Elephant Edge Webinar 1: The Software

The ElephantEdge challenge is calling on the community to build ML models using the Edge Impulse Studio and tracking dashboards using Avnet’s IoTConnect, which will be deployed onto 10 production-grade collars manufactured by our engineering partner, Institute IRNAS, and deployed by Smart Parks.

In this first of two ElephantEdge webinars you’ll learn about the problems park rangers are facing and how to get started with IoTConnect and Edge Impulse Studio.

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Robot Voice (and UNDP Covid Challenge Awards)

Tune in on August 12 for the UNDP COVID-19 Detect & Protect Challenge finale (! Alex will be hosting, assisted by Archimedes, her AI owl companion bot. Here’s how she’s making him sound his very best.



Researchers present concept for a new technique to study superheavy elements

Superheavy elements are intriguing nuclear and atomic quantum systems that challenge experimental probing as they do not occur in nature and, when synthesized, vanish within seconds. Pushing the forefront atomic physics research to these elements requires breakthrough developments towards fast atomic spectroscopy techniques with extreme sensitivity. A joint effort within the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program and led by Dr. Mustapha Laatiaoui from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) culminated in an optical spectroscopy proposal: The so-called Laser Resonance Chromatography (LRC) should enable such investigations even at minute production quantities. The proposal has recently been published in two articles in Physical Review Letters and Physical Review A.

Superheavy elements (SHEs) are found at the bottom part of the periodic table of elements. They represent a fertile ground for the development of understanding on how such exotic atoms can exist and work when an overwhelming number of electrons in atomic shells and protons and neutrons in the nucleus come together. Insights into their electronic structure can be obtained from optical spectroscopy experiments unveiling element-specific emission spectra. These spectra are powerful benchmarks for modern atomic-model calculations and could be useful, for example, when it comes to searching for traces of even heavier elements, which might be created in neutron-star merger events.

LRC approach combines different methods

Although SHEs have been discovered decades ago, their investigation by optical spectroscopy tools lack far behind the synthesis. This is because they are produced at extremely low rates at which traditional methods simply do not work. So far, optical spectroscopy ends at nobelium, element 102 in the periodic table. “Current techniques are at the limit of what is feasible,” explained Laatiaoui. From the next heavier element on, the physicochemical properties change abruptly and impede providing samples in suitable atomic states.”

Together with research colleagues, the physicist has therefore developed the new LRC approach in optical spectroscopy. This combines element selectivity and spectral precision of laser spectroscopy with ion-mobility mass spectrometry and merges the benefits of a high sensitivity with the “simplicity” of optical probing as in laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy. Its key idea is to detect the products of resonant optical excitations not on the basis of fluorescent light as usual, but based on their characteristic drift time to a particle detector.

In their theoretical work, the researchers focused on singly charged lawrencium, element 103, and on its lighter chemical homolog. But the concept offers unparalleled access to laser spectroscopy of many other monoatomic ions across the periodic table, in particular of the transition metals including the high-temperature refractory metals and elements beyond lawrencium. Other ionic species like triply-charged thorium shall be within reach of the LRC approach as well. Moreover, the method enables to optimize signal-to-noise ratios and thus to ease ion mobility spectrometry, state-selected ion chemistry, and other applications.

Dr. Mustapha Laatiaoui came to Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and the Helmholtz Institute Mainz (HIM) in February 2018. In late 2018, he received an ERC Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC), one of the European Union’s most valuable funding grants, for his research into the heaviest elements using laser spectroscopy and ion mobility spectroscopy. The current publications also included work that Laatiaoui had previously carried out at GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt and at KU Leuven in Belgium.

This work was conducted in cooperation with Alexei A. Buchachenko from the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology and the Institute of Problems of Chemical Physics, both in Moscow, Russia, and Larry A. Viehland from Chatham University, Pittsburgh, USA.

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Materials provided by Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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3D Printing Industry

Smith College team wins Covent-19 Challenge with low-cost 3D printed ventilator design

A team from the Massachusetts-based Smith College has won the Covent-19 Challenge design contest with its novel “Smithvent” partially-3D printed ventilator.  Open to the public, the aim of the competition was to create a rapidly deployable, minimum viable ventilator that could address shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in developing countries. Just three months […]

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Author: Paul Hanaphy


Mathematical noodling leads to new insights into an old fusion problem

A challenge to creating fusion energy on Earth is trapping the charged gas known as plasma that fuels fusion reactions within a strong magnetic field and keeping the plasma as hot and dense as possible for as long as possible. Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have gained new insight into a common type of hiccup known as the sawtooth instability that cools the hot plasma in the center and interferes with the fusion reactions. These findings could help bring fusion energy closer to reality.

