A Dendrite-Free Lithium Anode

Better Batteries Without the Fireworks

by Bryon Moyer

This is yet another tale from the long saga of the Quest to Build a Better Battery. We’re all waiting for the day when we can unplug everything and yet never have our batteries run dry, so, for the time being, battery technology is cool.

This tale is very specific. It’s about building a lithium-based battery with a lithium anode. Why is that a goal? Well, it always was the goal for the best performing lithium battery, but inconvenient problems like potential fires have gotten in the way. So we’ve used carbon-based anodes as a next best thing.

But according to a team from… well, from several institutions (the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, the Pacific Northwest National Lab, and the US Army Research Lab), batteries built this way may be reaching their potential energy density limit. And so figuring out how to get a lithium anode working would extend the energy density roadmap.

 

Buses, Windows, and You

Where is the Real Value in Embedded Engineering?

by Jim Turley

“I suppose that even the most pleasurable of imaginable occupations, that of batting baseballs through the windows of the RCA Building, would pall a little as the days ran on.” – James Thurber

What do buses, windows, and iTunes have in common? They’re all engineering successes that don’t really look like, well, engineering successes.

Lemme ’splain.

This week I spoke with two different companies that sell on-chip networks for SoC designers. They’re IP companies, which is to say they license their R&D efforts to other hardware engineers in exchange for an upfront fee and a royalty. It’s a pretty well understood business model, so no surprises there.

 

The Hardware Vanishing Point

Someday, Will it All be Software?

by Kevin Morris

The disciplines of hardware and software engineering have always been intertwined and symbiotic - like the yin and yang of some bizarre abstract beast. Software cannot exist without hardware to execute it, of course, and most hardware today is designed in the service of software. The vast majority of systems being designed today involve a mix of both elements working together, with software steadily inheriting more and more of the complexity load.

Let’s think about that for a minute.

On the one hand, we have digital hardware technology that has rocketed up the Moore’s Law curve for five solid decades, exploding in complexity like nothing ever seen by humans. One might expect, based on that fact alone, that hardware would bear the brunt of system complexity. After all, we have gone from tens of transistors on a chip to billions, and from scant kilobytes of memory and storage to terabytes.

 

A Stictionless NEMS Switch

Or, as MIT Calls It, a Squitch

by Bryon Moyer

Mechanical switches are as old as, well, electricity. Whether you picture the giant two-handed switches in horror movies or the simple wall switches in our houses, we’re used to making contact metal-to-metal.

So transistors used as switches, as old as they may seem, are the newcomers. The thing is, they can be made so small that, within the world of digital logic, we’ve never looked back at their mechanical predecessors – until now.

The advent of MEMS and NEMS technology is bringing mechanical concepts, which have been on the sidelines for years, back into the discussion. But simply scaling down a macro switch into a micro or nano version doesn’t quite work. There are forces at play – literally – in this tiny realm that you just don’t notice in the macro world.

 

Blessed are the Micro, for They Shall Inherit the Earth

Smarter Power Part Two

by Amelia Dalton

And a voice came down from the heavens and said "Let there be µModules", and they were good.

In this week’s Fish Fry, we look into the wild and exciting world of µModules with Afshin Odabaee from Linear Technology. What are µModules? Why do you need them? And what does modern dance have to do with it? You’ll learn all about this and more in this week’s episode. We also look at why Freescale’s new i.MX 6SoloX may be a perfect fit for your next IoT design.

 

Eschew the Real World

Imperas Thinks Software Should Be Designed More Like Hardware

by Jim Turley

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Imperas employs a grand total of ten people: eight Britons and two Americans. Yet the company is taking on an entire industry – indeed, an entire ethos and culture – and attempting to turn it on its head. In short, Imperas thinks you’re doing it all wrong.

Writing software, that is. You’re doing it wrong. And you’re doing it badly. Your code is buggy, it’s not ready in time, it doesn’t do what you expected, and it costs a lot more to develop than you planned, and probably more than you’re aware. Speaking of which, do you even know how much you spent on code development for your current project?

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