Research & Design

All engineers have an immediate need for a product or solution, but it is equally important that they keep an eye on the future to identify new technologies or methodologies which may enable their next designs.

In this section, New Electronics takes a look over the horizon, pointing out to visitors the developments in research and design which will impact the electronics industry in the next few years, as well as the processes which are being developed to manufacture those products.

Rising to the acceleration challenge

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and deep learning is the future of computing. Intelligent machines that understand the world as humans do, interpret our languages and learn from data will habitually be used to resolve problems too complex for the human brain.

Under exposure

Chipmakers are set to break the 10nm barrier as they move from the test-chip stage to full production on 7nm processes. The move marks another extension of a lithography technology that was meant to be phased out 15 years in favour of so-called next-generation lithography.

Data driven defence

The defence industry is facing stagnating or tightening budgets in many of its traditional key markets while, at the same time, having to adapt to changing security threats and embracing new technologies.

Solution to heat challenges in UV LED modules

Applications using ultraviolet (UV) light were first used back in the 1900s, but it was not until the 1940s that it was used on an industrial scale curing resins and inks and being deployed to sterilise and then disinfect medical equipment.

Academia expresses post Brexit concerns

Since the announcement in the Queen’s Speech to Parliament in May 2015 that a referendum would be held on the UK’s continuing membership of the European Union (EU), there have been considerable expressions of concern about the potential effect of a withdrawal on the country’s research and development efforts.

New and old tech required to develop space apps

Generally large and imposing, it can safely be assumed that satellites – such as Gaia, the Rosetta probe and the Hubble Telescope – required many thousands of hours of designing and testing; not least because of the harsh radiation and thermal conditions in space.

Potential breakthroughs in battery technology

The pressure on those developing new battery chemistries is increasing as consumers demand the ability to use their electronic devices for longer between charges. And it seems that researchers are responding with a range of potential solutions, not only based on lithium, but also exploring other elements. Beyond that, solid state electrolytes are beginning to show promise.

Powerful telescopes bring us closer to the Big Bang

Humankind has always wondered what secrets the universe was hiding in its starry depths and striven to understand how we fit into the bigger picture. This curiosity is still strong, as demonstrated by the number of powerful telescopes that have either been built recently or are under construction.

Functional abstraction to help achieve digital continuity

Model-based approaches to electrical and electronic system design – usually based on UML derived languages such as SysML – are frequently not suited to agile, iterative architecture optimisation. But there is another approach; one that uses standardised, hierarchical function models combined on a single abstraction level to describe the technical content of system architecture.

Silicon carbide technology reaches tipping point

While silicon currently remains the material of choice of power devices, there is little headroom available to improve figures of merit such as on resistance and gate charge. However, there appears to be more room for manoeuvre with alternative materials and two such materials which are focusing the attention of device developers are silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN).

Memristors as logic gates and memory cells in tomorrow’s computing devices

As the last decade ended, ARM’s CTO Mike Muller warned the era of dark silicon was approaching. The 2008 International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, published a year before, showed that scaling was diverging from transistor size. Muller argued that, while Moore’s Law might well deliver billions of transistors, they cannot all be active at the same time without making the chip cook itself to death.

Overcoming visual impairment

In 2015, more than 2million people in the UK were living with some degree of sight loss. It affects people of all ages, but the older we get, the more likely it is that our vision will be impaired. According to statistics from RNIB, one in five people aged 75 and more are living with sight loss and nearly two-thirds of those living with sight loss are women.

The rise of the hyperscale data centre

The modern data centre is becoming more complex as it attempts to handle the proliferation in mobile devices and billions of newly connected devices, all of which are increasing the pressure on data infrastructure. Customer expectations have never been higher and they will expect a seamless level of service, even as the demand for data increases exponentially.

LabVIEW and CompactDAQ get the Skylon space plane project off the ground

An aircraft that takes off from a runway, travels to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere and delivers its payload, or even travels into space, then heads back to earth and lands on the same runway it took off from. It sounds like science fiction, but Reaction Engines Limited (REL) has laid a solid foundation towards making this a reality. Using National Instruments LabVIEW design software and CompactDAQ, they created a test-bed that is both scalable and flexible in its implementation and allows for the test data to be viewed and logged simultaneously at high speed for further analysis.

Bioelectronics and biosciences could replace the drug industry as we know it

From bioelectronics to biosciences, the pace of change in life sciences is accelerating as companies look to microfluidics, micro- and nanotechnology to develop innovative medical treatments. Earlier this year, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced that it was a forming a bioelectronics firm with Verily Life Sciences, a subsidiary of Alphabet. The new company will research, develop and commercialise bioelectronics medicine, a relatively new scientific field in which miniaturised, implantable devices could treat illnesses ranging from bowel disease to arthritis, hypertension and diabetes.

Maximising the potential of fibre optic communications

The Electronic and Electrical Engineering department at University College London (UCL) has been linked almost inextricably with the development of the communications industry. Professor Polina Bayvel, head of UCL’s Optical Networks Group (ONG), pictured below, explained: “It’s a special department; the first electronic and electrical engineering department in any UK university.”

Collaboration is the centerpiece to push the limits of lithography

The continuation of Moore’s Law requires a combination of both physical and functional scaling, where our main challenge in lithography is to continue pushing the physical scaling limits in a controlled and cost-effective way. By serving as the collaboration hub of the industry in this area, imec is playing an important role in helping the industry to address the major technical challenges towards continued physical scaling. This is being done on multiple fronts.

The ‘blackest material yet’ could improve the performance of satellite based instrumentation

Carbon nanotubes have been seen as having a wide range of potential applications for many years, but their use in the ‘real world’ has been a long time coming. The first research into such structures was reported in 1952 by a Russian team, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that the technology began to gain some traction. Even today, their use – particularly in industrial applications – remains the exception

Harnessing quantum technology for UK plc

November saw the opening of the Quantum Metrology Institute (QMI). Based at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in Teddington, it forms a key element in the UK’s efforts to exploit quantum technology commercially through the National Quantum Technologies programme.

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