Ground-breaking research from the University of Surrey and Augmented Optics Ltd, in collaboration with the University of Bristol, has developed potentially transformational technology which could revolutionise the capabilities of appliances that have previously relied on battery power to work.
This development by Augmented Optics Ltd, could translate into very high energy density super-capacitors making it possible to recharge your mobile phone, laptop or other mobile devices in just a few seconds.
The technology could have a seismic impact across a number of industries, including transport, aerospace, energy generation, and household applications such as mobile phones, flat screen electronic devices, and biosensors. It could also revolutionise electric cars, allowing the possibility for them to recharge as quickly as it takes for a regular non-electric car to refuel with petrol – a process that currently takes approximately six to eight hours to recharge. Imagine, instead of an electric car being limited to a drive from London to Brighton, the new technology could allow the electric car to travel from London to Edinburgh without the need to recharge, but when it did recharge for this operation to take just a few minutes to perform.
Supercapacitor buses are already being used in China, but they have a very limited range whereas this technology could allow them to travel a lot further between recharges. Instead of recharging every two to three stops this technology could mean they only need to recharge every 20-30 stops and that will only take a few seconds.
Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX, has previously stated his belief that supercapacitors are likely to be the technology for future electric air transportation. We believe that the present scientific advance could make that vision a reality.
The technology was adapted from the principles used to make soft contact lenses, which Dr Donald Highgate (of Augmented Optics, and an alumnus of the University of Surrey) developed following his postgraduate studies at Surrey 40 years ago. Supercapacitors, an alternative power source to batteries, store energy using electrodes and electrolytes and both charge and deliver energy quickly, unlike conventional batteries which do so in a much slower, more sustained way. Supercapacitors have the ability to charge and discharge rapidly over very large numbers of cycles. However, because of their poor energy density per kilogramme (approximately just one twentieth of existing battery technology), they have, until now, been unable to compete with conventional battery energy storage in many applications.
Dr Brendan Howlin of the University of Surrey, explained: “There is a global search for new energy storage technology and this new ultra capacity supercapacitor has the potential to open the door to unimaginably exciting developments.”
The ground-breaking research programme was conducted by researchers at the University of Surrey’s Department of Chemistry where the project was initiated by Dr Donald Highgate of Augmented Optics Ltd. The research team was co-led by the principal investigators Dr Ian Hamerton and Dr Brendan Howlin. Dr Hamerton continues to collaborate on the project in his new post at the University of Bristol, where the electrochemical testing to trial the research findings was carried out by fellow University of Bristol academic – David Fermin, Professor of Electrochemistry in the School of Chemistry.
Dr Ian Hamerton, Reader in Polymers and Composite Materials from the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Bristol, said: “While this research has potentially opened the route to very high density supercapacitors, these *polymers have many other possible uses in which tough, flexible conducting materials are desirable, including bioelectronics, sensors, wearable electronics, and advanced optics. We believe that this is an extremely exciting and potentially game changing development.”
*the materials are based on large organic molecules composed of many repeated sub-units and bonded together to form a 3-dimensional network.
Jim Heathcote, Chief Executive of both Augmented Optics Ltd and Supercapacitor Materials Ltd, said: “It is a privilege to work with the teams from the University of Surrey and the University of Bristol. The test results from the new polymers suggest that extremely high energy density supercapacitors could be constructed in the very new future. We are now actively seeking commercial partners in order to supply our polymers and offer assistance to build these ultra high energy density storage devices.”
New technology could revolutionise printed electronics by enabling high quality semiconducting molecular crystals to be directly spray-deposited on any surface.
University of Surrey and National Physical Laboratory’s research allows to convert organic semiconducting inks into isolated crystals through a scalable process, suitable for a wide range of molecules.
The research has a direct impact on printed electronic applications for flexible circuits, advanced photodetector arrays, chemical and biological sensors, robotic skin tensile sensors, x-ray medical detectors, light emitting transistors and diodes, and miniature lasers.
