The electronics industry is buzzing in anticipation of the Electronica 2012 international trade fair, scheduled for November 13-16 in Munich, Germany. It’s the highlight of the electronics events circuit. If next year’s product announcements are going to be made anywhere, they will be made at Electronica. Here is a preview of some of the breakthroughs you can expect.
Surgical Glove Technology
Semiconductor devices embedded in the membrane of surgical gloves could completely revolutionize how doctors and surgeons carry out medical procedures. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University, and Dalian University of Technology have developed a silicon-based electronics and soft sensor technology that can be attached to an artificial skin and fitted to fingertips, like a glove. Surgical robots could use the technology to interact through touch.
The electronic circuit embedded on the surface of the glove is made from patterns of conductive gold lines and ultra-thin silicon sheets, integrated onto a flexible polymer (Fig. 1). This polymer then is transferred onto thin silicone rubber and molded into the shape of a finger. The glove can measure stresses and strains at the fingertip as well as changes in temperature, making it perfect for surgical procedures.
Germany: Saving Energy
About 25% of the 600 terawatt hours of electrical power consumed in Germany per year is lost in transmission. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is supporting a three-year European energy research project called Energy to Smart Grid (see “Energy Projects Target Smarter Grids”). Uniting 31 partners in business and research from nine different countries across Europe, the project aims to reduce power losses by 20% (Fig. 2).
2. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is supporting a three-year European energy research project called Energy to Smart Grid, which aims to reduce power losses by 20%. (courtesy of Infineon Technologies)
Six German companies collaborating on the project will focus on creating smart meters and communication interfaces that connect household electrical appliances to the grid. They aim to develop electricity meters using specially secured communication technologies for transmitting information about energy use from households to suppliers, as well as smart power supply units for home appliances, interior and exterior lighting, and energy storage.
Heat & Humidity Sensors For Next-Gen Apps
Sensirion has released the SHT21, a sensor that can monitor temperature and humidity for mobile devices (Fig. 3). The sensor does not affect the power consumption of the device, which is a frequently occurring flaw of innovative mobile app technology. And paired with the Air-Touch touchless interface, the sensor may someday enable users to control the functions on their phones just by breathing.
Plastic Paint Magnetic Field Sensors
Get ready for spintronic technology-plastic paint with magnetic field sensors. The thin film is an organic semiconductor polymer named MEH-PPV. According to the Nature Communications journal, the paint contains a different kind of magnetic-resonance magnetometer that resists heat and degradation, works at room temperature, and never needs to be calibrated (Fig. 4).
Physicists said this inexpensive, orange-colored plastic paint conducts electricity and senses magnetic fields. A single drop of the paint, which costs the same as regular paint, can measure magnetic fields with high accuracy. This technology is the first product released by the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at the University of Utah, which is a six-year, $21.5 million program funded by the university, the National Science Foundation, and the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative.
Monitoring Home Security Remotely
Sigegenia-Aubi’s iWindow connects windows to a status monitoring system via a smart phone or tablet, using sensors to monitor any movement and alert the homeowner. Smart-phone technology also can be integrated with home security systems and CCTV for remote access. Meanwhile, designers at the Humanlifetime Organisation have developed an indestructible window that emits a 130-dB noise that’s as loud as a female scream when the blind is opened, according to the company.
Electricity For Extreme Weather
Powerstax has developed a way to provide power to people even in the most challenging climates and conditions. The solution is directed toward Zone 1 & 2 category hazardous environments, which includes marine, offshore, aerospace, military, medical, and water treatment sectors. The technology includes rack-mounted power supplies and vehicle-mountable power solutions for harsh environments and the latest in 1U, baseplate-cooled technology offering up to 500-W output.
Personalized Electric Cars
Visteon’s release of e-Bee is a fresh approach to the way drivers and vehicles interact, from graphic user interfaces to cloud-based profiling technology. It enables electric car profiles to be tailored to multiple drivers, and it should be compatible with all electric car platforms.
Also expected at Electronica, the integrated seal in Mektec Europe’s flexible printed-circuit technology permits the simultaneous transmission of signal and power currents such as those needed for hybrid drive systems, helping solve challenges posed by alternative drive technologies, infotainment, and lighting within the vehicle.
At The Show
Are you attending or exhibiting at Electronica? Share your thoughts and predictions in the comments section below.