IEEE Members Make the News

Their work includes implantable devices, magnetic recording advances, and better processor performance

17 February 2012

IEEE members are often featured in the news for their groundbreaking work. The past few weeks have been no exception. Members were quoted in articles discussing such advances as an implantable device that charges with music, a way to record information using heat, and a new technique for boosting the performance of processors

A recent article on the Lafayette, Ind., news site featured IEEE Senior Member Babak Ziaie, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering at Purdue University, in West Lafayette. He was interviewed about his team’s work on a pressure sensor powered by acoustic waves. The ultimate goal of the sensor is to implant it in people with paralysis as a way to treat their incontinence.

When music plays within a certain frequency range, a cantilever in the implanted sensor vibrates, generating electricity and storing the charge in a capacitor. “The music reaches the correct frequency only at certain times; for example, when there is a strong bass component,” Ziaie said in the article. “The acoustic energy from the music can pass through body tissue, causing the cantilever to vibrate.”  

The researchers tested several types of music— blues, jazz, rap, and rock—to see which had the right frequencies for the sensor. Rap wound up being the best fit, “because it contains a lot of low-frequency sound, notably the bass,” Ziaie said.

There are many advantages to using music to recharge the sensor rather than batteries, according to Ziaie: “Batteries have a finite lifetime, and they’re big. Using music allows us to make the device smaller.”

A Science Daily article highlighted the work of a multinational team of scientists involving a new method of magnetic recording that allows information to be processed much faster than current hard drive technology.

The group includes IEEE Graduate Student Member Thomas Ostler, a physicist at the University of York, in the United Kingdom. He and the team of researchers discovered they could record information using heat. They theorize the development will not only make future magnetic recording devices faster, but also more energy-efficient.

The research was led by the University of York's department of physics, and the results were published in the February edition of the journal Nature Communications. In the publication, Ostler explains the discovery: “Instead of using a magnetic field to record information on a magnetic medium, we harnessed much stronger internal forces and recorded information using only heat. This revolutionary method allows the recording of terabytes (thousands of gigabytes) of information per second, hundreds of times faster than present hard-drive technology. As there is no need for a magnetic field, there is also less energy consumption.”

In another Science Daily article, the work of IEEE Senior Member Huiyang Zhou and a team of researchers from North Carolina State University at Raleigh, was featured. They developed a technique that allows graphics processing units (GPUs) and central processing units (CPUs) on a single chip to work together, boosting processor performance by more than 20 percent. Zhou, who coauthored a paper on the research, is an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the university.

He explains that chip manufacturers are now developing processors with a “fused architecture,” meaning their CPUs and GPUs are on a single chip. “This approach decreases manufacturing costs and makes computers more energy efficient,” he said. “However, the CPU cores and GPU cores still work almost exclusively on separate functions. They rarely collaborate to execute any given program, so they aren’t as efficient as they could be. That’s the issue we’re trying to resolve.”

He says his team’s method involves allowing GPU cores to “execute computational functions, and have CPU cores pre-fetch the data the GPUs will need from off-chip main memory.”

What do you think of these developments? Are you a member whose work was featured in the news lately? Let us know in the comments below.

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