Has the time come to replace traditionally used silicon with printable organic semiconductor inks? University of Surrey scientists believe so, especially for future electronics that need to be flexible, lightweight, wearable and low-cost.
Single crystal semiconductors, such as silicon, have been at the forefront of scientific interest for more than 70 years, serving as the backbone of electronic devices. Inorganic single crystals are typically grown from a melt at very high temperatures, in special chambers filled with inert gas, using time-consuming and energy intensive processes. A new class of crystalline materials, called organic semiconductors, can also be grown as single crystals, but in a very different way, using solution-based methods at room temperature in air, opening up the possibility of large-scale production of inexpensive electronics, targeting numerous applications ranging from field effect transistors and light emitting diodes to medical x-ray detectors and miniature lasers.
New research, published today in Nature Communications, conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Surrey and National Physical Laboratory, demonstrates for the first time a low-cost, scalable spray-printing process to fabricate high-quality isolated organic single crystals. The method is suitable for a wide variety of semiconducting small molecules, which can be dissolved in solvents to make semiconducting inks, and then be deposited on virtually any substrate. The key aspect is in combining the advantages of antisolvent crystallization and solution shearing. The crystals’ size, shape and orientation are then controlled by the spay angle and distance to the substrate, which govern the spray droplets’ impact onto the antisolvent’s surface. These crystals are high quality structures, as confirmed by a combination of characterisation techniques, including polarised optical and scanning electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction, polarised Raman spectroscopy and field-effect transistor tests.
“This method is a powerful, new approach for manufacturing organic semiconductor single crystals and controlling their shape and dimensions,” said Dr Maxim Shkunov from the Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey.
“If we look at silicon, it takes almost 15000C to grow semiconductor grade crystals, while steel spoons will melt at this temperature, and it will fetch a very hefty electric bill for just 1 kg of silicon, same as for running a tea kettle for over 2 days non–stop. And then, you would need to cut and polish those silicon ‘boules’ into wafers.
“We can make single crystals in a much simpler way, entirely at room temperature with a £5 artist spray brush. With a new class of organic semiconductors based on carbon atoms, we can spray-coat organic inks onto anything, and get more or less the right size of crystals for our devices right away.”
Dr Maxim Shkunov, lead author of the research, continued: “The trick is to cover the surface with a non-solvent so that semiconductor molecules float on top and self-assemble into highly ordered crystals. We can also beat silicon by using light emitting molecules to make lasers, for example, – something you can’t do with traditional silicon. This molecular crystals growth method opens amazing capabilities for printable organic electronics.”
Research from the University of Surrey reveals scientists are able to improve the efficiency of solar cells more than threefold
·The solar cells are a flexible, lightweight and environmentally-friendly and have the capacity to be printed in different colours and shapes
·The solar cells are a contrast to their inorganic competitors as they also convert efficiently indirect sunlight, making them ideal material to power devices on the move, such as for the Internet of Things
Researchers at the University of Surrey have achieved record power conversion efficiencies for large area organic solar cells. In recent years scientists have been attempting to increase the efficiency of these cells to allow commercial applications such as integration into a building’s glass façade, generating electricity to power the building.
The research was led by the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) in collaboration with Oxford University, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece), and University of Stuttgart (Germany). The project is part of SMARTONICS, a four-year European Commission FP7 programme aimed at developing large-scale pilot lines for the fabrication and printing of organic polymer solar cells.
The results, published in Advanced Electronic Materials, demonstrate that dependencies between the chemical and physical properties of the photoactive layer’s building blocks within organic solar cells determine the efficiency of these solar cells. By using a well-known and low cost electron donating material (P3HT) in combination with an electron accepting material (ICBA) for the photosensitive layer of the organic solar cells, the research team discovered that different ICBA samples consist of dissimilar isomeric mixtures (isomers are molecules with the same number of atoms of each element, but with the atoms differently arranged). These characteristics are critical for the formation kinetics and spatial arrangement of P3HT and ICBA in their photosensitive blend and lead to varying power conversion efficiencies.
