UMD study shows natural microstructures in transparent wood key to lighting and insulation advantages
Engineers at the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland demonstrate in a new study that windows made of transparent wood could provide more even and consistent natural lighting and better energy efficiency than glass.
In a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Advanced Energy Materials, the team, headed by Liangbing Hu of UMD’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Energy Research Center lay out research showing that their transparent wood provides better thermal insulation and lets in nearly as much light as glass, while eliminating glare and providing uniform and consistent indoor lighting. The findings advance earlier published work on their development of transparent wood.
The transparent wood lets through just a little bit less light than glass, but a lot less heat, said Tian Li, the lead author of the new study. “It is very transparent, but still allows for a little bit of privacy because it is not completely see-through. We also learned that the channels in the wood transmit light with wavelengths around the range of the wavelengths of visible light, but that it blocks the wavelengths that carry mostly heat,” said Li.
The team’s findings were derived, in part, from tests on tiny model house with a transparent wood panel in the ceiling that the team built. The tests showed that the light was more evenly distributed around a space with a transparent wood roof than a glass roof.
The channels in the wood direct visible light straight through the material, but the cell structure that still remains bounces the light around just a little bit, a property called haze. This means the light does not shine directly into your eyes, making it more comfortable to look at. The team photographed the transparent wood’s cell structure in UMD’s Advanced Imaging and Microscopy (AIM) Lab.
Transparent wood still has all the cell structures that comprised the original piece of wood. The wood is cut against the grain, so that the channels that drew water and nutrients up from the roots lie along the shortest dimension of the window. The new transparent wood uses theses natural channels in wood to guide the sunlight through the wood.
As the sun passes over a house with glass windows, the angle at which light shines through the glass changes as the sun moves. With windows or panels made of transparent wood instead of glass, as the sun moves across the sky, the channels in the wood direct the sunlight in the same way every time.
“This means your cat would not have to get up out of its nice patch of sunlight every few minutes and move over,” Li said. “The sunlight would stay in the same place. Also, the room would be more equally lighted at all times.”
Working with transparent wood is similar to working with natural wood, the researchers said. However, their transparent wood is waterproof due to its polymer component. It also is much less breakable than glass because the cell structure inside resists shattering.
The research team has recently patented their process for making transparent wood. The process starts with bleaching from the wood all of the lignin, which is a component in the wood that makes it both brown and strong. The wood is then soaked in epoxy, which adds strength back in and also makes the wood clearer. The team has used tiny squares of linden wood about 2 cm x 2 cm, but the wood can be any size, the researchers said.
Learn more: Wood Windows are Cooler than Glass
A NEW QUANTUM COMPUTER MODULE COMBINES PROVEN TECHNIQUES WITH ADVANCES IN HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE.
To date, many research groups have created small but functional quantum computers. By combining a handful of atoms, electrons or superconducting junctions, researchers now regularly demonstrate quantum effects and run simple quantum algorithms—small programs dedicated to solving particular problems.
But these laboratory devices are often hard-wired to run one program or limited to fixed patterns of interactions between their quantum constituents. Making a quantum computer that can run arbitrary algorithms requires the right kind of physical system and a suite of programming tools. Atomic ions, confined by fields from nearby electrodes, are among the most promising platforms for meeting these needs.
In a paper published as the cover story in Nature on August 4, researchers working with Christopher Monroe, a Fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute and the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science at the University of Maryland, introduced the first fully programmable and reconfigurable quantum computer module(link is external). The new device, dubbed a module because of its potential to connect with copies of itself, takes advantage of the unique properties offered by trapped ions to run any algorithm on five quantum bits, or qubits—the fundamental unit of information in a quantum computer.
“For any computer to be useful, the user should not be required to know what’s inside,” Monroe says. “Very few people care what their iPhone is actually doing at the physical level. Our experiment brings high-quality quantum bits up to a higher level of functionality by allowing them to be programmed and reconfigured in software.”
The new module builds on decades of research into trapping and controlling ions. It uses standard techniques but also introduces novel methods for control and measurement. This includes manipulating many ions at once using an array of tightly-focused laser beams, as well as dedicated detection channels that watch for the glow of each ion.
