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Winner: Adrenaline for the Grid

Novel superconducting device provides essential voltage support

10 min read
Mike Ingram [right] and David Madura
Nature’s Way: Mike Ingram (right) and David Madura helped install and run the first superconducting synchronous condenser, in Tennessee.
Photo: John Chiasson

Nearly two decades ago, the discovery of a new class of superconductors was announced to the sort of fanfare rarely bestowed on scientific breakthroughs. At a famous March 1987 meeting dubbed "the Woodstock of physics," expectations were high that these materials, which could conduct electricity with no resistance at temperatures attainable with liquid nitrogen cooling, would revolutionize everything from tiny sensors to magnetic-levitation trains.

Because superconductors carry much more current for a given volume, transmission cables, motors, generators, and transformers would be not only more efficient but also much more compact. Magazines like Time and Newsweek hailed a coming technological utopia, with illustrations showing details of the good life that, they suggested, was less than a decade away.

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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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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.