“Conventional models explain most instances of the sawtooth crashes, but there is a tenacious subset of observations that we have never been able to explain,” said PPPL physicist Christopher Smiet, lead author of a paper reporting the results in Nuclear Fusion. “Explaining those unusual occurrences would fill a gap in understanding the sawtooth phenomenon that has existed for almost 40 years.”

Fusion combines light elements in the form of plasma — the hot, charged state of matter composed of free electrons and atomic nuclei — and in the process generates massive amounts of energy in the sun and stars. Scientists are seeking to replicate fusion in devices on Earth for a virtually inexhaustible supply of safe and clean power to generate electricity.

Researchers have known for decades that the temperature at the core of fusion plasma often rises slowly and can then suddenly drop — an unwanted occurrence since the cooler temperature reduces efficiency. The prevailing theory is that the crash occurs when a quantity called the safety factor, which measures the stability of the plasma, drops to a measurement of close to 1. The safety factor relates to how much twist is in the magnetic field in the doughnut-shaped tokamak fusion facilities.

However, some observations suggest that the temperature crash occurs when the safety factor drops to around 0.7. This is quite surprising and cannot be explained by the most widely accepted theories.

The new insight, coming not from plasma physics but from abstract mathematics, shows that when the safety factor takes specific values, one of which is close to 0.7, the magnetic field in the plasma core can change into a different configuration called alternating-hyperbolic. “In this topology, the plasma is lost in the core,” Smiet says. “The plasma is expelled from the center in opposite directions. This leads to a new way for the magnetic cage to partially crack, for the temperature in the core to suddenly fall, and for the process to repeat as the magnetic field and temperature slowly recover.”

The new insights suggest an exciting new research direction toward keeping more heat within the plasma and producing fusion reactions more efficiently. “If we can’t explain these outlier observations, then we don’t fully understand what’s going on in these machines,” Smiet said. “Countering the sawtooth instability can lead to producing hotter, more twisty plasmas and bring us closer to fusion.”

This model arose from purely abstract mathematical research. Smiet found a mathematical way to describe the magnetic field in the center of a tokamak. All possible configurations can then be associated with an algebraic structure called a Lie group. “The mathematics is really quite beautiful,” Smiet says. “This mathematical group gives you a birds-eye view of all possible magnetic configurations and when one configuration can change into another.”

The new model shows that one of the times the magnetic configuration in a tokamak can change is when the safety factor falls to precisely two-thirds, or 0.666. “This is eerily close to the value of 0.7 that has been seen in experiments, particularly so when experimental uncertainty is taken into account,” Smiet said. “One of the most beautiful parts of these results,” he said, “is that they came from just noodling around with pure mathematics.”

Smiet hopes to verify the new model by running experiments on a tokamak. “The mathematics has shown us what to look for,” he said, “so now we should be able to see it.”

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Materials provided by DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. Original written by Raphael Rosen. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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3D Printing Industry

Expressing Geometry and Material in Harmony for the purmundus challenge 2020

The purmundus challenge is an annual competition inviting designers and engineers from across the globe to participate in a theme-based 3D printing design contest. Held since 2012 by German rapid prototyping company Cirp GmbH, the competition aims to bring together a wide variety of ideas, creative products and innovative projects in one place, with any […]

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Author: Anas Essop


Molecular circuitry: International team breaks one-diode-one resistor electronics

An international team with ties to UCF has cracked a challenge that could herald a new era of ultra-high-density computing.

For years engineers and scientists around the world have been trying to make smaller and faster electronics. But the power needed for today’s design tends to overheat and fry the circuits. Circuits are generally built by connecting a diode switch in series with a memory element, called one diode-one resistor. But this approach requires large voltage drops across the device, which translates into high power, and hampers shrinking circuitry beyond a certain point as two separate circuit elements are required. Many teams are working on combining the diode and resistor into a single device.

These one-on-one molecular switches are great options, but they too have been limited to carrying out only one function and even then, they were often fraught with problems including unstable electrical voltage variances and limited lifespans.

The international team, led by Christian Nijhuis from the National University of Singapore and with co-authors Damien Thompson at the University of Limerick and Enrique del Barco the University of Central Florida, made the breakthrough detailed June 1 in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Materials.

