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05 November 2019

Reshaping with transformative electronics

A team working under Professor Jae-Woong Jeong from the School of Electrical Engineering at KAIST has invented a multifunctional electronic platform that can mechanically transform its shape, flexibility, and stretchability. As reported in Science Advances, this platform also allows users to seamlessly and precisely tune its stiffness and shape.

"This new class of electronics will not only offer robust, convenient interfaces for use in both tabletop or handheld setups, but also allow seamless integration with the skin when applied onto our bodies," said Professor Jeong.

The transformative electronics consist of a special gallium metal structure, hermetically encapsulated and sealed within a soft silicone material, combined with electronics that are designed to be flexible and stretchable. The mechanical transformation of the electronic systems is specifically triggered by temperature change events controlled by the user.

Once the transformative electronic platform comes in contact with a human body, the gallium metal encapsulated inside the silicone changes to a liquid state and softens the whole electronic structure, making it stretchable, flexible, and wearable. The gallium metal then solidifies again once the structure is peeled off the skin, making the electronic circuits stiff and stable. When flexible electronic circuits were integrated onto these transformative platforms, it empowered them with the ability to become either flexible and stretchable or rigid.

"This technology could not have been achieved without interdisciplinary efforts," said co-lead author Joo Yong Sim, who is a researcher with ETRI. "We worked together with electrical, mechanical, and biomedical engineers, as well as material scientists and neuroscientists to make this breakthrough."

This universal electronics platform allowed researchers to demonstrate applications that were highly adaptable and customisable, such as a multi-purpose personal electronics with variable stiffness and stretchability, a pressure sensor with tuneable bandwidth and sensitivity, and a neural probe that softens upon implantation into brain tissue.

This breakthrough can potentially reshape the consumer electronics industry, significantly impacting the way we use electronics in our daily life.


07 August 2019

World's thinnest Gold revealed

Scientists at the University of Leeds have created a new form of gold which is just two atoms thick which will make it the thinnest unsupported gold ever created.

Dubbed 2D gold, the material the material measures only 0.47 nanometers thick, which is roughly a million times thinner than a human finger nail, and could have a profoundly positive impact on the electronic industry and in the medical field.

Laboratory tests show that the ultra-thin 2-D gold is 10 times more efficient as a catalytic substrate than the currently used gold nanoparticles, which are 3-D materials with the majority of atoms residing in the bulk rather than at the surface.

thinnest gold

The lead author of the paper, Dr. Sunjie Ye, from Leeds' Molecular and Nanoscale Physics Group and the Leeds Institute of Medical Research, said: "This work amounts to a landmark achievement. Not only does it open up the possibility that gold can be used more efficiently in existing technologies, it is providing a route which would allow material scientists to develop other 2-D metals."

The flakes are extremly flexible, meaning they could form the basis of electronic components for bendable screens, electronic inks and transparent conducting displays. Standard benchmark tests revealed that gold nanoscale sheets were ten times more efficient than the gold nanoparticles conventionally used in industry.

Professor Evans thinks there will inevitably be comparisons made between the 2-D gold and the very first 2-D material ever created—graphene, which was fabricated at the University of Manchester in 2004.

He said: "The translation of any new material into working products can take a long time and you can't force it to do everything you might like to. With graphene, people have thought that it could be good for electronics or for transparent coatings—or as carbon nanotubes that could make an elevator to take us into space because of its super strength"

He thinks that with 2-D  they have got some very definite ideas about where it could be used, particularly in catalytic reactions and enzymatic reactions. "We know it will be more effective than existing technologies—so we have something that we believe people will be interested in developing with us." he added.


22 July 2019

What is conductive Ink and How is it used?

Everyone has seen those videos that have people drawing circuits that work on materials such as paper or even textile! So what is that liquid paint that connects the circuits up? It is conductive ink! There has been a lot of hype over the years that it is the material of the future and will eventually replace traditional circuits.

