potential for better managing health, wellness and safety to truly help transform the way these vital workers perform their jobs.”
Chip-architecture breakthrough accelerates path to exascale computing; helps computers tackle complex, cognitive tasks such as pattern recognition sensory processing
The scalable platform will process the equivalent of 16 million neurons and 4 billion synapses and consume the energy equivalent of a hearing-aid battery – a mere 2.5 watts of power. Based on a breakthrough neurosynaptic computer chip called IBM TrueNorth, the scalable platform will process the equivalent of 16 million neurons and 4 billion synapses and consume the energy equivalent of a hearing aid battery – a mere 2.5 watts of power. The brain-like, neural network design of the IBM Neuromorphic System is able to infer complex cognitive tasks such as pattern recognition and integrated sensory processing far more efficiently than conventional chips.
A team of scientists from Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute and IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center have developed a prototype DNA reader that could make whole genome profiling an everyday practice in medicine.
“Our goal is to put cheap, simple and powerful DNA and protein diagnostic devices into every single doctor’s office,” said Stuart Lindsay, an ASU physics professor and director of Biodesign’s Center for Single Molecule Biophysics. Such technology could help usher in the age of personalized medicine, where information from an individual’s complete DNA and protein profiles could be used to design treatments specific to their individual makeup.
Such game-changing technology is needed to make genome sequencing a reality. The current hurdle is to do so for less than $1,000, an amount for which insurance companies are more likely to provide reimbursement.
In their latest research breakthrough, the team fashioned a tiny, DNA reading device a thousands of times smaller than width of a single human hair.
The device is sensitive enough to distinguish the individual chemical bases of DNA (known by their abbreviated letters of A, C, T or G) when they are pumped past the reading head.
Proof-of-concept was demonstrated, by using solutions of the individual DNA bases, which gave clear signals sensitive enough to detect tiny amounts of DNA (nanomolar concentrations), even better than today’s state-of-the-art, so called next-generation DNA sequencing technology.
Making the solid-state device is just like making a sandwich, just with ultra high-tech semiconductor tools used to slice and stack the atomic-sized layers of meats and cheeses like the butcher shop’s block. The secret is to make slice and stack the layers just so, to turn the chemical information of the DNA into a change in the electrical signal.
First, they made a “sandwich” composed of two metal electrodes separated by a two-nanometer thick insulating layer (a single nanometer is 10,000 times smaller than a human hair), made by using a semiconductor technology called atomic layer deposition.
Then a hole is cut through the sandwich: DNA bases inside the hole are read as they pass the gap between the metal layers.
“The technology we’ve developed might just be the first big step in building a single-molecule sequencing device based on ordinary computer chip technology,” said Lindsay.
IBM Research Discovers New Class of Industrial Polymers
New experimental polymers could deliver cheaper, lighter, stronger and recyclable materials ideal for electronics, aerospace, airline and automotive industries
Researchers used a novel ‘computational chemistry’ hybrid approach to accelerate the materials discovery process that couples lab experimentation with the use of high-performance computing.
Scientists from IBM Research have successfully discovered a new class of polymer materials that can potentially transform manufacturing and fabrication in the fields of transportation, aerospace, and microelectronics. Through the unique approach of combining high performance computing with synthetic polymer chemistry, these new materials are the first to demonstrate resistance to cracking, strength higher than bone, the ability to reform to their original shape (self-heal), all while being completely recyclable back to their starting material. Also, these materials can be transformed into new polymer structures to further bolster their strength by 50% – making them ultra strong and lightweight.
Polymers, a long chain of molecules that are connected through chemical bonds, are an indispensable part of everyday life. They are a core material in common items ranging from clothing and drink bottles (polyesters), paints (polyacrylics), plastic milk bottles (polyethylene), secure food packaging (polyolefins, polystyrene) to major parts of cars and planes (epoxies, polyamides and polyimides). They are also essential components in virtually every emerging advanced technology dating back to the industrial revolution – the steam engine, the space ship, the computer, the mobile phone.
However, today’s polymer materials are limited in some ways. In transportation and aerospace, structural components or composites are exposed to many environmental factors (de-icing of planes, exposure to fuels, cleaning products, etc.) and exhibit poor environmental stress crack resistance (i.e., catastrophic failure upon exposure to a solvent). Also, these polymers are difficult to recycle because they cannot be remolded or reworked once cured or thermally decomposed by heating to high temperatures. As a result, these end up in the landfill together with toxins such as plasticizers, fillers, and color additives which are not biodegradable.