Tailoring the fabrication process based on these findings, the research team were able to improve the efficiency of their solar cells from 2.2% up to 6.7%. This is one of the highest efficiencies to have been reported for P3HT blends on a large-area device.
Professor Ravi Silva, corresponding author and Director of the ATI commented, “Solar cells made of organic materials have a number of benefits over traditional inorganic solar cells – and more so when the organic is P3HT, the fruit fly for organic solar cells. Not only are they flexible, lightweight and environmentally-friendly, they are also design-friendly because they can be semi-transparent and printed in different colours and shapes. In addition, in contrast to their inorganic competitors, they convert efficiently indirect sunlight, which makes them an ideal material to power devices on the move, such as for the Internet of Things. Our group is looking to expand research in this field, with more PhD students and researchers, which will have such a positive impact on society.”
PhD student Dimitar Kutsarov, the paper’s lead author, said, “The research represents a significant step forward in the understanding of the characteristics of materials with isomeric properties, which will lead to a future improvement of the efficiency of organic solar cells. We know now how important the spatial arrangement of the isomeric molecules is and will, therefore, be able to push the efficiency of P3HT-based solar cells further. Our findings will be used for the fabrication of meters long organic solar cells as part of the successful completion of the collaborative European project SMARTONICS.”
A recent article published in IEEE Intelligent Systems highlights the requirements the Internet of Things (IoT) will place on search engines and brings together the latest research being carried out in this field.
‘On Searching the Internet of Things: Requirements and Challenges’ has been written by leading researchers working in the field of next generation communications at the University of Surrey’s Institute of Communication Systems (home of the 5G Innovation Centre) and Ohio Center of Excellence in Knowledge Enabled Computing (Kno.e.sis) at Wright State University (USA).
Experts in next generation communications outline how internet search mechanisms will need to change to support the Internet of Things (IoT) whereby billions of devices will become connected
Complex future technologies such as smart cities, autonomous cars and environmental monitoring will demand machine-to-machine searches that are automatically generated depending on location, preferences and local information
New requirements will include being able to access numerical and sensory data, and providing secure ways of accessing data without exposing the devices to hackers
An article highlighting the latest research in this area by academics at the University of Surrey and Wright State University (USA) has been published in IEEE Intelligent Systems
A recent article published in IEEE Intelligent Systems highlights the requirements the Internet of Things (IoT) will place on search engines and brings together the latest research being carried out in this field. ‘On Searching the Internet of Things: Requirements and Challenges’ has been written by leading researchers working in the field of next generation communications at the University of Surrey’s Institute of Communication Systems (home of the 5G Innovation Centre) and Ohio Center of Excellence in Knowledge Enabled Computing (Kno.e.sis) at Wright State University (USA).
With more and more IoT devices being connected to the internet, and smart city data projects starting to be implemented, there is an urgent need to develop new search solutions which will allow information from IoT sources to be found and extracted. While existing search engines have ever more sophisticated and effective ways of crawling through web pages and searching for textual data, the article argues that they will not be effective in accessing the type of numerical and sensory data which IoT devices will need to gather.
The article states that whereas in the past, human users have searched for information on the web, the IoT will see more machine-to-machine searches which are automatically generated depending on location, preferences and local information. Autonomous vehicles, for example, will need to automatically collect data (such as traffic and weather information) from various sources without a user being involved.
The IoT also presents a challenge in terms of cyber security. Applications which rely on public data, such as smart city technologies, need to be very accessible to make them available to a wide range of applications and services. Search mechanisms for these devices will need to provide efficient methods of indexing, crawling and finding data while ensuring the data is safe from hackers.
The University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre – the UK’s largest hub for research into next generation communications– is conducting a number of projects in the field of IoT search engines. These include developing search mechanisms that describe the sources of the data required, and developing algorithms for clustering and analysis of IoT ‘time-series’ data.