“These are the kinds of discoveries that the NSF Physics Frontiers Centers program is intended to enable,” says Jean Cottam Allen, a program director in the National Science Foundation’s physics division. “This work is at the frontier of quantum computing, and it’s helping to lay a foundation and bring practical quantum computing closer to being a reality.”
The team tested their module on small instances of three problems that quantum computers are known to solve quickly. Having the flexibility to test the module on a variety of problems is a major step forward, says Shantanu Debnath, a graduate student at JQI and the paper’s lead author. “By directly connecting any pair of qubits, we can reconfigure the system to implement any algorithm,” Debnath says. “While it’s just five qubits, we know how to apply the same technique to much larger collections.”
At the module’s heart, though, is something that’s not even quantum: A database stores the best shapes for the laser pulses that drive quantum logic gates, the building blocks of quantum algorithms. Those shapes are calculated ahead of time using a regular computer, and the module uses software to translate an algorithm into the pulses in the database.
Putting the pieces together
Every quantum algorithm consists of three basic ingredients. First, the qubits are prepared in a particular state; second, they undergo a sequence of quantum logic gates; and last, a quantum measurement extracts the algorithm’s output.
The module performs these tasks using different colors of laser light. One color prepares the ions using a technique called optical pumping, in which each qubit is illuminated until it sits in the proper quantum energy state. The same laser helps read out the quantum state of each atomic ion at the end of the process. In between, a separate laser strikes the ions to drive quantum logic gates.
These gates are like the switches and transistors that power ordinary computers. Here, lasers push on the ions and couple their internal qubit information to their motion, allowing any two ions in the module to interact via their strong electrical repulsion. Two ions from across the chain notice each other through this electrical interaction, just as raising and releasing one ball in a Newton’s cradle transfers energy to the other side.
o test the module, the team ran three different quantum algorithms, including a demonstration of a Quantum Fourier Transform (QFT), which finds how often a given mathematical function repeats. It is a key piece in Shor’s quantum factoring algorithm, which would break some of the most widely-used security standards on the internet if run on a big enough quantum computer.
Two of the algorithms ran successfully more than 90% of the time, while the QFT topped out at a 70% success rate. The team says that this is due to residual errors in the pulse-shaped gates as well as systematic errors that accumulate over the course of the computation, neither of which appear fundamentally insurmountable. They note that the QFT algorithm requires all possible two-qubit gates and should be among the most complicated quantum calculations.
The team believes that eventually more qubits—perhaps as many as 100—could be added to their quantum computer module. It is also possible to link separate modules together, either by physically moving the ions or by using photons to carry information between them.
Although the module has only five qubits, its flexibility allows for programming quantum algorithms that have never been run before, Debnath says. The researchers are now looking to run algorithms on a module with more qubits, including the demonstration of quantum error correction routines as part of a project funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.
The University of Maryland, College Park (often referred to as The University of Maryland, Maryland, UM, UMD, or UMCP) is a public research university located in the city of College Park in Prince George’s County, Maryland, approximately 8 miles (13 km) from Washington, D.C.
Founded in 1856, the University of Maryland is the flagship institution of the University System of Maryland. It is considered a Public Ivy institution. With a fall 2010 enrollment of more than 37,000 students, over 100 undergraduate majors, and 120 graduate programs, Maryland is the largest university in the state and the largest in the Washington Metropolitan Area. It is a member of the Association of American Universities and a founding member of the Atlantic Coast Conference athletic league.
The University of Maryland’s proximity to the nation’s capital has resulted in strong research partnerships with the Federal government. Many members of the faculty receive research funding and institutional support from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Homeland Security.
The operating budget of the University of Maryland in fiscal year 2009 was projected to be approximately US$1.531 billion. For the same fiscal year, the University of Maryland received a total of $518 million in research funding, surpassing its 2008 mark by $117 million. As of May 11, 2012, the university’s “Great Expectations” campaign had exceeded $950 million in private donations.