IBM’s discovery of a new family of materials with a range of tunable and desirable properties provides a new opportunity for exploratory research and applications development to academia, materials manufacturers and end users of high performance materials. Two new related classes of materials have been discovered which possess a very distinctive range of properties that include high stiffness, solvent resistance, the ability to heal themselves once a crack is introduced and to be used as a resin for filled composite materials to further bolster their strength.
Also, the ability to selectively recycle a structural component would have significant impact in the semiconductor industry, advanced manufacturing or advanced composites for transportation, as one would be able to rework high-value but defective manufactured parts or chips instead of throwing them away. This could bolster fabrication yields, save money and significantly decrease microelectronic waste.
“Although there has been significant work in high-performance materials, today’s engineered polymers still lack several fundamental attributes. New materials innovation is critical to addressing major global challenges, developing new products and emerging disruptive technologies,” said James Hedrick, Advanced Organic Materials Scientist, IBM Research. “We’re now able to predict how molecules will respond to chemical reactions and build new polymer structures with significant guidance from computation that facilitates accelerated materials discovery. This is unique to IBM and allows us to address the complex needs of advanced materials for applications in transportation, microelectronic or advanced manufacturing.”
Materials Science Innovation
The field of material science is often thought of as a mature field, with the most recent new class of polymer materials being discovered and introduced to the commercial market decades ago. Also, most current polymer research involves studying polymers that are “old” polymers and combining known polymers together or simply adjusting chemical functional groups on known polymers to access desired properties, as opposed to making completely new polymers.
IBM scientists used a novel ‘computational chemistry’ hybrid approach to accelerate the materials discovery process that couples lab experimentation with the use of high-performance computing to model new polymer forming reactions. The unconventional method is a departure from traditional techniques and led to the identification of several previously undiscovered classes of polymers in what was believed to be an established area of materials science researched extensively since the 1950s.
Ideally, scientists could insert a list of requirements into a computer to design a material that meets those exact conditions. Unfortunately, the reality now is that materials are still primarily discovered only by experimenting in the lab based on the scientist’s knowledge, experience and educated guesses. IBM Research’s computational chemistry efforts can take out a lot of this guesswork and accelerate a whole new range of potential applications from developing a disease-specific drugs or cheap, light, tough and completely recyclable panels on a car.
“By joining forces with IBM Research and bringing together the minds of KACST and IBM scientists, we have managed to merge the strengths of both sides, making it possible to bring forth novel green materials that exhibit excellent properties while being completely recyclable. We believe that this work can have significant impact to multiple industries and hope to see more great things come from our collaboration,” said his highness prince Turki bin Saud, KACST VP of Research Institutes.
How it Works
These polymers, formed from the same inexpensive starting material through a condensation reaction, these molecules join together and lose small molecules as by-products such as water or alcohol and were created in an operationally simple procedure and are incredibly tunable.
At high temperatures (250 degrees Celsius) the polymer becomes incredibly strong due to a rearrangement of covalent bonds and loss of the solvent that is trapped in the polymer (now stronger than bone and fiberboard), but as a consequence is more brittle (similar to how glass shatters).
Remarkably, this polymer remain intact when it is exposed to basic water (high pH), but selectively decomposes when exposed to very acidic water (very low pH). This means that under the right conditions, this polymer can be reverted back to its starting materials, which enables it for reuse for other polymers. The material can also be manufactured to have even higher strength if carbon nanotubes or other reinforcing fillers are mixed into the polymer and are heated to high temperatures. This process enables polymers to have properties similar to metals, which is why these “composite blends” are used for manufacturing in airplane and cars. An advantage to using polymers in this case over metals is that they are more lightweight, which in the transportation industry translates to savings in fuel costs.
At low temperatures (just over room temperature), another type of polymer can be formed into elastic gels that are still stronger than most polymers, but still maintains its flexibility because of solvent that is trapped within the network, stretching like a rubber band.
Probably the most unexpected and remarkable characteristic of these gels is that if they are severed and the pieces are placed back in proximity so they physically touch, the chemical bonds are reformed between the pieces making it a single unit again within seconds. This type of polymer is called a “self healing” polymer because of its ability to do this and is made possible here due to hydrogen-bonding interactions in the hemiaminal polymer network. One could envision using these types of materials as adhesives or mixing in with other polymers to induce self-healing properties in the polymer mixture. Furthermore, these polymers are reversible constructs which means that can be recycled in neutral water, and that they might find use in applications that require reversible assemblies, such as drug cargo delivery.
via IBM PRESS RELEASE