LiFi, instead of WiFi: Chinese scientists achieve Internet access through lightbulbs


Lightbulbs may one day be used for connecting to Internet

LiFi Successful experiments by Chinese scientists have indicated the possibility of the country’s netizens getting online through signals sent by lightbulbs (LiFi), instead of WiFi.

Four computers under a one-watt LED lightbulb may connect to the Internet under the principle that light can be used as a carrier instead of traditional radio frequencies, as in WiFi, said Chi Nan, an information technology professor with Shanghai’s Fudan University, on Thursday.

A lightbulb with embedded microchips can produce data rates as fast as 150 megabits per second, which is speedier than the average broadband connection in China, said Chi, who leads a LiFi research team including scientists from the Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

LiFi_environment

With LiFi cost-effective as well as efficient, netizens should be excited to view 10 sample LiFi kits that will be on display at the China International Industry Fair that will kick off on Nov. 5 in Shanghai.

The current wireless signal transmission equipment is expensive and low in efficiency, said Chi.

“As for cell phones, millions of base stations have been established around the world to strengthen the signal but most of the energy is consumed on their cooling systems,” she explained. “The energy utilization rate is only 5 percent.”

Compared with base stations, the number of lightbulbs that can be used is practically limitless. Meanwhile, Chinese people are replacing the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs with LED lightbulbs at a fast pace.

“Wherever there is an LED lightbulb, there is an Internet signal,” said Chi. “Turn off the light and there is no signal.”

However, there is still a long way to go to make LiFi a commercial success.

“If the light is blocked, then the signal will be cut off,” said Chi.

More importantly, according to the scientist, the development of a series of key related pieces of technology, including light communication controls as well as microchip design and manufacturing, is still in an experimental period.

The term LiFi was coined by Harald Haas from the University of Edinburgh in the UK and refers to a type of visible light communication technology that delivers a networked, mobile, high-speed communication solution in a similar manner as WiFi.

Contributed by Shanghai Xinhua  Editor: Fu Peng

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Get industry help, varsities told


UK research director: Experts can advise academics on needs of private sector

By DAVID TAN davidtan@thestar.com.my

MALAYSIAN universities should consider engaging professionals who have served in multinational corporations (MNCs) to enhance collaboration between universities and the private sector to produce skilled human resources.

Dr Shi Yongjiang (pic), who is a research director of the Centre for International Manufacturing at the University of Cambridge, said retired and semi-retired professionals could identify the fields of collaboration relevant to the needs of industry.

He said the university had all the while engaged those who had served in well-known MNCs to serve as tutors and consultants for its industrial systems, manufacturing and management programme (ISMM).

“With their experience, they can serve as tutors to instruct and to give input on how to improve the curriculum to better serve the needs of the industry.

“As consultants, they can advise on how to improve the communication between the academic and private sectors,” he said.

He was speaking after visiting Qdos Holdings Bhd, a flexi-circuit production company in Bayan Lepas, Penang.

Shi is visiting Malaysia and Singapore from June 26 to July 10 with 10 postgraduate students to compare the industrial systems of the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Singapore.

“Under the ISMM programme, students are sent to work in manufacturing plants to apply what they have learnt in theory.

“This is to test how effective the theory is,” he said.

On Malaysia’s competitive edge, Shi said the country had very advanced skills in management systems and inventory planning compared to countries such as India, China, and Indonesia.

On the shortage of engineers in Penang, Shi said the problem was not unique as the UK and Germany also faced the same problem.

“One way to overcome the problem is to open the doors to international talents.

“The other solution is to revamp the engineering curriculum in universities and the science curriculum in high schools to make the subjects interesting. This is being done in the UK,” he said.

Shi said one of the reasons for the shortage of engineers in the UK was the very attractive salaries in the banking sector.

“Engineering graduates are lured to jobs in the banking sector because of the pay. Banks are also in favour of hiring engineering graduates as they have the analytical ability to solve complex problems,” he said.

Shi added that local companies should invest more on research and development activities to move up the value chain.

Companies that combine exports, research outperform competitors


Economists recognize that companies that export are more productive. However, a more complex relationship between exporting and investing in research and development may better explain the high productivity of companies in “economic miracle” countries such as China and Taiwan, according to a team of economists.

