L'Europe, championne du monde. Le vieux continent confirme sa première place dans un domaine enviable, celui de la conversion de la lumière en électricité. Le seuil était de 44,7%, il vient de passer à 46%.
Ce taux a été atteint par une cellule solaire développée conjointement par le CEA-Leti, l'entreprise française Soitec (à l'origine une émanation, justement, du CEA) et l’Institut Fraunhofer pour les Systèmes Energétiques Solaires (ISE) en Allemagne.
Des semi-conducteurs avec un meilleur rendement que le silicium
Contrairement à ces panneaux photovoltaïques qui recouvrent les toits des maisons écolos, la cellule solaire de tous les records n'est pas fabriquée en silicium. "Nous utilisons d'autres semi-conducteurs, des matériaux dits III-V", commente Thomas Signamarcheix, responsable du labo des substrats avancés du CEA-Leti. Comprenez des éléments chimiques classés dans les 3e et 5e colonnes du tableau périodique de Mendeleïev. Leur avantage : "Ils ont un rendement meilleur que le silicium", reprend le chercheur français.
European scientists from six institutes and two universities have developed an online platform where robots can learn new skills from each other worldwide — a kind of “Wikipedia for robots.” The objective is to help develop robots better at helping elders with caring and household tasks. “The problem right now is that robots are often developed specifically for one task”, says René van de Molengraft, TU/e researcher and RoboEarth project leader.
“RoboEarth simply lets robots learn new tasks and situations from each other. All their knowledge and experience are shared worldwide on a central, online database.” In addition, some computing and “thinking” tasks can be carried out by the system’s “cloud engine,” he said, “so the robot doesn’t need to have as much computing or battery power on‑board.”
For example, a robot can image a hospital room and upload the resulting map to RoboEarth. Another robot, which doesn’t know the room, can use that map on RoboEarth to locate a glass of water immediately, without having to search for it endlessly. In the same way a task like opening a box of pills can be shared on RoboEarth, so other robots can also do it without having to be programmed for that specific type of box.
RoboEarth is based on four years of research by a team of scientists from six European research institutes (TU/e, Philips, ETH Zürich, TU München and the universities of Zaragoza and Stuttgart).
Many researchers believe that physics will not be complete until it can explain not just the behaviour of space and time, but where these entities come from.
“Imagine waking up one day and realizing that you actually live inside a computer game,” says Mark Van Raamsdonk, describing what sounds like a pitch for a science-fiction film. But for Van Raamsdonk, a physicist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, this scenario is a way to think about reality. If it is true, he says, “everything around us — the whole three-dimensional physical world — is an illusion born from information encoded elsewhere, on a two-dimensional chip”. That would make our Universe, with its three spatial dimensions, a kind of hologram, projected from a substrate that exists only in lower dimensions.
This 'holographic principle' is strange even by the usual standards of theoretical physics. But Van Raamsdonk is one of a small band of researchers who think that the usual ideas are not yet strange enough. If nothing else, they say, neither of the two great pillars of modern physics — general relativity, which describes gravity as a curvature of space and time, and quantum mechanics, which governs the atomic realm — gives any account for the existence of space and time. Neither does string theory, which describes elementary threads of energy. Van Raamsdonk and his colleagues are convinced that physics will not be complete until it can explain how space and time emerge from something more fundamental — a project that will require concepts at least as audacious as holography.
But, where is the evidence that there actually is anything more fundamental than space and time? A provocative hint comes from a series of startling discoveries made in the early 1970s, when it became clear that quantum mechanics and gravity were intimately intertwined with thermodynamics, the science of heat. In 1974, most famously, Stephen Hawking of the University of Cambridge, UK, showed that quantum effects in the space around a black hole will cause it to spew out radiation as if it was hot. Other physicists quickly determined that this phenomenon was quite general. Even in completely empty space, they found, an astronaut undergoing acceleration would perceive that he or she was surrounded by a heat bath. The effect would be too small to be perceptible for any acceleration achievable by rockets, but it seemed to be fundamental. If quantum theory and general relativity are correct — and both have been abundantly corroborated by experiment — then the existence of Hawking radiation seemed inescapable.
