Tech Briefs Magazine - June 2022 - 26

Electrical/Electronics
Modern micro-PLCs can be designed
into new equipment, but they also play
an important role for retrofitting existing
systems. By adding a micro-PLC in
parallel with existing controls, users gain
the IIoT connectivity they need, without
impacting the underlying automation.
Because machines and test equipment
are more highly instrumented than ever
before, and because users want to access all
available data for deeper analysis, there is a
significant need to bridge field devices to
higher-level systems. Modern micro-PLCs
offer the best price/performance ratio,
whether built into new equipment or added
to existing systems, to create industrial-grade
automation and IIoT solutions.
This article was written by Bill Dehner,
Technical Marketing Engineer at AutomationDirect.
For more information, visit
http://info.hotims.com/82322-124.
Smart Molecules Act as Computer Transistors
Computer hard drives could be made up of smart molecules that provide 100 times
bigger memory.
Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom
R
esearchers have discovered a single-molecule
switch that can act like
a transistor and store binary information
such as the 1s and 0s used in classical
computing. The molecule is around
five square nanometers in size - more
than one billion of them would fit onto
the cross-section of a human hair. The
researchers believe that molecules like
the ones they have discovered could offer
information density of around 250
terabits per square inch, which is
around 100 times the storage density of
current hard drives.
In the study, molecules of an organic salt
can be switched using a small electrical input
to appear either bright or dark, providing
binary information. This infor mation
can be written, read, and erased at room
temperature and in normal air pressures.
These are important characteristics for
practical application of the molecules in
computing storage devices. Most previous
research into molecular electronics for
similar applications has been conducted in
vacuum and at very low temperatures.
The smart molecular switches as seen with a
scanning tunneling microscope. (Image: Lancaster
Univeristy)
There are a number of properties
that a molecule has to possess to be useful
as a molecular memory. Apart from
being switchable in both directions under
ambient conditions, it has to be stable
for a long time in the bright and
dark state and also spontaneously form
highly ordered layers that are only one
molecule thick in a process called
self-assembly.
In laboratory experiments, the team
used small electric pulses in a scanning
tunneling microscope to switch individual
molecules from bright to dark. They
were also able to read and erase the information
afterward at the press of a
button. During the switching, the electric
pulse changes the way the cation
and the anion in the organic salt are
stacked together and this stacking causes
the molecule to appear either bright
or dark. Apart from the switching itself,
the spontaneous ordering of the molecules
is crucial - through self-assembly,
they find their way into a highly ordered
structure (a two-dimensional crystal)
without the need for expensive manufacturing
tools, as is the case in currently
used electronics.
For more information, contact Dr. Stijn
Mertens at s.mertens@lancaster.ac.uk; +44
(0)1524 594189.
Applying Friction Principles to Finger-Device Interaction
Mechanics
Temperature variation could help new touchscreen technology simulate virtual shapes.
Texas A&M University College of Engineering, College Station, TX
H
26
igh-fidelity touch has the potential to
significantly expand the scope of
what we expect from computing devices,
making new remote sensory experiences
possible. The research on these advancements,
led by a pair of researchers at
Texas A&M University, could help touchscreens
simulate virtual shapes.
Cynthia Hipwell is studying friction at
the finger-device level, while Jonathan
Felts is researching friction in the interaction
between single skin cells and the
glass of the touchscreen interface. The
two are bringing together their respective
areas of expertise to apply friction
principles at the microscopic level to finger-device
interaction mechanics.
Hipwell highlighted the significance of
the pursuit by comparing it to the technologies
currently available for conveywww.techbriefs.com
ing
immersive and accurate information
through high-fidelity audio and video.
" We can view digitally recorded or remotely
transmitted audio and video on a
screen with great detail, " said Hipwell.
" We do not yet have that same capability
with touch on a touchscreen. Imagine
you could feel the skin of a snake that
lives on another continent or the fabric
of clothes you want to buy online. "
Tech Briefs, June 2022
TB Electrical Electronics 0622_1.indd 26
Cov
ToC
5/19/22 1:05 PM
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Tech Briefs Magazine - June 2022

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