Preparing_to_test_Conductive_Ink

Bare Conductive, a company based in London started by 4 students developed and have have been using this paint in different settings since 2009. After the paint was displayed at a student design conference in Eindhoven, interest from the public started to build. Soon, an email from Sony Music arrived saying they had an artist who wanted to use the paint in a music video. In the film, dancers' feet and hands were painted while they stood on a pad of the dried fluid, which was in turn connected to computers. The dancers became extensions of a circuit so that when their hands were slapped by the DJ Calvin Harris, various drums and beats would sound – a system dubbed a "humanthesizer".

So, how does this conductive ink work? Well, Conductive ink, as the name suggests, is a form of ink that can conduct electricity. Usually, the ink is infused with a conductive material, like graphite or silver, to enable electrical conduction.

Conductive ink is made by mixing tiny particles of conductive materials with non-conductive liquid mediums. The idea is to use a liquid medium that can flow relatively freely whilst building a chain of conductive materials behind it. Once the liquid medium dries, it should, in theory, lock the conductive particles (or inclusions) in place leaving a completed circuit.

Conductive inks have a variety of advantages over other existing solutions. One of the most important is that it can be easily customized to cater to a broad spectrum of industry requirements.

Conductive inks are a great option for e-textiles, as they can be applied after the main product has been produced without interfering with the textile production process at all.

Conductive ink can be used to repair circuits on printed circuit boards and can also be used in computer keyboards that contain membranes with printed circuits that can sense when a key is pressed.

Have you used conductive ink? Let us know what you did!


18 July 2019

ASML Overcome Memory Chip Weakness

With a global slowdown hurting them at the end of last year, then the China trade wars pushing them down again in May, then the Huawei ban, then Japan’s export restrictions against South Korea coming in to hurt them further, one would thing that ASML Holding, a Dutch company and currently the largest supplier of photolithography systems, would be feeling the squeeze, but their second-quarter report was better than expected, beating analyst estimates for earnings, the company predicts the memory business struggling for the rest of the year.

ASML

According to Yahoo Finance, ASML managed to grow revenue in the second quarter compared to the first quarter, largely due to an increase in revenue from installed base management, which includes service and field option sales. Installed base management sales also increased on a year-over-year basis, but that wasn't enough to prevent a decline in overall revenue from the prior-year period.

With oversupply in the memory-chip market leading some producers to slash plans for capital spending, companies that manufacture the equipment needed to make memory chips are facing weak demand for their products. Just last week another semiconductor company, Vishay, pre-announced June sales well below expectations, noting an inventory correction and pricing pressures.

Abhinav Davuluri, analyst at Morningstar, says investors are simply reflecting the belief that the semiconductor industry is only going to get bigger. “We don’t see things getting healthy until early 2020, but these end-markets are going to be more diverse,” he told me. “It’s not just the PC space, or the smartphone space. It’s cloud computing, artificial intelligence, 5G, autos. These companies are bigger, there’s more consolidation, and they can better handle the peaks and troughs.”

While the memory business is struggling, the logic business is picking up most of the slack. ASML is seeing its logic customers accelerate the ramp of leading-edge nodes, particularly the 7-nanometer node. Advanced Micro Devices recently launched the first PC CPUs (central processing units) and consumer GPUs (graphics processing units) built on a 7nm manufacturing process, courtesy of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing.

Read more here


12 June 2019

Worries about the rare earth minerals needed for high-tech products

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Rising tensions between US and China have sparked worries about the 17 rare earth minerals needed for high tech products like robotics, drones and electric cars.

China recently raised tariffs to 25% on rare earth exports to the U.S. and has threatened to halt exports altogether after the Trump administration raised tariffs on Chinese products and blacklisted telecommunications giant Huawei.

With names like europium, scandium and ytterbium, the bulk of rare earth minerals are extracted from mines in China, where lower wages and lax environmental standards make production cheaper and easier.

But trade experts say no one should panic over China’s threats to stop exporting the elements to the U.S, since there are rare mineral mines in California, Australia, Myanmar, Russia and India, which could step in when needed.