“The old story is that there’s some type of magic that makes your company more productive if it exports,” said Bee-Yan Aw, professor of economics, Penn State. “Actually what we found is that really productive firms tend to export in the first place.”

The researchers, who released their findings in the current issue of the , said companies that exported and invested in R&D significantly outperformed other companies significantly in productivity, including companies that just began exporting. They examined data on the relationship between R&D investments, exporting practices and productivity for Taiwanese electronic product manufacturing plants from 2000 to 2004.

A company that both invests in R&D and exports is 123 percent more productive than a plant that does neither, said Mark Roberts, professor of economics, Penn State. A plant that exports, but does not invest in R&D, is only 35 percent more productive. A plant that only invests in R&D has productivity that is twice as high.

According to Aw, manufacturers may be tempted to seize higher productivity gains by investing only in R&D and not in exports, but the costs of implementing new technology and updating equipment could be prohibitive.

“There are often higher costs associated with that may make it impractical for companies to implement,” said Aw. “Exporting may actually be a more desirable way to improve initially because it is relatively low cost.”

The Penn State researchers, who worked with Daniel Yi Xu, assistant professor of economics, New York University, said companies that export gain a competitive edge by learning more from their customers, which are often larger companies in Western countries.

Because companies that export are more productive, they may have a significant advantage over non-exporting firms that are hoping to sell their goods overseas. Government programs can help ease this transition for non-exporting companies that are looking for customers in foreign markets, according to Aw.

“Governments can set up programs that help non-exporting companies connect with customers in other countries,” said Aw. “In fact, that’s what a lot of countries are already doing.”

Provided by Pennsylvania State University (news : web)

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China ‘to overtake US on science’ in two years, set to outstrip US in science research output


China ‘to overtake US on science’ in two years

David Shukman Science and environment correspondent, BBC News

Infographic

Chinese-made bullet train China’s surge in progress could soon overwhelm the US, say experts

China is on course to overtake the US in scientific output possibly as soon as 2013 – far earlier than expected.

That is the conclusion of a major new study by the Royal Society, the UK’s national science academy.

The country that invented the compass, gunpowder, paper and printing is set for a globally important comeback.

An analysis of published research – one of the key measures of scientific effort – reveals an “especially striking” rise by Chinese science.

The study, Knowledge, Networks and Nations, charts the challenge to the traditional dominance of the United States, Europe and Japan.

The figures are based on the papers published in recognised international journals listed by the Scopus service of the publishers Elsevier.

‘No surprise’

In 1996, the first year of the analysis, the US published 292,513 papers – more than 10 times China’s 25,474.

By 2008, the US total had increased very slightly to 316,317 while China’s had surged more than seven-fold to 184,080.

Previous estimates for the rate of expansion of Chinese science had suggested that China might overtake the US sometime after 2020.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

There are many millions of graduates but they are mandated to publish so the numbers are high”

End Quote Dr Cong Cao Nottingham University

But this study shows that China, after displacing the UK as the world’s second leading producer of research, could go on to overtake America in as little as two years’ time.

“Projections vary, but a simple linear interpretation of Elsevier’s publishing data suggests that this could take place as early as 2013,” it says.

Professor Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith, chair of the report, said he was “not surprised” by this increase because of China’s massive boost to investment in R&D.

Chinese spending has grown by 20% per year since 1999, now reaching over $100bn, and as many as 1.5 million science and engineering students graduated from Chinese universities in 2006.

“I think this is positive, of great benefit, though some might see it as a threat and it does serve as a wake-up call for us not to become complacent.”

The report stresses that American research output will not decline in absolute terms and raises the possibility of countries like Japan and France rising to meet the Chinese challenge.

“But the potential for China to match American output in terms of sheer numbers in the near to medium term is clear.”

Quality questions

The authors describe “dramatic” changes in the global scientific landscape and warn that this has implications for a nation’s competitiveness.

According to the report, “The scientific league tables are not just about prestige – they are a barometer of a country’s ability to compete on the world stage”.

Along with the growth of the Chinese economy, this is yet another indicator of China’s extraordinarily rapid rise as a global force.

