Demand-driven production of liquid fuels from regenerative energy sources is a major element of the energy turnaround. Production of synthetic fuels from solar energy and carbon dioxide extracted from air is the objective of the SOLETAIR project started now by INERATEC, a spinoff of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), in cooperation with Finnish partners. Together, the partners plan to take into operation the first chemical pilot plant worldwide. It is so compact that it fits into a ship container and produces gasoline, diesel, and kerosene from regenerative hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
The plant consists of three components. The direct air capture unit developed by the Technical Research Center of Finland (VTT) extracts carbon dioxide from air. An electrolysis unit developed by Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) produces the required hydrogen by means of solar power. A microstructured, chemical reactor is the key component of the plant and converts the hydrogen produced from solar power together with carbon dioxide into liquid fuels. This reactor was developed by KIT. The compact plant was developed to maturity and is now being commercialized by INERATEC.
“Projects, such as SOLETAIR, are essential for the success of the energy turnaround,” Professor Thomas Hirth, Vice President for Innovation and International Affairs of KIT, says. “Commissioning of this pilot plant is an example of successful transfer of KIT’s research innovations to industry.” INERATEC GmbH is a spinoff of KIT and develops, constructs, and sells compact chemical plants for various gas-to-liquid and power-to-liquid applications. The spinoff is supported under the EXIST research transfer program of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.
Recent research shows Brain-to-text device capable of decoding speech from brain signals
Ever wonder what it would be like if a device could decode your thoughts into actual speech or written words? While this might enhance the capabilities of already existing speech interfaces with devices, it could be a potential game-changer for those with speech pathologies, and even more so for “locked-in” patients who lack any speech or motor function.
“So instead of saying ‘Siri, what is the weather like today’ or ‘Ok Google, where can I go for lunch?’ I just imagine saying these things,” explains Christian Herff, author of a review recently published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
While reading one’s thoughts might still belong to the realms of science fiction, scientists are already decoding speech from signals generated in our brains when we speak or listen to speech.
In their review, Herff and co-author, Dr. Tanja Schultz, compare the pros and cons of using various brain imaging techniques to capture neural signals from the brain and then decode them to text.
The technologies include functional MRI and near infrared imaging that can detect neural signals based on metabolic activity of neurons, to methods such as EEG and magnetoencephalography (MEG) that can detect electromagnetic activity of neurons responding to speech. One method in particular, called electrocorticography or ECoG, showed promise in Herff’s study.
This study presents the Brain-to-text system in which epilepsy patients who already had electrode grids implanted for treatment of their condition participated. They read out texts presented on a screen in front of them while their brain activity was recorded. This formed the basis of a database of patterns of neural signals that could now be matched to speech elements or “phones”.
When the researchers also included language and dictionary models in their algorithms, they were able to decode neural signals to text with a high degree of accuracy. “For the first time, we could show that brain activity can be decoded specifically enough to use ASR technology on brain signals,” says Herff. “However, the current need for implanted electrodes renders it far from usable in day-to-day life.”
So, where does the field go from here to a functioning thought detection device? “A first milestone would be to actually decode imagined phrases from brain activity, but a lot of technical issues need to be solved for that,” concedes Herff.
Scientists Overcome Limiting Factor on the Way to an Optical Quantum Computer
Whether for use in safe data encryption, ultrafast calculation of huge data volumes or so-called quantum simulation of highly complex systems: Optical quantum computers are a source of hope for tomorrow’s computer technology. For the first time, scientists now have succeeded in placing a complete quantum optical structure on a chip, as outlined in the “Nature Photonics” journal. This fulfills one condition for the use of photonic circuits in optical quantum computers. (DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2016.178)
“Experiments investigating the applicability of optical quantum technology so far have often claimed whole laboratory spaces,” explains Professor Ralph Krupke of the KIT. “However, if this technology is to be employed meaningfully, it must be accommodated on a minimum of space.” Participants in the study were scientists from Germany, Poland, and Russia under the leadership of Professors Wolfram Pernice of the Westphalian Wilhelm University of Münster (WWU) and Ralph Krupke, Manfred Kappes, and Carsten Rockstuhl of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).
The light source for the quantum photonic circuit used by the scientists for the first time were special nanotubes made of carbon. They have a diameter 100,000 times smaller than a human hair, and they emit single light particles when excited by laser light. Light particles (photons) are also referred to as light quanta. Hence the term “quantum photonics.”