A second key discovery was closely related. In standard thermodynamics, an object can radiate heat only by decreasing its entropy, a measure of the number of quantum states inside it. And so it is with black holes: even before Hawking's 1974 paper, Jacob Bekenstein, now at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, had shown that black holes possess entropy. But there was a difference. In most objects, the entropy is proportional to the number of atoms the object contains, and thus to its volume. But a black hole's entropy turned out to be proportional to the surface area of its event horizon — the boundary out of which not even light can escape. It was as if that surface somehow encoded information about what was inside, just as a two-dimensional hologram encodes a three-dimensional image.
In 1995 then, Ted Jacobson, a physicist at the University of Maryland in College Park, combined these two findings, and postulated that every point in space lies on a tiny 'black-hole horizon' that also obeys the entropy–area relationship. From that, he found, the mathematics yielded Einstein's equations of general relativity — but using only thermodynamic concepts, not the idea of bending space-time. Ted's result suggested that gravity is statistical, a macroscopic approximation to the unseen constituents of space and time.
In 2010, this idea was taken a step further by Erik Verlinde, a string theorist at the University of Amsterdam, who showed that the statistical thermodynamics of the space-time constituents — whatever they turned out to be — could automatically generate Newton's law of gravitational attraction. In separate work, Thanu Padmanabhan, a cosmologist at the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune, India, showed that Einstein's equations can be rewritten in a form that makes them identical to the laws of thermodynamics — as can many alternative theories of gravity. Padmanabhan is currently extending the thermodynamic approach in an effort to explain the origin and magnitude of dark energy: a mysterious cosmic force that is accelerating the Universe's expansion.
Résidant en Californie et âgée d’à peine 18 ans, Eesha Khare vient de remporter 50 000 $ à Phoenix, lors de l’Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award 2013 pour avoir conçu un nouveau système de stockage d’énergie à très grande capacité offrant qui plus est, la capacité de recharger un mobile en une vingtaine de secondes (contrairement aux heures qui sont normalement nécessaires aujourd’hui).
Bien qu’il ne s’agisse encore que d’un prototype, son dispositif de petite taille et de surcroit flexible pourrait supporter jusqu’à 10 000 cycles de recharge, soit être doté d’une longévité dix fois supérieure à la moyenne actuelle.
“I developed a new supercapacitor, which is basically an energy storage device which can hold a lot of energy in a small amount of volume,” a-t-elle précisée.
Nous noterons enfin que ce super-condensateur pourra également être exploité dans le milieu de l’automobile afin de recharger les batteries de nos véhicules. En somme, une demoiselle talentueuse et modeste dont on n’a pas fini d’entendre parler. Pour en savoir plus, glissez dans la suite.
La NASA vient de rendre publique une carte issue de son Near Earth Object Program, et qui montre l'ensemble des astéroïdes de plus d'un mètre qui sont entrés en collision avec la Terre entre 1994 et 2013.
Today’s internet is based on client devices such as PCs or smartphones talking to centralized servers to get their data. If an EU-funded project called Pursuit takes flight, the future could be a whole lot more distributed.
SÉMINAIRE 2012 DE L’ERG : ENTRETIEN INFINI - ART ET SCIENCES (QUELS DIALOGUES ?) les 5, 6 et 7 mars 2012 / de 10h à 23h Halles de Schaerbeek, Bruxelles Ingénieur…
Geofrey van Hecke's insight:
Qui n'a jamais fait usage de la formule "Que le monde est petit !" en trouvant par coïncidence des connaissances communes avec l'un de ses interlocuteurs ? Derrière cette formule se trouve pourtant des explications scientifiques parfaitement tangibles.
Professeur à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles, chercheur et directeur du Laboratoire de Recherche en Intelligence Artificielle I.R.I.D.I.A, Hugues Bersini explique et vulgarise la théorie du petit monde.
Il explique pourquoi tous les réseaux sont profondément semblables (réseau p2p, réseau social, réseau interbancaire, etc...).
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