However the report points out that a growing volume of research publications does not necessarily mean in increase in quality.

One key indicator of the value of any research is the number of times it is quoted by other scientists in their work.

Although China has risen in the “citation” rankings, its performance on this measure lags behind its investment and publication rate.

“It will take some time for the absolute output of emerging nations to challenge the rate at which this research is referenced by the international scientific community.”

The UK’s scientific papers are still the second most-cited in the world, after the US.

Dr Cong Cao, associate professor at Nottingham University’s School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, agrees with the assessment that the quantity of China’s science is yet not matched by its quality.

A sociologist originally from Shanghai, Dr Cao told the BBC: “There are many millions of graduates but they are mandated to publish so the numbers are high.

“It will take many years for some of the research to catch up to Western standards.”

As to China’s motivation, Dr Cao believes that there is a determination not to be dependent on foreign know-how – and to reclaim the country’s historic role as a global leader in technology.

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China set to outstrip US in science research output

China has shot to second place in the number of articles published in international science magazines and in a few years will take the top spot from the United States, according to a new report.

“China has already overtaken the UK as the second leading producer of research publications, but some time before 2020 it is expected to surpass the USA,” said the report by the Royal Society in London.

While the top 10 is still dominated by the major Western powers, their share of research papers published is falling, the report said.

And as well as China, Brazil and India are coming up fast.

“The USA leads the world in research, producing 20 percent of the world?s authorship of research papers, dominating world university league tables, and investing nearly $400 billion per year in public and private research and development,” said the report released Monday.

“The UK, Japan, Germany and France each also command strong positions in the global league tables, producing high quality publications and attracting researchers to their world class universities and research institutes,” it added.

But while these five countries alone produced 59 percent of all spending on science globally, their dominant position was nevertheless slipping.

China shot up from sixth place in the period 1999-2003 (4.4 percent of the total) to second place behind the United States with 10.2 percent over the years 2004-08, overtaking Japan.

While the United States remained in the top spot, it saw its share shrink from 26.4 percent to 21.2 percent.

Britain remained third with its share at 6.5 percent, down from 7.1 percent.

In a statement last week after Britain’s budget however, the Royal Society welcomed finance minister George Osborne’s promise of another £100 million (114 million euros, $160 million) of capital investment in science.

Japan slipped from second to fourth place, falling from 7.8 percent to 6.1 percent, said the report.

Germany, in fifth place, published six percent, down from seven percent, while France, in sixth, published 4.4 percent, down from five percent.

Rounding off the top 10 were Canada, Italy, Spain — and India, which pushed Russia out of the top 10, moving up from 13th position.

“China?s rise up the rankings has been especially striking,” said the report.

“China has heavily increased its investment in R&D (research and development), with spending growing by 20 percent per year since 1999 to reach over $100 billion a year today,” it continued.

That came to 1.44 percent of the country’s GDP in 2007, it added.

“China is also turning out huge numbers of science and engineering graduates, with 1.5 million leaving its universities in 2006,” the report added.

Further down the rankings, but making dramatic progress, were Iran and Turkey.

Turkey’s improved scientific performance had been almost as dramatic as China’s, the report said, noting that it had declared research a public priority in the 1990s.

The country had increased its research and development nearly six-fold between 1995 and 2007, and during the same period, the number of researchers there had increased by 43 percent.

Iran was the fastest-growing country in terms of numbers of scientific publications, rising from 736 in 1996 to 13,238 in 2008.

“The scientific world is changing and new players are fast appearing,” said Chris Llewellyn Smith, who chaired the study at the Royal Society, Britain’s national science academy.

“Beyond the emergence of China, we see the rise of southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, north African and other nations.

“The increase in scientific research and collaboration, which can help us to find solutions to the global challenges we now face, is very welcome.

“However, no historically dominant nation can afford to rest on its laurels if it wants to retain the competitive economic advantage that being a scientific leader brings.”

The Royal Society’s findings were published in its report entitled “Knowledge, networks and nations: Global scientific collaboration in the 21st century”.

© 2011 AFP
This story is sourced direct from an overseas news agency as an additional service to readers. Spelling follows North American usage, along with foreign currency and measurement units.