That carbon tubes emit single photons makes them attractive as ultracompact light sources for optical quantum computers. “However, it is not easily possible to accommodate the laser technology on a scalable chip,” admits physicist Wolfram Pernice. The scalability of a system, i.e. the possibility to miniaturize components so as to be able to increase their number, is a precondition for this technology to be used in powerful computers up to an optical quantum computer.
As all elements on the chip now developed are triggered electrically, no additional laser systems are required any more, which is a marked simplification over the optical excitation normally used. “The development of a scalable chip on which a single-photon source, detector, and waveguide are combined, is an important step for research,” emphasizes Ralph Krupke, who conducts research at the KIT Institute for Nanotechnology and the Institute of Materials Science of the Darmstadt Technical University. “As we were able to show that single photons can be emitted also by electric excitation of the carbon nanotubes, we have overcome a limiting factor so far preventing potential applicability.”
About the methodology: The scientists studied whether the flow of electricity through carbon nanotubes caused single light quanta to be emitted. For this purpose, they used carbon nanotubes as single-photon sources, superconducting nanowires as detectors, and nanophotonic waveguides. One single-photon source and two detectors each were connected with one waveguide. The structure was cooled with liquid helium to allow single light quanta to be counted. The chips were produced in an electron beam scribing device.
The scientists’ work is fundamental research. It is not yet clear whether and when it will lead to practical applications. Wolfram Pernice and the first author, Svetlana Khasminskaya, were supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft, Ralph Krupke was funded by the Volkswagen Foundation.
Smallest Photodetector Worldwide for Optical Data Transmission
Data traffic is growing worldwide. Glass-fiber cables transmit information over long distances at the speed of light. Once they have reached their destination, however, these optical signals have to be converted into electrical signals for subsequent processing in the computer. KIT researchers have now developed a novel type of photodetector that needs far less space than conventional ones. The component has a base area of less than one millionth of a square millimeter without the data transmission rate being affected adversely. The corresponding article is published in the Optica journal. (DOI:10.1364/OPTICA.3.000741)
The newly developed photodetectors, the smallest photodetectors worldwide for optical data transmission, can be used for integrated optical circuits that significantly enhance the performance of optical communication systems. Due to the small space needed, many detectors can be assembled on optical chips. In experiments, the researchers reached a data rate of up to 40 gigabits per second. “This component can transmit the contents of a complete DVD within a fraction of a second,” physicist Sascha Mühlbrandt of KIT explains. He conducted his studies at the Institute of Microstructure Technology and the Institute of Photonics and Quantum Electronics of KIT. This rate can be even further increased. “It is the so far smallest detector reaching this data rate. It is one hundred times smaller than a conventional photodetector,” Mühlbrandt emphasizes. The high-speed photodetector, called PIPED (Plasmonic Internal Photoemission Detector), is now presented by Mühlbrandt as first author, together with colleagues of KIT and ETH Zurich, in the Optica journal under the heading “Silicon-Plasmonic Internal-Photoemission Detector for 40 Gbit/s Data Reception.”
A special advantage of the reduced size is that the photodetector can be integrated with electronic components on the same CMOS chip. “Introduction of novel plasmonic components for high-speed transmission of information between electronic chips in the computer combines the advantages of electronic and optical components, while the transmission rate is comparable or even improved,” says project coordinator Professor Manfred Kohl of KIT’s Institute of Microstructure Technology. The photodetector was developed under the NAVOLCHI (Nano Scale Disruptive Silicon-Plasmonic Platform for Chip-to-Chip Interconnection) project. Under the 7th EU Research Framework Programme, the KIT project of three years’ duration in the area of information and communication technologies was funded with about EUR 500,000.
The high-performance photodetector uses so-called surface plasmon polaritons, highly concentrated electromagnetic waves at metallic-dielectric interfaces, to combine optics and electronics on smallest space. “This new class of plasmonic transceivers is based on the mechanism generating photocurrent, i.e. direct signal conversion at metallic interfaces with optical frequencies. This process is known as internal photoemission,” Mühlbrandt says. For enhancing the efficiency of light absorption and light conversion into electrical signals, charge carriers are generated at a titanium-silicon transition and taken up at another gold-silicon transition. The high rate is due to the special detector geometry: Both metal-silicon transitions are located less than one hundred billionth of a meter apart.
