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Sun Kings Cross the Outback

The University of Michigan's solar racing team showed its mettle in the grueling World Solar Challenge marathon

13 min read
Sun Kings Cross the Outback

nana, first solar race car from Netherlands

Illustration: Emily Cooper
Nuna, the first solar race car from the Netherlands, was one of the most eagerly awaited newcomers in Australia's 2001 World Solar Challenge. On the morning of 21 November, when this photo was taken, the car began a push to pass the race's one-day distance record: 805 km. At this point Nuna was just south of the opal-mining town of Coober Pedy in the Australian desert, 830 km away from the finish line in Adelaide.

Glinting in the hot afternoon sun like a giant yellow-and-black cockroach on wheels, the sleek electric racer sat on a stretch of flat vacant road on the north coast of Australia. Its eight square meters of solar cells put out barely enough power to run a hair dryer, but more than enough for the aerodynamic speedster to cruise at highway speeds. Unfortunately, at that moment, it was motionless as the driver desperately squeezed the hand throttle.

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IEEE President’s Note: Looking to 2050 and Beyond

The importance of future-proofing IEEE

4 min read
Photo of K. J. Ray Liu
IEEE

What will the future of the world look like? Everything in the world evolves. Therefore, IEEE also must evolve, not only to survive but to thrive.

How will people build communities and engage with one another and with IEEE in the future? How will knowledge be acquired? How will content be curated, shared, and accessed? What issues will influence the development of technical standards? How should IEEE be organized to be most impactful?

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The Device That Changed Everything

Transistors are civilization’s invisible infrastructure

2 min read
A triangle of material suspended above a base

This replica of the original point-contact transistor is on display outside IEEE Spectrum’s conference rooms.

Randi Klett

I was roaming around the IEEE Spectrum office a couple of months ago, looking at the display cases the IEEE History Center has installed in the corridor that runs along the conference rooms at 3 Park. They feature photos of illustrious engineers, plaques for IEEE milestones, and a handful of vintage electronics and memorabilia including an original Sony Walkman, an Edison Mazda lightbulb, and an RCA Radiotron vacuum tube. And, to my utter surprise and delight, a replica of the first point-contact transistor invented by John Bardeen, Walter Brittain, and William Shockley 75 years ago this month.

I dashed over to our photography director, Randi Klett, and startled her with my excitement, which, when she saw my discovery, she understood: We needed a picture of that replica, which she expertly shot and now accompanies this column.

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Solving Automotive Design Challenges With Simulation

Learn about low-frequency electromagnetic simulations and see a live demonstration of COMSOL Multiphysics software

1 min read

The development of new hybrid and battery electric vehicles introduces numerous design challenges. Many of these challenges are static or low-frequency electromagnetic by nature, as the devices involved in such designs are much smaller than the operating wavelength. Examples include sensors (such as MEMS sensors), transformers, and motors. Many of these challenges include multiple physics. For instance, sensors activated by acoustic energy as well as heat transfer in electric motors and power electronics combine low-frequency electromagnetic simulations with acoustic and heat transfer simulations, respectively.

Multiphysics simulation makes it possible to account for such phenomena in designs and can provide design engineers with the tools needed for developing products more effectively and optimizing device performance.

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