The article’s lead author Dr Payam Barnaghi (a Reader in Machine Intelligence at the University of Surrey), says: “Search engines have come a long way since their original purpose of locating documents, but they still lack the connection between social, physical and cyber data which will be needed in the IoT era. IoT data retrieval will require efficient and scalable indexing and ranking mechanisms, and also integration between the services provided by smart devices and data discovery.
“IoT technologies such as autonomous cars, smart cities and environmental monitoring could have a very positive impact on millions of lives. Our goal is to consider the many complex requirements and develop solutions which will enable these exciting new technologies.”
The article’s second author, Professor Amit Sheth of Kno.e.sis, comments: “I see tremendous opportunities to effectively utilize physical (especially IoT), cyber and social data by improving the abilities of machines to convert diverse data into meaningful abstractions that matter to human experiences and decision making. IoT search, particularly for devices or machines to interact with each other to find and aggregate relevant information on a human’s behalf, will become a critical enabler.”
The University of Surrey’s 5GIC (part of the Institute for Communications Systems) has – for the first time worldwide – produced a full demonstration of its FDC, which points to a significant reduction in deployment, optimisation and upgrade costs for network operators.
- 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) at the University of Surrey announces first full demonstration of an Orchestrated, NFV (Network Function Virtualisation) based virtualised ‘Flat Distributed Cloud’ (FDC) 5G core network architecture
- New orchestrated virtualised architecture enables rapid speed of deployment, flexibility of complex combinations, and swift software updates and feature additions
- FDC will significantly reduce installation and maintenance costs for network operators, making the delivery of a 5G network more commercially viable
- Demonstration produced by researchers at the University of Surrey’s Institute for Communications Systems, home of 5G Innovation Centre, with partners including Cisco, Huawei and Quortus
The FDC was demonstrated over LTE-A (an advanced version of the Long Term Evolution network) on an end to end basis between off-the shelf mobiles and internet and traditional intranet services.
The 5G network – the next generation communication network which will support the Internet of Things, by which billions of devices will become connected – will demand a far more complex infrastructure than existing networks and require a high level of ongoing optimisation and maintenance. Currently, operating expenses represent a major cost for network operators, who typically pay vendors to install bespoke equipment and subsequently carry out each software update and patch.
The virtualised 5G architecture is orchestrated to the cloud and based on off-the-shelf Intel-based server blades running Linux OS. This means that the operator can rapidly deploy multiple Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) as Network Services, and no longer requires engineers to go out to the network’s physical sites to perform upgrades. It also enables operators to buy software from different vendors. The speed of deployment of VNFs on the FDC is around ten minutes – compared to tens of days for traditional deployment.
The virtualisation demonstration has been produced in association with the EC Horizon 2020 virtualisation project SoftFire, and operates using the FOKUS developed ‘OpenBaton’ orchestrator and established industry VNF controller ‘OpenStack’. The demonstration has been performed by researchers and testbed staff at the University of Surrey in collaboration with Cisco, Huawei and Quortus.
Developed and prototyped by the 5GIC over the past 18 months, the FDC utilises user and network context information in order to provide a more connected experience over a dynamic and distributed cloud based architecture, providing user benefits including better connection and faster throughput.
Professor Rahim Tafazolli, Head of the 5GIC, said, “This successful demonstration of the FDC is a huge step forward towards the development of a viable 5G network that supports mobile broadband, Internet of things and high quality applications such as Ultra High Definition video, Virtual and Augmented Reality applications. The next step for the 5GIC team will be to demonstrate FDC-based network slicing – the partitioning of network resources for different purposes to create the perception of infinite capacity.”
New research published by the University of Surrey in Boston College Law Review is calling for inventions by computers to be legally granted patents.