The team created a new type of molecular switch that works as both a diode and a memory element. The device is 2 nanometers thick, the length of a single molecule (10,000 times smaller than the width of hair), and only requires a low drive voltage of less than 1 Volt.

“The community is quickly advancing in identifying novel electronic device applications at the molecular scale,” says Del Barco, a professor who specializes in quantum physics. “This work may help speed-up development of new technologies involving artificial synapses and neural networks.”

Nijhuis, who specializes in chemistry, led the team. Damien Thompson from the University of Limerick provided computational theory expertise and del Barco and his team of students and lab scientists provided the theoretical analysis.

How it works

The molecular switch operates in a two-step mechanism where the injected charge is stabilized by migration of charged ions between the molecules and the device surface. That’s made possible by bonding the molecules in pairs. Using a combination of electrical measurements and atomic-scale measurements guided by quantum mechanics, the team found a sweet spot between stability and switch ability that yielded the dual diode+memory resistive RAM memory at a microscopic scale, according to the paper.

“There are still some challenges and more work in this area is needed, but this is a significant breakthrough,” Nijhuis says.

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Materials provided by University of Central Florida. Original written by Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Are Your APIs Intelligent Enough for Digital Transformation?

One significant challenge posed by digital transformation is the need for organizations to leverage existing technology investments, which often hold business and technical intellectual property built up over many years. The combination of integration and application programming interface (“API”) is a powerful tool in making the connection between an enterprise’s existing and future technology investments.

APIs have become the de facto way to integrate internal and external systems that have evolved from a purely technical, programmer-level code capability to an easy-to-create integration tool. McDonald’s, for example, uses APIs to power its home delivery service via Uber Eats, while Expedia uses APIs to provide travelers with a choice of flights from multiple airlines. Today, before integrating an application or data source, IT teams are likely to first ask “does it have an API?”.

Integration Driven, Intelligent APIs Change the Game.

Integration-driven APIs can be developed at high-speed, with visual/zero-code tools, to integrate multiple, disparate systems, driving a truly flexible, loosely coupled architecture. API management solutions, which are typically part of an enterprise integration platform as a service (EiPaaS), play an important role in enabling organizations to publish, promote, secure, and analyze the usage of Integration APIs.

However, it’s the data management platform that ensures that the information (data) shared between API-connected applications is of high quality, trustworthy, and secure. A robust AI-driven data management empowered EiPaaS can turn an ordinary API into an intelligent API that uses metadata to understand the origin of data, the purposes for which it may be used, and rules around who may access it and for what purpose. In contrast, put a basic API in front of a data source without concern for how that API will be used and it could generate little value. At worst, it could expose a security flaw and wreak havoc for the business.

Intelligent APIs Deliver Best-in-Class Services for Grant Thornton

At Grant Thornton, the sixth-largest accounting, audit, tax, and financial advisory firm in the US, APIs are used to power its digital workspace for some 10,000 employees. The “one-stop-shop” portal includes a customized employee profile that allows users to establish their public virtual identities as well as manage a private dashboard showcasing their skills, resumes, benefits, travel itineraries, performance metrics, and more.

The data that populates the dashboard is drawn from multiple underlying systems and a mix of on-premises and cloud applications – Concur for travel and Chrome River/BMO for expenses – using APIs, such as Get_Worker, Get_Skills, Get_Resume, Get_Travel_Summary, to fetch, cleanse, transform, and feed this hybrid data into the employee portal.

Widespread employee use of the portal drives more than 100,000 API calls every day. Therefore, having the ability to track API calls, monitor error, and security reports, and get insights into API usage is critical to the portal’s success. “Grant Thornton can synchronize data across traditional on-premises applications as well as newer cloud applications, and handle the challenges of data proliferation across the organization due to the high volume of data and growing numbers of data sources, and data-consuming products that require data in a variety of schedules and latencies,” says Raj Khot, associate director of Enterprise Architecture at Grant Thornton.

Today, Grant Thornton no longer worries about API and integration separately. Instead of coding APIs — developing, maintaining, and patching APIs and updating integrations processes — the business can focus on using data analytics to offer some of the best services in its industry, as well as a digital window for each employee.

Intelligent APIs Create New Business Opportunities for Santa Fe

For Santa Fe Relocation, a global leader in international mobility, located in nearly 100 locations across 47 countries that has grown organically and through strategic acquisitions, multiple relocation systems and custom applications were making it difficult to establish a single view of the customer.

