While electrical and computer engineers are typically immersed in a technological world of tomorrow – designing and improving technology that propels our world forward – some projects are noteworthy for the doors into the future that they open. Proof-of-concept projects do not immediately change the lives of the populace, but to engineers, they signal new amazing opportunities as they progress from these pilot stages and revolutionize our everyday.
A team at Caltech demonstrates this in a two-dimensional way by changing the conventional definition of a camera through the removal of its lens. The engineers have leveraged an ultra-thin optical phased array to do computationally what large curved pieces of glass have done for over 200 years, allowing for future cameras to be truly flat.
Controlling that future two-dimensional camera might be enhanced by a novel new computing system made from carbon, replacing traditional silicon transistors. A team at University of Texas, Dallas is pioneering an all-carbon spintronic switch that leverages the magnetic field around wire thanks to a two-dimensional graphene nano ribbon.
Powering small devices themselves might also get more flexible, thanks to engineers at North Carolina State University who have designed a flexible thermoelectric energy harvester suitable for wearable devices. Relying on liquid metal, it enjoys the added bonus of being self-healing, so if a connection is broken, the liquid metal will reconnect allowing the device to keep on functioning.
But not only wearables are in search of power – a team at Stanford University have developed a method to wirelessly deliver electricity to moving objects. Leveraging magnetic resonance, electric cars of the future might never have to stop to recharge, instead continuously charging from an electric current embedded in the roadway.
At Rutgers University, engineers are well on their way to allowing you to test and monitor your exposure to dangerous bacteria, viruses, and pollutants. The team’s technology enables labs on chips that electronically detect microparticles and measure multiple biomarkers at the same time, allowing you to eventually be able to test your surroundings and food for harmful bacteria on the fly.
These projects are just a sampling of the work electrical and computer engineers are doing across the country that will one day, in the near future, revolutionize our communication, health, and transportation.