- New research published by the University of Surrey in Boston College Law Review says the law has failed to address the issue of computer inventorship
- Inventions generated by Artificial Intelligence are rising exponentially without the legal framework to manage the issue of patents, which could result in less innovation and uncertainty about invention ownership
- Expert in patent law proposes acknowledging computers as inventors in order to incentivise the development of creative computers – without which, some inventions may never be realised
- Computers could overtake humans as the primary source of new inventions in the foreseeable future
The research states that the rapid increase in computer power is posing new challenges when it comes to patenting an invention. Artificial Intelligence is playing an ever larger role in innovation – with major players such as IBM, Pfizer and Google investing heavily in creative computing – but current patent law does not recognise computers as inventors.
Without a change in the law, the findings warn that there will be less innovation, caused by uncertainty, which would prevent industry from capitalising on the huge potential of creative computers. We are also likely to see disputes over inventorship, with individuals taking credit for inventions that are not genuinely theirs.
Ryan Abbott, Professor of Law and Health Sciences at the University of Surrey’s School of Law proposes that non-humans should be allowed to be named as inventors on patents as this would incentivise the creation of intellectual property by encouraging the development of creative computers. By assigning ownership of a computer’s invention to a computer’s owner, he argues, it would be possible to reward inventive activity which happens before the invention itself.
Professor Abbott commented, “While some patent prosecutors say the ability of machines to create patentable inventions on their own is well off in the future, artificial intelligence has actually been generating inventive ideas for decades. In just one example, an Artificial Intelligence system named ‘The Creativity Machine’ invented the first cross-bristled toothbrush design.
“Soon computers will be routinely inventing, and it may only be a matter of time until computers are responsible for most innovation. To optimise innovation – and the positive impact this will have on our economies – it is critical that we extend the laws around inventorship to include computers.”
The study also examines the implications of computer inventorship for other areas of patent law – for example whether computers should replace the ‘skilled person’ conventionally used to judge a patent’s inventiveness, since a computer would have an unlimited knowledge of the particular field in question.
The University of Surrey is a public research university located within the county town of Guildford, Surrey, in the South East of England.
It received its charter on 9 September 1966, and was previously situated near Battersea Park in south-west London. The institution was known as Battersea College of Technology before gaining university status. Its roots however go back to the Battersea Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1891 to provide further and higher education for London’s poorer inhabitants.
The university conducts extensive research on small satellites and has a high number of staff who are members of learned societies. The university has recently expanded into China by launching the Surrey International Institute with Dongbei University of Finance and Economics.
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University of Surrey research articles from Innovation Toronto
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- 5G researchers manage record connection speed – February 25, 2015
- New research lights the way to super-fast computers – November 9, 2014
- Graphene rubber bands could stretch limits of current healthcare – August 22, 2014
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The idea behind it is over 100 years old
DYSPROSIUM and neodymium are not exactly the best-known elements in the periodic table, but for makers of high-end electric motors they have become vital. Both are strongly magnetic and thus crucial to the construction of powerful motors of the sort used, for example, in electric cars. Unfortunately, they lurk in the part of the table known as the rare-earth metals and, as that name suggests, workable deposits of them are scarce. At the moment, the main source of supply is in China, whose government has used its near-monopoly to restrict availability and push up the price. So there is a lot of interest in inventing motors that can do without them. And several groups of researchers think they have come up with one.
The device in question is known as a switched reluctance motor. The idea behind it is over 100 years old, but making a practical high-performance version suitable for vehicles has not been possible until recently. A combination of new motor designs and the advent of powerful, fast-switching semiconductor chips, which can be used to build more sophisticated versions of the electronic control systems required to operate a reluctance motor, is giving those motors a new spin.
One of the leading contenders is Inverto, a research and development company based in Ghent, Belgium. Inverto’s engineers, led by John De Clercq, the firm’s research director, are collaborating with the University of Ghent and the University of Surrey, in Britain, and also with an unnamed carmaker. They already have a motor running in a car. At Newcastle University, also in Britain, researchers are working with several companies to produce reluctance motors for both cars and lorries. And studies are being carried out in America and Japan too. A team led by Nobukazu Hoshi of the Tokyo University of Science, for example, has experimented with a reluctance motor in a Mazda sports car.