The Latest Updated Research News:
University of Maryland, College Park research articles from Innovation Toronto
- Transparent wood for light-based electronics and building materials – May 7, 2016
- For Solid-State Rechargeable Batteries That Crush the Competition, Crush This Material – April 3, 2016
- 3D-Printed Guide Helps Regrow Complex Nerves After Injury – September 19, 2015
- NIST Physicists Show ‘Molecules’ Made of Light May Be Possible – September 14, 2015
- UMD-led study identifies the off switch for biofilm formation – August 24, 2015
- UMD-led study identifies the off switch for biofilm formation – August 24, 2015
- This Breakthrough Shape-Memory Metal Practically Never Wears Out – May 29, 2015
- New Class of Swelling Magnets Have the Potential to Energize the World – May 21, 2015
- Air Shepherd drones keep a watchful eye over endangered species – March 25, 2015
- A Billion Holes Can Make a Battery – November 11, 2014
- Ultra-thin Detector Captures Unprecedented Range of Light – September 8, 2014
- New synthesis method may shape future of nanostructures, clean energy – September 5, 2014
- Skin Cells Can Be Engineered Into Pulmonary Valves for Pediatric Patients – September 3 2014
- Superconducting-silicon qubits – July 6, 2014
- University of Maryland Pharmacy Researchers Develop Promising Chronic Pain Drug
- First high-resolution global map of forest extent, loss and gain – Updating Annually
- Preparing for hell and high water
- New Low-Cost, Nondestructive Technology Cuts Risk from Mercury Hot Spots
- New Soil Testing Kit for Third World Countries
- UMD Researchers Address Economic Dangers of ‘Peak Oil’
- Electromagnetic space propulsion
- Master’s Degree Is New Frontier of Study Online
- Robot Brain Surgery: Robot uses steerable needles to treat brain clots
- Gecko-Like Drone Can Land On Walls And Ceilings
- Researchers find Potential Novel Treatment for Influenza
- Roundworm quells obesity and related metabolic disorders
- I School “Drone Lab” Reimagines Drones’ Possibilities
- NASA announces new CubeSat space mission candidates
- UMD “Time Reversal” Research May Open Doors to Future Tech
- Breakthrough offers new route to large-scale quantum computing
- Seeking Cures, Patients Enlist Mice Stand-Ins
- Could FastStitch Device, Invented by Undergrads, Be the Future of Suture?
- Online Obesity Treatment Programmes Show Promise
- UMD Creates New Tech for Complex Micro Structures for Use in Sensors & Other Apps
- Nanotech Dental Filling Kills Bacteria, Strengthens Teeth
- Scientists Decode Brain Waves to Eavesdrop On What We Hear
- A new visualization method makes research more organized and efficient
- Next-Generation Flex-Fuel Cells Ready to Hit the Market
- Bird Flu Research Rattles Bioterrorism Field
- Rising Air Pollution Worsens Drought, Flooding
- New Hybrid Technology Could Bring ‘Quantum Information Systems’
- Experimental Vaccine Targets Malaria Parasite When It Tries to Enter the Bloodstream
- Human-powered Gamera helicopter hovers its way into the record books
- Lockheed Martin’s Samurai monocopter – you won’t believe how this thing flies
- Going Organic Cuts Poultry Farms’ “Superbug” Bacteria in Single Generation
- Human Influence On the 21st Century Climate
- Wireless sensor to monitor structural integrity of bridges – innovation
- ‘Brain Cap’ Technology Turns Thought Into Motion
- ‘Bacterial Dirigibles’ Emerge as Next-Generation Disease Fighters
- Harnessing viruses to build a better battery
- To Create Jobs, Nurture Start-Ups
- ‘Thermally-elastic’ metal to cut summer CO2 emissions and electricity bills
- House With an Edible Wall: Runs on Sun, Wind, Rain and Wastes
- No Implants Needed: Movement-Generating Brain Waves Detected and Decoded Outside the Head
- Nanotech Batteries For A New Energy Future
- Telemedicine Brings Parkinson’s Care to “Anyone, Anywhere”
- Fish Farms Cause Rapid Local Sea-Level Rise
- 2 E-Mail Services Close and Destroy Data Rather Than Reveal Files
- NASA’s Polar Robotic Ranger Passes First Greenland Test
- VIDEO: The Best Bomb Disposal Bot Is Also the Most Human
- Google and NASA Snap Up Quantum Computer D-Wave Two
- UBC engineer helps pioneer flat spray-on optical lens
- Sniffing Out Schizophrenia
- New Breakthrough Prize Awards Millions to Life Scientists
- White House Petitioned to Make Research Free to Access
- How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy
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- HIV/AIDS breakthrough
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By chemically modifying and pulverizing a promising group of compounds, scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have potentially brought safer, solid-state rechargeable batteries two steps closer to reality.
