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SENSE.nano awards seed grants in optoelectronics, interactive manufacturing

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SENSE.nano awards seed grants in optoelectronics, interactive manufacturing 1

SENSE.nano has announced the recipients of the third annual SENSE.nano seed grants. This year’s grants serve to advance innovations in sensing technologies for augmented and virtual realities (AR/VR) and advanced manufacturing systems.

A center of excellence powered by MIT.nano, SENSE.nano received substantial interest in its 2019 call for proposals, making for stiff competition. Proposals were reviewed and evaluated by a committee consisting of industry and academia thought-leaders and were selected for funding following significant discussion. Ultimately, two projects were awarded $75,000 each to further research related to detecting movement in molecules and monitoring machine health. 

“SENSE.nano strives to convey the breadth and depth of sensing research at MIT,” says Brian Anthony, co-leader of SENSE.nano, associate director of MIT.nano, and a principal research scientist in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “As we work to grow SENSE.nano’s research footing and to attract partners, it is encouraging to know that so much important research — in sensors; sensor systems; and sensor science, engineering — is taking place at the Institute.”

The projects receiving grants are:

P. Donald Keathley and Karl Berggren: Nanostructured optical-field samplers for visible to near-infrared time-domain spectroscopy

Research Scientist Phillip “Donnie” Keathley and Professor Karl Berggren from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science are developing a field-sampling technique using nanoscale structures and light waves to sense vibrational motion of molecules. Keathley is a member of Berggren’s quantum nanostructures and nanofabrication group in the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE). The two are investigating an all-on-chip nanoantenna device for sampling weak sub-femtojoule-level electronic fields, in the near-infrared and visible spectrums.

Current technology for sampling these spectra of optical energy requires a large apparatus — there is no compact device with enough sensitivity to detect the low-energy signals. Keathley and Berggren propose using plasmonic nanoantennas for measuring low-energy pulses. This technology could have significant impacts on the medical and food-safety industries by revolutionizing the accurate detection and identification of chemicals and bio-chemicals.

Jeehwan Kim: Interactive manufacturing enabled by simultaneous sensing and recognition

Jeehwan Kim, associate professor with a dual appointment in mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering, proposes an ultra-sensitive sensor system using neuromorphic chips to improve advanced manufacturing through real-time monitoring of machines. Machine failures compromise productivity and cost. Sensors that can instantly process data to provide real-time feedback would be a valuable tool for preventive maintenance of factory machines.

Kim’s group, also part of RLE, aims to develop single-crystalline gallium nitride sensors that, when connected to AI chips, will create a feedback loop with the factory machines. Failure patterns would be recognized by the AI hardware, creating an intelligent manufacturing system that can predict and prevent failures. These sensors will have the sensitivity to navigate noisy factory environments, be small enough to form dense arrays, and have the power efficiency to be used on a large number of manufacturing machines.

The mission of SENSE.nano is to foster the development and use of novel sensors, sensing systems, and sensing solutions in order to provide previously unimaginable insight into the condition of our world. Two new calls for seed grant proposals will open later this year in conjunction with the Immersion Lab NCSOFT collaboration and then with the SENSE.nano 2020 symposium.

In addition to seed grants and the annual conference, SENSE.nano recently launched Talk SENSE — a monthly series for MIT students to further engage with these topics and connect with experts working in sensing technologies.



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