The researchers consider the PIPED concept to be essential not only for future optical data transmission systems, but also for wireless data transmission. “This novel approach to detecting optical signals allows for the generation and detection of electromagnetic signals with bandwidths in the terahertz range,” says Professor Christian Koos of KIT, Spokesperson of the Helmholtz International Research School for Teratronics (HIRST) that focuses on the combination of photonic and electronic processes for ultra-rapid signal processing. “Plasmonic components might be used in wireless high-speed communication and allow for transmission rates of up to 1 terabit per second. “Research related to PIPED was also supported by the EnTeraPIC Starting Grant of the European Research Council, the Helmholtz International Research School for Teratronics (HIRST) at KIT, at which the disciplines of physics, electrical engineering, computer science, and mechanical engineering cooperate, as well as by KIT’s “Karlsruhe Nano-Micro Facility” (KNMF) platform.
Learn more: Ultracompact Photodetector
In the area of nano photonics, scientists for the first time succeeded in integrating a laser with an organic gain medium on a silicon photonic chip. This approach is of enormous potential for low-cost biosensors that might be used for near-patient diagnosis once and without any sterilization expenditure similar to today’s strips for measuring blood sugar.
This is the first time organic lasers were integrated on a single silicon photonic chip, Christian Koos, researcher of KIT’s Institute of Photonics and Quantum Electronics (IPQ) and Institute of Microstructure Technology (IMT), reports. “The main advantage of the lasers consists in the fact that production of large series is associated with low costs. In the long term, manufacture at a price of some cents per laser might be feasible.”
The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is one of the largest and most prestigious research and education institutions in Germany.
It was created in 2009 when the University of Karlsruhe (Universität Karlsruhe), founded in 1825 as public research university and also known as “Fridericiana”, merged with the Karlsruhe Research Centre (Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe), which was originally established as a national nuclear research centre (Kernforschungszentrum Karlsruhe, or KfK) in 1956.
KIT is one of the leading universities in engineering and science in Europe, ranking sixth overall in citation impact. In the 2011 performance ranking of scientific papers, Karlsruhe ranked first in Germany and among the top ten universities in Europe in engineering and science.
The Latest Updated Research News:
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) research articles from Innovation Toronto
- Crack it! Methane Cracking – Energy from a Fossil Fuel without carbon di-oxide – November 24, 2015
- Light-Based Memory Chip Is the First Ever to Store Data Permanently – October 5, 2015
- Permanent Data Storage with Light – September 23, 2015
- Understanding of complex networks could help unify gravity and quantum mechanics – September 11, 2015
- Speech recognition from brain activity – June 26, 2015
- New Printing Process Makes Three-dimensional Objects Glow – May 26, 2015
- No Hogwarts Invitation Required: Invisibility Cloaks Move into the Real-life Classroom – May 2, 2015
- Flexible Methane Production from Electricity and Bio-mass – January 10, 2015
- Magnesium-Sulfur Batteries Could Be Much Better Than Lithium – November 29, 2014
- New Material Makes Water and Oil Roll off – November 29, 2014
- Study Supports Free “Super WiFi – November 25, 2014”
- Crowd Sourcing Pollution Measurements via Smartphone – July 14, 2014
- Elastic Invisibility Cloak Allows to Hide from Touching – June 21, 2014
- Intelligent Machines for Tomorrow’s Factory – June 6, 2014
- New lightweight construction materials exceed the stability / density ratio of bones, massive steel, or aluminum – April 15, 2014
- New Self-healing Plastics Developed – April 12, 2014
- Switching an Antibiotic on and off with Light
- Highly Efficient Broadband Terahertz Radiation from Metamaterials
- Vibrations Reveal State of Bridge Ropes | Predictive Maintenance
- Printable Biotechnology
- World Record: Longest ECG Ever Measured Non-invasively
- World Record: Wireless Data Transmission at 100 Gb/s
- Direct ‘writing’ of artificial cell membranes on graphene
- IAA: Modular Battery Concept for Short-distance Traffic
- Lasers Can Influence Cloud Formation and Thunderstorms in Lab, Experiment Shows
- Robots Learn Proper Handoff, Follow Digitized Human Examples
- New World Record in Wireless Data Transmission
- Light from Silicon Nanocrystal LEDs
- 3-D Printing On the Micrometer Scale
- The Pocket Radar
- Solar Power Day and Night
- Big Uncertainties in the Global Water Budget
- Robot Obeys Commands and Gestures
- Pilot plant converts fruit and veggie waste into natural gas for cars
- Researchers Develop New Concept for Rechargeable Batteries
- German Scientists Plan to Halve The Cost Of Electric Vehicles
- Invisibility cloak created in 3-D
- ‘Organic’ Traffic Lights Sense Traffic And Adjust Light Timing Accordingly
- Sewer sensors sniff out signs of bombs and drugs
- ‘Earthquake wallpaper’ a scientific breakthrough