These compounds are stable solid materials that would not pose the risks of leaking or catching fire typical of traditional liquid battery ingredients and are made from commonly available substances.
Since discovering their properties in 2014, a team led by NIST scientists has sought to enhance the compounds’ performance further in two key ways: Increasing their current-carrying capacity and ensuring that they can operate in a sufficiently wide temperature range to be useful in real-world environments.
Considerable advances have now been made on both fronts, according to Terrence Udovic of the NIST Center for Neutron Research, whose team has published a pair of scientific papers that detail each improvement.
The first advance came when the team found that the original compounds — made primarily of hydrogen, boron and either lithium or sodium — were even better at carrying current with a slight change to their chemical makeup. Replacing one of the boron atoms with carbon improved their ability to conduct charged particles, or ions, which are what carry electricity inside a battery. As the team reported in February in their first paper, the switch made the compounds about 10 times better at conducting.
But perhaps more important was clearing the temperature hurdle. The compounds conducted ions well enough to operate in a battery — as long as it was in an environment typically hotter than boiling water. Unfortunately, there’s not much of a market for such high-temperature batteries, and by the time they cooled to room temperature, the materials’ favorable chemical structure often changed to a less conductive form, decreasing their performance substantially.
One solution turned out to be crushing the compounds’ particles into a fine powder. The team had been exploring particles that are measured in micrometers, but as nanotechnology research has demonstrated time and again, the properties of a material can change dramatically at the nanoscale. The team found that pulverizing the compounds into nanometer-scale particles resulted in materials that could still perform well at room temperature and far below.
“This approach can remove worries about whether batteries incorporating these types of materials will perform as expected even on the coldest winter day,” said Udovic, whose collaborators on the most recent paper include scientists from Japan’s Tohoku University, the University of Maryland and Sandia National Laboratories. “We are currently exploring their use in next-generation batteries, and in the process we hope to convince people of their great potential.”
Research could help more than 200,000 people annually who suffer from nerve injuries or disease
A national team of researchers has developed a first-of-its-kind, 3D-printed guide that helps regrow both the sensory and motor functions of complex nerves after injury. The groundbreaking research has the potential to help more than 200,000 people annually who experience nerve injuries or disease.
Nerve regeneration is a complex process. Because of this complexity, regrowth of nerves after injury or disease is very rare, according to the Mayo Clinic. Nerve damage is often permanent. Advanced 3D printing methods may now be the solution.
In a new study, published today in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, researchers used a combination of 3D imaging and 3D printing techniques to create a custom silicone guide implanted with biochemical cues to help nerve regeneration. The guide’s effectiveness was tested in the lab using rats.
To achieve their results, researchers used a 3D scanner to reverse engineer the structure of a rat’s sciatic nerve. They then used a specialized, custom-built 3D printer to print a guide for regeneration. Incorporated into the guide were 3D-printed chemical cues to promote both motor and sensory nerve regeneration. The guide was then implanted into the rat by surgically grafting it to the cut ends of the nerve. Within about 10 to 12 weeks, the rat’s ability to walk again was improved.
“This represents an important proof of concept of the 3D printing of custom nerve guides for the regeneration of complex nerve injuries,” said University of Minnesota mechanical engineering professor Michael McAlpine, the study’s lead researcher. “Someday we hope that we could have a 3D scanner and printer right at the hospital to create custom nerve guides right on site to restore nerve function.”
Scanning and printing takes about an hour, but the body needs several weeks to regrow the nerves. McAlpine said previous studies have shown regrowth of linear nerves, but this is the first time a study has shown the creation of a custom guide for regrowth of a complex nerve like the Y-shaped sciatic nerve that has both sensory and motor branches.
“The exciting next step would be to implant these guides in humans rather than rats,” McAlpine said. In cases where a nerve is unavailable for scanning, McAlpine said there could someday be a “library” of scanned nerves from other people or cadavers that hospitals could use to create closely matched 3D-printed guides for patients.