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Breakthrough in tissue engineering: ‘Bio-Legos’


MIT-Harvard Division of Health Sciences and Technology researchers produced tube-shaped tissue by grouping cells into polymer ‘bricks’ that hardened when illuminated.

(Credit: Javier Gomez-Fernandez/MIT)

Researchers have been working on the problem of tissue engineering for years because the payoff would be so great. The ability to construct new organs would mean that patients won’t necessarily have to wait for transplants.

But growing cells in lab dishes that are three-dimensional instead of flat has proved to be incredibly tricky. One group, however, claims to have made a major breakthrough.

The solution, according to a team at the MIT-Harvard Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST), could be as simple (but incredibly elegant) as building the equivalent of biological Legos, whose structures far more closely resemble real, complex tissue.

The new technique, which they’re calling “micromasonry,” is showcased this May in the journal Advanced Materials.

Javier Gomez-Fernandez

(Credit: MIT)

According to former HST postdoctoral associate Javier Gomez-Fernandez, obtaining single cells to engineer tissue requires breaking tissue apart via enzymes that digest the material that holds cells together. Once those cells are free they don’t easily (or quickly) reassemble into structures that mimic natural tissue architecture.

So the HST team built what it’s dubbing “biological Legos,” coating the freed cells with a liquid version of polyethylene glycol (PEG), which acts as a glue and also hardens when illuminated. Once coated, they could be arranged into cubes and exposed to light to hold that shape.

The team then coated those cubes with the PEG polymer again to glue the cubes together and squeeze them onto a scaffold surface, and illuminated the cubes a second time so that they would harden into this tube-like shape, a three-dimensional structure that could function as capillaries and transport blood to organs.

The breakthrough is not only that they are creating 3D structures, but that they can place cells in any position they want to make specific shapes. “So it’s not just that it’s a scaffold, it’s that you can arrange them into very specific shapes through specific distributions of cells,” Gomez-Fernandez says.

This isn’t the first time complex tissue architecture has been created in a lab; other researchers have developed a technique called organ printing to accomplish this, but it requires new (read: expensive) equipment. Micromasonry, on the other hand, does not. “You can reproduce this in any lab,” Gomez-Fernandez says in the MIT news release. “It’s very simple.”

To make micromasonry clinically useful, the team is investigating different cellular structures as well as different polymers that might provide more control over cell placement than PEG currently allows.

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. She has contributed to Wired magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include unicycling, slacklining, hula-hooping, scuba diving, billiards, Sudoku, Magic the Gathering, and classical piano. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET.

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Gates Foundation to fund 78 more health projects


The fourth round of grants will fund research projects in 18 countries.

(Credit: Grand Challenges Explorations)

In its fourth round of funding, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges Explorations grants have been awarded to 78 science projects, with each collecting $100,000.

Through its grants, the five-year, $100 million initiative aims to foster “creative projects that show great promise to improve the health of people in the developing world,” and as part of the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative is supported by the Gates Foundation.

This latest round of grants brings the total number of Exploration projects receiving funding to 340. Although the group originally anticipated funding roughly 60 projects per round, it is averaging closer to 80.

The foundation reports that the winners come from universities, research institutes, and nonprofits, with research spread across 18 countries on six continents.

The wide range of projects includes a “seek-and-destroy” laser vaccine, cell phone microscopes to diagnose malaria, ultrasound as a reversible male contraceptive, and disposable paper-based diagnostics devices. All project topics from the four rounds are listed here.

“We are convinced that some of these ideas will lead to new innovations and eventually solutions that will save lives,” says Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, in a statement.

The group says round 5 is open for submissions until May 19, and round 6 will open in September. Throughout the initiative, “priority areas of focus” include: enteric and diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS, malaria, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and neglected and other infectious diseases. Other areas center on integrated health solutions for: family planning; nutrition; maternal, neonatal, and child health; tobacco control; and vaccine-preventable diseases.

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. She has contributed to Wired magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include unicycling, slacklining, hula-hooping, scuba diving, billiards, Sudoku, Magic the Gathering, and classical piano. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET.

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