“The sky is not falling,” said Mary B. Teagarden, a China specialist, professor and associate dean at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Phoenix. “There are alternatives.”

Simon Lester, associate director of the centre for trade policy studies at the Cato Institute think tank in Washington, agreed. “Over the short term, it could be a big disruption, but companies that want to stay in business will find a way,” he said.

Although the US is among the wold’s top countries for rare earth’s production, it is also a major importer for the minerals, looking to China for 80% of what it buys, according to the US geological Survey.

Mountain Pass, located in San Bernardino County, California, was once top supplier of the world’s rare earth minerals, but China began taking over the market in the 1990s and the U.S. mine stopped production in 2002. Mountain Pass later restarted production only to close again amid a 2015 bankruptcy. Since then, Mountain Pass has focused on achieving greater autonomy with a $1.7 billion separation system set to go online late next year that would allow it skip sending rare earths ore to China for that step.

Australian rare earths production giant Lynas Corp. Ltd. this month announced a proposed deal with Blue Line Corp. of Texas for a separation facility at an industrial site in Hondo, Texas.

There may be other options, too. Deposits of rare earths have been detected in other U.S. states including Wyoming and Alaska, as well in several remote areas of Canada. The Interior Department is calling for more prospecting and mining of “critical minerals,” including on public lands currently considered off-limits, and even in oceans.

“We have to be more forward thinking,” said Alexander Gysi, an assistant professor in geology and geological engineering at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. “It would be better for the U.S. to have a greater range of sources for rare earths.”

Tags: huawei china tariffs technology exports usa


29 May 2019

What's happening with Huawei

598px-Huawei_logo

For the past few weeks, Chinese technology company Huawei has been put under severe restrictions by the United States of America. Mr Trump accuses the world’s second-largest smartphone maker of allowing its equipment to be used by Chinese spies.

In recent weeks, Alphabet’s Google has suspended business with Huawei, that requires the transfer of software, hardware and technical services except those publicly available via open source licensing

Following Google’s lead several other American businesses have cut ties with Huawei and two British telecom giants EE and Vodafone have announced that their 5G services will not be offered on Huawei handsets.

The Trump administration on Thursday added Huawei Technologies to a trade blacklist, immediately enacting restrictions that will make it extremely difficult for the company to do business with US counterparts.

Washington is widely seen as having taken the initiative in the global campaign against Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, a tech magnate that in the three decades since its founding has become an important part of Beijing’s bid to expand its global power and influence.

Now, according to Reuters, German chipmaker Infineon has also suspended shipments to Huawei technologies, in a sign that US restrictions on Huawei are beginning to affect its relationships beyond America. Infineon joins Qualcomm, Qorvo, Micron Technology, and Western Digital as firms that no longer ship to Huawei. ST Microelectronics, TSMC, Toshiba Memory, and Japan Display Inc. have not yet stopped shipments to the Chinese firm but are investigating the issue and could also suspend business dealings.

Ren Zhengfei, Huawei’s founder, told the media that the company would be fine even if their American suppliers refuse to sell chips to the company. He revealed that the firm has been preparing for this outcome and it’s believed that Huawei will be ready for the next six to twelve months on the hardware front. “We will not change our management at the request of the U.S. or accept monitoring, as ZTE has done,” he said to Reuters.

During Trump’s three day state visit, which kicks off today, he is expected to discuss ties between UK companies and Huawei- adding to suggestions by the Tory leadership that they could tear up plans for the Chinese tech giant to build parts of UK’s 5G network, after the ambassador, Woody Johnson, warned it was a “big risk”.

Tags: huawei trump uk infineon spies 5g network america


23 May 2019

Stretchable electronics: the future

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(c) Rafael Libanori, Randall M. Erb and André R. Studart

Have you heard of stretchable electronics? You may already be using them! Stretchable electronics is an emerging technology that creates devices with the ability to conform dynamic surfaces such as the human body.

According to a study, current stretchable configurations are constrained to single-layer designs due to limited material processing capabilities in soft electronic systems but represent a promising new technology for next-generation wearable electronics.

