Recent Stories: Cyborgs, Solar, and Data Storage

This post is a roundup of the stories I’ve written over the past few weeks.

Without doing it consciously, I’ve totally carved out a cyborg beat. The most recent story is about a neural implant that is wirelessly controlled and wirelessly powered. The researchers, led by Brian Otis at the University of Washington, hope to implant this in humans someday, but have so far just demonstrated the sensor on a moth.

Another cool human-computer interface story I did was about a Microsoft Research project that uses muscle electrodes to interact with a computer. The main researcher, Desney Tan, is really trying to make muscle sensors cheap and easy to use so that the group’s prototype can eventually turn into something commercial. An awesome video of the technology, where a person plays Guitar Hero without the guitar, is here .

For The Economist, I wrote an update on a project by Babak Parviz at the University of Washington. Parviz is building a bionic eye by adding electro-optic devices to a contact lens.

Side note: all of the above researchers know each other and are either currently collaborating or have worked together on projects in the past.

I’ve also written one story about solar energy, a more efficient photovoltaic that uses nanopatterns to trap light better. The really interesting thing about this research is the physics behind it. These nanopatterns convert three-dimensional waves of light into two-dimensional waves that are confined to the surface of a metal. This process makes sunlight easier to turn into usable energy. The key to this 3D to 2D conversion is a quasiparticle called a surface plasmon. I have a little crush on plasmons (ever since grad school!), so I’ll be writing more about these in the future. Stay tuned!

Another piece I wrote was about researchers at Rice who use graphite–the same stuff that’s in pencils–to make a new type of chip-based memory that can hold more data than flash.

I covered research from NIST in which scientists developed a technique to scale up quantum computers, hopefully making them more practical.

And finally, I wrote about Intel’s announcement of an optical cable that the company would like to eventually replace the slow and heavy copper wires that people use to connect their computers, televisions, peripherals, etc. together. (For some background and more info on this topic, check out a post I wrote a while back.)

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