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SESAME Synchrotron's Battle for Light

In Jordan, a particle accelerator struggles to create a photon beam

11 min read
Amor Nadji oversees the engineers striving to build a particle accelerator in Jordan.
Photo: Joseph Zakarian

Three years ago, Amor Nadji and three young engineers piled into a van in Amman, Jordan, and drove 30 kilometers northeast to the city of Zarqa. Their route took them past faded, sand-colored buildings and empty lots where sheep grazed on patches of grass and low brush.

The shops and apartment buildings gradually thinned out, and the van entered an industrial ghetto of warehouses. Behind one set of padlocked doors, about 100 plywood boxes and metal equipment racks stood coated in a thick layer of dust. Carefully packed away in those boxes was the collected hardware of a vintage synchrotron. The engineers’ mission was to salvage the then-25-year-old particle accelerator and turn it into a first-rate machine. This supermicroscope, called SESAME (for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East) would enable scientists from Jordan and nearby countries to investigate the atomic structure of different materials. The engineers’ hope was that SESAME would revitalize Middle Eastern science and encourage friendly encounters between otherwise factious neighbors.

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Video Friday: Humanoid Soccer

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

4 min read
Humans and human-size humanoid robots stand together on an indoor soccer field at the beginning of a game

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

CoRL 2022: 14–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
ICRA 2023: 29 May–2 June 2023, LONDON

Enjoy today’s videos!

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Computing With Chemicals Makes Faster, Leaner AI

Battery-inspired artificial synapses are gaining ground

5 min read
Array of devices on a chip

This analog electrochemical memory (ECRAM) array provides a prototype for artificial synapses in AI training.

IBM research

How far away could an artificial brain be? Perhaps a very long way off still, but a working analogue to the essential element of the brain’s networks, the synapse, appears closer at hand now.

That’s because a device that draws inspiration from batteries now appears surprisingly well suited to run artificial neural networks. Called electrochemical RAM (ECRAM), it is giving traditional transistor-based AI an unexpected run for its money—and is quickly moving toward the head of the pack in the race to develop the perfect artificial synapse. Researchers recently reported a string of advances at this week’s IEEE International Electron Device Meeting (IEDM 2022) and elsewhere, including ECRAM devices that use less energy, hold memory longer, and take up less space.

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FAST Labs’ Cutting-Edge R&D Gets Ideas to the Field Faster

BAE Systems’ FAST Labs engineers turn breakthrough innovations into real-life impact

1 min read

FAST Labs is an R&D organization where research teams can invent and see their work come to life.

BAE Systems

This is a sponsored article brought to you by BAE Systems.

No one sets out to put together half a puzzle. Similarly, researchers and engineers in the defense industry want to see the whole picture – seeing their innovations make it into the hands of warfighters and commercial customers.

That desire is fueling growth at BAE Systems’ FAST Labs research and development (R&D) organization.

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