The industry has, in the past, long predicted the emergence and growth of wearable technology that could be integrated with our clothing by installing sensors within the seams and stitching, indeed having electronics woven into our fabrics!

Traditional circuits are made from stiff and inflexible components, which might limit its use when it comes to wearable electronics, but a team in Switzerland have overcome the problem of snapping electronics by creating materials that mimics the way tendons connect to bones, which has sped up the development and delivery of stretchable wearable technology.

"You have two materials with very different mechanical properties," says Andre Studart, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, told reuters. "The challenge is to bridge these different properties."

The swiss team have created a stretchy material made from polyurethane that contains "islands" stiff enough to house and protect delicate circuits.The soft part can stretch by 350 per cent without failure due to localised internal stresses, the hard  parts which house the electronic components and protect them are made stiff by using platelets of aluminium oxide and a synthetic clay called Laponite.

According to a research published in Nature Communications, the material is made from bonded layers formed by solvent welding and hot pressing individual layers with progressively higher elastic modulus using DMF as solvent.

"There are many biological materials that have these properties as well, like the way tendons link muscle to bone," says Studart. "But there are not so many examples in synthetic materials."

The practical applications for such technology is limitless, with it first being used by a US based company called MC-10 inc, who have used it to develop flexible skullcaps that can monitor impacts to the head during sports. But the use of these electronics can rage as far as rebuilding cartilage or even false teeth.


30 August 2018

Electric cars will change the component marketplace

electroniccarThe automotive industry is undergoing a radical transformation. And the electronic components sector will undeniably have to adapt to the changing needs of a rapidly growing and evolving market.

The advancement of hybrid- and electric-powered engines are a disruptive influence that’s changing how cars are designed and manufactured. Component manufacturers, distributors and companies at all levels of the supply chain will have to adapt to this shift.

According to a recent report published by GlobalData, registrations of electric cars will rise from roughly 1% of all global vehicles in 2017 to more than 15% by 2030.

In terms of numbers, Global Data predicts over 300 million electric cars will be traversing our road networks in the next twenty years.

This shift will change buying patterns throughout the whole automotive supply chain. Component manufacturers will have to keep pace with growing demand and offer a portfolio of products that are commercially and technologically suitable for use.

This will mean increased R&D expenditure and unprecedented market disruption. Buyers of electronic components will have to contend with increased demand and therefore, will have to budget and act accordingly.

You only need to look at the ongoing shortage of multi-layered ceramic capacitors to see how franchise markets react to sudden surges in demand. Don’t be a passenger; make sure that you are planning your path forward.


21 August 2018

European Semiconductor Sectors Seeks EU Backing

ecselWith competition in the global electronics industry intensifying, the European electronics sector has come together and called on the EU to help bolster its competitiveness.

The report, submitted by the ECSEL, highlights the continents need to invest in and embrace new technologies and spearhead investment in the next-generation of semiconductor architecture.

Examples given include high-growth and high-tech sectors such as artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous driving.

It also requests that the financing of an existing research and development programme, launched in 2014, be doubled to nearly £9 billion.

Other suggestions put forward was the creation of a pan-European ‘Design Alliance’ that would act as a centralised hub for multinational design houses and the formation of an education and skills task force.

After a period of decline, Europe’s semiconductor £250 billion sector is showing signs of growth.

Though, this resurgence is under threat. With trade tensions mounting, Europe’s semiconductor must increase its self-reliance, especially with protectionist policies being pushed by the likes of the United States and China.


16 August 2018

Computer Virus Hits TSMC

tsmcA computer virus that struck TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) is expected to cost the chip manufacturer in the region of £130 million.

The virus hit the firm’s computer network late last week and quickly spread to the machinery used to manufacturer chip and processors, TSMC said in a statement on Monday.

The press release went on to say that the virus caused equipment to crash or enter a reboot cycle, and was a variant of the WannaCry ransomware that made global headlines last year.

TSMC said the disruption in production is likely to knock 2% off its 3Q revenue, which was previously projected to be in the region of £6.5 billion.


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