Tapping the Power of 100 Suns

Concentrated solar power will keep future armies on the march

12 min read
Illustration: Daniel Hertzberg
Illustration: Daniel Hertzberg

Napoleon’s dictum no longer applies: These days, an army marches not so much on its stomach as on its batteries. Without them, soldiers can’t see in the dark, work their radios, or determine their positions. But even the best storage batteries—accounting for one-fifth of the load in a typical infantryman’s 45-kilogram pack—can’t last the week or so that field soldiers require. The same problem is coming to afflict the rest of us, as we become ever more dependent on our smartphones and GPS navigation.

While we wait for better batteries we must find new ways to recharge the ones we have when we’re far from a wall socket. What we need is a really good, portable photovoltaic system, one that can take in a huge gulp of sunlight and convert most of it into electricity. Such an advance could also help drive down the cost of solar electricity in sunny climes around the world and prevent great quantities of carbon emissions.

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"SuperGPS" Accurate to 10 Centimeters or Better

New optical-wireless hybrid makes use of existing telecommunications infrastructure

3 min read
illustration of man looking at giant smart phone with map and red "you are here" symbol
iStock

Modern life now often depends on GPS(short for Global Positioning System), but it can err on the order of meters in cities. Now a new study from a team of Dutch researchers reveals a terrestrial positioning system based on existing telecommunications networks can deliver geolocation info accurate to within 10 centimeters in metropolitan areas.

The scientists detailed their findings 16 November in the journal Nature.

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The Future of the Transistor Is Our Future

Nothing but better devices can tackle humanity’s growing challenges

7 min read
Close-up of a colorful semiconductor wafer held the white gloved hands of a clean room technician.

A 300 millimeter silicon wafer at the Globalfoundries Inc. semiconductor plant in Dresden, Germany, on Thursday, 12 August 2021.

Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg/Getty Images

This is a guest post in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the invention of the transistor. It is adapted from an essay in the July 2022 IEEE Electron Device Society Newsletter. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE.

On the 75th anniversary of the invention of the transistor, a device to which I have devoted my entire career, I’d like to answer two questions: Does the world need better transistors? And if so, what will they be like?

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Designing Fuel Cell Systems Using System-Level Design

Modeling and simulation in Simulink and Simscape

1 min read
Designing Fuel Cell Systems Using System-Level Design

Design and simulate a fuel cell system for electric mobility. See by example how Simulink® and Simscape™ support multidomain physical modeling and simulation of fuel cell systems including thermal, gas, and liquid systems. Learn how to select levels of modeling fidelities to meet your needs at different development stages.