Without the single view, the business struggled to deliver the best and most timely customer service. “We needed a cloud integration solution that could easily plug into Salesforce and also connect to our legacy systems to provide the glue to hold everything together,” says Tobias Nothdurft, group director of IT Strategy and Enterprise Architecture, at Santa Fe Relocation.

Santa Fe now uses cloud API integration to address its challenge. The APIs expose and connect their on-premises/legacy systems data with Salesforce, with over 300,000 API calls per week. With their customer information available in Salesforce, pertinent details that are critical for delivering a positive customer experience, are no longer trapped in emails and legacy applications.

The business now benefits from near real-time data updates and batch processes to load data from legacy platforms. Faster access to highly accurate, near-real-time data enables Santa Fe employees to respond quickly to customers, instead of waiting up to a day to respond, helping the company increase customer satisfaction. To address the security and compliance for managing personally identifiable information data, they use APIs to ensure proper authentication and authorization before customer data can be accessed by systems and employees.

Nothdurft says, “The data integration work that we’ve done has been a business enabler for us, opening up new market opportunities. We’re able to serve some very large international companies that we would never have been able to manage before. We’ve won major new deals.”

AI and APIs Converge in a Multi-Cloud, Hybrid World

Most enterprises will need a robust cloud-based integration platform (EiPaaS) for hybrid integration, macro process orchestration, legacy data access, and rationalizing inconsistencies between non-standard data structures. But the EiPaaS should combine enterprise-class data management and the ability to design intelligent APIs with zero code. By taking this approach, businesses can secure, manage, and monetize APIs that connect vast volumes of data from any source to any user at any speed, securely, across multi-cloud and hybrid environments.

Increasingly, AI is being used to optimize APIs, such as for discovering APIs at design time, analyzing API calls, and masking suspicious payload data at runtime, at scale far beyond what mere humans can manage. The powerful combination of iPaaS, APIs, and AI delivers a more seamless, connected, and smarter digital experience for employees, partners, and customers.

Intelligent Integration: APIs Enable Digital Transformation

There is little doubt that organizations’ API inventory will continue to expand. The question is which organizations will adopt intelligent APIs – to tap into the right data, at the right time, at the right speed and volume, for the right user – and leverage them intelligently to provide the real-time business insights needed to thrive in the digital era.

Intelligent APIs enabling data and application integration are critical for digital transformation. Deloitte noted in its tech trends report that organizations increasingly appreciate the need for API strategy to be aligned with robust data management: “Globally, companies are recognizing that API ambitions go hand-in-hand with broader core modernization and data management efforts. Indeed, data management becomes particularly relevant in API projects, because data quality and control challenges may emerge when underlying technology assets become exposed.”

According to Gartner’s API Strategy Maturity Model, published: 21 October 2019 ID: G00451168[i], 73% of respondents said that their organizations are at the intermediate, advanced, or expert level of API maturity, having successfully built API-based integrations or applications which use APIs. The same report states that “by 2021, 90% of web-enabled applications will have more surface area for attack in the form of exposed APIs rather than the UI, up from 40% in 2019.”

Gartner, “Gartner’s API Strategy Maturity Model,” Saniye Alaybeyi, Mark O’Neill, 31, October 2019.

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Author: <a href="">Ronen-Schwartz</a>

IEEE Spectrum

Researchers Can Now Interrogate Body-on-Chip

Scientists have just announced the completion of a lofty DARPA challenge to integrate 10 human organs-on-chips in an automated system to study how drugs work in the body. The technology provides an alternative to testing drugs on humans or other animals.

Referred to as the “Interrogator” by its developers, the system links up to ten different human organ chips—miniaturized microfluidic devices containing living cells that mimic the function of the organs they represent, such as intestine, heart or lung—and maintains their function for up to three weeks. In two experiments, the system successfully predicted how a human body metabolizes specific drugs.

The technology, described in two papers published this week in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, was developed by Donald Ingber and colleagues at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

“This is a wonderful technology for the field of organ-on-a-chip,” says Yu Shrike Zhang, a bioengineer at Harvard University Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who was not involved in the research. A platform that automates the culturing, linking, and maintenance of multiple human organ-on-chips, all while inside a sterile incubator, “represents a great technological advancement,” says Zhang, who last year wrote about the promises and challenges of organ-on-a-chip systems for IEEE Spectrum.

