Using ultrashort pulses of light enables extremely economical switching of spins within a few picoseconds from one stable orientation (red arrow) to another (white arrow). Illustration: Brad Baxley (parttowhole.com) – For exclusive use in reporting this press release.

 

Using extremely short bursts of light, precisely shaped in a custom-cut gold antenna, an international research team from Germany, The Netherlands, Russia, and the US has switched the magnetization state of a solid faster and more efficiently than ever before. Their key achievement could pave the way towards a novel kind of nearly dissipation-free information technology. The results are published in the current issue of the top-tier journal Nature.

Schematic illustration of a light-based, brain-inspired chip. The chip contains an artificial network of neurons and synapses that works with light. Johannes Feldmann

Researchers from the Universities of Münster (Germany), Oxford and Exeter (both UK) have succeeded in developing a piece of hardware which could pave the way for creating computers which resemble the human brain. The scientists produced a chip containing a network of artificial neurons that works with light and can imitate the behaviour of neurons and their synapses. The network is able to “learn” information and use this as a basis for computing and recognizing patterns. As the system functions solely with light and not with electrons, it can process data many times faster than traditional systems. The study is published in “Nature”.

Mobile transponders to localize tools in industrial settings. © Volker Mai

A miniature transponder helps localize tools at manual assembly stations. Fraunhofer IZM has developed a specialized transponder in the joint NaLoSysPro project to track and record safety-critical assembly tasks in industry with precise location data. The project was completed in 2018, and the innovative transponder is showcasing the capabilities of Fraunhofer IZM’s Wafer Level System Integration team to the manufacturing community.

The first touchscreen that taps back: Engineers Sophie Nalbach and Steffen Hau from Stefan Seelecke’s team test the prototype system that will be exhibited at Hannover Messe. Credit: Oliver Dietze

By pulsing or vibrating on demand, smartphone screens can help users navigate through a menu or can guide a user’s finger to virtual on-screen buttons that can be created or removed wherever and whenever needed. Professor Stefan Seelecke and his team at Saarland University have developed a film that gives touchscreens a third dimension. The thin and extremely lightweight silicone film can adopt a variety of positions and shapes and can be made to execute a single pulse, a pushing motion, a sudden jolt or a prolonged vibration at a specific location on the screen. The polymer film also exhibits sensor properties and can therefore provide the device with an added sense organ.