In 2010, Ingber and colleagues reported the first human organ-on-a-chip, a human lung. Each chip, roughly the size of a computer memory stick, is composed of a clear polymer containing hollow channels: one channel is lined with endothelial cellsthe same cells that line human blood vessels, and another hosts organ-specific cells, such as liver or kidney cells.

After creating numerous individual organ chips, Ingber received a 2012 DARPA grant to try to integrate 10 organs-on-chips and use them to study how drugs are absorbed and metabolized in the body.

Eight years and three prototypes later, the team succeeded. The most recent version of the platform took four years to develop, says Richard Novak, a senior staff engineer at the Wyss Institute who built the machine. Within that time, a whole year was needed to develop a user interface that biologists with no programming experience could easily operate.

“It enables a really complex experiment to be set up in two minutes,” says Novak.

The “Interrogator,” as Novak fondly calls it, consists of a robotic system that pipettes liquids—such as a blood substitute and/or a drug of choice—into the channels; a peristaltic pump to move those liquids through the microfluidic chips; custom software with an easy drag-n-drop interface; and a mobile microscope to monitor the chips and their connections without having to manually reach in and take out each chip for examination, as was done with older systems.

Best of all, says Novak, the whole machine fits into a standard laboratory incubator, which maintains living cells at constant temperature and light conditions.

Finally, the team was ready to interrogate the Interrogator. Could the system truly mimic the human body in a drug test? To find out, the scientists connected a human gut chip, liver chip, and kidney chip, then added nicotine to the gut chip to simulate a person orally swallowing the drug (such as if a person were chewing nicotine gum). The time it took the nicotine to reach each tissue, and the maximum nicotine concentrations in each tissue, closely matched levels previously measured in patients.

In a second test, the researchers linked liver, kidney, and bone marrow chips and administered cisplatin, a common chemotherapy drug. Once again, the drug was metabolized and cleared by the kidney and liver at levels that closely matched those measured in patients. Cells in the kidney chip even expressed the same biological markers of injury as a living kidney does during chemotherapy treatment.

“Compared against clinical studies, they matched up really nicely,” says Novak. The team is now using their linked organ chips to study the gut microbiome and influenza transmission. The Interrogator technology IP has been licensed by a Wyss Institute spin-off company, Boston-based Emulate, which Ingber founded.


The mysterious movement of water molecules

Water is a mysterious substance. Understanding how it behaves at the atomic level is still a challenge for experimental physicists, as light hydrogen and oxygen atoms are difficult to observe using conventional experimental methods. This is especially true for any researcher looking to study the microscopic movements of individual water molecules that run off a surface in a matter of picoseconds. As they report in their paper, entitled ‘Nanoscopic diffusion of water on a topological insulator’, researchers from the Exotic Surfaces working group at TU Graz’s Institute of Experimental Physics joined forces with counterparts from the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge , the University of Surrey and Aarhus University. Together, they made significant advances, performing research into the behaviour of water on a material that is currently attracting particular interest: a topological insulator called bismuth telluride. This compound could be used to build quantum computers. Water vapour would be one of the environmental factors to which applications based on bismuth telluride might be exposed during operation.

In the course of their research, the team used a combination of a new experimental method called helium spin-echo spectroscopy and theoretical calculations. Helium spin-echo spectroscopy uses very low-energy helium atoms that allow isolated water molecules to be observed without influencing their motion in the process. The researchers discovered that water molecules behave completely differently on bismuth telluride compared with those on conventional metals. On such metals, attractive interactions between water molecules can be observed, leading to accumulations in the form of films. But the opposite is the case with topological insulators: the water molecules repel one another and remain isolated on the surface.

Bismuth telluride appears to be impervious to water, which is an advantage for applications exposed to typical environmental conditions. Plans are in place for further experiments on similarly structured surfaces, which are intended to clarify whether the movement of water molecules is attributable to specific features of the surface in question.

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Materials provided by Graz University of Technology. Original written by Birgit Baustädter. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Anton Tamtögl, Marco Sacchi, Nadav Avidor, Irene Calvo-Almazán, Peter S. M. Townsend, Martin Bremholm, Philip Hofmann, John Ellis, William Allison. Nanoscopic diffusion of water on a topological insulator. Nature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-14064-7

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Graz University of Technology. “The mysterious movement of water molecules.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 January 2020. <>.

Graz University of Technology. (2020, January 15). The mysterious movement of water molecules. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 15, 2020 from

Graz University of Technology. “The mysterious movement of water molecules.” ScienceDaily. (accessed January 15, 2020).

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